THE AMAZING HOLY SPIRIT

The Gospel of John, various verses

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity; He is as much God as both the Father and Son.  Yet, the Holy Spirit is the often ignored member of the Godhead, usually just mentioned along with the other Two, and rarely understood.  The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has its own name:  Pneumatology, coming from the Greek pneuma, meaning “spirit,” “wind,” or “breath.”

The Holy Spirit is unique to Christianity, and what we know about Him and His work comes from only one source:  the Bible, specifically the New Testament.  Other religions have their founders, their holy writings, and their teachings, but only the New Testament gives us all we know about the Holy Spirit.

1.  How to receive the Holy Spirit, John 14:15—18

There is a lot of confusion about receiving the Holy Spirit, so the best thing to do is read what the Bible says about it.  Verses 13 and 14 make it clear that the power of the Christian comes from prayer—

And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.  (verses 13, 14)

Jesus was stressing the point that He and the Father were one; yet He was going back to the Father soon, and in going back to the Father, Jesus would make it possible for His followers to do the things He had done all during His earthly ministry; namely working miracles.  There is no other way to interpret these verses:  followers of Jesus Christ have the God-given ability to “ask anything” in the name of Jesus Christ, and He will do it.

Of course, “in my name” should not be taken to mean Jesus is giving us a magical phrase, like “abracadabra.”  Christ never meant this to mean that we could use His name like a magic charm; rather, it was given as a guarantee, like an endorsement on the back of a check.  This also means there is a limitation in what we may ask for:  it must always be in agreement with what Jesus would want and also be consistent with His holy character.  Not only that, verse 13 limits the kind of prayers that will be answered to those that bring “glory to the Father.”

This limitation puts the pressure on the believer to pray properly.  How can we be sure if we are praying the kind of prayer that is guaranteed to be answered?  Verse 15 gives us the first clues:

If you love me, you will obey what I command.

First, loving Christ is essential.  This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many believers don’t know how to manifest their love for Christ.  Simply declaring your love for Him is virtually meaningless.  Our love for Christ is demonstrated is our obedience to His Word.  The word “obey” means far more than merely agreeing with something Jesus said, it means “doing” what Jesus taught consistently.

Those who keep Christ’s commands will receive a tremendous blessing from Jesus—

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. (verses 16, 17a)

Jesus, as our Mediator, made a request when He went back to be with His Father.  The phrase, “another Counselor” may also be translated “another of the same kind.”  In other words, we may consider the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ in another form, and yet from the way Jesus spoke, the Holy Spirit is not just a supernatural power or Jesus Himself in a different uniform, but another Person, just like the Father and the Son.  If Jesus was a Person, then the Holy Spirit must also be a Person if He is “another of the same kind.”

The Holy Spirit was given to believers, then, because Jesus specifically requested it.  In fact, the whole Trinity was involved in the giving of the Spirit:  the Father gave, the Son sent, and the Spirit came.  Hendriksen made an interesting remark:

The Holy Spirit is the person in whom the Father and the Son meet one another.

The Greek word translated “counselor” or sometimes “comforter” is parakletos, which means a variety of things:  “advocate,”  “intercessor,” and “pleader.”  Originally, parakletos referred to one “who is called alongside to help another person.”  This gives us a good idea of what the Holy Spirit’s main ministry is:  He is always on duty, helping the person in whom He dwells.

But the Holy Spirit is not for everybody; His presence in a believer’s life is a gift that the world can never experience—

The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  (verse 17)

The first part of verse 17 is really connected the verse 16, but is a powerful thought.  He is the “Spirit of truth,” meaning that the Holy Spirit would never lead a believer into anything false or harmful in any way to a Christian.  Since the world is full of lies and liars, in general, it “cannot accept” the Holy Spirit.  Notice the careful choice of words:  the world cannot accept the Spirit; Jesus did not say the world “would not.”  It is as though the Holy Spirit operates on a wavelength unknown to the world, known only to the Christian.  This makes the Holy Spirit an intensely personal gift!  Christians are the only people who can understand, appreciate, and experience the Holy Spirit.

Finally, Jesus loved His disciples so much, that He said this—

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  (verse 18)

What an encouragement this must have been to The Twelve!  He was about to leave them, yet He promised that He would “come” to them.  He is not referring to His Second Coming, but to Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came to the infant Church.  However, what is often overlooked is that the phrase “I will come to you” is written in the present tense and could very well look like this:  “I am coming to you.” The use of the present tense of the verb indicates “repeated comings.”   Some scholars think that Jesus is referring to all of His comings:  at Pentecost, His resurrection, His Second Coming, His judgment, etc.  However, given the narrow context, it seems more likely Jesus is referring to repeated outpourings of the Holy Spirit.  In other words, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost and continues to come to indwell believers to this very day.  Each time a sinner comes to Christ, repents and believes, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in him.

2.  What the Holy Spirit does, John 14:26; 16:12—14

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  (John 14:26)

From this verse, it seems clear exactly what the function of the Holy Spirit is:  He is a teacher.  There is a divergence of thought throughout the Church as to what the Holy Spirit does in the believer’s life.  In one corner there are the Pentecostals and Charismatics with their stress on speaking in tongues and other gifts of the Spirit.  In the other corner are the mainline denominations that pay lip service to the Holy Spirit but little else. The truth is found in Scripture:  the function of the Holy Spirit is to “teach.” This does not mean that the Holy Spirit will make a Christian into some kind genius or that He will make Christian students pass their tests without having to study.   In fact, the teaching of the Holy Spirit is very narrow in scope:  He will remind Christians of the teachings of Christ.  Not only that, without regard to any particular gift of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will teach only what a believer already knows:

[He] will remind you of everything [Jesus] said to you.

You cannot be reminded of that which you never knew in the first place.  If you wonder why you never seem to experience the working of the Holy Spirit in your life, perhaps it is because you are not doing your part in reading and studying the Scriptures!

Having said that, the work of the Holy Spirit has another dimension—

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16:12—14)

The first part of this group of verses says a lot about ourselves; we don’t know it all.  As Christians we keep growing in grace and in our knowledge of Him.  The question is:  How do we do that?  In answer to that, Jesus intimates that reading the Bible is not the complete answer; the Holy Spirit must be involved—He must be our Teacher and Guide.

Remember, Jesus had already called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth,” so it makes complete sense that He would lead us into all truth.  In the very strict interpretation of this verse, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost, and enabled them to write the truth; the inspired Scriptures.  But in the broader sense, the Holy Spirit today guides believers into truth, if they are willing to be led.  The Holy Spirit gives us discernment to tell the difference between truth and error.

The “truth” that the Holy Spirit leads believers into must involve the Word of God, given—

He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears.  (verse 13b)

Jesus is not telling His disciples or modern readers that the Holy Spirit will give us “new revelations” from the spiritual plane.  He will give the earnest student of the Bible understanding he otherwise would not have.  He will enable the Christian to take the Word of God and apply it in meaningful ways to his life and to any situation he may find himself.

The fact that the Holy Spirit will:  …tell you what is yet to come (verse 13c), does not mean that Christians will turn into fortune tellers or prophets because the Holy Spirit is in them.  Given that one of the names of the Holy Spirit is “the Comforter,” and given that knowing what is to come generally can lessen the stress in one’s life, we can see that this function of the Holy Spirit is simply part of His role as One who enables Christians to live in peace.   The Word of God is full of comfort, which the Holy Spirit enables us to understand and to remember.

Finally, a function of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to God.  The working of the Holy Spirit will never draw attention to Himself or to a person in whom He dwells; Christ will always be glorified when the Holy Spirit is allowed to work.  Simply put, the Holy Spirit makes God and Jesus Christ real to people.  Hoskyns wrote—

The power of the Holy Spirit does not consist in secret and mystical revelations but in the external preaching of the Gospel, which makes men revolt from the world and attaches them to the Church.

The Persons of the Trinity always glorify each other.

In concluding His teaching on the Holy Spirit and His returning to the Father, Jesus said this—

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

The implications of this single verse can fill a library.  Very simply put, Jesus told His disciples, and us by extension, “You will definitely overcome the world.”  Part of our ability to “overcome” the world is that fact that the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd
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