4 — What We Believe About the Holy Spirit

As the Bible opens, God’s presence is emphasized with these words: “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” From that point forward, the “Spirit of God” (sometimes called “the Spirit of the Lord” or the “Holy Spirit”) most often simply points to God’s presence.[1]

The presence of God’s Spirit within us designates us as special to God, separating us in the eyes of God from all other people, making us His children[2] and a temple for His dwelling.[3] The Spirit, however, is not just a mark proclaiming us as different. He is real divine help to make us different. The Spirit is the power by which we put to death our sinfulness[4] and become the kind of people God has called us to be. Those led by the Spirit of God, who endeavor to match the pace he sets for us, will find Him producing within us the kind of traits we find so difficult: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.[5] The strength of the Spirit empowers us to become like Christ.[6] This is the real work of the Spirit. He even helps our prayer life (Romans 8:26-27)! Unfortunately, because we so often forget who we are, and the power at our disposal, we miss out on being who we could be because we depend on ourselves and ignore God’s very real and close presence.

Too often the subject of the Spirit of God gets hijacked with the discussion of miracles. While the Bible certainly teaches the Spirit’s ability to empower people to do amazing – even miraculous – things, we should remember this is not the Spirit’s main work. The main work is to make us mature children of God. In fact, the Bible teaches that as we mature, the need for the miraculous, and the miraculous itself, disappears.[7] There is no text that teaches God cannot do miracles now, but miracles are not the focus of the Spirit.

How do we receive the Holy Spirit?

In discussing this very issue Peter called on people of faith to “Repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ and thus receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
_______________
Footnotes:
[1] Notice David’s words in Psalm 139, paralleling God’s presence with His Spirit: Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. The prophet Ezekiel wrote to Babylonian captives who believed they were less righteous than those who were not captive. Ezekiel shows that those left behind were not more righteous, but were in danger of losing the presence of God. Slowly, in chapters 9 -11, God moves from the Holy Place to the threshold of the temple to the east gate of the Lord’s house, to the mountain east of the city. There is, however, the promise that God’s presence will return to His people and that presence is to be found in His Spirit (compare Ezekiel 11:17-21 and 36:24-27).

[2] The presence of God among Israel, separating them from all other nations is a prominent feature of Isaiah 63. This presence is discussed in terms of the presence of His Spirit. God’s Spirit on or within certain people made them special to God and for His purposes (note Bezalel in Exodus 31, Moses and the Elders of Israel in Numbers 11, a number of the Judges, and kings Saul – 1 Samuel 10:6 – and David in Psalm 51. In the New Testament, it is the indwelling of God’s Spirit that makes us God’s family, his children. Paul writes in Galatians 4:4-7 “4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”

[3] Ephesians 2:21-22

[4] Romans 8:13

[5] Galatians 5:22-25

[6] Ephesians 3:16-19 – I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

[7] Prophecies and tongues and miraculous knowledge are examples of the miraculous in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul says these will pass away when “perfection” comes. The word translated “perfection” occurs three times in 1 Corinthians. In 2:6 it is translated “maturity” and in 14:20 it is translated “adult.” The book itself focuses on the business of the maturing disciple – contrasted with those disciples who act like children. It seems better to maintain the notion of “mature” in 1 Corinthians 13. Those who claim it refers to the return of the “perfect” one (i.e. Jesus) or to the closing of the biblical canon (often referred to as the “perfect law of liberty”) will find themselves hard-pressed to justify such interpretation from the context of 1 Corinthians itself.

Comments are closed.