The Holy Spirit Revisited: Spiritual Gifts Part one

Confusion about spiritual gifts reigns, why? As we discussed in Chapter 1, the human race is a race of extremes. When it comes to the Holy Spirit (and spiritual gifts for that matter) there are two groups at opposite ends of the spectrum. At one end of the spectrum  is a group who does not like to mention the Holy Spirit. They rarely if ever discuss the mission of the Holy Spirit, His Deity, or personality because they seem almost afraid of the Holy Spirit. This extreme hesitance is in reaction against people of the other end of the spectrum. On this end of the  extreme is a group who often acts as if the Holy Spirit has replaced the other members of the Trinity. Rather than seeing Him operating in the background, they see Him front and center bringing glory to Himself rather than the Son. They view Him as making Himself the center of all attention. Sometimes, these individuals seem to  treat the Holy Spirit like a pagan deity. They invoke Him, they ‘call Him down,’ or the summon Him, forgetting He’s always with us (forever) and within us (John 14:16-17). “Calling Him down” is impossible since He’s here with us and in us, always. “Summoning Him” makes little sense because He is omnipresent. Confusion about spiritual gifts reigns because of their confusion about the Holy Spirit. This brings us to our next question.

 What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts?” What the Bible says about the Spirit and the gifts is what matters. It matters because the Bible is the inspired word of God. Talk about a gift of the Spirit, that’s what the Bible is! All Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit. That’s why we often say or write something to the effect, “The Holy Spirit wrote through the Apostle’s pen.” Not that the Holy Spirit dictated the Bible (inspiration is more than that) but men were carried along by the Spirit and what they wrote were God’s words. Therefore, we look to the Bible to understand what the Holy Spirit says about Himself. For our part, we want to be Bible-centered in our approach to the Holy Spirit and in understanding His ministry, and His distribution of spiritual gifts.

 Naturally, this brings us to a discussion of spiritual gifts. The spiritual gifts aspect of the mission and ministry of the Spirit is a place where we find much division in the Church. Some see all spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible as fully operative today. Other’s see kinds of spiritual gifts, or two classes: so-called ‘sign gifts’ and ‘ministry gifts.’ Some of those who see two kinds or types of gifts believe that the sign gifts are still for today, while others believe that the sign gifts no longer function with the maturity of the Church and the closing out of the Cannon, the completion of books of the Bible—the written and detailed (or special) self-revelation of God to humanity.  Regrettably, this topic can be divisive. Friendships have ended over spirited and sometimes harsh discussions of the possible cessation and fade of the gifts.  Sadly, churches split over this topic.

 Have the Gifts Ceased? While many people would like to focus on the noncontinuationnon-continuation or continuation of the gifts today, we will do better. We will develop and foundational understanding of the gifts so that we can operate from the biblical center rather than find ourselves “in a ditch” on either extreme. Let’s start with the basics.

 Who gives the gifts and to whom? Let’s get the fundamentals straight, laying the groundwork for further discussions and exploration. We return to the essential question for settling all such matters. What does the Bible say?

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols; however, you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1Corinthians 12:1-11)

 And the Giver is? Obviously, we are discussing the Holy Spirit. If you guessed that the Holy Spirit gives ‘spiritual gifts’ you would guessed rightly. However, rather than guess work, we have a revelation made ‘more sure’: the Word of God. The Word of God tells us (here in our passage) that the Holy Spirit is the Giver of spiritual gifts. What does the Holy Spirit tell us through the pen of the Apostle Paul? “To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (v. 7).”  The Holy Spirit is the Giver of the “gifts of the Spirit.” Everyone who receives a spiritual (Holy Spirit given) gift receives that gift from the Holy Spirit. This raises another question.

 To whom are the gifts given? The gifts, as the context of our passage and words of our passage indicates, are given to those within the Church. In other words, only believers are recipients of the so-called ‘spiritual gifts,’ or ‘gifts of the spirit.’

11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body (1 Corinthians 12:11-20).

 Here we see that the body of Christ (i.e. those within the Church) are the recipients of the spiritual gifts. The flow of the passage clearly indicates that regardless of nationality or race, all Christians receive whatever spiritual gifts they have from the Holy Spirit. Only a born-again Christian can receive a spiritual gift. Others may display “counterfeit gifts;” however, if they are not in Christ, then their gift is counterfeit (1 Corinthians 12:3). For example, Hindus and Mormons “speak in tongues.” They are not Christians. Consequently, whatever they are doing, it is not from God the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 11:4). Consequently, whatever they are doing, it is not from God the Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 11:4). As with the Mormons and the Hindus, Muslims speak in tongues, but they are not Christians. This leads us to the following question.

 How is the distribution of gifts determined and by whom? Don’t be put off by seemingly basic questions. Such questions are fundamental to a proper understanding of the gifts of the Spirit.  Let’s remember what we have learned already. The Holy Spirit’s ultimate goal is to bring glory not to Himself but to God the Son: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me (John 15:26).” The Holy Spirit’s mission is to bring glory and attention and honor to Jesus, not Himself: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:13-14). This reality challenges other, popular, related questions about spiritual gifts and the recipients of these gifts.

 Let’s talk about “special,” “anointed” persons.  There is a tendency these days for so-called ‘gifted’ men and women to designate themselves, or allow themselves to be designated as, “God’s anointed,” as if they are specially anointed theocratic kings in ancient Israel (like Saul or David). These individuals mistakenly invite or receive honor to themselves and are often put on a pedestal for their apparent giftedness. The assumption is that they must be special because God has bestowed great spiritual and supernatural gifts upon them. Nothing could be further than the truth. If you stop and think about it God does not save us because we are deserving or special. On the contrary, He blesses us with salvation not because of works but because of grace. And what is grace? Grace is God’s undeserved favor. Some, thinking the Holy Spirit’s method is to call attention to Himself, believe that they are somehow worthy of similar attention. No one deserves anything remotely resembling the attention and devotion servants of Christ show God. We are just servants.

 Some engage in a confused line of reasoning. They mistakenly believe that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to those who are deserving—or special. We are told something like, “Hey... these people are special, or spiritually superior people.” Those who accept such praise are misguided. This kind of thinking is the very thinking the Holy Spirit confronted in the unruly church at Corinth: “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it (1 Corinthians 4:7)?” The gifted people at Corinth had mistakenly believed they were special. They became haughty and arrogant—divisive—and God the Holy Spirit rebuked them through His apostle. A better translation of 1 Corinthians 4:7 reads this way: “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB)?” We are reminded by careful and thoughtful Bible reading that God’s power is displayed in our weakness, not our superiority or worthiness. None of us are worthy of either the ultimate and greatest gift, our salvation, or any other spiritual gift. This truth leads us to consider a next question.

 So, who determines who gets which gift and how? We’ve asked and answered this question to some extent, already. Let’s consider it from another angle. What does the Bible say about the giving of gifts by the Spirit? The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 12:

 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1Corinthians 12:1-18)

 So, what’s going on here? What do we see? What can we learn? Even a casual or cursory reading of the text indicates that gifts are distributed not according to the worthiness or ‘special-ness’ of the individual but according to God’s will. God the Spirit distributes each gift in whatever quantity “as He wills (v. 12)” or “as He chose (v. 18).  Just as God the Holy Spirit, in Acts 13, chose Saul (Paul) and Barnabas for the ministry He chose for them, He distributes gifts as He chooses. Just as Saul and Barnabas were content to surrender to His will, the wise believer does the same. God knows what He wants to do for us and through us and by us; therefore, He gifts us accordingly. It’s not that we are special, or especially deserving. Let’s compress the flow of this passage and I think you might see this more clearly, without damaging the context:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1Corinthians 12:1; 4; 7; 11; 18)

 Why does the Holy Spirit give gifts to the Church? The Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to men for one reason and one reason only: for the common good of the Church (v. 7). The purpose of the gifts is to bring glory to the Son. Too often, those on the fringe extreme enrich themselves and elevate themselves by prostituting counterfeit gifts. They do what they do to bring attention and glory to themselves, rather than for the common good. Their ministries bear their names prominently, rather than the name of a particular church. They only have what they have claimed to receive. They are not to regard themselves, or be regarded, as superior. But, ignoring the Holy Spirit they do just the opposite.

 Gifted people should strive to appear humble. Unfortunately, they say things like “God told me...” “God appeared to me...” or “God gave me” and they (perhaps inadvertently) call attention to themselves rather than concern themselves with the common good. They work themselves into the center of a story. The Holy Spirit does not even call attention to Himself, according to Jesus:

13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-15).”

 As we have seen and as Jesus taught, the Holy Spirit calls attention to  God the Son, Jesus Christ and God the Father. He does not call attention to Himself. Believers who are concerned about the glory of God and the good of others (i.e. the common good) do well to do likewise and follow suit. We will go into more detail about the meaning, scope, and definition of the phrase and concept, “the common good” later, as we consider 1 Corinthians 13.

 God the Holy Spirit is sovereign. One would think we understand this as a given. However, there are those who seem to place demands on the Spirit or bind Him as they purport to bind Satan. But in reality, the Holy Spirit distributes the gifts to whom He chooses, on the basis of God’s will for that individual’s ministry life, rather than that individual’s choice. As we saw in God’s Word, it has nothing to do with the individual’s worthiness. The gifts are all about the glory of God and the common good of the Church so that the Church can function beyond the natural abilities of her people.

 The gifts are not about singling people out as super-saints or superior. “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it (1 Corinthians 4:7 NASB)?”  There are those who wish to act, believe, and pretend that they did not receive a gift but developed it, obtained it, or laid hold of it through their own merit. Avoid such people as these.

 What about these gifts: how much, how many, and to whom? Invariably, we will hear of some larger than life Rock-Star-type personality who claims to be able to manifest all the gifts. Often, individuals will imply or outright declare that spiritual people have spiritual gifts and can use them whenever they wish if they have enough faith. As Jesus taught, it is not the size of your faith that matters but the Object of your faith, the Object of your worship. All that matters is that you have a measure of faith, saving faith that is, and you would be able to do amazing things—even if you have the faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20; Matthew 20:21).  

 So, does everyone receive every gift? Not everyone in the New Testament era of the early church or apostolic era could speak in tongues. Some people had one gift, while others had another gift. Many today teach otherwise. They are in error. The distribution of gifts, particularly miraculous gifts were limited and restricted according to the will of God the Holy Spirit –as He chose. It is not unreasonable to assume the Holy Spirit did not lie about Himself:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. (1Corinthians 12:1; 4; 7; 11; 18)

 Furthermore, the Spirit explicitly teaches through the inspired written words of the Apostle Paul that not everyone receives every gift:

27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way (1Corinthians 12:27-31 NASB).

 What’s the point? The Holy Spirit (through Paul) is challenging the unruly Church at Corinth to wake up and quit playing games with factionalism and showmanship and the gifts. While there is nothing wrong for desiring supernatural empowerment by God to serve Him (v. 31), no one at Corinth (or anywhere else) had all the gifts. Spiritual empowerment was up to God not them and is not up to us. So, he’s telling them and us, in a manner of speaking, “stop pretending” and “stop showing off.” Notice the use of the word “appointed (v. 29),” and the phrase “as He chose (v. 18).” The giving of gifts is up to God, not men (as is the display)—as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). There are supernatural sign gifts and common every day ministry gifts and uncommon leadership and teaching gifts. People did not receive them based upon merit but based upon God’s purposes, choosing, will, timing, and grace. Moreover, whatever gift people received---no one was to be regarded as better than the other as a believer (vv. 11-27).

 Remember that God’s grace is His unmerited favor. We are saved by grace. We receive gifts by His grace. We do not deserve or earn our salvation. We do not deserve or earn the gifts. There were and are His to give as He chooses and pleases, for the common good—not His own glory. The Holy Spirit seeks to glorify Christ, not Himself; not men and women.  

Summary

There is much confusion about spiritual gifts and the working of the Holy Spirit in the giving of gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12-14 tells us the commandments and commands of God when it comes to the spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit decides who gets what gift and for how long and when they employ that gift and how they employ it, if at all. The gifts are distributed to call attention to Christ not to a man as the Holy Spirit’s ministry is to glorify Christ. People have no right to boast about their gifts because they only have what they received, and they do not deserve any gifts. The giving of gifts is an act of grace on God’s part and the gifts are not for self-benefit, or personal enrichment but for the common good of the Christian Church, according to the Holy Spirit of God.

Suggestions for Application

What do we do with this teaching? How do we apply it or put it to use? Consider and embrace these 5 actions/steps:

 Simply seek to serve God with whatever talents and gifts that you have in a way that is humble and humbly benefits the Church of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 4:7). Whatever your abilities and gifts, do not regard yourself as special. If your church needs greeters and we do, then apply to use your abilities there.  If our church needs more prayer partners (and it does), then apply to use your gifts there. If the Children’s Ministry needs workers and volunteers, apply to use your gifts there.

Re-examine your use of your gifts and abilities in light of what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in crystal clear black and white. Are there changes you need to make? Make them (1 Corinthians 4:7).

 Ask God to convict you of any prideful or sinful attitude you have manifested based upon the gifts He has loaned you. Realizing they are His, not yours, ask His forgiveness of any pride in your abilities or gifts (1 Corinthians 4:7).

 Express your gratitude to God that He has only given you the gifts you have according to His will and not yours (1 Corinthians 12: 11; 18). Realizing God did not give you less than you need or more than you can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13) take time to thank Him for His perfect judgment.

Ask God to grant you wisdom to employ your gifts for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) rather than for division in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:24-25). Unnecessary division caused by pride over one’s gifts must be avoided.   After all, just as none of us deserve salvation, none of us deserve spiritual gifts. We aren’t special.

The Holy Spirit, Revisited: Inspiration Chapter Four

How did we get here? Let’s do a little review. We began our discussion of the Holy Spirit’s mission here on earth in the era in which we live: to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment; to bring to mind the teachings of Jesus (which is where convicting the world comes from---the word of God); to guide us in all truth and to enable us to apply what we have learned. We also discussed how the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth—by bringing to mind, or illuminating, the Scriptures we have studied. For the original apostles, it was the face to face teachings of Jesus the Holy Spirit brought to mind. For us it’s the Scriptures we’ve read.

The Holy Spirit Revisited, Chapter 3: Who (What) is the Holy Spirit

Many people misunderstand what the Holy Spirit does and who the Holy Spirit is. We’ve considered what Jesus says John’s Gospel. Looking to Jesus we asked and answered the question, ‘What does Jesus say about The Holy Spirit?’ Now we look to The Holy Spirit to reveal more about Himself to us through key passages in Acts. We can learn a great deal about the people we meet by what they say, explicitly and implicitly, about themselves. But some will say, ‘Luke wrote Acts. How can you make such a statement?’ Some might reply to such a response, ‘Is that your final answer?’ We must remember that men wrote what they wrote in the Bible because they were carried along (inspired) by the Holy Spirit. They didn’t make up their own personal interpretations (2 Peter 1:20-21). All Scripture is inspired and useful to teach us (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, we will seek to understand what The Holy Spirit has to say about Himself. As always, our goal is to avoid extremes, error, and confusion by learning balance from the Word of God, given to us through The Holy Spirit.  

 Consider the cultists and the spirit of error. If you’ve ever encountered a cultist you know the cultists tamper with the nature of God (Trinity), the Deity of Christ, and the personality (and deity) of The Holy Spirit. Members of the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses) believe that there is no Trinity (as do “Oneness Pentecostals” like T.D. Jakes). Jehovah Witnesses believe the Holy Spirit is a force, like the wind. They think the Holy Spirit is something like radiation. They see the Holy Spirit as a ‘thing’ or an ‘it.’ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) sees the Holy Spirit as one of three key earth gods who started out as a man and evolved through stages to godhood, before becoming an ‘exalted man.’ One television preacher stated God the Father is a person that has His own Trinity, God the Son is a person that has his own Trinity and God the Son is a person that has His own Trinity. He went onto say that there are nine members of the Trinity because even the Holy Spirit has His own Trinity.  He called this new revelation. Let’s stick to the Scriptures, the completed Bible, we have in our hands today. Does the Bible anywhere suggest, indicate, or imply God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit each have their own trinity? Nothing could be further from the truth. Does the Bible teach that the Holy Spirit is one of three key “earth gods?” Does the Bible say that the Holy Spirit is an “it” or a “force?” Where? There is nothing in the Bible supporting such notions. Let’s be wise, let’s be safe, by sticking with the Bible. Let’s stick with the revelation made more sure.

 Our aim is clarity. Our aim is to be clear on who the Holy Spirit is and understand with clarity how (and what) the Holy Spirit is.  Does the Bible say the Holy Spirit is God? Is the Holy Spirit a ‘thing,’ a force, an ‘it,’ or just what? The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it.’ We see this clearly and unmistakably in Acts 13:1-4.

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. (Act 13:1-4)

What do we learn from this passage? The Holy Spirit is not an ‘it,’ like a rock or a force. He expresses Himself through intelligible speech: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said... (Acts 13:2)” Rocks do not speak. Radiation does not speak. Individuals and intelligent beings speak, making their desires and preferences understood and understandably known.  In our passage, The Holy Spirit clearly expresses His will, commands, and desires: "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them (Acts 13:2)." Not to remind us of the painful years of grammar we studied in school or college, but the Holy Spirit is using personal pronouns like ‘me;’ ‘my;’ and ‘I.’ In so doing He shows us that  an intelligent being, He is self-aware, “set apart for Me.”

 Things, ‘it’s,’ and rocks do not express desire or exercise will. The Holy Spirit also expresses a desire or will: “Separate for Me...” Rocks, trees, and wind have neither a will nor a means to articulate a will, or desire, or course of action. These are aspects of personality. In Acts 13:4, The Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul (later called Paul) on a mission He had for them:        “ 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus (Act 13:4).” What do we see here? The Holy Spirit exercises will and authority. He gives commands. He has a will. He’s not an “it” because He expresses traits of personality, like the faculty of will. Do rocks have a will? Trees? Radiation?

 Like a person rather than a place or thing, The Holy Spirit has emotions. A thoughtful reading of the Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit has emotions: “ 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).” Think about it. Can we make a rock, or the wind, feel sad—angry? Can you cause radiation to grieve? Do things have emotions? Remember that we are created in the image and likeness of God, we are like Him, possessing intelligence, will, and emotions. God created us in His image:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. (Genesis 5:1-2)

God has emotions. Human beings have emotions. The Holy Spirit has emotions. Jesus wept. God feels anger. You and I experience grief, as does the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). This may seem simple to you, but this is lost on the cultists. Still, many Christians often engage in the regrettable practice of calling Him “it.” The Holy Spirit is a personal being, an Individual. How can we say this?

 The Spirit reveals to us in the book of Acts that He senses and feels satisfaction. Does the wind do this? Does a rock do this? Does an ‘it’ do this? The Spirit reveals through the pen of Luke, in the book of Acts, “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: (Act 15:28)” What’s going on here? Like us, created in His image and likeness, The Holy Spirit experiences satisfaction, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...”  The Holy Spirit has emotions, sensibilities, preferences, and intellect. We say He is like us. The reality is we are like Him since as human beings we were created in the image and likeness of God. Consequently, we are like Him in that we bear His image and likeness. We have traits of personality just as He does. He’s not an “it” and neither are we. We are individual beings with thoughts, wills, emotions, and desires: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements… (Act 15:28)”  

 The Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’ but a He. We have made it clear that the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’ or a ‘thing.’ In fact, we have referred, several times now, to the Holy Spirit as ‘He.’ Can we truly say that the Holy Spirit is a He? Not to get too technical but the original Greek language in which the New Testament has three gender descriptions: feminine, masculine, and neuter. Biblical Greek is a language of precision. The gender utilized for the Holy Spirit is masculine. But you don’t have to be a Greek scholar (or a Greek amateur) to see this clearly in your English language Bible or even a Spanish language Bible. Returning to our previous discussion  of the Holy Spirit’s mission based out of John 14 and John 16, we read this: “ 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you (John 14:26).”  The Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and God the Son, calls the Holy Spirit a “He.”

 Count the ‘He’s,’ the ‘His’s,’ and the ‘Him’s’ in the following passage. What do they indicate?

7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. 12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:7-14)

 The Holy Spirit is a He, not an ‘it---or even a ‘her.’ Rocks don’t have genders. Wind doesn’t have a gender and forces don’t have genders. However, individual beings do have genders. The Holy Spirit (like God the Father and God the Son) is a ‘He.’ This is how He describes Himself, in John 16:7-14, as He writes through the pen of the Apostle John (and is described by Jesus Christ).

 Along these lines, have you ever tried to insult a thing, a rock, the wind, or a force? You can’t. An ‘it’ can’t be offended because they are neither conscious nor self-aware. An ‘it’ can’t be insulted because an ‘it’ lacks personality. An ‘it’ like a stone or radiation is unthinking. Persons on the other hand (beings with identity, sensitivity, and understanding) can be insulted. This is another reason why the Holy Spirit is not an ‘it.’ Jesus tells us as much in this famous and famously frightening passage.

28 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- 30 for they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit (Mark 3:28-30).”

Among other things, ‘blaspheme’ (the act of blasphemy) speaks to slandering, insulting, or offending.  Can you or I insult a rock? Can we offend the wind? Can we speak against a force as if it were an individual with an individual will? 

 The Holy Spirit has thoughts, will, expresses Himself, and gives commands. The Holy Spirit has desires and preferences. This is what we have seen so far. The Holy Spirit expresses Himself intelligently. He refers to Himself (Me, My, etc.). For lack of a better term, He has feelings (He can be grieved by what we do). He also has a gender. No one, using the Bible, can produce a shred of evidence that the Holy Spirit is an ‘it’ or a ‘thing.’

 The Holy Spirit isn’t just a being: He’s God. Earlier we alluded to and discussed the Holy Spirit being of the same nature and essence as Jesus and God the Father. Jesus promised not to leave His followers as orphans but to send another helper of the same kind (John 14:28). Jesus promised to send another helper, like Him, to replace Him because Jesus was going to the Father. “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth (John 14:16-17).” Does this imply Deity or Godhood? Can we really say that the Holy Spirit is God, regardless of what the Jehovah Witnesses say? Does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit being God? Where does the Bible say the Holy Spirit is God? Perhaps the simplest and most straightforward place is in Acts 5:1-5:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.  (Acts 5:1-5)

Here the Apostle Peter refers to the Holy Spirit as God by telling Ananias that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God.  The deity of the Holy Spirit, the God-ness of the Holy Spirit, goes hand in hand with our earlier discussion of Acts 13: 1-4:

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-4)

How does this come close to implying or affirming the deity of the Holy Spirit? As they were fasting and praying, during a time of worship, God the Holy Spirit spoke to them about sending Barnabas and Saul (later Paul) out as missionaries. They were addressing God and God the Holy Spirit addressed them. Things like rocks or ‘its’ do not respond to us in God’s place.

 Moreover, Jesus Christ gave the Holy Spirit equal prominence with the Father and Himself. Jesus is God the Son. Jesus gave instructions for baptism in Matthew 28:19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19).” Notice a couple of things: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share equality and, apparently, a common ‘name’ or character. Jesus did not say, “God and baptize in the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  Here Jesus gives the Holy Spirit (and Himself) equal billing with God the Father.  

The Holy Spirit was present at creation before any living being was created. Being coeternal, He was with God the Father and God the Son at creation.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4)

Where is Jesus Christ in the creation accounts? Colossians 1: 15-16 tell us that Christ is the Creator:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him (Colossians 1:15-16).

 John 1:3 tells also reminds us that there is nothing made that Jesus didn’t make.  So, we know that Christ the Creator participated in the creation and the Spirit of God was there with Him, like Jesus was “with” (alongside) the Father in John 1:1 and is and was God.

The Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’ but a ‘He.’ He’s not a thing but a Person. The Holy Spirit expresses opinion, desires, feelings, and gives commands. He refers to Himself (‘I’). He can be grieved and insulted (blasphemed). The Holy Spirit is not an ‘it.’ The Holy Spirit is God. Can this be so? Are we overreaching?

As we noted in Acts 5:1-4, lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. Elsewhere, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as another helper like Jesus, having the same divine nature, essence, and Godhood. Jesus ranks the Holy Spirit alongside Himself and God the Father in the baptism command. The Holy Spirit is equally God with the Father and Jesus. We see the Holy Spirit present alongside Jesus in Creation, where the Spirit is hovering over the face of the waters.  We see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit present at Jesus’ baptism descending like a dove in what some refer to as Jesus’ “theocratic anointing” as Messiah. There is no way anyone can say that the Holy Spirit is an ‘it,’ a ‘force,’ or something or someone other than God. Because the Holy Spirit is God, how then shall we live in response to this truth?

 What do we do with all this truth, teaching, and information? How do we respond? If it just resides in our heads it becomes little more than head knowledge and a little knowledge puffs up and not much more. However, if it travels to our heart and takes root, then this information should both encourage us and move us to action, transforming the way we think and live. How?

Ideas for Application

Let’s determine to make some significant adjustments to our behavior. Remember when we discussed praying for the Holy Spirit’s illumination to understand and apply this Word, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (Psalms 119:18).” Open your eyes and your mind to what you’ve read and learned. Let it sink in.

 Let’s be careful how we refer to Him, not it. As you have studied His Word, remember that you have learned that the Holy Spirit is God, not an ‘it.’ Therefore, adjust your language in recognition that it is not appropriate to refer to Him as an ‘it.’ Often this is hard because we tend to refer to people by familiar names: Jim, Raul, Margarita; etc. Men, would you refer to your wife as an 'it?' Ladies, would you refer to your husband as an 'it '(avoid the temptation of humor here)? Your children and your parents? Of course not. Would you refer to Jesus as ‘it?’ Would you refer to God the Father is ‘it?’ Don’t refer to the Holy Spirit as ‘it.’ Change your speech. This may seem small but try referring to your spouse as 'it.' You’ll quickly be encouraged to change your language. Should we do less for God?

Carefully consider your own habits and practices.  What do we mean by this? Later we will study and learn about what it means to be Temples of the Holy Spirit. We’ve already learned that Jesus promised (and this has come to pass) that the Holy Spirit will both be with us and in us forever. Realize, therefore, that the Holy Spirit sees what you see, He hears what you hear, understands what you are thinking, and goes where you go. So, what?  Consider “The Grandma Test:” “Would I subject my Grandma to this?” Would I subject my Grandma to this kind of language? Would I want my Grandma to see this kind of film with me, or see me there? Would I want my Grandma to know the sort of thoughts I am thinking? What about God the Holy Spirit who is with you and in you forever? Think of the things you see, feel, say, and do. Think of the places, music, and sights you see. If you would be ashamed, uneasy, or uncomfortable taking your grandmother there---why subject God the Holy Spirit (whose Temple you are) to these same things? Have you ever thought about this? Maybe it’s time to stop desecrating His temple. If you wouldn’t take Grandma to these places, don’t subject the Holy Spirit of God to them.

As you seek to embrace changes, ask God the Holy Spirit for help. Change can be difficult. Ask Him to tell you what needs to change in your thoughts and to convict your mind and heart of these things as you read His Word and before you do them (again). Ask Him to convict you concerning sin and righteousness. Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you internalize and apply what you’ve read and understood so that you can pass it all on to others.

Take time to read, pray and ask for the Spirit’s help as you pursue growth. Remember that you have a Helper who will never leave you. Jesus has not left you and me as orphans but has seen to it that the Father has sent us Another Helper, like Him, in His name to guide us into all truth as we face the trials, difficulties, slings, and arrows of this life. You are not alone!

 

The Holy Spirit Revisited: Introduction

Any discussion of The Holy Spirit is bound to stir up strong opinions and reactions among God’s people. I do not have to tell you that much controversy and confusion surrounds this topic—too much. As a result, many people have an unbalanced perspective on The Holy Spirit. This ought not to be. But why is this?

The Lost Boys

The Lost Boys

One of my favorite parables (and perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted) is the parable of the “prodigal” son. The word prodigal means basically means ‘wasteful.’ Prodigal does not appear in the Bible. Jesus simply tells the story, or parable. Parables are illustrative stories that do not give us much detail, names, dates, or places—they simply illustrate a point. The story of the prodigal son is a story of two lost boys…

Dealing with Conflict

Dealing with Conflict

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).

This earthly life we lead is fraught with misunderstanding, miscommunication, and hurt. There are times when people deliberately hurt us. There are times when people do so accidentally. And there are times when we do one or the other to other people. What comes next is important. It is important to Jesus Christ.

The Physiology (and Psychology) of Addiction

The Physiology (and Psychology) of Addiction

Regardless of the expense, location, duration and method…rehab success rates hover between 17% and 21% over five years. Don’t believe me? Click here. Which leads to our next question.

How does an addict lose her way (or her mind)?In other words, how is it possible that a drunk or a person addicted to illicit or prescription drugs reaches the point where they will effectively kill themselves and all their relational connections?

The Morality of Addiction

The Morality of Addiction

Living in California has its benefits, namely weather. It’s also an incredible mission field. The world has come and is coming to California. This is especially true of the Bay Area, Silicon Valley. My neighborhood is quite diverse. It’s up to 40% Indian (from India). There are large numbers of people from China, Korea, and other ethnically similar countries. My is diverse neighborhood. That’s the Bay Area. That’s California. Aside from these wonderful attributes, California has its share of woes.