THE HOLY SPIRIT
For all practical purposes when you study the Holy Spirit in the OT, you can come away with the impression that the Spirit is no more than the way God deals with you and me, that is, He is not a separate person from God the Father. When you come to the NT though, you see that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person within the God-head.
In Jesus' Farewell Discourse (John 13:31-17:26) Jesus several times speaks of Himself, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father as 3 distinct Persons within the Godhead. Whereas the NT never comes out and says: "There is only One God and yet He exists as 3 Persons," the way the NT treats the 3 members of the Godhead leads us to no other conclusion but that God is One and Three.
Incidents such as Jesus' baptism treat the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person within the Godhead. How does Jesus' baptism in Matt. 3:16-17 pave the way for our belief in a Trinity? How does this passage treat the Spirit as a distinct Person within the Godhead?
The Trinity is not simply one of many beliefs held by Christians. It is one of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity. Strip this belief away from Christianity and you have definitely seriously altered the content of Christianity. One of the most poignant sites in the catacombs near Rome is the site where St. Cecilia met her death. The catacombs were used not only to bury Christians; they were also used as a hiding place for Christians from their Roman persecutors. The Romans invaded the catacombs while St. Cecilia was hiding there. They executed her. As she lay dying, with one hand she stuck out her 3 middle fingers, while with the other she stuck out her index finger. There is a statue of her at that site with her hands in this posture. She was her way to proclaim both the unity of God and the three-ness of God.
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE PROPHETS
The Holy Spirit and Ecstatic Experiences
Probably one of the most dramatic functions of the Spirit in the OT is His work among the prophets. The Spirit is going to lead the prophets to perform some actions which to us will appear quite bizarre. Read the following verses and write down some actions which the Spirit led the following prophets to perform?
|NAME OF PROPHET||BIBLE PASSAGE||ACTIONS|
|Ezekiel||Ezekiel 4:1-8, esp. verses 4-6||.|
|Saul||1 Samuel 11:1-7, esp. verses 6-7||.|
In modern American Christianity we like to pigeon-hole the Spirit. I don't know about rolling down the aisles, being slain in the Spirit, or handling snakes like some of our charismatic brothers do. Paul says that whenever the Spirit guides us in worship, what will be true of our worship (1 Cor. 14:40)?
On the other hand, I want to be careful before I condemn or look down upon somebody for doing just this very thing. Although I can safely say that the Spirit has never led me to perform either one of these actions, it does not mean that He has not led others to do the same.
The Holy Spirit and Prophecy
Another result of the Spirit moving in the prophets was that whenever the prophet spoke under the influence of the Spirit, his words were nothing less than God's Word. This is shown in the way the OT describes "inspiration," the act in which God breathes into the prophet so that the prophet will speak God's Word. Because the prophet was so filled with God's Spirit, he could write that "the _________ of the Lord" had come upon him (Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1; Micah 1:1; Zephaniah 1:1; and Haggai 1:1).
The Spirit inspiring men to write the Bible is not only a phenomenon found in the OT. According to John what was true of him on the Lord's Day which led to the writing of the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:10)?
Most conservative Christians, among them Baptists, believe that this process has come to an end. In other words, we do not believe that the Spirit has continued to work among people to produce God's Word. The major criterion the early church used to determine whether or not a book was worthy to be in the NT was whether or not an apostle either wrote that book (e.g., The Gospel of John) or stood behind the book (e.g., Peter behind The Gospel of Mark). Now that all the apostles have died, there is no more possibility of another canonical book of the Bible being written. This excludes the Koran and the Book of Mormon.
Not only does the Spirit produce the Bible, what else does the Spirit do according to 2 Peter 1:20-21? "No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own ______________________."
Whenever you approach the Bible to read it, study it, memorize it, you need to acknowledge the importance of the Spirit in understanding the Bible. Two things should accompany any serious study of the Scripture: (1) prayer that the Spirit guide you and (2) an open heart to what the Spirit wants to say to you. These 2 elements are necessary for understanding the Scriptures.
I find that the best Bible study I do is on my knees. Each week as I prepare to teach the Bible, I pray and then study the passage by listening to some of the greatest experts on that biblical passage. Before I put it all together, I pray through the passage. This prayer time in my view allows the Spirit to lay upon my heart what HE wants me to say, not what I want to say, but what HE wants to say. I'm not claiming that I ALWAYS get it right; however, there is a calm assurance that I have honored the Spirit's role in interpreting the Scripture.
What happens whenever the Spirit supposedly interprets the Bible in such a way that He contradicts the Bible? For example, the New Hampshire diocese of the Episcopalian church claimed that the Spirit has now said it is OK to live a gay lifestyle, a statement which flat out contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. What is the problem in this? If the NH Episcopalians are right, what is the problem with the HS? How would this reflect on the faithfulness (consistency) of God? Would you be able to trust Him any more? Why or why not?
It is easy to attack the Episcopalians on this issue; yet how do we use the Holy Spirit to get what we want?
Moreover, we need to be careful with what we teach about the priesthood of the believer. The concept of the priesthood of the believer (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6) means that I alone am responsible to God for my relationship with Him. As a result I not only have the right, I also have the responsibility to interpret the Bible according to my conscience' dictates. Because I have the right and the responsibility to interpret Scripture, that does not mean I always get it right. There is a RIGHT interpretation of Scripture and a WRONG interpretation of Scripture. According to Jesus how will you know which interpretation is correct (John 7:17)?
THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE FUTURE AGE
Both the OT and NT prophesy that one day a new glorious age will come. According to Ezekiel 37:27 what will happen in that age? (P.S. God is the One speaking in Ez. 37:27.)
Whatever else is true about that age, it is an age dominated by the work of the Holy Spirit. Look at the following verses and then write down the way they describe this new future age:
|PASSAGE||DESCRIPTION OF THE FUTURE AGE|
According to Joel 2:28-32 what does God pour out upon mankind in the last days? What do His sons and daughters do after God has poured out this thing upon them?
Notice that the HS falls not simply upon the sons of God but also upon the daughters of God. Always remember that women and not men were the first preachers of the gospel.
Whenever the NT at the beginning of the story of Jesus claims that the Holy Spirit is working, it wants us to understand that the new age has dawned. Full day will come only when Jesus returns; however, right now we live at the dawn of the new age. John confirms this when he calls Jesus the "bright ___________________ _________________" (Revelation 22:16).
Because right now it is the dawn of that new age, we are experiencing the light of that new age; however, because it is dawn, darkness is still present as well. This will help explain why we experience both victory AND defeat as Christians.
We need to keep this in mind if we are going to live lives of grace and of peace. Many Christians beat themselves up because they fail the Lord. Well, 2 things are true. First, out in the world there is light and darkness. We see people living for Jesus and also people hostile towards Jesus and God. On the other hand, we see light and darkness in Christians as well. Whereas the HS came to live in me because I trusted in Jesus, there is still the old Carey Ford living in me. When I follow the HS, He energizes me to experience His life and presence. On the other hand, when I decide I am going to do my own thing, I live in the darkness.
This is true not only for us nominal Christians, it is true of the greatest of Christians. Two of my Christian heroes went through times of great depression. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was afflicted with periods of great depression. He would kneel beside the bed of his wife Susannah and weep uncontrollably. C.S. Lewis went through a time of great depression and rage. For years he had remained single because of a commitment which prevented him from marrying. Finally, when he reached 50 years of age, he met and married the love of his life. Within a few years she developed bone cancer and died. His book A Grief Observed chronicles the emotions he felt during that period. In it he actually calls God "A cosmic sadist." That is rough. Yet this is the rage of a man who takes God seriously and who is trying to come to grips with a great loss in his life.
Until Christ returns or we go to Him at the time of death, we will have both darkness and light within us. Try to follow the Lord on a daily consistent basis because His light shines in you. On the other hand, forgive yourself when you go astray, cutting yourself some slack because you know that darkness also resides within you.