Archives For Holy Spirit

The concept of the Trinity was something that was invented many years after Christ’s ascension. It did not originate from Jesus but was invented more than one hundred years after is resurrection. It has, however, become a bedrock item in  much of the Christian church. But it seems many church denominations have now replaced the Holy Spirit with the Bible. From my studies on this substitution seems to have significantly grown about 100 years ago but its actual inception was probably during the Protestant Reformation.

During some recent discussion with a Christian clergy I was told that I should not put too much credence in any messages I thought were coming from the Holy Spirit as they could just as easily be coming from Satan.  Jesus clearly told us that he would be sending the Holy Spirit to guide us in areas  that we were not yet able to understand.  For anyone to discount personal revelations is going against those words.  To say that we can’t tell if the message is Satan or God is almost saying that  God is NOT capable of getting his messages through to us!  I personally give God more power than that. If he wants me to know something  he can deliver it to me and I will know it is from him.  I personally have had a few of those revelations in my life.

Many who discount the power of the Holy Spirit then go on to say that everything God wants us to know is in the Bible and therefore any additional revelations from the Holy Spirit are totally unnecessary. This brings about the title of this post. In many ways the Bible has replaced the Holy Spirit to them! Yes, I do believe that the Bible contains words from God but it is not the total and final word of God.  The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is active even today in teaching us, among many other things,  how to live as followers of Jesus Christ.  I welcome those revelations whenever they come.

Pentecost2

Yesterday being Pentecost, and the fact that I just finished posting a series on the Holy Spirit, it is on my mind. After again reading the dramatic account of the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles and others in that closed and hidden room I had a serious question suddenly pop into my mind.  Are we ignoring our small messages from the Holy Spirit and therefore also keeping the big ones from occurring in our lives? 

I don’t expect that the Holy Spirit uses the flaming heads much anymore but I do believe that he come to each of us in varying degrees throughout our lives.  Like most things we need to take baby steps before we can leap. Holy Spirit baby steps are those times in our lives when the Holy Spirit nudges us in one direction or another.  After recognizing enough baby steps I think we graduate on to more significant messages.

If we are ignoring those baby nudges are we preventing the Holy Spirit from leading us into the knowledge that we were not yet ready to hear before that time?  I think for many that might be the case. Some say that when we are baptized as children the Holy Spirit comes into our lives.  That might be true but I am certain that is not the only time he is with us.  By failing to recognize the fact of his continual presence maybe our baptism rituals are actually getting in the way of our growth as disciples of Christ??

Some say the “real” baptisms of the Holy Spirit come throughout our time on earth. By seemingly putting all the power on the first one we might actually be preventing recognizing and acting on  the others.  Just some thoughts that suddenly occurred to me today.

Come Holy Spirit, come……

This time we will be looking at the method and means the Holy Spirit uses to convey messages to us.

Acts 13:1-4

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

Acts 15:24-29

We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Acts 16:6-7

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.

Acts 20:22-24

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

I chose the above four reading to show that the Holy Spirit sends messages to us. This seemed like a routine thing to the apostles and other early Christians. The Holy Spirit seems to have directed them as to where to go and what to do when they get there. Do we get those kind of messages today if so do we really listen for them?

Another thing about messages from the Holy Spirit from earlier posts are that people back then seemed to know if they didn’t have the Holy Spirit. Peter and other asked if the new converts had received the Holy Spirit and they often said “No we haven’t but we have been baptized” or “No we have not been informed that there is a Holy Spirit”. They seemed so sure that they have not received him in their comments. How could they know that they don’t have something? That is strange to me.

At one particular moment in my life I think I did receive a clear and distinct message from the Holy Spirit. That moment brought me to tears. I wish I could report others like it but I can’t truthfully do that. I think I need some lessons in how to effectively listen. I am hoping to discover them in the days/weeks/years ahead. Come Holy Spirit come.

This time we will look at the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Baptism. Are they one and the same?

Let’s start with Peter in Samaria.

Acts 8:14-19

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

These verses point out something I believe is very significant. That is being baptized with water is not the same thing as being filled with the Holy Spirit. Many Christians today believe that the two are the one and the same. These verses clearly say otherwise; at least in this instance. The people in Samaria had been baptized but did not have the Holy Spirit until Peter placed his hands on them. This display of bringing the Holy Spirit definitely had an effect on someone named Simon as he tried to buy the power for himself!

So, if the Holy Spirit does not automatically come to all those who are baptized what circumstance causes him to come to believers? Here is an instance where the Holy Spirit came to those who had not yet been baptized.

Acts 10:44-48

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Besides for the baptism/Holy Spirit reversal these verses have other significant consequences. Early in Acts Peter received a message from God that he was to go among the Gentiles to give them the message of Jesus Christ. Up until that point I don’t think the Apostles really understood that Christianity was meant for both Jew and Gentile. Of course, it was later decided that Paul would be the one to go among the Gentiles and Peter was to pretty much stay among the Jews. So I guess God changed his mind as to who he would send. But that is another story. I have might have no biblical foundation for this belief but I think that receiving the Holy Spirit is what really makes a person a Christian and the baptism part it like a rite of initiation or a ritual as was typical of Jewish traditions at the time. I believe that the Jewish ceremonial aspects are the primary reason that Peter mentions water baptism after the Holy Spirit baptism.

 Let’s look at the book of Acts to try and understand just who the Holy Spirit is and what his purpose is. In our previous study, along with some confusion, we learned that the Holy Spirit is a being who Jesus referred to a “him” is not purely a spiritual presence. Ok, let’s go through some of the references to the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts. This time we will look at when the Holy Spirit came in a dramatic fashion

Acts 1:4-5

Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” 

Of course these are the words of Jesus after his resurrection and he is referring to what we call today the Day of Pentecost. Jumping ahead for a few moments it was obvious that the apostles were very changed men after they received the Holy Spirit than they were before. You could say that the Holy Spirit finally gave them the incentive to loudly boast of the Lord. They obviously lacked this ability before the Pentecost.

Another thing worth noting about the above verse is that Jesus is somewhat minimizing the water baptism of John when comparing it to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is one of the reasons that Quakers, as we studied a few posts ago, put all the emphasis on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and do not really celebrate water baptism as they believe that water baptism is more of a ceremonial event in line with other previous Jewish traditions than an actual sacrament . The sacrament comes from the Holy Spirit not from the water event.

Ok, lets move on to another reference in the first chapter of Acts:  

Acts 2:1-4

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

I believe that I get messages from the Holy Spirit but never in such a dramatic fashion! It is obvious from the accounts after this one that the Holy Spirit was a force to be accounted with. The difference in the apostles was almost night/day. I know the “speaking in tongues” part many give special meaning to. I am not going there with this post. Maybe I will address it later but not now as I think it would only dilute the conversation at this point.

Acts 4:31-35

After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 

This is yet another bold demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power. When they were filled with the Holy Spirit it seems that selfishness was washed out of them and they were indeed their brothers keeper. What an awesome display of Christ like attitudes.

In these passages we have studied it seems that there was little doubt as to when the Holy Spirit came to them. He came with: violent winds, shaking houses, fire, and total selflessness. Why shouldn’t we expect the same today?

The 16th Chapter of the John comes to mind most frequently when we think of Jesus giving us the Holy Spirit. Here it is:

John 16:12-15 NIV

“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. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

Jesus spoke these words just before he was turned over for crucifixion. This was probably the last time he had alone with the original eleven apostles. He clearly says that the apostles could not understand many of the things Jesus wants to tell them. The way these words are framed it appears that the “Spirit of truth” is very subservient to Jesus and not an equal member of the Trinity as commonly shown today. It sounds like the Holy Spirit is just a mouthpiece for Jesus. Putting that aside we come to another aspect of the Holy Spirit that needs to be addressed. Most think that the Holy Spirit is just that, a spirit and not a being. Of course being portrayed as a dove just re-enforces that idea. But Jesus, and the apostles in the book of Acts, clearly refers to the Holy Spirit as “him”. This would seem to indicate that he is a being.

To raise another basic question was the mission of the Holy Spirit only to come to the Apostles or is he meant to be our counselor as well? That is, is the Holy Spirit around today to guide us through our lives with the lessons that Jesus said we were not yet ready for? Could we still be learning things that we were not yet ready to learn even in the future?  Of course, we will investigate this much more in the coming posts when we study what the book of Acts says about him.

Let’s look at a couple of other places in the Gospel text that talk about the Holy Spirit.

Luke 12:8-12

“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Matt 12:30-32

“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 

It looks like these two sets of verses probably reported the same incident but with some different words and possible meanings. Of course Matthew was there to hear these words from Jesus. Luke’s version was probably relayed to him via a third source so maybe that may be the cause of the variation. I can only guess whether Luke’s source was an eyewitness. But I am getting off track here. This reference to the Holy Spirit is much different than the first one I cited. Is Jesus talking about two different entities? I just don’t know. The only way I can reconcile these stories is to take where Jesus calls the spirit “the Spirit of Truth” and say he is talking about “truth” here then maybe this makes sense. But then “truth” is not a person as Jesus clearly stated in the first verse?  Taking that aside, he might be saying that if you deny the truth you are denying the Holy Spirit. One of the study Bibles I use refer to this as someone who would attribute to Satan the miracles done by Christ. In many of today’s Christian denominations we espouse that no matter what your sin is Jesus forgives you. These verses seem to say that at least for this sin you are not forgiven.

Having just finished up an extensive set of posts on Quakers, the Holy Spirit is on my mind. So I am now going to concentrate on what the Gospels and book of Acts say about the Holy Spirit. This is going to be a seven part post so please bear with me. I find myself tackling tough theological issues lately. I will try to get back to my regular shorter discussions after this one of complete. But no promises.
Except for a book by Billy Graham that I read years ago I have not studied any theologians’ views of the Holy Spirit so this round is going to pretty much just me and how I personally interpret the biblical words about the Holy Spirit. From my exposure to Christianity the Holy Spirit seems to be the much forgotten member of the Trinity. I know that any three legged stool will sit without rocking but it seems that the Christian stool of the Trinity is very unbalanced. Given the extreme emphasis on biblical text by many Christian sects, to the almost exclusion of messages from the Holy Spirit it seems that at least some Christians would like to rename the trinity as The Father, Son, and Holy Bible!  

The most often used icon related to the Holy Spirit is a bird. Yes, the dove does have biblical connotations but I think the image itself tends to diminish the Holy Spirit’s perceived status among Christians and others. While almost all of us love birds they just don’t have the stature of the “old bearded man” that usually depicts God the Father, or the stately European figures that we often see of Jesus. Another is the name given to him by some of the Bible versions around today which is the Holy Ghost. Ghosts have a much different context now than they probably did in biblical times. We have all watched movies like Ghost Busters; that is not what Jesus had in mind when he talked about his partner! Some of us even remember the cartoon Casper, the Friendly Ghost. While he had a more cuddly demeanor, that was also not what Jesus had in mind. So, to me the Holy Spirit is getting a bad rap by many people today. Let’s try and set the record straight 🙂 .  

Just what does the New Testament say about the Holy Spirit? That is what I will be investigating. Quakers believe that the Holy Spirit gives each of us personal revelations including how to live our lives. They also believe that they are closer to the beliefs of the early Christians than most other sects around today. These posts will, among other things, concentrate on just how the Holy Spirit interacted with the apostles and other early Christians. 
 In my mind, the Holy Spirit is probably the least understood member of the Trinity especially among most Protestants and to a large degree even Catholics. As we begin this trek I have to give you the same caveat that I always do. I am not a theologian or a religious scholar. I am just an ordinary guy who wants to know more about the God that I truly love above all else. If you have any differing opinions about anything I say I welcome your input. As long as it is in line with Code of Conduct as indicated by the blog page above.

This will be an interesting study for me and I hope for you.