Bible Study Tools / The Holy Spirit

The Spirit of Pentecost

by Kevin Ford

The Spirit of God, or Holy Spirit, is one of the most basic and important themes to be found throughout God’s Word – from the very first chapter of Genesis to the final chapter of Revelation. The Bible also mentions an angelic spirit (Ezekiel 10:17) and a human spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11). But what is the Holy Spirit, and what is its significance in a Christian’s life? Notwithstanding the contrary belief among so many professing Christians, it is never described in the Bible as a Being or Person. Whenever the God Family is mentioned in Scripture, as in the introductory verses to many of the New Testament letters (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, etc.), only two Beings are mentioned, God the Father and Jesus Christ. In fact, if the Holy Spirit were a person, then Jesus prayed to the ‘wrong’ Father, as, according to Matthew 1:18, his mother Mary was “with child of the Holy Spirit”!

One of the clearest descriptions of the nature of the Holy Spirit is found in Luke 1:35, after Mary had asked the angel Gabriel how it was possible for her to give birth to the Son of God. She is told that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” Here, God’s Spirit is identified with the power and actions of God - the means by which He accomplishes His will. This understanding is further reinforced if we examine the references to the Holy Spirit in the original Greek, many of which omit the definite article. The Concordant Literal Translation is one of the few to accurately observe this distinction, rendering Acts 4:8, for example, as: “Then Peter, being filled with Holy Spirit…”.

How do we receive God’s Holy Spirit? God’s instructions, as expressed by the apostle Peter at the inauguration of the New Testament Church, are specific: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It cannot be purchased for any price (Acts 8:18-20), but God offers it to us as a free gift when we fulfill His conditions.

What are the many ways by which a Christian’s life is impacted by the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit? Here are some of them:

1. It imparts spiritual power. In Luke 4:14, Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit” to Galilee, following His great ordeal in the wilderness. The disciples, after being filled with the Holy Spirit, are described as speaking the Word of God “with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Paul had to remind Timothy that the Holy Spirit he had been given was not a spirit of fear (timidity) but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

2. It imparts understanding. Just as the human spirit present in all human beings enables us to have understanding on a physical level, the divine spirit gives us spiritual understanding. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.... These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but by which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spirtitual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:11-13 NKJV).

3. It inspires the gifts that are necessary in the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 provides a long list of the gifts that edify the Church and are available by God’s Spirit – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. If we would like to see more of these gifts in our local congregation, we can ask God to give a greater measure of His Spirit to all of us.

4. It helps us to pray effectively. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26 NRSV). Effective prayer does not come easily to a human being because “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galations 5:17). God’s Spirit fills that serious shortcoming in our life.

5. It identifies us as belonging to God. Professing Christians have come up with all kinds of ideas and definitions of what constitutes a true Christian, but the only one that matters is the one found in Romans 8:9: “But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

6. It will enable us to receive eternal life at the return of Jesus Christ. Having received God’s free gift of his Spirit, we are not simply promised the power to overcome Satan’s temptations and the downward pull of our human nature, but something much more awe-inspiring. “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit which dwells in you” (Romans 8:11 RSV). For those of us who may be advanced in age, this is not describing simply a rejuvenation to the strength and health we experienced in our youth, but a transformation into a totally new plane of existence as a member of the God Family. “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44 RSV).

Although the Bible states that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9), it does not mean that it is impossible for us to have this knowledge.

The same passage continues: “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit…..” (verse 10). This is what the Day of Pentecost is all about – the giving of the greatest gift we physical human beings can ever receive!

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