Basics: A Holy Spirit Study

 The first thing that people often want to know: what/who is the Holy Spirit? First of all, He is not an it. We should refer to Him as a very personal being, a Him. He is a Person of the Godhead (the Trinity). Pneuma—Greek NT word for spirit/Spirit. Another descriptor is Paraclete: (Parakletos, Greek / in Christian theology) the Holy Spirit as advocate or counselor (John 14:16–18, 26). Read John 16:5–8, 13–14 for more about Jesus and His teachings about the Holy Spirit in what has been called Jesus’ Farewell Discourse. Jesus wanted His closest followers to experience the Holy Spirit. Read John 20:21–22. Jesus’ ministry continued in the Book of Acts, carried out by Spirit-empowered disciples: the power of the Holy Spirit obviously at work in the First Christian Church of Acts (e.g., Chapter 2). Also read Acts 1:8 and Acts 5:32.

Jesus and John the Baptizer spoke about the Holy Spirit early in their ministries. There were no requirements imposed on the Holy Spirit regarding how He would make a person act; there were no shared absolute responses or proofs of having the Spirit fall on them (e.g., speaking in an unknown language or “tongues”) in the early days of the New Testament. As John baptized Jesus in water, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus as a form similar to a dove, lighting on Him. This should be considered power coming directly from on high as God spoke audibly, “This is My beloved Son; in Him I am well pleased.” (See Matthew 3 verse 17.) We have no pretense for eisegesis or reason to expect that Jesus’ experience at His water baptism is normative to all; however, we are promised the gift of the Spirit at that time in Acts 2:38.

The Bible certainly contains evidences of the Holy Spirit coming upon people much earlier in history. In the Old Testament, there are examples of the power of the Spirit in the lives of people like Samson, Gideon, David, and others. Read Judges 3:9–10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:24–25; 14:6,19 and 15:14–16. See also 1 Samuel 16:13 and 2 Chronicles 15:1. We find a liberating experience in the Holy Spirit. Where the Spirit is, according to 2 Corinthians 3:17, there will be freedom. James Burton Coffman describes this thoroughly in his commentary:

When a Christian is converted, receiving the Holy Spirit as an earnest of redemption, there is bestowed at the same time freedom: (1) from the law (Galatians 3:11)* ; (2) from fear (Romans 8:13); (3) from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2); (4) from sin (Romans 6:18); and (5) from corruption (Romans 8:21).**

*Galatians citation appeared to be incorrect in original quote. Edited here.

** Accessed on November 2, 2018.

The New Testament makes it obvious that the Spirit should be a big part of a Christian’s life, coming to Christ and beyond. Consider Romans 8:9 and Acts 2:38. Jack Cottrell in the book, Baptism: A Biblical Study (page 59), explains it like this: “The gift of the Spirit Himself as an indwelling presence is promised . . . ‘Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ The reality of the inner presence of the Spirit in our lives and bodies is a fact taught forcefully and clearly in Scripture.” See Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 2:1–5; 12:3; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22; Ephesians 1:13–14.

But we should point out a truth that cannot be denied; we have no access to the Holy Spirit apart from Christ. He is the One who would send the Spirit to His people. (See Luke 3:16.) It was prophesied of old; God promised to pour out His Spirit upon mankind in the Book of Joel (chapter 2 verse 28). But what does this mean for us today? Peter in Acts chapter 2 proclaimed that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled there on the day of Pentecost. But later, Paul commands us to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Passive yet imperative, this implies that there is some activity or obedience required on our part, yet it is obviously God who pours out His Spirit. Paul seems to be saying that this filling of the Spirit is ongoing, not just for the earliest days of the church of Jesus Christ.

I want to study this further and get into some current doctrinal issues associated with the Holy Spirit later in this multiple part study. This is the introduction. Expect more to come.


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