THE PERSON OF HOLY SPIRIT
The person of Holy Spirit is not only greatly neglected in Christianity. He is ignored totally in the Jewish faith. Yet the “Shema” was recited by Jews daily in Jesus’ time as well as in synagogue services. The first verse declares, “Hear, O Israel, The LORD our God is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4) declaring a monotheistic faith in a single God. However, the Hebrew translated “one” is the word echad which literally means a plural unity. Furthermore the Hebrew translated as “God” (Genesis 1:1) is Elohim, “im” being a plural and not a singular ending. Likewise the creation story specifically indicates the plural nature of the Godhead.
“God said, Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” Genesis 1:26
The Godhead is comprised of a plural unity that consists of God the Father, God the Son known as The Word prior to incarnation in human flesh as Jesus (see John 1), and God the Holy Spirit. While individual, the three exist in such perfect harmony as to be One even as they exercise different roles. Indeed the OT describes activity of Holy Spirit beginning in Genesis 1:2 where “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” The Holy Spirit instructed the Israelites in their desert wanderings (Nehemiah 9:20). Moses chose seventy elders to help lead the people, and God took of the Spirit on Moses and put Him upon the elders to enable them in their task (Numbers 11:16,17). The Holy Spirit would also come on Samson (Judges 14:6), Gideon (Judges 6:34), David (1 Samuel 16:13), and others to equip them for God-appointed service.
God the Holy Spirit only came on a relatively small number in OT days to empower for service or prophecy. There was no general outpouring as took place later on the day of Pentecost. However, the OT does look forward to the future when God would pour out His Spirit in a more general way, a prophesy Peter would repeat to those attending Pentecost: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh….” (Joel 2:28,29). Speaking through Jeremiah, God told of plans to bring a new covenant, but “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them” (Jeremiah 31:32).
“But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, says the LORD, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jeremiah 31:33
While the covenant of the Law was not kept by God’s people, the commandments were by no means intended to be discarded. Jesus came in human flesh not to destroy the Law and commandments but to fulfill that which was broken through the iniquities of man. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets;I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). The new covenant would see the laws of God written not on tablets of stone but on hearts of men by the Spirit of God. As Ezekiel foretold, the new covenant would also make obedience to the ways of God possible through the power of Holy Spirit.
“A new heart also will I give you and a new Spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh: And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36:24-27
Here we are given insight into the difference between the old and new covenants. The former was a covenant between God and man, made at Mount Sinai when God gave the Law and commandments to Moses. Moses told the people the judgments of God, and they all responded, “All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7). Then Moses took blood from the peace offering of a bull, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words” (24:8). But despite an earnest intention to be obedient, the Israelites were unable to keep the commandments given them by God in their own strength and power.
What was prophesied through Ezekiel was the nature of the new covenant by a “ministry of the Spirit” as described by Paul (2 Corinthians 3:8). The new covenant was not made between God and man as was the old covenant, but between God and His Son. The new covenant required the second person of the Godhead to set aside His deity, become of no reputation as a servant in the likeness of men, and be obedient to His Father’s will, even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). With the words, “It is finished,” the God-man Jesus of Nazareth completed the covenant made with His Father as the “head of the body, the church…the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18).
Under the new covenant, God’s people would no longer need depend on their own strength and willpower to obey the commands of God. They’d be indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, the third person of the Godhead. It needs to be understood that the Holy Spirit is not merely power or influence, but is a person referred to by Jesus using the personal pronoun “he.” It is through His power the will of God can be manifest on earth although a substantial part of the Church is in unbelief that the person of Holy Spirit continues to operate the same today as in the early church. Such is true of many who would contend God is unchanging, but they are afflicted by blindness and deception fostered by Satan, the father of lies. To deny that miracles and divine healings still take place today is utter heresy.
Holy Spirit not only has intellect and knows the things of God. He has emotions and is grieved by refusal to respond to His influence (Ephesians 4:30). For He never says or does anything contrary to God the Father or God the Son. He is the One who creates new life in the spirit of repentant sinners and reconciles them with God. As Jesus said to the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). It is Holy Spirit who inspired OT prophets to speak for God: “For the prophesy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21). The same is true of all scripture. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Holy Spirit is responsible for directing the daily walk of those submitted to the lordship of Jesus: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other so that you cannot do the things that you would.” (Galatians 5:17,18). We are saved by cooperating with the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
“God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief in the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13
Here scripture is telling us that it is not only by faith in Jesus but also by the help of the Spirit in becoming sanctified that we are brought to final salvation. For it is only by the Spirit that we are able to put to death misdeeds of the flesh which would result in our eternal condemnation: “If you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:13,14). And Holy Spirit is even our Helper when it comes to prayer.
“For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26,27
For the person of Holy Spirit to work effectively in our lives, we must cooperate by yielding control and being willing to deny ourselves and take up a cross to crucify those parts of self which do not represent the ways of God. The moralistic way of trying to live a godly life is reading the Bible and trying to do what is right in our might. This describes what is the old covenant approach and is still taught today in some fundamental circles. Fixing the past way is trying to identify old issues and modify behavior as best possible. In contrast, there is the Spirit-filled way of first accepting that Jesus Christ has already atoned or ransomed us from our sin debt by His work at Calvary, and then seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us to will and act according to His purposes for our lives. For it is impossible apart from empowering by Holy Spirit to abide in Christ and remain obedient to the ways of God so as to have an overcoming life and be eternally saved.
“For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13