HOLY SPIRIT

"Who is the Holy Spirit?"

There are many misconceptions on the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force. Others understand the Holy Spirit as the impersonal power God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit? Simply put - the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a Person, a Being with a mind, emotions, and a will.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures including Acts 5:3-4. In this verse Peter confronts Ananias as to why he had lied to the Holy Spirit and tells him that he had “not lied to men but to God.” It is a clear declaration that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. We can also know that the Holy Spirit is God because He possesses the attributes or characteristics of God. For example, the fact that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent is seen in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:10, we see the characteristic of omniscience in the Holy Spirit. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.”

We can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Person because He possesses a mind, emotions, and a will. The Holy Spirit thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is God, the third “Person” of the Trinity. As God, the Holy Spirit can truly function as the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus promised He would be (John 4:16,26; 15:26).

"What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?"

The case of "blasphemy against the Spirit" in the New Testament is mentioned in Mark 3:22-30 and in Matthew 12:22-32. The term blasphemy may be generally defined as "defiant irreverence." We would apply the term to such sins as cursing God, or willfully degrading things relating to God. It is also attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him. This case of blasphemy, however, is a specific one, called "THE blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 12:31. In Matthew 12:31-32, the Pharisees, having witnessed irrefutable proof that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, claimed instead that the Lord was possessed by the demon "Beelzebub" (Matthew 12:24). Now notice that in Mark 3:30 Jesus is very specific about what exactly they did to commit "the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."

This blasphemy has to do with someone accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled. There are other ways to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but this was "THE" unpardonable blasphemy. As a result, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be duplicated today. Jesus Christ is not on earth. but seated at the right Hand of God. No one can witness Jesus Christ performing a miracle and then attribute that power to Satan instead of the Spirit. Although there is no blasphemy of the Spirit today, we should always keep in mind there is an unpardonable state of existence--the state of continued unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. Continual rejection of the Holy Spirit’s promptings to trust in Jesus Christ is the unpardonable blasphemy. Remember what is stated in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have eternal life." The only condition when someone would have no forgiveness is if that someone is not among the "whoever believes in Him."

"When / How do we receive the Holy Spirit?"

The Apostle Paul clearly taught that we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. 1 Corinthians 12:13 declares, "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Christ - "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe, "Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession-to the praise of his glory."

These three Scriptures make it clear that the Holy Spirit must be received at the moment of salvation. Paul could not say that we all were baptized by one Spirit and all given one Spirit to drink if not all of the Corinthian believers possessed the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:9 is even stronger. If a person does not have the Spirit, he does not belong to Christ. Therefore, the possession of the Spirit is an identifying factor of the possession of salvation. Further, the Holy Spirit could not be the “seal of salvation” (Ephesians 1:13-14) if He is not received at the moment of salvation. Many Scriptures make it abundantly clear that our salvation is secured the moment we receive Christ as Savior.

This discussion is controversial because the ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused. The receiving / indwelling of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation. The filling of the Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life. While we hold that the baptism of the Spirit also occurs at the moment of salvation, some Christians do not. This sometimes results in the baptism of the Spirit being confused with “receiving the Spirit” as an act subsequent to salvation. In conclusion, how do we receive the Holy Spirit? We receive the Holy Spirit by simply believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior (John 3:5-16). When do we receive the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit becomes our permanent possession the moment we believe.

"What is the gift of speaking in tongues?"

The first occurrence of speaking in tongues occurred on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1-4. The apostles went out and shared the Gospel with the crowds, speaking to them in their own languages, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" (Acts 2:11). The Greek word translated "tongues" literally means "languages." Therefore, the gift of tongues is speaking in a language a person does not know in order to minister to someone who does speak that language. In 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14, where Paul discusses miraculous gifts, he comments that, “Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?" (1 Corinthians 14:6). According to the Apostle Paul, and in agreement with the tongues described in Acts, speaking in tongues is valuable to the one hearing God’s message in his/her own language, but it is useless to everyone else – unless it is interpreted / translated.

A person with the gift of interpreting tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30) could understand what a tongues-speaker was saying even though he/she did not know the language that was being spoken. The tongues-interpreter would then communicate the message of the tongues-speaker to everyone else, so all could understand. “For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says” (1 Corinthians 14:13). Paul’s conclusion regarding un-interpreted tongues is powerful, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue" (1 Corinthians 14:19).

Is the gift of tongues for today? 1 Corinthians 13:8 mentions the gift of tongues ceasing, although it connects the ceasing with the arrival of the "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10. Some point to a difference in the language in prophecy and knowledge "ceasing" with tongues "being ceased" as evidence for tongues ceasing before the arrival of the "perfect." While possible, this is not explicitly clear from the text. Some also point to passages such as Isaiah 28:11 and Joel 2:28-29 as evidence that speaking in tongues was a sign of God's oncoming judgment. 1 Corinthians 14:22 describes tongues as a "sign to unbelievers." According to this argument, the gift of tongues was a warning to the Jews that God was going to judge Israel for rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah. Therefore, when God did in fact judge Israel (with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), the gift of tongues would no longer serve its intended purpose. While this view is possible, the primary purpose of tongues being fulfilled does not necessarily demand its cessation. Scripture does not conclusively assert that the gift of speaking in tongues has ceased.

At the same time, if the gift of speaking in tongues were active in the church today, it would be performed in agreement with Scripture. It would be a real and intelligible language (1 Corinthians 14:10). It would be for the purpose of communicating God's Word with a person of another language (Acts 2:6-12). It would be in agreement with the command that God gave through the Apostle Paul, "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two — or at the most three — should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God" (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). It would also be in submission to 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.”

God most definitely can give a person the gift of speaking in tongues to enable him/her to communicate with a person who speaks another language. The Holy Spirit is sovereign in the dispersion of the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11). Just imagine how much more productive missionaries could be if they didn’t have to go to language school, and were instantly able to speak to people in their own language. However, God does not seem to be doing this. Tongues does not seem to occur today in the form it did in the New Testament despite the fact that it would be immensely useful. The vast majority of believers who claim to practice the gift of speaking in tongues do not do so in agreement with the Scriptures mentioned above. These facts lead to the conclusion that the gift of tongues has ceased, or is at least a rarity in God's plan for the church today.

"How do I know what my spiritual gift is?"

There is no magic formula or spiritual gift test that can tell us exactly what our spiritual gifts are. The Holy Spirit distributes the gifts as He determines (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). At the same time, God does not want us to be ignorant of how He wants us to serve Him. The problem is that it is very easy for us to get so caught up in spiritual gifts that we only seek to serve God in the area in which we feel we have a spiritual gift. That is not how the spiritual gifts work. God calls us to obediently serve Him. He will equip us with whatever gift or gifts we need to accomplish the task or tasks He has called us to.

Identifying our spiritual giftedness can be accomplished in various ways. Spiritual gift tests or inventories, while not to be fully relied upon, can definitely help us understand where our gifting might be. Confirmation from others also gives light to our spiritual giftedness. Other people who see us serving the Lord can often identify a spiritual gift in use that we might take for granted or not recognize. Prayer is also important. The one person who knows exactly how we are spiritually gifted is the gift-giver Himself – the Holy Spirit. We can ask God to show us how we are gifted, that we might better use our spiritual gifts for His glory.

Yes, God calls some to be teachers and gives them the gift of teaching. God calls some to be servants and blesses them with the gift of helps. However, specifically knowing our spiritual gift does not excuse us from serving God in areas outside our gifting. Is it beneficial to know what spiritual gift(s) God has given us? Of course it is. Is it wrong to focus so much on spiritual gifts that we miss other opportunities to serve God? Yes! If we are dedicated to being used by God, He will equip us with the spiritual gifts we need.

"What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?"

The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be defined as that work whereby the Spirit of God places the believer into union with Christ and into union with other believers in the Body of Christ at the moment of salvation. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 and Romans 6:1-4 are the central passages in the Bible where we find this doctrine. 1 Corinthians 12:13 states, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." Romans 6:1-4 states, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." Even though Romans 6 does not mention specifically the Spirit of God, it does describe believers positionally before God and 1 Corinthians 12 tells us how that happens.

Three facts are necessary to look into that help solidify our understanding of Spirit baptism. First, 1 Corinthians 12:13 clearly states that all have been baptized just as all have made to drink (the indwelling of the Spirit). Second, nowhere in Scripture does it exhort believers to be baptized with / in / by the Spirit. This indicates that all believers have experienced this ministry. Last, Ephesians 4:5 seems to refer to Spirit baptism. If this is the case, Spirit baptism is the reality of every believer, just as “one faith” and “one Father” are.

In conclusion, the baptism of the Holy Spirit does two things, (1) it joins us to the Body of Christ, and (2) it actualizes our co-crucifixion with Christ. Being in His body means we are risen with Him to newness of life (Romans 6:4). We should then exercise our spiritual gifts to keep that body functioning properly as stated in the context of 1 Corinthians 12:13. Experiencing the one Spirit baptism serves as the basis for keeping the unity of the church, as in the context of Ephesians 4:5. Being associated with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection through Spirit baptism establishes the basis for realizing our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-10, Colossians 2:12).

"What is the fruit of the Holy Spirit?"

Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." The fruit of the Holy Spirit are the results of the Holy Spirit taking a role in the life of a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment he or she believes in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian's life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit's job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit are in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21 is what people are like, to varying degrees, when they do not know Christ and therefore are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful flesh produces types of fruit (Galatians 5:19-21), and the Holy Spirit produces types of fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Christian life is a battle of the acts of the sinful nature with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As fallen human beings, we are still trapped in a body that desires sinful things (Romans 7:14-25). As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us and the Holy Spirit's power available to us to conquer the acts of the sinful nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13). A Christian will never be completely victorious in always demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the main purposes of the Christian life, though, to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives - and to allow the Holy Spirit to conquer the opposing sinful desires. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to look like...and with the Holy Spirit's help, it is possible!

"Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?"

Simply put, no, the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer. This truth is revealed in many different passages in the New Testament. For example, Romans 8:9 tells us, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” This verse is very clear that if someone does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then he/she is not saved; therefore, if the Holy Spirit were to leave a believer, he/she would have lost his/her relationship with Christ and lost his/her salvation. Yet this is clearly contrary to what the Bible teaches about the “eternal security” of Christians. Another verse that speaks clearly to the permanence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of believers is John 14:16. Here Jesus states that the Father will give another Helper and that “He may be with you forever.”

The fact that the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer is also seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where believers are said to be “sealed” with the Holy Spirit, “who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” The picture of being sealed with the Spirit is one of ownership and possession. God has promised eternal life to all who believe in Christ, and as a guarantee that He will keep His promise, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer until the day of redemption. Similar to making a down payment on a car or a house, God has provided all believers with a down payment of their future relationship with Him by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The fact that all believers are sealed with the Spirit is also seen in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. The Holy Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). Instead, the Spirit came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). After his adultery with Bathsheba, David feared that the Holy Spirit would be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit filled Bezaleel to enable him to produce the items needed for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-5), but this is not described as a permanent relationship. All of this changed after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven. Beginning on the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers. The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to always be with us, and never forsake us.

While the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, it is possible for our sin to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Sin always has consequences in our relationship with God. While our relationship with God is secure in Christ, unconfessed sin in our lives can hinder our fellowship with God and effectively quench the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That is why it is so important to confess our sins because God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, while the Holy Spirit will never leave us, the benefits and joy of His presence can in fact depart from us.