Nov 21, 2008

2 out of 3 still ain't 3

One of the things I have always been intrigued by is how often we don't spend time trying to understand who the Holy Spirit is. As the third member of the Trinity, one might think that He gets as much stage time in our prayers... only He seems to show up as a "grip" in the credits of our faith.

Maybe that's because the Holy Spirit freaks most people out.

Honestly, don't many of us assume we can't relate to Him? After all, we can mentally process "God the Father" as a father figure and "God the Son" as a son/savior figure. But what is our reference point for a "Spirit" figure - the latest special effects movie?

And yet if I am burdened for a complete and overflowing experience of God, then I shouldn't trim out my study of a vital part of who He is. One of the chief ways He chooses to operate in every person's life in the present tense is via the Holy Spirit. Perhaps there are miracles just waiting for us to experience if we would only realize the miracle of the Spirit's presence. If we don't explore who He is (yes, "He" versus "It") we will miss out on some powerful components to our faith:

Jesus affirmed Him and the role He would play in guiding us into all truth.

  • John 16:26 - (Jesus speaking) "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me."

Yet there was still confusion in the early church between those who'd placed their faith in Christ and received the Spirit versus those who had only gone half-way by repenting through John the Baptist.

  • Matthew 3:11 - (John speaking) "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."

  • Matthew 10:20 - "for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

  • John 7:38-39 - (Jesus speaking) "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

It's because of this latter issue that you see a lot of talk about "being filled with the Spirit" because many people had settled for a faith about Jesus instead of placing their faith in Jesus. It's like agreeing that a parachute will work versus strapping it on and placing your faith fully in the Lord.

  • Matthew 28:19 - "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

  • Acts 8:14-17: 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.
    It's one of the reasons the disciples had to wait for the Holy Spirit to be poured out.

  • Acts 1:9 - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

  • Romans 8:15 - For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

And once He was poured out, He was available to all believers. This is also why when Luke writes about certain people in the early church or Paul writes to Christ followers who had truly placed their faith in Christ it's a non-issue.

  • Acts 7:55 - But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;

  • Romans 5:5 - And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

  • Romans 8:11 - And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:12 - We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.

  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 0 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?

  • 2 Corinthians 5:5 - Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

  • Ephesians 1:13 - And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.
Sometimes He is revealed through a laying of hands (especially in cases of ordination into a ministerial office/position), and other times He is just poured out on all those who place faith in Christ:

  • Acts 2:38 - Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

  • Acts 9:17 - So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "(Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."

  • Acts 10:45 - All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.
We have to remember, though, to not resist the reality of the Holy Spirit's presence as the Pharisees did:

  • Acts 7:51 - "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:17 - Do not put out the Spirit's fire

Instead, we are to embrace His role in changing the world as He changes us.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:7 - Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

  • Acts 8:29 - Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."

  • Romans 8:5 - Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

  • Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
And as a bit of encouragement, we are told that in the last days the Holy Spirit will be at work all over the place...on all people as well as God's servants.

  • Acts 2:17-18 - "'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy."

  • Revelation 2:29 - He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
    And so the Holy Spirit is bigger than we know and yet personal enough to dwell within those who trust their lives to Christ. Together they play a role with the Father in guiding us toward a time when we will all be who we really are in the presence of the Triune God.
In fact. it is through the Holy Spirit that we learn how to overcome our old ways.

  • Romans 8:13 - "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live."

So maybe it's time to pony up on our Trinity as a 3-in-1 instead of a 2-in-1. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force that God uses... the Holy Spirit is God.

I know, we don't get it because our human brains can't wrap around this idea that God is bigger than our understanding. (Which is ironic, because by definition wouldn't God have to be bigger than us?)

People resisted the idea of God as Father, and yet one day they saw that the God who led them by day through a cloud was the same One who led them by night with fire. And then there was the incarnation of Christ - that God would come to earth as One of us so that we might become more like Him - we've spent time resisting that, too. Finally, this concept of the Spirit is our last mental hurdle to jump - and yet there He is, working in our lives.

Imagine what would happen if we recognized how special it is to have the God of the Universe fully indwell a person. Why God spends time leading us into Truth is beyond me, and yet He does... and still manages to keep the universe running just as well. He is the one who helps us see the birth pains the world is going through to spring forth Life out of its current decay.
"The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." (Revelation 22:17)


Thurman8er said...

I turned in a paper yesterday in which one of my points was that my tradition (Church of Christ) has only recently even acknowledged the Holy Spirit. Yet, if you ask any CofC'er, they'll tell you that our lynchpin verse is Acts 2:38.

Aside: I thought it was funny that just last night I accidentally said Acts 2:48 and that's how it's cited in your post. Do we know something the rest of the world doesn't?

Anyway, how odd that we are just coming to terms with the Holy Spirit, the be-all end-all of that famous verse.

Tony Myles said...

Oops! Thanks for the heads up. Great minds must, um... what do they do again? I forget.

I have some context for what you refer to, though. Often within a denomination there is a greater intellectual belief in a part of the Trinity than there is a relationship.

Anonymous said...

In Western Christianity the Holy Spirit gets the shaft. I wrote that in a paper once.

Our Christian neck of the woods (Evangelical Protestantism, but also RC) really limits the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

I read the book The Shack recently and that really helped me appreciate and desire to know the Holy Spirit. Ever read the book?

It's fun to sometimes tell the Holy Spirit you love Him. I even apologize we don't talk to Him more often.

Also it's been suggested by one of the early Church Fathers that if there were any hierarchy in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit would be on top because He is the Servant who receives no glory.