The Holy Spirit (Part 4): The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

In Hebrew, the word for “Spirit” (Ruakh) was the same word for “breath”. That’s why, for Hebrews, there would have been a very natural connection between “Spirit” and spoken “words.” You can’t have spoken words without spirit/breath. (See Part 1 for more on the meaning of “Spirit”).

In the Old Testament men were sometimes said to speak by God’s Spirit. That means that their words were not simply their own, but were God’s own spoken words.

The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me:
his word is on my tongue.

2 Samuel 23:2

But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me… I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 3:24-26

When the prophets were filled with the Spirit, they spoke words from God. That’s why when the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, the words of scripture are frequently attributed to the Holy Spirit rather than to the human author.

Jesus Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Matthew 22:41-45

When Jesus quoted from Psalm 110, he recognized that he was reading the words of David. He also recognized that David spoke those words “in the Spirit.”

Mark records the same conversation with the following words:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’
David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?”

Mark 12:35-37

Jesus recognized that Psalm 110 contained the words of “David himself”. He also recognized that David wrote those words while “In the Holy Spirit.” This means that God’s words were on David’s tongue (2 Sam. 23:2). At the same time, these were still the words of David. It was still written in David’s vocabulary, David’s style, and for David’s purpose. They were both David’s words and God’s words at the same time.

Peter Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Peter uses similar language when referring to Psalm 109.

In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.

Acts 1:15-17

Later on, Peter attributes the predictions of the prophets to the Holy Spirit.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

1 Peter 1:10-12

Notice that Peter says the prophets did not always understand the meaning of what they wrote. This indicates that there was another mind or spirit behind these words other than their own. The Holy Spirit expressed his words through them so that the final product was what God intended to say.

Paul Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

Paul used similar language when he attributed the writings of Isaiah to the Holy Spirit:

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

“Go to this people, and say,
‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.’
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed;
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Acts 28:24-27

The Book of Hebrews Attributed the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit

The book of Hebrews also attributes the Old Testament to the Holy Spirit. Notice the way it refers to the books of Exodus and Leviticus (the law), the book of Jeremiah (the prophets), and the book of Psalms (the writings), thus attributing the three major sections of the Old Testament all to the Holy Spirit.

The law (referring to Exodus 25-26; 36; and Leviticus 16):

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand, and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covering on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing.

Hebrews 9:1-8

The prophets (quoting Jeremiah 31:33-34):

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

Hebrews 10:15-17

The Psalms (quoting Psalm 95:7-11):

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you will hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Hebrews 3:7-11

Stephen Speaks of Resisting the Holy Spirit

Stephen accused his persecutors of resisting the Holy Spirit.

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have not betrayed and murdered.

Acts 7:51-52

How did their ancestors resist the Holy Spirit? By persecuting the prophets and resisting the words the Holy Spirit had spoken concerning the Righteous One.

The Holy Spirit Gave Us the Old Testament

Peter says that the writers of the Old Testament were “driven” or “carried along” by the Holy Spirit.

Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1:20-21

The Greek word translated “carried along” was the word used of a ship being driven or carried along by the wind in its sail.

And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind (pnuma), we gave way to it and were driven along.

Acts 27:15

This indicates that the Holy Spirit/Pnuma “carried along” the human authors when they wrote scripture. It was the Spirit that “drove them” or “moved them” as they wrote their messages. Ultimately, they were writing what the Holy Spirit wanted them to write.

This does not mean that we should imagine the biblical authors as going into some sort of mindless trance, as their hand magically wrote words without their realizing what was being written. It is possible that David stayed up long hours of the night crafting the poems we now call the psalms. It is possible that the biblical authors wrote rough drafts, and revised those drafts multiple times. It is possible that they researched and compiled from other sources. It is possible that God inspired prophetic editors to craft the books into their final forms. The Old Testament was written by human authors, and contains the fully human words of those authors themselves. We just don’t know all the details.

All we have is the final product, and we know that the end result was God’s authoritative word, as spoken through the Holy Spirit. It was God’s words on their tongues (cf. 2 Sam. 23:2). They wrote exactly what God wanted them to say. Exactly how this occurred, the Bible doesn’t say. But we do know that the Holy Spirit/Breath/Mind of God gave us the Old Testament.

Christianity and Economics, Part 2: The Parable of the Broken Window

Read Christianity and Economics, Part 1 Here: Why Christians Should Think About Economics

We must not think only about the immediate and seen effect of our choices, while failing to consider the eventual and unseen effect of our choices. This is one of the very first lessons taught in the Bible.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:6

Eve decided to take the forbidden fruit because she desired the seen and intended consequence of her choice. That is, she could see that the tree was good for food, it looked delightful, and it would make one wise. She did not look at the fruit and think “I want to die, so I’m going to eat this fruit.” She ignored the eventual, unseen, and unintended consequences of her choice. Almost every sin imaginable (drunkenness, laziness, adultery, etc.) could be described in terms of prioritizing the seen over the unseen, the immediate over the eventual, and the intended effect over the unintended.

When applied to economics, learning to think about unseen, eventual, and unintended consequences will equip us to recognize the error of most popular economic fallacies. This point can be illustrated by the parable of the broken window. The parable was first introduced by the French economist, Frederic Bastiat, in his 1850 essay “That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Not Seen”, and was further developed the Nobel Prize winning economist Henry Hazlett in his 1946 book “Economics in One Lesson.”

The Parable of the Broken Window

There was a baker who owned a shop. One day, as mischievous kid threw a rock through the front window of the bakery. The baker was understandably upset about the broken window. But then the baker was confronted by one of his friends who encouraged him to think about the bigger picture. Since the baker now has to buy a new window, the window shop down the street will benefit from the purchase. The window shop will have to buy more materials from the glass maker and will also have to pay its workers for the extra labor. It might be that one of these workers uses his extra pay to buy a loaf of bread from the baker.

“Cheer up!” said the baker’s friend. “Not only is this act of destruction not a tragedy, but a more broken windows might be one of the best things for our town’s economy. With more broken windows, the glass store will have to hire more workers, thus creating new jobs. These new employees will eventually become new customers of all of our businesses, which will strengthen our local economy. So the broken window isn’t really a tragedy at all!”

Unfortunately, this clever friend has not told the whole story. After all, if the baker’s window had not been broken, he would have had both his window and his money, money he could have spent for something other than replacing the window. Perhaps he could have bought a new sign for his bakery. Perhaps he could have taken his wife out for a nice dinner. Perhaps he was about the give a bakery employee a raise, but now, since he has to replace the window, he will have to postpone that raise.

Although the broken window may have benefited the window store and glassmaker, their gain was a loss for the sign maker, the restaurant owner, or the bakery employee. Unfortunately, since the window was broken, we will only ever see the new window and the immediate benefit for the window shop. What will remain unseen is how the baker would have chosen to spend his money if the window had not been broken.

What this story illustrates is something economist call “opportunity costs.” The cost of the new window was not simply the dollar price of the purchase. The true cost of the window is the goods or services that the baker would have chosen to purchase if he didn’t have to replace the window. Although we can easily see that the broken window will benefit some, this benefit only comes at the unseen expense of others. In the words of Hazlitt, “The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond.”

Broken Windows Everywhere

Unfortunately, like the baker’s friend, many people have a hard time thinking like a good economist. They think only about the benefit they can see, that is, the immediate and intended consequences. What remains unseen is the lost opportunity cost.

For example, its not uncommon to hear people suggest that natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornados, are good for the economy. After all, it is certainly true that disasters create new jobs. Messes must be cleaned, buildings must be rebuilt, windows must be replaced. But every broken widow has a cost. It must come at the expense of those who would have benefited if there had been no disaster.

During times of war, politicians will often celebrate the creation of new jobs and the economic benefits of wartime spending, but they ignore the devastating opportunity costs suffered by those who must rebuild their destroyed property with fewer resources than they started with. It’s the broken window fallacy once again.

The same could be said for any kind of government spending. Governments are not producers, manufacturers, or bakers who offer goods and services in exchange for money. Since governments only get their money from taxpayers, government funded projects must be considered in terms of opportunity costs, that is, the inevitable economic production that was forfeited when taxpayer capital was diverted towards the government sponsored project.

For example, if a government taxes a community to build a new football stadium, it is easy for the local news media to point to a big game, and the businesses which benefit from the large crowds and say, “See! This is what your taxes paid for!” But they will never be able to place a microphone in front of the person who lost their job, or forfeited their family vacation, or had to settle for a high mileage used car because their money was taken through taxes. That’s because all the things people lost when their money was taken through taxes will forever remain unseen.

If not for the taxes, people would have that money to spend or save as they choose. People could have chosen to start new businesses, offer raises to their employees, take their wife out to a movie, give a bigger contribution at church, take their family on vacation, or start a non-profit organization. The possibilities are endless. At the end of the day, people would have chosen what they thought was the best use of the money for them and for those around them.

Every public park, public highway, government funded construction project, and public school have opportunity costs. Even government program designed with the best intentions of helping the poor must be considered in terms of the unseen and unintended opportunity costs, many of which may impact the very people the program is designed to serve. The true cost of any government sponsored project is not the dollar cost, but the best use of the money had it remained in possession of the people from whom it was taken.

Opportunity Costs in the Bible

When Israel asked for a king (1 Samuel 8), they could see the immediate benefit of having someone to fight their battles. They did not listen to Samuel’s warning that the king would only do this at the expense of their sons, their daughters, and the fruits of their own fields. That is, they were deceived into asking for a king because they did not think about the opportunity costs.

In the parable of the talents (Luke 19:11-27), the servant who received only one talent decided to forego the opportunity to create economic benefit because he buried the talent entrusted to him. Therefore the master was upset with him because of the lost opportunity cost.

That’s why it is important for Christians to think like good economists. God desires that we use the talents he has entrusted to us to serve our fellow man, and not to waste them with unproductive work. When Jesus returns, we will all be judged according to how we use God’s resources to further his kingdom. When God entrusts us with talents, we must use those gifts in a way that honors and glorifies him. We must be resourceful with our financial resources, no matter how much or how little we may have. Thinking about the seen and unseen, immediate and eventual, intended and unintended consequences of our decisions will help us to do just that.

Everything the New Testament Says about How Christians Should Treat Enemies

Here’s a list of everything the New Testament says about how Christians should treat and view their enemies. This list does not include how God commanded his people in the Old Testament to treat their enemies, nor does it include what the New Testament says about how governments and nations treat their enemies. But as far as I am aware, this is a complete list of everything the New Testament says about how Christians are to treat their enemies. Christians are to…

Love Them

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he his kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Luke 6:27, 35

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

It should be noted that the New Testament defines love by pointing us to Jesus’s example of dying for us, his enemies (Rom. 5:10) on the cross.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

1 John 3:16

Be Willing to Suffer Unjustly at Their Hands

Christians are to follow Jesus’s example. Peter and Paul both specifically mention that Christians should follow Jesus’s example in his willingness to suffer unjustly at the hands of his enemies. He suffered for his enemies even though he had the power to destroy them (Mt. 26:53).

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly… But if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 2:18-23; 3:14-16

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

Again, it should be remembered that we were enemies at the time that Christ gave himself up for us.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Romans 5:10

Do Good to Them

Lest we think we can somehow love our enemies while at the same time doing harm to them, it should be noted that we are specifically commanded to do good to them.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you… And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Luke 6:27, 34-35

Bless Them Instead of Cursing Them

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6:28

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Romans 12:14

Pray For Them

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Matthew 5:44

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Luke 6:28

Forgive Them and Ask God to Forgive Them

Jesus taught us to pray for forgiveness on the basis of how we forgive those who sin against us.

Forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

Luke 11:4

In the specific context Jesus’s teachings about enemies he said…

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Luke 6:37

Jesus himself practiced what he preached by praying for the forgiveness of his enemies on the cross.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

Give to Them

We are to imitate the Father who loves his enemies by giving them blessings, regardless of whether or not they deserve them.

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:44-45

We are to give to our enemies, even in those times when we do not expect anything in return.

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back…. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.

Luke 6:30, 34

Provide For Their Physical Necessities

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.

Romans 12:20

Never Resist Their Evil in Kind

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:38-39

Treat Them As You Wish They Would Treat You

The “Golden Rule” was spoken in the specific context of how to treat enemies.

And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

Luke 6:31

Do Everything You Possibly Can to Be A Peace With Them

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Romans 12:18

Do Not Repay Evil For Evil, But Rather Overcome Their Evil With Good

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all… Do not by overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:17, 21

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

1 Thessalonians 5:15

Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

1 Peter 3:9

Never Take Vengeance Against Them

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:17-19

Note that the reason we do not have to take vengeance against enemies is because we can trust that God will do this instead.

Turn the Other Cheek When Struck

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:39

To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.

Luke 6:29

Seek Their Healing Instead of Seeking to Injure Them

And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his hear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?

Matthew 26:51-53

But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.

Luke 22:51

Humbly Serve Them

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him… “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:1-5, 15

Answer Them With Gentleness and Respect

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

1 Peter 3:15

The Most Difficult Thing The New Testament Says About How Christians Should Treat Their Enemies

As far as I am aware, the above scriptures are a complete list of everything the New Testament says about how Christians should treat their enemies. But the most difficult thing the New Testament says about enemies is what it doesn’t say. That is, in all the New Testament, there is not a single “exception clause.” There is no verse I can quote that says “Love your enemies, unless you are facing the really scary life threatening kind”, or “Do good to your enemies unless common sense tells you that since innocent lives are being threatened it’s best to eliminate the threat first”, or “Put your sword in you place, unless you work in the military and your job requires that you use it against your enemies.” It’s always just “love your enemies” period. “Do good to them” period. “Overcome their evil with good” period.

It would be foolish ignore the obvious. It’s not difficult to think of hundreds of scenarios where taking these commandments as face value would be completely impractical (if not insane), would lead to the loss of life, and even feels completely immoral to us. To not respond to evil with whatever action is necessary to protect innocent life and loved ones feels just plain wrong. So when Christians read these commandments and conclude “Jesus couldn’t possibly have intended for us to rule out killing an enemy in those situations where killing them is completely justified to save innocent lives”, I get it. I share that emotional response myself. To take these commandments at face value completely violates every notion of common sense.

But at the same time, how common-sensical was it for the all powerful God to let himself be tortured and killed unjustly rather than using his power to kill his enemies? And yet this non-sensical response to evil is the specific example we are to follow.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-7

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly

1 Peter 2:21-23

Jesus himself was fully aware that his teachings did not fit into the box of “common-sense”. But instead of softening his teachings, he stressed that they were important for that very reason (Mt 5:44-47; Lk. 6:32-35). We are to love our enemies in a way that would seem like nonsense to the average tax collector or sinner.

It’s a lot to think about. It’s not easy. I don’t pass one ounce of judgment on those who draw different conclusions on some of the most difficult questions. The only way any of this makes any sense at all is when we fully trust in the cross, in the judgment of God against evil, the providence of God, the Lordship of Jesus, and confidently expect a resurrection. It’s not easy, but we have to think about it.

The Holy Spirit (Part 3): When God’s Spirit Fills People

Part 1:What Is a “Spirit”?
Part 2: The Holy Spirit in Creation

There is a sense in which every living being has the breath of God in their lungs (Gen. 2:7; Job 32:8; Ps. 104:29-30; Eccl. 12:7). But on special occasions in the Old Testaments, God’s Spirit is said to fill a few special individuals in a unique and personal way.

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams

The first person in the Bible who is specifically said to have the Spirit of God is Joseph. The context of this passage is when Joseph interpreted the meaning of Pharaoh’s dreams.

And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.”

Genesis 41:38-39

What did Pharaoh see in Joseph that led him to the conclusion that Joseph had the Spirit of God in him? It was Joseph’s unique knowledge and wisdom to discern the meaning of Pharaoh’s dream. Somehow, God had shared his unique knowledge with Joseph. Even though it was Joseph explaining dreams to Pharaoh, it was God’s Ruakh giving him those words.

Bezalel The Tabernacle Architect

The second person in the Bible who is said to have God’s Spirit was Bezalel, the architect of the tabernacle.

See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Exodus 31:2-5

In what way did Bezalel have God’s Spirit? He was given ability, intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship to be able to build the tabernacle. This was more than just normal artistic ability. His knowledge of craftmanship was a gift from God. It was not something he had achieved on his own. He was able to understand and perform his crafts in a unique and special way as a result of being filled with God’s Spirit.

Moses and Joshua

To have God’s Ruakh is to have God’s mind and thoughts. That is why God’s Spirit is seen as being closely connected to the idea of prophecy, that is, speaking on God’s behalf.

But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for me sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

Numbers 11:29

And Joshua that son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him and did as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:9

Being filled with God’s Spirit is deeply connected with knowing and speaking the mind of God, the thoughts of God, and the wisdom of God.

Judges

The next group of people said to have God’s Spirit were the Judges.

For instance, Othniel’s success was attributed to the Spirit of God.

Then the Spirit of the LORD was upon him, and he judged Israel. He went out to war, and the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim kind of Mesopotamia into his hand. And his hand prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.

Judges 3:10

Gideon’s successful leadership ability was attributed to the Spirit of the LORD.

But the Spirit of the LORD clothed Gideon, and he sounded the trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called out to follow him.

Judges 6:34

Sampson’s great strength is attributed to the Spirit of the LORD. Just as a person’s breath/spirit give them strength, so God’s Breath/Spirit can give strength.

Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.

Judges 14:5 (see also 13:25; 14:19; 15:14)

It should be noted that the judges are men who are often described has having severe moral flaws. This does not mean that God’s Spirit was responsible for their moral failings, but it does show that being filled with God’s Spirit does not imply complete and total control over a person’s choices. To say that the judges were filled with God’s Spirit means that their success was to be attributed to God working through them. It was not their spirit that gave them success; it was God’s Spirit.

Kings

Similarly, kings are often said to have God’s Spirit. David was filled with God’s Spirit when he was anointed to be Israel’s king.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward.

1 Samuel 16:13

Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, the Son of Jesse,
the oracle of the man who was raised on high,
the anointed of the God of Jacob.
the sweet psalmists of Israel:

The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me:
his word is on my tongue.”

2 Sameul 23:1-2

With God’s Spirit in him, David claimed that God’s Spirit spoke words by David’s tongue.

Prophets

The last group said to be filled with God’s Spirit was the prophets.

But as for me, I am filled with power,
with the Spirit of the LORD,
and with justice and might,
to declare to Jacob his transgression
and to Israel his sin.

Micah 3:8

But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feed, and he spoke with me and said to me… I will open your mouth, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”

Ezekiel 3:24-26

When the prophets were filled with the Spirit, they did not speak their own words. They spoke words from God.

Conclusion

Today when people talk about God’s Spirit “filling” or “rushing” upon people, they may mean many different things. But in the Old Testament, to have God’s Spirit had a very specific meaning. It meant to have God’s mind, God’s thoughts, God’s wisdom, God’s words, or God’s strength. When a person is said to have God’s Spirit, that means their words or their successes are attributed to God working or speaking through them as opposed to that person speaking or acting on their own. This is important because this understanding of how God’s Spirit fills unique individuals is foundational for understanding what it means when Jesus is said to have God’s Spirit.

The Holy Spirit (Part 2): The Holy Spirit in Creation

Read Part 1 Here:
Part 1: What is a “Spirit”?

The first part of this study identified the Hebrew word “ruakh” and the Greek word “pnuma” as the words we translate as “spirit.” As the study progresses, it will be important to remember the original broad range of meaning which includes wind, breath, thoughts, and spirit. These various meanings of “ruakh” and “pnuma” are not entirely disconnected from one another, as they all refer to that which is invisible and makes things move or come alive. Not only does man have a spirit, but God Himself has a Spirit.

The next three parts of this study will observe what God’s Spirit did in the Old Testament.

The Creator

The first thing God’s Spirit is described as doing in the Old Testament is creating the world.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3

In creation, God’s Spirit/Wind/Breath is described as hovering or moving over the face of the waters. God then spoke words, and those created the world through those spoken words. As we continue the study, we will continually see a close connection between God’s Spirit and God’s words. This makes sense given the Hebrew word “ruakh” was used to describe “breath” or “thoughts.” “Spirit” and “word” are not synonyms, but they are closely connected, just as thoughts and breath are also closely connected to words.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts.

Psalm 33:6

The Creator and Sustainer of Life

Not only did God’s Spirit create the world, but more specifically, God’s Spirit is described as creating and sustaining life.

Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Genesis 2:7

But it is the spirit in man,
the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

Job 32:8

The Spirit of God has made me,
and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Job 33:4

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to the dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

Psalm 104:29-30

There is a sense in which everything that has breath in it’s lungs is alive because of God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit/Breath gave them their spirit/breath, and when God’s Spirit takes away their spirit/breath, they die.

The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to the dust.

Job 34:14-15

Re-Creation

Just as God’s Spirit is responsible for creation, and just as God’s Spirit is responsible for creating and sustaining life, the Old Testament prophets looked forward to a day when God’s Spirit would again be involved in a brand new act of creation.

For the palace is forsaken
the populous city is deserted;
the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
Then Justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.

Isaiah 32:14-16

Isaiah looks forward to the end of Israel’s exile and the beginning of a new age. This new age will come when the Spirit is “poured out” upon God’s people. The picture given is that of a forsaken, deserted, wild pasture being re-created into a fruitful field and a thriving forest.

Ezekiel also looks forward to this coming age, when God’s people are given a “new heart” and a “new spirit.” This too can be attributed to God’s Spirit.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 36:26-27

This image is developed further in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. Notice all the ways this chapter uses the various meanings of the word “ruakh” and how the translators move back and forth between various English words throughout the passage. Don’t forget that it’s all the same word in Hebrew.

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live… Then he said to me, “Prophecy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel 37:1-10

There are several things to pay attention to in this passage. First, notice how God’s Spirit is closely connected with words of prophesy. This, of course, makes sense given the Hebrew meaning of the word ruakh. Also notice that just as in Genesis 2, God’s Spirit creates new life. As the vision is explained to Ezekiel, we again see a description of God’s Spirit giving new life to Israel in the coming age.

And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.

Ezekiel 37:13-14

Looking Forward

Understanding the Spirit’s role in creating the universe, creating life, and re-creating new life from the dead is all important background for understanding much of what the New Testament teaches about the Holy Spirit. For example, notice how the following verses continue to attribute resurrection and new life to the Holy Spirit.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:11

For Christ also suffered once for sins… being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.

1 Peter 3:18

Before moving our attention to the New Testament, there is another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament that must be studied first, that is, the way that certain persons are described as being “filled with” God’s Spirit in a very special, personal, and empowering way. This will be the subject of the next part of this study.

Christianity and Economics, Part 1: Why Christians Should Think About Economics

Take care, and be on guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

Luke 12:15

Proclaiming good news to the poor was at the very heart of Jesus’s mission (Lk. 4:18-19; 6:20-25). Jesus continually encouraged his disciples to be ready to give up their earthly possessions (Lk. 6:30). Jesus himself did not place confidence in his earthly possessions (Lk. 9:58, 62; 10:4). Jesus clearly warned that we cannot serve both God and money (Lk.16:13) and that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Lk. 18:24-25).

It’s easy to see why some might dismiss the study of economics as too worldly for a Christian, especially if they read the Bible selectively. However, one should not conclude from Jesus’s teachings that God is an anti-material ascetic. After all, God is the one who created the material world, and he is the one who called it “very good” (Gen. 1:31). It’s hard to see how we can conclude that thinking about material goods is inherently wrong when material goods are created by God.

The Bible itself is full of teachings about material goods. In Genesis 2, for example, before the fall, Adam was instructed to “work” and “keep” the garden of Eden. That means that Adam had to think about how to care for material goods. In Proverbs 6:6-11, the writer instructs us to learn from the example of an ant as it was working to make material provision for itself in the winter by gathering food in the summer. Later in Proverbs 12:11, inspired scripture affirms that material sustenance is produced by work.

The law of Moses is filled with teachings about justice for the poor (Deut. 24:5-22), how to manage earthly goods (Deut. 25:1-5), the importance of using honest weights and measures (Deut. 25:15-18) and tithing (Deut. 26),. The book of Deuteronomy concludes by promising a list of physical, material blessings if Israel is obedient (Deut. 28:1-14) , and a list of material warnings if Israel is disobedient (Deut. 28:15-18). These verses sufficiently demonstrate that God is concerned with all of our existence, including the management of material goods.

Jesus teaches us not to be anxious about physical possessions (Mt. 6:25), but rather to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, then all these things will be added to you (Mt. 6:33). Notice that Jesus does not teach that things are worthless. Rather he teaches that we should not be anxious about material needs, but rather should trust that God will provide for us as we seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Christians should not be ignorant about material goods, but as they think about material goods, they must remain committed to seeking first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.

What is Economics?

Contrary to popular misconceptions about the term, “economics” is not the study of money, resource allocation, or supply and demand charts. Yes, one of the most popular and practical uses of economics is to be able to explain prices – which are quoted in units of money – of various goods and services that are being sold in the marketplace. But economics is not the study of money per se.

Economics is really about solving one of the greatest problems faced by mankind, that is, the problem introduced in the first few chapters of Genesis. The first command that God gives man in the Bible is found in Genesis 1.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:28

God wanted mankind to rule over and subdue creation. That is, they were to take creation from it’s wild, unsubdued state, and tame it into a state that suits our needs and glorifies God. However, with the fall of man as recorded in Genesis 3, this mission became much more difficult.

Cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles is shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread

Genesis 3:17-19

This leaves us with one of mankind’s greatest problems. How do we have dominion over this world’s scarce goods without starving to death, killing one another, or both? Learning to think economically help us greatly as we attempt to answer this question.

Economics can be defined as the study of human choices and actions. This includes the study of why businesses are run in a particular way, why the stock market goes up and down, and how oppressive government policies can hurt the poor. But economics also studies cases of simple human interactions, where two people may choose to exchange goods or services directly with each other without using money at all (that is, “barter”).

There are indications in Scripture that humans were designed to interact with one another from the beginning. In creation, God said “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). From the very beginning the Bible indicates that Adam would have to have someone to help him in fulfilling his mission. This general principle is affirmed in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.

Ecclesiastes 4:9

The church itself is founded upon the principle of people working together. Christians are commanded to assemble together, and encourage one another (Heb. 10:25). In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul teaches about the church being made up of many different people with different gifts and qualities that are all designed to function together.

There are two basic ways for humans to divide up material possessions among themselves. One is by theft and violence. That is, if you have something I want, I could just take it. The other is by voluntary cooperation. That is, you may choose to gift me what I want, or we could voluntarily agree to exchange goods or services.

Not only does the study of economics verify that the second type of exchange leads to more prosperity, but the study of God’s word shows that it also facilitates loving relationships among mankind. When God commands us not to kill, steal, or covet, he teaches us that there is a right and wrong way to interact with one another. The study of economics shows that keeping the commands of the creator is the most effective way to manage the physical resources that he has given us. Or as the book of Proverbs puts it, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 1:7). If we want to prosper in fulfilling God’s command to have dominion over creation in a way that facilitates love for God and love for our fellow man, we dare not ignore what can be learned from thinking about economics.

Introduction to the Christianity and Economics Series

What will follow in this series is not a Bible study. I’m writing with the assumption that Christians understand that the love of money is the root of all evil. I’m assuming that Christians understand the importance of taking care of the poor. I’m assuming that Christians recognize the dangers of laying up treasures on earth. I am not writing this to in any way encourage Christians to prioritize earthly treasures over heavenly treasures.

The purpose of this series is to simply discuss a few basic economic laws, that is, a few basic truths about the world that can be deducted simply from observing that people were created in God’s image with the ability to make choices. Since economics verifies what we are taught in scripture about the management of material goods, I hope to use this series to glorify God for his great wisdom. Since Christians are to love others, my hope is that these articles will help Christians to understand how to more effectively serve others in ways that many non-economic thinkers may miss. I also believe that understanding a few basic economic laws can help us to see through some of the ways that the Devil tries to deceive Christians into thinking they can accomplish good without submitting to what scripture teaches about material goods. I have no interest in debating various government policies from a left vs. right political paradigm. My concern is simply to point out a few basic principles that can be universally recognized regardless of political leanings.

My hope is that this series will help more Christians to recognize a few basic patterns in human behavior, so as to develop a deeper understanding of God’s creation. By so doing, I hope to encourage a deeper respect for God’s wisdom as we make decisions about everything from evaluating grand political ideas, to doing mundane household activities, to helping the church serve the poor in their communities more effectively.

Holy Spirit (Part 1): What Is a “Spirit”?

People have lots of different ideas about who the Holy Spirit is, and what he does. The goal of this study is to establish what the inspired authors of scripture had in mind when they wrote about the Holy Spirit. The first time we read about the Spirit of God is at the very beginning.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3

When we see the word “spirit” in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is Ruakh. In the New Testament, the Greek word is Pnuma. The words Ruakh and Pnuma are much more complex and carry a much deeper and broader meaning than the English word Spirit. To better understand what the biblical authors had in mind when they spoke of God’s Holy Ruakh, it helps to understand the original word, and how it differed in meaning from our English word Spirit.

Wind

One of the most basic meanings in the Old Testament for ruakh is “wind.” When you look outside, and you see the leaves and branches of a tree swaying back and forth, you would call that “wind”. If you were an ancient Hebrew, you would call that “ruakh”. If you spoke Greek in the first century, you would call that “pnuma”. Ruakh is that invisible power that causes movement.

And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind [ruakh], and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

1 Kings 18:45

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool [ruakh] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:8

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

Exodus 14:21

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind [pnuma], and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit [pnuma] and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:2-4

And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.

Acts 27:15

Breath

If you hold your hand in front of your mouth and speak a word, you will feel a small push of wind against your hand. We call this wind “breath.” If you were an ancient Hebrew, you would call that “ruakh”. If you were a first century Greek speaker, you would call that “pnuma”. Not only was the word “ruakh” used to refer to the wind that blows around outside, it was also used to refer to the wind that goes in and out of the lungs of living creatures and keeps them alive. Not only does ruakh make leaves and branches move, but it’s also the invisible stuff that causes people and animals to live and move. Breath/Spirit/Ruakh is a gift from God. When God gives it, it creates life. When God takes it away, we die.

As long as my breath is in me;
and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,

Job 27:3

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who made it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together
and man would return to dust.

Job 34:14-15

Thoughts

When you speak a word, we call the wind that comes out of your mouth your “breath.” But what do we call words before they come out of your mouth, while they are still floating around in your head? We usually call these “thoughts.” If you were a Hebrew, you would call these unspoken words “ruakh”.If you spoke Greek, you would call them “pnuma.” As long as you are alive and breathing, you will have thoughts. When you stop breathing, and your mind shuts off, you die.

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Psalm 32:2

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,
For anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10

God’s Spirit

Not only to all humans have Ruakh/Breath/Spirit that keeps them alive, but God also has Ruakh/Breath/Spirit. Not only do we have thoughts and words that we can speak, but God also has thoughts and words that He can speak. In fact, our Ruakh is a gift from God’s Ruakh.

When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

Psalm 104:29-30

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts.

Psalm 33:6

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-3

God’s Spirit and Inspired Words

In reading over these verses, did you notice the connection between God’s Spirit and God’s words? This is a connection we may not notice when we are only thinking of modern concepts of “spirit”, but for the original authors and readers of scripture, this would have been obvious! God’s Spirit created life. God created life by speaking words. God’s words, give us life, so that we too can have thoughts and words.

Observe that God’s Spirit was never simply an emotion, and unexplained feeling, or an uncontrollable urge of some sort. Of course, spirit and emotions can be closely connected, just like words and thoughts and emotions are all closely connected. But we cannot separate the idea God’s Spirit from God’s words, just like we cannot separate our own words from our own thoughts.

In fact, the English word “inspiration” captures this connection nicely. We use inspiration to translated the Greek word “theopneustos”, which comes from two shorter Greek words, “Theos” (God), and “Pneuma” (breath/Spirit/thoughts). When Paul says scripture is inspired, he is literally saying it is God-breathed, it is God’s-thoughts, it is “in-Spirited” by God’s own Spirit.

All Scripture is breathed out [“given by inspiration“, NKJV] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.

2 Timothy 3:16

Guns, Swords, and Inspired Words

Whenever a random act of violence occurs, debates about the 2nd amendment and gun control are sure to follow. This isn’t surprising. People have different opinions about is best for the country. Some think that it would be in the best interest of American citizens if people had less access to guns. Others think it would be in the best interest of the citizens of this country if we had more guns in the hands of responsible citizens. As long as people have disagreements about the direction the country should go, debates are unavoidable. But despite all the arguing, the problem of violence continues, and often seems to grow worse.

As Christians, there are two ways to approach gun control debates. The first way is to ask what we, as American citizens, think would be best for our county. That is, we could join in the same debate that everybody else is having. The second way is to ask what we, as Christians and citizens of God’s kingdom, think would be best for advancing God’s kingdom. This second discussion receives far less attention, despite the fact that the kingdom of God offers real world solutions to the problem of violence.

Jesus had a lot to say about how his disciples should respond to evil. They are to love their enemies (Lk. 6:27, 35; Mt. 5:44). Love is defined in the New Testament by pointing us to Jesus dying for his enemies (1 Jn. 3:16). They are to do good to their enemies (Mt. 5:44; Lk. 6:28). They are to forgive them (Lk. 6:37; 11:4; 23:34). They are not to resist with the same kind of evil that their enemies use (Mt. 5:39; Lk. 6:29). They are to pray for them rather than seeking to injure them (Mt. 26:51-53). Since God loves and blesses others indiscriminately, we are expected to love and bless others indiscriminately (Mt. 5:45-47; Lk. 6:36-37)

Jesus’s apostles echoed these teachings. Peter wrote that we should follow Jesus’s example by being willing to suffer unjustly at the hands of our enemies, even when we have the power to defeat them (1 Pet. 2:18-23; 3:15-16). Paul wrote that we should never return evil with evil, or take vengeance against our enemies, but always return evil with good (Rom. 12:17-19). Instead of harming our enemies we should provide for their physical needs, and overcome their evil by doing good (Rom. 12:20-21).

To the best of my knowledge, this represents everything the New Testament has to say about how Christians should think about and treat their enemies. What’s more, there’s never an exception clause. The New Testament never says anything along the lines of “love and do good to your enemies, unless you run in to the really nasty, violent, life-threatening kind.” To a first century audience, it would have been clear who they talked about when they said “love your enemies.” First and foremost, they would have thought of the Romans, who enforced Pax Romana by fear. They were the kind of enemy who could crucify your friends and family just to flex their muscles. They were the nasty, violent, life-threatening kind of enemy.

The early Christians were not simply concerned about protecting their rights or fixing unjust Roman laws. In fact, they had a reputation of rejoicing when they were wrongfully beaten and imprisoned and plundered by their enemies (Heb. 10:32-34). That’s not to suggest that Christians should minimize the wrongfulness of denying other people their rights. It is right to be deeply concerned when we see the government passing wicked laws that cause more people to be harmed. These Christians responded to violence with joy, not because they didn’t care, but because of their confidence in God’s promises (Heb. 10:35-36). In the meantime, they actively showed compassion towards those whose freedom had be wrongfully taken away (Heb. 10:34).

Ultimately, the problem of violence will never be solved by endless debates about what the government should do about violence. Since rulers and authorities gain their power from the implied threat of death, they were left disarmed when death was defeated (Col. 2:15). As Christians, our relationship to earthly government is defined by an attitude of submission. We submit to them “for the Lord’s sake”, recognizing that “this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Pet 2:13-15). We submit, because we recognize that God uses government authorities as his ministers to execute wrath and vengeance on evildoers (Rom. 13:1-4).

It is our duty to solve the problem of violence, not by arguing about what Caesar should do about it, but by spreading the peaceful principles of the kingdom of God. As we spread the boarders of his kingdom, we recognized that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Swords and guns are completely unnecessary to be a disciple of the prince of peace. Unlike earthly governments, which at best can argue about who should have the right to carry a gun, the kingdom of God provides a real solution to the problem of violence by pointing us to Jesus. Jesus defeated evil, not by carrying a sword or gun against his enemies, but by loving his enemies, dying for his enemies, and by rising from the dead to show just how powerless their violence really is.

Roe v. Wade and the Temptation To Do Good

On June 24, 2022 the Supreme Court made the wonderful decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. When the news broke it was immediately recognized as a time for celebration for Christians, and for good reason. But along with the positivity, there’s been another side of the Christian response which has been troubling. That is, many Christians have pointed to this as evidence of the good that Christians can accomplish by pursuing political influence and power. It is argued that Roe v. Wade would have never been overturned without Christians using the political strategies and choices that were necessary to bring about this change.

Although I unapologetically celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision, I do not believe that Christians should look to earthly power as the primary, or even as one of the ways to bring about good in the world. Not only do I whole heartedly oppose abortion, I also believe that the kingdom of God must be kept distinct from the kingdom of the world; not only in what we say is wrong, but also in how we fight against what we recognize as wrong. As a believer in moral absolutes, I believe abortion is wrong and is destructive to society. I also think it is important for Christians to heed the warning of Psalm 146:3, to “put not your trust in princes.” As a Christian, I celebrate the Supreme Court for their decision which could potentially save millions of lives, and I call on Christians to faithfully follow the way of Jesus, who rejected earthly political influence in order to establish a kingdom which is not of this world.

Yes, I know I’m being redundant. But that’s because some Christians still just don’t get it. Let me make myself perfectly clear: I oppose abortion. Abortion is murder. Abortion is selfish. Abortion is immoral. Christians should actively fight against evil, and abortion is evil. But none of this should be viewed as justification for Christians to fight against evil in ways that blur the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. This is precisely what most (if not all) activities and decisions made in the pursuit of earthly power cause Christians to do.

A Kingdom Not Of This World

My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

John 18:36

When Jesus claimed “My kingdom is not of this world”, He pointed to the observable fact that his disciples were not fighting to substantiate that claim. Of course, you could say that in a sense Jesus’s entire ministry was a fight against evil. But even still, Jesus’s disciples were not fighting in the same way that other revolutionaries would fight.

When Jesus used the phrase “of this world” He was not speaking of the geographic location of His kingdom, but rather He was referring to the world’s way of doing things. For example, Jesus said He came to testify against “the world” because its deeds are evil (Jn. 7:7). Elsewhere, John would say, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). The contrast between “of this world” and “not of this world” is referring to the world’s ways of doing things and a godly way of doing things.

If Jesus’s disciples had a reputation of fighting in the same way the world fights, Jesus’s claim would have been completely meaningless. Can you imagine Pilate’s response if this had been the case? “What do you mean your kingdom is not of this world? Then why is Peter standing out there handing out picket signs at the political rally? Why did Matthew just send a donation to a Roman senator? And why is Simon recruiting more zealots?” But as it was, Jesus’s disciples were not fighting, and so Jesus’s teaching stood with the weight of observable truth.

Yes, Jesus’s early followers, like us, also had an earthly citizenship. But despite the fact that they lived under subjection to the kingdoms of this world, their distinction from the world remained apparent. They were “in” the world but not “of” the world.

Scripture drives home this distinction when it teaches us to view ourselves as soldiers stationed in a foreign country, and thus refuse to let ourselves get entangled in “civilian pursuits” (2 Tim. 2:4). It teaches us to view ourselves as “strangers” and “exiles”, just like Abraham did (Heb. 11:8-10, 13-16; 1 Peter 2:11).

Note this carefully – preserving our “exile” status is at the very core of who we are. That’s why Scripture repeatedly stresses the fact that we are called to be a “holy” people (2 Cor. 6:17), indicating that we are to be “set apart” (Ps. 4:3). Like Israelites coming out of Egypt to be “set apart” for God, Christians are instructed to “come out” of Babylon (Rev. 18:4). We are to be holy in the same way that God is holy. Our holy and distinct relationship with the world should be every bit as holy and distinct as Jesus’s relationship with the world.

Our Mission

It’s important to understand that I’m not arguing that Christians should adapt an escapist position, where we simply isolate ourselves from societal problems such as abortion. When God called Israel to be a “holy nation”, the purpose was not to isolate them from other nations. Israel was to be a holy nation so that they would serve as a light to the other nations (Isa. 49:6; 55:4-5, etc). God’s plan was always to bless all nations through Abraham’s family (Gen. 12:1-3).

So too, Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt. 5:13-16). But in order for us to be salt in the world, we must maintain our distinction from the world.

If salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

One way we maintain our holy distinction from the world is by refusing to pursue ruling authority over others. That’s the way the world tried to accomplish great things, but Jesus explicitly instructs us not to seek that kind of power.

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But is shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:42-45

God so loved the world that He sent his only begotten Son (John 3:16), and we are to imitate His love for the world by imitating his self-sacrificial behavior (Eph. 5:1-2). If we really love the world, and want to make a positive difference in the world, we would do well to love the world in the same way God did. The reason we are not to be “of” the world is so that we can be “for” the world.

We are not simply called to do “good”. We are called to be faithful. We are called to “imitate Christ”. We are called to be holy.

Jesus and the Temptation to Do Good

Paul says that we must be careful not to be outwitted by Satan’s designs (2 Cor. 2:11). With this in mind, we would be wise to reflect on how Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, so that we do not fall into a similar trap.

The Devil tempted Jesus by offering him all the kingdoms of the world (Luke 4:5-8). The Devil essentially offered Jesus what he came to get (Mt. 28:18-20), but by way of an immediate shortcut that would bypass his sacrificial death on the cross.

Think about it. Without having to suffer and die, Jesus could have immediately taken all the kingdoms of the world into his possession. Can you imagine how much “good” Jesus could have done if he had accepted Satan’s offer? He could have quicky overturned every evil law in Roman society. Jesus could have immediately outlawed abortion throughout the world. The Devil’s temptation would not have been a temptation if there was not a lot of “good” wrapped up in it.

Yet Jesus refused. Why? Because Jesus did not come just to give us an improved and more “godly” version of the kingdoms of this world. Instead, Jesus came to bring a kingdom that is not of this world. In fulfillment of Psalm 2, Jesus came to replace “the kingdom of the world” with “the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.” (Rev. 11:15-18). He didn’t just come to fix the kingdoms of this world. He came to put them out of business, thus turning all nations to him.

As tempting as the immediately good consequences may have been, Jesus refused to lose the radical distinction of his Kingdom in exchange for the Satan-ruled kingdom of this world. No matter how much good he could have done. He refused to rule like the Gentiles did. If we are dedicated to following Jesus’s example, we must resist the temptation to trade our holy mission regardless of how much “good” we might think we can accomplish by using other means.

Continue the Fight

Abortion is a great evil. Its existence testifies to the fact that Satan is, in a very real sense the “ruler of the world” (Jn. 14:30; 16:11), “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:1-4), and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:1-2). Abortion thrives only under Satan’s “domain of darkness” (Col. 1:3). That’s why it is so important that in our fight against abortion, we are careful not to be “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2).

So what do we do now? Christians should continue the fight against abortion as they have done in the past, yet without the pursuit of earthly power. Keep finding ways to serve the poor and the needy in your community. Keep inviting them into your homes. Keep supporting single mothers. Keep volunteering at pregnancy crisis centers. Keep adopting. Keep getting involved in foster care. Keep donating to children’s homes. Keep praying. The church has long led the charge in these type of actions, and that must continue. Yes, all of these things require a degree of personal sacrifice, but imitating the sacrificial savior is precisely what sets us apart from the world. Because of the gospel, sacrifice is how we believe we will win.

If we want to see Satan’s dominion weakened, we must remain faithful to God’s kingdom. Two thousand years ago, Jesus pointed to his disciples’ refusal to fight as proof that his kingdom was not of this world. When Jesus looks at our fight against abortion, does he see that our actions still bear witness to that truth?

Practical Advice for Evangelism

Everyone who is in Christ, having been reconciled to God through him, has been granted immeasurable spiritual blessings. But this also comes with responsibility: “and has given us the ministry of reconciliation … and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ …” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21, NKJV). All who have been reconciled to God through Christ are expected to give others the same opportunity. This is the God-given ministry of every disciple.

What is Evangelism?

Evangelism is not something we do to people. It is what we do with the gospel (“the good news”). We have no control over how people respond to the gospel, but we do have control over whether or not we make it available to those outside of Christ. The Lord has not given any of us the responsibility of saving souls. That’s his job.

When it comes to evangelizing, stop putting so much unnecessary pressure on yourself. God, through his word, is the one who ultimately saves (Acts 2:47; James 1:21). No matter how smart, eloquent, and knowledgeable you might be, you do not have the inherent power to save anyone. At the same time, no matter how clumsy, inept, and inarticulate you may think you are, God can and will save people through your humble efforts, despite your inadequacies. “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Where To Begin: Attitude

Eliminate excuses. The Lord cannot be obeyed or glorified by coming up with reasons for not doing what he has called us to do. Excuses are unacceptable. Understand that the best way to ensure a lost soul stays lost is to say and do nothing.

Have a realistic understanding of who you are and what your purpose is. The greater burden actually rests on those you are trying to reach and the condition of their hearts. If a person does not genuinely desire to know and obey the Lord, there is very little you can say or do to change that (cf. John 8:47). At the same time, if a person sincerely wants to know the truth and do God’s will, irrespective of how many mistakes you might make in your fallible attempts to communicate, he or she will learn the truth and obey it.

Jesus promised, “seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7), regardless of how unimpressive the teacher might be. He also said, “If anyone wants to do his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine …” (John 7:17), no matter how awkwardly that doctrine might be presented. He further stated, “you shall know the truth” (John 8:32), irrespective of those who make less-than-perfect attempts to communicate it.

Where To Begin: Initial Approach

Always start with prayer. Jesus (the greatest evangelist) was a man of constant prayer. Although the book of Acts is a record of evangelism and conversions, it is replete with references, examples, and allusions to prayer. What were the acts of the apostles? In their own words, “we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). If you are attempting to do God’s work, shouldn’t you invite God to be involved in it?

Be yourself. If you try to mimic someone else’s approach or recite a memorized sales pitch, you may come across fake and insincere. Develop an approach you’re comfortable with and that works best for you.

Be transparent. People appreciate and are more receptive to sincerity and honesty. If you’re nervous, acknowledge it. If you don’t know how to answer a question, admit it. If your aim is to share your faith, don’t try to hide it. Never be deceptive, pushy, or manipulative.

Always be mindful of your immediate goal: introducing this person to the word of God. While the ultimate goal is to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-20), this can only be accomplished one soul at a time. If someone is not engaged in Bible study, there can be no genuine conversion (John 8:31-32, 51). With this goal in the back of your mind, it is not the purpose of your spiritual conversations to declare the whole counsel of God or to win an argument or even to answer questions.

Let the Bible do the teaching. No matter what you attempt to convey verbally, it can never replace God’s inspired word. Even if what you say is the truth, it will be no more convincing than what anyone else might say without scriptural confirmation. You are simply a guide, pointing to the scriptures for the answers and instruction.

The aim of your conversations is to develop the person’s interest in studying the Bible, and the best approach is to simply ask questions with that purpose in mind. “Tell me about your spiritual journey.” “What do you think about God?” “What do you know about the Bible?” If you get stumped and can’t think of what to say next, just blurt it out: “I’d really like to study the Bible with you.” You may be surprised at how many doors of opportunity are opened that would be missed otherwise.

Conclusion

While we should surely give attention to developing effective evangelistic techniques, tools, and strategies, at the end of the day these things are a means to an end but in and of themselves do not save anyone. The results of evangelism are not up to you. What is in your control is what you do with the word of reconciliation that has been placed in your hands. “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak …” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Kevin L. Moore