The Miraculous and Non-Miraculous Work of the Spirit

This is part 11 of an ongoing series on the Holy Spirit. For previous parts click here.

What Happened After Baptism

In the previous part of this study it was observed that the “mighty rushing wind”, “tongues as of fire” and the miraculous ability to speak in tongues from Acts 2:1-4, was recognized by Peter as the outpouring of the promised Holy Spirit, and the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32. Then in Acts 2:38-39, Peter promised that the gift of the Holy Spirit himself would be given to all those who would repent and be baptized for remission of sins.

What then would Peter’s audience have expected to happen for those who were baptized? It seems they would expect to receive the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 2, what does it look like when a person receives the Holy Spirit? Up to this point, it has looked like the things they were seeing and hearing on Pentecost (cf. 2:33), namely the mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the speaking in tongue.

What then would Peter’s audience have expected to happen for those who were baptized? It seems that they would expect to receive the Holy Spirit in the same way the apostles did.

That expectation makes what happens next even more interesting and noteworthy. Notice carefully what the result is (and what it is not) when those who received Peter’s words were baptized.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many signs and wonders were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Acts 2:41-47

Did you catch that? About three thousand people received his word and were baptized, but there is not one word about a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fire, or speaking in tongues. In fact, Luke specifically mentions that they were in awe at the “sign and wonders being done through the apostles.” That makes it clear that signs and wonders were not being performed by everyone. Instead of describing a recurrence of the events of Acts 2:1-4, Luke gives us a picture of unity, fellowship, self-sacrificial giving, with glad and generous hearts.

What should we make of this? There are only two possible explanations.

  1. Peter was wrong. Despite Peter’s promise, those who were baptized failed to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Peter was right. The gift of the Holy Spirit was given in baptism, but the three thousand who were baptized did not receive the Holy Spirit in the same way the apostles did, nor did they experience the same kind of results as the apostles did.

Again, since the gift of the Holy Spirit was promised to all who would repent and be baptized (2:38-39), and since “signs and wonders” were only being done by the apostles after the three thousand were baptized (2:43), this means that the three thousand who were baptized did not receive the ability to work signs and wonders as the apostles had when they received the Holy Spirit.

So which is it? If Peter was wrong, and the gift of the Holy Spirit was not given to the three thousand in baptism, what would we expect to read next? We would probably read a description of disappointment, as their expectations to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit were not realized.

But what we see next is anything but disappointment. Instead we see gladness and joy. We see God’s people, who were once scattered (2:9-11), enjoy unity and fellowship with one another. We see where Christians self-sacrificially gave up their possessions for one another. We see that no one was left in need.

Luke makes it clear that something incredible happened when the three thousand were baptized. Something had changed. What is it that Luke trying to communicate to his readers?

Prophecy Fulfilled

Here it may be helpful to revisit the prophesies referred to in Peter’s sermon. If we go back and read Joel’s prophesy about the Spirit in context, we can see that the coming age, the age that would be characterized by the Spirit’s presence, would be an age when God’s people would have their needs satisfied.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Joel 2:26

When Jesus was raised from the dead (which was understood to be an act of the Holy Spirit, see Part 8), the result would be joy and gladness.

I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.

Acts 2:25-28 (cf. Ps. 16:8-11)

Doesn’t that sound remarkably similar to what Luke describes at the end of Acts 2? When Luke describes the unity of God’s people, with no one lacking what they need, who experience joy and gladness, he is describing the new age; the age that the prophets had said would be brought by the Spirit.

It seems that Luke is showing his readers that, yes, the early Christians did in fact receive the promised Holy Spirit in baptism, albeit not in the same manner, nor with the same miraculous results experienced by the apostles in Acts 2:1-4. As we continue to carefully read the book of Acts, it will be seen that Luke continually describes the miraculous reception of the Holy Spirit as something separate from the way the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit in non-miraculous ways.

A Parallel Passage to Acts 2

After Acts 2:38, the Spirit is not mentioned again until Acts 4:8. To set the context, In Acts 3:1-10, Peter miraculously healed a lame beggar. Peter then stood at the temple and preached a sermon about the risen Jesus (3:11-28) which resulted in the arrest of Peter and John. The following day, Peter and John were called before the Jewish authorities. It is here that we read:

And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired: “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders…

Acts 4:7-8

You may notice that Luke mentioned the Holy Spirit filling Peter as Peter was opening his mouth to give a defense. The idea of the Holy Spirit giving someone words to speak shouldn’t surprise us. This has always been an activity of the Spirit (see Parts 3 and 4). This is the same things that happened on Pentecost in Acts 2 (See Part 10). This also reminds us of what Jesus had told his disciples previously about the Spirit giving them words to speak.

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you should say.

Luke 12:11-12

After Peter and John gave their defense we read:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:13

How did they know that Peter and John had been with Jesus? It wasn’t Peter’s miracle itself (although they certainly recognized this as an undeniable sign). It was the boldness of their speech.

The following day, after Peter and John had been released, we read:

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.

Acts 4:31

Once again, we see that being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is connected with the disciple’s boldness as they continued to speak the word of God. Here once again, Luke shows us the result of the Holy Spirit filling the disciples.

Now the number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Acts 4:32-35

Did you notice the parallels to Acts 2:42-47? After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples with boldness, the result was unity, fellowship, and self-sacrificial giving. Once again, Luke specifically mentions that the apostles continued to with great power (4:33), but they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (4:31), and they were all living like a transformed community of people.

Once again, just as in Acts 2, Luke describes work of the Holy Spirit, not only in miraculous signs and wonders done by the apostles, but also in the transformation, boldness, and generosity of all those who follow the way of Christ.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

This is part 10 on an ongoing series on the Holy Spirit. For previous parts of this study, click here.

The Promise of the Father

Luke introduces the book of Acts by reminding how Jesus had given commands to his apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (1:2), and by recalling what Jesus had said to his apostles prior to his ascension.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:4-8

Observe:

  • Luke connects the “promise of the Father” (Lk. 24:49) with the statement about how Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Lk. 3:16, See Part 9)
  • When asked about the restoration of the kingdom, Jesus answered by telling his disciples that the Holy Spirit would soon come upon them and empower them as his witnesses. The connection between the question about the kingdom, and Jesus’s response about the Spirit makes sense when we recall that the prophets had frequently spoken of the new kingdom as the work of the Spirit (see Part 5).
  • Jesus promised that the apostles would somehow be empowered when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Again, the idea the Holy Spirit giving someone special “power” or “strength” makes sense when we recall those times in the Old Testament when the Spirit did the same sort of thing (cf. Judges 14:5;14:19; 15:14. See Part 3).

With the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” and the “promise of the Father” in the front his mind, Luke then tells his reader about the events of Pentecost.

The Spirit on Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, 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 and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4

Observe:

  • The close connection between the mighty rushing “wind” and the “Spirit.” Recall that the words “wind” and “Spirit” are the same (see Part 1). This passage could be translated that the apostles heard a sound of a mighty rushing “Breath” or “Spirit”, they were filled with the Holy “Breath”, and began to speak in tongues as the “Breath” gave them utterance.
  • It was the “Spirit”/”Wind”/”Breath” that gave them their words. This makes sense when we recall how God filled various people in the Old Testament, giving them the ability to speak words from God (Part 3). The apostles, filled with the Spirit, were speaking words that originated with God’s Spirit.
  • Given the context of Acts 1, we can observe that Luke sees this event as closely connected to the baptism with the Spirit and the promise of the Father.

Next, notice how Peter explains these events by referring to the prophecy from Joel 2:28-32 (Part 5).

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

Acts 2:14-18

Just like the other prophets, Joel had spoken of a future day when the world would change. This day would be brought about by God’s Spirit, which would be poured out on “all flesh”. This prophecy included men and women of all ages who would be given the ability to prophesy. According to Peter, this was being fulfilled in the events of Pentecost.

This raises a question. Up to this point, the Holy Spirit had been poured out on Jesus’ apostles. But Joel prophesied that the Spirit would be poured out on “all flesh”. When would the Spirit be given to everyone else?

Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit

This brings us to Peter’s words at the conclusion of the Pentecost sermon:

And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

Acts 2:38-39

Peter says that those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins will receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit”, as had been promised to them. Grammatically speaking, the gift of the Holy Spirit could be understood in one of two ways. We could read the phrase as referring to a gift which is given by the Holy Spirit (as in, this new shirt is ‘the gift of my wife.”) Or the phrase could be understood as referring to the Holy Spirit himself as the gift which is given (as in, my wife gave me “the gift of my new shirt”).

The key to understanding this phrase is to pay attention to the immediate context, where Jesus referred to the Spirit as “the promise of the Father” (1:4-5) and where Peter had just spoken of the outpouring of the Spirit as “the promise of the Holy Spirit” (2:33). Having just mentioned “the gift of the Holy Spirit”, Peter immediately adds “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off.” What promise was Peter referring to in verse 39? The context would suggest the same promise already mentioned and just offered as a gift. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the promised Holy Spirit who had just been poured out, and is now available to all those who repent and are baptized.

Looking ahead in the book of Acts, we will see that the Holy Spirit himself is given to all those who obey him (5:32).  The phrase “gift of the Holy Spirit” appears again in Acts 10:44-47, where it clearly refers to the Holy Spirit himself as the gift.

From Acts 2:38-39 we can thus observe

  • The Holy Spirit himself is promised as a gift to all those who repent and are baptized.
  • This serves to fulfill Joel’s promise that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, because through baptism, the Holy Spirit is now available to everyone.
  • The gift of the Holy Spirit is connected with the command to be baptized. This, of course, fits perfectly with what John the Baptist had spoken about Jesus, that he would “baptize” with the Holy Spirit.

Reading the book of Acts closely to this point answers some important questions, but it raises others. If the Holy Spirit was poured out in a miraculous way upon the apostles, and if the Holy Spirit is promised to those who would repent and be baptized, in what sense would the Holy Spirit be given to those who were baptized? Would they also be given the ability to speak in tongues? This question will be the subject of the next part of this study.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit

This is part 9 of an ongoing study of the Holy Spirit. For previous parts of this study, click here.

In part 5 of this study we observed where God promised, through the prophets, to give his people new hearts by sending his Spirit (Ezek. 36:26-27) and to pour out his Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:32-38).

In a similar manner, John the Baptist spoke of a coming one who would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:7-8 (see also Mt. 3:11; Lk. 3:16)

John was baptizing with water, but the coming one, identified as Jesus (Jn. 1:33), would baptize with the Holy Spirit. We know that this is somehow tied to the events of Pentecost (Acts 2) because of what Jesus said to his disciples after his resurrection.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now“… “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:4-5, 8

As we observed in parts 6 and 7, Jesus had spoken of a day when the Spirit would be given to those who ask the Heavenly Father (Lk. 11:13), and he identified himself as the source of the Spirit, who would be poured out on the thirsty (Jn. 7:37-39).

What is this baptism with the Holy Spirit that was referred to by the prophets, and spoken of by both Jesus and John?

Not “Baptism Of The Holy Spirit”

It may be interesting to notice that the Bible never actually speaks of a “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” In fact, Paul says that the “unity of the Spirit” only involves “one baptism” (Eph. 4:3-6). This can only refer to the baptism that was commanded by Christ (Mt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5) and his disciples (Acts 2:38; 22:16) and was referred to by Paul as the “washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

When it comes to “baptism” involving the Spirit, we only find the following phrases:

  • “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 3:11; Mk. 1:8; Lk. 3:16)
  • “This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 1:33)
  • “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5; 11:16)
  • “Be baptized… and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)
  • “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13)

There are also phrases that refer to Jesus “pouring out” the Spirit (Acts 2:17-18, 33; 10:45, Titus 3:5-6), and this also seems to be closely connected with Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit, but the phrase “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” never occurs in the Bible. Perhaps this is a difference without a distinction. But since many today refer to a “baptism of the Holy Spirit”, it should be noted that the phrase is never actually used in Scripture.

Popular Views of the Baptism

There are many who believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an event that is described as occurring only a few times in the book of Acts. As noted above, Jesus’ “baptism” is most certainly tied to the events of Acts 2. Many will identify this baptism in the events of Acts 2:1-4, where the Holy Spirit filled Jesus’ disciples who were together in Jerusalem, and gave them the ability to speak in tongues. They will also point to Acts 10:44-48, when in an occurrence similar to that of Acts 2 (see 11:15), the Holy Spirit was poured out on Cornelius and the other Gentiles who were with him, giving them the ability to speak in tongues.

There are many variations of this view. Some will also include the events of Saul’s conversion (9:17-18), when the Samaritans received the Spirit by the laying on of hands (8:14-17), and/or when the Ephesians received the Spirit by the laying on of hands (19:6). Some will argue this “baptism” was a unique event that only occurred a few times in the first century. Some will argue that this is a baptism that all Christians should seek, even today. Some will say that this miraculous “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is the moment of conversion. Others will argue that this “baptism of the Holy Spirit” served an important purpose, but should be thought of as separate from the actual moment of conversion, which happens when a person is baptized in water.

What these various views hold in common is the belief that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is to be equated with miraculous signs described in those passages cited above. It is easy to see how many arrive at this view, as the book of Acts makes a strong and indisputable connection between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the unique ability to perform miraculous signs and wonders.

An Event That Occurs at Every Conversion

What is sometimes overlooked is the way that Luke, in the book of Acts, speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit for all who repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38-39), as available for all those who obey (Acts 5:32), and also speaks of the Holy Spirit’s presence among those who apparently lacked the ability to perform miracles (Acts 6:3). Paul also frequently speaks of the Holy Spirit being something that all Christians are baptized with and all Christians drink from.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13

Paul also spoke of the Spirit’s role in the “washing of regeneration” for all Christians.

He saved us, not because of works done by use in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:5-6

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 6:11

Paul appears to be referring to the one baptism spoken of by Jesus, which was necessary to enter the kingdom of God, and which involved two elements: water and Spirit.

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

John 3:5

For this reason, Paul can also of the Spirit dwelling in all Christians (1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:8-13), even though he recognized that the ability to perform miraculous gifts was not common to everyone (1 Cor. 12:4-11; Rom. 12:6-8).

The Importance of Reading Both Luke and Paul Carefully

The role of the Holy Spirit in Christians today has been the source of much confusion, disagreement, and sometimes division among Christians. I believe on of the primary reasons for this is because it is easy to read the book of Acts, and get the impression that the Holy Spirit is primarily connected with miraculous gifts, but it is easy to read the letters of Paul and be left with the impression that the Holy Spirit is common to all Christians and not necessarily miraculous. We must avoid the temptation to emphasize only those verses which fit our preconceived notions about the Spirit.

The key to rightly understanding the role of the Spirit is, I believe, to accept that both Luke and Paul were inspired authors of Scripture, and both shared at the same understanding of the Spirit. For this reason, Luke and Paul should not be pitted against one another. At the same time, we can also recognize that Luke and Paul were different individuals who wrote for different purposes, and thus emphasized different aspects of the work of the Spirit. It would be a mistake to assume that every time Paul refers to the work of the Holy Spirit that he was contemplating the same aspect of the work of the Spirit as described by Luke, and vice versa. The inspiration of both authors does not eliminate their individual personalities, writing styles, unique purposes, or unique points of emphasis.

So what was Luke’s point in emphasizing the miraculous gifts of the Spirit in the book of Acts? Did Luke view Jesus’ “baptism with the Spirit” as something limited to those special, miraculous occurrences, or did Luke, like Paul, view the baptism with the Holy Spirit as something which is available for all Christians? These questions will be the subject of the next two parts of this study.

The Holy Spirit Raised Jesus From the Dead

This is part 8 of an ongoing study of the Holy Spirit. For previous parts, click here.

During the time of Israel’s rebellion, the prophets looked forward to a future age, when the Messianic king would set all things right, sins would be forgiven, and the exile would be over. This would be accomplished by God’s Spirit (see Part 5).

In all four accounts of the gospel, the Holy Spirit is emphasized as playing a major role in the life of Jesus (see Parts 6 and 7). Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1:18), declared to the be the Son of God when the Spirit descended on him like a dove (Lk. 3:21-22), was led by the Spirit (Lk. 4:1; 14-15), attributed his ministry to the Spirit (Lk. 4:17-21), and spoke God’s words by the Spirit (Jn. 3:34). The gospel accounts thus portray all of Jesus’ life, leading up to and culminating in his death on the cross, as the work of the Spirit.

It should be no surprise when we see that the Holy Spirit is said to be the one who raised Jesus from the dead.

God Raised Jesus from the Dead

After Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples quite naturally attributed this to the work of God.

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 2:24

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses.

Acts 2:32

God raised him on the third day and made him appear.

Acts 10:10

But God raised him from the dead.

Acts 13:30

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into dead, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4

Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.

Galatians 1:1

God is the one who created life. The only way a dead body can be resurrected to life is by the creative act of God. Without God, there is no life, and there is no resurrection from the dead.

God Raised Jesus From the Dead By the Holy Spirit

As noted in part 2 of this study, God created life by his Spirit. In Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, it was God’s Spirit that resurrected the dead bones into living bodies. Since resurrection was an act of the Spirit, we can see how the disciples concluded that Jesus was raided from the dead by the Holy Spirit.

For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit.

1 Peter 1:18

He was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 1:4

Jesus was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit and Our Resurrection

Not only is the Holy Spirit the one who raised Jesus from the dead, but our resurrection will also be the act of 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

In order for us to be raised from the dead like Jesus was, we must have the Spirit dwelling in us like Jesus did. Without the Spirit in us to give us life, there is no hope for the resurrection. This raises the question of how Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to his disciples, and what does it mean for us to have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. These are the questions we will consider in the upcoming parts of this study.

The Holy Spirit in John

This is Part 7 of an ongoing study of the Holy Spirit. Click here for the previous parts of this study

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John’s account of the gospel gives special emphasis to Jesus’s teachings regarding the Spirit.

Jesus and Nicodemus

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one of born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:5-8

In John’s introduction, he spoke of the necessity of a “new birth” taking place in order to become children of God (1:12-13). This new birth is the theme of Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus, in which he tells him that he must be born of both the “water and Spirit” in order to see God’s kingdom. Just as the prophets had foretold, God’s Kingdom was coming by the work of Spirit, blowing like a wind in whatever direction God desires for it to blow (remember that the Greek word for “Spirit” and “wind” were the same). Just as no human organization can control the wind, or dictate the direction it should blow, so it is with how God was bringing his kingdom by the Spirit. You can’t see God’s Spirit, control God’s Spirit, or dictate to God’s Spirit the direction you want him to blow, let alone try to get into his kingdom on your own terms.

Words of the Spirit

For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

John 3:34

As John contrasts Jesus who “comes from above” with those who are “of the earth” (3:31), special attention is drawn to Jesus’s words. Jesus speaks words from God. He does this because God “gives the Spirit without measure.” This is right in line with how we see God’s Spirit connected with speaking words from God in the Old Testament.

Living Water

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

John 7:37-39

By referring to himself as the source of living, or flowing water, Jesus was identifying himself as the source through whom God’s Spirit would be poured out on the thirsty (see Isaiah 44:3-5). Through Jesus anyone who was faithful to him would be able to receive the Spirit. John notes, however, that this had not happened yet, and it would not happen until after Jesus was “glorified”, a phrase which John uses to refer to the death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. 3:14; 12:23; 17:1).

The Helper

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him not knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you… These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:16-17; 25-26

Just before his crucifixion, Jesus told his disciples that he would be going away (14:2). But he promised them that they would not be left alone like orphans (14:18), because he would send the “Spirit of truth” as a “Helper” (sometimes translated as “Comforter” or “Advocate”) to dwell with them and be with them. Even though the world would not be able to see him, they would be able to see him (14:19). In this way, Jesus would be “1in them” (14:20). Jesus would show himself and make his home with those who would love him and keep his commandments (14:21-23). This would be accomplished by sending the “Helper”, the “Holy Spirit” who would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all the things that he had said to them (14:26).

Observe that the Helper is described as the “Spirit of truth.” Through the Spirit, Jesus will be made manifest to those who love him and keep his commandments (14:21). Jesus says that the Spirit will “teach” and “bring to remembrance” all the things that Jesus had said to them. This concept of a spirit being connected to truthful ideas, commands, teachings, and memories makes sense. That’s what a spirit does. When people teach things, they do so with their breath. When people know things, or remember things, they do so with their mind, or with their “spirit”.

But Jesus’s disciples wouldn’t just have any ordinary human spirit, as a source of ordinary human teachings or memories. They would somehow be helped by THE Spirit. They would be taught teachings which originated with Jesus, as opposed to those created in their own mind. Just as in the Old Testament, when people were said to be filled with God’s Spirit as a way of saying that their actions and their words could be attributed to God working and speaking through them (Part 3), so the apostles would be given the Spirit, showing that their teachings had their origin with Jesus himself.

In this way Jesus would be present with his disciples after his departure. He was going to be with them in that the Spirit would continue to be with them.

When the World Hates You

But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:26-27

Jesus warned his disciples that they would be hated and persecuted by the world (15:16-21). They should not be taken by surprise when this happens, for they hated Jesus without cause as well (15:22-25). But fortunately, according to Jesus, they would not be left alone. He reminds them that the “Helper”, the “Spirit of truth” would be sent from the Father. When he comes, he will (along with the apostles) bear witness about Jesus.

Once again we see that the Spirit will have something to say to the world about Jesus. The idea of a “spirit” having something to “say” makes sense given the Hebrew understanding of “spirit” (Part 1).

Guide Into All Truth

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judges.

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will come to declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

John 16:7-15

Jesus consoles his disciples by telling them that it is to their advantage that he goes away. That’s because his death, resurrection, and departure are necessary events that must happen before sending the Helper, the Spirit of truth. Part of the job of the Spirit will be to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment, to guide the apostles into all truth, and to glorify Jesus, taking what is his and declaring it to the apostles.

Once again we can observe that the Spirit’s work, as in the rest of scripture up to this point, is that of expressing or teaching God’s words. But here the message which the Spirit will speak is namely the teachings of Jesus himself (which of course came from the Father to start with).

In other words, the past work and teachings of Jesus will be continued after his departure through the work and teachings of Spirit.

Jesus, the Spirit, and the Disciples

John’s emphasis on Jesus’s teachings about the Spirit culminates in his interaction with his disciples in the upper room after the resurrection.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

John 20:21-23

Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples by breathing on them. By doing this, he made them his agents through which sins would be forgiven. By giving them the Holy Spirit, he commissioned them to act on his own behalf. What Jesus had done previously on earth would now be accomplished through His Spirit, who was now embodied in his apostles.

Up to this point, Jesus’s teachings about the Spirit had always been forward looking. But now that Jesus had been glorified through his death and resurrection, the anticipated time had come.

Observe that the point of Jesus “breathing” on his disciples and giving them the Spirit was not to give them some moving or emotional experience. Surely following Jesus can and should be deeply moving and emotional, but that’s not what Jesus giving the Holy Spirit was all about. Nor is the point that Jesus’ disciples were now free to follow whatever kind of intuition they might feel tugging at their hearts. Part of the point of giving the Spirit is that they would be led and taught by Jesus Himself through the Spirit, not by their own spirit, their own feelings, or their own emotions. The apostles, now having received the Holy Spirit, would be acting on Jesus’ own behalf, teaching things that originated with Jesus Himself.

The Holy Spirit (Part 6): The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus

Read earlier parts of this study here.

In the New Testament, the Spirit plays a big role in the life of Jesus, in his resurrection, and in the lives of his people. This is true in all four gospel accounts, and especially in the book of Luke. What God’s Spirit does in the New Testament corresponds with the things the Holy Spirit is said to do in the Old Testament.

Jesus’s Birth Is Attributed to the Holy Spirit

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:18

Mary’s pregnancy was from the Holy Spirit. As surprising as the virgin birth is, it is not surprising to see God’s Spirit connected with the gift and creation of life in a place where there was previously no life. This is the same sort of thing that the Spirit is described as doing in the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 1-2).

Luke starts the story even earlier with the story of the birth of John the Baptist. First, Luke records how Elizabeth was told that John the Baptist would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb.

He will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.

Luke 1:15

A few verses later, Luke records that John’s father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit when he prophesied about Jesus’s birth. Again, it is no surprise to see that the Holy Spirit is connected with speaking words from God, as this is the same thing the Spirit is described as doing in the Old Testament.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying…

Luke 1:67

Similarly, Simeon is described as having the Holy Spirit when he prophesied.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents of the child brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up on his arms and blessed God and said…

Luke 2:25-28

Again, just as in the Old Testament, we see the Holy Spirit described as revealing special knowledge to a prophet. Simeon was filled with the Holy Spirit in that he was able to know things that came from God’s own mind.

All these events surrounding the birth of Jesus were attributed to the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit’s Role in Jesus’s Baptism

In Luke 3, Luke describes how John was leading a repentance movement and baptizing people in the Jordan River. Some people began to question whether or not John might be the Christ. Luke records John’s answer (which will be examined in more detail in a future part of this study).

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Luke 3:16-17

Luke then records that Jesus himself was baptized by John.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22

Observe:

  • Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan
  • The heavens were opened
  • The Holy Spirit descends in bodily form, like a dove
  • God’s voice is heard speaking

Having studied the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, we can see that this event seems to echo another time when God’s Spirit is said to hover (a word used to describe what birds do) over the waters in connection with God’s voice speaking words.

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 1:2-3

From the account of Jesus’s baptism, we can also notice the close connection between God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. The Holy Spirit/Pnuma/Breath is described as descending on Jesus at the same moment that God speaks words. Again, given our understanding of the Hebrew and Greek words for Spirit, it makes sense that we would see a close connection between God’s Holy Spirit and God’s Word’s. We can also note that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the person of Jesus, but is also very active in the life of Jesus.

The word “trinity” is never used by Luke (or any other New Testament author) to describe the close relationship between God and the Spirit and Jesus. (The word “trinity” wasn’t even invented until after the close of the New Testament when early Christians tried to describe God’s nature.) But there is certainly a very close relationship between God and the Spirit and Jesus, just as in the Old Testament there was a close relationship between God and the Spirit and the prophesied Messiah.

The Spirit in the Life of Jesus

Luke highlights the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus more than any other author.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days.

Luke 4:1

Jesus’s day to day work was attributed to God’s Spirit.

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Luke 4:14-15

If Jesus was in the power of the Spirit when he taught, who’s words was he speaking? God’s words! Jesus was giving voice to words from God’s own Holy Spirit. Jesus made this clear when he applied Isaiah 61:1-2 to himself.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

In Luke 10, when Jesus saw what was happening, he gave credit to, and rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Luke 10:21

In Luke 11, Jesus described the Holy Spirit as a gift that could be given by God to his children.

If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

Luke 11:13

In the Old Testament, when on special occasions, God’s Spirit is filled unique individual’s, the words and actions and wisdom of those individuals could then be attributed to God himself. When Luke and the other gospel writers attribute the life and ministry of Jesus to the Holy Spirit, it means that the things Jesus said and did can rightly be attributed to God himself. When we see Jesus’s ministry and teachings, we see the words and actions of God Himself.

The Holy Spirit (Part 5): Prophesies Concerning the Spirit

In previous parts of this study it was observed that the Hebrew word for “Spirit” includes the idea of “wind” or “breath”. Spirit refers to that which is invisible and inside a living person which makes them alive. All living persons have a spirit, and God himself has a Spirit. We have also observed the things God’s Spirit is described as doing in the Old Testament, including creation, sustaining life, and re-creation. Sometimes God’s Spirit is said to fill special individuals in a unique and personal way. This is a way of attributing the words and actions of those individuals to God who speaks and works through them. When people were filled with God’s Spirit, their words could rightly be attributed to God’s own mind.

Before turning to the New Testament, it will be important to note what the inspired prophets said concerning the Spirit. After years of rebellion, the prophets warned that Israel was facing exile as a consequence of their sins. But the prophets also preached hope. Something better was coming. A future ruler was coming who would set things right. A new age was coming, an age when sins would be forgiven and the exile would be over. What was old and broken in the world would be made new. The world would be set right.

The important thing to note is that all of this would be accomplished by God’s Spirit.

The Prophesies of Isaiah

Isaiah prophesies of a future king who will have the Spirit of the Lord resting upon him.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Isaiah 11:1-2

There would be a future king from the line of David (Jesse was David’s father). Four different times Isaiah says that he will have the Spirit of the Lord upon him, permeating him in all that he does. His wisdom and understanding will come from the Lord’s Spirit. His counsel and might will come from the Lord’s Spirit. His knowledge will and fear of the LORD will come from the Lord’s Spirit. Practically everything about this future king can be attributed to the Lord’s Spirit. His attributes, his thinking, and his mindset will all be God’s own attributes, thinking, and mindset. This includes his just judgments (11:3), his care for the poor (11:4a), his supremacy over his enemies (11:4b), and his righteousness and faithfulness (11:5). The result of his kingship will be a peace that is so perfect it can be compared to a wolf lying down with a lamb, or a child playing in a vipers’ den without fear (11:6-9). In that day, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (11:9).

Is Isaiah prophesying about the church? Is he talking about heaven? Or perhaps something else? At this point in the Bible, that isn’t yet clear. What we can clearly see is that Isaiah foresaw a very different and much better era coming in the future, and this future era was going to come about because of a Messiah who would be filled with God’s Spirit.

Another prophesy about the Spirit can be found in Isaiah 32.

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.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

Isaiah 32:13-18

Found in a section that has Messianic implications (cf. 32:1), Isaiah looked forward to a day when the world is going to be dramatically changed. This future age will be characterized by justice, righteousness, and peace, and will involve “pouring out” of the Spirit in a new way.

Another prophecy about the Spirit is recorded in Isaiah 44.

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams of water on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing streams.
This one will say, “I am the LORD’s,”
and another will call on the name of Jacob,
and another will write on his hand, “The LORD’s,”
and name himself by the name of Israel.

Isaiah 44:3-5

Here Isaiah describes a “pouring out” of His Spirit upon Israel’s descendants. Note how the promise of the Spirit is connected with the figure of water given to satisfy thirst. Later on, Jesus will describe the Spirit using similar imagery (Jn. 7:37-39). The key thing to notice throughout all of Isaiah’s prophesies is that the world was going to change, and this change would be brought about by God’s Spirit.

The Prophesies of Ezekiel

If the world is going to change, it will be necessary that people are changed as well. According to the prophesies of Ezekiel, rebellious Israel would be transformed by 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

Ezekiel recognized that Israel needed to be fixed from the inside. The only way this would occur would be for God to give them a new heart and a new Spirit, which will enable them to walk in God’s statutes and keep his rules. This is very similar to how David prayed about the Holy Spirit in Psalm 51.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Psalm 51:10-12

In Ezekiel 37, following the vision of the valley of dry bones, Ezekiel once again speaks of God’s Spirit being put into his people. If Israel was as dead as dry bones, the only way they would be made alive again would be if God’s Ruakh/Spirit/Breath gave them new life.

I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.

Ezekiel 37:14

Another prophecy that relates to the promise of the Spirit is found in Ezekiel 39, which looks beyond the time of captivity to the restoration of Israel.

And I will not hide my face from them, when I pour out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, declares the Lord GOD.

Ezekiel 39:29

Like Isaiah, Ezekiel foresaw a new age coming which would be brought about by God’s Spirit.

The Prophecy of Zechariah

And I will pout out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a firstborn.

Zechariah 12:10

It is not entirely clear whether Zechariah refers to the future pouring out of the Holy Spirit, or if he speaks of a generic attitude of grace and pleas for mercy that will eventually characterize his people. What is clear is that Zechariah spoke of a future day when God would pour out a spirit, and the attitudes of God’s people would change. Note the connection between “spirit” and how we think. Again, this makes sense when we understand how the Hebrew word for “spirit” was used in the Old Testament (Part 1). When we turn our study to the New Testament, it will be important to remember this connection between “spirit” and “attitude” or “thinking.”

The Prophecy of Joel

And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophecy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon the blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.

Joel 2:28-32

Similar to the other prophets, Joel looked forward to a day when the world would be dramatically different. This future day would be brought about by God’s Spirit. One element of this prophecy of particular interest is that is speaks of God’s Spirit being poured out on “all flesh.” This includes sons and daughters, young and old, and male and female servants (including Gentiles???).

In part 3 of this study we observed that throughout the Old Testament, God’s Spirit was occasionally said to be with a few special individuals (such as judges, kings, and prophets) in a special and unique way.  Whenever people were said to have God’s Spirit, it meant that they had God’s mind, God’s thoughts, God’s wisdom, God’s words, or God’s strength. It means that their words or successes are attributed to God working through them as opposed to that person speaking or acting on their own wisdom. Here Joel speaks of a day when God’s Spirit will no longer be reserved for just a few special individuals, but will in some way be poured out on “all flesh.”

The Spirit in the Old Testament

This concludes the Old Testament portion of this study of the Holy Spirit. The specific meaning of these prophesies may not be entirely clear at this point. But what we can observe is that the Old Testament prophets anticipated that a new age was coming, and this coming age would be characterized by the work and influence of God’s Spirit being poured upon his people. The Spirit would be necessary to enable the people of God to keep his will.

This naturally raises questions. What exactly do these prophesies mean in the New Testament and for today? How exactly is God’s Spirit poured out on his people, and how does God’s Spirit work in the lives of Christians today? We will attempt to study these questions as we move into the New Testament portion of our study. The challenge will be to observe exactly what the New Testament says concerning the Spirit without reading any preconceived ideas into those passages.

In Summary:

  • Spirit, like wind or breath, is that invisible substance that makes things move and/or live
  • God’s Spirit is closely related to God’s mind, God’s thoughts, and God’s words
  • God’s Spirit is responsible for creating the world, and breathing life into all living beings
  • Sometimes God’s Spirit is said to come upon special individuals: Bezalel, Gideon, Samson, Saul, David, etc. When this happens, God speaks or acts through that person, so that their words and actions can be attributed to God rather than to the individuals speaking or acting on their own
  • When God’s Spirit fills a prophet, their words are God’s own words (See 2 Samuel 23:2; Micah 3:8)
  • Just as God’s Spirit created the world, so the prophets spoke of future renewal of all things. This new creation would be brought about by God’s Spirit
  • The Messianic King would be filled with God’s Spirit (Isaiah 11)
  • God’s new covenant people would be transformed by God’s Spirit. This transformation would be so complete that it is visualized as a resurrection of dry bones (Ezekiel 36-37)
  • God’s Spirit would one day be poured out on “all flesh” (Joel 2)

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.

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.