The Holy Spirit

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PERSONHOOD. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, eternally equal with God the Father and Jesus the Son. The personhood of the Spirit is evidenced by his personal attributes: emotions (Isa. 63:10, Eph. 4:30, Acts 9:31), mind (Acts 15:28, Rom. 8:27), and will (1 Cor. 2:10-11, 12:11); by the fruit born of the Spirit in the lives of believers (Gal. 5:22-23); by his personal activity: teaching (Luke 12:12; John 14:26), counseling (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), speaking (Acts 13:2, 21:11, 28:25), sending (Acts 13:4), restraining (Acts 16:6), warning (Acts 20:23); and by the personal treatment of Him by others (Acts 5:30, 7:51).

Prior to the incarnation, the Holy Spirit came upon individuals for a particular task, and for particular time. The Spirit came upon four classes of individuals: judges (Jdg. 3:10, 11:29, 14:6 & 19), prophets (2 Ki. 2:15, 2 Chr. 15:1-2), craftsmen (Exod. 31:2-3), and civil rulers (Num. 11, 1 Sam. 11-12, 1 Sam. 16). These same passages further suggest that, in general, the Spirit’s empowerment was for a particular task in time. (Moses and David seem to be possible exceptions to this temporary empowerment.)

The Spirit was present and at work in Jesus from the literal conception of the incarnation (Matt. 1:18, Luke. 1:35). He was present at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke. 3:22, John 1:32), led Him to the desert to be tempted (Matt. 4, Luke 4), and empowered Him after the temptation as He began His public ministry (Luke 4:14) and throughout His ministry (Matt 12:22-32) up to and including his death and resurrection (Heb. 9:14, Rom. 8:11).

Jesus promised that same power to his disciples (Acts 1:8), but unlike the pre-incarnational work, the Spirit would now fill them (Acts 2:4, 4:8, passim). The Holy Spirit empowers and equips believers to do the good works for which we were created (Eph. 2:10), by distributing gifts to believers and bearing fruit in their lives (Gal. 5:22-23). In the exercise of his divine will and prerogative, the Holy Spirit today continues to distribute gifts—including the sign gifts—as He deems necessary for the glorification of Jesus Christ (John 16:13-15) through the edification and building up of his body, the church (cf. 1 Co. 12, Eph. 4). I believe that a significant reason for the apparent lack of the sign gifts (especially in the West) is lack of faith (cf. Mark 6:4-6, where Jesus’ ability to perform miracles seems to have been inhibited by lack of faith).

SPIRITUAL GIFTS. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to serve the common good (Eph. 4:11, 1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12), so that the body of Christ may be built up in unity of faith, knowledge of Christ, and maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:11-13). The sign gifts have a special priority in the Spirit’s purpose (1 Cor. 13:31, 14:1ff) and should be “eagerly desired.” They are unique among the gifts, in that their use may sometimes benefit a particular individual rather than the church as a whole. (This is certainly true of healing, but also applies to tongues; cf. 1 Cor. 14:4. Prophecy is the exception; cf. 1 Cor. 14:5.) All gifts—including the sign gifts—are eclipsed by love, the preeminent fruit of the spirit (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13; Gal. 5:22).

The Holy Spirit works also in the lives unbelievers, contending with man’s sinfulness as He has since the fall (Gen. 3:8, 6:3) and convicting of sin (John 16:8). When that conviction results in repentance, it is the Spirit who renews and regenerates (Tit. 3:5).

At regeneration, the Holy Spirit comes to live in (“indwell”) and fill the believer, (John 14:17, Rom. 8:9) and empower him for life and service in the body of Christ. This indwelling occurs with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which the resurrected Christ promised would take place “in a few days” (Acts 1:5), a promise fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). This Spirit-baptism and its accompanying indwelling represents a marked difference compared to the previous work of the Spirit. Whereas the Old Testament primarily shows the Spirit “coming upon” an individual for a certain task and a limited time, after Pentecost the Spirit is both “with” and “in” the believer (John 14:17). Additionally, there is no indication from Scripture that the Spirit departs from a believer as he departed from Saul (1 Sam. 16:14). As for the imperative, “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18), I believe this is Paul’s way of saying that a believer’s life ought to reflect the reality of his Spirit-filled state. (See Paul’s similar command in 2 Cor. 5:18: “Be reconciled to God.”) Likewise, those passages that specifically point out that a certain person was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, 13:52) are calling special attention to the ongoing reality in the individual’s life for the purpose of ascribing proper recognition of who it was accomplishing the work described. That is, these passages are a safeguard to the reader to ensure that we recognize that the power behind the words and actions described is not Peter’s or Paul’s, but is the power of the Spirit working through them.

The Holy Spirit is a seal certifying the God-given authority and authenticity of our salvation by grace through faith. He is the guarantee that we will receive our future inheritance, eternity in the presence of God. (Eph. 1:3-14; 2 Cor. 5:5) Finally, the Spirit will stand with us as we receive that inheritance at the wedding feast of the Lamb, rejoicing with us as the Bride is united with her Groom. (Rev. 22:17)

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