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Holy Spirit Has Different Meanings
“The Bible is not given to us in grand superhuman language. Jesus, in order to reach man where he is, took on humanity. The Bible must be given in the language of men. Everything that is human is imperfect. Different meanings are expressed by the same word.” Ellen G. White, Selected Messages Book 1, p. 20.
A part of the confusion that exists regarding the Holy Spirit is the fact that based on the different contexts of the usage of the term, different meanings are intended. Last week, it was pointed out that a number of references to “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit” were references to God the Father. It was pointed out that the Bible says: “God is a spirit” – John 4:24; and “The Lord is that Spirit” – 2 Cor. 3:17. The terms “Holy Ghost” and “Spirit of truth” are used in John chapters 14-16 in reference to the “Comforter”.
Holy Spirit The Comforter Sent
The Comforter is someone who is sent from the Father at Jesus’ request –
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” – John 14:26.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” – John 15:26.
The Comforter speaks only what he is told to speak –
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” – John 16:13.
Spirit Also Refers To Angels
The term “spirit” is also used in reference to angels. The case of Philip illustrates –
“And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” – Acts 8:26.
Philip went and saw the Ethiopian eunuch. He was given further instructions as described in the following words:
“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” – Acts 8:29.
At the end of the encounter, we are told:
“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more” – Acts 8:39.
This role of the “spirit” or “angel”, in this instance, bringing truth to God’s children is consistent with Jesus’ promise regarding the “Spirit of truth”. The role of angels who, we know, are “spirits” (Heb. 1:7, 14) is also illustrated in the experience of John the Revelator. God gave the revelation to Christ who gave it to His angel who in turn gave it to John –
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” – Rev. 1:1.
Spirit of Truth
To some people it is blasphemous to think of the “Spirit of truth” as an angel. Yet they would accept that the term “angel of the Lord” was used in some places, particularly in the Old Testament, to refer to Christ or God Himself (as in the case with Moses by the burning bush: “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” – Ex. 3:2). In the case of Elijah, “the angel of the Lord” who appeared to him was also referred to as “an angel” –
“And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.” – 1 Kings 19:5.
“And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” – 1 Kings 19:7.
The point is that the terms “Spirit”, “Holy Spirit”, “angel”, “angel of the Lord” and other terms have multiple meanings and references. It is the context that helps us to understand and we cannot be dogmatic.
Holy Spirit the “Golden Oil” of Zechariah 4
A fertile line of research from the Spirit of Prophecy writings, that sheds light on the matter of who or what is the Holy Spirit is the subject of the “golden oil”. Ellen G. White says that the “golden oil” of Zechariah 4 is the Holy Spirit. If one should do a brief search of the E. G. White database under the subject, “golden oil”, it will clarify significantly, if not entirely, much of the ambiguity and speculation surrounding who or what is the Holy Spirit.
Further, as is common to any process of defining things, a good understanding usually allows one to distinguish the matter being defined from other things that it is not. In that vein, another line of research that should prove edifying would be to establish the difference (or differences) between the work that is done by the Holy Spirit and that which is done by the angels.
Holy Spirit Not Worshiped in Scripture
In the final analysis, the original point stands: we cannot be dogmatic about matters that are at best debatable and have not been fully revealed to us. We should not allow our own speculative ideas to influence us to place worship where there is no example in the Bible of it being given. Nowhere in the Bible is it taught that we should worship the Holy Spirit. If we should follow the example of holy beings in heaven, in our worship we would be saying:
“Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, AND unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” – Rev. 5:13.
And if we would be worshiping as we will be worshiping in the New Earth, we would be in line with John the Revelator who said:
“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.” – Rev. 21:22.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
– Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:6)
Sabbath School Lessons Focus on Holy Spirit
We have a very interesting set of Sabbath School lessons this quarter (January to March, 2017). I wrote to one of our church leaders on the 16th of January advising him as follows:
“I have taken them cautiously and have not advanced any unique views in my Sabbath School class. But I have suggested to them, as was pointed out in the lesson last week, that the Bible has not spoken a lot about the identity or nature of the Holy Spirit. If we, therefore, follow the Biblical precedence and focus more on the work of the Holy Spirit, we should be on safe ground.”
I further said to him:
“Privately, though, I wish there was a way to discuss some of these matters more intellectually as some aspects of the ideas conveyed in the lesson are speculative and at best moot. My personal view, as I would have expressed to you privately, is that we should not be too dogmatic on such points. Of course, I understand that it would not be appropriate to discuss some of these matters in the pews, in order to avoid confusion.”
Lessons Promoting Worship of the Holy Spirit
Having said that and received a cordial response, I was confronted with the bold assertion three days after, in the lesson of January 19, that “The Holy Spirit is affirmed as a proper object of worship”. I then had to ask myself, where in the Bible is there any such assertion? And do I do well in not raising the question? In case we miss the gravity of the matter, it is nothing less than a question of whether or not we are practising idolatry! If we place worship where it does not belong, we are in breach of the very first commandment of the Ten Commandments, which states: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3). So, I am impelled to invite you to consider a few things.
The lesson of Tuesday, Jan. 17, states: “Obviously the biblical writers saw God and the Holy Spirit on par with each other.” Is that so? That is not obvious! Have we considered the possibility that some references to “Holy Spirit” and “Spirit” are actually references to God himself – that is the Father, rather than to someone else? The Bible says: “God is a spirit” – John 4:24; and “The Lord is that Spirit” – 2 Cor. 3:17.
The following day (Wednesday, Jan. 18), the lesson continues: “The Bible states that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead”. Indeed! But, the Bible states that it was “God the Father, who raised him from the dead” – Gal. 1:1. So, why assume that the Holy Spirit is someone different from the Father himself? Is it that the Father needed help? Let us be careful that we do not give God’s praise to another! This is serious business. God says: “I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another” – Isa. 42:8.
A number of references are cited, based on which the same conclusion is drawn as in the lesson of Tuesday, Jan. 17, that: “the Holy Spirit does the same action as God is doing, powerful evidence that the Holy Spirit is equal to God.” Not necessarily! It would more suggest that it is the same person being referred to, namely, God the Father, who the Bible describes as : “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Eph. 4:6).
The Bible says: “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6).
When God says, “I am the LORD, and there is none else” (Isa. 45:5), make no mistake, God the Father is the only Supreme Being, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:3; 2 Cor. 11:31) who has “anointed” His Son (Heb. 1:9) and “appointed” Him heir of all things (Heb. 1:2). Jesus is the only begotten Son of God, “the express image of His person” (Heb. 1:3) and the Father has commanded both men and angels to worship Jesus Christ, his Son; and his Son is subject to Him – “the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Cor. 11:3). He has not given to us any right to worship anyone else! Take heed!
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
- Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:6)