Holy Spirit – Power or Person?
God’s spirit gives you life; it does not make God live in you – “And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live” (Eze. 37:14). God does not need us to live. God lives independently of us. God has been and will be, regardless of us. Further, you are not alive without God’s spirit being in your body –
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (Gen. 2:7).
“It is the spirit that quickeneth” (John 6:63).
“he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).
This Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit that gives power is the same spirit that gives life –
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you . . .” (Acts 1:8).
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Rom. 8:11).
When Jesus breathed on His disciples, they received more power – more life; but Jesus remained where He was – He did not go inside them. He gave them more life. He is willing to give us more life and power too.
Spirit Belongs to God
The spirit of life does not belong to us. It belongs to God. He gives it to whomsoever He wills. At death, it goes back to Him. It does not wander around –
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Ecc. 12:7).
“The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” (Job 33:4).
“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23:46).
Let’s commit our spirits to God, as Jesus did, and God will return it to us at the resurrection. This is the spirit of God that dwells in us, in measure. We may ask God for more of His spirit and be more empowered but let us not fool ourselves in thinking that we have the spirit of life in and of ourselves or that God needs to occupy our bodies for Him to live and execute His will. God blows the breath of life into whoever or whatever He chooses, and life enters them – even into dry bones:
“Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” (Eze. 37:5, 6).
This is the Creator who says, I am God, “and there is none else”:
“For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else.” – Isa. 45:18. (See also Isa. 46:5, 9).
This is the God, whose breath moved over the face of the earth and breathed life into every living creature:
“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” (Gen. 1:2, 3).
This is the God, in whose image and likeness human beings were made, who said to His Son, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26; John 1:1-3).
The Holy Spirit and Gifts of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not a third God-being to be worshipped; neither is the Holy Spirit a being that takes up residence inside of us. We have seen that the term Holy Spirit may refer to the gifts of the Spirit (including the gift of life – Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:11). The term Holy Spirit, in a different context, may also refer to the representative of Christ who dispenses the spiritual gifts. This is evident in Christ’s promise to send the Comforter, whom He calls the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) –
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7).
“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).
However, quite separate from the representative that Jesus would send in His place, the term Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) may also be used in reference to gifts of the spirit that Jesus has without measure inside of Him that He can give us in measure.
“For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” (John 3:34).
“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 of the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2)
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan” (Luke 4:1).
“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost” (John 20:22).
While Jesus has the spirit of God without measure, everyone has a measure of God’s spirit – the “spirit of wisdom”, “understanding”, “knowledge” (Isa. 11:2) and “the spirit of life” itself (Rev. 11:11). But, to be saved, we must have a greater measure of God’s spirit that includes “the spirit of meekness” (1 Cor. 4:21), and “the spirit of knowledge and of the fear [reverence] of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2); “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear [to be afraid]; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Holy Spirit Poured Out – Early and Latter Rain
As gifts, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers at Pentecost, in fulfilment of a promise that God made through the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28, 29). Peter referred to this promise and its fulfilment in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost:
“But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17, 18);
Jesus says that we should ask the Father for the Holy Spirit – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was like the early rain that gave a kick start to the newly germinated seeds. When the plants are mature, latter rain showers are needed to ripen the crop and prepare them for the harvest. Based on Joel’s prophecy there would be an Early Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit and in the last days, a Latter Rain outpouring.
“Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” (Joel 2:23).
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” (Joel 2:28-31).
The Latter Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit is described as the work of a Mighty Angel who descends from heaven and causes the earth to be lightened with his glory.
“And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” (Rev. 18:1, 2).
The Latter Rain outpouring of the Holy Spirit is given in the last days at a time when modern Babylon is taken over by demons and evil spirits. This final outpouring of the Holy Spirit will empower God’s true and faithful believers to overcome the Devil as Moses was able to overcome the magicians of Egypt.
Representative of Christ Dispenses Gifts
It is important that we do not confuse the spiritual gifts that we receive in us with the representative of Christ who dispenses the gifts. Whereas the Comforter dispensed the gifts at Pentecost as the Early Rain, the Mighty Angel of Revelation 18 will dispense the gifts in even greater measure as the Latter Rain.
The Comforter is not a third God-being like the Father and the Son. Like the Mighty Angel of Revelation 18, the Comforter was sent on a mission to dispense spiritual gifts and to comfort the disciples. He would not speak of himself but would speak only what he hears –
“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).
There is no precedent in scripture for anyone praying to or worshipping the Holy Spirit. Of course, the references to Spirit in this discourse does not detract from the generally known fact that God, Christ, angels and humans are spirit beings, and each has their own spirit (or inner person). It is also recognized that some references to the Spirit of God in scripture, are references to God Himself. Such references are usually self-evident as, for example, “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” (Isa. 40:13).
The word spirit or the words translated spirit are used hundreds of times throughout the Bible. Therefore, there is no lack of scriptural references to assist us in getting a clear understanding of its meanings. The fundamental challenge that many people overlook, that results in confusion, is the fact that the word spirit is used to refer to several different things. To take a meaning that is intended for one thing and apply it to something else will cause the intended sense to be missed. The challenge of one word having more than one meaning is not unique to the word spirit. It is a normal occurrence with many other words and the approach to understanding the sense of their usages is the same. It is the context of the usage that helps us to understand the intended meaning. This study has explored different meanings of the word spirit and ultimately has sought to shed light on the matter of who or what is the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God that dwells in us in measure are the spiritual gifts (including the gift of life) by which we live and are empowered to be God’s witnesses. The term Holy Spirit may refer to the spiritual gifts that we receive and that remain in us or it may refer to Christ’s representative who dispenses the gifts to us. We should not confuse the two; neither should we confuse these, with references to God Himself as a spirit being.
May the Lord help us to recognize the true God, who created us and gave us the spirit of life. In the strength of the power that He gives, we “live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Eternal life is something that we do not have naturally, but through His Son, Jesus Christ, God freely offers it to all who believe – “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3).
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
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