The Spirit’s Exclusive Interest
Christians must take to heart what Jesus taught repeatedly about the Holy Spirit. He insisted that the Spirit would be “another Paraclete.” There is nothing else that He said about the Spirit that was repeated like this. Jesus taught by implication that the Spirit would take the place of Jesus in their lives (John 14:16, 18). He specifically said that the Spirit would
- remind them of what Jesus taught (14:26)
- give testimony only to Jesus (15:26)
- expound only Christ’s teaching (16:13–15).
However, many who exult in claiming the empowerment of the Holy Spirit have not been careful to insist on this acid test of whether prophecies and ministries are truly of the Spirit of Christ.
In his first letter, John counsels the Church not to be misled into believing that the activity of any spirit is necessarily of God. There is a need to be discerning. The test of a spirit originating from God is its confession or acknowledgement of Christ’s incarnation
(4:1–3). Popularity of a teaching is no index of it being inspired by the Holy Spirit. The unregenerate world is just not fascinated by the Holy Spirit’s activity. Only those who are regenerate are enchanted by the truth (5–6). Jesus said that the Spirit of Truth is not acceptable to the world. It neither sees Him, nor knows Him (John 14:17).
The Spirit as Encourager
Why did the Lord give the Holy Spirit? What was the one purpose for which the Spirit was sent?
As Paraclete, the Holy Spirit is our encourager. The Lord said that He would not leave His disciples orphaned (John 14:8) but would send them an Advocate (16).
The word Paraclete is translated “helper” by the New American Standard Bible. Some forms of the word are translated as “comforter” or “encourager” (or their variations). The word is loaded with the connotation of helping, encouraging and comforting.
What is it that the Holy Spirit encourages? Again and again Jesus talked of witnessing to Him as the one task the Spirit would enable His disciples to carry out (Mathew 10:19–20; John 15:26–27; Luke 24:46–48; Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit is the one who encourages us in our witnessing to Jesus. He enables every evangelistic effort.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit
Many of those who emphasise the importance of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment have focussed on Pauline teaching, especially about the gifts of the Spirit. We must note, however, that the Lord Jesus Himself was the source for all the seminal teaching on the Holy Spirit.
These days, denominations and local churches get polarised on how they view the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Some people are wary of opening themselves to the Spirit on account of what they deem to be the excesses of some groups. It is good to remind ourselves that Jesus said that the Father will not give bad gifts to His children (Luke 11:11–13). For those who have fears, and wonder if they will receive an offensive spirit when they seek the Holy Spirit, these words of Christ should bring assurance.
In his first letter, John counsels the Church not to be misled into believing that the activity of any spirit is necessarily of God. There is a need to be discerning
Like what Elisha of old had said to Elijah, we should desire a double portion of the Spirit. Elijah replied that that would depend entirely on Elisha’s spiritual alertness and sensitivity (2 Kings 2:9–10). However, no one has more of the Spirit. Nor does someone have less. The Holy Spirit does not come in measurable quantities. But the Spirit can have more of someone’s attention. Some are more available to the Spirit than others.
After His resurrection, when His disciples began to believe in Him, Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). Christ’s act of breathing on His disciples must not be viewed only as a symbolic act. As God had breathed into dust and made Man live by that breath, so Jesus breathed on those men of flesh and made them newborn sons of God. At Pentecost what happened was that the Spirit whom they had received began to “possess” them. Grow in your awareness and knowledge of the Spirit.
Receiving the Spirit
Writing to the Ephesian church, Paul commanded, “Be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). However, those he wrote to were followers of Christ. He said that they had been “marked in Christ with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (1:13–14).
When Paul talked of sealing, a deposit and redemption, he was using word pictures from the marketplaces of Roman cities. When a person went to buy anything, once the bargaining was done, and the deal was finalised, he would put a mark (a seal) on the item to indicate that it belonged to him. He would then make a down payment (a deposit) to reserve the item until he could make full payment to claim (redeem) what belonged to him.
The New Living Translation paraphrases it well: “When you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit He promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. This is just one more reason for us to praise our glorious God.”
Some groups do not think that all believers have the Holy Spirit. They appear to suggest that one can receive Jesus as Saviour without receiving the Holy Spirit.
Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit are one—inseparably one. People cannot receive one of the members of the Trinity without receiving the other two. When we receive Jesus in our lives, we also receive the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Bible clearly states that if a person does not have the Spirit of Christ, the person does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). When people confess, “Jesus is Lord”, they do so only because they are inspired and enabled by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Frederick Dale Bruner points out that the book of Acts does not record any instance of any believers being passed over and not receiving the full gift of the Spirit due to any spiritual deficiency. Also, the Spirit never came partially to anyone: “applying justification, and then leaving to return in fullness, sanctification or power at a later time when the justified person is more worthy, empty or clean.”
“The Holy Spirit, in relation to believers, is evidently not only not selective (coming on only a few) and not conditional (coming on only the worthy), He is not partial (coming only part-way). The gift of the Spirit is the filling of the Spirit.” This is the testimony of the book. “Finally, the Holy Spirit is a person, and therefore, where He is, He is fully, and not two-thirds or three-quarters” (A Theology of the Holy Spirit, Wm. B Eerdmans, 1970, p. 163).
If you have received Jesus as Saviour, you have also received the Holy Spirit into your life. On the other hand, if you have never actually invited Jesus to come into your life, this is something you need to do first.
“If everyone has received the Spirit on coming to Christ in faith and receiving Him as Saviour, why did Paul talk of the need for believers to ‘be filled with the Spirit’?” (Ephesians 5:18).
Literally what Paul said was, “Go on being filled with the Spirit.” The infilling of the Spirit is not a one-time experience that people can claim with pride and do nothing more about. Acts records that those who were filled with the Spirit were filled again (4:8, 31; 7:55; 11:24; 13:9).
Whatever may be your reaction to this doctrine about the least-known member of the Trinity, there is one prayer that any Christian should be willing to pray. Everyone needs to say, like the Old Testament saint who wrestled with God, “I will not let You go unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
Study in context all the passages that record what our Lord said about the Holy Spirit:
Matthew 10:20; 12:28–30
Mark 3:28–29; 13:11
Luke 4:18–19; 11:9–13; 12:10–12; 24:49
John 3:5–8; 6:63; 7: 37–39; 14:15–18, 25–26; 16:7–15; 20:22
Acts 1:4–5, 8
Holy Spirit, I have not always thought of You as a person. Nor have I treated You as I would a living person. Most of the time I ignore You. Teach me to be more sensitive to Your presence. Help me to relate to You, by thinking of You, considering Your preference and above all by loving You.