Jesus urged his disciples to ask of him anything in his name, and he would do it. He urged them to express their love for him through the keeping of his commandments—ἐντολὰς means “injunctions, orders, commands, precepts, ordinances.” Then, Jesus reassured them another counselor and intercessor would be given them, “another” meaning comparable to Jesus. But this advocate would also be unlike Jesus, for the Holy Spirit is spirit.
The Spirit’s Person, Power, and Purpose
Years ago, my husband David and I put together a seven-week course we called “Leave Your Mark,” based upon the Gospel of Mark. It was an intensive two months! We went through the entire book, examined seven basic doctrines of the faith, led seven two-hour practical and interactive workshops on aspects of living out our faith, and tackled seven controversial topics rattling Christianity. One of the studies we did was on the Holy Spirit.
Our goal was to get people to really think about what they believe.
So we asked them to rewrite doctrine. We gave them a short list of scriptures to work with, encouraged them to go wherever else in the scriptures they felt prompted (or inspired) to pursue, and to come up with a doctrinal statement. Here is what our class came up with:
John 15:26, Romans 8:9; Genesis 1:2 and 2:7, Exodus 31:3, Numbers 11:25; John 16:7-15, 1 Corinthians 2:6-14, Romans 8:9-16, 26-27; Psalm 51:6-12, John 20:19-22, Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 2:11, 14The scriptures we gave our class to work with
The Holy Spirit is a person not a force, the Spirit is God, a part of the Trinity. The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son, performs the works of God, is one with them, the Spirit knows what God knows.
The Holy Spirit created the universe and gives life. The Spirit is the power (breath) of God. The Holy Spirit both quickens believers to faith, and to new life.
The Holy Spirit lives within believers bringing new life and direction, giving peace and understanding, a sense of “sonship” and belonging to God. The Spirit exalts Jesus and brings believers near to the Father.
It is through the Spirit’s counsel that believers can understand God’s word, through the Spirit’s intercession that believers can pray in power, and through the Spirit’s enabling that believers can live by faith.The doctrine our class composed together
The Spirit’s Process
We have the advantage of two thousand years to understand better who Jesus was speaking of. We know the Holy Spirit calls women and men to faith in Christ, making them alive with the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead, and makes believers increasingly like Jesus through the work of sanctification. We know the Holy Spirit is the power that brought forth life from the void, the agent of creation, the power that anointed kings and prophets, the essence of God’s life that fills hearts with joy.
The Spirit would be a revealer of truth, for Jesus’ apostles, working in conjunction with scripture to illuminate the word and way of God.
The Holy Spirit has specific work to do among believers of every era: (I saw a list similar to this years ago in—I think—Charisma magazine. As I read through the list, I knew there was even more, so I expanded the material to what you see below)
- The Spirit is the power that brought forth life from the void.
- The agent of creation in being born again.
- The power of the resurrection.
- Reveals truth.
- Convicts of sin, leading to repentance.
- Believers discover they can grieve the Spirit and even douse the Spirit’s flame – the Holy Spirit will not leave them, but it will seem as though the Spirit is gone, if one chooses to refuse the Spirit’s word, power, influence, and activity.
- Interprets scripture.
- Illuminates God’s word.
- Enables believers to understand God’s thoughts, and words.
- Recalls God’s word.
- Acts as Counselor and Comforter, filling our hearts with God’s love.
- Intercedes for, and through, believers.
- From all unrighteousness, both the wrongs we have done, and the wrongs others have done to us.
- God’s direct, timely, guidance in all areas of life.
- Permanently seals the believer unto God, and to salvation.
- Joins all believers into one body.
- Reconnects believers to God’s creation, that we may rightly, and rightfully, tend the earth as God would, with great love, care, humility, generosity, and sense of the sacred.
- Witnesses to believers God’s thoughts, purpose, desires, will, plans, and insights.
- Witnesses through believers to each other and to the world.
- The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings one to new life, a life that comes from above.
- The Christian Testament also talks about a “filling” of the Holy Spirit, which may occur repeatedly, and is signified by God’s calling and equipping.
- Throughout scripture the Spirit anoints kings, prophets, artists, musicians, priests, teachers, evangelists—in fact, all those who have a calling from God.
- Empowers believers to do God’s will.
- Gives believers particular gifts, in order to build up the whole of the church.
- Acts as Helper; in Greek “One called alongside to help, to strengthen, and encourage.”
The Spirit’s Permanence
The disciples would discover their relationship with the Holy Spirit would be permanent—Jesus told them the Spirit would be with them forever. Later, the Apostle Paul would explain further by writing that the Spirit comes complete and seals each believer to God for all eternity.
There are some ways Christians talk about the Holy Spirit which can give a false impression. For instance, our goal is not to get more of the Spirit, but rather to give the Spirit more of ourselves, to become ever more open and receptive to the Spirit’s influence on our behavior, our thoughts, our feelings, our time, our resources.
Ultimately, I think, this is a language of power and control. If I am asking God for more power and authority, for more of the Spirit, then I am in the control position. I am asking for something that I intend to wield for my purposes. However, when I realize that I have already been given every spiritual blessing, including the full seal of the Spirit, then my point of position shifts. I now realize the control I am exercising is actually preventing me from fully experiencing the presence of the Spirit already within me.
The Spirit’s People
Who are those who know the Holy Spirit, in whom the Spirit dwells?
The Spirit of Truth, One the world is not able to take hold of and grasp, because the world does not consider, perceive, or see the Spirit, nor know the Spirit—you all do know the Spirit, because the Spirit abides among you and will be -in- you.Jesus to those gathered, John 14:17
The people of the Spirit
1. Are not the world. The world cannot receive the Spirit because they are not aware of the Holy Spirit—they cannot sense the Spirit in any fashion, not to perceive or even to consider, let alone know, because they simply cannot see the Spirit.
2. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, and because Jesus’ followers were with Jesus, the Spirit was among them.
3. The Spirit is holy. The Spirit dwells within those who have been made holy by Jesus, having received Jesus’ righteousness and made ready to receive the Holy Spirit. When Jesus went up into heaven, God was able to send the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to be not just with but living within all those who had put their faith in Jesus.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, believers can do greater works
Here is how Jesus’ teaching flows, taking into account the example he described in John 6—just as Jesus said and did nothing but what the Father showed him.
- Pray in Jesus’ name.
- Express our love for Jesus by following his commandments.
- Receive and rely upon the indwelling Holy Spirit.
[The Holy Spirit | Nheyob, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons]