The Holy Spirit

This is a subject of much controversy both in the church and out of the church. I hope we can add something to the educational process, that we might better understand the work of the Holy Spirit. We are instructed to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). God does something we cannot do. The next verse tells us that there is one Spirit (Eph. 4:4). The Bible reveals that the Spirit is a person, not an influence. It is true that he may influence people but he is a person: "Howbeit when he the Spirit of truth is come...." (John 16:13); "But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). So this person is to teach the apostles all things and then through their words we will have unity. He is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). We are sanctified in the truth and God's word is truth (John 17:17). Truth is always in harmony with truth. Therefore the Holy Spirit will not guide, or instruct us, into something contrary to the word. That the teachings of the apostles were the words of the Holy Spirit is made evident in this passage: "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe in me through their word: that all may be one, even as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou didst send me" (John 17:20-21).

The apostles did not interpret the Spirit to us. They did not tell us what the Spirit meant. They told us what the Holy Spirit said, "But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things which were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth, combining spiritual things with spiritual words (I Cor. 2:12-13). We read again: "For no prophecy ever came by will of man; but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). We are told that we need the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible to us. If the Holy Spirit did not tell us what He meant the first time then how would we know that he was telling us the truth the second time? In the Bible there is oneness but when men begin to interpret the Bible we have confusion.

It would be impossible for the Spirit to teach us something different from the word of God, or it is not the word of God that we have. For Truth cannot contradict Truth. Two and two are four. We never learn anything that contradicts that no matter how far we may go in mathematics. So He is the Spirit of Truth. The Bible is the Word of Truth. So they must be in harmony. To make this abundantly clear Jesus said, "It is the spirit that giveth life, the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life" (John 6:63).

We are to keep the unity of the Spirit. The Bible says, there is one God. That we accept. There is one Lord Jesus Christ, that we accept. There is one Spirit. In theory we accept that, but in practice many reject it. The very same verse that says there is One Spirit says that there is One Body (Eph. 4:4). That body is the church but people who claim to be directly guided by the Holy Spirit say that the church consists of many bodies, that the church consists of the various religious bodies or at least certain people within the various religious bodies, that the church is not one body as the Bible teaches and hence the Holy Spirit teaches. The unity of the Holy Spirit has been destroyed and not enhanced as these people would like us to believe. This is one of the remarkable things about those who claim to be directly guided by the Spirit today: immediately they reject what the Holy Spirit said about one body, the church.

The Holy Spirit reveals the church as a glorious thing but those who claim today to be led by the Spirit reject the Bible concept of the church for a fragmented denominationalism. The Bible teaches that as a husband and wife are to live together in true fidelity, so Christ and the church are to live (Eph. 5:25- 26). Not only is there only one Spirit and one body (church) but there is only One Lord. The word Lord means ruler. When you have more than one church you have more than one ruler. Each church has its own system of government and its laws. Then every church with its own government also has its own faith. So the faith is fragmented. The Holy Spirit tells us that the faith was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). So anything newer than the New Testament is not the faith.

Then there is one baptism. As we have more Lords we have more bodies, we have more faiths and we have more baptisms. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit, by Peter, told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. The command is plain. We have no trouble understanding what it says but men have used barrels of ink and tons of paper trying to show that this did not mean exactly what it says. Why? The Lordship has been altered, the faith that has been added teaches something else besides the One Baptism that the Holy Spirit reveals (Acts 2:38). Note this significant statement. "They then that received his word were baptized and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). So this is the one baptism. We hear the word of the Spirit as given on Pentecost and we obey it. God is over this plan and in this plan (Eph. 4:6).

But someone asks the question, "What about Holy Spirit baptism?" Let us see what the Bible tells us about this. In other words, we shall see what the Holy Spirit said about baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus gave us the fulfillment of this promise. Here is the prophecy as made by John the Baptist: "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire." Then John goes right on to tell us what the baptism of fire will be. It is unquenchable fire that shall burn up the chaff (Matthew 3:11-12).

After his resurrection Jesus tells us about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and I want you to study with me very carefully: "The former treatise I made O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach until the day in which he was received up after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit unto the apostles whom he had chosen: to whom he also showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God, and being assembled together with them [notice that the antecedent to 'them' must be the apostles and only the apostles] he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: For John indeed baptized with water but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:1-5). So Jesus said that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was for the apostles and there was no promise that it would ever be given to any other person.

Now let us note carefully what happened: We quote from Acts 2: "And when the day of Pentecost was now come they [the apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as the rushing of a might wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues, parting asunder like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4). When the Holy Spirit came the result was that these people spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit.

After explaining the purpose of the Spirit coming they then preached the gospel to these people. They told them of the miracles of Christ. Jesus did these things that we might be believers and be saved, not by any direct operation of the Holy Spirit, but by believing the miracles that Jesus worked. Let us read carefully: "Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing might have life in his name" (John 20:30-31). So Peter by the Holy Spirit preached about the miracles of Jesus.

We are to be saved by our faith in the gospel: "And he said unto them, Go ye unto all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16). Paul told us that the gospel was the facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-5). Peter ended the first part of his sermon with these words: "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye have crucified (Acts 2:36). This did not cause people to fall down on the floor. This caused people to ask a question. They believed the message that the Holy Spirit gave and this caused them to ask a question: "now when they heard this, they were pricked in the heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?" Peter was baptized in the Holy Spirit along with the rest of the apostles and here was the answer. He did not tell them to pray through. He did not tell them that since they had become believers, there was nothing for them to do. Listen to the answer of the Holy Spirit: "Repent ye and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

He said that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be given to the people who were baptized for the remission of sins. Then we have it made more plain in Acts 5:32. Peter is talking: "and we are witnesses of these things: and so is the Holy Spirit whom God hath given to those who obey him." Here is a promise from the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is given to those who obey. We may not fully understand this but we can believe it and we can learn from the Scriptures something of this at least, if not everything.

As I write I have an electric light beside me. I do not know much about electricity but I can make much use of it. So the Christian has the indwelling of the Spirit and we can make use of it even if our knowledge is not perfect. The New Testament provides us with all that we need to know. Paul wrote to Timothy or rather the Holy Spirit wrote to Timothy and used Paul as his secretary. Here is what he had to say, "and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make you wise unto salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture inspired of God is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work" (2 Tim. 3:15-17). So I can learn the word of God, I can believe the word of God and the Holy Spirit says I am completely furnished unto every good work.

However, we must realize that the mere learning of the Scripture is not enough. Christ by the Spirit, by faith, must dwell in the inner man. We read, "That he would grant you, according to the richness of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love..." (Eph. 3:16-17). So we are grounded by faith in Christ, the Spirit, dwells in the inner man.

This indwelling Spirit is something peculiar to the gospel. We have inspiration in the Old Testament. We have healing in the Old Testament. We had the miracles of creation and we have the miracles that Moses worked. We have miracles that were worked by the apostles during the personal ministry of Christ. But there was something beyond all this, for we learn in John 7:37-39: "Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not glorified." So the gift of the Spirit was for Christians in a way that others did not receive it. We shall return to this in a moment but we must notice that the Spirit was not given to the world but to the believer: "even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him, for he abideth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:17). The gospel is the power of God to save the believer (Rom. 1:16). Yet, the people of the world pray that the Holy Spirit will come in converting power to the sinner. Jesus said that the sinner cannot receive the Holy Spirit.

If we do not have the Spirit we cannot lose the Spirit. The Thessalonians were told not to quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). Jude told us that some so sinned that they did not have the Spirit (Jude 19).

How do I know that I have the Spirit? Because I have the fruit of the Spirit? Paul tells us of the fight that goes on. The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary to one another (Gal. 5:16-21). Then he says the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self control: against such there is no law (Gal 5:22-23). In order for the Spirit to abide, we must crucify the flesh with its passions (verse 24).

God operates according to law. Miracles were always an exception. He made Adam from dust. He made Eve from a rib and then natural law went into operation and all people come into the world through natural law. Moses turned water into blood. That was a miracle but by natural law in our bodies every day, water is turned into blood. If this were not so, man would soon perish from the earth. Jesus fed five thousand by a miracle. God feeds billions every day by natural law. God must put the life into every grain of wheat, or rice, or any other food. No man can do that. The light and heat of the sun is brought 93 million miles and is not expended. Man cannot do that. God sends the rain. No man can do that. So God's natural laws are far greater than any miracle but these miracles were done to show his power (Mk. 16:29-30; Heb. 2:3-4).

When the New Testament was complete the purpose of these signs was fulfilled. Paul was a great worker of miracles but they had fulfilled their purpose: He said tongues would cease and that prophecy would fail (I Cor. 13:8-9). John tells us that with Revelation, prophecy was complete (Rev. 22:18-19). Paul told Timothy to take some medicine for his sickness (1 Tim. 5:23). The old soldier, the man who had kept the faith, says that he left Trophimus at Miletus sick (2 Tim. 4:20). Even in the midst of His miracles Jesus said the sick need a doctor (Mk. 2:17). The miraculous does not change man. Balaam, the son of Beor, was a prophet but he loved the hire of wrong doing. Caiaphas was a prophet and told of the death of Christ but he was a wicked man. The Corinthian church had many miraculous gifts but the church had many sins. The indwelling Spirit which is the right of every baptized believer will lift up to the better plain. "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:11). When the Spirit would come, Jesus said that from the believer would flow living water. The last invitation is to take freely of the water of life (Rev. 22:17).

J.C. Bailey (January 1986, Bengough, Saskatchewan)

Published in The Old Paths Archive