The Spirit of God and His Work (cont’d)

In the first part of this short study on the Spirit of God (found at this link), we looked at five different designations for that “one and the same Spirit”.  Let us dig a little farther into this profound subject now, with the Lord’s help.

One Spirit:  The truth that there is one Spirit has already been referenced above, and is found not only in I Corinthians 12, but also in Ephesians 2 and 4.  It is no coincidence that these two epistles more than any other give us teaching on the church, or assembly, of God – Ephesians emphasizing the doctrinal aspect of the “one body” of Christ, and I Corinthians developing the practical working of that one Spirit in the functioning of the assembly. It seems clear that sound doctrine concerning the church, and right practice in the church, depend upon these convictions in a Christian’s soul: that the one body of Christ was formed by the baptism of that one Spirit¹; that this body can only really be edified by the gifts distributed by the one Spirit²; and that ecclesiastical independence and denominational division is contrary to the “unity of the Spirit”³ and a real grief to Him.

The Spirit of Christ:  This title is used in I Peter 1:11, and seems to be referred to as well in I Peter 3:18-20.  Peter reveals to us that Christ (the “Anointed” or “Messiah” of the Old Testament) was operative by His Spirit upon the spirits of men in earlier ages. God’s Spirit and God’s Anointed act in perfect concert, both before and after the incarnation. We find in Romans 8:9 that the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are the same person viewed from a different aspect. It should read like this: “. . . but if any one has not the Spirit of Christ he is not of Him” (JND translation). The Spirit of Christ is now operative upon the believer’s spirit, to bring about deliverance from sin in the power of Christ’s risen life. If His Spirit is not dwelling in a person, he is not really “Christian”, though he or she may have been born again or quickened, as Old Testament saints were.

The Spirit of His Son:  This appellation has everything to do with God’s grace in providing for our enjoyment of our dignified position as adopted sons of God.  “God sent forth His Son . . . that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:4-6).

The Spirit of your Father:  In Matthew 10:20, the Lord Jesus uses this designation for the Spirit to impart assurance to His disciples of the tender care and guidance of their heavenly Father, whom He was revealing to them progressively throughout His ministry here. “It is not ye that speak [before governors and kings], but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.”   We can count on that same care and guidance from a loving Father by His Spirit through any difficulties or persecutions we may face in these last days.

The Spirit of grace:  This phrase is found but once in the Bible, and its context is a very sobering one.  Hebrews 10:29 gives a fearful warning to any Jew who is in danger of turning back from the Christ he has professed to believe, which would insult the Spirit of grace, because it is that Spirit by whom God in Christ revealed such marvelous grace toward all men for the salvation of their souls (Titus 2:11; John 1:17).  The Hebrews who came in among true Christians in the church, and experienced all that God was doing among them in divine power (Hebrews 6:1-9), but turned back without truly believing (Hebrews 10:38-39), perpetrated an unpardonable sin in despising the grace of God the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit of promise: This blessed name for the Spirit is found within the portion giving us the lofty truth of all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ, in Ephesians 1:3-14.  We who have believed are “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance” until we are fully brought into that inheritance upon the redemption of our bodies. Is it possible that a true Christian might perish who was sealed (with a mark of ownership) by a divine Person who acts as a promise or earnest?  Never!  “Yes, I to the end shall endure, as sure as the earnest is giv’n; more happy, but not more secure, the spirits departed to heav’n” (Augustus Toplady, 1771).

There are several more designations for the Spirit in the word of God, and each one is meaningful, but we will leave off here. May “the Lord the Spirit” work in each of our souls an ongoing transformation into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we look upon His glory with unveiled face (II Corinthians 3:18 JND).

 

¹  I Corinthians 12:13; Acts 1:5 and 2:1-4; Ephesians 2:11-22

²  I Corinthians 12:4-11; Ephesians 4:11-16

³  Ephesians 4:1-6; I Corinthians 1:10-13 and 11:17-19

 

The Spirit of God and His Work on Earth

It is a weighty matter to attempt to write on a subject so grand as the person and work of the One referred to most often in the Bible simply as “the Spirit”.  It is likely that He is the person of the triune Godhead who has been least understood and appreciated during these Christian centuries.  While it would be impossible to do justice to the subject of the eternal Spirit in a brief article, or for that matter even in a lengthy commentary, He is nevertheless worthy of diligent study and meditation, and the word of God gives us ample material for such a meditation.

There seems to be a reluctance among many Christians to delve into such an unfathomable subject, in light of the error that many in Charismatic and Pentecostal circles have been led into by exalting the Spirit of God to a place He never took for Himself. After the ascension and exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit came forth from the Father as the Spirit of truth, in order to bear testimony of and to glorify Christ, not to speak from Himself (on His own), nor to solicit glory or worship for Himself.¹ Accordingly, there is no precedent in all of Scripture for praying to or worshiping the Spirit, nor for praying in His name.

An even more serious error in the opposite “ditch” has been the denial by various cults over the centuries of the distinct personality and deity of the Spirit. Such a denial destroys the fundamental doctrine of the trinity, of God fully revealing Himself in three persons in Christianity, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The trinity of the Godhead was not fully understood in the Old Testament (although retrospectively we can see partial disclosures of it), but to undermine it now in any way is the height of heterodoxy.

A good way to learn about the Spirit is to review His titles or designations throughout the word of God, but particularly in the New Testament, where His person and work is revealed with respect to Christ and His own. There are more than a dozen such designations, and it is my purpose to touch on the significance of some of them briefly.

The Spirit:  In the frequent use of the title of “the Spirit”, the lack of a modifier would seem to indicate most clearly His personality, dignity, and authority. We might provide as examples the occasions in the Acts when the Spirit definitely directs the apostles and prophets in their actions and utterances, as well as in I Corinthians 12, where He seen as the power behind the spiritual gifts or manifestations in the assembly.

The Spirit of God:  We find this title used in several places in the Scriptures to establish the Spirit’s deity, and particularly His absolute competency in revealing the things of God to saints who are indwelt by Him. “The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (I Corinthians 2:10-12). Another example of this appears in I John 4:2: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” The spirit of a man knows what lies in the man himself, but it has no capacity to truly know God apart from the Spirit of God, who searches “the deep things of God.”

The Holy Spirit:  Usually rendered “Holy Ghost” by the translators of the KJV Bible, this designation for the Spirit frequently sets before us His interest in bearing testimony to God’s holiness in this world now that God has manifested Himself here in flesh, and so we scarcely find the term in the Old Testament. Consider these fragments:  “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee . . . therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1: 35).  “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).  “For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness . . . who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit” (I Thessalonians 4:7-8). Fittingly, “Holy Spirit” is used dozens of times in the Acts, in which God begins to call, by His Spirit, a people sanctified or set apart² for Himself out of an unholy world.

The Comforter:  This title of the Spirit is found exclusively in the “upper room ministry” of the Lord Jesus (John 13-16), where He speaks so tenderly to His disciples of the time period after He would go to the Father.  Jesus would no longer be with them to aid them and comfort them, as He had so faithfully for more than three years. So He promised not to leave them comfortless, or as orphans (14:18), for it was His care and advocacy that they especially seemed to fear losing. The Greek word translated here as Comforter, parakletos, is also translated as “advocate” in I John 2:1, where it is “Jesus Christ the righteous” who takes up our cause or makes our case before the Father when we sin.  This helps us to understand the Comforter’s advocacy on our behalf in this world, while we are “absent from the Lord.”

The Spirit of Truth:  The Lord Jesus speaks to His disciples in the upper room of the coming of the Spirit of truth,¹ in conjunction with His title of Comforter. Not only does the Spirit take up the Christian’s cause and act as advocate for him, but He also bears a true witness concerning the glorified Christ, and is fully competent to guide the Christian “into all the truth.”  There can be no excuse for a believer going astray from the body of revealed truth found in the word of God,³ and especially not since much truth long forgotten was recovered through the goodness of God a couple of centuries ago. How much we ought to depend upon the Lord to bring us along in our souls in the enjoyment of the truth, by means of the Spirit of truth!

(To be continued, Lord willing.)

 

¹  John 15:26; 16:13-15

²  The words “holy”, “sanctified”, and “saint” are all from the same Greek root.

³  See also I John 2:20-27