Chapter 5: GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT


Seventh-day Adventists Believe...

God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the

Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired

the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ's life with

power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who

respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent

by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He

extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear

witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads

it into all truth.--Fundamental Beliefs, 5

 

GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT

Though the crucifixion had bewildered, anguished, and

terrified Jesus' followers, the resurrection brought morning

to their lives. When Christ broke the shackles of death, the

kingdom of God dawned in their hearts.

Now unquenchable fire burned within their souls.

Differences that a few weeks earlier had erected nasty

barriers among the disciples melted. They confessed their

faults to one another and opened themselves more fully to

receive Jesus, their ascended King.

The unity of this once-scattered flock grew as they spent

day after day in prayer. One unforgettable day they were

praising God when a noise like the roar of a tornado ripped

through their midst. As though the burning in their hearts

were becoming visible, fiery flames descended on each head.

Like a rampaging fire, the Holy Spirit descended upon them.

Filled with the Spirit, the disciples could not contain

their new ardent love and joy in Jesus. Publicly, and

enthusiastically, they began to proclaim the good news of

salvation. Alerted by the sound, a multitude of local

citizens along with pilgrims from many nations flocked to

the building. Filled with amazement and confusion, they

heard--in their own language--powerful testimonies to God's

mighty works spoken by unsophisticated Galileans.

"I don't understand," said some, "What does this mean?"

Others tried to pass it off with, "They're drunk." "Not so,"

Peter cried above the noise of the crowd. "It's only nine

o'clock in the morning. What you have heard and seen is

taking place because the resurrected Jesus Christ has been

exalted to the right hand of God and is giving us the Holy

Spirit now" (Acts 2).

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

The Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit is a person, not

an impersonal force. Statements such as "It seemed good to

the Holy Spirit, and to us" (Acts 15:28) reveal that the

early believers viewed Him as a person. Christ also spoke of

Him as a person. Christ also spoke of Him as a distinct

person. "`He will glorify Me.'" He said, "`for He will take

of what is Mine and declare it to you'" (John 16:14).

Scriptures referring to the triune God describe the Spirit

as a person (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

The Holy Spirit has personality. He strives (Gen. 6:3),

teaches (Luke 12:12), convicts (John 16:8), directs church

affairs (Acts 13:2), helps and intercedes (Rom. 8:26),

inspires (2 Peter 1:21), and sanctifies (1 Peter 1:2). These

activities cannot be performed by a mere power, influence,

or attribute of God. Only a person can do them.

The Holy Spirit Is Truly God

Scripture views the Holy Spirit as God. Peter told

Ananias that, in lying to the Holy Spirit, He had lied not

"`to men but to God'" (Acts 5:3,4). Jesus defined the

unpardonable sin as "`blasphemy against the Spirit,'"

saying, "`Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man,

it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy

Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or

in the age to come'" (Matt. 12:31,32). This could be true

only if the Holy Spirit is God.

Scripture associates divine attributes with the Holy

Spirit. He is life. Paul referred to Him as the "Spirit of

life" (Rom. 8:2). He is truth. Christ called Him the

"`Spirit of truth'" (John 16:13). The expressions "love of

the Spirit" (Rom. 15:30) and "the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph.

4:30) reveal that love and holiness are part of His nature.

The Holy Spirit is omnipotent. He distributes spiritual

gifts "to each one individually as He wills" (1 Cor. 12:11).

He is omnipresent. He will "`abide'" with His people

"`forever'" (John 14:16). None can escape His influence (Ps.

139:7-10). He also is omniscient, because "the Spirit

searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" and "no

one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God"

(1 Cor. 2:10,11).

The works of God are also associated with the Holy

Spirit. Creation and resurrection both involve Him. Said

Elihu, "`The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of

the Almighty gives me life'" (Job 33:4). And the psalmist

said, "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created" (Ps.

104:30). Paul claimed, "He who raised Christ from the dead

will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit

who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).

Only an omnipresent personal God, not an impersonal

influence, nor a created being, could perform the miracle of

bringing the divine Christ to one individual, Mary. At

Pentecost the Spirit made the one God-man, Jesus,

universally present to all willing recipients.

The Holy Spirit is considered equal with the Father and

the Son in the baptismal formula (Matt. 28:19), the

apostolic blessing (2 Cor. 13:14), and the spiritual-gifts

discourse (1 Cor. 12:4-6).

The Holy Spirit and the Godhead

From eternity God and Holy Spirit lived within the

Godhead as the third member. The Father, Son, and Spirit are

equally self-existent. Though each is equal, an economy of

function operates within the Trinity (see Chapter 2 of this

book).

The truth about God the Holy Spirit is best understood as

seen through Jesus. When the Spirit comes to believers, He

comes as the "Spirit of Christ"--He does not come in His own

right, carrying His own credentials. His activity in history

centers in Christ's mission of salvation. The Holy Spirit

was actively involved in Christ's birth (Luke 1:35),

confirmed His public ministry at baptism (Matt. 3:16,17),

and brought the benefits of Christ's atoning sacrifice and

resurrection to humanity (Rom. 8:11).

In the Godhead, the Spirit seems to fulfill the role of

executor. When the Father gave His Son to the world (John

3:16), He was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-20).

The Holy Spirit came to complete the plan, to make it a

reality.

The Holy Spirit's intimate involvement in creation is

seen in His presence at Creation (Gen. 1:2). Life's origin

and maintenance depends on His operation; His departure

means death. Said the Bible, If God "`should gather to

Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish

together, and man would return to dust'" (Job 34:14,15; cf.

33:4). We can see reflections of the Spirit's creative work

in His re-creative work within each person who is open to

God. God carries out His work within individuals through the

Creator Spirit. So in incarnation, creation, and

re-creation, the Spirit comes to bring God's intention to

fulfillment.

The Promised Spirit

We were intended to be dwelling places of the Holy Spirit

(see 1 Cor. 3:16). Adam and Eve's sin separated them from

both the Garden and the indwelling Spirit. That separation

continues--the enormity of wickedness before the Flood led

God to declare, "`My Spirit shall not strive with man

forever'" (Gen. 6:3).

In Old Testament times the Spirit equipped certain

individuals to perform special tasks (Num. 24:2; Judges

6:34; 1 Sam. 10:6). At times He is "in" persons (Ex. 31:3;

Isa. 63:11). Undoubtedly genuine believers have always had

an awareness of His presence, but prophecy predicted a

pouring out of the Spirit "`on all flesh'" (Joel 2:28)--a

time when a greater manifestation of the Spirit would usher

in a new age.

While the world remained in the hands of the usurper, the

pouring out of the fullness of the Spirit had to wait.

Before the Spirit could be poured out upon all flesh Christ

must carry out His earthly ministry and make the atoning

sacrifice. Pointing to Christ's ministry as a Spirit

ministry, John the Baptist said, "`I indeed baptize you with

water'" but He "`will baptize you with the Holy Spirit'"

(Matt. 3:11). But the Gospels do not reveal Jesus baptizing

with the Holy Spirit. Just hours before His death, Jesus

promised His disciples, "`I will pray the Father, and He

will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you

forever, even the Spirit of truth'" (John 14:16,17). Was the

promised baptism of the Spirit received at the cross? No

dove appeared on crucifixion Friday--only darkness and bolts

of lightning.

Not until after His resurrection did Jesus breathe the

Spirit on His disciples (John 20:22). He said, "`Behold, I

send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the

city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on

high'" (Luke 24:49). This power would be received "`when the

Holy Spirit has come upon you,'" making believers His

witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

John wrote, "`The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because

Jesus was not yet glorified'" (John 7:39). The Father's

acceptance of Christ's sacrifice was the pre-requisite for

the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

The new age broke in only when our victorious Lord was

seated on heaven's throne. Only then could He send the Holy

Spirit in His fullness. After "`being exalted to the right

hand of God,'" Peter said, He "`poured out'" the Holy Spirit

(Acts 2:33) upon His disciples, who, anxiously anticipating

this event, had gathered "with one accord in prayer and

supplication" (Acts 1:5, 14). At Pentecost, fifty days after

Calvary, the new age burst forth with all the power of the

Spirit's presence. "And suddenly there came a sound from

heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole

house where they [the disciples] were sitting....And they

were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:2-4).

The missions of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were

totally interdependent. The fullness of the Holy Spirit

could not be given until Jesus had completed His mission.

And Jesus, in turn, was conceived of the Spirit (Matt.

1:8-21), baptized by the Spirit (Mark 1:9,10), led by the

Spirit (Luke 4:1), performed His miracles through the Spirit

(Matt. 12:24-32), offered Himself at Calvary through the

Spirit (Heb. 9:14,15) and was, in part, resurrected by the

Spirit (Rom. 8:11).

Jesus was the first person to experience the fullness of

the Holy Spirit. The astounding truth is that our Lord is

willing to pour out His Spirit on all who earnestly desire

Him.

The Mission of the Holy Spirit

The evening before Christ's death His words about His

impending departure greatly troubled His disciples. He

immediately assured them that they would receive the Holy

Spirit as His personal representative. They would not be

left as orphans (John 14:18).

The Origin of the Mission

The New Testament reveals the Holy Spirit in a unique

way. He is called the "Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 16:7, NIV),

"Spirit of His Son" (Gal. 4:6), "Spirit of God" (Rom. 8:9),

the "Spirit of Christ" (Rom. 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11), and the

"Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19). Who originated the

Holy Spirit's mission--Jesus Christ or God the Father?

When Christ revealed the origin of the Holy Spirit's

mission to a lost world, He mentioned two sources. First, He

referred to the Father: "`I will pray the Father, and He

will give you another Helper'" (John 14:16; cf. 15:26,

"`from the Father'"). The baptism with the Holy Spirit He

called "the Promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). Second,

Christ referred to Himself: "`I will send Him [the Spirit]

to you'" (John 16:7). Thus the Holy Spirit proceeds from

both the Father and the Son.

His Mission to the World

We can acknowledge Christ's Lordship only through the

influence of the Holy Spirit. Said Paul, "No one can say

that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

We are given the assurance that, through the Holy Spirit,

Christ, "the true Light," illuminates "every man who comes

into the world" (John 1:9). His mission is to "`convict the

world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment'"

(John 16:8).

First, the Holy Spirit brings to us a deep conviction of

sin, especially the sin of not accepting Christ (John 16:9).

Second, the Spirit urges all to accept the righteousness of

Christ. Third, the Spirit warns us of judgment, a powerful

tool in stirring up sin-darkened minds to the need of

repentance and conversion.

When we have repented we can be born again through the

baptism of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). Then ours

is a new life, for we have become the dwelling place of the

Spirit of Christ.

His Mission for Believers

The majority of texts concerning the Holy Spirit pertain

to His relationship with God's people. His sanctifying

influence leads to obedience (1 Peter 1:2), but no one

continues to experience His abiding presence without meeting

certain conditions. Peter said God has given the Spirit to

those who continuously obey Him (Acts 5:32).(*1) Thus,

believers are warned about resisting, grieving, and

quenching the Spirit (Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19).

What does the Spirit do for believers?

1. He assists believers.

When introducing the Holy Spirit, Christ called Him

"`another Parakletos'" (John 14:16). This Greek word has

been translated as "Helper" (NKJV), "Comforter" (KJV),

"Counselor" (RSV), and can mean also "Intercessor,"

"Mediator," or "Advocate."

The only other Parakletos mentioned in Scripture is

Christ Himself. He is our Advocate or Intercessor before the

Father. "My little children, these things I write to you,

that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an

Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"

(1 John 2:1).

As Intercessor, Mediator, and Helper, Christ presents us

to God and reveals God to us. Similarly, the Spirit guides

us to Christ and manifests Christ's grace to us. This

explains why the Spirit is called the "Spirit of grace"

(Heb. 10:29). One of His greatest contributions is the

application of Christ's redeeming grace to people

(see 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 9:14; James 4:5,6).

2. He brings the truth of Christ.

Christ called the Holy Spirit the "`Spirit of truth'"

(John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). His functions include bringing

"`to your remembrance all things that I said to you'" (John

14:26) and guiding "`you into all truth'" (John 16:13). His

message testifies to Jesus Christ (John 15:26). "`He will

not speak on His own authority,'" Christ said, "`but

whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things

to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is

Mine and declare it to you'" (John 16:13,14).

3. He brings the presence of Christ.

Not only does He bring the message about Christ, He

brings the very presence of Christ. Jesus said, "`It is to

your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the

Helper [Holy Spirit, John 14:16,17] will not come to you;

but if I depart, I will send Him to you'" (John 16:7).

Cumbered with humanity, the Man Jesus was not

omnipresent, which was why it was expedient that He depart.

Through the Spirit He could be everywhere all the time.

Jesus said, "`I will pray the Father, and He will give you

another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the

Spirit of truth.'" He gave the assurance that the Spirit was

to dwell "`with you and will be in you. I will not leave you

orphans; I will come to you'" (John 14:17,18). "The Holy

Spirit is Christ's representative, but divested of the

personality of humanity, and independent thereof."(*2)

At the incarnation the Holy Spirit brought the presence

of Christ to a person--Mary. At Pentecost, the Spirit

brought the victorious Christ to the world. Christ's

promises--"`I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Heb.

13:5) and "`I am with you always, even to the end of the

age'" (Matt. 28:20)--are realized through the Spirit. For

this reason the New Testament gives the Spirit a title never

used of Him in the Old Testament--"the Spirit of Jesus"

(Phil. 1:19).

Just as it is through the Spirit that both the Father and

the Son make believers Their home (John 14:23), so the only

way believers can abide in Christ is through the Spirit.

4. He guides the operation of the church.

Since the Holy Spirit brings the very presence of Christ,

He is the true Vicar of Christ on earth. As the abiding

center of authority in matters of faith and doctrine the

ways in which He leads the church accord fully with the

Bible. "The distinctive feature of Protestantism--without

which there would be no Protestantism--is that the Holy

Spirit is the true vicar or successor of Christ on earth. To

depend on organization, or leaders, or wisdom of men, is to

put the human in place of the divine."(*3)

The Holy Spirit was intimately involved in administrating

the apostolic church. In selecting missionaries the church

obtained His guidance through prayer and fasting

(Acts 13:1-4). The individuals selected were known for their

openness to the Spirit's leading. The book of Acts describes

them as "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:9, cf. 52).

Their activities were under His control (Acts 16:6,7). Paul

reminded church elders that they had been put into their

position by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).

The Holy Spirit played an important role in resolving

serious difficulties that threatened the unity of the

church. Indeed, Scripture introduces the decisions of the

first church council with the words "It seemed good to the

Holy Spirit, and to us..." (Acts 15:28).

5. He equips the church with special gifts.

The Holy Spirit has bestowed special gifts on God's

people. In Old Testament times "the Spirit of the Lord" came

"upon" individuals, giving them extraordinary powers to lead

and deliver Israel (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; etc.) and the

ability to prophesy (Num. 11:17,25,26; 2 Sam. 23:2). The

Spirit came upon Saul and David when they were anointed as

rulers of God's people (1 Sam. 10:6,10; 16:13). To some

people, the infilling of the Spirit brought unique artistic

skills (Ex. 28:3; 31:3; 35:30-35).

In the early church, as well, it was through the Holy

Spirit that Christ bestowed His gifts on the church. The

Spirit distributed these spiritual gifts to believers as He

saw fit, thus benefiting the whole church (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor.

12:7-11). He provided the special power necessary for

proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8;

see chapter 16 of this book).

6. He fills the heart of believers.

Paul's query to the disciples at Ephesus, "`Did you

receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'" (Acts 19:2), is

a crucial question for every believer.

When Paul received a negative reply he laid hands on

those disciples, and they received the baptism of the Holy

Spirit (Acts 19:6).

This incident indicates that the conviction of sin

brought about by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's infilling

of the life are two different experiences.

Jesus pointed out the necessity of being born of water

and of the Spirit (John 3:5). Just before His ascension He

commanded new believers to be baptized "`in the name of the

Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'" (Matt.

28:19). In harmony with this command Peter preached that

"`the gift of the Holy Spirit'" is to be received at baptism

(Acts 2:38). And Paul confirms the importance of the baptism

of the Holy Spirit (see chapter 14 of this book) with an

urgent appeal that believers "be filled with the Spirit"

(Eph. 5:18).

The infilling of the Holy Spirit, transforming us into

the image of God, continues the work of sanctification begun

at the new birth. God has saved us according to His mercy

"through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the

Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through

Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Titus 3:5,6).

"It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel

ministry so powerless. Learning, talent, eloquence, every

natural or acquired endowment may be possessed; but, without

the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched,

no sinner won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are

connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are

theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will

have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them

channels for the outflowing of the highest influence in the

universe."(*4)

The Spirit is vital. All of the changes Jesus Christ

effects in us come through the ministry of the Spirit. As

believers we should be constantly aware that without the

Spirit we can accomplish nothing (John 15:5).

Today the Holy Spirit directs our attention to the

greatest gift of love God proffers in His Son. He pleads

that we not resist His appeals, but accept the only way

whereby we can be reconciled to our loving and gracious

Father.

 

References

1. See Arnold V. Wallenkampf, New by the Spirit (Mountain

View, CA: Pacific Press, 1978), pp. 49,50.

2. White, Desire of Ages, p. 669.

3. LeRoy E. Froom, The Coming of the Comforter, rev. ed.

(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1949), pp. 66,67.

4. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA:

Pacific Press, 1948), vol. 8, pp. 21,22.