GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT
“The earth was without form, and void; and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Gen.1:2.
“ The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4.
“ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted. Isa.61:1.
“ And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper,that He may abide with you forever.Jn.14:16.
“ But when the Helper comes,whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” Jn.15:26.
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free- and have been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Cor.12:13.
ECWA Articles of Faith and Practice has the following (author summarized) statement about the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the God-head. His ministry is to glorify God in the life of the believer. Regenerate,that is, to give new life to anyone, though dead in sins and trespasses.
Indwell,that is, reside in anyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ.
Baptize, that is , place every true believer into the body of Christ.
Seal, that is, to have, the divine mark of ownership is eternally placed to indicate that the one indwelt is God’s own eternal possession.
Fill, that is, empower believers who yield themselves to God in daily conduct and service.
A HISTORY OF DEBATE AND CONTROVERSY
Very few doctrines of the Bible have generated so much disagreement among believers as pneumatology.
The debate and controversy about the Holy Spirit is as ancient as the early church. It caused a great division in the Corinthian church leading to the long and elaborate explanation by Paul.1 Cor.12-14. The trend continued in the Post-Apostolic period . The first church Father to debate this doctrine was Justin Martyr(100-165 AD). He began to pursue pagan philosophy early in life. After his conversion, he devoted his life and intellectual ability to defending Christianity. He is often called the first Christian philosopher or the first philosophical theologian. His debate about the Holy Spirit is recorded in his Dialogue with Trypho. In one debate, he was arguing to convince his opponent, Trypho, a Jew, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are at work among Christians.
Next to him is Irenaeus (120-202AD), bishop of Lyons. He was known as a theologian of the Holy Spirit par excellence. He wrote extensively about the Holy Spirit in his apologetic work, Adversus Haereses( Against Heresies). He presented the Godhead as existing in three persons (trinity), Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
A viewpoint that ventured outside the realm of orthodoxy was introduced by Montanus (126-180 AD). He sparked the greatest controversy about the Holy Spirit in the second century. He claimed to be the Paraclete promised by Christ in John 14:16. His aberrational teaching on speaking in tongues caused a schism in the church. The Movement that he founded, Montanism, was later condemned as heretical by the church. His most prominent disciple was Tertullian(160-220 AD). Tertullian later abandoned Montanism and penned extensive work on the Holy Spirit.
The controversy about the Holy Spirit in the early church was not settled (though not with finality) until the fourth century. The second Church Council 381 AD in Constantinople affirmed the Holy Spirit as a member of the Godhead equal with the Father and the Son. The Council of Chalcedon 451 AD) put a final stamp of authority and orthodoxy to the affirmation.
THE NEGLECTED MEMBER OF THE GODHEAD
“The Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood, marginalized,misused and underappreciated member of the Trinity. On the one hand,He’s ignored, and on the other hand,He’s illegitimately sensationalized.” So began the theologian,prolific author and renowned pastor, Dr.Tony Evans, in the Introduction of one of his latest books.
“ In most Christian churches the Spirit is entirely overlooked.Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone. Brief reference is made to Him in the Doxology and the Benediction. Further than that, He might as well not exist. So completely do we ignore Him that it is only by courtesy that we can be called Trinitarian…The idea of the Spirit held by the average church member is so vague as to be nearly non-existent.”A.W.Tozer. In spite of these rebuking remarks, it’s sad to say that for many believers in the 21st century, their answer to the question about the Holy Spirit would not differ a lot from that of the disciples at Ephesus .Acts 19:1-2.
The Holy Spirit has often and for good reasons been called “The neglected member of the Godhead. The reason being that Father and the Son are recognized as divine persons by the cults and other non-christian religions. This includes the Muslims.But when it comes to the Holy Spirit, they all deny his personality and His divinity. The Jehovah Witnesses teach that the Holy Spirit is only but a non-personal force or mere influence. These erroneous views stem from the word used to describe the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word Ruach is used for Spirit, breath or wind. Cf.Gen.1:2;8:1; Num.27:16; Job 27:3;33:4 . Also in the New Testament,the Greek word Pneuma, which means wind or breath, is also used for the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is a neuter tense in Greek and can be rendered as it. Because of this common translation, some people equate the Holy Spirit as a non-person and deny both His deity and personality.
The neglect of the Holy Spirit is not limited to non-christians.Until the rise and spread of the Charismatic Movement,many believers of non-Pentecostal tradition often paid what may be called “a lip service” to the Person and the work of the Holy Spirit. The kind of attitude such as described by A.W.Tozer. This is not to imply that they denied His existence or His deity, but very little emphasis or attention was given to the third person of the Godhead in theological institutions or on the pulpit. Notwithstanding this apathetic attitude, both the Old and the New Testament record overwhelming evidence about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned as a participant in the creation story.Gen.1:2. He is mentioned as the creator of man.Job 33:4. The Holy Spirit is involved in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.Lk.1:35. He empowered Jesus for His earthly ministry.Matt.3:16;Lk.4:14-19;Jn.3:34.He raised Christ from the dead.Rom.1:3-4;8:11. He baptizes believers into the body of Christ.1 Cor.12:13. He warns about the future.1 Tim.4:1-3. He speaks to the churches. Rev.2:7,11,17,29;3:6,13,22.
IDENTIFYING THE HOLY SPIRIT-HIS ATTRIBUTES
Every object, animate and inanimate, is identified by its attributes. This is true also of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma as stated above.Although pneuma is a neuter tense and it is used for any object identified with it, but not so with the Spirit. The New Testament uses a masculine personal pronoun when referring to the Holy Spirit.Jn.14:16-17;15:26;16:7-15.Rom.8:16;26. From the foregoing, it is seen that the attributes of a person are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.Cf.also Jn.14:26. Throughout the Scripture the Holy Spirit is spoken of as possessing the attributes and characteristics of a person. He is involved in the creation of the material universe and mankind.Job 26:13;Ps.104:30. He regenerates and gives new life.Jn.3:6.1 Pet.1:22-23. He is involved in the birth of the church. Acts 1:5;2:1-4;He empowers the spreading of the Gospel.Acts 1:8;8:29-40; He sets apart and supretends over missionary enterprise. Acts 13:2-4;16:6-10. He is the Supreme author of the Scriptures.2 Sam.23:2-3; Matt.23:43; Acts 1:16;2 Tim.3:16; Heb.3:7;4:3-7;1 Pet.1:10-11;2 Pet.1:21.
Also throughout the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is seen equipping and empowering people to accomplish special and various tasks.Gen.41:37-38;Exo.31:3; Num.11:17-29;Josh.27:18-21;Neh.9:30;Dan.4:8;5:11-12.
The Holy Spirit empowered kings and rulers to govern their people.1 Sam.10:6;16:13-18; He enabled the judges of Israel to defeat their oppressors and set the nation free. Judg.3:9-11;6:33-35;11:29;13:25;14:6,19;15:14-15. He empowered the prophets to deliver God’s message to the people.Ezek.2:2;8:3;11:1,24;1 Pet.1:11.
With a remarkable variation, the operation of the Holy Spirit is intensified in the New Testament. Unlike in the Old Testament, many ordinary people were filled and used by the Holy Spirit. Lk.1:41;2:25-27;Acts 4:31;6:3-5;13:52.
The Holy Spirit has names like a person.Matt.10:20;12:28;Lk.4:18;Jn.14:16,17,26;15:26;16:7;Acts 16:7;Rom.8:9;Phil.1:19. The Holy Spirit exercises will or volition.1 Cor.12:11. He can be grieved and hindered.Eph.4:30;1 Thess.5:19. All these records bear evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person.
THE CREEDS OF CHRISTENDOM
During the early centuries of christianity, there were lots of debates and disagreements about different doctrines especially those pertaining to the trinity. THe Apostles’ Creed was formulated in the second century. And later bishops and elders convened Councils to discuss issues raised by erupting erroneous teachings. They ratified what in the light of the Scriptures they considered orthodoxy for the church. The resolution they reached became known as Creeds. The Apostles’ Creed was a summary of the basics of the Christian faith used as a catechism. Later, followed the Councils of Nicea 325 AD, Constantinople 381 AD and Chalcedon 451 AD. All the three councils including the Apostles’ Creed affirmed the personality and the deity of the Holy Spirit.
These few selected topics are all that a limited correspondence such as this can contain. More discussion on the Holy Spirit can be found in the author’s 2021 and 2022 Pastoral letters.