by: Rev. Ed Schneider
Here’s another opportunity to share one very important aspect of The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a member, an extension, even a specifically described expression of the Trinity and as such needs to be understood as “personal.”
I know some of my evangelical friends out there will notice right away that I did not write, “understood and being a PERSON.” I have found over the last few decades it is a lot easier to assist others to have a better grasp of the concept and context of the “Holy Spirit” when it is described as “personal” or even an intimate “interaction” with what people of faith proclaim as God.
I want the reader here to consider how innately difficult it is to describe to someone else something they have never seen or experienced before. The writers of The Bible had the same challenges. For them and for us it becomes less challenging when we learn to think of The Holy Spirit as being a “tangible display” of God.
The Holy Spirit is NOT an idea or a “better way” of describing The Creator. The Holy Spirit is far greater than an “alternative” explanation of who and what God may be.
One of the more important ATTRIBUTES of God is how we come to understand The Creator as a being Spirit. By that I mean, something which can not be physically seen but rather experienced via other observable manifestations.
A good example of this would be “The Wind.” One can not see it. One can only experience it as it interacts with other things; The tree limbs moving or clouds traveling across the sky or even the whistling that can be heard as it moves over an empty container.
The Holy Spirit is God just as your “hand” is you. Although your “hand” is a recognizable “part of you” it can not be separated from you. Theologically speaking, when someone “sees” your hand…they are “seeing” you.
I wrote earlier that the Holy Spirit is better thought of as “personal.” What I mean by this is, The Bible clearly describes how it understands the Holy Spirit’s “interactions” with us as well as it’s intentional “reactions” to the things we say and do.
The Holy Spirit is described as having intelligence (1 Cor 2:10-13),
10 God’s Spirit has shown you everything. His Spirit finds out everything, even what is deep in the mind of God.11 You are the only one who knows what is in your own mind, and God’s Spirit is the only one who knows what is in God’s mind. 12 But God has given us his Spirit. That’s why we don’t think the same way that the people of this world think. That’s also why we can recognize the blessings that God has given us.
13 Every word we speak was taught to us by God’s Spirit, not by human wisdom. And this same Spirit helps us teach spiritual things to spiritual people.
The Holy Spirit is presented as having feelings (Eph 4:30),
30 Don’t make God’s Spirit sad. The Spirit makes you sure that someday you will be free from your sins.
God’s Holy Spirit is written about as having a will (1 Cor 12:11; Acts 16:6-12).
11 But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us.
6 Paul and his friends went through Phrygia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit would not let them preach in Asia.7 After they arrived in Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. 8 So they went on through Mysia until they came to Troas.
9 During the night, Paul had a vision of someone from Macedonia who was standing there and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we began looking for a way to go to Macedonia. We were sure that God had called us to preach the good news there.
11 We sailed straight from Troas to Samothrace, and the next day we arrived in Neapolis. 12 From there we went to Philippi, which is a Roman colony in the first district of Macedonia.
The Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3), and even insulted in some way (Heb 10:29).
3 Peter said, “Why has Satan made you keep back some of the money from the sale of the property? Why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?
29 But it is much worse to dishonor God’s Son and to disgrace the blood of the promise that made us holy. And it is just as bad to insult the Holy Spirit, who shows us mercy.
God’s Holy Spirit is said to teach as well as giving directions (John 14:26; Acts 8:29; Rom 8:14).
26 But the Holy Spirit will come and help you, because the Father will send the Spirit to take my place. The Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of what I said while I was with you.
29 The Spirit told Philip to catch up with the chariot.
14 Only those people who are led by God’s Spirit are his children.
26 In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don’t know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words.
The Holy Spirit is clearly given the designation of performing miracles (Acts 8:39).
39 After they had come out of the water, the Lord’s Spirit took Philip away. The official never saw him again, but he was very happy as he went on his way.
Let’s look at two of these examples.
In 1 Cor 12:11 Paul describes the Holy Spirit’s role in distributing spiritual gifts: “It is one and the same Spirit, distributing as he decides to each person, who produces all these things.” Here the Holy Spirit is seen “deciding” what gifts to gift to each person. In other words, the Holy Spirit has a will, which is one characteristic of a person.
Just for a moment refer back to an earlier scripture reference and expand on it. In Acts 5:3-4 it references the Holy Spirit as directly being equated with God. During the earliest stages of church development Peter is found to be challenging two individuals who had falsely told him they had given more than they actually had:
“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!’”.
Notice two aspects about these verses.
The first is that the Holy Spirit is lied to. This means that the Holy Spirit is understood by the biblical writers as personal.
The answer is fairly simple here. One cannot lie to a table or to electricity. The reason is because the table or the electricity does not have a personal interaction available to it.
The second aspect is that lying to the Holy Spirit is equated with lying to God. This means that as far as the biblical witness is concerned, the Holy Spirit is God.
Now, given this scriptural information, how has this challenged or expanded your view of the Bible’s depiction of how we are to understand THE HOLY SPIRIT?