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STUDIES IN THE BIBLE                                                                                                 LESSON 28

The Holy Spirit

One of the most complex of all Bible topics is that of the Holy Spirit. It is vital that the student approach the subject with care since so many have gone astray at this point. The expressions Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit are inter-changeable. The first is usually used in the King James Version, the latter in most other translations.

His Nature

The Holy Spirit is variously designated as the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit, and the Comforter. He is a divine personality in the sense that the Father and the Son are. His personality is seen in that He possesses a mind, a knowledge, affections, and will, and is described as capable of speaking, testifying, teaching, guiding, and searching. We know that He is divine (and the third person in the Godhead) because He is eternal, all-knowing, and all-powerful. In this lesson we will determine how the Holy Spirit operates. We shall discover that the Holy Spirit is the means or agency through which God works. To illustrate, in giving us the Scriptures God has worked through His Holy Spirit who inspired the Biblical writers in their messages. “Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1:21)

His Indwelling

The Holy Spirit dwells within the child of God. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Cor. 3:16) “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God?” (I Cor. 6:19) “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you . . . But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (Rom. 8:9, 11) He takes up His abode within the Christian at his baptism. “Repent, and be baptized . . . and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For that promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38, 39)

None of these passages teaches that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives any miraculous power. It should not be confused with the baptism of the Holy Spirit or spiritual gifts. It is not easy to say how the Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian. Hence we conclude that He dwells within God’s children in connection with the word of God. However, we do know what He does in the lives of disciples of Christ. He strengthens, sanctifies, leads, comforts, and intercedes for Christians. Furthermore, He produces the “fruit of the Spirit” in their lives. (Gal. 5:22, 23)

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is specifically mentioned only six times in the New Testament, four times as a promise given by John the Baptist. (Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33) Just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus told His apostles, “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” (Acts 1:5) The fulfillment of this promise (and the first instance of Holy Spirit baptism) occurred on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on the apostles. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2-4) Thus, the baptism of the Holy Spirit brought (1) the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, (2) tongues of fire sitting on the apostles, and (3) ability to speak in other languages. It was a direct outpouring of power from heaven.

The only other mention of Holy Spirit baptism was at the conversion of the household of Cornelius. It was similar to what took place on Pentecost. In recounting this Peter says, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 11:15, 16) Peter shows surprise at the Holy Spirit baptism of Cornelius. To find a similar example he goes back several years to the event of Pentecost. This implies that Holy Spirit baptism was very unusual. In both cases notice the gospel was given for the first time to a great group of people—on Pentecost to the Jews; at the conversion of Cornelius to the Gentiles. Since these are the only two recorded examples of Holy Spirit baptism, there is no reason for Christians to expect such today.

Spiritual Gifts

Some confuse Spirit baptism with the spiritual gifts possessed by many early Christians. These gifts are described in I Corinthians 12-14. They are listed as the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith (of a miraculous nature), healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirit, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (I Cor. 12:8-10) Generally they were intended to (1) reveal the truth of God, (2) impart that truth to those who had not heard it, and (3) confirm the truth which had been taught. The New Testament was then being written and until its completion the divine guidance of spiritual gifts was necessary.

These gifts, however, were temporary. Paul predicted, “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge (miraculous) it shall vanish away . . . But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (I Cor. 13:8, 10) Spiritual gifts were given only by the laying on of hands. When Philip baptized many is Samaria, the apostles Peter and John found it necessary to go there to bestow these gifts because Philip evidently did not possess this power. (Acts 8:14-17) Paul, by the laying on of his hands, gave such gifts to the Ephesians (Acts 19:6) and to Timothy (II Tim. 1:6) Since the Roman Christians had not yet received these gifts Paul wrote them, “For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift.” (Rom. 1:11) Spiritual gifts ended in accordance with Paul’s prophecy when those who possessed the power to give them by the imposition of their hands had died. Therefore none has these powers today.

The Holy Spirit and Conversion

The Holy Spirit plays a part in every conversion. However, the Holy Spirit has never saved men directly, but has always worked through others. Thus the Ethiopian was converted by Philip, who was, in turn, led to him by the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26-39) The Holy Spirit sent Peter to Cornelius. Cornelius was saved, not by a direct revelation from heaven, but by words spoken by the preacher. (Acts 11:14) Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus, but did not save him then. Instead, Ananias was sent to tell him what to do to be saved. (Acts 22:12-16) Sinners are converted today when they come in contact with the word of God which has been inspired by the Holy Spirit. This they may do by hearing it preached or by reading the divine words from the New Testament. The Holy Spirit saves men indirectly through the word.