The Holy Spirit in the New Testament
The Holy Spirit | The Holy Spirit in the New Testament
The great promises of the Old Testament and also of Jesus Christ were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. The author of Acts recorded, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 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 all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4).
The disciples went from sitting in quietness waiting on the Lord to suddenly battling a hurricane in a split second. But, this was no hurricane. This was the Holy Ghost announcing His arrival. Where there was indecision, now there was purpose. Where there was confusion, now there was a mission. Where there was uncertainty, now there was knowledge. Where there was sadness, now there was joy. Where there was weakness, now there was boldness and power - boldness and power to become witnesses. Jesus promised His disciples that when the Holy Ghost would come, they would be witnesses of Him in Jerusalem and throughout the region, unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
Peter said of this event, "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Acts 2:16-21).
Throughout the teaching of Jesus Christ and the New Testaments, several things are revealed to us about the Holy Spirit, His mission, and work.
1. The Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation, convicting people of sin, and revealing Christ to them. John recorded Jesus' words, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." (John 16:7-8).
It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that Christ is revealed to us and we receive the new birth. Jesus said in His discourse with Nicodemus, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:3-6).
The apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians, "that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Corinthians 12:3). To be truly born again is not the work of man, but of the Spirit. "That which is born of flesh is flesh, but that which is born of Spirit is spirit." No man can say Jesus is Lord through mere fleshly knowledge, but it takes a special revelation by the Spirit. When Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?", Peter responded, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of God." Even though Peter had been walking with Christ for nearly three years, hearing Him preach, and seeing Him work miracles, that in itself was not enough to make Peter utter this proclamation. It took a special revelation from God to Peter that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. Jesus told him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 16:17).
Finally, it is by the Holy Spirit that all believers are incorporated into one body. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, " For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:13). Ephesians 2: 19-22 states, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."
2. The Holy Spirit is the agent of sanctification. When I person is converted to Christ, the believer is filled with Spirit and comes under his sanctifying influence (this is a different experience from being baptized in the Spirit, which we will look at later). Paul wrote to the Romans, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." (Romans 8:8-9). To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
The Holy Spirit sanctifies us - sets us apart from the world, guides us, purifies us, delivers us from sin's bondage, and motivates us to pursue a life of holiness and righteousness. Paul in Romans 8:1-2 states, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." Paul told the church at Galatia, "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." (Galatians 5:16-18).
The Holy Spirit gives us assurance, and reveals to us that we are God's children. Romans 8:16 tells us, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." He also helps us and guides us in prayer and we seek after God's will. Paul wrotes, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:26-27).
Matthew Henry comments, "Though the infirmities of Christians are many and great, so that they would be overpowered if left to themselves, yet the Holy Spirit supports them. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for; as a sanctifying Spirit, works and stirs up praying graces; as a comforting Spirit, silences our fears, and helps us over all discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not."
The Holy Spirit produces in us the characteristics of Christ as He molds us and shapes us into Christ's image. Galatians 5:22-25 states, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." The Holy Spirit is our teacher, guiding us into all truth, revealing Jesus Christ unto us, and bringing us into close fellowship with Him. Jesus stated in John 16:13-14, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." In John 14:26, Jesus said, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so 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. Which things also we speak, not in the words which manˆçs wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
The Holy Spirit continually imparts God's love to us - He gives us joy, comfort, and help. Paul said in Romans 5:5, "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (see also 1 Thessalonians 1:6).
3. The Holy Spirit is the agent of service, empowering believers to be witnesses and laborers for Christ, within the church and within the world. Jesus promised, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8; see also Acts 4:31).
Jesus knew of the great power that the Holy Spirit would bring to the church. He referenced it in John 14:12, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." But I would dare say that the church has lost sight of this promise. The Book of Acts however records many miracles being wrought by the disciples. Acts 2:43 states, "And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles." (see also Acts 3:1-8, 5:15, 6:8).
Matthew Henry writes in his commentary, "Whatever we ask in Christ's name, that shall be for our good, and suitable to our state, he shall give it to us. To ask in Christ's name, is to plead his merit and intercession, and to depend upon that plea. The gift of the Spirit is a fruit of Christ's mediation, bought by his merit, and received by his intercession. The word used here, signifies an advocate, counselor, monitor, and comforter. He would abide with the disciples to the end of time; his gifts and graces would encourage their hearts. The expressions used here and elsewhere, plainly denote a person, and the office itself includes all the Divine perfections. The gift of the Holy Ghost is bestowed upon the disciples of Christ, and not on the world. This is the favour God bears to his chosen. As the source of holiness and happiness, the Holy Spirit will abide with every believer for ever."
It is God's purpose and plan that all individuals within the body of Christ experience the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:39 gives us this assurance, "For the 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."
The Holy Spirit gives gifts to individuals within the church to edify and strengthen the body. Through these gifts, Christ's love, presence, truth and righteousness are made real to the fellowship of believers for the common good. Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 12:4,7,25, "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit...But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal... That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another."
The Holy Spirit incorporates believers into one body. He abides in the church (1 Corinthians 3:16), builds the church (Ephesians 2:22), inspires her worship (Philippians 3:3), directs her mission (Acts 13:2,4), appoints her laborers (Acts 20:28), gives gifts to the church (1 Corinthians 12:1-11), anoints her preachers (1 Corinthians 2:4), guards the gospel against error (2 Timothy 1:13-14), and promotes her righteousness (John 16:8, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:18-20).
The Regeneration of the Disciples
"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:." (John 20:21-22).
The impartation of the Holy Spirit by Jesus to His disciples after His resurrection was not the same as the baptism in the Holy Spirit which the disciples experienced on the day of Pentecost. Rather, it was an infusing of the disciples with the regenerating presence of the Spirit with new life. John said that Christ "breathed on them." The word translated as "breathed" is emphusao. It is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) where God breathed into Adam and he became a living soul. The word is also used in Ezekiel 37:9, "Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
Just as God breathed life into Adam, so Christ breathed new life into His disciples. Interestingly, Paul noted to the church in Corinth, "The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening (life-giving) spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45).
This passage in John 20:21-22 is critical in understanding the Holy Spirit's ministry to the church. These two statements are true: a) the disciples received the Holy Spirit, were indwelt and regenerated by Him, when Jesus breathed upon them; and b) the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them on the day of Pentecost was an experience occurring after their regeneration. Their baptism in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was therefore a separate and distinct work and experience of the Spirit.
These two separate and distinct works of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples are examples of the Spirit's work in our lives. All believers receive the Holy Spirit at the time of their regeneration or new birth. Afterward, the baptism in the Holy Spirit is available to all believers to empower them to be witnesses and laborers. And "how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13).