‘“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has appointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to hear the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isaiah 61:1:1).”’
When did you last hear any preaching about the Holy Spirit? In my case, a very long time ago; in fact so long ago I can’t remember much about the preaching, except the Spirit is He who gives life to those who are dead in their trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1). Now, that’s of great importance; for, without life in the Spirit (John 3:3-6), we have no hope of salvation – that’s salvation from our sins (Matthew 1:21), the power of sin (Acts 26:18) and everlasting hell (Matthew 18:8; Revelation 20:15; 21:8).
The Bible makes it very clear through a *combination of texts that the Holy Spirit is one of the Persons of the Godhead; the other two being God the Father and Jesus Christ – three persons in one God – for God is One (Mark 12:32; Romans 3:30). It’s difficult for our limited and feeble minds to understand the apparent paradox of there being three Persons in One God. Of course, there is no paradox, since the Word of God is true and does not contradict itself.
Each Person of the Godhead has a role to play, and yet they work together in complete harmony to carry out their plan of salvation agreed between them from before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
The Holy Spirit Equips People for God’s Service
The first mention of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is in Genesis 1:2 : ‘The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.’ The Holy Spirit was active in the creation. We find, too, that Jesus was the Creator of the universe, along with God the Father (John 1:1-3).
From that time onwards the Spirit has had a distinctive role. We learn from Genesis 41 that Joseph could, by the enabling of the Spirit (V 38), know the dreams of Pharaoh and interpret their meanings. The Spirit revealed to Joseph there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. In Exodus 31 we have the account of God filling Bezaleel with His Spirit so that he would have wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and all manner of workmanship for designing artistic works for the construction of the tabernacle of meeting and all its appurtenances. So the Holy Spirit equips God’s people for carrying out certain tasks.
Throughout the Old Testament there are numerous texts indicating the Spirit was given to chosen people to enable them to carry out God’s will; for example: Numbers 11:17, 25, 26; Judges 6:34; 11:29. Perhaps one of the more well-known visitations of the Spirit was when He came upon Saul to enable him to prophesy (1 Samuel 10:6, 10).
The Coming of the Holy Spirit for Giving Birth to the Church
Before the resurrected Jesus ascended into heaven He appeared to His disciples and others gathered with them (Luke 24:33, 36) and 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).”’ He was referring to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), and it was the Spirit that transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) those who heard Peter’s explanation of what was happening (VV 14-39) there at that time. Peter told them to repent and to be baptised for the remission of their sins (V 38), and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit who would empower them to speak and act in His name. Water baptism did not bring them forgiveness and salvation. Jesus is the Saviour, and it is He who forgives sin through the gift of faith by His grace (Ephesians 2:8, 9).
The Book of Acts draws attention to one specific visual manifestations of of the giving of the Holy Spirit. It came in the form of what appeared to be ‘divided tongues, as of fire (Acts 2:3)’ that ‘sat upon each of them’. At that time the disciples and those gathered with them spoke in tongues, i.e., different languages, ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance’ (V 4).
Later, Peter visited Cornelius and his household who were Gentiles, as distinct from Jews. He had come to the conclusion that God accepts people from all nations – not just the Jews (Acts 10:28, 29, 34, 35). While he was with Cornelius and his household the Holy Spirit fell upon them, and they spoke ‘with tongues (Acts 10:46)’, but there was no mention of there being ‘divided tongues, as of fire (Acts 2:3)’ on that occasion. The same can be said of the time the Holy Spirit came upon disciples of John the Baptist when Paul laid hands on them and ‘they spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6).’
I believe these signs, i.e., the manifestation of ‘divided tongues’ and speaking with tongues, were temporary for the fulfilment of Scripture, and for confirming and verifying the arrival of God’s Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church (Acts 2:-21). I know of others, who claim they speak in a tongue (1 Corinthians 14:2-27). This is quite different to ‘speaking with other tongues’, as in Acts 2:4-6, which were foreign languages.
These early New Testament ‘signs’ were temporary expositions verifying and testifying of the coming of the Holy Spirit in a special, empowering way.
The Holy Spirit Today
Today the Spirit dwells within those to whom He has been given. Jesus said,’“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you (John 14:18),”’ and He said the ‘Helper’, the ‘Spirit of Truth’ will abide with them (V 17). He is the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and guides them ‘into all truth (John 16:13).’
Once again, I cannot emphasis enough that it is the Holy Spirit who gives birth (John 3:3-8) to those who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). They are then able to believe and trust the Saviour Jesus who died to save them from hell, and not be subject to the binding requirements of the Mosaic law (Daniel 9:11; Leviticus 26:14-46). They are forgiven their sin (Psalm 103:12; cf Hebrews 9:26), and Christ brings them into His kingdom (Colossians 1:13; 2 Peter 1:11).
*The Godhead Comprised of Three Persons in One