“…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,
because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him
because He abides with you and will be in you.”
During the course of His ministry here upon the earth, Jesus granted a limited “empowering” of the Holy Spirit—the ability to accomplish supernatural, miraculous things—to His disciples. From the book of Matthew we read:
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.
(Matthew 10:5-15, NASB)
Bible scholars today often refer to this event as “The Limited Commission” because it was limited in both its duration and purpose. Likewise, it appears as if this “empowering” that had been granted to the twelve apostles to help facilitate their ministry was also limited in both its scope and duration.
But there was another such campaign initiated by Jesus involving many more of His disciples—seventy, in fact—in which He similarly bestowed upon them certain miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Luke we read:
Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
(Luke 10:1-20, NASB)
Again, we see that this mission campaign was limited in its scope and duration. And, likewise, it appears that “empower” by the Holy Spirit was granted for limited time in order to facilitate the mission and accomplish Jesus’ intended goals and purposes. By initiating these limited campaigns during His ministry, Jesus was actually preparing the people of Israel for the upcoming larger and more extensive outreach that would be conducted by His disciples following His death, burial, and resurrection. Using Jesus’ “Parable of the Sower” (Luke 8:4-15) as our reference, He was, in essence, preparing the soil to receive the seed of His word—the Gospel. He was, in actuality, preparing the people for Pentecost (Acts Chapter 2) and beyond.
Shortly before His death, burial, and resurrection, Jesus said to His disciples:
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
(John 14:16-17, NASB)
In this passage, Jesus sets forth a specific order of authority and beautiful divine cooperation. He comforts His disciples by informing them that, after His departure, another would be coming—“the Spirit of Truth.” His coming would be in reference to Jesus’ request. Upon His return to glory, the Son would beseech the Father to send forth the Spirit who would comfort them and guide them into truth. As we shall see, Jesus’ words were to be fulfilled not long after telling His disciples these things.
Scripture records a couple of more instances in which Jesus granted special gifts to His disciples during His time here on earth. We have the following account of Jesus’ first meeting with His closest disciples following His death, burial, and resurrection:
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
(John 20:19-23, NASB
We are not completely sure of exactly what beautiful gifts were imparted upon the disciples when Jesus breathed upon them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” but it appears as if Jesus was already preparing them for their upcoming work and ministry of taking the Gospel into all the world following His ascension to glory. It is likely that, from this moment on, the Holy Spirit began cultivating within them the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—that they would need to embark upon, and carry out, a life-time of service to the Lord. It also appears as if receiving the Holy Spirit, in this instance, had something to do with granting them heavenly wisdom to be able to comprehend and to speak God’s word to matters pertaining to salvation and eternal life. In a similar episode, occurring several days later, we have the following account:
While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.
Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.
Luke 24:36-49, NASB
While the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned in this passage, we know that He is the divine agent by which miraculous insight and powers are granted. Therefore, it would not be too much of a stretch to say that, here again, at Jesus’ command, we see the Spirit at work opening the minds of the disciples and granting them heavenly wisdom to be able to comprehend God’s word and to be able to communicate it effectively.
However, in this passage, we also see Jesus speaking of something even greater that would soon be coming upon the disciples. For, even after having opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, Jesus went on to tell them that He would be “sending forth the promise of My Father upon you,” and that they must “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” So, regardless of whatever supernatural power they may have experienced already, it was nothing compared to that which they were about to receive. What is this “promise of My Father,” that Jesus speaks of here? What does He mean when He says that they would be “clothed with power from on high?”
Well, do you remember the preaching and teaching of John the Baptizer? When the people inquired as to his true identity, the prophet John said, “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11, NASB). The prophet Luke, in the first chapter of the Book of Acts, gives us a little more insight into what Jesus communicated to His disciples concerning what was about to happen to them, saying:
To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
(Acts 1:3-5, NASB)
From these passages of scripture we learn that Jesus was no mere prophet, but much more than a prophet; so much more that John the Baptizer said of Him that He was capable of, and one day would, “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Then we learn from the prophet Luke that Jesus referred back to John’s statement telling His disciples that they would “be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” So then, what happened just a few days after Jesus made these statements to His disciples? The Day of Pentecost, Acts Chapter 2, is what happened! The Bible says:
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.
(Acts 2:1-4, NASB)
A few minutes later, while delivering the very first Gospel sermon following the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter cried out:
… this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel: “And it shall be in the last days,” God says, “that I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My bondslaves both men and women, I will in those days, pour forth of My Spirit and they shall prophesy. And I will grant wonders in the sky above and signs on the earth below; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before great and glorious day of the Lord shall come. And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Acts 2:16-21, NASB)
In this passage of scripture, the Apostle Peter plainly states that Old Testament prophecy in which God said, “I will pour forth My Spirit on all mankind,” is being fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (About AD 30). So, way back in Bible history, in the book of Joel, God said, “I will pour forth of My Spirit.” God also said that this pouring forth of His Spirit would be “on all mankind.” Years earlier, the prophet John had told the masses who had gathered to hear him preach that, one day, One was coming who would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit…” and in reference to that, just a few years later, according to the prophet Luke, Jesus told His disciples to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they had been “baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now!”
From these passages of scripture we learn that “Holy Spirit baptism,” or the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” as we’ve come to label it, is actually a one-time historical event that occurred on the Day of Pentecost (about AD 30) as recorded for us in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. It is a reference to that day that had been prophesied by both Old and New Testament prophets, and by Jesus Himself. It is a reference to the Father honoring the request of the Son to “pour forth” the Spirit upon “all mankind.”
What that means is that, from the Day of Pentecost forward, the Holy Spirit has been present and made available to everyone everywhere who would surrender his or her heart and life to the Lord and be saved by the sacrifice of Christ. While the Holy Spirit did, at times, empower various people with miraculous powers—such as with the prophets of old—prior to that historic day, the Holy Spirit could not be made available to anyone to dwell within them; because the sin problem had not yet been dealt with. Humanity was still in a state of preparation, the Old Law of Moses still in effect; serving as a tutor that would one day lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). But then Jesus came to live and die for us. When He died on the cross, the Bible says that “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51, NASB), signifying that a personal, intimate, life-giving relationship with God was now possible. Now that the debt to sin had finally been payed by the only One who could ever possibly pay it, the Holy Spirit of God was “poured forth” and made available to—baptized, immersed—all of humanity. He can freely indwell every New Covenant child of God; and this He does at the very moment of one’s baptism into Christ and into His death (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-5).
Furthermore, not only do the events described in Acts chapter 2 open the door to an intimate, personal, life-giving relationship with God through the abiding Holy Spirit who dwells within us, but those events also give tangible proof and evidence to the living, resurrected and now glorified King of kings and Lord of lords – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus told His disciples that, after He had left them, He would ask the Father who would send the Spirit – (John 14:16-17). The events that transpired on the Day of Pentecost fulfill that promise and provide incredible evidence to the fact that Jesus is not only resurrected, but has now ascended and enthroned “at the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Hebrews 1:3).
Further on in the Book of Acts, we have a wonderful reference to this great event—the “pouring forth,” or “baptism” of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. In the tenth chapter we read about the Apostle Peter being summoned to the Household of Cornelius to share the Gospel with them. This as a very significant and history moment because it was the very first time that the Gospel message had been proclaimed to the Gentiles. Prior to this event, it had only been shared with Children of Israel. Some who accompanied Peter, and even Peter himself, were a bit skeptical as to whether or not is was right to proclaim the Gospel to Gentiles and to welcome them into eternal Kingdom of God without them first becoming Jewish proselytes (converts to the Jewish faith). So, to confirm to the Jewish people, and to all humanity everywhere and for all time, that the Gentiles could come to Christ just as they were, without first converting to Judaism, the Holy Spirit went to work and by empowering the Gentiles who were present. We read:
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon [empowered] all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised [Jewish] believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit [baptism of the Holy Spirit] had been poured out on the Gentiles also [on the day of Pentecost]. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exulting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit [on the day of Pentecost] just as we [the Jews] did, can he?” And he ordered the to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.”
(Acts 10:44-48, NASB)
This powerful passage of scripture is a direct reference back to that historic day of Pentecost and what had happened there. We must remember the Apostle Peter’s words when he preached on that day, saying: “but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel, ‘and it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour forth of My Spirit on ALL MANKIND…” (Acts 2:16-17, NASB). It appears as if the Jewish people, and even the Apostle Peter himself, did not quite grasp the full impact of those words until that momentous day he spent with the Household of Cornelius. On the Day of Pentecost, indeed, all of mankind, not just Jews, but the Gentiles, too, had “received the Holy Spirit.” That is, as Luke here records, “the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured forth on the Gentiles also.”
The problem in today’s world is that people of various religious backgrounds and faiths often use certain key words and phrases found in scripture out of context. In addition, the various faiths tend to make up new words and phrases, not even found in scripture, to convey a plethora of new religious concepts and ideas that help to define their particular theology. How a Greek-English scholar, or team of scholars, chooses to translate a word or phrase, then how that word or phrase is interpreted and applied by people over many generations and coming from many distinct religious backgrounds, can sometimes result in confusion; and in ideas only remotely connected to the intention of the original authors. So it is with words and phrases such as, “the Holy Spirit fell upon,” or “the gift of the Holy Spirit,” or the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” or the “empowering” or the “indwelling” or any number of other words and phrases—some found in scripture, some used only to describe scriptural concepts.
But there are a few guiding principles that will help us with our understanding of these matters, and with all scripture, as we seek to get a grasp on God holy word, understand it deeply, apply it appropriately, and communicate it correctly. These principles will be discussed in an upcoming lesson entitled – Our Hermeneutic!
As we continue to grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Bible, and in our personal walk with the Lord, there are a few things we need to remember and keep in mind concerning the Holy Spirit and His place in our relationship to and with God.
1. – Always remember that the Spirit is NOT some kind of impersonal, abstract “force” or “power” that exudes from God. He is God! Remember the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit—three in One! The Holy Spirit is never referred to in scripture as, “it”—as in some kind of a “thing”—but always as a person—as in “He” or “Him.” So, if we’ve been in the habit of thinking of the Spirit in that way, or referring to the Spirit as “it,” we definitely need to repent and stop doing that.
2. – The BAPTISM of the Holy Spirit was a one time, historical event that took place on the Day of Pentecost, Acts Chapter 2, at which time the Son asked the Father to send the Spirit who was “poured forth upon all mankind” (Acts 2:17). This very important event gives evidence and testimony to the ascendance, glorification, and enthronement of the Son; while at the same time making the presence of the Spirit abundantly available to all who will surrender their hearts and lives to the Lord.
3. – We must make the necessary distinction between the EMPOWERING of the Holy Spirit and the INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God, through His Spirit has used many people in many different ways (some who were not even His own children, but evil doers) to deliver messages, to accomplish specific missions or goals, and even to change the course of history. Sometimes, the EMPOWERING (ability to do extraordinary, unnatural, or miraculous things) was very limited in its scope and duration… at other times it was broad and more extensive – but it was always to accomplish some specific purpose. However, the INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit, which takes place at baptism is not simply the Spirit taking control of people to accomplish some needed task, or purpose, or mission – rather, it is the Holy Spirit of God literally coming to permanently dwell within our mortal bodies, side-by-side with our own spirit. While the Spirit may EMPOWER anyone to do some miraculous thing as a sign to them and others, or to even to accomplish some special purpose, the Spirit will only INDWELL, or come to reside within and live within, a redeemed, blood-washed, covenanted child of God.
4. – The Holy Spirit is given to us as a gift when we are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins because that is the moment that we are put “into Christ” and “into His death” (Romans 6:3-5) and saved by the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. So, the moment our sins are forgiven is the very moment the Spirit comes to dwell within us.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
(Act 5:32, NASB)
5. – The Holy Spirit dwells within each and every New Covenant child of God; side-by-side together with our own spirit:
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.
(Romans 8:11-16, NASB)
6. – The Holy Spirit is, indeed, working within us each day. However, we must not confuse emotion with the working of the Spirit. For some reason, it has become popular to associate the Holy Spirit with all kinds of “emotional” displays and “feelings” of euphoria. However, a careful reading of scripture does not present that kind of a picture. Yes, sometimes people mentioned in scripture where obviously happy and displayed joy when they were baptized into Christ and indwelled by Spirit, but remember that the Apostle Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..” (Galatians 5:22-23). THESE are the signs or indicators that the Holy Spirit is truly working within us; not some kind of unnatural, ethereal, or even mind-blowing euphoria. The Bible says nothing about feelings of euphoria or emotional displays being associated with the Holy Spirit. Of course, that does not mean that we will not have such wonderful feelings and emotions going on within us whenever we are aware of God’s hand upon us, it just means that that is something that arises from within our own heart, not necessarily something produced by the Spirit Himself. What does the Holy Spirit do, then, as He works within us each day? Well, scripture points out that He is there to:
- help us “put to death the deeds of the flesh” (Romans 8:12-14)
- “help our weakness” (Romans 8:26)
- “intercede for us” in prayer (Romans 8:27)
- produce in us all the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23)
7. – He is the guiding source of inspiration behind all scripture: “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (I Peter 1:21, NASB). Jesus called Him, “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (John 15:26, NASB). The Apostle John tells us that “the Spirit is the truth” (I John 5:6, NASB). The Holy Spirit will never produce a message, or give an “inspired” message to some mortal man, that is contradictory to what is taught in scripture. Religious doctrines that run contrary to scripture are from men, not from God!
8. – The world may be filled with people who are deluded by false spirits continually propagating “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5, NASB). But the children of God are “filled with Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, NASB), and are “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14, NASB). And so, with eyes set squarely on the inspired word of God—the Bible—they are able to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (I John 4:1, NASB); and will only submit their hearts and lives to the truth delivered to them by the one Spirit, while rejecting all others.
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