Together | The Nature of the Holy Spirit

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Together | The Nature of the Holy Spirit


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Last week we started a mini series on the Holy Spirit as we continue our series Together: Jesus is the Thread That Binds Us. We are specifically looking at the power and presence of Jesus in the Church, which is the Holy Spirit in us. We began with the necessity of the Spirit – it is the Holy Spirit who saves, sanctifies, seals and secures us, and empowers us to serve.

This morning we will look at the nature of the Spirit. Nature refers to distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. Why is this important? To most of us, the Holy Spirit is a mystery, an intangible force within that we think moves or leads us, but we are not sure. It’s important to understand the nature of the Spirit because Jesus said, “It is better I go so the Holy Spirit can come to you.” Jesus was with His disciples but not within them; He said it was better for Him to go so that they could receive the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit’s presence in us is the manifestation of our restored relationship with God. It is the Spirit of God that is the presence and power of God in us. This is not just a theological concept but reality for all of us who know Jesus. The living God is inside of us, which should have a profound effect on the way we live. Does the reality of God dwelling in us have a profound effect on the way we live?

The Holy Spirit is described in many ways throughout Scripture, including as water or rain. Currently we are in a drought: fields are turning to dust, crops are dying, and animals and fish are dying. We need water to restore life and bring refreshment. Isaiah prophesied in a spiritually dry time to Israel who lived in an arid land.

Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants; And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.’ Isaiah 44:2-4

This is a picture of the Spirit like water, of God pouring out His spirit and bringing restoration and refreshment to a thirsty people. This is not the only time Isaiah speaks to the Spirit and water in his writing, and so do other Old Testament authors (Joel 2). Jesus Himself refers to the Spirit as water refreshing the soul:

So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there. So Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” John 4:5-15

Here we find Jesus using water as a symbol of life-giving, thirst quenching Spirit. The woman was speaking of physical water but Jesus was speaking of something far greater: living water, the Spirit that brings refreshment. Living water satisfies our deepest thirsts.

The story continues in John 7. The Jews were celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, a large celebration and commemorative feast for God’s providence as the Children of Israel made their way out of Egypt to the Promised Land while living in tents.

On the last day of the feast, the priest went to the pool of Siloam to draw water. The pool was located outside the city on the lower slope; the priest filled a bucket and carried it up the main road through Jerusalem to the temple while thousands would sing praises of thanksgiving (possibly from Isaiah 12:3 “Therefore you will joyously draw water From the springs of salvation.”)

At the altar among tens of thousands of people, the priest called upon the providence of God for heavenly water in the form of rain to meet their needs. As the water was poured out, it was in hope for God to pour out His Spirit on His people as prophesied by Isaiah and Joel. The feast was a people looking forward to the pouring out of God’s Spirit, symbolized by the priest pouring water on the altar, a beautiful moment of reflection and hope.

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39

Jesus cried out, “Is anyone thirsty? Come to me!” Many watching would have understood the reference. Today, the church is full of thirsty people. There are people who attend church on a weekly basis, are part of community, read their Bible, serve at the local shelter, and give to those in need but are still thirsty. You know who you are because in the quietness you think there must be something more. Where is that joy that is to be my strength, the peace that is to carry me and rule in my heart? Where is the river of water flowing out? Where is the power of Jesus?

It could be that we are not walking in the Spirit because we are pursuing the things of the flesh. We cannot walk in the Spirit and carry out the desires of our flesh. But the contrary is also true – if we are walking in the flesh we cannot carry out the desires of the Spirit.

But in general, there may be a deeper issue. We are like pendulums who go from one extreme to another. We sit on the couch for years, but then decide to become exercise fanatics. One day we are eating a Big Mac lunch; the next we are tracking down organic, non-GMO sprouts. We do the same with our interpretation of scriptures: We want to know all about God, so we jump into the Word, read and study doctrines and theology, attend classes. We know a lot about God but we do not know Him; there is a dryness or emptiness. There can be a rationality to our faith with little or no room for the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.

The other extreme is that we want to experience God. We do not want to know God by His word but by experience so we put the systematic study of the Word aside and feed on experience instead. This approach lends itself to false doctrines, an inadequate view of God, and a faith that fluctuates with our feelings.

Both extremes are inadequate and these were never meant to be held at arm’s length. Studying the Scriptures, the inerrant word of God, is essential to understanding the Spirit and His work. The more we know and understand Scripture, the more freedom we have in Christ for the Spirit to move and work. The Spirit uses the Word in our lives to lead, teach, strengthen, illumine and comfort.

Our hope as leaders for Remedy:
Remedy is a church who knows and understands the Word of God, the scriptures and experiences God intimately, personally and corporately, through the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit in order to point others to Jesus. The goal is not knowledge, the goal is not the miraculous working of the Spirit, the goal is the exaltation of Jesus.

This is not a new position or a changed position; it has been our hope and prayer from the day that God established us as a local expression of His Church. Freedom in expression flows out of a deep commitment to Scriptures. With that understanding, we will continue on to look at the nature of the Holy Spirit.

His Name
There are two words for Spirit in the Bible, Ruwach in Old Testament Hebrew and Pneuma in the New Testament. These are both word pictures that describe rather than just simply a name. They describe a picture of breath breathed out or panting like when running hard or blowing out candles on a birthday cake or blowing up a balloon. In his book, “Keeping in Step with the Spirit”, J.I. Packer writes:

Spirit…is what the big bad wolf was threatening the little pigs with when he told them, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff , and I’ll blow your house down!’ The picture is of air made to move vigorously, even violently, and the thought that the picture expresses is of energy let loose, executive force invading, power in exercise, life demonstrated by activity.1

In the Old Testament the word Ruwach is used of God’s Divine Spirit, who is purposeful, invisible and irresistible as well as breath, wind and soul. We see a great picture of these uses of spirit in Ezekiel 37. Ezekiel has a vision and is taken to a valley of dry bones representing Israel. He is asked if the bones can live again and told to prophesy over them:

Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ “Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.'” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.'” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. “I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.'” Ezekiel 37:4-10, 14

In this passage we see the picture of the word Spirit, the outgoing breath, the movement, the giving of life, the very Spirit of God. It is action and power; the Spirit’s name gives testimony to the work of God: “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

After His resurrection, Jesus met with His disciples and imparted His Spirit to them through His breath:

And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22

This was a picture of the Spirit and the purpose of the Spirit is to point us to Jesus. The word for breathe in this passage is only used one time in the New Testament and is the same word used in Genesis 2:7 where we are told God formed man from the dust and breathed life into him. This was the new creation, the new life given by the Spirit in the breath of God.

From the name for Spirit we see He is life, action, and movement of God. He is the very breath of God imparted to establish relationship with God (I will put my spirit in you, I will be your God you will be my people), to give new life and equip.

Although Ruwach and Pneuma are the only words for Spirit there are many similes which gives us a deeper understanding of the nature and role. The Spirit is also referred to be like:

Rain poured out on you – Rain is a source of refreshment and restoration, and produces fruit (Isaiah 32:15, 44:3; Psalm 72:4).

Living rivers in you – In John 4:10 we see the Samaritan woman at the well and later Jesus says “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:37-38). The Spirit refreshes and satisfies the thirsty and searching soul. The Holy Spirit continually fills and refreshes the inner being to overflowing.

Breath of wind into your life: The Holy Spirit, coming as wind, depicts His power and His guidance. When Jesus tells Nicodemus about the new birth experience, He tells him that it is not like a tangible birth where you can see the newborn baby (John 3:8). The work of the Spirit breathes into a life, and something transpires that people cannot recognize. There’s a power but also a gentleness, like a breeze. You can’t necessarily see where it came from or where it goes, but all of us can attest to times when God has come and dealt with us though we did not know how it happened. At Pentecost it wasn’t a wind that blew in; it was the sound of a rushing wind like a hurricane (Acts 2:2). That sound, not the sound of the people speaking in tongues, is what drew the crowd in.

Dove: At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descended like a dove. It is a picture of a dove landing, a fluttering on the wings. The Spirit was fluttering or hovering over the face of the waters in the creation story and again at Jesus’ baptism. God was anointing the new Adam for a new creation (Mathew 3:16; Genesis 1:2).

• The Spirit came like tongues of fire at Pentecost to empower, refine and temper.

We see by name alone that the Spirit is active, moving, creating, revealing, strengthening, and executing the plans of God. (Genesis 1:2, 2:7; Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-35; Job 26:13; Psalm 33:4; 104:29-30; 143:10; Numbers 24:2; Isaiah 11:1-5; 61:1-4; Zechariah 7:12; 12:10)

His Divinity
Is the Holy Spirit divine? Is He God? Does the Holy Spirit demonstrate the characteristics of God, including omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence?

Omnipotent: In Luke we read the story of the Holy Spirit’s encounter with young Mary, the future mother of Jesus. “The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). From this we see the power and presence of God in and through the Spirit. Only God can create life (omnipotent).

Omniscience: We also see that He searches and knows all things. “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” 1 Corinthians 2:10. Whatever God knows, the Holy Spirit knows – He searches the depths of God (omniscience).

Omnipresent: We see that the Holy Spirit is resent everywhere at one time in Psalm 139:7. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (omnipresent)

We also see the divinity of the Spirit in references that place Him equal with God the Father and Jesus. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19, also in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; Jude 20-21)

In Acts 5, Peter asks Ananias why Satan filled his heart to lie to the Holy Spirit. Peter tells him he did not lie to men but to God, equating the Holy Spirit and God.

The Spirit of God dwells within us. We are the temple of God, again equating the Spirit of God with God. The Spirit was involved in creation and in the resurrection of Jesus; the Holy Spirit was present at all the significant events in the Bible.

His Personhood

What does one need to be a person or have a personality? What separates a person from a thing, object or force? Three things: will or desires; the ability to reason or knowledge; and emotions or feelings. We see all these displayed in Scripture by the Holy Spirit. Why is it important that we understand him as a person and not just a force of God? We cannot have a relationship with a force. We cannot have a relationship with gravity or electricity. A force may affect our lives but we do not have a relationship with it. The Holy Spirit is our relationship with Jesus; they are one as we are one with the Spirit and are to be with one another. A force cannot comfort, lead or mediate; it takes a person, a relationship.

We know the Spirit wills and determines who receives the gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12 we are told God gives gifts. “But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

The Spirit can lead us and determines where or how we need to go. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14). We also see that the Spirit has knowledge or a mind, and knows everything that God knows:

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11

in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

The Spirit knows the mind of God and sees our needs and our weaknesses. The Spirit also has emotions or feelings:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

The Holy Spirit of God, who is God, and who by His name represents God in action, the power and presence of God in our lives, and in our church, is not merely a force but a person. We can commune with, be comforted by, strengthened, equipped, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. He gives us salvation, sanctifies us, secures us for the day of redemption, and equips us for ministry. This Spirit of God was given to us by Jesus for His glory. This Spirit dwells within followers of Jesus to commune with us and illumine the things of God for us.

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!” Romans 8:14-15

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:6-7

We have the living God dwelling inside of us, the same God who created all things and sustains all life, who heals, strengthens and moves the course of history.

Why do we live like we live? Why do we live like orphans who do not know who their Father is? Why do we live like we are spiritually impoverished, bowing to every whim of our flesh? Why do we live like we are hungry or thirsty? Why do we seek after bread that will never satisfy or drink that will never quench? Are you thirsty? This may not be an issue of salvation but of sanctification.

“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance. Isaiah 55:1-2

Are you thirsty? Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you living water.”