There are many people who walk around with the label “Christian” on them; but how do we know they’re the real thing? It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believer that makes him or her a Christian.
THE PERSONALITY AND DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
One of the identifying marks of a cult is their rejection of the Trinity. Where the cults often go wrong is that they feel compelled to explain everything and clear up what the Bible leaves as a mystery.
For instance, the Bible is crystal clear that there is only one God! Deutoronomy 6:4 is the motto and foundational truth for Judaism, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.”
The Bible is clear on this – there is only one God; but it is equally clear that there are three Persons who comprise this one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For that reason, orthodox believers for 2000 years have believed in the doctrine of the Trinity, which states, God is one in essence but three in person. This fact provokes cults who set about to dismantle it. They usually do so by affirming the deity of the Father, but then lessening the status of the Son and the Spirit by turning Jesus into nothing more than a mere mortal, or maybe an angel, and they twist the Holy Spirit into merely an impersonal force; they make the Holy Spirit out to be God’s influence, but not God Himself.
The Holy Spirit is both a Person and God.
There’s a story in Acts 5 that speaks powerfully to both the Personhood and Deity of the Holy Spirit. It’s a story about a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira. To set the scene, this incident takes place in the earliest days of the church in Jerusalem. Thousands have been won to faith in Christ and the Church is growing dramatically, not just in numbers but in the quality of the lives these new believers are living. So intense was the ministry of the Holy Spirit among them that a deep and profound love for one another was revolutionizing their community.
At the end of chapter 4, people were turning their savings over to the Apostles and asking that the funds be used to make sure the poor and needy were being taken care of (people who had extra homes and property were selling them and doing the same thing). As people would offer their savings and proceeds from the sale of lands, praise went up to God from the entire church, and those who gave were recognized as being generous and touched by the power of God.
Along came Ananias and Sapphira – they had some land too – but, whereas the others had been motivated to give out of a pure motive of love, these two saw the recognition the others got and lusted for it.
Acts 5:1-2 “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Ananias and Sapphira decided to secretly keep part of the money for themselves; and that was fine because it was their money and they could do whatever they wanted to with it; the problem was when they brought the rest as an offering, they said it was the whole amount!
Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?”
Peter said that Ananias had lied, to who? The Holy Spirit. Can you lie to an impersonal force? No, because a force is mindless and amoral. You can only lie to a person; someone with intellect and will. Notice what Peter goes on to say…
Acts 5:4 “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
In v. 3, Peter said that Ananias had lied to who? The Holy Spirit. Now in v. 4, who does he say he’s lied to? God. This short passage boldly asserts both the Personality and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.
In scripture, the Holy Spirit is never referred to as an it, but rather He. This is unusual because in the Greek language, the word for spirit is neuter, thus, any pronoun associated with it has to be neuter as well – IT! But over and over we find the Holy Spirit being called He.
John 16:13-15 ” When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
Ten 10 times in 3 verses Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as He.
Consider Acts 13:2 “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Does an impersonal force answer a request made of God? Does an impersonal force refer to itself as “Me?” Does an impersonal force commission the servants of God to their life’s calling? No!
THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
John 16:7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”
Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus could only be “with” the disciples. But after His resurrection, He would send the Helper to come to dwell, not with, but in them.
John 14:16-18 “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever-the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
How will Jesus come to stay with them if He is also going away? Through the presence of the Helper, the one who will come and abide with them forever. Notice how Jesus describes this Helper – He says He is another Helper. This word “another” means another of the same kind, not someone fundamentally different, but of the same kind, just like Jesus Himself.
The Holy Spirit was with them in the Person of Jesus, but once Jesus rose from the dead, the Spirit was sent to them so that instead of merely being alongside them in the Person of Christ, He indwelt them.
The word we see translated as Helper, is the Greek word “Paraclete.” It’s a title given to someone who takes your side and offers whatever assistance is need. Different English translations for it could be “comforter” or “advocate”.
Jesus goes on in John 16 to describe the ministry of the Holy Spirit, ” And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
After Jesus’ mission was finished, it became the duty of the Holy Spirit to apply that mission to the hearts and lives of men and women. He does this through the work of conviction. He convicts the world of their sin and shows them they do not measure up to the standard of God’s righteousness, and that if they don’t repent and come to faith in Christ they will be judged. It is only by the Spirit’s work of revealing our sin and it’s deplorable consequences that a man, woman or child can be saved. Then, the moment we by faith alone trust in Jesus, He sweeps into us with all His fullness and effects a radical change. In John 3, Jesus calls this being born again.
The entrance of the Spirit into the human spirit imparts spiritual life where there was none before, and THAT is THE difference between the genuine believer and all the rest of humanity, whether they wear the label of Christian or not. The true Christian is one who has been born again by the entrance of the Holy Spirit, he or she is indwelt by the Spirit of God.
The Spirit does even more, as we read on…John 16:12-13 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
Jesus promised that when the Spirit came, He would continue the teaching ministry of Jesus. As the Spirit of Truth, He would progressively share that truth as they needed it; and indeed, this is exactly what we see in the Book of Acts as the Church had to deal with different problems.
But it’s in v. 14 and 15 that we find the real heart, the real core of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
The basic goal of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ! When the Father wanted to reveal Himself to mankind, what did He do? He sent the Son. When the Son wants to reveal Himself to His followers today, what does He do? He sends the Spirit! When the Spirit comes, who does He glorify and promote? Jesus! When Jesus comes, who does He glorify and promote? The Father! All Persons of the Godhead reveal to believers the ministry of each Person.
There is so much attention given to the Holy Spirit in some church circles today with the moving of the Spirit. These groups are so focused on looking for the evidence of the Spirit that they seem to have forgotten what the Spirit’s goal is – to Glorify Christ! He does not move or work to draw attention to Himself, His whole work is aimed at drawing people to Jesus and exalting Him. Consequently, He is grieved when the attention is placed on Him to the exclusion of the glory of Christ.
Let’s now look at John 15:26,”When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”
Jesus said the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would testify, or bear witness to Christ. This then becomes a good test for what people claim is the moving of the Spirit of God. We ought to be able to look at something and know if the Spirit is genuinely in it by whether or not attention is being given to Jesus. We should ask ourselves, “Does this draw people to Christ?” Or is Christ being ignored in my involvement with the Holy Spirit.
Once the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, He then embarks on a mission of conforming us to the Image of Christ. This is another way that He brings glory to Jesus; He progressively matures us in spiritual things so that we become more and more like the Lord in our moral character. We see this in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The Apostle Paul is saying here that now that we are born again and indwelt by the Spirit of Truth, the veil that blinded us to God has been taken away. As we live this life, seeing something of the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed by the Spirit of God into that same image – progressively taking on more and more of the actual moral character of Christ.
While our position before God is Perfectly Righteous, practically we are growing in righteousness as we grow in Christ. The agent of this change is who? The Holy Spirit!
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
John 20:19-22 “Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to 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.”
In this passage, Jesus is literally imparting the Holy Spirit to them at this moment. This is the point at which they are born again and the Spirit of God comes to indwell them. The evidence that this is the point at which they are born again is found in Luke 24:44-45 “Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul tells us that apart from the Holy Spirit, we cannot understand the things of God. This is why so many people who try reading the Bible give up so quickly; it seems like nothing more than confusing religious words; but the minute they are born again, the Bible, which was so difficult before suddenly becomes a treasure trove of truth and spiritual riches.
We see in that passage of Luke that Jesus “opened their understanding” and they finally understood everything the Scriptures had to say about Christ and His mission. How did He open their understanding? He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell them – they are now born again.
Look at Luke 24:49 “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 repeats this in Acts 1 where we read, “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Note carefully the prepositions Jesus has used to speak of the ministry of the Holy Spirit: John 14:18 – He is with you and shall be in you – but now in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8 – the Holy Spirit will be what? – upon you.
Remember, when Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, the Holy Spirit was already IN them, but here He speaks of the Holy Spirit coming UPON them and their receiving power to be His witnesses. Jesus said this would take place in a few days when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. It’s as if the Spirit coming UPON them will cause them to overflow with the power of the Spirit.
All we need to do is ask, and God will fill us and baptize us in the Holy Spirit. Like every gift of God, it’s something that we appropriate by faith.
Lets read what Jesus said about this in Luke 11:9-13 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
So you see, all we need to do is ask and recieve by faith. No ritual or ceremony is necessary to receive the HOly Spirit. All that is required of us is to ask God sincerely from our hearts and He will graciously give it to us.
The gifts of the Spirit are indeed available today because Jesus is still building His Church. But tongues is NOT the only evidence of the recieving of the Spirit. Jesus is clear in Acts 1:8 that the evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is power to be a vital witness of Jesus Christ where ever we are (NOT the outward display of the gifts of the Spirit).
Also, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit isn’t a one-time thing. As Paul says in Ephesians 5:18, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” We are to constantly be filled with the HOly Spirit so that we can be effective witnesses to unbelievers and that CHRIST will be glorified (and NOT the spiritual gifts God has blessed us with).