The Holy Spirit – The Personal Presence of Christ
The Holy Spirit – The Personal Presence of Christ
the ever-present Companion
The first foundation is the revelation of God’s mind-set and wisdom through the Law. The second is the revelation of God’s heart through the sacrificial love of Jesus. The third foundation is the revelation of God’s enduring presence through ONENESS with the Holy Spirit. From the Day of the Pentecost, God and the Church became as ONE. Jesus expressed that union with the Church through His death and resurrection. He was condemned with us, and we are raised with Him. There at the cross, our sorrows became His, so His joy became ours; our failures became His, and so His victories became ours. It is at the cross that man’s fate and Christ’s destiny entwine. Those who received the gift of the Holy Spirit will be united with Christ in His body. Through the Holy Spirit, the immortality of God is sealed within man forever.
The Holy Spirit – God translated into His breath
The two biblical word for Spirit are Hebrew “ruach”, and the Greek “pneuma”. Both words translated in general terms means “wind” or “breath.” The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of God throughout the bible and occasionally the Spirit of Christ in the New Testament. Throughout the bible, we see God doing His work through the Spirit in various settings and purposes: in creation, an individual, in a nation or a church. In the context of the bible, we understand the activities of the Spirit as the very move of the Father and the Son. Because the Holy Spirit is God Himself, He possesses the undiminished quality and intensity of divine attributes and power no matter how far and wide He goes. In other words, the Holy Spirit allows God to be at infinite places at once, to be with innumerable individuals and yet able to give each undivided attention.
The eternal function of the Holy Spirit is to execute God’s design and plans for the universe. Through the Holy Spirit, heaven is extended into every nation, church and individual. And through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son make their home within man (John 14:23). The Spirit’s role is to bring God’s life into every desert place, God’s healing grace into every broken heart, and God’s truth into every mind, God’s justice and peace into every community and relationship.
What are the positions of the Father, Son and the Spirit relative to one another?
As we can see, the Father takes up the role of the sovereign planner and director in the creation and redemption of man. The Son subordinates Himself to the Father by executing His plans. The Spirit goes out from the throne of God with the full magnitude of divine power to fulfil the will of the Father and the Son. The eternal function of the Spirit is to fulfil the directives of both the Father and the Son. Even as the Father, Son and the Spirit are divine, perfect and eternal, the Son is subordinate to the Father, and the Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son. The differences in roles and the position they hold relative to one another is permanent and eternal.
In the context of creation we see the roles of the Father, the Son and the Spirit. The Father spoke the creative word that brings the universe into being. The Son is the head of the creative department and He designed all things according to His wisdom. “In him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities-all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:6). The Holy Spirit goes out into the formless, the empty and the darkness to creating and bringing to reality that which was conceived in the mind of the Son (Genesis 1:2).
The Father determined how, when and in what manner humanity shall be redeemed (Galatians 4:4-5). He set His plans into motion immediately after Adam sinned against God. This plan involves the formation of the nation Israel, the incarnation of His Son, His suffering and His resurrection as King. The Son obeyed and carried out the plans for the salvation of humanity. The Holy Spirit is sent to convict every person of his sin and the saving grace of God. The Spirit continues to regenerate every believer towards the perfection of the Son, Jesus Christ.
At the final judgment, when the “last enemy”, which is death, is destroyed and when all things are put under Christ’s feet, “then the Son himself will also be subjected to him (the Father) who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
The Day of Pentecost: The Revelation of God through the Spirit
The age of the Holy Spirit was ushered in on the Day of Pentecost following Christ’s ascension to the Father. Christ now resides within each believer through the Holy Spirit. Every believer who is baptized in the Spirit will know the law, will feel God’s love, and will also manifest His power. Through the Spirit, every believer is now able to manifest the attributes of Christ. As seen in figure 5.0, God in the Old Testament was far away from man.
Nevertheless, man connected with God through his cognitive understanding of the Law. The Gospels depict God coming in the flesh, living and interacting with us face-to-face. Now, we can begin to interact with God not only through the mind, but also heart to heart in person. On the Day of the Pentecost, God’s Spirit was sent to unite with man’s spirit with His Spirit becoming one. The revelation of God in the Spirit is the ultimate union of love between God and man. The focus here on man’s part is in YIELDING our will, desires and body to the Spirit. The body can then begin to flow with the Spirit’s power (figure 5.1).
Just like a marriage relationship, the couple must learn to yield their bodies to each other and to flow as one. The believer meditates on the law and feels His love, all with the added attitude of yielding to the Spirit. In doing so, the believer begin to manifest the love and the wisdom of Jesus Christ.
The union of God and man in the Spirit results in a change of man’s mindset from that of a slave to a son. The Spirit within gives divine assurance of our identity as sons of God. This mindset drives our vision and purpose for life – enabling us to visualize our future success and contribution to God’s Kingdom. The Spirit brings healing from the wounds of the tribulations of life. The Spirit empowers us to accomplish our work and to do the impossible.
Jesus’s ministry on earth lasted 33 years. During this time He presented to the world the face of the Father and a whole new way of relating with Him. The world is ready for the next stage of His revelation, which is the Spirit; the ever-present Companion (John 14:16). The Person of the Holy Spirit was sent to unite us forever.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ
We know what the Father is like by observing how He dealt with the Israelites in the Old Testament. We know what Jesus is like through His teachings and His interactions with the people as recorded in the Gospels. But do we know enough about the Person of the Holy Spirit in order to commune with Him now? Does the Holy Spirit empathize with our mortal weaknesses and life experiences?
Jesus walked alongside His disciples for 3 years. They walked the same paths, ate together and slept under the same roof. As their Helper and Companion, His disciples rejoiced with Him, and felt His sorrows. He never withheld His mortal weaknesses from them. After Jesus ascended to the Father, there remained need for a helper for humanity. Hence, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to perpetuate His presence on earth. Jesus taught His disciples concerning the Holy Spirit so that they would know how to maintain their fellowship with Him. Jesus’s teachings about the Holy Spirit formed the basis for subsequent teachings from the apostle Paul.
In this chapter, we will understand the following:
1. Just as Jesus is called the “Helper of Israel”, the Holy Spirit is called “another Helper”. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus perpetuates His presence with us.
2. The ministry of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are inseparable. The ministry of Jesus must be understood in the light of the Holy Spirit, without which Jesus is merely a good man.
3. What are the foundations leading towards union with the Holy Spirit?
4. How do we actually commune with the Holy Spirit?
5. How do we validate and register the prompting of the Spirit?
Now, let us discuss the Holy Spirit’s purpose and nature. The most important source for our study concerning the Spirit comes from the teachings of Jesus. In John 14, Jesus for the first time introduced the Person of the Holy Spirit as His very presence.
Jesus’s teachings on the Holy Spirit – John 14:7-11, 16-23
“7 If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The Words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” (John 14:7-11)
In John 14, we see that Jesus for the first time gave His disciples concrete teaching on the role and purposes of the Holy Spirit. The context of this chapter shows Jesus preparing His disciples for His ascension to the Father as well as receiving the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus started by saying,
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2)
In the next few verses, we find His teaching centering on the identity of Jesus with respect to the Father. Jesus repeatedly said that He is the face of the Father and the image of God. Although Jesus carried with Him the full mortal weakness of man, He is nonetheless the very image of the Father! Jesus went so far as to say that if they ask Him anything in Jesus’s name, it will be done showing that He and the Father are one (John 14:11). Once again, the disciples were challenged in their paradigm concerning the boundaries between God and humanity. How close is God willing to come close to corrupted and sinful men? It is unthinkable in the Jewish mindset that God would put on human form and dwell among them. The disciples could never imagine that God would come this far because of love, not just to save mankind from condemnation, but also to restore an intimate relationship that was painfully lost. Jesus in the flesh forever changed the paradigm what God – man relationship should be; intimate, logical, emotional and even physical. This level of intimacy with God belongs to us today through the Holy Spirit.
Now why did Jesus remind His disciples of His role and identity before introducing the Holy Spirit? There are two reasons:
1. As the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Christ, without an adequate understanding of Jesus’s incarnation in the flesh, there can be no intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Through the manner Jesus interacted with the disciples and the people, we form the model as to how we can interact with His Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit seeks to transform believers into the likeness of Christ. Hence, without a concrete understanding of the nature of Christ, the believer would not know how live in oneness with the Spirit displaying Christ’s nature.
After Jesus explained His position with the Father, He went on to introduce the Holy Spirit for the first time.
“16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 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. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:16-23)
The Holy Spirit was viewed in Old Testament traditions as the anointing of God. Jesus said to the people that the Spirit anointed and marked Him as the Messiah (Luke 4:18). The Spirit served to anoint a person to fulfill an office according to God’s commission. The Spirit anointed the kings, judges, priests, and prophets of Israel and the Messiah Himself.
Now for the first time, Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit as His very presence on earth. He re-defined the role of the Spirit into something much more than just an anointing, an empowering presence. He is now a Person. In John 14:16, Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit as another “Helper”, (or “parakletos” in Greek.) He said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” The Word “parakletos” comprises two words: “para”, which means, ever-present and “kletos”, the one called to a certain purpose. Therefore “Parakletos” means the One called to be ever-present with us. Jesus Himself was being known as the “parakletos” of Israel. Simeon, a righteous and devout man was seeking for the “consolation” or “parakletos” of Israel (Luke 2:25). Jesus deliberately used the Word “parakletos” to refer to the Holy Spirit as His successor, the ever-present Helper of Israel. As Jesus was ever-present with His disciples, from then on, the Holy Spirit shall be ever-present with them. The Holy Spirit was to be what Jesus was to them: the Confidante, the Companion, the Teacher, Protector, Provider and God.
After Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit and His role as the Helper in John 14:16, Jesus made the next statement in John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” Notice Jesus used the term “I” (v.18) and the “Spirit” (v.17) interchangeably. And He continued in verse 19, “… the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me.” The word “Me” here is used in reference to the Holy Spirit. Jesus deliberately used the word “I” even after introducing the Spirit to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is in fact His very presence. Through the ever-present Spirit, they could have perpetual fellowship with Him, even after He ascended to heaven. In verse 21, Jesus again said “…and I will love him (his disciple) and will disclose Myself to him (his disciple)” referring to the Spirit’s active communion with the disciples. And in verse 23, Jesus again emphasized that through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son will make their home within believers.
Having understood that the Holy Spirit is the very presence of Christ, God’s relationship with humanity progresses from reverence and love to oneness with God. The law brought fear and reverence to the people. Jesus brought sacrificial love and fellowship. The Spirit brings oneness with God, mind, heart and body (figure 5.2).
Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is continually present with His people. In many places of the Bible, the Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9, Philippians 1:19, 1 Peter 1:11, and Acts 16:7). Apostle Paul referred to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Holiness, which is Christ (Romans 1:4). In John 14:26, Jesus said that He would continue to teach and remind the believers through the ministry of the Spirit. In verse 29, Jesus said explicitly that He would come to them through the Spirit.
In the next section, let us discuss the role and relationship of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus and His ministry. By observing Jesus’s life in relation with the Spirit we can better understand the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus? However, it seems hard to understand the need for Jesus’s total dependence on the Spirit, even though He is the omnipotent God.
The ministry of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are inseparable
Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s ministry are inseparable in the act of creation. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are united in existence and in purpose. The Bible said in Colossians 1:16 that by Jesus all things were created and all things were created for Him. And yet in Genesis 1:2, the Spirit was moving on the surface of the waters creating the earth according to God’s Word. The Spirit is the breath that made Adam a living being (Genesis 2:7); the apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the life giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45). Let us examine the role of the Spirit in the life of Jesus.
– Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb (Matthew 1:18). His very existence on earth is birthed through the Holy Spirit.
– Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:15-16). The Spirit brought power and Messianic endorsement from the Father to heal and to save (Luke 4:18-19).
– Jesus followed the guidance of the Spirit in everything that He did. He was led to the desert by the Spirit for a time of fasting and testing (Luke 4:1). He later returned from the desert in the power and guidance of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). Jesus, during His time on earth did not do anything out of His own will, but only by the guidance and power of the Spirit.
– In the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).
– Through the Holy Spirit, the power of Jesus’s sacrifice was made effective in sanctifying believers of all time (Hebrews 9:14). As we are separated from Jesus by geographical space and time, without the Holy Spirit, the power of salvation could not be extended to us.
– Jesus is called the baptizer of the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). No man can baptize with the Holy Spirit except Jesus Himself. John the Baptist could only prepare the people by baptizing them in water.
– Jesus is called the “Helper” (Luke 2:25) even as Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit as “another Helper” (John 14:16). After Jesus’s ascension, the presence of Jesus remained with believers through the ministry of the Spirit.
From the above, we understand that Jesus and the Spirit are integrally involved in the act of creation. We see Jesus being conceived by the Spirit and resurrected by the Spirit. We see Jesus being anointed with the power that comes from the Spirit. We see Jesus lived and made decisions through the guidance of the Spirit. Jesus referred to the Spirit as His very own presence. By knowing Jesus’s relationship with the Spirit, we gain a better understanding of the Spirit’s relationship with us and His role in our life. The Holy Spirit is instrumental in our justification, our sanctification, our anointing and ultimately our resurrection. Without the Spirit, even Jesus with His perfect obedience to the Father, would not succeed in what He set out to do. Without the Spirit, Jesus could not create the world, and He would not be birthed from above. Without the anointing, He would not be able to heal the sick and break the bondage of sinful man. He could die on the cross, but there will be no resurrection from death for the forgiveness of sins. Without the Spirit, the cleansing power of Jesus’s sacrifice could not be extended to us. We will be a people having a philosophy of God’s love and power but never being able to experience it.
As the children of God, being born and anointed with the Spirit, we will also be resurrected with the Spirit. Hence, we must live in a manner being continually aware of the Spirit’s movements and walk with Him. As Jesus constantly depended on the Spirit, we must develop an ever-deepening fellowship with Him.
Now, let us discuss the foundations that a person must have in order for him to move as one with the Spirit as Jesus did.
What are the foundations of man’s union with the Spirit?
The fear of God in obedience to the law and the desire for intimate fellowship with God. It is good to remember in the first chapter: as God’s revelation of Himself progresses to subsequent stages, it builds itself on the foundations of former revelations. Concerning the law in the age of the Spirit, Apostle Paul taught, “so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4). The Holy Spirit does not annul the ministry of the law. In fact, He helps us to fulfill the law and to walk in it. Jesus taught the disciples saying, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:26. The Spirit teaches and reminds believers concerning the words of Christ.
Now, the foundations of our union with the Spirit are as follows:
a. The fear of God and the knowledge of God’s law. We must fear God, meditate on His laws and be careful to fulfill it. By doing so, we begin to discern the ways of the Spirit and to move in His rhythm in our thoughts and actions.
b. The desire to encounter God and love Him. We must recognize that Jesus came in the flesh, and that we can interact with Him in person, and feel His love and His presence with our senses. We cultivate in our mind-set a constant awareness of His presence and fellowship every moment of the day.
The above are the foundations that form our union with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit works through a person who walks in the rhythm of the Spirit and in the fear of God, who does not harbor bitterness, fears and unresolved relationship issues towards others. The popular belief is that as long as one loves to pray in tongues, worship and serve in church ministries, such a person is spiritual. A spiritual person is not necessarily one who is constantly “involved” in church activities, emotional in worship, or spiritually “excitable”, but one who is principled in truth and merciful in his dealings with others.
The revelation of God through the Spirit is built on former foundations of Christ and the Law, through which He brings a greater level of intimacy, and immediacy between God and man. God now dwells within man and expresses His attributes and righteousness explicitly from within. Man’s response to the revelation of the Holy Spirit is oneness with God (figure 5.2). The Spirit now gives the believer the power to obtain blessings and to obtain God’s glory. This oneness is build on the foundations of the fear and the love of God.
Let us look at the other teachings in the Bible concerning the foundations leading to oneness with the Spirit?
The testimony of God by water, blood and Spirit. One such teaching is found in 1 John 5, where the apostle John detailed the three elements or foundations that enabled the believer to overcome the world and to obtain eternal life. What empowers the believer to overcome the world of corruption and death to receive eternal life? In the passage below, John spoke about the three testimonies: water, blood and Spirit which lead the believer towards victory.
Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6 This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (1 John 5:5-8)
The three foundations of water, blood and Spirit were seen in Christ enabling Him to overcome the world. What do water, blood and Spirit stand for?
First, the water: Christ has to commit Himself to a life of obedience to the Law and righteousness through the covenant of water baptism. Then, the blood: Christ shed His blood on the cross and broke the curse of sin on behalf of the world. Lastly, the Spirit: He demonstrated His power by the continual presence of the Spirit in His ministry and by His resurrection. Christ overcame the darkness of the world through these foundations:
a. Water: His Obedience to the Law and the fear of God.
b. Blood: His covenantal love for humanity.
c. Spirit: His Power in yielding and flowing in the Spirit.
Put in a nutshell, it is Christ’s life of obedience and His sacrificial love which led to His resurrection by the Spirit. John says, “This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 5:6). Those who believe in Jesus and walk in His footsteps will likewise overcome the world (1 John 5:5). Obedience and love are the foundations on which oneness with the Spirit is built. As we obey and fear and love God like Jesus did, then we will experience the power of the Spirit like Jesus did.
Another teaching is found in the book of Romans where Paul systematically explained how the righteous should live by faith.
The teachings of Apostle Paul in the book of Romans. Paul first established the premise in Romans 2:7-9 that only those who seek God’s glory and honor and practise righteousness will experience abundant life, but tribulation and distress is reserved for those who do evil.
7 To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (Romans 2:7-8)
Paul in chapter 1 and 2 established a baseline: that the outcome of life begins with the intents and inclinations of the heart. Whether it is the Jews (those who know God and His Law) or people of other beliefs (the Gentiles). The inclination of the heart towards righteousness and honor is the very first foundation for eternal life.
Paul then systematically sets up the second foundation, which is the grace of God in Christ Jesus. In Romans 3:20-22, Paul taught that no one can be accepted as righteous and blessed by virtue of the inclination of heart or achievement of works for all have fallen short of God’s standard. It is only by the mercies of God shown through Jesus that one can be accepted by God as righteous. Regardless of racial or religious heritage, God displays His love and offers salvation to all through repentance and faith in Jesus.
However, having been justified we must not think that the Law is no longer relevant to our lives. The “works of the Law” (v.20 in the passage below) refers to man’s fleshly and hypocritical effort in conforming to the laws handed down by Moses.
20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction. (Romans 3:20-22)
The law establishes rules that undergirds man’s relationship with God and with one another. It also establishes boundaries that are meant to maintain civil order. Now one may appear to conform to the law, but yet his heart is full of evil! What God requires is not behavioral conformanity to law, but a genuine change of heart to fear God and love others. Paul wrote,
There is none righteous, not even one… There is none who seeks for God… With their tongues, they keep deceiving… Their feet are swift to shed blood… There is no fear of God before their eyes. (Romans 3:10-11, 18)
One may not have committed murder, but yet his heart is full of hatred and murder. One may be regular in weekly worship and tithing, but does not love God with all his heart.
Paul taught that righteousness comes through faith in Christ’s sacrifice (v.22), through which our bondage to sin is removed and our hardened hearts are regenerated. True righteousness or “the righteousness of God” (v.21) results in freedom to love God and others. The law functions as a system of right and wrong, but only through Christ’s love can humanity’s bondage to sin be forgiven and hearts be regenerated.
And still in greater clarity, Apostle Paul wrote,
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)
Hence, the second foundation is the love of God in justifying sinners apart from their works of animal sacrifices and rituals.
The third foundation of the Spirit is taught subsequently in chapter 8. Having established the first and second foundations, Paul establishes the third, which is life in the Spirit. Romans 8:2 says,
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Romans 8:2)
The freedom to live in the light and experience abundant life is found in the indwelling Spirit. For all who yield themselves to the Spirit will be empowered to put to death the works of the flesh and live. Paul wrote,
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. (Roman 8:13)
Hence, only an intentional and continual yielding to the Spirit of truth and love can we put to death man’s sinful nature.
In summary, the more we desire to know the ways of God and live in them, the more we will experience God’s love and blessings in our lives. The foundations of the law, love of Christ and oneness in the Spirit need to be strengthened.
In order to be empowered for righteous living, Jesus taught that it is to our advantage that the Holy Spirit comes in place of Him (John 16:7). The next section describes the distinctive features which the ministry of the Holy Spirit brings.
What are the distinctive features of the Holy Spirit’s ministry as the Helper?
We could feel Christ’s presence with us at all times. When Jesus was in the flesh as recorded in the Gospels, He could not accompany His disciples everywhere they go at every moment of the day. There were occasions Jesus had to separate Himself from His disciples. In Matthew 14:22-25, Jesus sent the disciples to go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake while He went up the mountain by Himself to pray. His disciples were left for a brief moment to face the storm alone. In Luke 9:37-40, we read the disciples could not cast the demon out of a boy until Jesus came down from the mountain. When Jesus went to the cross, the disciples left by themselves were scattered. Jesus in His “physical” form was limited by space and time.
Today, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Christ is ever-present at every moment of the day. I heard some believers who did not understand the ministry of the Spirit say, “I could sense the presence of the Spirit, God is indeed here with us today!” On another occasion, they could also say, “I could not sense the Spirit’s presence with the same intensity as I did the previous week.” Hence, they drew the conclusion that the Spirit was less involved this time. The fact is that the Spirit is always with us whether we sense Him or not!
The issue lies with the believer’s state of mind and posture of the heart. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” A person who fears God and desires Him, could sense the Spirit’s thoughts, peace and presence more keenly. Believers must also understand the distinctive characteristics of the Spirit’s ministry, which is Jesus’s continual presence. Through the Spirit, we have a wonderful Companion who is always by our side, and we will never feel alone again.
We could exercise Christ’s power and wisdom at all times. We will discuss this subject briefly here and more thoroughly in the next chapter. While Jesus could only teach and influence the disciples and the disciples can only depend on their natural mind to understand and to obey. Because what Jesus taught is spiritual in substance, they could not understand or do what Jesus taught. However, after the Spirit came upon the disciples, their ministry took a remarkable turn. They begin to preach and minister in the same way as Jesus did. Peter who cowardly fled from the scene where Jesus was arrested stood boldly and preached repentance with signs and wonders.
In another episode, the disciples of Christ were trying to cast a demon out of a boy but could not. Seeing that Jesus succeeded in casting out the demon, they asked Him why they failed to do so. Jesus replied, “Because of the littleness of your faith … But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:20-21). Jesus was referring to the Day of Pentecost where they would fast and pray leading to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Ever since, the indwelling Spirit empowers with the authority of Jesus to do His miraculous works.
Today, as we ask the Holy Spirit to indwell us, Christ manifests His power and wisdom from within us. As we know, interaction of two human beings is limited by the individuals’ understanding and language. Communion with the Holy Spirit is done through spiritual intuition, not constraint by language or the individual’s cognitive ability.
How do we commune with Christ through the Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Christ. We commune with Him through our intellect (Mind), our emotions (Heart) and our human senses (Body). Once we recognize this fact, our communicative senses will gradually open up and we will commune with Him face-to-face. At the same time, we must understand that the Spirit is now united with our spirit, and lives within our physical body (1 Corinthians 6:17, 19).
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. …Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you. (1 Corinthians 6:17, 19)
Neither language barriers, nor models of communication limit our communication in the Spirit’s realm. It is a communion which cannot be fully represented and spoken with logical words. Existing models and processes of learning are limited by the vocabulary of existing language (intellect) as well as life experience (emotions). Hence, it depends on the ability of the parties to utilize existing vocabulary, human experiences and analogies for successful communication. The Spirit’s communication circumvents the limitations of language, experiential knowledge and models. It is a direct impartation of wisdom (into the Mind), goodness (into the Heart) and power (into the Body) from the Spirit.
The degree to which the power of the Spirit can be directly imparted into the body depends on the posture of a person’s heart. God said to the prophet Samuel when choosing a future king for Israel, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7). The posture of the heart holds the key to the divine empowerment of the Spirit. Right after David was anointed with oil, the Holy Spirit quickened his body to do great exploits and he killed bears and lions even as a shepherd boy.
The first posture of the heart is the desire to know Him and to do His will. The heart’s desire is not for personal gain but to know Him and to do His will. In the process, I establish His Kingdom, even at the expense of my own welfare. God reveals Himself to those who desire to do His will, like the way He appeared to Abraham and communicated with him (Genesis 12:7). Many desire to see God, to feel Him and to touch Him, but were half hearted to the life of obedience. Jesus said,
“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21)
David was anointed as king in place of King Saul because Saul rejected God’s ways. But David feared God, and sought after His heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Unlike the other kings God spoke to David directly and needed no prophets as intermediaries. David functioned not only as king, but on many occasions as priest and prophet as well. When our heart’s posture and desires are one with God, the Spirit will reveal Himself and commune with us. In John 2:24, we see that Jesus did not entrust Himself to the people because He knew what was in their hearts. Consequently, Jesus could not reveal what was on His mind and tell them of the things to come because their motives were selfish. He spoke in parables to the crowd but spoke plainly to His trusted disciples. Similarly, the Spirit would not reveal His thoughts and the things to come unless our heart is one with Him.
Many Christians approach God solely for the reason of having their personal needs and desires met. As God is love, and because we are His children, He gladly fulfills our desires (Psalm 37:4). However, these may never know the heart of God and His plans for the world at a profound level. Their state of maturity is that of a child and the world is centered on their needs. But as the child matures towards adulthood, he begins to understand his father’s business and see the world through his father’s eyes. No longer a child he takes on the identity of a son an image of the father. In figure 5.3, we see a man pursuing the blessings of life and God is perceived as a means to help him fulfill his desires. In figure 5.4, the man pursues God and seeks to take on God’s image but not for the sake of blessings.
Like a lover who desires the presence of his beloved above material wealth and blessings, his chief desire is to please God and do His will on earth. A profound and intimate relationship with the Spirit requires a life of obedience towards God. Paul in Colossians 3:1,2 instructed the people to keep seeking the things above where Christ is and not things on earth (fleshly desires). Jesus said that those who made sacrifices for His sake would receive greater blessings,
“29 Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)
Similarly, Paul wrote concerning eternal life and glory,
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:4)
The second posture of the heart is humility. James taught in the passage below that God rejects the proud,
6 Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:6-8)
God rejects those who are proud, who do not accept God’s rule over their lives. Humility is the quality within us which recognizes that we are mere creatures and He is the Creator and Lord of all. Humility is the quality of meekness and pliability towards God. Pride is self-sufficient and who not needing God. Pride is prevalent among those who have achieved success using their own wisdom and methods. in the larger scheme of things, the proud become blind to the plans of God. Some battles may be won but they will lose the war. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:25 that the foolishness of God is wiser than men. The proud will not understand nor accept the things of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
Unless we recognize our own inadequacies, and humble ourselves, we will not be able to commune with the Spirit. James 4:7 urges believers to submit to God’s ways and reject pride. By doing so, we will be able to understand the profound things that are on the mind of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is tangible as Jesus is in the days of the Gospels
The incarnation of God as an ordinary man sets the direction of God’s relationship with man. In the days of Moses, unlike the other prophets whom God spoke through visions and dreams, God spoke to Moses face to face. That was considered as the most advanced form of communication between God and man in those days. God said concerning Moses, “With him I speak mouth to mouth. Even openly, and not in dark sayings. And he beholds the form of the Lord.” (Numbers 12:8). Yet Apostle Paul taught concerning the ministry of the Spirit, “how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?” (2 Corinthians 3:8). Paul meant that in the ministry of the Spirit, man could see more of God’s glory as compared to what Moses had seen! Moses saw God in a form, but now we can encounter God not only face to face, but also within us through the ministry of the Spirit.
Therefore, just as the disciples were able to interact with Jesus with their natural senses during those days, Jesus remains perceivable through the Holy Spirit, but only by those who love Him. Jesus taught,
“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… while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me.” (John 14:17, 19)
Jesus said the unbelievers of the world cannot see nor recognize His presence, but those who believe in Jesus Christ can. The word “see” in John 14:17,19 is the Greek word: “theoreo” which means perceiving with our senses. Jesus in John 14:19 says, “… you will see Me.” The presence of the Holy Spirit can be perceived by human senses just as Jesus was in the flesh. The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:2-3 was perceived by a great sound, fire, and wind. In my own experience, the presence of the Holy Spirit is often accompanied by sensations of heat, light, water, wind and electricity. In Luke 3:22, John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit as a physical dove descending upon Jesus, and this served as a physical sign for John the Baptist that Jesus is the Christ.
Just as Jesus could be recognized, so can the Holy Spirit. The word “know” in John 14:17 is represented by the Greek word “ginosko” that means recognition beyond doubt. Jesus said when the Holy Spirit manifests Himself, believers will know without a doubt that God is present. Apostle Paul mentioned in Romans 14:17 that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is accompanied by convictions of peace, joy, and righteousness (for these are also the manifestations of Christ). The Spirit’s presence brings peace to our emotions, as He is the giver of peace (John 14:27). Also, the presence of Jesus can be felt and recognized by His grace (love) and truth (John 1:14). This is contrary to the lie that an evil spirit can take occasion to attack when a believer opens himself to the Holy Spirit. James 4:8 says very clearly that when the believer’s heart is submitted to God, the devil will flee. And if we love God and draw near to him, He will draw near to us. It is impossible for a God-fearing believer to receive an evil spirit in his pursuit of God. However, if a person harbors hatred for a brother, the devil is involved already (1 John 1:9-10).
Today, God desires to reveal Himself fully to us so that we can know Him and commune with Him. Now, every one of us is unique. We have peculiar ways of connecting with one another. God knows us and connects with us in a manner that is most suited to our personality and personal convictions. While some may respond more to touch, some prefer to connect through ideas, and others through emotions. We may not sense Him immediately and all the time, but as we draw near to Him, He will reveal Himself to us in His glory. One way or another, we know that through the Word of His promise if we draw near to God, He will also draw near to us (James 4:8).
Learning to validate and register the tangible prompting of the Holy Spirit.
God reaches out to man through various ways, but many people do not perceive it. Job 33:14 says, “Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it.” Samuel the prophet, in his earlier days as an apprentice of Eli the Priest did not recognize the promptings of God. When God called out to Samuel, he thought the voice was that of Eli and ran to him (1 Samuel 3:4-5). Samuel, with the help of Eli learned how to register the prompting of God. If Eli wasn’t there to help him, he would probably have invalidated it and never learned to communicate with God. Many people have never allowed themselves to register the prompting of the Spirit. When they habitually invalidate the prompting of the Spirit, their senses eventually shut down or remain dormant and undeveloped.
How do we awake our senses to the prompting of the Spirit? First, we must understand that the promptings of the Spirit appeal to the very same senses that we use to interact with the physical world. There is little new that we need to learn here as we already know the sensations we feel daily and perhaps. Interpretation is the key. In the case of Samuel, he had to validate the voice he heard and register it as coming from God, with the help of Eli of course. In my younger days, I used to feel energy from the back of my head. This energy would grow and spread itself to the rest of my body causing goose bumps all over. I invalidated it and registered it as a natural and common phenomenon. Years later, after I was baptized in the Spirit, I realized that this is actually the flow of the Spirit’s power. The sensations that I dismissed as common became a way that I now use to observe the operations of the Spirit. As I have now reinterpreted the cause of this phenomenon, I also began to notice the subtle differences in the Spirit’s intensity, texture and temperature. In the healing ministry, I depend on these signals to understand the Spirit’s movements. Heat usually signals physical healing in progress. Cool refreshing water signals the Spirit doing a regenerating work in the heart and mind. A thick super-charged atmosphere would signal the Spirit moving unilaterally touching many people simultaneously.
The eye is another sensing organ whose vision needed much revalidation and reinterpretation. What you see is not necessarily what you will get. In 2 Kings 6:17, when the armies of Aram encircled the city ready to attack, the servant of Elisha saw the enemies and was terrified. Then Elisha came and said to him, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Elisha prayed for his servant and opened his eyes to see the armies of God surrounding and protecting them. We need to see with the eyes of the heart beyond the naked eye. Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:18 that believers could see with eyes of the heart the glory of our inheritance as sons of God. This inheritance includes heavenly things and even angels. Seeing with the heart’s eyes involves revalidating and reinterpreting what we see based on the Word of God. I am testifying that this results in the awakening of eyes to see with a renewed mind-set and perspective. Because of unbelief many believers do not believe even what they have seen. With my heart’s eyes, I can sense the presence of angels in their locations. The presence of angels gives me comfort that God is with me. Sometimes, their presence indicates to me the location of the person seated in the congregation with certain sicknesses. With the heart’s eyes, I can map out the sense of “heaviness” or “lightness” to pinpoint the exact location and the seriousness of disease on a person’s body.
The prophets of the Old Testament as well as Jesus and the Apostles of the New Testament interacted with the glorious things that belong to the spirit realm. They spoke with angels, saw the heavenly things and communicated with God face-to-face. The heavenly things that eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, and hands have not touched are now made visible and tangible to believers today through the Holy Spirit.
At a Glance …
The first foundation is the revelation of God’s mind through the Law. The second is the revelation of God’s heart through the sacrificial love of Jesus. The third foundation is the revelation of God’s enduring presence through ONENESS with the Holy Spirit. Jesus expressed that union with humanity through His death and resurrection. And those who received the gift of Holy Spirit will be united with Christ and His body. Through the Holy Spirit, the presence of God is sealed within man forever.
The Holy Spirit is indeed the Spirit of Christ and He is sent to perpetuate our fellowship with Christ. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit will be “another Helper” just like Jesus is called the Helper of Israel. The Holy Spirit will disclose Himself to those who love God and obey His commandments. Throughout history, the ministry of Jesus and the Spirit are inseparable. The union of Jesus and the Spirit forms a pattern for which we as sons of God should follow.
It is to our advantage that the Holy Spirit comes in place of Jesus. Jesus in the flesh could not accompany the disciples continually. But through the Spirit, Christ is continually present with us. Jesus could only teach and influence the believers. Sometimes they could not find the conviction and the strength to do what Jesus taught. As the Spirit now indwells believers, His power is manifested from within us overcoming our fleshly limitations. As a result, through the Spirit, Jesus can work His power, wisdom and love through us to do even greater works than He alone could accomplish on earth.
Communion with the Spirit transcends language barriers and limitations of natural communication. The Spirit imparts the qualities of Christ’s wisdom, love and power directly into our spirit. We commune with the Spirit with an attitude of humility and a desire to know His will and do it.
The Spirit is tangible as Jesus was in the days of the Gospels. Just as Jesus had fellowship with man and could be perceived and recognized by man’s physical senses during those days, likewise we could perceive and recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit and commune with Him face-to-face today. Hence, believers need to learn to validate and register the prompting of the Spirit that appeal to man’s natural senses.
A glance at the next chapter…
In the next chapter, let us learn about the baptism of the Holy Spirit, its purposes as well as empowerment for abundant living. Let us look at how Jesus operated in His power and wisdom as He ministered to the people. This understanding will enable us to minister like Jesus did. We will also discuss and learn how Jesus moved with the Spirit’s anointing.
Issues to ponder…
1. As the Holy Spirit is given very freely to believers, do you at times take Him for granted so that you do not treasure and cherish His presence? How then should you cherish the Spirit’s presence?
2. When Jesus was in the flesh, He interacted with humanity and was seen and perceived with human senses. Now that Christ is in the Spirit, how then does the Spirit prompt you and interact with you? How can believers sense His presence more intimately?
3. What is the difference in the way believers relate with Christ now (in the Spirit) as compared to the way the disciples related with Christ (in the flesh) during the time of the Gospels?
4. Why is it that believers who read the same Bible and worship the same God, can differ in experiences and levels of intimacy with the Holy Spirit?