Fellowship with the Holy Spirit
Who Is the Holy Spirit?
Christian tradition starts speaking of the Spirit by saying that the Holy Spirit is God, the Bible.
The Bible shows that the Holy Spirit is a person and is God :
- the Spirit's work in the Old Testament is closely identified with the Word of YHWH spoken by the prophets (this was affirmed by the early church in 2 Peter 1:21, and in the Creeds).
- the close ties between Jesus' mission and the work of the Spirit (see the work of the Holy Spirit).
- the close ties between the mission of the apostles and the work of the Spirit; esp. see 1 Peter 1:12.
- The episode with Hananiah (Ananias) in Acts 5, where first, Peter says that Hananiah lied to the Holy Spirit, then later says that he lied not to men but to God.
- The trinitarian baptismal formula found in Scripture (Matt 28:19): “in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. It dates to the church's earliest days.
- Jesus made a habit of confronting traditions with “box-breaking” actions. He ate with tax collectors and other scorned people. He turned over the tables of the money changers in the temple. He talked to the woman at the well. He healed the occupier-centurion's daughter. The Holy Spirit does the same kind of thing in Acts, and ever since.
- In Acts 9:31, it is said that the church lived and grew not only in the fear of the Lord, but in the comfort of the Spirit.
The Spirit has the attributes of God, such as :
Not only is the Holy Spirit God, the Spirit is a full person of the Trinity. What is meant by that? (Forgive me for talking strange here, but this is about the Holy Spirit, the One that words are least able to describe.) The Spirit is an 'I', able to take action and cause action.
The Spirit is able to be a 'we' with other 'I's. The Spirit can be addressed as 'you'; by other 'I's (such as you and me), and can respond as an 'I'.
Thus, when we say, “Come, Holy Spirit”, the Spirit can come, not as if on command, but as promised.In a 1997 Barna survey, 61% of surveyed US residents agreed with the statement that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God's presence or power, but is not a living entity”. A majority or near-majority of those in almost every Christian denominational family saw it that way, including mainline Protestants and evangelical Christians.
It was most commonly held that way by non-whites and young people. It's a view with ancient roots. There were differences early on which the Church's thinkers probed and prodded and discussed at length. Back in the days of the early church, some held that the Holy Spirit was an 'emanation' of God the Father.
Others thought of the Divine Wind in the same terms as the Talmudic discussions on the divine Shekinah (Presence), as an expression of what Christians call the 'Father'. Those views are not far off, but they're just describing part of a larger picture.
It's speaking of an elephant by describing its ears without reference to its trunk, tusks, or thick legs.
The Holy Spirit As a Person
The Holy Spirit isn't a mere symbol of anything. No mere symbol is able to:
In the Bible, the Spirit has intellect, passions, and will, and can be grieved. In short, the Holy Spirit has a personality. The Spirit reflects the will and the thoughts of the Father, and brings them to us in many ways, most central of which is the Holy Scriptures.
Thus, the proper question is not “What is the Holy Spirit?” but “Who is the Holy Spirit?”. Yet the Spirit doesn't always act so personal in a given situation, and that may be the Spirit's choice.
Thus, the Spirit can be depicted in non-personal ways, such as wind and fire, and indeed Scripture itself does so. More importantly, it matters little how you ask the question and much more that you ask, for so much hinges on the asking.
God already knows what you meant.
As God, the Holy Spirit can act in whatever manner the Spirit wants to act. The Spirit generally acts through the church, but doesn't have to; the Wind blows where it will. The Divine Wind is free not to always be seriously focused on those purposes; the Inspirer can have fun while at work.
Thus, to say it again, amidst all the haze and disguise: who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is a Person. The Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit is at work in the world we live in, and within and/or on ourselves. In different ways, with different potency, with different effect, at different times, but most definitely here and at work.
No Mere Force
This is all stuff that can't be true of a mere (or even 'The') Force. That is how we often experience God's Breath and know of the Spirit's presence, but that is not what the Spirit is. As God, the Holy Spirit is cause, and that cause has effect. Yet, there are some who reduce the vibrant Unseen Spirit of God to:
- a force,
- a collective will,
- the sum of all spirits,
- a living memory of the gathered believers,
- the force of emotion or conscience within a person.
Those people, fine folks as they may be, are describing a different spirit than the Holy Spirit known by the Christian faith. The Holy Wind works in ways that seem each of these ways and more, yet against all of them at times.
The Holy Presence works in whatever ways are needed to do what needs to be done, except in choosing not to take forceable control of people's actions. The Spirit is at work leading each and all of us toward Christ, whether from inside or from outside.
Thus, we must not be quick or harsh when correcting each other, lest we get in the Spirit's way.
Grieving the Spirit
We can cause the Holy Spirit grief. The main way to do that is malice, which shows itself though bitterness, rage, anger, clamor (making lots of noise and disruption), and slander. In malice, one acts with the purpose of doing harm. Paul follows this description by what makes for a happy Holy Spirit: forgiving others as, in Christ, God forgave you.
The Holy Spirit In the Old Testament
The Spirit shows up in the Old Testament (OT), especially in the prophets' books. But not quite as Christians would envision.
- The OT does not use Heb.
(soul of earthly beings) to describe God. It uses Heb.
isn't treated as mediator between God and humans. The Holy Spirit is God at work, not a go-between. The word ruach means a movement of air (wind, breath)
- There are 'general' references to the Spirit of God, including several on the lips of a non-believer. When that happens, the term may have been used to mean 'divine spirit', a recognition that a god (whomever the god is) is at work, and some sort of power or authority beyond the usual is rather obviously causing things to happen.
- The Messiah is said by Isaiah to be specially endowed with God's spirit: Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; 61:1.
- The Spirit is seen as God's presence in the hearts of each believer: Psalm 51:11; Psalm 139:7.
- The Spirit sustains life (Psalm 104:29-30)
- In Ezekiel (37:9) and Isaiah (34:16; 48:16; 63:10), there is a hint of personality, more so than in the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures.
In the main OT Jewish way of looking at it, the Divine Breath was a life force or energy of God, the operational side of what a Christian would term “the Father”, rather than a Person in the Trinitarian sense.
A psalmist speaks of God's 'Spirit' acting in a personal way (Psalm 143:10), but the use of 'spirit' there is probably another way to say 'God' (Hebrew poetry uses many ways to say the same or similar things).
Isaiah and Ezekiel give hints toward envisioning the person-ness of the Spirit, but it is not until the writings between the testaments that this vision takes on a clearer shape, and not until Christ that it is given its full dimension.Doctrine on the Holy Spirit is difficult to speak about, because it defies normal theo-logical definition. All activity of God in earthly or churchly life is by the Spirit. Without the Holy Breath, the Bible would be a closed book to us, the sacraments would be mere ritual, our lives would not be inspired to change with redirection and growth in Christ.
Our churches would fail to be a fellowship and would not be knit together as a body. In a sense, we talk around the Spirit rather than on the Spirit; we describe the effects rather than the nature. Yet, since we can't comprehend any of God's work on earth without the Spirit, we cannot engage in theo-logy without talking theo-illogically about the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does not bear witness of the Holy Spirit, but of Christ – which of course makes the Spirit even harder to understand. The Divine Breath does not physically do anything. All of the action we know about happens through the physical world's beings and activities.
Just as Jesus incarnates God, the Spirit inspires material life, including us. So it's easy to mistake the Holy Ghost's work for our own work, or that of other people or of nature or science or society — and vice versa. Easy, but crucially wrong.
Karl Barth described the Holy Spirit as “the subjective reality of revelation”.
The early Eastern Orthodox teachers put it this way: the 'face' of the Father is revealed by the Son; the 'face' of the Son is revealed by the Holy Spirit. Notice: there is no Person who reveals to us the 'face' of the Spirit.
The shape of the Spirit's 'face' is recognizable only by way of the unseen Spirit, working through the the Scriptures in revealing Jesus. Even the Scriptural witness to the Spirit as a vigorous and powerful entity is rarely direct, visible, or clear. The Inspiring Spirit, after all, is who makes the Bible so useful in revealing faith matters.
The Scriptural witness is to the presence, activity, and effect of the Holy Spirit — a second-hand report of the 'face' as seen in a fog bank. If we are to look in Scripture for the Spirit's 'face', it's best found in the same source that best reveals the Father — Jesus.
For it is Jesus who is God-with-us, God at His most tangible and most detailed. Even that, however, is indirect, for Jesus is not the same Person as the Spirit, and operates in a different way.This leaves us with the followers, the 'church', or 'Body', of Christ, formed by the Spirit — but that comes in countless shapes, and is often far from living in a way that reflects the Triune God. Thus, the mist remains. We are left to probe, try, test, ponder, and ultimately live in the mystery.
It's always a challenge to convey the definition-bursting, un-material, inside-out nature of the Third Person of the Trinity. So I use many different names. [That, and Google hates keyword-stuffing ;)] The main name is “Holy Spirit”, or “the Spirit” for short. But there's also “Spirit Of God”.
Or the Germanic/older English term, “Holy Ghost”. Or “Divine Breath”, “Divine Wind”, “Divine Fire”, “Unseen Spirit”, “Pneuma”, or “Holy Breath”. I try not to get too poetic, because this is not a poem. But there are poetic terms you can use.
Divine creativity is boundless, and while ours falls short of that, it too is vast.
“We do not need to wait for the Holy Spirit to come: he came on the day of Pentecost. He has never left the church.”
—— John Stott, “Setting the Spirit Free” (*Christianity Today*, 12 Jun 1981, p.21)
“In Luke … receiving the Holy Spirit is the way that those who already believe in Christ are empowered to serve Him. …. It's more important to focus on how one lives the Spirit-filled life than on a rigid formula for receiving it…. Receiving the Spirit in the Lucan sense is not a one-time event, but an ongoing way of life.”
—— Larry Christenson (attrib.)
“the Spirit has his own existence and personal function in the inner life of God and the economy of salvation: his task is to bring about the unity of the human race in the Body of Christ, but he also imparts to this unity a personal, and hence diversified, character.”
—— John Meyendorff, *The Orthodox Church*, p.197
Why should the children of a king Go mourning all their days? Great Comforter, descend and bring
Some tokens of your grace.
Do you not dwell in all your saints, And seal the heirs of heaven? When will you banish my complaints,
And show my sins forgiven?
Assure my conscience of her part In the Redeemer's blood; And bear your witness with my heart,
That I am born of God.
You are the earnest of his love, The pledge of joys to come; And your soft wings, celestial Dove, Will safe convey me home.
“Spell this out in capital letters: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON. He is not enthusiasm. He is not courage. He is not energy. He is not the personification of all good qualities, Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather.Actually, the Holy Spirit is not the personification of anything…… He has individuality. He is one being and not another. He has will and intelligence. He has hearing. He has knowledge and sympathy and ability to love and see and think. He can hear, speak, desire, grieve and rejoice.
He is a Person.”
—— A. W. Tozer, *The Counselor*
“The Holy Spirit, object of faith, is also an object of prayer: we must not only pray that we receive the Holy Spirit. We must pray to him.”
—— Karl Barth, *The Faith Of the Church*
Every time we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we mean that we believe that there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it.
—— J. B. Phillips, *Plain Christianity*
Thy Holy Spirit, Lord,can bring the gifts we seek in prayer;His voice can words of comfort speakand still each wave of care.
*Thy Holy Spirit, Lord, Alone*, v. 3, by HenriettaBlair
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Cultivating Daily Fellowship with the Holy Spirit – Part 2
In the first part of this series, we looked at the biblical identity of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of the Holy Spirit for the believer today. It is impossible to have fellowship with someone that we don’t know anything about.
This is why knowing the Holy Spirit and how he desires to minister in us and through us is critical to know before we can understand fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
Now let us look into the biblical mandate for fellowship with the Holy Spirit and how to cultivate this fellowship in our daily lives.
What is Fellowship with the Holy Spirit?
The New Testament Greek word ‘koinonia’ basically means ‘sharing in common.’ We get our English word ‘coin’ from here. J.H.
Thayer points out that it is ‘fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse.
’ Christians are partakers in common of the same mind as God, Christ and the Holy Spirit and of the blessings arising there from. It is also commonly used of the intimate bond of fellowship which binds believers together in Christ.
1 John 1:3 NKJV “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
2 Cor. 13:14 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
What does fellowship with the Holy Spirit involve?
Fellowship with the Holy Spirit involves sharing our lives in common with him. It means opening up the deepest parts of our personality to the influence and direction of God’s Spirit. Our thoughts, motives, feelings, attitudes, decisions must be laid bare in his presence.
He must have a say in our future plans, fears, hopes, passions, visions and choices. We should seek his counsel and wisdom in all things and submit to his promptings, urges and nudges.
We share with him the choice of a marriage partner, of career and profession, the details of our relationships and intimate friendships, and you name it.Fellowship with the Holy Spirit means taking pains to find out and do what pleases him. (Acts 15:28) It means avoiding the sins against the Spirit and majoring in the character traits that reflect the fruit of the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22, 23) We cultivate intimacy with the Spirit of God on a daily basis when we invite him to help us in our day-to-day decision-making.
Here is a list of the sins against the Holy Spirit we must watch and avoid as we seek to fellowship with him:
- Grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30)-making him sad by behavior contrary to the fruit of the Spirit-anger, hatred, bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.
- Quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19)-putting out the fire of the Spirit by refusal to pray and be on fire for the gifts and anointing of the Spirit to work through you.
- Insulting the Spirit (Heb. 10:29)-Living a life of continual deliberate sinning after receiving the knowledge of truth.
- Resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51)-Going in the opposite direction to the definite guidance of the Spirit.
- Vexing the Spirit-(Is. 63:10)-Living in deliberate rebellion against the leadership of the Spirit.
- Lying to the Spirit (Acts 5:3)-Telling intentional untruths and half-truths to anointed men/women of God with the intention of deceiving God’s people.
- Tempting/Testing the Spirit (Acts 5:9)-Teaming up to provoke God’s Spirit to do things he would not normally want to do.
- Blaspheming the Spirit (Matt. 12:31, 32)-Attributing the works and words of God’s Spirit to Satan and demons when you have a clear witness within yourself.
- Striving with the Spirit (Gen. 6:3)-Walking in the flesh continually against the promptings of the Spirit.
- Rebelling against the Spirit (Ps. 106:33)-Refusal to do what God’s Spirit expressly commands.
Why is it important to cultivate fellowship with the Holy Spirit?
The Christian life is a supernatural life. Fallen man is indwelt by a sinful nature which fights him even after he is born again. (Gal. 5:16; Rom. 7:14-22) Therefore the new creation in Christ Jesus must constantly be empowered from within and above to be able to live and walk worthy of his calling as a child of God. This is what the fellowship with the Holy Spirit does for us.
He is our teacher
Jesus explained that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and bring to our remembrance all he has taught us. God’s Spirit knows the past (Jn. 14:26), the present (1 Cor. 2:10,11) and the future (Jn. 16:13).
Every teacher works best with attentive students eager to learn, who have time for him and ask the right questions for better understanding of the subject.
If we do not spend time to cultivate fellowship with the Spirit, we cannot understand his symbols and teaching methods, or grasp the deeper meanings of the lessons he desires to teach us. We frustrate him by our dumbness.
He is our guide
Our Lord explained that the Spirit will guide us into all truth and give us ability to cope with life and its stresses.
We need to cultivate a lifestyle of keeping our eyes on our guide in order to avoid the doctrinal pitfalls and wiles of the enemy.
Our invisible adversary the devil is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom to devour and we must keep pace with the Paraclete to outwit him. (1 Pet. 5:8; Jn.16:12-13)
He is our Helper
The Holy Spirit helps us with our weakness in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27); he pours the love of God into our hearts when we need it most (Rom. 5:5); we put to death the deeds of the flesh through his empowering (Rom. 8:13); he gives us the counsel we need to succeed; he conforms us to the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor. 3:18)
How do we cultivate daily fellowship with the Holy Spirit?
Our hunger for growing intimacy with the Holy Spirit can be best seen when we commit ourselves to building a life of daily fellowship with him. Give yourself plenty of room to fail and make mistakes. Just as the marriage relationship becomes more rewarding as you work on knowing and understanding one another more intimately, so it is with the Holy Spirit.
1. Develop sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. The dove from heaven is so gentle and sensitive he will never force himself on you. Moses’ face shone and he did not know it (Ex. 34:29); the Lord left Samson and he did not know it, Judges. 16:20.
In the same way, the Spirit comes as a dove to rest upon us and we need to spend time in his presence to detect what grieves or pleases him. He soothes, he comforts, calls by name and can even give you a pet name. Daily times of devotion, silence and solitude are indispensable, Ps. 46:10.
Practice living in God’s presence moment by moment.
2. Cultivate fellowship with the Spirit through conversation. Greet the Holy Spirit each morning. Ask him questions. Invite him to help you constantly as you face your challenges. Freely share your joys and sorrows with him. Build a habit of referring decisions to him.
At first it may look awkward as you seem to hear no reply. Understandably, it will be slower for you to make decisions, but it is just because you have not yet learnt to identify his language and symbols.
He communicates all the same, and you grow gradually into understanding what he is saying.
3. Grow in daily fellowship with the Spirit as you read and react to the scriptures. Invite him to open your understanding whenever you turn to the scripture. (Eph.
1:17) Discipline yourself to have a daily quiet time of meditating on the scriptures. Satan blinds our understanding. (2 Cor. 4:4) The Holy Spirit opens it. He gives deeper insight and conviction.
Invite him to empower you to obey the scriptures.
4. Build intimacy with the Holy Spirit through prayer. Invite him to help your weakness during times of prayer. He knows and prays according to the will of God. Ask for his anointing to make two-way praying possible. He helps to intensify your prayer. Pray in the Spirit. (Jude 20, 1 Cor. 14:2, 13-15)
5. Increase your friendship with the Holy Spirit through passion for him. Love God’s Spirit for himself. Be more interested in the Spirit than in his gifts and what you can get him.
Tell him you love him. Sing songs to him as you would to a friend. Enjoy his company. Get interested in his interests and avoid grieving and quenching him. Commit yourself to cultivating the fruit of the Spirit.
Do not love the world.
6. Partner with the Holy Spirit in ministry. Invite him to minister with you as you preach, teach, witness, or lead the people of God. Ask for his anointing and words taught by the Spirit. (1 Cor.
2:3-5, 13) Co-operate with him concerning your fields of ministry. (Acts 16:6, 7; 8:29) Invite him to chair your meetings. (Acts 15:28) Spend time in the company of those filled with the Spirit.
Let spiritual songs be around you and in your heart.Cultivating daily fellowship with the Holy Spirit is an exciting adventure that takes time and effort but is worth it.