The Creator’s Grand Design—Part 15

The Holy Spirit of God

WE HAVE noted the mighty works of God as revealed in creation and have examined the scriptural testimony concerning his purpose in the creation of man. We have found that while man transgressed divine law and was sentenced to death, it is the Creator’s design to restore him to life as a human, on the earth, where, if he is then obedient, he may live in perfection forever. We have found that in the outworking of the Creator’s grand design, Jesus was raised from the dead and exalted to immortality on the divine plane of life and that his faithful followers are promised this same exaltation, to be with Jesus and reign with him for the restoration of mankind to perfect human life.

It is recognized that the outworking of such a grand design calls for the exercise of mighty power—power beyond the ability of the human mind to conceive—and it is this almighty power to which the Bible refers as the Spirit, or Holy Spirit, of God. The Spirit of God is referred to hundreds of times in the Bible. In the New Testament it is usually designated the Holy Spirit, often mistranslated Holy Ghost in an attempt to convey the traditional misconception of the Dark Ages that the Holy Spirit is a person.

In the Old Testament, Spirit is translated from the Hebrew word ruwach, which Professor Strong defines as ‘wind’. The same word is many times translated ‘breath’. In the New Testament, the word Spirit is translated from the Greek word pneuma, meaning, according to Professor Strong, ‘breath, or current of air’. Let us not conclude, however, that the Holy Spirit of God is merely wind, or a blast of air. The ancient Hebrew and Greek languages did not contain specific words for everything, and this was particularly true in expressing thoughts pertaining to God and to his mighty works. However, through use, many words containing specific meanings took on accommodated or additional meanings. Thus ruwach in the Hebrew language, and pneuma in the Greek language, because of their original application to the invisible power of the wind, came to mean any invisible force or power, and were used to describe the invisible power of God.

Broadly speaking, then, the Spirit of God is the invisible power of God by which he accomplishes all his good purposes. It is that almighty power which cannot be thwarted and which enables the Creator to accomplish all the good pleasure of his will. Jehovah declares, “I have spoken It, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isa. 46:11) The Creator also asserts, “My word … that goeth forth out of my mouth … shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”—Isa. 55:11

A Creative Power

The Spirit, or power, of God is manifest throughout all creation. It was the Spirit of God that transformed this planet from an empty, shapeless mass into the beautiful earth that it now is, making it capable of sustaining countless varieties of things, animate and inanimate. In this work of transformation, it was God’s Spirit that set the bounds of the mighty oceans, so that the Creator could say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.”—Job 38:11

It was God’s power that brought forth the grass and herbs in the earth. It was his Spirit that implemented his decree, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” (Gen. 1:2,20) It was God’s Spirit that fulfilled his Word, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind.” (Gen. 1:24) It was God’s power that operated in the creation of man.—Gen. 1:27

It is the Spirit of God, directed in secret processes known only to him, that enables all life on earth to reproduce its kind. Solomon wrote: “Thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.” (Eccles. 11:5) Solomon was the wisest of all men in his day, but he acknowledged his lack of understanding the manner in which the Spirit of God operates; and our scientists today are as limited in their knowledge of the operation of God’s Spirit as Solomon was.

We cannot understand the workings of divine power. We can only marvel at what it accomplishes. Like the wind, it is truly an invisible power. Gravitation is one of its manifestations: “He hangeth the earth upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) But the earth is only an infinitesimal speck in God’s great universe. Think of the countless heavenly bodies, all of which are likewise hung upon nothing, yet they spin around in the orbits designed for them, kept in place by what we call the law of gravitation.

Think of the power of God that is contained in our sun and is given off under a controlled process which furnishes our earth with light and heat! We are told that the sun gives off as much energy in one second as man has used with all his implements ever since he has been on the earth. And even the power or energy utilized by man has its origin with God. Many cannot produce power except by utilizing the created things of God.

Man has now discovered the tremendous energy locked up in a single atom. Try to figure out the number of atoms contained in all of God’s vast creation! It is impossible for the human mind to fathom, but the mere thought of it may help us grasp a little more realistically the almighty power of God. It was a simple matter for a Creator possessing such unlimited power to prepare the earth for human habitation.

The Power of Life

The Spirit of God is a life-giving power. In Genesis 6:17 ruwach is translated ‘breath’ in the expression, “Breath of life.” We could say, then, that the Spirit of God which moved upon the face of the waters was the Spirit of life. Confirming this, Job 12:10 reads, concerning the Creator, “in whose hand is the soul [Margin, life] of every living thing, and the breath [ruwach] of all mankind.” It is this thought that Paul expressed in his sermon on Mars’ Hill when he said concerning God, “In him we live, and move, and have our being.”—Acts 17:28

God’s Spirit is the power of inanimate as well as animate life. “Only God can make a tree,” the poet wrote, and this highlights the fact that but for the Spirit of God there would be no trees, no flowers, no grass, no fruit, no vegetables. Scientists can put together all the elements found in a blade of grass, but they cannot make their blade live. In his sermon to the Athenians, Paul said that God is “not far from every one of us.” (Acts 17:27) Certainly the Spirit of God is manifest all around us—in the beauty and fragrance of the flowers, in his loving provisions of food, and in the gorgeous landscapes which enrapture us with their beauty, formed by the blending of myriad varieties of inanimate life.

When Paul sought an illustration of Christian activity in proclaiming the Gospel, he likened it to sowing and watering; but he explained that it is God who gives the increase. (I Cor. 3:7) How futile would be the work of a farmer in sowing seed in the springtime if God did not give the increase! Some farmers realize, when they see the tiny plants push up the earth and spread forth their leaves, that the power of God is working to give the increase; but others do not realize this. How much more every manifestation of life with which we are surrounded would mean if we could just keep in mind that what we see is not a mere chemical process, not a fortuity of blind nature, but the working of the Spirit of God!

God’s Spirit Everywhere

Some speak of the omnipresence of God, meaning he is present everywhere at the same time. God’s Spirit, his power, is indeed present everywhere and all the time; there is no situation in the entire universe over which he does not have full control, or of which he could not instantly take control. David wrote: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [sheol, the death condition], behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”—Ps. 139:6-10

Here David is expressing his confidence that even in death, that is, hell, he would not be beyond the reach of divine power. How strange the psalmist’s statement would be if hell were a place of fire and torment! But when we accept the scriptural fact that hell is the state or condition of death, this expression becomes rich with meaning. It is simply David’s poetic way of affirming his belief in the promises of God to restore the dead to life. It means that God’s Spirit will reach down into the death state and awaken the dead. This was confirmed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead by the almighty power of the Father. God did not leave Jesus’ soul, his being, in hell, the state of death.—Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27,28,32; Eph. 1:19,20

God’s Thoughts

Another manner in which God has been using his power to accomplish his purposes is through the influence of his thoughts over and in the lives of those whom he calls into his service in the outworking of his plan, particularly during this present era. We all recognize the power of thought. The life of each one of us is controlled by thoughts—either our own thoughts, or those of others which we allow to influence us.

But how does God bring his thoughts, his mind, to bear upon the lives of those in this age who have dedicated themselves to serve him? It is through his written Word. God began the preparation of his written Word through the ancient prophets who wrote and spoke “as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” or power of God. (II Pet. 1:21) The operation of the Holy Spirit upon the minds of the prophets who wrote the Old Testament was miraculous, the writers themselves only dimly understanding the meaning of what they wrote. Peter explains that it was revealed to them “that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.”—I Pet. 1:12

We cannot understand how the prophets were caused to record God’s thoughts. The Bible simply explains that it was by the Holy Spirit. With this knowledge we can say the Old Testament Scriptures are a product or work of the Holy Spirit. The thoughts of God recorded in the Old Testament are to be read and pondered at will by his people. But no one can understand the real import of these recorded thoughts of God until the due time arrives, and then the full meaning has to be miraculously revealed, which brings to our attention another accomplishment of the Holy Spirit.

The miraculous revealing of the meaning of the Old Testament messages began with Jesus. Doubtless through Jesus’ childhood his mother, Mary, had many times told him the circumstances in connection with his birth—that Joseph was not his father, that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This would impress upon Jesus the fact that he was on earth for a special mission, and therefore he would be anxious to learn what that mission was. So we find him in the Temple at the early age of twelve, discussing matters with the doctors of the Law, and asking them questions. He probably learned from them that under the Law It would not be proper for him to enter upon any priestly service for God until he was thirty years old. (Luke 2:42-49; Num. 4:2,3) So he returned to Nazareth and was subject to his mother and foster father until that time came.

When Jesus was thirty years of age he went promptly to John the Baptist at Jordan, and offered himself for baptism. Then a wonderful miracle occurred. The Holy Spirit came upon him. The record states: “The Holy Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) Actually, of course, the Holy Spirit is not in the shape of a dove. The Holy Spirit, as we have seen, is the holy power of God, and here the presence of that power was manifested to John in the likeness of a dove descending upon the Master. The bodily form of a dove was merely an outward demonstration, principally for the benefit of John the Baptist, and to enable him to bear testimony as to what had taken place.

Heavens Opened

In Matthew 3:16 we are informed that when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, “the heavens were opened unto him.” Here was a functioning of the Holy Spirit different from any that had ever before occurred. The Holy Spirit had been operative in the creation of the universe and had given life to all living things. The Holy Spirit had enabled the prophets to record their messages from God for the benefit of his people in a later age. Now the same Spirit had miraculously revealed to Jesus the meaning of those things which previously even the angels could not understand. Now Jesus could understand them.

In this we see the further working of God’s power in communicating his thoughts to the finite minds of those whom he desired should come under their influence in his due time. However, God does not impose his thoughts upon anyone. He did not do this with Jesus. Jesus desired to know his Heavenly Father’s thoughts toward him. He wanted to know his Father’s will in order that he might do it. Jesus’ attitude in this is described in a prophecy concerning him. In this prophecy Jesus is represented as saying, “Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”—Ps. 40:7,8

The volume of the Book here referred to is the Old Testament, which contained a full expression of God’s will for his beloved Son, who delighted to do his Father’s will. He wanted his Father to reveal his will to him, and the heavens were opened; that is, the Holy Spirit revealed to him the meaning of what had previously been written. Even before this the perfect mind of Jesus had probably become well acquainted with the Old Testament Scriptures. Perhaps he had even memorized much of what had been written.

Now the Holy Spirit was revealing to him its true meaning concerning his own mission on earth, and also the plan of God as a whole. The record states that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he remained for forty days. The miraculous revelation of truth which the Holy Spirit had unfolded to him was seemingly so overwhelming and important that he felt the necessity of isolating himself from others for a time that he might have an undisturbed opportunity to adjust himself to the flood of light, of truth, on the Old Testament which had entered his mind, and thus be prepared to fulfill his agreement to do his Father’s will.

Jesus’ Ministry

Throughout the entire course of Jesus’ ministry he was unfolding the various aspects of truth which had been revealed to him. While he did not himself write his teachings, yet, under the later direction of the Holy Spirit, his wonderful words of life were recorded by others and were thus made available for the instruction of all the Lord’s people during the Gospel Age. It was by Jesus’ conformity to the thoughts of God, as revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, that he was prepared to be the great future king of earth; and it is through obedience to those same thoughts of God that Jesus’ followers are prepared to be associated with him in the future work of the kingdom—that glorious work of blessing all the families of the earth.

In the words and works of Jesus we have revealed the meaning of the Spirit-inspired writings of the Old Testament, a bringing closer to us of the holy thoughts of God, that they might exert their intended influence in our lives. When we read the teachings of Jesus we may know that they reveal to us the will of God. When Jesus says that we should love our enemies, it means his Heavenly Father wants us to love our enemies. After all, we are being prepared to be Jesus’ associates in the future blessing of all mankind, and many of the human race today are enemies of God and of his people. We must learn to love these enemies in order to be properly prepared to deal with them and bless them.

Truth Held Back

But we do not have the full will of God revealed through the personal teachings and example of Jesus. He did not give expression to all the wonderful truths revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. He said to his disciples: “I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he [it] the Spirit of truth is come, he [it] will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:12,13) The minds of the disciples were not then prepared to grasp all the marvelous truths which had been revealed to Jesus. Much of what he did tell them was only vaguely understood by them, and many of the lessons they failed to remember.

In John 14:26 we have a promise by Jesus to his disciples that in his name the Father would send the Holy Spirit and that it would be to them a wonderful “Comforter.” The Spirit, he said, “shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” What a wonderful promise! It means that, while there were many truths which Jesus had not revealed to his disciples, later, through the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit, these would be made known to them. Nothing that they needed to know in order to complete the divine revelation through their oral and written ministry would be omitted when the promise to send the Holy Spirit was fulfilled.

At Pentecost this promise was fulfilled. On that memorable day there was a mighty demonstration of power. Explaining it, Peter said that Jesus, “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, … hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” (Acts 2:33) The Holy Spirit was shed forth. There was no way the translators could distort this statement to make it seem as though the Holy Spirit was a third person in a trinity of gods. A person cannot be ‘shed forth’, but a power can be; and it was this power, the Holy Spirit of truth, that came upon the waiting disciples at Pentecost.

While all the disciples who waited at Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit were richly blessed when it was shed forth, only the apostles received from it a miraculous illumination of their minds. They were specially designated by the fact that a visible manifestation of the Spirit in the form of cloven tongues rested upon them. These, in turn, through their oral teachings and their epistles, have made the vision plain for the remainder of God’s people throughout the age. God does not miraculously and directly reveal his truth to his people as a whole, although he helps them to understand truth which has already been miraculously revealed. With the ministry of the apostles, the Spirit-inspired teachings of the Bible were completed.

A Comforter

In promising to shed forth the Holy Spirit upon his disciples, Jesus said it would be a comforter to them. And how true this proved to be! When Jesus was taken from them and crucified, the disciples were made sad of heart. It was much more than the loss in death of a beloved friend. They had accepted Jesus as the foretold Messiah. The disciples knew the God of Israel had promised to send a Messiah through the line of David, and that this great king was to establish a kingdom, a government, which eventually would exert worldwide influence and control. They believed Jesus was this great king, and they believed that in associating themselves with him they would have a share in his kingdom.

With Jesus’ death this hope was shattered, but only until the Holy Spirit was shed forth, for then they realized the messianic kingdom was to be more effective and more glorious than they had ever dreamed it could be. They also realized it had been necessary for Jesus to die in order to redeem the world from death. They now knew that when the Heavenly Father raised Jesus from death he had highly exalted him beyond the comprehension of their finite minds. They now knew that if they became conformed to Jesus’ character-likeness and faithfully laid down their lives as his witnesses, they would, in God’s due time, share the glory of his kingdom and the glory of his exalted position on the throne of God. How wonderfully they were comforted by the Holy Spirit!

Things to Come

Jesus had said when the Holy Spirit of truth came upon the disciples it would show them “things to come,” and it did. (John 16:13) An example of this is found in a sermon preached by Peter shortly after Pentecost. This sermon was prompted by a miracle which he had performed through the power of the resurrected Jesus. It was the healing of a man who had been lame from the time of his birth. Peter explained that Jesus was to come again, and when he did return there would be “times of restitution of all things, which,” he added, “God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” (Acts 3:19-21) However, not until the Holy Spirit of truth was shed forth at Pentecost did Peter understand this great truth of restitution for a lost world.

The Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit completed the miraculous revelation of divine truth given to Jesus at Jordan. Thus, through his teachings and those of the apostles—including Paul, who also later became one of the inspired apostles—the revelation of the divine will for the followers of the Master was completed and Is now contained in the inspired Word. No further miraculous revelation is needed. Paul emphasized this when he wrote to Timothy, haying, “All Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—II Tim. 3:16,17

The ‘all Scripture given by inspiration of God’ is what we speak of as the Old and New Testaments. In these two parts of the Bible, therefore, God has recorded and revealed his thoughts—those thoughts which he has designed shall exert power over and in the lives of those who, during the present age in the divine plan, are fully dedicated to him. In this wonderful arrangement, miraculously provided, is manifested the manner in which the power of God, the Holy Spirit of truth, operates in the minds and hearts of those who surrender to its influence, thus accomplishing the Creator’s design in the lives of those who have been called to joint-heirship with Jesus in his kingdom.

In conjunction with the written Word, the power of God also operates on behalf of his children of the present age through his providential care over them. These providences, properly interpreted, are always in keeping with the Lord’s written words, and every follower of the Master rejoices in them as he can see the marvelous manner in which the promises of God are fulfilled in the everyday experiences of his life. How grateful every follower of the Master should be to realize the same power of God which brought form all the works of creation is working in him, preparing him to live and reign with Christ a thousand years for the restoration of the human race from sin and death to righteousness and everlasting life!

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