The Bible Versus Tradition Series—Part 6

The Holy Spirit

THE Holy Spirit is referred to many times in the Bible. In the King James Version of the New Testament it is frequently translated “Holy Ghost,” but this is an erroneous translation, designed by the translators to imply that the Spirit of God is a person, and thus to bolster the traditional Trinitarian concept of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit being one in person, which is unscripturally called, “The Holy Trinity.”

In the Old Testament, “Spirit” is translated from the Hebrew word ruwach, which Professor Strong defines as ‘wind’. The same Hebrew word is many times translated ‘breath’. In the New Testament, “Spirit” translates 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, many words with specific meanings, through use, took on accommodated meanings. Thus, ruwach in the Hebrew language, and pneuma, in the Greek language, because they described the invisible power of the wind, came to mean any invisible force or power, and were used to describe the invisible power of God.

The Spirit of God is, therefore, the power of God—that invisible power or energy by which the great Creator of the universe accomplishes all his purposes. In Genesis 1:2 we read, “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” In this text the Spirit of God is shown to be a creative power, or energy. The Spirit or power of God is manifested throughout all creation.

It was the Spirit of God which transformed this planet from an empty, shapeless mass into the beautiful earth which it is. In this work of transformation it was God’s Spirit which 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 the Spirit of God, directed in secret ways and by processes known only to the Creator, that brought forth life on the earth, and established laws by which life reproduces itself. 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

God’s Spirit is the power of inanimate as well as animate life. “Only God can make a tree,” the poet, Joyce Kilmer, wrote. 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 a blade of grass, nor can they make it live.

In his sermon on Mars’ Hill, the Apostle Paul said that God is not “far from every one of us.” (Acts 17:27) Certainly the Spirit of God is manifested all around us—in the beauty and fragrance of the flowers; in the loving provision of food; and in the gorgeous landscapes which enrapture us with their beauty resulting from the blending of the myriads of forms of inanimate life.

God’s Spirit in Man

As marvelous as the various manifestations of God’s Spirit are, which we see all around us every day of our lives, the Bible reveals that there is a more personal exercise of his power in the lives of his human creatures, especially those who serve him. Pharaoh said concerning Joseph, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?”—Gen. 41:38

Yes, the Spirit of God was in Joseph. In this instance, God used his power—first to impress the two dreams upon the mind of Pharaoh—and then to reveal to Joseph their prophetic meaning. But how could that be done? some may ask. The simple answer is that we do not know, just as we do not know how God makes a tree. Surely the mighty power that hangs the earth and all the heavenly bodies in the universe upon nothing, that gives life to every living thing, would have no difficulty impressing certain thoughts upon the mind of one of his creatures, and giving another the ability to interpret those thoughts.

Another and different manifestation of God’s power is mentioned in connection with his dealings with Israel during the period of the Judges, in which the nation had no central government. The lack of organization made them easy prey to their enemies. When they became oppressed, and destruction threatened, the Lord intervened. He did this by raising up a leader, or a judge, whom he blessed in dispelling Israel’s enemies. The record is that the Lord put his Spirit on these, meaning simply that he empowered them to accomplish his purposes. See Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; and 14:6.

“By My Spirit”

When Zerubbabel was rebuilding the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and encountering much opposition, the Word of the Lord came to him through an angel, saying, “Not by might [Margin, ‘army’], nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zech. 4:6) This is true of every aspect of our existence, if we are endeavoring to serve the Lord, and are looking to him for guidance and help. His Spirit, when enlisted on behalf of his people, can overcome every obstacle in order to accomplish his design in their lives.

In Matthew 12:23, Jesus indicated that his mighty miracles were accomplished by the Spirit of God. He shows that this will be true of all the blessings which will reach the people when the kingdom of God is functioning in the earth. Thus again we are assured that the promises of God concerning the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead are sure to be fulfilled. His Spirit will allow no defeat of the divine purpose.

God’s Spirit Everywhere

God’s Holy Spirit, his power, is everywhere present, all the time. There is no situation in the entire universe over which God does not have full control, or 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, 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

Sheol is the Hebrew word in this text which is translated “hell.” It signifies the state of death—the tomb—and David is expressing his confidence that even in death he would not be beyond the reach of divine power. It is David’s poetic way of affirming his faith in the promises of God to restore the dead to life. It means that God’s Spirit, his almighty power, will reach down into death and restore the dead to life. This was confirmed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead by the power of the Heavenly Father. As David foretold, God did not leave Jesus’ soul, his being, in hell, or sheol.—Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27,28,32; Eph. 1:19,20

How wonderful it is to realize that the Spirit of God which moved upon the face of the waters, and prepared the earth for life, will again manifest itself in restoring the dead to life, and in restoring paradise! Yes, God’s Spirit will be exercised to provide blessings of health and life for all mankind. Then God’s human creatures will join in the song of praise first sung by David, “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom halt thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.”—Ps. 104:24

The Spirit of Truth

Another manner by which the Holy Spirit, or power of God, is exercised is through its influence over the lives of those whom he calls into his service, particularly during this Gospel Age. We all recognize the power of thought. The life of each one of us is controlled by thoughts—either our own, or the thoughts of others which we allow to influence us.

Shortly before Jesus was crucified he promised the disciples that he would send them the Holy Spirit, which he referred to as “the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16,17,26; 15:26) He explained that the Holy Spirit would proceed from the Father. This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. At that time Peter said that Jesus, “having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”—Acts 2:33

The Holy Spirit, as testified by Peter, was shed forth. Here the translators did not translate pneuma by the word ‘ghost’. If they had, their folly would have been exposed, for it is manifest that a person could not be ‘shed forth’. But a power can, and it was divine power—the Holy Spirit of truth—which came upon the waiting disciples at Pentecost.

At Pentecost there were outward manifestations of divine power such as the mighty rushing wind, and the cloven tongues like as of fire which rested upon each of the disciples. However, its principal work was the enlightenment of the minds of the apostles, and the assurance this revelation gave to them that Jesus truly was the Messiah, and that his death and resurrection had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets.—Acts 2:22,23

When Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, he said it would be a ‘comforter’ to his disciples. And how true this proved to be! When the Master was taken from his disciples they were made sad of heart. They knew that 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, or 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.

It was the coming of the Holy Spirit, and its revealing influence upon their minds, that renewed their hopes. Thereby they were caused to realize that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, and that his death was not a tragedy but a necessary part of the divine plan of salvation that was being accomplished through him. What a comfort this was to them!

The disciples now knew that in his resurrection Jesus had been exalted to a height of glory beyond the comprehension of their finite minds, and that if they became conformed to his character likeness 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 that when the Holy Spirit of truth came to the disciples it would show them things to come, and it did. Now they knew the messianic kingdom of promise was not due to be established until Christ’s return. Shortly after Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon in which he referred to Christ’s return. He explained that then there would be “times of restitution of all things,” which, he declared, had been “spoken by the mouth of all his [God’s] holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:19-21

Through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were able to realize the meaning of the Old Testament promises of God pertaining to the messianic kingdom, and the blessings it would assure the people—all the families of the earth. They now knew the promise that death would be swallowed up in victory was to be fulfilled through Christ’s kingdom, after he returned. They knew it would be then that the blind eyes would be opened, and the deaf ears unstopped. They knew the promise concerning the building of houses and the planting of vineyards, belonged to the time of the kingdom, the “times of restitution of all things.”—Isa. 25:6-9; 35:5; 65:22

Heavenly Hopes

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost resulted in an appreciation of the heavenly hopes set before the footstep followers of Jests by the promises of God, and what these hopes would accomplish in their lives. There are a number of expressions used in the Bible to describe the work of the Holy, Spirit in the hearts and lives of Christians. One of these descriptive words is ‘born’.

This is an expression which suggests the coming into existence of a new life, and this is one of the things accomplished by the power of God’s promises, his thoughts—the Holy Spirit. To Nicodemus Jesus explained that this new life, when it comes fully to birth, will be vastly different than human life. To illustrate this difference, Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”—John 3:8

The word used in the ancient Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and translated “born” in our English versions, at times is also correctly translated “begotten,” and it is necessary to determine from the context which thought is intended by the writer. By observing this distinction, we learn that it is not correct to speak of conversion to Christ as being “born” of the Spirit.

When one comes to God in repentance of mind and heart, and through faith in Christ as his Redeemer surrenders himself in full consecration to do God’s will, what occurs is properly described as a ‘begetting’ of the Spirit. This means, simply, that a new life has begun. But this new life is merely an embryo. It needs to be nourished by the Word of God, and thus to develop, growing strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.

It is not until the resurrection that this new life comes to the birth. Not until then is one truly ‘born’ of the Spirit. It is in the resurrection that the new life, which begins at the time one dedicates his life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, is ‘born’ of the Spirit, and is able to go and come as the wind. Thus we see that to note this difference in the use of the words ‘begotten’ and ‘born’ gives us a much more comprehensive understanding of what the power or Spirit of God, exercised through his written Word, accomplishes on behalf of the consecrated followers of the Master.

Baptism of the Spirit

The Bible also speaks of the ‘baptism’ of the Spirit. The word baptize means ‘to bury’, and to be baptized by the Spirit of God means to be so fully surrendered to the doing of God’s will that one comes fully under its control. From God’s standpoint, the whole church was baptized by the Spirit at Pentecost, and since that time it has remained only for the individual to yield his will to the influence of the divine will as it is expressed through Christ Jesus, to share in that baptism.

It is not indicated in the Bible that there is a fresh outpouring of the Spirit upon every individual who consecrates himself to do God’s will. The Apostle Paul wrote, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” For the individual this baptism occurs when one comes into the body of Christ.—I Cor. 12:13

Filled with the Spirit

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Be ye filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18) How void of meaning this expression would be if the Holy Spirit were a person! But when we recognize that it is simply the power or influence of God, exercised in the Christian life largely through his written Word, then we can understand how it is possible to have either more or less of the Spirit influencing our lives. To be filled with the Spirit calls for an emptying of self and self-will, and a diligent application of ourselves to the study of God’s Word, and to putting into practice all its righteous precepts.

The Bible also speaks of being “sealed” by the Spirit, and of having the “witness” of the Spirit. These expressions indicate still other ways by which the grace of God through Christ and the written Word fills our hearts and minds, not only with an understanding of the divine will, but with the inspiration to follow faithfully in the footsteps of the Master even unto death that we might receive the promised “crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

Upon All Flesh

The Prophet Joel foretold the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and added, “It shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh.” (Joel 2:28) It would b difficult to think of an individual, or person, such as tradition claims the Holy Spirit to be, as being poured out. But this expression is quite understandable when we recognize that the Holy Spirit is God’s power or influence—a power which he exercises to accomplish all his good and holy purposes.

God’s Spirit will be poured out in various ways for the blessing of mankind throughout the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom. He will cause the knowledge of his glory to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:9; 40:5) In Zephaniah 3:9 we are informed that the Lord will turn to the people a “pure language,” or message, and that this will enable all to call upon him and serve him “with one consent.”

In Micah 4:1-4 we are again assured that the “Word of the Lord” will be diffused throughout the earth during the time of Christ’s kingdom, which in this prophecy is symbolized by a ‘mountain’, the “mountain of the house of the Lord.” “The law shall go forth of Zion,” the prophecy states, “and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” As a result of this, the nations will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and they will learn war no more.

Satan’s spirit of selfishness and evil has led to war and a myriad of other manifestations of inhumanity, but God’s Holy Spirit of love poured out upon the people by means of the Word of truth which will then be disseminated, will gradually change the hearts of the people. This is described in Jeremiah 31:31-34 as the ‘writing’ of God’s law in the ‘inward parts’ of the people.

And when the work to be accomplished by this future outpouring of Holy Spirit is complete, “all the families of the earth” (Gen. 12:3) will know the Lord, and so completely that it will no longer be necessary for anyone to say to another, “Know the Lord” (Jer. 31:34), for all shall know him from the least even unto the greatest.

The Dead Awakened

How wonderfully the glory of God will be manifested throughout the earth as all who are asleep in death are, by the Holy Spirit or power of God restored to life. (Acts 24:15) Since the resurrection will be taking place in every part of the earth, the glory of the Lord will thus be seen by the people of every continent and isle of the sea. The miracle-working power of the Creator as seen in the resurrection, together with the diffusion of his Word—the ‘pure language’ spoken of in Zephaniah 3:9—will cause the whole world to rejoice in the God of their salvation. They will say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him!”—Isa. 25:6-9

Surely we can rejoice to realize that the glory of God will thus be revealed by the Holy Spirit, and through his Son, Christ Jesus, who—as the mighty Arm of Jehovah—will be glorified as he is seen by the “eyes of all nations; and all the ends of the earth … see the salvation of our God.”—Isa. 52:10

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