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"The study of God's word, for the purpose of discovering God's will, is the discipline which has formed the greatest characters." - James W. Alexander

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The Canon of the Old Testament
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Paul's Apostleship and Authority
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Jesus: Eternal and Divine Son of God
Jesus: Born, but Not Begotten
God's Amazing Grace
What is the Gospel?
The Passion of the Christ
A Study of Baptism
Assurance of Salvation
Origins of Christian Worship
A History of Church Divisions
Introduction to Denominations
Examining Catholic Doctrines
False Doctrines of the Early Church
Three Days and Three Nights
Predestination and Calvinism
The Holy Spirit: Our Help and Strength
What is Speaking in Tongues?
The Grace of Giving
The Day Christ Comes Again
Works and Rewards
Introduction to the Book of Revelation
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The Holy Spirit: Our Help and Strength
Written by Bob Williams

A Distinct Divine Person

In speaking of the Holy Spirit, the Bible doesn't always use the exact term, "Holy Spirit." We also find terms such as "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," or simply "the Spirit." The word "Spirit" is from the Hebrew word ruah/07307 and the Greek word pneuma/4151, both of which mean "breath" or "wind." Accordingly, the Bible thus speaks of the Spirit as being the breath that goes forth from God.

Some people believe that biblical references to this Spirit or breath are simply literary devices to refer to a way in which God has seen fit to manifest Himself. In other words, they believe that when the Bible speaks of the Spirit of God going forth and doing something, it really is just another way of saying that God Himself is doing something. Their view is that the Spirit is basically an impersonal force or power or some kind of spiritual essence that emanates forth from God without necessarily being considered as a separate and distinct person (some verses used are Luke 1:35; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Corinthians 2:11).

Most people, however, believe that the Bible indicates that the Holy Spirit is to be construed as an actual divine person separate and distinct from God the Father and Christ the Son. Naturally there is a strong tie between the Spirit and God and Christ, but, just as our breath is a part of us and yet is somewhat a distinct entity which goes forth out of us, so also perhaps it could rightly be said that the Spirit of God/Christ is a part of God/Christ and yet also goes forth as a separate and distinct divine person.

There are several passages in Scripture which suggest a distinction between the identifications of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. In the OT see Nehemiah 9:5, 20; Psalm 51:11; 139:7; Isaiah 48:16; 63:10; Ezekiel 36:27; Haggai 2:5; and Zechariah 4:6. In the NT there are passages such as Matthew 28:19 ("Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.") and John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, and 16:7-10 (we'll look at these passages in detail later), wherein Jesus speaks of praying to the Father about the sending of the Holy Spirit, thus reinforcing the view that there are three distinct persons of deity.


1 John 5:6-8

One passage often considered in regards to this subject is 1 John 5:6-8. The KJV reads: "(6) This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. (7) For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. (8) And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one."

There are several interesting aspects of this text (not all necessarily relevant to our specific topic, but interesting to briefly discuss). First, what does John mean by Jesus coming by "water and blood"?

  • Many scholars believe that he is referring to a citation in his own gospel record: John 19:34-35. John apparently was a witness to the event which he alone records, that being the soldier piercing the side of Jesus and the pouring out of blood and water.
  • Some have also seen within this test a possible allusion to the means by which we are cleansed from sin, that being the shed blood of Christ ("Passion" - blood from both scourging and when pierced in side on cross) and the water of the believer's baptism which symbolizes the cleansing by that blood.
  • Perhaps the most likely understanding is that the blood refers to Jesus' death, and that the water refers to His baptism. This event is recorded in Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, and Luke 3:21-22, and all three accounts state that the Spirit of God (or Holy Spirit) descended upon Christ in the form of a dove, and these words were heard from above: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." In Matthew 12:18, Isaiah the prophet is quoted (from Isaiah 42:1) as saying: "Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles." This would perhaps easily fit with v8 in indicating that the Holy Spirit, Jesus' baptism, and His death all three bear witness to the divinity of Jesus the Christ.

Finally, of primary interest to our topic of the Holy Spirit, it needs to be recognized that there is little manuscript evidence for the KJV insertion of v7 (the earliest manuscripts apparently do not have it). Some say that these words were first uttered in a sermon in the year 385 by a Spanish preacher named Presilium. Some say the words were included in an exegesis by Cyprian. Regardless, these words somehow made their way into the text of later Latin translations, and then ultimately into the Greek text from which was translated the KJV. The verse certainly does appear to speak a concept that is consistent with other biblical teaching (that there are three divine persons), but (to be scholastically responsible we would have to admit) it does not appear that John was originally inspired to include it in this part of Scripture.



Sometimes people use the word "Trinity" to refer to the union of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit. The origin of the term is discussed in an article from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion-the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. . . .
In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180. . . . Afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian ("De pud." c. xxi). In the next century the word is in general use. It is found in many passages of Origen ("In Ps. Xvii", 15). The first creed in which it appears is that of Origen's pupil, Gregory Thaumaturgus. In his Ekthesis tes pisteos composed between 260 and 270, he writes:
There is therefore nothing created, nothing subject to another in the Trinity: nor is there anything that has been added as though it once had not existed, but had entered afterwards: therefore the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Spirit: and this same Trinity is immutable and unalterable forever (P. G., X, 986).

Many Christians today, even if not Catholic, would basically agree with the above teaching. One problem, however, with using the word "Trinity" is the unfortunate circumstance that (as with perhaps many theological words) not all people necessarily mean the same thing when using that word. Some think the word is used to teach that there are three gods (whereas Scripture teaches that there is only one God), and others have even gone so far as to say the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is a "three-headed God." Perhaps it might be best to always clarify what one actually believes rather than just use a word that might be misunderstood by others.



Likewise, the word "Godhead" is sometimes used to refer to these three distinct persons who possess divine majesty. But, again, as with the word "Trinity," the word "Godhead" can also be misunderstood or misused. Actually, the word does not really mean what some people may think it means. The use (or misuse) of this word is derived from the 3 times it is found in the KJV of the Bible:

Acts 17:29 "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."

  • theios/2304, adjective meaning "divine"
  • Thayer: "used by Greeks to denote the divine nature"
  • It is found in the only two other uses: 2 Peter 1:3 and 4
  • Translated as "divine" in both these cases in KJV
  • NASB and most other recent versions have "Divine Nature"
  • NKJV translation has "divine nature"

Romans 1:20 "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:"

  • theiotes/2305, noun meaning, "divinity, divine nature" (only instance of this word in NT)
  • NASB and most other recent versions have "divine nature"
  • NKJV still retains "Godhead"
  • If used basically as a synonym for Trinity, this verse would not really be grammatically sensible!

Colossians 2:9 "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."

  • theotes/2320, noun meaning "deity" (only instance of this word in NT)
  • NASB and most other recent versions have "Deity"
  • NKJV retains "Godhead"
  • Meaning is that in Christ dwells full deity or divine nature/majesty

Again, other than the KJV and NKJV, most translations realize the inadequacy and inappropriateness of the word "Godhead" and have instead used words and terms like "Divine Nature," "divinity," or "deity." In other words, it is not grammatically proper or biblically accurate to use the word "Godhead" as if it was a title of the group of three persons. Those three persons are not the Godhead. Rather it would be more accurate to actually say that those three persons possess "Godhood," meaning that they each possess the quality of being God or possessing the quality of divine majesty.


The Holy Spirit in the People of Israel

The Spirit in the writings of the OT was basically the manifestation of God in action, accomplishing some particular end or purpose of God (if God wanted something done, He often sent His Spirit to take care of it). Most OT passages concerning the Spirit deal with the covenant relationship between God and the nation of Israel. And most of these passages have to do with gifts and/or powers conferred by the Holy Spirit upon the people of Israel. God cared greatly for His children and thus He blessed them, and these blessings were often carried out by the Spirit.

  1. Judges 6:34. The Spirit conferred power (upon Gideon who was called to be a leader for God's people; also in 3:10 upon Othniel, 11:29 upon Jephthah, 13:25 and 14:6 upon Samson, and in 1 Samuel 16:14 where it says "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul.").
  2. Exodus 31:2-5. The Spirit conferred wisdom and skill (upon workmen for the tabernacle; also Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25 upon Moses and seventy elders who were to be leaders in Israel; Deuteronomy 34:9 upon Joshua as he was to succeed Moses).
  3. The Spirit had a part in OT prophecy, helping people like Saul (1 Samuel 10:6ff) and David (2 Samuel 23:1-2; Mark 12:36) and later prophets (preachers) who were trying to help the people of Israel get back to the way they were supposed to be (Ezekial in Ezekiel 2:2; 8:3; 11:1ff; Micah in Micah 3:8; also 2 Peter 1:20-21 which says that prophecy was not merely an act of human will, but "men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." 2 Timothy 3:15-17 refers to OT writings as being inspired, implying divine help).
  4. Ezekiel 36:22-27. The Spirit imparted moral and spiritual character (also Psalm 143:10, Isaiah 32:15-17, 44:3-5, and Zechariah 12:10).

How would we summarize these things? What was the Holy Spirit doing for the people of Israel? He was helping them to be what God wanted them to be. God had chosen the people of Israel to be His children, and He entered into a covenant relationship with them. Because He loved them and cared for them, God gave His Spirit to lead them, guide them, help them, strengthen them, bless them, and (overall) to help them be the kind of people God wanted them to be. (Later in our study we'll see that that is basically what the Spirit can do for us today as well.)


The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus 

The Spirit was involved in the Birth of Jesus. See Matthew 1:18-20; Luke 1:26-42, 67-68; 2:25-28.

The Spirit was likely involved in the childhood and maturing of Jesus. Luke 2:40-52 perhaps suggests the influence of the Spirit during the childhood of Jesus. The KJV (based upon the Received Greek Text) of v40 reads, "And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit (pneuma/4151), filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him." Perhaps this is a reference to the general human spirit of all mankind, but it seems reasonable, based upon all the information regarding the influence of the Holy Spirit throughout the life of Jesus, that the Spirit to some degree had an effect on His childhood and His maturing during the early years of His life.

The Spirit was involved in the Baptism of Jesus. According to Luke 3:23, Jesus was about 30 years of age at the time of His baptism and the beginning of His public ministry. See Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:22; John 1:32-34. Apparently the baptism of Jesus was the occasion for a complete bestowal of the Spirit upon Him (surely Jesus was not without any influence of the Spirit prior to that time). John 3:34 records John the Baptist saying that God gave the Spirit to Christ "without measure." V35 says, "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand." (This would contrast with the individual and partial distribution of the Spirit such as upon various ones in 1 Corinthians 12.) In Acts 10:37-38, Peter seems to indicate that the baptism of Jesus also served as the formal and public anointing for His Messianic work. Such an anointing for public service was common in the OT for priests, kings, and prophets. Those anointings were done with oil, and the oil came to be regarded as a symbol of the Spirit of God.

It has been suggested that the appearance of the Spirit as a dove could symbolize several things: association with creative power; divine wisdom or reason; or perhaps the brooding or hovering of the Spirit as in Genesis 1:2. It is also worth noting at this time that there is a probable connection between Christ's reception of the Spirit at the time of water baptism and the reception of the Spirit by a believer at the time of water baptism (see Acts 2:38 and Galatians 3:26-27; 4:6).

The Spirit was involved in the temptation of Jesus. Matthew 4:1 says Jesus was "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness." Mark 1:12 says, "The Spirit impelled (KJV: driveth) Him to go out into the wilderness." Luke 4:1 says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit...was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness." James 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted, but Philippians 2:6-8a teaches us that Jesus laid aside His divine privileges, and thus in His humanity, it was therefore possible and necessary for Jesus to be confronted with temptation. (Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.) It is unlikely that the specific temptations mentioned in Scripture were the only such that He endured, and surely it was by the means of the Spirit's help that He remained sinless throughout all His life.

NOTE: Some might struggle with the idea of Jesus truly being tempted, but Hebrews 4:15 leaves no doubt but that He was tempted just like we today are tempted. By definition, to be tempted is to be enticed by that which appeals to one's desires. This is consistent with the words of James 1:14 which says, "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust" (epithumia/1939, meaning "desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden, lust"). Jesus had not eaten in forty days; the Bible says He was hungry, so obviously the idea of turning a stone into bread was appealing and tempting. Satan offered Jesus power and domain over all the kingdoms of the world (power which truly belonged to Satan; Jesus called Satan the ruler of this world in John 12:31); surely such a thing would be desired by Jesus. But in these and in all the temptations He faced in life, no matter the appeal to His human desires, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Jesus always turned away and remained sinless.

As also indicated in Hebrews 4:15, we need a Savior who was tempted like we are tempted. We need a Savior and Advocate (1 John 2:1) who has walked where we now walk, who has seen what we now see, and who experienced what we daily experience. Because Jesus knows all about the struggles and temptations of this world, He understands our weaknesses and our struggles with temptations. He knows the kind of help and strength we need, and He sends that help to us constantly through His Spirit who indwells us.

The Spirit was involved in the public ministry of Jesus. Following the temptations in the wilderness, Luke 4:14 states that "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." The verses that follow speak of various activities that would be typical of His ministry, and it would seem obvious that His entire ministry was under the power and direction of the Spirit (see 4:18-19). As mentioned earlier, in Matthew 12:15-18, Jesus, after healing those in need, speaks of His ministry and declares that the Spirit will be upon Him. Luke 10:21 speaks about a time that Jesus "rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit," apparently because He was able to share the good news of the kingdom through His ministry.

Finally, the Spirit was involved in the death of Jesus. He had been completely filled with the Holy Spirit throughout His entire ministry, and so even at His time of death was there the presence of the Spirit. Hebrews 9:14 states that Christ "through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God." It seems reasonable to consider that Jesus needed some divine help and strength to face death and to endure the horrible suffering inflicted upon Him leading up to that death. Hebrews 5:7-8 speaks of Jesus' crying and tears in anticipation of that terrible event, and yet He still found the strength to obey. Luke 22:43 says that an angel appeared to strengthen Jesus at that time. Surely the Spirit of God was a Helper to Jesus as He bore the punishment for sin in our place.

Therefore, just as the Spirit helped the people of God in the OT to be what they were called to be, so also the Spirit bestowed upon Jesus enabled Him to be what He was to be. The Spirit was the source of His power to endure temptation, to teach, to cast out demons, to heal the sick, and to endure His sufferings and His death. Remember again that Jesus laid aside His divine privileges (Philippians 2:7), and so apparently He required the presence of the Spirit in order for Him to fulfill His Messianic vocation.


The Holy Spirit in Preparation for the Kingdom/Church

In the OT, God had a covenant relationship with the people of Israel, and He therefore blessed them through the power and work of the Holy Spirit. In the NT, the Holy Spirit similarly worked among men in order to fulfill God's will in connection with the new covenant. There would be differences, however:

  • The old covenant was specifically for one nation of people (the people of Israel), and it was concerned with a physical kingdom. The Spirit anointed kings and judges for their duties, and prophecy was generally concerned with political interests.
  • The new covenant, however, would be concerned with a spiritual kingdom. Rather than dealing with just one particular nation, instead the Spirit would be involved with individuals regardless of nationality (Acts 10:34-35). Rather than political concerns, the Spirit would be helping with the development of the church, the body of Christ.

Much work was to be done in preparation for the new covenant and the kingdom. Matthew 10:2-15 records the names and the mission of the twelve apostles of Jesus. They were to go to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel (it would be later that the Gentiles would also be included) and preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (v7). According to Mark's account (Mark 6:7-13), they were to preach "that men should repent" (v12).

Matthew 10:1 says, "He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness." Jesus mentions such again in v8 (also recorded in Mark 6:7-13). Though not mentioned specifically in these verses, it seems obvious that the Spirit was going to be providing the power for these miraculous deeds to be performed by the apostles as they went about in their work of preparing for the coming of the kingdom.

Jesus does specifically mention the blessing and power of the Spirit in Matthew 10:16-20. The Spirit would provide the apostles with the necessary words to speak as they went forth proclaiming the coming of the kingdom. (Acts 1:2 indicates that Jesus "had by the Holy Spirit" given instructions to the apostles.)

In Luke 10:1ff, we read about Jesus later appointing seventy others who were to go in pairs preaching, "The kingdom of God has come near to you" (v9). Again, there is no specific mention of the Spirit's help, but v9 also says that they were to heal the sick, thus indicating a manifestation of divine help and power.

(See also Mark 13:9-11; Luke 12:11-12; 21:12-15, although these texts could be speaking more of the preaching that would occur later in connection with the fall of Jerusalem rather than prior to the death of Christ and the establishment of the kingdom/church.)


The Coming of the Spirit Foretold in John 14-16

The Messiah had been promised by prophets like Isaiah and others. The people of God had longed for His coming and all that He would give to them and do for them, and the wonderful ways in which He would greatly bless them. John 1:9-14 speaks of how that Messiah had finally come into the world, and while many had not believed in Him and accepted Him as the promised Messiah, those who did were given the right to become children of God. How wonderful it was that Jesus came and dwelt among men.

But then we come to John chapter 14, and Jesus announces that He will be leaving! Later on in 16:20-22, Jesus acknowledged that they would be filled with sorrow, that they would weep and lament. But, in 14:1a, He says, "Let not your hearts be troubled." Why not? Because there is reason to rejoice. He is about to explain to them that all will be well; He's going to explain to them that they are going to be even more blessed after He leaves than they were while He was personally there with them. (While they had already been helped to some degree by the Spirit, there would soon be a constant help for all believers.)

  • 14:1b Jesus essentially said, "You have believed in what God has said; you can also believe and trust in what I am about to say to you."
  • 14:12-14 Jesus is saying, "Yes, I am leaving, but great things are in store for you."
  • 14:15 "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Remember the unique teachings of Jesus as recorded in the gospel accounts (i.e., the Sermon on the Mount, etc.). He called for a higher standard of living, and indeed God's way is the best way to live. The disciples would soon learn that they would have help from God's Holy Spirit in both knowing the will of God and living according to that will (Paul will teach a great deal about such as seen later in this lesson). God's Holy Spirit works on our spirits to make them holy! His Spirit within us helps us and gives us the strength to be more obedient to His commandments.
  • 14:16 KJV has "Comforter," NASB has "Helper," translated from the Greek parakletos/3875, which means "summoned, called to one's side, esp. called to one's aid; one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate." This word is found only in John's writings in NT Scripture: four times here in gospel of John (14:16; 14:26; 15:26; 16:7) referring to the Spirit, and one other time in 1 John (2:1 "Advocate") referring to Jesus.
  • 14:17a "Spirit of truth." John also tells us that God is true (7:18, 28; 17:3), that Jesus is the truth (1:9, 14; 14:6; 15:1; 1 John 5:20), and that the Spirit is true (14:17; 15:26; 16:13). (Notice in John 8:44 that the devil is characterized as the opposite of truth; the nature of God and the nature of Satan are completely opposite to one another.) The word "truth" refers to that which is "real, ideal, genuine." There have been many throughout history who have foolishly worshipped false gods (Romans 1:25 talks about those who "exchanged the truth of God for a lie."), but Jehovah God is the one and only true God. Likewise, there were many in Jesus' day who were falsely professing to be the Messiah and falsely leading people astray, but Jesus was the one and only real, true, genuine Christ, the Son of God. And the Spirit was true and would come to further reveal all that was/is true. According to John 8:32, it is knowledge of this divine truth (perhaps embodies fully knowing God and Christ) that will truly set us free.
  • 14:17b "He abides with you." Remember that the apostles already had some degree of the Spirit in regards to the help He had been providing as they preached the coming of the kingdom. But there is more to come! Jesus indicates that there will be a continuation of His help, not only a miraculous help for the apostles in their work, but also a constant indwelling for all believers in the age to come.
  • 14:18 KJV: "I will not leave you comfortless." NASB: "I will not leave you as orphans." Jesus is leaving, but He's not going to leave them alone, spiritually destitute, and without help. That is why Jesus could say, "Let not your heart be troubled." He would come to them again through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
  • 14:19-20 Perhaps Jesus is referring to their seeing Him after the resurrection, or perhaps He is referring to their beholding Him symbolically through the indwelling of the Spirit.
  • 14:21-22 What did Jesus mean by "disclose/manifest" Himself to them?
  • 14:23 Apparently Jesus was again referring to the manner in which He and the Father would make their abode with them through the indwelling of the Spirit. The word "abode" is from the Greek word mone/3438, a noun which Thayer says means: "1) a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode; 2) to make an (one's) abode; 3) metaphorically of the God the Holy Spirit indwelling believers." Again, Jesus says that He is leaving, but there will be a way in which He will still be with them. Believers will be the abode of God and Christ as the Spirit Himself will dwell within them.
  • 14:24 Jesus again mentions the importance of God's children living as God would have them to live. Just as the Spirit desired to help the chosen people of Israel to be what they were supposed to be, so also will He be given as a Helper for God's chosen people today (baptized believers), helping us be what God wants us to be, and to live as He would want us to live.
  • 14:25-27 The Spirit would "bring to remembrance." Jesus had taught a great deal about loving God and others above all else, and how that we are to live in such a way as to be a blessing to God and others. The Spirit would help the apostles to remember the teachings of Jesus as they shared the word of God, and He would also help every Christian to know God's will and to live according to the godly principles which Jesus had espoused.
  • 14:28-31 Jesus seems to be summarizing the message of this whole section of Scripture: "I'm going away, but I will come again to you." Again, perhaps He is referring to His resurrection, or perhaps He is referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit (or perhaps both).
  • 15:26-27 As we'll see later in this lesson, NT Scripture gives abundant evidence that all Christians receive the indwelling of the Spirit, but it appears that the apostles would be given a measure of the Spirit's help somewhat beyond that otherwise typically received by believers. Jesus said that, since they had been with Him from the beginning, the apostles would be used to "bear witness" in a special way. The apostles were to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit as was promised (Luke 24:49). Acts 1:4-8 speaks of the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit (a special anointing from above) that would help them to be witnesses throughout all the known parts of their world.
  • 16:1-4 The Spirit would give them strength in difficult times. See also Matthew 10:16-23.
  • 16:5-7 "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." Jesus' "going away" may refer to His coming ascension, but most likely it more immediately referred to His death. Both events would be shocking to His disciples as they would likely feel empty and forsaken. But Jesus' death would actually be a great blessing to mankind. His death would usher in a new age, a new dispensation, the covenant of grace. This new covenant would be far better than the previous one of legal law. Each baptized believer would receive the indwelling of God's Holy Spirit within them, a gift that, unbeknownst to them at that time (surely they did not yet fully comprehend), would be a blessing even greater than the actual physical presence of Jesus Himself! (Something we need to grasp today: there is a resource within us that could do so much for us if we'll only let Him be our strength.)
  • 16:8-11 How would the Spirit convict the world? Based on all the information seen thus far, it seems evident that He would do so through the work of the apostles as they would bear witness to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and proclaim salvation by grace through faith in Him. They would teach about man's guilt of sin, the righteousness of God in giving His Son so that man could be made righteous, and the judgment and the wrath of God poured out upon Satan and those in his power.
  • 16:12-15 The Spirit would "guide [them] into all truth." He would disclose/declare all that God would have them to know. Perhaps it is also proper to say that the Spirit would guide them and us in all ways that are true. Remember that Philippians 4:8 teaches us to let our minds dwell on things that are true. Surely, as we'll study soon, the Spirit can help us to live lives that are true, real, genuine; He can help us not to be led astray and deceived by the false and meaningless things of this world.
  • 16:16-22 They would experience sorrow in the coming days, but soon they would come to understand that all that would happen would be necessary, and that it all happened so that their lives (and our lives today) might be filled with great joy.


The Holy Spirit in the Early Church

Luke 24 speaks of the events that took place following the resurrection of Jesus. V44-49 records His speaking to the apostles about the necessity of His suffering and death. "He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures," and then He told them to wait in the city of Jerusalem "until you are clothed with power from on high."

John's account of Jesus' discourse is a bit different. John 20:19-22 implies that Jesus breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit at that time (as opposed to Luke's record that Jesus told them to wait for such). Perhaps it was basically a symbolic act representing what was to actually occur in just a short time.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, said of this passage, "Christ here seems to refer to the creation of man at first, by the breathing of the breath of life into him (Gen. 2:7), and to intimate that he himself was the author of that work, and that the spiritual life and strength of ministers and Christians are derived from him, and depend upon him, as much as the natural life of Adam and his seed. As the breath of the Almighty gave life to man and began the old world, so the breath of the mighty Saviour gave life to his ministers, and began a new world, Job 33:4" (Elihu says to Job, "The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.").

In v23, Jesus gave the apostles power to forgive sins. They would indeed be preaching the gospel of the grace of God through the cleansing blood of Christ, which was the true power wherein sins could be forgiven. The apostles (and perhaps a few other of the first Christians) were also apparently given the miraculous ability of spiritual discernment, whereby Peter knew of the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira (and thus they were struck dead-Acts 5:1-6), and Paul knew of the deceit of Elymas the magician (whom Paul caused to be struck blind-Acts 13:8-11).

Then, looking to the book of Acts, we find recorded the beginning days and years of the kingdom. In Acts 1:4-8, Jesus predicted the power that would be bestowed upon the disciples by the Holy Spirit. All throughout the book, we find recorded numerous occasions of the Holy Spirit guiding and directing those early disciples, thus enabling them to be greatly effective in spreading the gospel message and bringing about a great increase in the kingdom (see 4:8, 31-33; 6:3, 5; 7:55; 8:29, 39; 9:17, 31; 10:19; 11:12, 21-24, 28; 13:2-4, 9, 52; 16:6-7, 19:21; 20:22-23; 21:4, 11). See also Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (v6-16 to be discussed later); 1 Peter 1:12.

For citations of early church growth (surely with the help of the Spirit), see Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14, 42; 6:7; 8:3-4, 12, 25, 39-40; 9:31; 10:34-35, 44, 48; 11:17-24. Great things were happening as a result of the Holy Spirit helping those early Christians to continue to spread the good news all throughout the world around them.


Holy Spirit Inspiring the Writing of Scripture

We've already noted 2 Peter 1:20-21 about the Holy Spirit's help in inspiring the prophets of the OT (may refer just to their writing or may extend to all OT Scripture; regardless, it is generally agreed that the Jews held to all the 39 books of the OT as their authoritative canon, and such was seemingly attested by Jesus in various statements recorded in the NT). Furthermore, 2 Timothy 3:16 affirms that all Scripture was given by inspiration of God. We understand that the Scripture of Jesus and the early church was the OT canon. However, there are several passages in the NT that indicate that the Holy Spirit also aided the apostles in their writing. Various situations and concerns would arise that would necessitate the authoritative teaching of the Lord's apostles.

  • Paul seems to be acknowledging divine help when he said in 1 Corinthians 14:37, "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment." (See also 1 Corinthians 7:40 when Paul states his belief that the Spirit is guiding the words that he has written.)
  • Paul speaks of the Spirit's help given to the apostles and the prophets in Ephesians 3:3-5. He refers to his writing in that he tells them, "…when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ."
  • He specifically refers to the influence of the Spirit in 1 Timothy 4:1 when he writes, "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith..."
  • The Hebrew writer also acknowledges the speaking of the Spirit in Hebrews 3:7; 9:8; 10:15.
  • Paul's letters were placed on the level of Scripture as apparently attested by Peter in 2 Peter 3:15-16.


Does the Holy Spirit Directly Convert Sinners?

Some believe, as John Calvin once taught, that man is born in sin (born guilty of sin and separated from God), that he cannot do anything good, and that he cannot choose to do good or choose to love God until God directly intervenes by means of the Holy Spirit in order to change the will of that person. (Perhaps one passage used in connection with such is John 16:7-11, but overall NT teaching is that the Spirit would work through the apostles.)

The Bible, however, teaches that man is created with the capability to choose good rather than evil. Romans 2:14-16 talks about Gentiles doing by nature the good things of the Law. Acts 10:1ff says that Cornelius, though not saved, was "a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the people, and prayed to God continually." Indeed man does have the freedom to make such choices as is evident in the words of Joshua: "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve" (Joshua 24:15).

God has not supernaturally interceded in the lives of particular individuals to call them to His grace, but rather He has called all men by Jesus Christ and His gospel. John 1:9 says that Jesus is "the true light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." Romans 1:16 declares that the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 10:17 says that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul says, "The word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Peter 1:23-25 clarifies that the word of God which brings about new birth is the gospel. (Also see Galations 1:6, which implies they were called by the gospel, but turned to a false gospel.)

Finally, in Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, "Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Why would He invite all of us if most of us were created incapable of accepting that invitation?! The Bible teaches that Jesus is standing at the door and knocking; each of us must decide whether or not to open that door to Him (Revelation 3:20; see also 22:17). Thus it appears that the only true way in which the Holy Spirit convicts the sinner and brings Him to Christ and salvation is through the power of the gospel as declared by Spirit-indwelled believers and found written in Spirit-inspired Scripture.


The Holy Spirit Dwells Within All Christians

As already mentioned, it appears that the apostles were to be given a measure of the Spirit's help somewhat beyond that otherwise typically received by believers so that they could "bear witness" in a special way. But, despite that extraordinary measure for the apostles (and a select few others, as will be discussed later), it still needs to be recognized that there are numerous verses throughout the NT that teach that the Holy Spirit is given to all those who would become Christians. He would not only dwell within the apostles and help them, but He would also dwell within the hearts and lives of all believers.

Consider these many passages: John 7:37-39; 14:16-17 ("forever"); Acts 2:38-39; 5:32; Romans 5:5; 8:9, 11, 15-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:11, 19; Galatians 3:2-5, 14; 4:6; Ephesians 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:8; 2 Timothy 1:14; Titus 3:5-7; Hebrews 6:4; James 4:5; 1 John 3:24; 4:13.

The Bible also teaches that receiving the indwelling of the Spirit is the guarantee of the full redemption that is to come in the resurrection to eternal life: Romans 8:11, 23; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30.

Notice that all these verses speak of the Spirit being given at the time of one's initial salvation. As seen earlier, the involvement of the Spirit was necessary in order for Jesus to be born physically into this world and the family of mankind. Likewise, the involvement of the Spirit is necessary in order for those who believe in Jesus to be born again into the spiritual kingdom and family of God. 1 Corinthians 12:13 says it is the Spirit that immerses us into the body of Christ. In John 3:3-8, Jesus spoke of the Spirit's involvement in the believers rebirth. In John 6:63, Jesus said, It is the Spirit that gives life." Our spiritual rebirth and life is only made possible by the Spirit.


The Holy Spirit is Our Helper

Just as the indwelling of the Spirit is necessary for our spiritual rebirth and life, so also is the indwelling of the Spirit necessary for us to continue to live the spiritual lives that we should. Just as the Spirit helped the people of Israel to be what God wanted them to be, so also the Spirit helps Christians today to be what God wants us to be. Without God's Spirit, without His help and strength, we would remain bound to our fleshly natures and desires and we would never truly be what God wants us to be.

There are numerous passages which speak of our old natures being renewed: 2 Corinthians 3:18 (transformed is Greek metamorphoo/3339 as also found in Romans 12:2); 5:17; Romans 6:1-8; 8:29; 12:2; Ephesians 2:1-10; 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9b-10; 2 Peter 1:3-4. All of this renewing is done with the help of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

The NT contains many passages that teach that the Holy Spirit continues to be a Helper for all Christians…

  • The Spirit is a source of peace and hope and joy for the Christian: Romans 8:6; 14:17; 15:13.
  • The Spirit helps provide access to the Father: Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 2:18; 6:18.
  • The Spirit empowers Christians to live a more godly way of life: Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesians 3:16-20; 5:1-18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 (sanctification means set apart for holy living); 1 Peter 1:2; Jude 17-21.
  • The Christian life is to be one that is in the Spirit and led by the Spirit: Romans 2:29; 7:6; 8:1-16; 2 Corinthians 3:3-8, 17; Galatians 5:5; 6:7-8; Ephesians 4:1-4; Philippians 2:1; 3:3.


Do Not Grieve or Insult the Spirit

In Ephesians 4:30, Christians are commanded not to grieve the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 similarly says that we should not quench (suppress, stifle) the Spirit. We need to recognize His indwelling and help. He has done so much to help us; what a disappointment if we fail to recognize His presence and His help. Also, Hebrews 10:29 speaks of insulting the Spirit; we do if we willfully choose to rebel against Him.


1 Corinthians 2:6-16

This is an interesting passage that speaks a great deal about the Spirit and the wisdom He reveals to those who are spiritually mature. The main question is: who were the spiritually mature of whom Paul speaks? There are three likely possibilities:

  1. That Paul is speaking only of himself. Perhaps he is using a figure of speech when he says "we" and "us" when he really means "I" and "me."
  2. That Paul is referring to a particular group of inspired persons, including himself and other apostles, and perhaps a few others who were blessed with a miraculous ability to be inspired by the Spirit.
  3. That Paul was referring to all believers who have matured spiritually to the point that they are thus better able to understand spiritual matters.

Possibility #1 seems unlikely in that Paul has used the pronoun "I" extensively in v1-5 in reference to himself and his preaching as aided by the Spirit. His switch to plural pronouns in v6 seems intentional as he seeks to broaden the scope of his remarks in order to include others.

Possibility #2 is reasonable in that it was common in that time to refer to that which was being directly revealed from God as the wisdom of God. Several in that time were indeed blessed to receive divine help from the Spirit as He revealed God's will to them. If this inspiration in their preaching and writing was intended, then Paul is stating that the words which they express are not merely their own, but rather they are those which were given by the Holy Spirit to them (v13). Furthermore, perhaps Paul felt the need to defend himself and others as being unique (not merely natural men) in their ability to receive the will of God as revealed by the Spirit of God (v15b and 4:3-4: Paul was not really concerned with being judged by others).

Possibility #3 is also worthy of consideration in light of the overall context of this letter. Much of Paul's letter is dealing with the spiritual immaturity of the Corinthian brethren. Perhaps Paul was speaking of Christians in general and is emphasizing that all believers ought to grow and mature spiritually (Colossians 1:28), and that having done so they might have a better understanding of spiritual matters (see Hebrews 5:11-6:3; remember also that James 1:5 implores upon us to ask for wisdom). It seems obvious that those who remain spiritually immature (as were many in Corinth) would be lacking in the areas of wisdom, discernment, and judgment.

C.K. Barrett, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, says this regarding the meaning of wisdom: "It may mean God's wise plan of redeeming the world through a crucified Messiah, a plan which none but he could have prepared, and man can grasp only if he is willing to surrender his natural man-centred values." Since Paul had been talking about the cross as a means of salvation, perhaps he is implying that only those who are spiritually-minded are capable of understanding that which seems foolish to the world (v8: the rulers of this age did not accept Christ nor did they understand the necessity of the cross).

Perhaps the passage is best understood by combining possibilities #2 and #3. Perhaps in v10-13 Paul was speaking of the direct inspiration of the Spirit given to the apostles, and in the remaining verses he is saying that only those who are spiritually-minded will accept such Spirit-given words and live accordingly.


The Fruit of the Spirit

Will all this divine help from the Spirit be noticeable? Absolutely. The Bible says that for Christians, for those led by the Spirit, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23)." In other words, because the Spirit dwells within the Christian as his Helper, the Christian thus exhibits these godly qualities.

Because of our being led by the Spirit and walking in spiritual ways, we will be like Peter and John as recorded in Acts 4:13. They had spent so much time with Jesus, they had been so filled with Him, and they acted so much like Him, that others could tell that they had been with Jesus. When we allow the Spirit to truly lead and help us, others will indeed see a great difference.


How Does the Spirit Lead Us?

Consider a few examples from Scripture that might give us some indication as to how the Spirit leads…

Acts 1:15-26

Peter addressed the brethren concerning the need for a replacement for Judas. From the text it is obvious that they sought to make a decision that would be in harmony with God's will. So what did they do?

  1. V15 Peter stood up! Matthew Henry (in his commentary on Acts) said, "He did not sit down, as one that gave laws, or had any supremacy over the rest, but stood up, as one that had only a motion to make, in which he paid a deference to his brethren, standing up when he spoke to them." In other words, while they were obviously seeking divine help, Peter was not speaking as if he were divinely inspired. Neither he nor any of the other apostles announced that God had given him the name of the next apostle (it would have perhaps saved Justus some grief or embarrassment). They would seek to be led by the Lord in their decision, but that help would apparently not come through some outwardly-manifested miraculous means.
  2. V20 Peter referred to Scripture as basis for their decision. He cited two passages from the book of Psalms (69:25 and 109:8), and they thus used such as a basis for their actions; they were going to do what they believed Scripture would have them to do.
  3. V21-22 Peter suggested the circumstances that he believed would best qualify a man to serve with them as a fellow apostle. Again, there was no explicit statement that the Spirit had inspired him to give those particular qualifications, but it would be reasonable to infer that the Spirit was helping him and the entire group to use good judgment in their thinking and decisions.
  4. V23 They put forth two men whom, by means of their own good judgment, they apparently thought would be suitable for the job. Who were the "they"? The other apostles? The 120 brethren? Perhaps the entire group discussed the matter and arrived at the two best candidates.
  5. V24-25 They prayed about it. They asked for divine help in determining which one of the two would be best suited according to the will of God.
  6. V26 They drew lots. Essentially, they flipped a coin to see which one would be selected. This may sound somewhat strange or foolish to us today, but notice that this was construed by them to be a decision made by the help of the Lord.

Acts 15:1-29

After Paul and Barnabas had returned to Antioch after preaching to the Gentiles, "…some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'" So what did Paul and Barnabas do?

  1. V2a They had a debate with those who were teaching such. In other words, they had a very serious discussion, perhaps even a heated argument, about the matters that were being taught.
  2. V2b It was "determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue." Who determined this? Apparently it would have been the brethren there in Antioch who were dealing with this situation, or Paul and Barnabas in conjunction with them. It's interesting that Paul later wrote in Galatians 2:2 that he went up to Jerusalem "because of a revelation." Apparently the decision for them to go was construed as something the Spirit had revealed to them or led them to do.
  3. V6-7a The apostles and elders in Jerusalem met to discuss the matter. Remember that these apostles would be men who we believe were already given an extraordinary measure of the Spirit's help, and yet they still spent the time discussing the issue just as any group of Christians would likely do.
  4. V7 After the extended discussion, Peter speaks concerning his views.
  5. V12 After Peter speaks, Barnabas and Paul speak about what they had seen among the Gentiles.
  6. V13 After they were through speaking, James spoke. In v15-18, notice that, just like the example in Acts 1 of choosing a new apostle, he first referred to Scripture. And then in v19-21, James gave his "judgment" as to what he thought should be done.
  7. V22 The apostles, elders, and the whole church decided to send men with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch with a letter.
  8. V25 Their discussion led them to be of one mind in their decision.
  9. V28 Notice what they said in the letter: "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials..." These godly men had thoroughly discussed the matter and had come to a united decision, and they thus believed that Holy Spirit had led them to that decision.

Acts 20:28

In his farewell to the Ephesian elders, Paul warned, "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." Question: How and when did the Spirit appoint elders?

There are only two verses of Scripture which record the specifics of elders being appointed:

  1. Acts 14:23 says that Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the various churches as they traveled and established congregations. It says that they did so "having prayed with fasting."
  2. In Titus 1:5, Paul instructed Titus, who had been left in Crete, to appoint elders "in every city as I directed you." No further information is given as to the specifics of how such was done other than the type of men who would be best suited to the office.

The word "appoint/ordain" in Acts 14:23 is from the Greek word cheirotoneo/5500, which means, "1) to vote by stretching out the hand; 2) to create or appoint by vote: one to have charge of some office or duty; 3) to elect, create, appoint." Perhaps this gives us some indication of the manner in which those elders were selected, that being that perhaps the congregation as a whole expressed their views as to whom they believed to be suited to shepherd the flock. Regardless, no specific information is given to us as to how these men were selected other than that they were appointed by other men. And yet, according to Acts 20:28, such appointed men were deemed to have been actually appointed by the Holy Spirit, thus suggesting that the men who actually did the appointing were in some way led by the Spirit (through prayer and fasting) in making decisions that would be in accordance with the will of God.

What then do we learn from these examples about being led by the Spirit?

What kind of people were these ones who were being led by the Spirit? They were obviously spiritually-minded people, people whose greatest concern was the Lord and His will. They trusted in and were seeking God's help and the guidance of His Holy Spirit. They diligently prayed for God's help, sometimes even with fasting. And they spent time with other godly people, studying what Scriptural guidance and principles might apply and seriously discussing such things as they sought for a consensus as to what they believed God would have them to do. And, having done all this, they had confidence in the Lord's promise that the Holy Spirit would indeed guide them and lead them in the way that God would have them to go.

God has promised His Spirit to all who become His children. Will His Spirit lead us today as He led so many as recorded in NT Scripture? Some have been prone to say, "When we do what they did, we get what they got." (Remember that Acts 2:38 records two blessings: forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit; we get both when we do what they did.) Perhaps, therefore, we too today should have a similar and great confidence that, when we seek to be the kind of people God would have us to be, when we diligently search the Scriptures and pray for God's Spirit to guide our way, then indeed we too will be blessed with help from above and within.


Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

See Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10.

A part of Jesus' ministry was casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit. Some wrongly said of Jesus, "He has an unclean spirit." Such an offence was declared to be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

By definition, to blaspheme is to insult or speak irreverently. Perhaps the main thing that stands out in this episode is Jesus' distinction between speaking against Him and speaking against the Spirit. Some have seen a similarity between this and Numbers 15:27-31 which speaks of the difference between a person who unintentionally sins and one who deliberately and rebelliously sins.

Accordingly, perhaps Jesus was speaking of the difference between one who might ignorantly speak against Him (not yet believing in Him) and one who would deliberately ascribe obvious divine works of the Spirit to a diabolic source. The former could still be forgiven, but the latter apparently would be committed by one who would have such a hopeless and immoral nature that repentance and forgiveness would not be possible.

Some have also suggested that Jesus may have been also referring to those who would fully reject the Holy Spirit Himself and His teachings. Remember Hebrews 1:1-2? "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world."

God at one time spoke to people by way of the prophets, but many rejected them. Then Jesus came and preached, but again, many refused to listen. But there was one more opportunity for them to listen: the Holy Spirit was coming to guide them into all truth (John 14-16). That would be their last chance. (Some have compared this to "3 strikes and you're out!") For those who would refuse to listen to the preaching of the gospel by way of inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there would be no other chance; there is no other plan. There will be no other means of revelation regarding salvation other than that given by the Spirit, and to reject Him is to do so fatally.

Regarding the unforgivable sin (though not directly related to our specific topic, but still important), consider the words of 1 John 1:9. It says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Thus, the only real unforgivable sin is one that we refuse to confess.

Also notice Hebrews 6:4-6: "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame."

The writer here speaks of a person who became a child of God, thus entering into a marvelous relationship with the Holy Spirit (indwelled at the time of the new birth). The tragedy is that such a one could somehow turn away from the faith, reject Christ and the Spirit, and refuse to repent and confess his sin. Such a one, the Bible says, has fallen away and has, in effect, become guilty of once again crucifying the Son of God. Apparently some can become so hardened by sin and rebellion that they will refuse to repent and return to the Lord. Notice that the writer heaps clause upon clause to show that there was once a genuine saved relationship with the Lord, and it may very well be that that is why it is thus impossible to renew them when they do fall away so completely.


Baptism of the Holy Spirit

There are six occurrences in the NT of the phrase "baptism of/with the Holy Spirit." Four of those are found in the various Gospel accounts (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33) where John the Baptist speaks of his baptism in water compared to the time that Christ will baptize "with the Holy Spirit." The other two are found in the book of Acts and clarify what John was talking about. In Acts 1:5, Jesus told His apostles shortly before the day of Pentecost, "John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." The fulfillment of that takes place in Acts 2:4 when Peter and the others are "filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance." (See also Acts 2:17-18, 33.)

The only other time this phrase is found is in Acts 10-11. There the Gentiles (Cornelius and his family) were also given the gift of speaking in tongues for the purpose of convincing the Jewish brethren that proclaiming the gospel message to the Gentiles was indeed God's will. Peter said in Acts 11:15-16, "The Holy Spirit fell on them, just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, `John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'" The phrase "at the beginning" refers to the gift of speaking in other languages that first occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

In both of these instances, a miraculous endowment by the Holy Spirit was given to certain ones directly from above. It happened in Acts 2 so that the gospel could be proclaimed to the Jews. Then in happened in Acts 10 so that it would be known that the gospel was also to be proclaimed to the Gentiles. There are no other instances in Scripture where "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is mentioned.


An Extraordinary Measure of the Holy Spirit for Some Christians

A great emphasis is often made on the miraculous manifestations in the early church. However, while every Christian was indwelled by the Spirit and received His gracious help and strength, it appears that only a few received the extraordinary power to do miraculous deeds. The book of Acts tells about thousands who became Christians, but only a few are specifically mentioned as receiving an extraordinary miraculous measure of the Spirit, which was bestowed by the laying on of the apostles' hands.

  • Acts 6:6 The apostles laid hands on the seven deacons; Stephen (6:8) and Philip (8:6,13) then did great wonders and miracles.
  • Acts 8:14ff The Samaritans, who had already been baptized and would have apparently received the gift of the Holy Spirit as taught in 2:38, now received a miraculous measure after Peter and John laid hands on them; notice Simon had become a Christian, but was only beholding the miracles and signs being done by Philip.
  • Acts 19:3-6 Twelve men in Ephesus were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, then Paul laid hands on them to enable them to speak in languages and to prophecy.
  • In 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul states that Timothy had received a miraculous measure of the Spirit at the hands of Paul.
  • Perhaps 1 John 2:20, 27 is referring to some in the church there who might have been blessed with miraculous knowledge and/or discernment.

In all the rest of the New Testament, the only other instance of Christians given miraculous gifts is that of the Corinthian church. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul states that they had been given a variety of gifts by the Spirit, such as faith, healing, miracles, etc. Although they seemed to be most interested in the gift of languages (from the Greek word glossa, same as in Acts 2, meaning the language of a people), Paul made it clear that not all of them were intended to receive the same gift. He said in 12:29-30 that not all could work miracles, or heal, or speak in tongues.

In these chapters, Paul gave commands concerning the use of these gifts in connection with the church and its public assemblies. While he encourages them to "earnestly desire the greater gifts" (12:31), he does command them to exercise self-control within the public assembly. The gifts of the Spirit gave great life and excitement to the worship of the early church. It appears that almost everyone had something to contribute to the gathering, but Paul tells them to "do all things decently and in order" so that their meetings would lead to greater faith and exhortation rather than to confusion and chaos.


The Miraculous Measure was Temporary

As mentioned, in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul speaks about the miraculous, spiritual gifts with which some of the early Christians had been endowed. But, as important and necessary as they were for that time, they were nevertheless temporal in nature and would some day cease to exist. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 says, "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known."

The statement in verse 8, though often overlooked by many in the religious world, is clear: miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were temporary in nature. There would come a time when they would stop. Concerning the gifts of miraculous prophecy and miraculous knowledge, Paul uses the Greek word katargeo, which means (according to Vine's Expository Dictionary) "to reduce to inactivity." Concerning the gift of tongues, Paul uses the word pauo, which means "to stop, to make an end." Vine further says regarding 13:8, "They were to be rendered of no effect after their temporary use was fulfilled [just as] when the apostle became a man he did away with the ways of a child."

Verses 8-12 state that such gifts would some day cease to exist, and that such would happen "when the perfect comes." According to Thayer's lexicon, the word "perfect" is from the Greek word teleios (actually to teleion, neuter gender) which means something that is "brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect."

It is suggested by some that this "completion" or "perfect" refers to the second coming of Christ (thus allowing for the gift of tongues, etc. to continue until the end of time). However, such would ultimately contradict what Paul says later in this chapter. Not only does he speak of gifts that will cease, but also of three gifts that will abide: faith, hope, and love (v13). Surely a gift that will abide has to last longer than a gift that will cease. However, the Bible teaches that faith and hope will, in fact, one day cease, when faith becomes sight and when hope is realized at the return of Christ. Love, the greatest of gifts, not only is abiding, but eternal.

Since faith and hope will cease at the return of Christ, and these are referred to as gifts that abide, the gifts that will cease (prophecy, knowledge, tongues) MUST cease prior to the return of Christ. This in itself does not say exactly when, but it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the miraculous gifts must cease PRIOR to the return of Christ, not AT the return of Christ.

Looking again to v8-12, the context of the passage itself dictates what is being completed. Paul said in verse 10, "When the perfect comes, the partial will be done away." What was partial? The answer to that is in verse 9: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part." At the time Paul wrote these words, their knowledge and understanding of God's will was only partial. God was still revealing His will to the relatively-infant church through the Holy Spirit who was inspiring the apostles in their teaching. It was therefore apparently God's intention that such miraculous gifts would continue throughout the time of the apostles, and that these miraculous gifts would thus pass away as the apostles themselves would pass away.

History does seems to support this in that there was little or no mention of such in the 2nd century and beyond. Philip Shaff, in his renowned work History of the Christian Church, appears to represent the majority of scholarship when he spoke of "the miraculous gifts of the apostolic church, which gradually disappeared as Christianity became settled in humanity, and its supernatural principle was naturalized on earth" (Vol. 2, p423).



  1. Some believe that, when the Bible speaks of the Spirit of God, it is referring simply to a way in which God has seen fit to manifest Himself. There are, however, many passages of Scripture which suggest that the Spirit is to be regarded as a distinct person who shares in the divine majesty of God and Christ.
  2. God had chosen the people of Israel to be His children, and He entered into a covenant relationship with them. Because He loved them and cared for them, God gave His Spirit to help them be the kind of people God wanted them to be.
  3. The Spirit also helped Jesus to be what He was meant to be. Since Jesus had laid aside His divine privileges and assumed humanity, He thus required the presence of the Spirit in order for Him to fulfill His Messianic vocation.
  4. In preparation for the establishment of the church, much is said about the Spirit blessing and giving power to Jesus' disciples in connection with their work for the Lord. The Spirit would provide them with the necessary words to speak as they went forth proclaiming the coming of the kingdom.
  5. Just as the Spirit helped many in OT times to speak and write the things of God, so also He helped the apostles and various others to speak and write God's will regarding the Christian covenant.
  6. Just as the involvement of the Spirit was necessary in order for Jesus to be born physically into this world and the family of mankind, so also was/is the involvement of the Spirit necessary in order for those who believe in Jesus to be born again into the spiritual kingdom and family of God. Our spiritual rebirth and continuing spiritual life is only made possible by the Spirit.
  7. The Spirit is the indwelling help and strength for every child of God. We can have a great confidence that, when we seek to be the kind of people God would have us to be, when we diligently search the Scriptures and pray for God's Spirit to guide our way, then indeed we too will be blessed with help from above and within.

Copyright © 1998-2015. Bible Lessons Worldwide Ministry. Bob Williams. Columbus, Georgia. Permission is granted to any teacher or preacher to use these lessons to the glory of God. Thanks to generous soul-loving partners, there is never a charge for anything offered by this ministry.

Bob Williams is the pulpit minister for the Rose Hill Church of Christ in Columbus, Georgia. He is an alumnus of York College in York, NE (1977-1979), Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN (1982-1985), and Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, TN (1986-1990). Since its inception in 1998, thousands of people throughout the world visit every month, and Bob is privileged to conduct in-depth Bible studies with a great many of them.