Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of three blogs or entries about the Holy Spirit. The original notes were sent to me as a resource for a paper when I was taking a course on the Holy Spirit in school. Being a preacher’s kid was not without benefits.
God wants this, being filled with the Spirit, for every one. (I Thes. 4:3; Eph 4:13) This is why He made us. God occupies or enlivens (without being identical with, in pantheistic fashion) all existence – nature, animals, and man. (Acts 17:25, 29) He comes into, indwells the believers, his children, in the same fashion that he did Christ himself. That sounds like presumptive blasphemy (of which they accused Christ, of course) but Jesus gave the lie to that accusation more than once. “I am the light of the world; you are the light of the world”; “I am the vine, you the branches”, etc. At the end of the world this will all be withdrawn, except for Christians, who have eternal life (already). There are degrees to eternal life. There are “carnal’, fleshly Christians, who will be “hardly” saved. (I Cor. 3:15) Jesus came that we might have life “abundantly”; have “full” joy. Hebrews is the important book on this theme. In sum, God wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
What or who is the Holy Spirit? It is not just his influence, effects upon us. It is God himself! It is His very life, or being. Our doctrine of the Trinity, as was noted previously, is a term not found in scripture and is very misleading. God is not three individuals. We never say, “God, they….” “Our Father in heaven” is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is one. A good illustration of this is a single man and his breath (spirit, life) and the speech (words) that his breath produces. Criticism that the Holy Spirit is over-emphasized today is ridiculous.
How do we receive God’s very Spirit? In the Old Testament, God came in temporary visible form and was with people; ate, talked, etc. Then when Jesus was born God became embodied in a man permanently; God filled him. Gods’ Spirit was Jesus’ spirit – motivating, empowering, informing him completely. This is why the world makes so much of Christmas; God became one “with us”. “Man” was finally made in God’s image. “This is my beloved Son”, filled with the life, spirit of God. From now on, God, the Holy Spirit, Christ, Christ’s spirit (Acts 16:6,7) all mean the same “thing”.
Comes the question, how does Christ figure into this process? In other words, why didn’t God come directly into us, as he did with Jesus? Well, unlike Jesus, we were occupied, tenanted by an interloper, usurper, Satan, who had to be evicted, and his dirty work straightened out. That was done via identification with Christ through the atonement, in which Satan was defeated, his claims to us cancelled; he was “thrown out of heaven” and his role as Prince of the world, human race.
Then, when Jesus went to heaven, he turned right around and poured out that Spirit of God which had been given him in fullness, to fill us, his people, his very Body. (Acts 2:33) Jesus became the father of a new race. He predicted it throughout John 14-16; “The Father will send the Spirit through me. I shall return.” On Easter evening, Jesus said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) Illustrations of this are found in an electricity transformer, a funnel, or biological life transmitted from a grandfather to numerous grandchildren.
The result of all this is that a Christian is an extension of Christ himself, a part of his “body”, because we have Christ’s very spirit, life, personality, being, in ourselves. (Many biblical scholars compare this to the ark in the Holy of Holies; the Holy Place is man’s soul – mind, emotions, will; the Outer Court is his body. For the unbeliever the Holy of Holies is a “god-shaped vacuum”, empty as was the Temple after the captivity.) We have even the mind of Christ! (I Cor. 2:16)
The result of all that, in turn, is that we have (are) Christ’s very power to overcome Satan, and to live perfect lives (not, alas, that we do!); we have his peace, joy, and all the other fruits(s) of Christ’s Spirit (Gal. 5:22). Because all these are God Himself (God is love, not loving; wisdom itself, not wise); when we want wisdom, patience, etc., we should say, “Lord, be my wisdom, etc. Give me more of yourself; fill me with Christ, with his life, personality.” Spiritual gifts are intended only for the purpose of our realizing more of God himself in us. They are tools, not toys (or tricks). They are not the same as natural talents. They can be counterfeited by Satan, so possession of spiritual gifts is no guarantee of regeneration.
We must not get the impression from the foregoing that we are now all identical clones of Christ, like an army of little robots. Each has distinctive differences, peculiar specialities, all of them reflections of some aspect of the infinite or “complete” Christ, but not duplicated exactly in anybody else. You are Christ in your form, while I am Christ in Rolf form, etc. (Just think of all the human beings who are basically alike – two eyes, one nose, etc. and alike enough to be recognizable as men versus women, orientals vs westerners, etc. and yet no two precisely alike, even twins. What a great salvation, redemption, re-creation!)
Being “filled with the Holy Spirit” is not a static thing, any more than any kind of life. It must be constantly sustained and developed (like an expanding balloon). How? 1. Want it, for its own sake. 2. Ask for it. 3. Empty self of Self. 4. Use the means, chiefly the Bible, which is God Himself “in paper form”. (Col 3:16) 5. Act on the basis of; “Rejoice always”. “Walk by the Spirit.” “Grieve not.”