“You might as well try to see without eyes, hear without ears, or breathe without lungs, as to try to live the Christian life without the Holy Spirit” – D.L.Moody
Lord Jesus was well aware at the time of creation as now that man cannot live a triumphant life on his own without the help and guidance of God. It was for such a purpose that God visited Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden everyday to teach them His ways and to equip them to face the ‘realm of the darkness’. The Lord again saw the presence of this weakness in man in the disciples conduct during the three years spent with Him. Accordingly He declared that love for Him will be seen in obedience to His commandments but knowing their inability to obey when being ‘orphaned’ in His absence, He promised to “pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:15-18). The Holy Spirit is Divine presence in us to lead and guide us to righteous living be revealing Lord Jesus to us and to help us get transformed into that image. There are many myths attributed to the work and ministry of the Spirit and we shall attempt to unravel these mysteries.
How does the Holy Spirit operate in us? – ‘Parakletos’, the Greek word used to represent Holy Spirit is translated as ‘Comforter, Advocate and Helper that is promised by the Lord top the disciples in John 14:16. To understand the meaning of this word in the right perspective all meanings need to be seen. It is also translated as “one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts/refreshes and one who intercedes or called alongside to one’s defense in court”. Job’s friends who came to comfort him in the hour of his grief are referred as such in Job 16:2. The work of the Holy Spirit definitely involves much more than this for He replaces the Lord Jesus “I go to My Father”. The Work of the Holy Spirit has certain definite aspects and some of these are as under.
- He reveals Christ and not Himself – The Holy Spirit testifies about Christ and enables the disciples to do so by revealing the persona of the Lord and providing a clear understanding of Him (John 15:26).
- He remains in the background only and does not, like the Lord Himself- “I do my Father’s will”- do anything of His own but exactly as per the will of God. He knows the heart of the Father for “no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11) and He acts accordingly.
- He is a teacher of the Word for only He knows the deep meanings contained therein for “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God……That the man may be perfect” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Holy Spirit inspired the writers to reveal the secrets and mysteries and He reveals the same to the seekers (John 14:26).
- He “convicts the world of sin/guilt” (John 16:7) and this conviction is positive correction through warnings before, during and after commission of a sin.
- He teaches us how to pray, prays with us and through the gift of tongues leads us to pray as per the will of God.
- He empowers us to undertake the tasks assigned by God through Him or otherwise.
When do we receive the Holy Spirit? – The promise of ‘giving the right to become children of God’ is available to all who receive and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior (John 1:12). There are three types of manifestations of the Holy Spirit on mankind. One is led by the Spirit to the Lord Jesus through an external manifestation on him/her. The Holy Spirit reveals the Lord as God to the chosen person who seeks God and through this urging one is then led to accept Him. At the time of repentance and baptism leading to the ‘new birth in Christ’ the Holy Spirit dwells in the individual since his sins are then forgiven in the power of the blood of Jesus. Thus the Spirit is received at the time of baptism and a new life in His power then starts.
What is being filled with the Holy Spirit? – John Wesley described the difference that “A believer, indeed, may sometimes be grieved, because he cannot do what his soul longs for. He may cry out, when he is detained from worshipping God in the great congregation, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God”. Filling with the Holy Spirit is a result of a close relationship with God established through regular prayer and time spent in His presence. The seed gets planted at baptism but for it to grow big, it needs to be nurtured and watered through prayer. It is only in prayer that “my will is surrendered to Your will” and God’s will then gets revealed and filling happens as an act of empowerment to carry out the same. Getting filled with the Holy Spirit amounts to loss of self into the immense might and holiness of God, through complete surrender.
Should we seek filling with the Holy Spirit? – Elisha sought the double portion of the Holy Spirit and received the same. Apostle Paul exhorts us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) for he himself was blessed as such. Lord Jesus also commanded in the same manner “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him” (Luke 11:13). Being filled with the Spirit is expressed repeatedly in the Book of Acts as a form of blessing to the believers and they then resorted to doing mighty works in that power without fear. Before the arrival of the Holy Spirit the disciples were fighting with each other for leadership role, deserted the Lord out of fear and were indoors for fear of persecution by the Jewish leaders. After being filled with the Spirit the same people travelled all over the world preaching the Gospel and even stood up to the Chief Priests saying, “Which is right in God’s eyes; to listen to you, or to Him? You be the judges!” (Acts 4:19).
Being filled with the Holy Spirit actually implies surrendering in total humility to the power and control of God to do His will, under His guidance and in His power. A believer can be useful for God only when he/she is a willing partner in executing Divine plans with no doubt and without personal plan, agenda or capability. This command is and will always remain applicable for all believers till the second coming of the Lord. The great theologian Andrew Murray has aptly summed it “Men ought to seek with their whole hearts to be filled with the Spirit of God. Without being filled with the Spirit, it is utterly impossible that an individual Christian or church can ever live or work as God desires”.
What is the proof of being filled with the Holy Spirit? – On the day of Pentecost the disciples, on being filled with the Holy Spirit, started speaking in tongues. Even today it is believed by many that the initial, physical evidence of this filling is the same sign. We tend to forget that we are referring to the descending of God into man and He can never be bound by any physical or other signs of His arrival to be recognized by man. Holy Spirit being part of the Holy Trinity is as independent of expectations of man as the Father and the Son. On the day of Pentecost He appeared as ‘tongues of fire’ and those filled with His presence started speaking in tongues. But this was not the evidence in other times of His blessing the believers with His presence.
The only proof that can be expected is the change in attitude of the individual through manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit. A believer blessed by Divine presence in him will start to be transformed into the image and likeness of Christ and that is evidenced through the fruits (Galatians 5:22-23). Symptoms of great exhilaration and joy with flow of tears, absolute calmness in others and a deep sense of awe and reverence are also visible signs of the Holy Spirit filling in the disciples. God’s powerful presence in anyone must be felt and experienced by him for His presence can never go unnoticed by the individual himself and others who come into contact with him. At the cost of repetition we cannot bind God into our agendas or expectations, He appeared to Abraham in person; to Moses in the burning bush; to Elijah through a still small voice and to Apostle Paul in that great shining light. It is a certainty that Divine presence in a person will definitely change his life and be manifested in many ways in influencing the lives of others.
An individual filled with the Holy Spirit would definitely receive and display a clearer understanding of the Scripture, witness Christ more effectively to win souls for the Lord and be able to overcome fear as was immediately seen in the Disciples’ lives. Important is not the evidence but the result of the filling of the Holy Spirit and this is evident in every person so blessed with His presence and nor should we seek such proof.
What is baptism by fire? – John the Baptist declared about the Messiah two specific traits- He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire and “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:11-12). The Lord mentioned about the wheat and tares to the disciples while telling them about the kingdom of heaven. The sower planted good seed only but the tares also cropped up due to the work of the evil one and the owner allowed the two to grow lest the good harvest also get damaged. At the time of harvesting the tares are then separated to be burnt while the wheat is harvested and through this educating them about the ‘Day of Judgement’ when the sinners will receive eternal damnation. A similar mention is made about this in the Old Testament “For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that comes shall burn them up” (Malachi 4:1).
Baptism of fire is interpreted differently by many- some call it the day of Pentecost, referring to the ‘tongues of fire’ coming from heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But there was no actual fire per se during this event and “one sat on each one of them” (Acts 2:2-3) and this cannot be the baptism of fire. The other view refers to the day of judgement as mentioned by the Lord Himself. But our Lord described the Ministry of the Holy Spirit to be to “convict you of sin” and this conviction is not an act of condemnation but of correction. This regular correction leads to transformation of the believer to a life of repentance and transformation into righteousness. Apostle Paul warns the believers ‘not to quench the Spirit’ (1 Thessalonians 5:19) thus hindering the functioning on the Spirit in checking the sinful nature of the individual. It is through this that a believer is refined into the image of Christ daily. Like silver is refined on fire till the impurities are separated and “the refiner can see his own face in the refining crucible”. In a similar vein we are subjected to this process through the Holy Spirit working in us.
Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit operative in believers now? – Apostle Paul’s explanation of the importance of love in a believer’s life is misinterpreted by many to imply that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only available to and during the era of the Apostles. However, he does clearly mention that these gifts are a partial expression of the powers of the coming age (Hebrews 6:5) and will continue till the arrival of the “Perfect One” or Lord Jesus to set up His kingdom on earth. At that stage there will be no chance of forgiveness for judgement will be meted out to all and the necessity of these gifts will not be felt by the believers in Lord’s personal presence. Till that time the gifts of the Holy Spirit and His presence will be in the believers to fulfill the promise of Lord Jesus “The works that I do you shall do also but greater works than these”. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit it is impossible for anyone to do any good works to imitate the Lord.
The Holy Spirit gifts will be eventually replaced by the complete manifestation of these powers in the personal presence of the Lord in His kingdom. The power to perform miracles will then be available as was given to the twelve and then the seventy, wisdom, knowledge and discernment of spirits will get replaced by the direct and personal knowledge of God and the gifts will then no longer be sought nor available to us. Till then we should seek the Lord to fill us with His Spirit and bestow the heavenly gifts through the Spirit to us. Even faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit and how can we come to the Lord without this precious blessing?
God showers His blessings on us through His Son and the Holy Spirit to lead us to His presence to finally change us into His own image and likeness- the original sinless form that we were in. Our duty is to diligently seek Him and humbly bow down before His throne to use us for His glory!!