In any study of the Holy Spirit, it is first necessary to define some basic concepts and words by which we communicate with one another on this subject. Understanding the definition behind key words will greatly aid our interpretation of those concepts the Holy Spirit reveals in the Bible in order to communicate to us His being, work and influence on our lives. A common understanding of definitions will also guard against confusion that often arises in any discussions that are beyond our earthly environment.
Much of the misunderstanding in studies concerning the Holy Spirit actually lies in a misunderstanding of some fundamental Bible teachings concerning four subjects: (1) the justice of God, (2) the nature of man, (3) the occurrence of confirming miracles, and (4) the person of the Holy Spirit. Once we better understanding of these fundamental teachings, we can better appreciate the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.
We must always approach a study of the Scriptures with our cultural and religious backgrounds clearly in mind. We are cultural beings, and thus, when we study any material of the Bible, our culture will affect how we understand what we read. Because of this, we will often view the work of the Spirit from the standpoint of our past and present religious culture. Therefore, our religious culture will often lead us to come to different conclusions because we have come out of different cultural/religious backgrounds.
Regardless of our culture, or past religious background, we must objectively seek to allow the Bible to speak for itself. We must subjugate our religious culture and beliefs to the authority of the Bible. We must do this, not only to understand objectively what the Bible teaches concerning the Holy Spirit, but also to maintain the fundamental teaching of the Bible that we remain united as disciples of Jesus. No study of the subject of the Holy Spirit should cause disunity among those who seek to understand the ministry of the Holy Spirit among Christians. If division does occur among us in our discussions, then we can be assured that the Holy Spirit is not the cause, for it is the work of the Spirit to bring believers together into one united body.
As we launch into the biblical definitions of the Spirit and His work, we must remind ourselves that we will never come to a complete understanding of the Spirit and His work. As previously stated, we would have to be God in order to fully understand God and His work. Therefore, we must not frustrate ourselves with our lack of understanding concerning those things that pertain to God.
The Holy Spirit realized that we would be somewhat frustrated in our efforts to understand that which pertains to the function of God in reference to the world. He does not, therefore, expect us to understand everything about His being and work. He wants to assure us that He will carry on with what He intends to do for us regardless of our lack of knowledge of what and how He ministers to our needs. We must remember that the level of our understanding does not determine the function of His work in our lives. If it did, then the Spirit would certainly be hindered because of our failure to understand fully how He works. Because of our lack of knowledge and understanding concerning the God who is past finding out by the feeble efforts of man, the Holy Spirit simply reassures us that He will do His work regardless of our understanding of how He works.
The “person” of Godhead who works on behalf of Christians since the Pentecost of A.D. 30 is the Holy Spirit. From the beginning of creation unto this present time, the Spirit has worked in the world in order to bring about the purpose for which the world and man were created. Since Pentecost, He has worked among the saints of God in a special way in order to bring faithful believers into eternal dwelling with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In reference to this dispensation of time, the work of the Spirit was prophesied in the Old Testament, proclaimed by Jesus, and subsequently manifested by the coming of the Spirit in power upon the apostles in A.D. 30. Since His coming on the apostles, He has worked among God’s people and the world in order to work all things together for good for those who love God. It is important, therefore, that the Christian be knowledgeable of the person of the Spirit and His work on behalf of all Christians in this world of struggle and temptation.
Many people frustrate themselves as to how the Spirit works today, and specifically, how He functions in their lives. We feel that such frustrations are unnecessary for two reasons: First, the Holy Spirit is going to do His work as He so chooses. He is going to work in our lives as He chooses, not according to how we think He should work. When the Spirit worked through the miraculous gifts in the first century, His work through the unique gifts was determined by the individual on whom the apostles had laid their hands (1 Co 14:32; see At 8:18). However, His work among Christians today is different. We would not assume that we control Him today as He allowed those in the first century who possessed the miraculous gifts to control the exercising of their particular gifts. He will simply work in our lives according to His own restrictions.
We would assume that He would work today in the life of a novice Christian who is still dipping wet from the waters of baptism, just as He would work in the disciples who had been Christians for many years. We cannot “train” the Spirit to work in our lives. The Spirit is simply going to do His work according to what He decides.
We may quench His work in our lives, but our “unquenching” of His work in our lives does not mean that He will take control of our lives. He will not violate our freedom to make moral choices. He will simply work in our lives according to the restrictions that He places on Himself.
Second, regardless of our knowledge of what the Spirit does in our lives today, we would not be so arrogant as to assume that He works according to our knowledge of how He works. If His work in our lives is governed by our knowledge of how He works, then we are puffed up. In fact, if His work is governed by our knowledge of how He works, then we set ourselves up as judges of others in whose lives we might think that the Spirit is not working according to how we might judge that He should work. If we become judges of how the Spirit should work in our own life and the lives of others, then we have identified narcissistic religiosity. This is a religiosity that often plagues those who believe that the Spirit is working directly in their lives in a way that they are led to behave perfectly according to the wishes of the Spirit. They assume that the work of the Spirit in their lives validates their sonship apart from obedience to the gospel.
We live in a world of Christendom today that is almost as ignorant of the word of God as in the Dark Ages when men were restricted from having the Bible in their own language. In fact, we would assert that we have moved into a neo-Dark Ages where most religious groups who claim to be Christian are characterized by a “Lord, Lord” chant of religiosity. But there is a serious dearth of Bible study and discussion among those who claim to be following Jesus.
There is a religious deception with which we must deal today. When the majority of those who are in the pulpits of “Christian” groups around the world depend more on their ability to speak and exhort mesmerized audiences than their exposition of the Scriptures, then we know that the knowledge of God’s word is growing dark in the minds of the attending constituents.
The shallow knowledge of the word of God that is prevalent among “smart phone” disciples today is leading us into a new world order of those who would be our leaders. When some leaders claim to be taught directly by the Holy Spirit what they should proclaim from pulpits around the world, then we know that God has pronounced on us the same judgment that He pronounced on Israel: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hs 4:6).
It would be safe to say that the “Bible student” is someone who is rare among us. We are overburdened with too many Bible readers who click their way through the Holy Scriptures without a concentrated effort to study the Scriptures. And there is a difference between Bible reading and Bible study. To be led by Bible students has become a rare opportunity among many religious groups of the world who claim to be Christian.
Our studies of the Holy Spirit, therefore, are both positive and negative. They are positive in that we must determine what the Spirit says He does in our lives. They are negative in that we must make a difference between the work of the Spirit and the excitement of our human spirit. When we claim that the emotional excitement of our spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit, then we are narcissistically placing ourselves as the center of reference in our own religion. And this is where many people are today in the religious world. They have so little knowledge of the work of the Holy Spirit, that they confuse the function of their spirit with the work of the Holy Spirit.
When we make a difference between the work of the Holy Spirit and our own spirit some become somewhat irritated. Their irritation thus proves our point. When the narcissistic religionist claims that the excitement of his own spirit—often revealed in his claim to be speaking in tongues—is not actually the Holy Spirit, he feels offended. But if his excited spirit was actually the work of the Holy Spirit in his life, then he would not become irritated. We cannot irritate the Holy Spirit. But we can irritate a narcissistic religionist who has plagiarized the Holy Spirit.
In the studies that follow, we will certainly irritate some believers in reference to their beliefs concerning the work of the Holy Spirit, especially when their beliefs have become a part of their religious heritage. But this is what Bible study is all about. Paul assumed that we would do this with all our beliefs:
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test your own selves. Do you not know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you are disqualified?” (2 Co 13:5).
While living in the midst of numerous idolatrous religions, Timothy needed to be reassured that there is “one God and one mediator between God and men.” The emphasis in the text is on the word “one” in reference to our Mediator. It is as Peter many years before stated, “There is salvation in no other [than Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (At 4:12). In all matters of prayer and salvation, Jesus alone stands between God and man.
Outside Christ Jesus there is no medium through which we can approach the one God. No religion will take one to his or her desired end of eternal life. The notion that one can make his own choice of religion in order to transition into eternal life is strictly denied by the proposition of this context.
In the context of prayer, we are reassured that in our prayers for those in government we are addressing the King of kings. He is the King of all those kings on earth for whom we pray (1 Tm 6:15). He is the Lord of all lords. Our supplications to God through the mediatorship the King of kings and Lord of lords is that He reign over His realm so that we can evangelize peacefully throughout His realm of reign.
The ascended and reigning King Jesus is “the mediator of the new covenant.” He is the mediator between those who have obeyed the gospel and God (Hb 9:15). Jesus qualified Himself to be our mediator because He ransomed Himself. Since He is the only mediator between God and man, then we cannot expect a quiet and peaceful social environment without approaching God through Him. With great sacrifice the Son of God qualified Himself for this heavenly ministry.
“He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men … He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Ph 2:7-8).
All this occurred “in its proper time,” for “when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son” into the world (Gl 4:4). This was the good news that needed to be announced to the world (Mk 16:15). So Paul relates to us his own commissioning as one who was chosen to preach the gospel of the incarnational Son of God into the flesh of man in order to offer Himself for man.
It was not that Paul was entitled with the name “preacher.” Preaching was the ministry of heralding the message of the gospel to the world. When a disciple proclaims the gospel of Jesus, then he or she is heralding the gospel to the lost. It must be noted that preaching is not a job, but a ministry of announcing the gospel to unbelievers. Only those who are in the bondage of institutional religion hire and fire professional preachers. But because Christians know the gospel, they are all proclaimers of the gospel. They cannot be fired from their mission to preach the gospel to the world.
The New Testament is void of giving titles to those who assume the responsibility to carry out the mandate of Mark 16:15. The Greek word karusso (preacher) is the function of announcing (heralding) news to those who have not heard (Rm 10:14). The Greek word euangelizo is also translated “preacher.” This word refers to one who announces good news. It is not a word that is used to entitle one as a “preacher” who stands before the believers. There were no “pulpit preachers” in the early church. The preachers were all standing before unbelievers, not believers. There is no professionalism in the word “preacher.”
Those who would assign themselves to be professionals in the ministry of “preaching” have no proof text in the Scriptures to entitle themselves as such. In a second letter, Paul simply charged Timothy to “Preach the word” (2 Tm 4:2). It was not a charge to be a preacher. The charge was that he assume his responsibility as a disciple of Jesus to herald the gospel. In the same context, he added that Timothy “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tm 4:5). The emphasis of the charge was on what to do, not on what he was to be.
The same is true in reference to the word “apostle” that Paul used in reference to the function of one who is sent forth to herald the gospel. He himself was “appointed a preacher and an apostle.” He was not designated to function as such for the sake of the church, but for the sake of the unbelievers (See 2 Tm 1:11).
The Greek word “apostle” (apostolos) means “one who is sent.” In the early part of His ministry, Jesus “called His disciples. And from them He chose twelve, whom also He named apostles” (Lk 6:13). The word “named” in this context would better be translated “designated.” Jesus did not entitled the twelve with the name “apostle.” They were not “apostle” Matthew, “apostle” John, or “apostle” Peter. They were as Paul often identified himself, “Called to be an apostle” (Rm 1:1).
Paul, as well as all the apostles who were specifically designated by Jesus to function as His special Christ-sent messengers, did the work of one being sent forth to preach the gospel. They were Christ-sent apostles. Therefore, those who would be apostles must be gone from home. They must be gone into all the world. Someone who stays at home cannot assume the ministry of one who must be sent into all the world. Self-entitlement does not make one either a preacher or an apostle. Epaphroditus was a church-sent apostle who had been sent out by the church in Philippi (Ph 2:25). However, he was such only when he was away from his home on a mission to Rome on behalf of Paul (Ph 4:18). But when he returned home to Philippi, he was no longer an apostle.
When one stands before the believers, he or she is “a teacher.” In the case of Paul, he was designated “a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” When one stands before unbelievers, he is a preacher and an evangelists. Those who are designated to be shepherds of the flock of believers are teachers (1 Tm 3:2). When Timothy stood before the believers, Paul mandated, “These things command and teach” (1 Tm 4:11). In the second letter to Timothy Paul gave instructions concerning the responsibility of Timothy in reference to teaching the believers: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tm 2:2).
Timothy was to “give heed to … teaching” the word of God to the brethren (1 Tm 4:13). And in reference to the responsibilities of the shepherds, “Let the elders who direct well be counted worthy of double honor [salary], especially to those who labor in preaching [the gospel to the unbelievers], and teaching [the word of God to the believers]” (1 Tm 5:17). In this first letter to Timothy, Paul enjoined on Timothy, “These things teach and exhort” (1 Tm 6:2; see 1 Tm 6:18). The mandate was to reinforce Timothy’s responsibility to continue to teach the word of God to the believers. And in reference to any opposition that Timothy might incur, Paul wrote, “If anyone teaches otherwise [to the church], … he is proud, knowing nothing” (1 Tm 6:4).
Romans 12:1 would be an introductory statement that explains the organic function of the members of the body of Christ as they seek individually to live according to the gospel: “I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” In order to accomplish this spiritual paradigm shift in one’s life, Paul explained that we must “be transformed by the renewing” of our minds (Rm 12:2). In another context he wrote, “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus” (Ph 2:5). In reference to discipleship, the following are those areas of our lives on which we must focus in order to transform our minds into the mind of Christ:
A. Focus on prayer (2:1-4):
Our lives must be characterized by continual prayer (1 Th 5:17). The exhortation in this text is that supplications and prayers be directed to God for those who are not a part of the body of God. These are those who have influence upon the social environment in which the members of the body live. When prayers are “made for all men,” then the social environment in which the church exists changes for the benefit of the members. We do not know how God influences “all men” for the benefit of the church, but at least in this request for prayers for all men, God does influence those around us for our benefit. We know that He works in the world around us because the Holy Spirit in this text asks that we pray that things change for the better.
Prayers affect “all who are in authority” for the benefit of Christians. Again, it is not our business to understand how God works in the affairs of man. The simple fact that the Holy Spirit here directs the hand of Paul to enjoin upon Christians the responsibility of praying for government officials assumes that God will work in government for the benefit of the church. Our prayers, therefore, do enhance the function of the body of Christ. Our prayers must extend beyond those who are members of the body of Christ. The principle reason for such prayers is “that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life.”
Offering prayers and supplications for all men and government officials “is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Since it is the desire of God that “all men to be saved,” then it is necessary that Christians live in a society where their gospel preaching is not disrupted or hindered by social upheaval. Men and women cannot “come to the knowledge of the truth” of the gospel if the preaching of the gospel is hindered through social chaos. We assume, therefore, that the Spirit’s directions concerning prayers for civil government officials are not so much for the salvation of the officials themselves, but for the salvation of the citizenship through our unhindered preaching of the gospel.