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).
[Next in series: April 30]