My purpose here is not to issue a full-on theology of the Spirit and yet I surely believe it worthwhile to consider pneumatology which at core means the doctrine or study of spiritual beings and phenomena, especially the belief in spirits intervening between humans and God and/or the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Through my lifetime I have studied in three areas, mainly The Bible, world/national/local history and the history of the wide and super varied church. Though the following may seem a “rabbit hole” to some, the Person and work of the Spirit is so foundational that it continues to amaze me so few professing Christians dig into the matter.
I’ve often stated we people of faith in Jesus likely have more a sense of Who God the Father and God the Son are than Who God the Holy Spirit is. I stand on that premise though for me from the earliest sparking of my faith the Holy Spirit moved and He (being eternal, God and ever-present) continues to move in my life on many levels.
Perhaps the pertinent analogy some of my readers would best relate to is that of several roads coming together. In Chicago as in Sydney, Australia and many places I’ve traveled there are multiple intersections where sometimes five, six or even more roads all converge. This can be really interesting and even confusing at “rush hour” when driving… been there, done that… but I digress.
It seems to me interaction with, a deepening and though subjective, experience with the Lord comes to us via a number of several intersecting ways.
By study of God’s Word beginning with Jesus, then on to the Book of Acts, Paul, Peter and other New Testament writers, also delving through the Old Testament as well as personal experience (signs and wonders/the supernatural) we at times find others “on the same page” with ourselves. Or not.
Because of extremism on either end of these things, fear and/or a real desire to not make mistakes or get into error many just don’t open what to them is a “Pandora’s box”.
It is of course obvious that imperfect, finite people do not construct literally perfect theologies about God or His Spirit, that we all deal with uncertainties, can “get it wrong”, interpret Scripture and etc., etc., wrongly.
It is also obvious for some the fear of doing so keeps people in shallow waters spiritually speaking. Feeling safe doesn’t mean being safe. Studying or merely experiencing what one believes to be the presence/interaction of the Spirit of God in one’s life is not an absolute of true knowledge and certainly not automatic wisdom and a total, complete, accurate assessment of “capital T” TRUTH about Him and His work yet an intimate interaction with God is much dependent on His eternal, living, personality and a deep and deepening sense of us being in Him and He in us as followers of Jesus Christ and true, authentic lovers of God. This can and should include biblical information but also relationship with Him. Some focus so strongly on one of these they neglect the other.
So- what “intersections” might I offer at this point in this regard?
- Scripture -the Bible which I believe is the inspired Word of God via the Holy Spirit, not merely by human theory and imagination
- Supernatural/mystical experiences -these are found from one end of Scripture to the other as well as in human history, also in part via manifestation of true spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible that are beyond natural abilities
- Physical manifestations -See point 2 but also and including feelings but indeed deeper than mere emotion or physical endorphin activity
- That which often is labelled “coincidence” -direct answers to prayer as well as points 2 and 3
- Conscience -in very brief Romans 2.14 “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them” -the Greek word literally means co-knowledge, a deep sense that is found in all people who are created in God’s Own image (imago dei) even though all yet also (unlike God) have a sin nature, the capacity to grieve and/or quench the Holy Spirit as He speaks (“co-“) in our conscience
From my own years of study, teaching on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit as well as relational experiences I attribute to He and I in unity, each and all of these are paths/roads/highways that in my own life continually converge to the extent I’m personally convinced these five areas (and there may be more) confirm to me Who He is, what He has done and indeed DOES in my own life -with regularity.
Let me unpack at least some of these in short form, because over fifty years walking with Him would provide a very, very long book I’m’ not convinced I must write at this time.
Ways the Holy Spirit has spoken to me personally:
SCRIPTURE- While reading the Bible on so very many occasions from my earliest days of faith, even before following Jesus the truths of God’s Word seemed to leap off the pages into my mind and heart. I had -reason- to fear God but equal reason to hope in Him according to what I read. Get this, my past experiences in life as well as present confirmed the -truths- I read and one of the most stark realities of reaping what we sow brought me a sense of the reality of God I’d somehow “had all along” but now recognized as beyond my power to ignore, bury or even change. That is, that God IS and was speaking to me had to do with His power, a power far beyond my own to control. In such a place many of us finally meet God.
When Matthew tells us Jesus responded to the devil “But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt. 4.4) it was by the Holy Spirit those Words were spoken. When God the Father, God the Son speak God the Holy Spirit is speaking and has spoken. THAT is where active, actual spiritual nurture, sustenance and life comes from according to Jesus Christ.
When Paul writes that the Holy Spirit breathed the Scriptures into and through His prophets and were thus written, I’m convinced it is so. When Jesus told His disciples that heaven and earth would pass away but His Word would never do so, then told them when He Himself would send the Spirit after He had ascended to remind them of His Words, Whom He called “the Spirit of truth” did and does precisely that. The Holy Spirit speaks through His Words and acts- the Word of God via Jesus Who John calls “the Word made flesh”.
Scripture further states Jesus Christ was filled with the Spirit “beyond measure”. He taught that we would and should “be filled with the Spirit”. Paul writes “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you”. When Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life” He is saying it by the Spirit and the Spirit Who was going to raise Him. Trinitarian doctrine is deep, rich and forever was, is and shall be Father/Son/Spirit interactive, the Three Who are One.
PEOPLE- There is ample evidence in Scripture and personal experience where truth, good and accurate guidance and provision came into people’s lives via prophets, teachers and others. The spiritual gifts which come by and through God the Holy Spirit according to Scripture include prophecy, words of wisdom and words of knowledge. These gifts are manifested through humans so gifted. Imperfect as we each are, flawed, mistake prone and even sinful, yet the Spirit has spoken, healed, performed outright miracles and more -via- people. Regardless of economics, political power, social standing, education, race or spiritual beliefs -I have personally heard, seen and experienced the Holy Spirit speaking and working in my own and countless others lives throughout my lifetime. On many, many occasions though sometimes only in retrospect it is clear it was not mere human speech or action but the Holy Spirit who moved through them to reach myself and others in need.
PRAYER- As usual, both the Bible and my own experience make strong statements about people receiving, resisting, discovering and being moved by the Holy Spirit. Prayer is a regular part of these texts and events in Scripture and in life. Luke in his history-letter Book of Acts accents this again and again. Apostle Paul, Jude and others write about the Spirit’s involvement and indeed essentiality in our ability to pray, that is, to both speak with and hear God the Father and God the Son via praying.
It is simple enough to search and locate a large ream of verses that clearly speak to the reality of the Holy Spirit’s direct involvement with physical birth, spiritual birth, His communication to humans, indeed the very resurrection of Jesus and the foundational (and long list of Bible scholar’s commentary quotes on) His absolute involvement in every Christ-follower’s salvation itself.
Jesus tells us He is “the Spirit of truth”, “Helper”, “Comforter”, “Teacher” and much, much more being part of what in Christian history is often called “the godhead” or “Trinity”- Father/Son/Spirit, Whom the Celtic Christians referred to as “The Three”.
Apostle Paul in Galatians chapter five lays out both spiritual gifts “of the Spirit” and the spiritual fruit “of the Spirit” which HE is the Source of.
Note that gifts of prophecy, words of knowledge and words of wisdom (as well as the other gifts Paul mentions) all have to do with thought and those three speaking -therefore a “voice” in mind, a sense of connection, information, teaching is certainly foundational in the Spirit’s work in and through human beings. There is simply no logical argument against such.
A key verse worth pondering comes via Luke in chapter 11. Jesus says in vs. 13 “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
A.W. Tozer put the issue simply and truly down to whether or not we actually want the Spirit to fill us, want to surrender in loving obedience to Him, are willing to allow Him to possess, control and direct our life.
I’ll finish with this:
Regardless of what your favorite Bible teacher/pastor/etc. or you believe about the Holy Spirit and in particular how we live in Him and moreso how He lives, moves and ministers to as well as through us, the follower of Jesus Christ benefits by the study and careful application of our interaction with the Spirit! With sensible, appropriate caution and bathed in God’s love, over time- knowledge, then wisdom and actual obedience to Him blesses not only ourselves but those we influence for their good as the result of God the Holy Spirit Whom Jesus sent.
My spiritual awakenings have been prompted, curated and borne fruit by God the Holy Spirit, of this I’m as certain as I am that it is actually air I breathe and not merely my brain and lungs imagining that I’m breathing. Intersections with Him brought, bring and will carry me in eternal life with the Father, Son and saints of God. I am forever thankful!
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn