What do you know about the Holy Spirit?
This is an enormous topic that could span several weeks of in-depth study. But, we recently decided to tackle this in our mid-week Bible Study (Find the Meet-Up group here).
Tonight, we are going to dive into the frequently, and most important, asked questions regarding the Holy Spirit. I’m sure it’s going to be quite a night of discussion and challenging preconceived ideas about who and what the Holy Spirit actually is. So, in the spirit of talking about the Spirit, I decided to leave some of our notes here on this blog.
What the Bible Says About the Holy Spirit
Prophecies of the Holy Ghost outpouring is found in many places in the Old Testament. However, the two most obvious references are found in Joel and Ezekiel:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
Interestingly enough, it’s this prophecy from the book of Joel that Peter referenced when he was trying to explain the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Acts 2.
But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Through these scriptures, we can understand that the Holy Ghost was a promise from God, one that He intended on giving us all the way back into the Old Testament.
But what is the Holy Spirit?
Obviously, it’s the Spirit of God dwelling in us. But these scriptures clear that up a little better than I can:
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
It’s important that we catch these small words that really impact the meaning of these scriptures. In John 14, Jesus says that the disciples knew the Holy Spirit because he dwelled with them.
This is a direct announcement that Jesus Himself was the Holy Spirit, only not in spirit form, rather in the flesh.
Then, Jesus went on to say that the Spirit that was dwelling with them shall be in them. Don’t overlook the future-tense of “shall.” Then, Jesus finishes his declaration by saying that He Himself was the comforter that would come to them, only in the future He wouldn’t dwell with them, He would dwell in them, as the Holy Spirit.
Colossians reiterates this truth by saying it is Christ who is in us.
So, the answer to the question, “what is the Holy Spirit,” is easily answered as the Spirit of Jesus Christ, dwelling inside of us. But, this brings up many more questions than it answers. And that’s what we want to explore in this article.
What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
We’ve already read how the Holy Spirit would be our comforter. A lot of people just accept that word and move right on without really thinking about why Jesus called it a comforter.
You see, in John 14, He is explaining to the disciples that He would be leaving them again; only this time, He wouldn’t be returning in just 3 days. In other words, the disciples were going to have to get used to the fact that Jesus was not going to be with them bodily.
Do you know what would happen if Jesus never ascended, but was alive in Jerusalem somewhere?
Every single Christian (and there wouldn’t be that man) would be huddled around Him. They wouldn’t leave, and the Gospel wouldn’t have spread all over the earth.
Would you leave His side if Jesus was walking on this earth today? If you said yes, you’re a liar. (kindly said, of course)
Think about it, Jesus was arrested and crucified and his brave disciples went into hiding.
The Holy Spirit is Our Comforter
What was the difference of Peter who cut off the ear of the Roman soldier, and Peter who cursed at the little girl around the campfire?
Peter with Jesus was a brave (and hot-headed) warrior. Peter without Jesus was a coward.
The difference was, his comforter had been taken away. That’s why Jesus said, “I’m leaving you here on earth, but I’ll send you another comforter.” Paraphrasing: It’s not going to be this body, it’s going to be something else… but it’s still going to be ME. “I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.”
So, yes, the Holy Ghost is Jesus with us. He’s in us. That means, He’s with me when I’m in Seattle, but at the same time He’s with our cousins who are missionaries to Namibia, Africa. That’s the solution to the riddle of why He would take his body away from us and instead, give us his Spirit.
The Fruits of the Spirit
But comfort is not the only thing the Holy Ghost does. It gives us Power, it leads us unto all truth, and it gives us what are called the “fruits” of the Spirit. You can find the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:
The Gifts of the Spirit
I Corinthians 12 lays out several gifts that are given to us when we’re full of the Holy Spirit – things like prophecy, wisdom, interpretation of tongues, and knowledge.
Not only do we receive special fruits and gifts through the Holy Spirit, but it is essential to our salvation. When Jesus comes back for his church (the rapture) we will be changed from mortal to immortal. But, that transformation requires the Spirit of God. Take a look at Romans:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Notice those small words: Paul said if, the Spirit dwells in you. That’s a huge word, “if.”
What if means is that there is a condition to the quickening of our mortal bodies. “If,” is the condition – if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, it will quicken our mortal bodies. If it doesn’t, then it won’t.
Maybe that’s why in verse 9, Paul said, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his…” (There’s that big IF word again.)
This leads us to the next question:
Why is it Important to Have the Holy Spirit?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Jesus is saying the same thing Paul was saying in Romans, chapter 8 – without being filled with the Holy Spirit, we cannot attain salvation.
I know this goes against a lot of popular theology, but it’s what the scripture says, over and over again. It’s a requirement (that’s why Paul said “if”) to be filled with the Holy Spirit if we want to see or enter the kingdom of God.
I don’t know about you, but that cinches it for me. I have no more questions about this requirement.
How Do I Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost?
Now, we have come to probably the most difficult question to answer of all of them. God gives this gift, we must ask Him.
In Matthew 7:7, and 21:22 Jesus told us we have not because we ask not, and that if we ask in His name, we shall receive. A lot of people just file that away under asking for healing or a new job, etc.. But it applies to spiritual things as well.
- In Acts 1, the disciples were together in one place, praying when the Holy Spirit was poured out on them for the first time.
- In Acts 2, Peter just says after you repent and are baptized in Jesus’ name, you will receive it.
- In Acts 10, while Peter is preaching, his audience of Gentiles receive it, which surprises all the Jews who didn’t think that was possible.
- In Acts 19, a group of believers received the Holy Spirit after being rebaptized in Jesus Name, and Paul lays his hands on them in prayer.
We have examples of people getting the Holy Ghost after repenting and being baptized, which is the most common occurrence. But, there is also the example of Acts 10, where people received the Holy Spirit in the middle of listening to their first Christian sermon. Then, they were baptized in Jesus’ name after receiving the Holy Spirit.
In my experience, most people get the Holy Ghost right after being baptized, and most of the time they are just praising God when it happens. I had been baptized for several years before receiving the Holy Ghost for the first time. No one was praying with me, but I was praying and asking God for it during an “altar call,” at the church I grew up in.
A church planter in Washington D.C. named Jerry Staten received the Holy Ghost in the middle of Vietnam, locked away in a room by himself. He didn’t even really know what it was when he received it for the first time.
People have received the Holy Spirit in an upper room, in someone’s home, in McDonald’s, on the side of the road, on the street, in a church, in a magazine storage surrounded by explosives, at gas stations, standing in baptistries still soaking wet… God chooses when and where to give the Holy Spirit.
The only consistent theme, over and over, is that people are praying when they receive it. The more important question is, “what happens when I get the Holy Spirit,” or, “how do I know when I receive the Holy Spirit?”
How Do I Know When I Receive the Holy Spirit
With something as precious, and as important (since it’s required for going to heaven) as the Holy Spirit, a believer needs to know when it has happened. A lot of people “accept” Jesus into their heart (not sure what that even means) and then claim they are filled with His Spirit. One thing I notice in these settings is that there’s nothing really spectacular that happens. Nothing out of the ordinary to give witness to the amazing miracle of God putting His Spirit inside of us.
So, what if when we “accept” Him, He doesn’t come?
Can you show one place in the Scripture where someone “accepted” the Lord into their heart, and were filled with His Spirit?
It doesn’t happen.
What does happen?
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This was the first time the Holy Spirit was poured out. This is what Peter said was a direct fulfillment of the prophecy in the book of Joel. And, when they were filled, something very spectacular happened: “They began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” But, this isn’t the only time this happened.
While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.
This passage in Acts 10 is fascinating:
First, the Holy Spirit was given to the Gentiles. When you read the context of this story, Peter doesn’t believe Gentiles can be saved. This is amazing, because Peter had said all the way back in Acts 2, that the promise of the Gospel was to all, even as many as the Lord would call. Now, here he is believing that it’s only for one group of people. He’s so misguided in this assumption that Jesus has to give him a vision and tell him, “what I call clean, don’t you call unclean.”
Then, Jesus tells Peter to get down off the roof because He has sent some men to talk to him, and that Peter should go with them. When the men arrive, they are Gentiles.
Obeying the command of the Lord, Peter goes with them. When they get to Cornelius’ house, Peter preaches to them the Gospel. And while he’s preaching, these Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit. And the Jews that were there were astonished, leaving Peter to ask “can we forbid them a baptism?” Then Peter doesn’t
Why were they astonished? Because they witnessed the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit “as we.” Meaning, they had received the Holy Ghost just like the Jews had.
How did they know? “For they heard them speak with tongues.”
Then Peter doesn’t just suggest, but he commands them to be baptized in Jesus’ name.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
In Acts 19, Paul comes across a group of believers and asks them about the Holy Ghost. Not only had they not received it, they didn’t even know what it was.
Now, a common Christian today might just pass right on by and say, “eh, you got it when you believed.” But, it’s interesting that Paul didn’t do that. In fact, Paul thought something was wrong.
How could a believer not have the Holy Ghost?
So, Paul becomes Sherlock Holmes and starts trying to figure out why these believers haven’t received it yet.
They had faith, because they were believers. So, faith wasn’t the problem.
They obviously were living Godly lives, so repentance was the problem either.
Surely, as believers they were baptized… Wait a second!
“How were you baptized?” Paul asked.
“We were baptized after the example of John the baptist,” they replied.
“Ahah!” Paul says, that’s not the baptism of the new covenant, for the baptism of the apostles was in Jesus’ name.
So, Paul arrives at the conclusion that the reason these believers had not yet received the Holy Ghost was because they had been baptized the wrong way.
So, he tells them they need to be rebaptized in the Name of Jesus – which they readily accept and obey. Then, after they are rebaptized, Paul prays for them, and they all receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
(Have you been baptized the right way?)
How did they know they received the Holy Spirit? “They spake with tongues.”
In every single instance in the Bible, when it describes what happened when someone received the Holy Spirit, they speak in tongues.
It’s a phenomenon, but it happens.
It’s exceptional, but it happens.
It’s a miracle, but it happens.
Have you really received the Holy Ghost since you believed?
If not, let’s schedule a Bible Study today. I want to introduce you to the most amazing experience a human can have on this earth.