God is Spirit. Human beings aren’t able to see Him unless He reveals Himself. In the OT, there are many accounts documenting His disclosure to man in visible forms. For example, He came in the form of a man to speak to Abraham about the birth of Isaac, Abraham’s son (Gen 18). After more than 400 years, God appeared to Moses commanding him to bring His people out from Egypt, fulfilling the promise He spoke to Abraham (Gen 15:16). In this particular instance, God appeared to Moses in a flame of fire in the midst of a burning bush (Exod 3:2).
However, the most dramatic fashion of God revealing Himself to man is by dwelling in him. At the same time, this also raises a very important issue: How do you know that God is in you? What is the evidence if there is any? Incessant debates have gone on for years and still continue, showing no sign of subsiding over this man-made controversy. One premise used in support the dwelling of the Spirit in a person is that it is visible to others around him. This is not entirely unbiblical. However, understanding the truth requires a more careful analysis and a better insight based upon the teachings of Christ.
One example is Joseph having the Spirit of God in him, which did become noticeable to others (Gen 41:38). Continue reading
The Book of John gives the most detailed of accounts concerning the work of the Spirit. In particular, it states the period in which the Spirit of God would come on those who believe in Jesus (Jn 7:39, 16:7). But, at the same time, the teachings in John seem to contradict other parts of the Scriptures, which describe the work of the Spirit in the lives of the saints in every generation, including the saints before the Day of Pentecost, till the second coming of Christ. Taking a closer look at these so-called discrepancies enables us to understand not only the different functions of the Spirit but also what the Spirit would do for His people after Christ’s ascension.
There is a clarification to make here to ensure the study is well within the perimeters of the Bible: Although the Spirit is unchanging, He may have differing functions. A cursory study of the Old Testament reveals that the Spirit worked with His chosen people, just as He worked with the apostles and continues to do so with us today. This raises a question about what Jesus unambiguously said about the receiving of the Spirit after His ascension.
If the reception of the Holy Spirit is so important for salvation, it should be clear when it happens. Its evidence is the speaking of tongues (Acts 2:4, 33). The incident of speaking in tongues at Pentecost formed the basis for confirming Cornelius’ reception of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44f): “Can any forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have (Acts 10:47; 11:15)?” That they had received the Holy Spirit was in no way a haphazard guess or even to be expected, seeing as they were Gentiles. All the circumcised believers who had come to Cornelius’ house were amazed because they heard them speak in tongues (Acts. 10:46), thus confirming that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.
A careful reader would realize that the word ‘gift’ is singular. It coincides with that of the Pentecost: “…and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The Greek word for it is “Dorea” (Acts 2:28, 8:20; 10:45; 11:17; Jn 4:10). It denotes “free gift”. “The Gift of the Holy Spirit” here refers to the Holy Spirit Himself. The “gift” is not charismatic (1 Cor 12:4) because Peter’s message emphasized Jesus’ ministry, deeds, death and resurrection (Acts 10:34ff). “Charisma” is another Greek word which means “gift” (1 Cor 12:7). It refers to the bestowments (spiritual gifts, which include tongues-speaking as well) of the Holy Spirit upon different individuals in the body of Christ (Rm 12:6; 1 Cor 1:7; 12:4, 9, 28, 30, 31; 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6; 1 Pet 4:10).
It is crucially important to understand the relationship of the Holy Spirit with the church. It is clear that the church is the body of Christ (Eph 4:4; 5:23ff). She is thus the habitation of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:22). This is why Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Eph 4:4). The church is also God’s temple, as the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16f). Paul was making explicit the inseparability between the church and the Holy Spirit. This truth dismisses any human right to the ownership of the church; she belongs solely to God.
By having the Holy Spirit, the church becomes a spiritual living organism that grows. Thus getting others to become the members of Christ’s body is one of the most important duties of the church. From the Bible, the way to become a member of Christ’s body is fairly simple. Acts 20:28 tells of the way – to receive the redemption by Jesus’ atoning blood.
But how exactly does the blood of Jesus redeem us? Continue reading
Whatever the apostles did and experienced, especially with regards to receiving the Holy Spirit, provides a complete understanding to Christ’s teachings of the promised Spirit. The giving of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost not only fulfilled the OT prophecies (Isa. 32:15; 44:1-5; Ezek. 36:27-28; Joel 2:28ff; Acts 2:14ff), but also defines how the Spirit is received. The former is a testimony to the infallibility of God’s promises – He is absolutely faithful to His word. The latter serves as an invaluable pattern for the church to determine the receiving of the Holy Spirit in the face of deception.
The Pentecostal Experience of the pouring out of the Spirit has become a priceless model for the apostolic workers. This is absolutely true in Peter’s case where he explained, to the Jewish believers, why the church must accept Gentile converts as part of the community of God. Most importantly, Peter was convinced, not only with the visions God gave him before he met with Cornelius and his family, but because they also received the Holy Spirit in the exact same way he experienced receiving the Holy Spirit. Continue reading