First Mennonite Church
July 21, 2019
The Holy Spirit in the New Testament
Let me begin by admitting here to you something I cannot understand. It is a mystery to me. (How do like that for an encouragement?) In Luke 4, verse one, reads: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit and in verse 14, Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee. If Jesus is the second person in the God head, how is it possible that he could be full/filled of the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit? But, maybe we should also remember what Jesus says in John 10, verse 30, “The Father and I are one.” And in John 14, verse 10, Jesus also says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? There might be some who can explain that. It is a mystery to me. As for now, let us see what the New Testament tells us about the Holy Spirit.
There is something noteworthy of our attention regarding the Spirit of God in the New Testaments. When Jesus, the apostle and other New Testament writers spoke about or wrote about Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit, the idea of another divine entity/being did not appear to have been a novelty nor as being something scandalous or heretic to the ears of those who heard it first. And this is especially strange because the Jews are monotheists, that is, they believe there is only one true God.
It is also truly amazing how the concept of a Triune God is weaved so beautifully in the New Testament, even as early as when the announcement of Jesus’ birth was given. In Luke chapter one, when the angel of the Lord comes to a shocked young Mary and tells her that she will have a child, Mary asks, “How can this be, for I am a virgin?” In verses 35-37 read:
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
The angel of the Lord tells Mary what would happen; however, he does not explain how it would happen. Maybe it did not matter, but the Holy Spirit would come over Mary and the power of the Most High—a clear reference to the God Israel had known—Yahweh is his name, would overshadow Mary, therefore the holy one to be born, which would be Jesus, will be called the “Son of God.” The birth was sure to happen, “for no word from God will ever fail,” says the angel.
Let us remember something I said last week: the Spirit of God hoovers over where or on whom God is about to work powerfully, bringing something amazing and beautiful. It is within that same pattern of operation that Jesus is introduced into his public ministry. When Jesus was baptized and as he was coming out of the water, we are told that the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Therefore, when Jesus actually begins his ministry in Nazareth, he uses the words of the prophet Isaiah to do it when he reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19).
This pattern of operation is also found in the book of Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit came upon those 120 who were gathered in the upper room (Acts 2:1-4). From there on, the fearful disciples became bold proclaimers of Jesus, despite the great challenges they faced. The biblical testimony about the Spirit of God is that his presence anticipates God’s direct intervention and it empowers those upon whom he comes. We will see more of this next Sunday. As for now, let us continue seeing how the Spirit is presented in the New Testament.
When Jesus and the writers of the New Testament speak about the Holy Spirit, they always refer to it in personal terms. (My us of the pronoun “it” is contrary to how I should refer to the Holy Spirit) Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in personal terms. In John 14, verse 16 and 17, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paracletos to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as a person and someone the Father would send just as he sent Jesus.
Here are some further examples of how the Spirit is portrayed as a person.
In Acts, Peter describes Ananias and Sapphira as lying to the Holy Spirit when they lied about their contribution to the church (Acts 5:3). People can attempt lying to the Spirit of God.
Again in Acts the Spirit gives commands and instructions.
The Spirit tells Philip where to go and what to do regarding the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:29).
Again the Spirit speaks to the church leaders in Antioch and commissioned Paul and Barnabas for mission work (Acts 13:2).
Jesus warns against blaspheming against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:29).
Paul speaks about “grieving the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30)
Again, Paul speaks of “quenching the Holy Spirit in our lives (1Thesalonians 5:19).
Stephen charges his accusers of “always resisting the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).
The Holy Spirit can be insulted by rejecting the grace of God (Hebrew 10:29).
These testimonies in the New Testament describe the Holy Spirit as a person in the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is not a force, even though he empowers the believer. The Spirit of God is not an impersonal influencer emanating or radiating from God, roaming in the world. He is God and He is actively fulfilling his role as the Comforter, Helper, Counselor and Advocate to the believer. The Holy Spirit is at work helping the believer as he or she works towards regeneration and sanctification, renouncing sin. The Holy Spirit is there to connect the dots about the truth of the Gospel, as Jesus said, the Advocate will remind you all the things I have spoken to you (John 14:17). The Spirit of God guides the believer and the church towards God’s will on how to serve the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord continues to work today, for he will be with you forever, Jesus said.
Let me close by highlighting the importance of the Holy Spirit in our salvation. In John 16, verse 8, Jesus says, And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will prove the world wrong about[b] sin and righteousness and judgment. In 1Corinthians 12, verse three, Paul says, “No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8, 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.
We can deceive ourselves about our own righteousness. We can live our entire lives believing we are fine before God. But when the Spirit of God awakens consciousness of our sins and reveals to us the holiness of God, conviction of sin occurs. Things we might not see as offensive to God will suddenly become burdens of guilt that only God’s forgiveness in Christ can take away. It is an act of God’s grace, that the Holy Spirit suddenly illuminates our mind, convinces us of sin, leads to repentance, and prompts the converted soul’s to confession of sins, pleading for forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
This process in some is quiet, and in some it can be tumultuous, but either forms are genuine. In some this happens quickly and in some it takes time. But again in either cases, the force of conviction moves the person to yield before Christ, calling him “Lord,” and because Christ is also the one who frees from the burden of the heart, Christ also becomes Savior.
But the Spirit not only leads to repentance and transformation, he also effects a union between the believer and Christ. The new believer experiences a new beginning, a new life, characterized by a deep sense of love for Christ and a desire to please him alone. This is why the apostle Paul says, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2Corinthians 5:17, 18a)
But that is not all the Spirit does. The Spirit sustains by his indwelling presence in the believer, thus making possible for the believer to produce the fruit of the Spirit. By producing the fruit of the Spirit, the believer gives witness of God’s presence in his or her life through the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control that begins to flow from him or her. And by exuding this spiritual fruit the believer grows into the likeness of Christ.
I pray that each of us would allow the Spirit of God to search our heart, so that he may show to us what is in there that might not be pleasing to God. I pray that we may respond to the Spirit urgency by turning our lives into the hands of Christ, so that he may be our Lord and Savior indeed. Amen!