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The Holy Spirit

Billy Graham writes in his book, “The Holy Spirit”[1] the story about an Indian who came down the mountains and saw the ocean for the first time. In awe he took a jar and filled it, with the intention to take it back to his people who had never seen the ocean before.

Narrow viewIn the same way this article is like the jar, only instead of being made of glass, its limitations are through its words. For words can never hope to capture the fullness of the glory of the Holy Spirit, for in the same way the ocean must be experienced to gain a full appreciation of its immensity, we too must experience the Holy Spirit to fully appreciate and understand His Immensity, Glory and Mission. Many today limit the Holy Spirit within the confines of the written word of God, trying to understand Him through the limits of those words. There they constrain their understanding of Him to a narrow scope, where he is no longer to be experienced today as he was recorded in the Scriptures as working. Instead they teach and believe that his work has changed to making us rationally understand and believe the propositions of Scripture. Here they become guilty of the sin of Bibliolatry, changing the Trinity to Father, Son and Bible.The full view

In doing this they actually deny the truth of Scripture in that the Holy Spirit is the same God yesterday, today and will be the same tomorrow. Scripture is not meant to be read that way, it is to be read as a pointer towards the living God, recording for us the ways and means to which we are to experience the Holy Spirit ourselves. Scripture clearly shows us that the Apostles took this experience for all very seriously. Peter tells his audience when asked what they must do to be saved, “Repent, be baptised and then you will receive the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38 and indeed we see this happening with the Christians in Samaria, repenting and accepting Christ for themselves, being baptised and then the Apostles went and ensured that they experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

This then is the norm of what should happen in the Christians life. Many in Christendom today though have reversed the order Biblical order in that we receive the Holy Spirit before accepting Christ, for it is God who makes us alive while we are dead in sin and therefore he does this by granting us the Holy Spirit in making us alive. This is a distortion of the Biblical recording of both Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit and the recording of the working of the Holy Spirit.

There are distinctly two workings of the Holy Spirit.

1.) The external working of the Holy Spirit in drawing a unbeliever to accepting Christ.

2.) The baptism of the Holy Spirit which is the initial first experience of repeated infillings of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself taught that there would be an external working of the Holy Spirit Jn16:13 Paul says that no one can call Jesus Lord except through the work of the Holy Spirit 1Cor 12:3. He also goes to great pains to show us that faith comes through hearing the word of God, in the attempt to motivate us to share the Word of God through evangelism. Rom 10:17. . We see this external working of the Holy Spirit at work in Samaria, convicting the Samaritans to the truth of Christ, cutting them deep to the heart. We see the Holy Spirit at work in Peter’s first sermon to the Jews and God fearers who are cut to the heart asking what must we do, to be saved. And again we see this happening to Paul who has an encounter with Jesus, is convicted of his sin and that Jesus is Lord and yet has to wait for the laying on of hands by Ananias to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Acts 9:17 It may appear to the casual observer that there is a episode in the Scriptures where some receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit before being convicted by the external working of the Holy Spirit, and that is the case of Cornelius and his family. Yet if we look closely at the story we notice that his encounter with Christ is similar to the one Paul had, as both encountered the Angel of the Lord, before meeting with a Christian whom the Lord sent. Acts 10:33 the only difference was that they were yet to be baptised in water which Peter soon rectified. Again in Acts 16:25 we read of the Jailer being convicted through the external working of the Holy Spirit, this time through the earthquake – and their subsequent acceptance of the word of God.

Finally we read of some disciples whom Paul met on the road to Ephesus, there he asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. This is an important Scripture because it shows us an insight into his ministry that like the Apostles did with the Samaritans, Ananias did with himself, he also ensured that other believers also did not remain content with just believing, but they also received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, or if you like the initial experiential experience of being filled with the Spirit. There they showed that the receiving of the Holy Spirit was experiential for they also started prophesying and speaking in tongues. Acts 19:6 We also read of Apollos being like those disciples Paul met, only knowing the baptism of John and that Pricilla and Aquila explained the way to him, but that he taught about Jesus accurately.

nnwzz018.jpgThe reception of the Holy Spirit is a experiential reception, one that though we read about within the pages of Gods word, we experience it our selves outside of our rational understanding.  This experience brings life to the believer, it brings about gifting and draws us close to the heart of God


[1] Graham, Billy The Holy Spirit (Word Books, Texas, 1978) p.1

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