- The Person of the Holy Spirit & His characteristics
- Biblical references to the Holy Spirit
- The gifts of the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit and the Trinity
- The Holy Spirit and the word of God
- The Holy Spirit and the preparation of the bride
1. First: The Person of the Holy Spirit & His characteristics One of the fathers of the Church once stated: ‘the goal of the Christian life is to be filled with and acquire the Holy Spirit’. We are used to viewing the Son, Jesus, as a Person who came to earth, lived among us and completed our salvation. Similarly, we view the Father as a Person who is similar to the earthly father in His care and love for us. However, we tend to view the Holy Spirit as a power, a stream, or a movement; while in actual fact He is a Person –one of the Persons of the Trinity. Therefore, like any person, we need to get to know Him. We know beforehand that we are invited to a life-long and eternal relationship with Him and to co-work with Him. Therefore, we would undoubtedly desire to know more about Him and discover His character and characteristics so that we may be able to harmonise with Him. The bible reveals four main principles concerning our relationship with the Holy Spirit:
- Do not resist the Spirit This principle was mentioned in Stephen’s final address to the Jews just before he was stoned when he said: ‘You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you’ (Acts 7: 51). From this passage we understand that resisting the Spirit means disobeying God’s will and the guidance of the Spirit; the reference here is to lack of smoothness in obedience.
- Do not grieve the Spirit ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’ (Ephesians 4: 30). Notice that the biblical passage in which this principle is mentioned (Ephesians 4: 25 – 32) highlights the activity of the old man: lying, anger, stealing, corrupt words, bitterness, clamour, malice, etc. This means that whenever one lives according to the old man, he grieves the Holy Spirit in him.
- Do not quench the Spirit We are not only required to fulfil the passive part of not quenching the Spirit, but we are also required to fulfil the active role of stirring and kindling the Spirit (2Timothy 1: 6).The main passage which highlights the principle of not quenching the Spirit is the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 23: ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ The above passage highlights active things to be done in order to keep the Spirit kindled inside us; most important of which are:
- An unceasing prayer-life: In practice, this includes building a daily prayer altar which is uninterrupted no matter how busy one is; and being diligent in prayer even when tired or dry because this broadens the soul and prepares her for renewed infilling by the Spirit.
- A life of thanksgiving void of complaint
- Respecting the gifts of the Spirit and giving them their due place
- Be filled by the Spirit This feature is mainly mentioned in Ephesians 5: 15 – 21. From this passage we understand that being filled with the Spirit is closely linked to: uninterrupted life of worship in submission and thanksgiving; walking circumspectly; and redeeming the time i.e. sanctifying the present moment –as the early fathers put it –which leads to the experience of being in the presence of God.Some churches reject the experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit; while others understand it as a ‘one off’ experience which takes place once in a person’s life. However, according to the original Greek language, the verb used to refer to this commandment ‘be filled with the Spirit’ is in the present continuous tense; hence, referring to continuity and repetition of infilling. Also, in addition to the infilling that happened on the day of Pentecost, the book of acts mentions several other repeated infilling by the Holy Spirit for the disciples and for Peter and Paul (Acts 2: 4; Acts 4: 8, 31; Acts 9: 17; Acts 13: 9).We quite often limit and restrain the experience of the infilling of the Spirit to some apparent phenomenon which we can feel and sense like, for example, an overwhelming feeling of peace and joy. We also often link the experience to certain gifts. Yet, the infilling of the Spirit is much more rich and manifold. Its work is often not on the apparent level but on the inner dimension of faith and sanctification. Its work can, for example, open one’s insight to hidden and deep matters which one has never realized before leading to inner conviction and repentance. This is one kind of infilling which works on the level of inner sanctification.
2. Second: The main biblical references to the Holy Spirit If we get to know these biblical references quite well, they would lead us to the richness of the knowledge of the Spirit in terms of His nature and complete work. As a result, we will not be limited to only one or two aspects of the work of the Spirit. The most important of these biblical references are:
- River of living water He is that River which was present since the beginning of creation (Genesis 2: 10). He is also the same river described in the book of Revelation: ‘And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22: 1, 2).It is the river about which Jesus has said: ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.’ (John 7: 38, 39).He is the living water which revives; renews life; the thirst and the dryness; and heals the inner burning which the enemy desires to create in the people of God in the end times to make their bones dry and to burn them with the fire of his temptations.
- Lampstand (Exodus 25: 31, 32) The lampstand which God commanded Moses to make and put in the tabernacle refers to the Holy Spirit. He is the One who fills us with light so that we may discern the deceitful blows of the enemy directed to us and He also transfers to us the required grace at that time. He lights our path to be able to discern what is best (Philippians 1: 10) amid the darkness of the enemy which he spreads around and which causes confusion and loss of purpose.
- Seven lamps of God ‘And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God’ (Revelation 4: 5). These lamps are like floodlight or searchlight which searches the depth of man revealing the hidden inner corruption. This is so necessary for the working out of our salvation.
- Fire In Acts 2, we read that the Spirit came upon the disciples in the form of tongues of fire. The fire provides warmth amid the coldness; it lights the way and makes the path of following God light and sweet. However, as a biblical rule, the fire only comes on the sacrifice. Therefore, the more the mystery of self-sacrifice and giving is manifested in my life, the more I will experience the coming of the divine fire. Saint Anthony (4th century) used to tell his disciples: ‘seek this Spirit of fire, but first offer the toil of the body’.
- Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 1) The vision of Ezekiel of the creatures with four faces refers –as the early fathers maintain –to the manifold work of the Holy Spirit inside the human soul. The face of the ox refers to granting man perseverance to work hard for long hours in a way beyond the human ability. The face of the eagle refers to the spiritual soaring which estranges man from the material world making it appear so small in his eyes and allows him to live as a stranger on earth. It ties him to his heavenly home deepening in him the sense that he is a heavenly being. The face of the lion grants man the necessary spiritual power to face the spiritual battles by the power of the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5: 5). The face of a man corrects and heals the distortions of the human nature through the humanity of Christ by which He lived in the flesh and through the work of His redemption.
3. Third: The gifts of the Holy Spirit According to the early fathers of the Church, we should not be preoccupied with seeking the gifts but with the hunger to receive the Person of the Holy Spirit Himself who is the source of all graces and gifts. The Holy Spirit is the one who grants the gifts. He can take them all; replace them with other gifts; or add to them –as He desires –because He is the One who plans the economy of man’s salvation. Therefore, He gives and takes the gifts according to what would lead to man’s salvation and glorify God. As much as one is sanctified and the fruits of the Spirit are manifested in him, the gifts of the Spirit would be pure; they will neither be false nor mixed whether by the interference of the ego or the activity of the devil. The gifts would be effective and glorifying the name of God –like the fathers of the Church who performed wonders, healed, and raised from the dead even without a word or a prayer but by the overflow of the Holy Spirit in them. 4. Fourth: The Holy Spirit and the Trinity The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Trinity who reveals to us the Person of the Father and the Son. He is the One who forms Christ in us (2Corinthians 3: 18). He also reveals to us the will and purpose of the Father. The more one grows in the knowledge of the Spirit, the more one is filled with the knowledge of the will of God (Colossians 1: 9). 5. Fifth: The Holy Spirit and the word of God The Holy Spirit is the eye-witness who has witnessed all the stories and events mentioned in the bible. Therefore, He brings them to us or takes us to them. He makes these stories live and allow us to enter the events as though we were present when they took place. He opens our insight to perceive mysteries and hidden things behind the lines of the Scriptures allowing us to respond to them in a true way. 6.Sixth: The Holy Spirit and the preparation of the bride
- On the corporate level He prepares the Church, the Bride of Christ, for His second coming. He does this through:
- Exposing the economies of the evil one for the end times and planning counter-economies which He reveals to the men and people of God.
- Releasing new and special callings and anointing which are necessary for the end time
- On the individual level
- The first level: acquiring the spirit of repentance by which we respond to the convictions of the Holy Spirit.
- The second level: learning to discern the hidden movements of the heart and being vigilant on being purified of them.
- The third level: entering into a covenant of intimacy with the Holy Spirit.He prepares the soul to be a Bride for Christ through the fellowship with the Holy Spirit.This fellowship has several levels:
Finally I would like to conclude with the prayer which the Church loved and repeated constantly. The prayer reveals the hunger of the Church for the Spirit and her constant calling upon Him seeking His presence: ‘O’ Heavenly King, the comforter, the Spirit of truth, who is everywhere and fills everybody. You are the treasure of goodness and giver of life. We ask You to graciously come and dwell with in us, purify us from iniquity and save our souls’