“For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and he shall not abide when iniquity comes in.” “And who shall know Your thought, except You give wisdom, and send Your Holy Spirit from above.” (Wis 1:5, 9:17)
One of the mysterious things about Christianity, if not the most mysterious, is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is something I do not understand very well, nor something I can accurately and precisely describe. I have found the Holy Spirit is something experienced in various ways, levels and degrees, yet I have no idea when, where or why it manifest itself.
The purpose of this study is to see what I can glean from scripture, obtaining a better understanding with my personal experiences. The first place I like to journey in my biblical word studies is into the Old Testament and the Hebrew language, and see if there is any connection with the teachings of Jesus.
What are the word meanings for Holy Spirit?
Ruwach Qadowsh, the Hebrew word for Holy Spirit, is found only three times in the Old Testament, although there are several references to what I believe is the Spirit of God coming on people. As I study Hebrew, I am learning sometimes the language gives an imagery to help describe a word or the content of a verse. Will we see this imagery with the word Holy Spirit?
The simple verb form of the word spirit ריח (ruwach) means to smell, breath or to blow. There are two options for a parent root, the first is רי which in primitive Hebrew I found means a flowing water. The other is רח, which means a path, the wind, to travel. Jesus describes in two examples the characteristics of the Holy Spirit which may have been taken from these two parent roots.
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
“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…” John 7:38,39a
The Hebrew word for Holy, Qadowsh, some spell Qodesh or Kodesh, in our Christian lexicons means clean, pure, set apart, separated. This is a word I really have not understood, as it has the idea of being separate. We are instructed to “Be holy for I[God] am holy”, which is found a few times in the Torah. It is referenced in I Peter 1:16 as well. I have often questioned, how can I be holy as God is holy. Impossible! But being separated from the things of this world from the evil one, now that adds a new dimension to my thought on holiness. The Hebrew professor I follow, adds a little more to this Hebrew word:
“I have found a meaning for the word kodesh (holy) popping up all throughout ancient Jewish literature which predates any Christian literature. Somehow this meaning of kodesh (holy) never made it into our Christian lexicons or our Christian sermons yet it is a meaning used by followers of Jehovah God long before Christians came on the scene. Indeed, the word kodesh (holy) carries the idea of separation but there is more to this separation when used in Jewish literature. It is God separating His presence from those things which are not in harmony with Him. In other words the word kodesh (holy) carries the element of the presence of God. In fact I have read the word kodesh (holy) rendered in Jewish literature as I am here or God is here.” Chaim Bentorah
What makes someone or something holy? When Moses approaches the burning bush, he is told to remove his sandals for Moses is standing on holy ground. What made the ground holy? The presence of God. Are there other biblical references to the intent of the ancient Jewish literature for holy? Could Paul be pulling from his training and study of Judaism when he writes to the Corinthians:
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said, (from Ezekiel 37:27)
“I will dwell in them and walk among them, I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Therefore, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:16-17
In my toiling in trying to be holy, it’s not me, or my actions that makes me holy, but the Holy Spirit of God that makes us holy. Now that’s pretty cool. As I understand salvation, when we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, God puts his Holy Spirit inside of us. John calls this a “seed” that cannot sin.
“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” I John 3:9.
My short summary of this part: It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit inside of the Christian that makes us Holy or separate from the world. This “seed” cannot sin.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
While Jesus was on earth, He said there would be a Comforter or Helper that would come after him. I was delayed in my study when I researched the Greek word used for Comforter, then reviewed the words used in Aramaic and Hebrew. Instead of getting hung up in a different word study, the answer to who or what this Comforter would be was found in the next verse.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper*, that He may abide in you forever. “The Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:26-27
The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit
There are two events in the Bible where the Holy Spirit makes a visible presence. The first is when Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit rested upon Him.
“And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him [Jesus]…” Luke 3:22a
Not a study for this article, but there may be some interesting symbolisms as to why this took on the form of a dove. When the apostles on the Day of Pentecost received power from on High (the Holy Spirit), they had the appearance of divided tongues as of fire and sat on each of them. Acts 2:3
How or When is the Holy Spirit received?
From scripture, we read the Holy Spirit is a gift from God. How is it initially received? In talking with friends of other denominations, I find there are differences in opinion, yet it is Peter who first declares:
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
In doing evangelist work, I often encounter different religions, thoughts on scripture, and personalities. To help me clarify my doctrine or the doctrine of others, I went through the book of Acts for a third time to see the “process” of salvation. Being a Chemical Engineer, I am influenced by processes, procedures, standard practices, etc. Will I find the same in Acts?
The following table lays out the sequence of events of when the Holy Spirit was given as retold to us in Acts. I tried not to make assumptions, but only filled out the table as the scriptures stated. When there is a doubt, I made a little “x?”
There are at least 18 accounts of conversions in Acts, with the commonality of hearing the word, believing/receiving, yet repentance is only mentioned in five accounts. We could assume repentance was part of hearing the message, since Jesus began his ministry saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is a major theme of the Bible.
For this article, when the Holy Spirit is received, it is only mentioned six times in the book of Acts. Some received it before baptism, others afterwards. With this information, I can see why there are differences in doctrine, which could have been due to different personal experiences. I can also conclude, the Holy Spirit is not a cookie cutter process, and it is like the wind. Who knows where it came from or where it is going?
Why were the apostles filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit?
The last point I want to bring out, and is the most applicable to me personally. How and why are we filled with the Holy Spirit? It happens at the strangest of times and places, but when it does occur, I get ready, for something is about to happen and very soon. Either I am about to pray with someone, I’m going to see evil, or I will encounter a lost person who wants to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It has even come upon me while I was praying with someone, and gave me the words to say.
In working at festivals, where we witness all day and into the night, there is what I call a spiritual mode, where the physical disappears, and the spiritual takes over. My wife says I go through a physical transformation. My voice and mannerisms are different. The person that knows me best, says I change into someone else. The more experienced evangelist will pray for a filling of the Spirit, but there is no secret prayer or number of prayers to make it happen.
Let’s review the following verses and the accounts of the apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit:
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel.” Acts 4:8
“and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4.31b
“Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:17
“Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him.” Acts 13:9
“And the apostles were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” Acts 13:52
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is something for Christians to experience over and over again, and as I interpret Acts, The Holy Spirit came upon them as the Lord had need.
The Holy Spirit as Teacher and Conviction
“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how ro what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name. He will teach you all things, and bring to your rememberance all things that I have said to you.” John 14:26
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
“And when he has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.
Of sin, because they do not believe in Me
Of righteousness because I go to my Father and you see Me no more.
Or judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” John 16: 8-11
Can we ask for the Holy Spirit?
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13
I do not believe we can just ask for our own pleasure, but to the service of God, in His works, and in worshiping Him.
Here’s what James said:
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3
The Holy Spirit still remains a mystery to me. I have felt it flow through me as I prayed with others (laying on hands). People have felt its presence as I walked up and/or prayed with them. Then there are times I am hoping, longing for it, and it is absent or seems quiet. Sometimes it feels like it is walking beside, giving me the words to say.
I want to leave you with a priest’s experience with the Holy Spirit, which was similar to mine. In the eighth grade, the priest went through confirmation, was built up about receiving the Holy Spirit, yet when the archbishop tapped him on the cheek to receive the Holy Spirit, he got nothing. He felt scandalized and walked away from the faith.
Years later in college, he was broken-hearted and was drawn to God in repentance and in humility. This is when he received the Holy Spirit, and when he felt he was “born again.” Shortly after, he was lead to the ministry and to preach Jesus and Him crucified and receiving the Holy Spirit. This event in his life revolutionized, radicalized and changed him. In my religious terms, he was saved.
I follow this priest occasionally, because he calls us to Live with Passion for Jesus, to seek God and his Holy Spirit. His encounter with the Holy Spirit was similar to my experience. It didn’t start out with a bang, but grew stronger and stronger over time. As a friend of mine, Adam said, the spirit is a muscle that must be used to grow stronger, so the more you use it, the stronger you will be.
This wasn’t the typical word study, but I do experience the flow of living waters inside of me, and through me into others. When or Why the Holy Spirit comes upon me, I do know, for it is like grasping for the wind…