THE INDUSTRIOUS SPIRIT
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). In anticipation of bringing order out of chaos, as the divine facilitator.
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life,” Job appreciatively allows (Job 33:4). The Spirit is thus depicted as breathing life into humans. Again, energetically involved.
“It is not for you to know the time or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” Jesus disallowed. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). As for the time, this is left up to God’s discretion. It is rather for them to await the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which will enable them to proclaim the gospel both near and far away.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came down from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4). The language is analogical, the sound being like the blowing of a violent wind, and what resembled tongues of fire.
The wind is thus coupled together with the breath of God with reference to the Holy Spirit. This, in turn, brings to mind how the graphic imagery of a wind driven ship. Thus enabling it to reach its destination.
The reference to fire recalls John the Baptist’s declaration: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:16-17). Accordingly, as a means of cleansing and perhaps coupled with judgment.
All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other tongues as enabled. This might imply that some or all spoke with other tongues. The reference could be to other languages, ecstatic utterance, or some combination of the two. If an actual language, they do not appear to have command of it so as to extend their ministry. While ecstatic utterance is a common phenomenon. Moreover, recent studies have shown that in states of ecstasy persons sometimes express catches of a foreign language they have heard and suppressed in their subconscious. In any case, the imagery serves to convey the reversal of the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel (cf. Gen. 11:1-9).
Many other things are said concerning the Holy Spirit. For instance, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2). While previously they lacked the means to accomplish their good intent, they were now enabled by the Spirit of life to do so.
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (v. 5). Here the carnal nature is set over against that cultivated by the Holy Spirit. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” The former is hostile to God, while the latter is submissive.
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (v. 9). So that there is no lack of enablement. While in sharp contrast to what had previously been the case. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Leading the apostle to enthusiastically conclude, “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (vv. 15-17). Here the notions of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit coalesce in striking fashion, as associated with the Spirit of sonship. So that Christ in a qualified sense serves as the elder brother. As indicative of the household of faith.
Rest assured, “the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (vv. 26-27). Let our confidence be in the Holy Spirit, who intercedes on our behalf. So that our prayers are addressed to the Father, as mediated by the Son, and with the assistance of the Spirit.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealous fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21). Those who live in this manner will not inherit the kingdom of God. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Initially, as concerns love, which serves to cultivate the remaining fruits of the Spirit. (If interested in more extensive commentary, I have authored three books concerning the Holy Spirit: Saga of the Spirit, Signature of the Spirit, and Holy Spirit in Cross-Cultural Perspective).
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