~ Who Is the Holy Spirit? ~
Part 1 of 4
Jesus, when asked to teach His disciples to pray, began with the addressing of "Our Father," meaning God, Jehovah, Elohim, the I Am. Later, Christ's followers instructed us to pray in Jesus' Name. (Col. 3:17.) Christ is the Logos, the Word, Who is "with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1.) Our Western logic doesn't allow for this declaration of a Person being both "with God" and "being God" at the same time. We insist on "either/or." Gratefully, the mysteries are not logical. "All things were created through Him"; our redemption is through His sacrifice; our prayers are thus offered in His Name. The Scripture cited above declares all our deeds and words must be in His Name. That makes sense, as we are ambassadors of the kingdom and the ambassador's every act and word is always done in the name of his or her nation. However, what a challenge and commitment! Can I drink my coffee in His Name? Can I settle a misunderstanding with a friend in His Name? Can I put a drug in my body in His Name? (The Scriptures say our bodies are to be offered as living sacrifices to Him.) This is another version of "WWJD?" (What Would Jesus Do?) If what I am about to do or say cannot be offered in His Name, then it's best I don't do or say it. This "rule of thumb" does simplify spiritual and worldly practices, doesn't it? No need for an extensive training in "values clarification" or "ethics." If it can't be done or said in His Name, it is sin. Simple. (And thank God for His forgiveness! The Scriptures also declare we have all fallen short and sinned. Thus the need for the wondrous redemption of Christ.)
So where does the Holy Spirit come into this spiritual picture? Indeed, Who is He? Occasionally I receive an email arguing that Christians are polytheistic, worshipping and addressing three Gods. They don't buy the "Three in One" explanation. One person correctly cited Scripture that declares a husband and wife are "one," yet observes that they still remain two different people. The Body of Christ is one entity, but the Body is made of many distinct individuals. Moreover, these individuals are frequently in conflict with one another, as were those of the early apostolic churches. But God is never in conflict with Himself, so these human analogies fall apart quickly. Nevertheless, let me indulge in one…
A human father is many things to his family: Teacher, disciplinarian, servant, gift giver, counselor, comforter, provider. When the father flips between these aspects, he may appear to his wife and children to be different people. Indeed, this gives rise to the saying, "He's not acting himself lately." Well, then, whom is he acting? Acting in many various roles and personalities, he is always the same person.
Throughout Scripture God is referred by many names, each describing a different aspect of His Being. The one name I love most is "Abba", meaning not "Father" but "Dad." That's so much better than "Higher Power" or "the Universe" or even "Creator." But each name describing a different aspect has its time and place. I spent a few months studying a form of the martial arts under a Christian teacher. He has a son who, before my training, always called his father "dad" in church. Then during my training I had a weird experience of hearing this boy always address his father as "sir" in the dojo, as we all did, friends or not. In uniform and in training, his dad was a "sir," but he was still his abba, his daddy. The names and titles define relationships; they don't define the person. If God didn't create us humans and the angels, He would have no name nor any need for one. No, we are not worshipping three different Gods, but our relationships with Him are indeed multiple.
When Nicodemus approached Jesus with questions about entering the kingdom of God, Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was giving His disciples a virtual farewell address, He told them about the great need for Him to leave so that the Holy Spirit could come upon them. Acts 8:15-17 describes how "Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; For as yet He was fallen upon none of them; they were only baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus." Other verses describe that the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the receiving of the Holy Spirit, was not simultaneous with redemption and embracing Christ as Lord. The Holy Spirit directs us in the way of godliness (Isaiah 30:21), teaches us what to say to persecutors (Mark 13:11), reveals the future (Luke 2:26), brings the words of Christ to our memory (John 14:26), guides us into all truth (John 16:13), reveals the things of God (1 Cor. 2:10, 13). The Holy Spirit bears the symbols of water, fire, wind, oil, rain and dew, a dove, a voice, a seal. He provides the spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit seems to take a back seat in the prayer lives and practices of many Christians. The human aspect of Christ makes it easier to "relate" to Jesus, to identify and speak with Him. But Christ and the early apostolic church kept pointing to the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. We will continue to point to Him in our next Reflection.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © August 3, 2000
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