More Than Just a Controversy: All About The Holy Spirit

by R.P. Nettelhorst

The function of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament age is well known and several books have been written on the subject. Of more significant import is what the Spirit's job may have been prior to Pentecost. The only available book on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament was done in 1976 by Leon J. Wood. It was entitled The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and was published by Zondervan. It is a useful book, but not without its faults. Leon J. Wood writes:

The evidence that spiritual renewal, or regeneration, was true of such Old Testament people lies mainly in two directions. One is that these people lived in a way possible only for those who had experienced regeneration, and the other is the avenue of logical deduction that argues back from New Testament truth. For some reason, the Old Testament itself does not speak of the matter directly. Chafer is quite correct when he asserts: "The Old Testament will be searched in vain for record of Jews passing from an unsaved to a saved state, or for any declaration about the terms upon which such a change would be secured." Then, because this is true, he states "No positive declaration can be made" whether Old Testament people were regenerated or not. Chafer's conclusion, however, is unwarranted in view of the two lines of support mentioned....

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

Wood also writes that regeneration, indwelling, sealing, filling, and empowering all occurred prior to Pentecost. He argues that only the baptism of the Spirit, which made all believers one in Christ, had yet to occur at Pentecost. I believe Wood's position on these matters is unwarranted, and that Chafer in fact is closer to the truth. I believe that the Spirit's primary activity in the lives of Old Testament saints was to empower them for service. The other activities, from baptism to indwelling had to await the day of Pentecost. Wood's misunderstanding of the work of the Spirit prior to Pentecost is related to his failure to consider two critical New Testament passages, neither of which is mentioned in his book:

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit."

So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?"

"John's baptism," they replied.

Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all (Acts 19:1-7)

This passage seems clearly to indicate that under the Old Covenant the Holy Spirit was not behaving in the same way as afterward. There had been no sealing, indwelling, or baptism of these disciples of John, people who were truly redeemed believers in God. It was not until Christianity was explained to them that the Holy Spirit came.

The next passage, Acts 1:4-5, explicitly indicates that the coming of the Holy Spirit was a new work. The disciples had to wait for the Spirit to come:

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

That the baptizing and indwelling work of the Holy Spirit was promised as something yet future would tend to indicate that this activity was something which had not occurred before. Joel 2:28-32, which Peter quoted in Acts 2:14-21, makes clear that something new occurred with the coming of the Spirit. Peter claimed that what had happened on the day of Pentecost. was the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise. The reader should also look at the description of the New Covenant as recorded in Jeremiah 31:31-34. John 7:39 is also instructive on this point:

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

So what did the Holy Spirit do in the Old Testament? Nine functions (at least) can be listed.

  • The Holy Spirit came upon people to empower them for specific tasks (Judges 6:34; 1 Chron. 12:18; 2 Chron. 24:20).
    • interpretation of dreams (Gen. 41:38, Dan. 5:11)
    • special skills (Ex. 31:1-7)
    • prophesy (1 Sam. 10:6, 2 Sam. 23:23, Ezekiel 11:5, 24, Joel 2:28-29)
  • The Spirit of God was involved in creating the universe (Gen. 1:2, Prov. 8:22-31, Ps. 33:6, Is. 40:12,13).
  • The Spirit gave wisdom (Prov. 8, Is. 11:1-3). mind=ruah.
  • The Spirit moved people geographically (Ezekiel 2:2, 3:12-15, 11:24, 37:1, 37:14, 43:5).
  • Brings righteousness (Psalm 143:10; Isaiah 4:4).
  • Gives life (Gen. 2:7, Job 33:4).
  • Sustains life (Psalm 104:10-14, 30).
  • Takes life (Is. 40:7; Psalm 104:29; Job 34:14-15).
  • The Spirit is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-10).

The question of the gender of the Holy Spirit is rarely if ever discussed for the simple reason that the Spirit's masculinity is naturally assumed from the masculinity of God: God is masculine and is always addressed as "he", so surely the same must be true of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Trinity. Like most theologians I had always assumed this to be true. I don't know that anyone ever formally taught me that "the Spirit is masculine"; it would hardly seem necessary.

Is There a Question About the Gender of the Holy Spirit?

In my graduate Semitics program at UCLA, one of the languages I had to study was Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic written with rounded letters reminiscent of modern Arabic. Syriac was the language of people living in northern Mesopotamia, from at least 300 BC until the time Arabic became dominant in the region, around 1000 AD. Most of the Syriac documents available today were produced by a Monophysite branch of Christianity, today known as the Syrian Orthodox Church (monophysitism is the belief that Christ had but one nature). One striking puzzlement of the texts, at least to me, was the constant reference to the Holy Spirit as "she". I was aware, of course, that in Aramaic (and hence in the dialect known as Syriac) the natural gender of the word "spirit" was feminine; however, I was surprised to discover that this accident of grammar had resulted in a whole theology constructed around the femininity of the third person of the Godhead.

An example of Syriac theology is found in the apocryphal Acts of Thomas; it is usually assumed that this particular work was influenced by speculative gnostic Judaism because it contains the notion, that associated with God was a wisdom, or creative power - a spirit - which was feminine. In an invocation accompanying baptism, Thomas calls for the Holy Spirit:

Come, holy name of Christ that is above every name;
Come, power of the Most High and perfect compassion;
Come, thou highest gift;
Come, compassionate mother;
Come, fellowship of the male;
Come, thou (f.) that dost reveal the hidden mysteries;
Come, mother of seven houses, that thy rest may be in the eighth house.
(Acts of Thomas 2:27)

Come, silence that dost reveal the great deeds of the whole greatness;
Come thou that dost show forth the hidden things
And make the ineffable manifest;
Holy Dove that bearest the twin young;
Come, hidden Mother;
Come, thou that art manifest in thy deeds
and dost furnish joy and rest for all that are joined with thee;
Come and partake with us in this Eucharist
Which we celebrate in thy name,
and in the love-feast in which we are gathered together at thy call.
(Acts of Thomas 5:50)


After reading such materials I decided that Syrian Orthodox Christianity was somewhat heretical (though perhaps only through an accident of grammar), and so I wanted nothing to do with Syriac literature. I would find something else on which to do my dissertation.

Then came the Spring of 1986.

I was teaching advanced Hebrew, and I had decided to take the class through the book of Judges. As we read along, I noticed something odd about Judges 3:10:

The Spirit of Yahweh came upon Caleb's younger brother...

In English, this passage from Judges doesn't appear startling, but in Hebrew something strange leapt out at me: "came upon" was a third person FEMININE verb, indicating it's subject "Spirit" was being understood as a feminine noun. Hebrew is not like Aramaic in its use of the word "spirit". While the word is exclusively feminine in Aramaic, in Hebrew it is sometimes masculine. Therefore, the question that came to mind was why had the author of Judges chosen here to make the Spirit of Yahweh feminine, when he could just as easily have made it masculine? Oh well.

I just shrugged my shoulders and went on, not overly concerned. Occasionally, I thought, one finds something inexplicable in the Bible: no big deal. But then came Judges 6:34. Again, "Spirit of Yahweh" was feminine.

At this point I decided to consult the concordance. Much to my surprise, every occurrence of "Spirit of Yahweh" in Judges is feminine. As I pondered that, I recalled Genesis 1:2, the first occurrence of "Spirit of God" in the Bible, and realized to my shock that it too is feminine.

Back to the concordance. Out of 84 OT uses of the word "spirit", in contexts traditionally assumed to be references to the Holy Spirit, 75 times it is either explicitly feminine or indeterminable (due to lack of a verb or adjective). Only nine times can "spirit" be construed as masculine, and in those cases it is unclear that it is a reference to God's Holy Spirit anyway. (Please see Appendix 3 for a complete list and detailed discussion of the usages.)

The New Testament references to the Holy Spirit are not helpful for conclusively deciding on the gender of the Holy Spirit, since "spirit" in Greek is neuter, and so is referred to as "it" by the New Testament writers.

The conclusion of all this is that our traditional assumption of a masculine Spirit is questionable; in fact, the evidence seems overwhelming that the Spirit should be viewed as "She", which does seem to make sense, since the other two members of the Godhead are labeled "Father" and "Son".

What are the theological implications of a feminine Holy Spirit? There are four:

  • A feminine Holy Spirit clarifies how women can also be said to be created in the "image of God". It has long been recognized that he Godhead must include some feminine aspects, since Genesis 1:26-27 explicitly states that both men and women were created in God's image.
  • A feminine Holy Spirit explains the identity of the personified wisdom in Proverbs 8:12-31:

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear Yahweh is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have understanding and power.
By me kings reign
and rulers make laws that are just;
by me princes govern,
and all nobles who rule on earth.
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
bestowing wealth on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.
Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his work,
before his deeds of old;
I was appointed from eternity,
from the beginning,
before the world began.
Where there were no oceans, I was given birth,
when there were no springs abounding with water;
before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the earth or its fields
or any of the dust of the world.
I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon
on the face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind....

Some commentators have tried to tie this personification of wisdom to the idea of Christ as divine "Word" [Gk. logos]. Unfortunately for this theory, the genders of the words in question get in the way. The gender of the word "wisdom" is feminine, and is therefore personified as a woman. This makes a direct identification of "wisdom" with "Christ" virtually impossible.

Other commentators have pictured "wisdom" as a created being, like an angel; better have been those who argue that the personification of wisdom in Proverbs 8 is simply a literary device, without objective reality.

However, if the Holy Spirit is feminine, then the identification is relatively easy: Genesis 1:2 pictures the Spirit of God hovering over the deep, active in creating the world, just as Proverbs describes. Both the Old and New Testament connect the idea of teaching and imparting wisdom with the function of the Holy Spirit (Ex. 31:3; 35:31; Acts 6:3; Ephesians 1:17; Luke 12:12; and John 14:25-26).

  • The third benefit of recognizing the femininity of the Holy Spirit is that it explains the subservient role that the Spirit plays. The Bible seems to indicate that the Spirit does not speak for itself or about itself; rather the Spirit only speaks what it hears. The Spirit is said to have come into the world to glorify Christ (See John 16:13-14 and Acts 13:2). In contrast, it should be noted that the Scripture represents both the Father and Son speaking from and of themselves.
  • Finally, a feminine Holy Spirit, with a Father and Son as the rest of the Trinity, may help explain why the family is the basic unit of human society.

Other Tasks of the Holy Spirit


  • Enabled Mary to conceive Jesus.

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most

High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of

God. (Luke 1:35)

  • The Holy Spirit was the author of Scripture

Matthew 5:17, 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:21, Act. 2:16

  • The Holy Spirit is the interpreter of Scripture

1 Corinthians 2:10-14, Ephesians 1:17

On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church as a body of living members of which Christ is the risen, exalted and living Head. (Acts 2:1-4). The foundation of the Church is the death and resurrection of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:20-23; 2:15-16). The "new man" is the Church.

The Holy Spirit possessed and indwelt the church as the temple of God. The Holy Spirit indwells the whole church and individual believers simultaneously (Ephesians 2:19-22; Romans 8:1, 11; John 14:17; 2 Corinthians 1:22).

What Does the Holy Spirit Do Now?

The Holy Spirit confers gifts and graces upon the Church for life, fruitfulness and service (John 6:63). The Lord's life is brought to us by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:2). The life of Christ is "the law of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit is the fruitbearer; the word "fruit" is singular, not plural.

The Holy Spirit imparts anointing, illumination, and guidance for the Church (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 John 2:20, 27; Rom 8:14). The Holy Spirit's strategic relationship to the understanding of the truth. The Holy Spirit is the One who seals and anoints (associated with sealing). The Holy Spirit sets apart the child of God for the ministry of God.

The Holy Spirit presides over and directs the Church into the will and plan of God. This explains apostolic ministry in missions (Acts. 13:1-3; 15:28; 20:28; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11).

The Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ (Matthew 16:18, Acts 1:4-5, 2:3, 2:47, 11:15; 1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:15-17; Ephesians 2:16; 4:4-5, 16; 5:30-32; Colossians 1:24; 2:19; Galatians 3:27).

Pentacost

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:4-5)

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 1:8)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came 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. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:1-5)

Convicts the World

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:7-11)

The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of the Gospel and brings people to God. That such is necessary is clear from statements such as Romans 3:10-18 (see also: 1 Corinthians 2:14, Romans 8:5-7, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 4:18)

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit." "The poison of vipers is on their lips."

"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."

"Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know."

"There is no fear of God before their eyes."

The Holy Spirit makes use of the Bible to reach people with the message of the gospel. Without the Word, conversion is unlikely. Consider the statement Abraham made to the rich man after he begged him to send Lazarus back from the dead to his family:

"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luke 16:27-31)

Consider also Romans 1:16, 10:14-17, and Psalm 119:105. Apart from a biblical ministry there is no Gospel.

Salvation depends upon faith in Christ. Righteousness is available only through Christ and judgment comes upon the one without Christ. God, has, however, revealed himself to some extent to the entire world, whether they have heard the Gospel message from the Bible or not. This general revelation, and general call to the human race to repent and turn to God is referred to sometimes as "common" grace. This is clear from Paul's words in Romans 1:17-32:

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

This is also reflected in what Psalm 19:1-4a:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.


There are serious limitations to common grace, or what is called general revelation. It is not efficacious knowledge of the Gospel. It does not necessitate salvation in the heart. It involves the general call (Matthew 22:14) "Many are called, but few chosen." (see also Romans 1:32, Matthew 9:13, 13:20 and Hebrews 6:4). It is not equivalent to the believer's illumination generally, but is restricted to the Gospel. It provides none of the normal Christian experiences which are the fruit of the spirit. It involved general phenomena, from the universal fear of God in general ignorance to the brink of salvation with full information.

It should be kept in mind, too, that no one can have an excuse. Essentially, if an individual fails to respond to the light or the call that God has given generally in the universe at large, then God is not obligated to give any additional light or information. Like the relatives of the rich man in torment, if they won't listen to the Bible, then why would they listen to a dead man raised to life? If an individual doesn't respond in faith to what he can see of God's goodness and power in the creation, then why would God feel obligated to give any more information?

When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8)

Common grace is not sufficient to save, but it is sufficient to condemn. Ryrie illustrated it this way: you offer a man a hundred dollars, but he refuses to take it. This is your basis for refusing to offer him any more.

The light of God is visible to all; if a person rejects the light of natural revelation, then why would God bother to give him special revelation?

Common grace is a ministry of the Holy Spirit that reveals the truth of God to humanity wherever and whenever given in any form.

Arminians would say that everyone has enough grace to accept Christ, if they want to. Calvinists, in contrast, would say that common grace is sufficient only to render human beings inexcusable for their unbelief (Romans 1:16).

Efficacious grace is given to a person when the Lord brings that one to himself. It is the ministry of the Holy Spirit which is certainly effectual in revealing the Gospel and in leading to saving faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9). Efficacious grace secures the salvation of the one who has been chosen by God. It is the instantaneous work of God empowering the human will and inclining the human heart to faith in Christ. It is irresistable (Romans 9:19 and John 3:8). Once God has determined that a person will belong to him, that person will no longer be able to resist the call.

Indwells Believers (and Anoints)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. (John 16:13-15)

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 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. (Romans 8:9-11)

Anointing is the initial act of indwelling; two other words come to mind with this concept: baptism and filling. In a careful study of the two terms, there seems little difference between filling and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Both seem to be initial acts of God upon believers that unite them with Christ. It is something that occures at salvation, but it also seems to be an ongoing process. Some people make a distinction between baptism and filling. Baptism in such thinking, is what occures at salvation, when a person becomes a Christian. Filling can be a daily occurrence, and involves surrender and openess to the will of God. Others talk about salvation as one experience, and baptism as a secondary experience, when a person recieves a spiritual gift, usually, in the minds of those with this theological persuasion, the gift of tongues.

However, it is clear from scripture that an individual must have the Holy Spirit in order to be a Christian. Consider Romans 8:9

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Gives Us Union With Christ

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (Romans 6:5)

Romans 6:5. The phrase "in Christ" with its equivalents such as "in Him" "in Whom" "in Christ Jesus" and so on appear in the New Testament no less than 130 times. It is found twelve times in the first chapter of Ephesians alone. Union with Christ is very closely associated with the doctrines of 1) regeneration and 2) the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Union with Christ is achieved by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 discusses the way in which believers are made members of the church which is Christ's body. Neither the church nor the baptizing of the Spirit were known prior to the death of Christ. In Romans 6:3-6 the placing of believers in Christ is mentioned and union with Christ is plainly the issue in verse 5. Water baptism is in view as a figure of the words "in the likeness of his death" (vs. 5)

Union with Christ is inseparable from the doctrine of adoption. Romans 8:15 speaks of "the Spirit of adoption" which we interpret to mean "the Spirit Who Adopts". The text thus means that the Holy Spirit places believers in the church as mature and responsible sons. At the rapture and resurrection, Christians will receive the final benefit of adoption, which is the resurrected body (Romans 8:23). Galatians 4:5 and Ephesians 1:5 support the concept of this age enjoying a position of responsible adult sons.

Union with Christ is identified as a new Creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15 refer to the unique believer in this age who is "in Christ". Both passages are positional and speak of the Risen Christ and His members. Resurrection is in view in Romans 8:23.

Union with Christ is the motive for Christian living. The figures of marriage (Romans 7:4; Ephesians 5:32), the vine and the branches (John 15:1-8), the Head and the body (Colossians 1:18, 234; 2:6-7), etc. indicate that the believer is to cultivate Christlikeness (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 3:1-3) on the premise that we should live what we are in Christ. There may be no more sublime truth to be embraced than that of which our Lord spoke in John 14:20. "At that day (i.e. Penetcost) you shall know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you." This is the very heart of the doctrine of union with Christ.

The Filling of the Holy Spirit

"From the viewpoint of practice and experience, the filling with the Spirit is the most important aspect of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit" according to Ryrie. (Ephesians 5:18, Acts. 2:4, 33; Acts. 4:8, 31; 6:3; 13:9)

Filling is experiential truth. It is not the promise of salvation but of Christian living. The other ministires of the Spriit (efficacious grace, regeneration, indwelling and anointing, sealing and baptism) are commonly called positional truth. This ministry involves practical living.

Propositional truth is one of the basic distinctions between law and grace (Romans 9:30-10:4).

What are some prohibitions and admonition of the Spirit-filled life? We are told to "grieve not" the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30. This is dealing in terms of love, not anger. The issue is sin in the Christian's life, or the entertaining of sin in the believer's heart. The remedy is confession (1 John 1:9)

Some scriptures dealing with Sin in a believer's life include John 13:1-15, 1 John 1:5-10, 1 Corinthians 11:31-34, Hebrews 12:1-4, Psalm 51:1-10, Luke 15:1-32, and 2 Corinthians 7:7-10. It is important to keep in mind that these are not legalistic dos and don'ts. Rather, the nature of a Christian's life, who has the indwelling Spirit of God, will be one where such behavior will be minimal, precisely because it grieves the Holy Spirit. Where the non-Christian may have a conscience, the Christian now has God inside him or her. Talk about feeling bad when you sin! A Christian who sins is very unhappy because of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

In a similary vein, the Christian is told to "quench not" the Holy Spirit in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. This doesn't mean to extinguish, but rather "to stifle" or "to suppress". The issue and answer is yieldedness to the will of God (Ephesians 5:15-17)

Two strategic Scriptures: Romans 12:1-2 and Romans 6:1-14 (this is almost a commentary on 1 Thes. 5:19 - "continue in sin" has the sense of `the sin nature' as opposed to being now in the Spirit.)

We are also told to "walk in the Spirit" in such passages as Galatians 5:16-25, Ephesians 5:15-18 (see also 2:10, 4:2), and Romans 8:1-4 (see also Romans 6:4). A Christian who tries to resist the Spirit will not ultimately be successful; that is, sooner or later, the Spirit will come to dominate. Secondly, walking in the Spirit, not grieving the Spirit, and not quenching the Spirit are the normal and happiest conditions of the human life who has been converted to Christ.

Having God living inside us has some inevitable consequences. What are these results of the filling of the Spirit? Many positive things: we are in the process of sanctification (Galatians 5:22-23, John 15:1-5, Romans 8:4, and 1 John 3:1-3). Not that we are sinless now, but that is the process that God has us involved with. The Holy Spirit spends a lifetime teaching us (1 John 2:27 and 1 Corinthians 2:9-3:2), giving us guidance (Genesis 24:27, Romans 8:14, Galatians 5:18, Exodus 13:17-18, Psalm 103:7, and Proverbs 3:5-6), and giving us assurance (Romans 8:16, Galatians 4:6, 1 John 3:24 and 4:13). The Holy Spirit allows us to worship God in Spirit and in truth (Ephesians 5:18-20 and John 4:24); the Holy Spirit makes our prayers possible and meaningful (Romans 8:26), and empowers us for service (John 7:38-39 and Ephesians 2:10, among others).

Regenerates

The Holy Spirit is the one responsible for our regeneration or our conversion. We are born of God (John 1:12, 13; the Father is the author of regeneration; cf. 1 John 4:7; 5:1, 4, 12, 18; 3:9; 2:29). We are born anew, again, or from above according to John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 3:6 argues that "the Spirit gives life". The Holy Spirit is the personal agent.

1 Peter 1:23 tells us that in Christ we are not of corruptible seed

What is involved in regeneration? The Holy Spirit imparts a new nature which involves eternal life (2 Peter 1:4). It is not just a quickening of the old nature (Ephesians 2:3; 4:24; Phil. 1:6; Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Differences exist between nature and personality. God takes us, not simply our nature. Upon rebirth, we keep our own nature, the seed of Adam, and we receive the life of Christ (including Christ Himself) and become the residence of the Holy Spirit. "Making alive" doesn't mean transforming our nature. We partake of the divine nature. Ephesians 2:10 indicates that it is not an improvement but a creation.

There are three things involved in regeneration:

1. New birth (John 3:3-8)

2. Resurrection (Romans 6:13; Ephesians 2:5; John 5:21; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

3. Creation (Ephesians 2:10; 4:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

There are three persons involved in regeneration: the Father (John 5:21 and James 1:17), the Son (John 5:21and 2 Corinthians 5:17), and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5 and Titus 3:5).

Seals

The Holy Spirit is said to seal us to the day of redemption. (see 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14 and Ephesians 4:30).

Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Gifts

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:3-8)

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Some gifts:

  • Teaching - Rom. 12:7, 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph 4:11
  • Ministering - Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28
  • Administration or leadership - Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor. 12:28, Heb. 13:7; 1 Thes. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 13:2
  • Evangelism - Eph. 4:11 (2 Tim. 4:5 - Timothy did not seem to have this gift)
  • Pastor - Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-90.
  • Exortation - Rom. 12:8
  • Giving - Rom. 12:8
  • Showing mercy - Rom. 12:8 (relief of sick and needy)
  • Helps - 1 Cor. 12:28; 2 Tim. 1:16
  • Faith - Rom. 12:3-6; 1 Cor. 12:8-10
  • Apostleship - 2 Cor. 12:12, Heb. 2:4; 1 Cor. 9:1; Act. 14:14, Phil. 2:25
  • Prophecy - 1 Cor. 12:28; 14:3; 14:29; Rom. 12:6
    • Agabus - Acts 11:27-28; 21:10-11
    • Barnabus, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen - Acts 13:1
    • Daughters of Philip - Acts 12:9
    • Judas and Silas - Acts 15:32 (as well as Barnabus and Paul)
  • Miracles - 1 Cor. 12:28; Acts. 13:11
  • Healing - 1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30 (see Acts. 5:12-16, Acts 8:13, Acts 19:11-12)
  • Tongues - Acts 2:1-13 (Joel 2:29); Acts 10:46; Acts 19:6; 1 Cor. 14

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

And now I will show you the most excellent way.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. In the Law it is written:

"Through men of strange tongues
and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me," says the Lord.

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"

What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two-or at the most three - should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Corinthians 12-14)

God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:4)

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

For in him you have been enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your knowledge - because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Corinthians 1:5-7)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:8-11)

1Cor 14 indicates that tongues were to be regulated. Considering the context, some have suggested that the "speaking" of women (in 34) is related to speaking in tongues.

The one basic position that unites all pentacostles is their odd belief that "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" is a distinct experience which all believers may and should have following conversion. The biblical point of view is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the moment of conversion and tongues, rather than a sign of the baptism, are merely one of at least fifteen other possible gifts that a person might get.

Some people image that Apostleship, prophecy, miracles, healing and tongues were temporary gifts that ceased functioning after the apostolic age. Why? Primarily in reaction to the excesses and abuses in some churches. Rather than seeking to argue for the appropriate use of the gifts of tongues, it is easier to simply forbid them. This is remarkably similar to the position of first century Judaism, which sought to protect the law by building hedges around it.

That is, in order to prevent the breaking of a law in the Bible, the ancient Rabbis devised added laws, that if kept, would make it impossible to even come close to violating the scriptural prohibition. So, for instance, the Jewish people, to this day, do not pronounce God's name, Yahweh. Instead, whenever they come upon it in the Bible, they say "adonai" or "ha-shem", meaning, respectively, "lord" and "the name." By never pronouncing God's name, they are assured of never violating the commandment prohibiting the taking of God's name in vain.

Likewise, the kosher regulation to keep milk and meat products completely separate, and to never consume a meal with both items in attendance, goes back to the concern not to violate Exodus 23:19, Exodus 34:26, and Deuteronomy 14:21:

Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God. "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk." (Exodus 23:19)

It is far easier just to toss out the possibility to tongues, than to struggle with their proper application and use. Unfortunately, the single passage used to try to argue that tongues no longer exist, 1 Corinthians 13:8, seems useable only if you've decided in advance that that is the intent; one must, in my opinion, twist the text to get it to indicate that tongues would cease before the second coming of Christ - especially when one considers that in the very next chapter Paul discusses their proper application and use, and makes the profound statement, hard for those who believe tongues are wrong to get around:

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:39).

The caveat, of course, follows in the next verse: "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." The only reason for desiring the end of one of God's gifts is because it is unliked and makes some people uncomfortable, especially since it is so commonly abused. Frankly, I suspect that most instances of tongues speaking has little if anything to do with God's Holy Spirit and everything to do with peer pressure, pride, and emotional hype.