THE SPIRIT OF GOD
God’s spirit is His power. It has no personality, but
is rather the means through which His will is accomplished.
It sustains all life -
“All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my
nostrils” (Job 27:3)
“If He set his heart upon man, if He gather unto himself his spirit and
his breath; all flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto
How the Bible Defines the Spirit of God
The Bible uses the word “SPIRIT” in a widely
extended range of meanings, but all stem from its primary significance, as
describing God Himself:
- God is Spirit - John
- The power which emanates from God is
therefore called Spirit - Acts 1:8; Micah 3:8. It fills heaven and earth -
- By the Spirit God inspired
the writers of the Bible - 2 Peter 1:20-21; Hebrews
- Consequently, the word of God in
the Bible is called Spirit - John 6:63; Ephesians 6:17; 1 John
- A holy mind developed by the word of
God is called Spirit Romans 8:2,4-6; Philippians
- Any disposition of mind may be called
Spirit – 1 Corinthians 2:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9. So also mind itself
- Proverbs 29:11; Genesis 26:35. Even an evil disposition Proverbs 16:18; Hosea
God’s Holy Spirit
The words “Holy Spirit” literally mean separate,
or special power. They refer to God’s spirit power only when it is used
for special work. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as being associated with
the work of redemption or salvation.
Whereas God’s spirit sustains all flesh, God’s
Holy Spirit has never been upon all men (see Numbers
As can be seen from the passage in Numbers, the possession of
the ‘spirit of God’ in a special sense was evidenced by outward
signs. It was the power which impelled men to write inspired and unerring
Scriptural records (2 Peter 1:19-21).
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
In the New Testament the bestowal of the Holy Spirit was in
the form of gifts - or empowering abilities. It is a much misunderstood
subject. We will examine it under the following headings:
- What were the Holy Spirit
- How were they
- Why were they given?
- How, why and when were they
- Are they available
- When will they be
What were the Holy Spirit Gifts?
Read Acts 2:1-4. The disciples were gathered “with one
accord” in the city of Jerusalem, and in fulfillment of the promise of
Christ (Acts 1:8) they were anointed with the Holy Spirit.
The effect was instantaneous (v4).
It was said of Jesus Christ (v22) that the miracles were a
sign that he was approved of God. Now it was true of his disciples (Hebrews
1 Corinthians 12 gives us a list: tongues (i.e. a language not
previously learnt), healing, wisdom knowledge, working of miracles, prophecy and
discerning of spirits.
How were they given?
The modern world has become familiar with evangelists. Men,
women and even children are among those claiming to possess miraculous
Some few years back a 10 year old child toured Australia from
the U.S.A. claiming to have the gift of God and the power of miracles.
The Bible is quite specific as to the manner in which the
gifts were bestowed. The first essential was understanding the Truth. The idea
of a man teaching the immortality of the soul and possessing spirit gifts is
quite foreign to the Word of God: people had to receive the Truth and then later
the gift. Acts 2:38 cp. Acts 8:12-18.
From this latter passage in Acts it is evident that the
apostles only had the power to confer the gift and this was done by the laying
on of their hands (see also Acts 6:6; 19:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy
- Christ himself directly bestowed the Gifts of
Holy Spirit on the apostles - John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 2:1-4 - and on the
first gentile converts - Acts 10:44-47
Spirit gifts were bestowed by the apostles Acts 8:14-19 - who alone had
that power; compare 2 Timothy 1:6 with 1 Timothy
Consequently, these Gifts could not endure more than a
generation beyond the death of the last of the apostles.
- When given, the Spirit Gifts were designated for
free bestowal on two generations of believers - Acts
- When the giving of these Gifts was
prophesied, it was likened to a shower of rain - Joel 2:23: “For He hath
given you the teacher of righteousness and He shall cause to descend for
you a rain; a teacher and a latter rain in the first
Why were they given?
Because of the great responsibility of preaching Jesus in a
vast pagan world and among hostile Jewry. One reason they were given was to
give a clear and accurate rememberance of the life of Jesus that it might be
recorded (see John 14:26; 16:13).
They were given for the “perfecting” (better
understood as a ‘bringing to maturity’) of the saints (1 Corinthians
13:10 compare Ephesians 4:11-12). For other occurrences of the word see 1
Corinthians 2:6 - the idea is of being grown up spiritually, see 1 Corinthians
One of the main reasons that they were given was so that the
Scriptures may be made complete - it is these that mature the saints.
The Holy Spirit gifts were a Divine endowment of supernatural
powers given to chosen members of the first century ecclesias with
certain specific and limited objectives:
- To evidence by miracle the Divine origin
of the Gospel of Christ - Mark 16:20; Acts
- To prove beyond doubt that God offers
salvation, not by works of law, but obedience that stems from faith in Christ -
- To bring the saints to
maturity to build up the body of Christ, by establishing true doctrine -
Ephesians 4:11-15; 1 Corinthians 13:9-12
testify with the force of Divine authority against Jewish rejection
of Christ and the offer of salvation by faith in him - John
How, why and when were they withdrawn?
The fact that they were to be withdrawn is clearly shown in 1
Corinthians 13. They were aids to the infant ecclesia to assist it to grow up.
Tongues, knowledge and gifts of prophecy would cease. Why? Because the job for
which they were originally given had been completed (see Ephesians
When did this occur? History shows that the gifts were not
available or in fact to be found at all, beyond about the middle of the second
century A.D. By this time the Jewish state had been overthrown (A.D. 70) and the
gospel firmly entrenched in the pagan world. The word of God was then to be the
entire source of authority. The gifts had served their function.
How did this occur? As 1 Corinthians 13 shows, a time would
come when the gifts would be removed Acts 8:18 shows that only the
Apostles could pass on the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (even Philip
the evangelist could not pass it on). When the last of the Apostles died around
the end of the first century A.D. the ability to pass on the gift also ceased.
This ability was not transferred to their ‘successors’ because it
was not necessary that the gifts continue any longer. The result was that those
who had received a gift, dwindle away in number to nothing during the second
Since the Holy Spirit Gifts were given for particular and
limited purposes, God provided for the withdrawal of the Gifts when
those purposes had been accomplished. The intended cessation of the
gifts is announced in unambiguous terms:
1 Corinthians 13:
v8 “Whether (Gifts of - cf. 13:2) prophecies, they
shall fail; whether tongues, they shall cease; whether knowledge,
it shall vanish away”
v10 “That which is in part shall be done
v11 “When I became a man, I put away childish
The time for the cessation is when “THAT WHICH IS
PERFECT IS COME”. PERFECT is contrasted with PART BY PART 13:9-10,
as adult is with childish 13:11.
God has pledged that “When the PERFECT is come, then
THAT FROM PARTS will be done away” - 1 Corinthians 13:10
This defines THE TIME for the cessation of the
- As PART BY PART describes a fragmentary
revelation, so PERFECT describes a complete and finished revelation -
PERFECT means finished; cf. John 4:34; 5:36; 17:4; Acts
- As PART BY PART describes an infant and
immature condition of the ecclesia of Christ, so PERFECT describes an
adult, full-grown condition of the ecclesia of Christ
PERFECT means adult, full-grown; cf. Hebrews 5:14; 1 Corinthians
- This means that “THE PERFECT” had
come when the Bible was complete and the original ecclesias had been developed
to maturity, cf. 1 Corinthians 2:6; Philippians 3:15; Colossians 1:28. Then
in the first century the gifts began to
Are they available today?
The fact that there was such a gift as discerning of spirits
is most significant. It shows that there were some claiming Holy Spirit power,
and were probably supporting their claim with pseudo miracles e.g. healing see 1
John 4:1-3. The gift of discerning of spirits prevented the growth of charlatans
and fakes. It restrained those who, possessing hypnotic power and being able to
exert a magnetic influence on others, were deluded into imagining that what they
did was by the Holy Spirit.
We do not deny the fact of modern ‘faith healing’
nor do we deny the power of prayer. But that is quite different from the gifts
of the early Christian era. Most doctors acknowledge the need of
‘faith’ in effecting cures (e.g. the placebo).
Thus in the religious world there exists the spectacle of
differing sects, antagonistic of each other, each accusing the other of being
entirely erroneous (e.g. Catholics and Pentecostals), yet both claiming
miraculous cures. God cannot be with both. Indeed, since none of them possess
the Truth of the Scriptures, how could any of them possess the spirit
gifts even if they were available?
What about the “miracles”? The answer is that
they are not genuine miracles at all, but a phenomenon well known to science -
mind over matter. For every claimed cure there are thousands of failures
(naturally unrecorded). Natives can work their own ‘miracles’ e.g.
voodoo and the Australian aborigines’ pointed bone. These are not
miracles but psychosomatic.
We must discriminate between the true and false. How? By
testing the doctrine, see Acts 19:13; 2 Timothy 3:8.
Holy Spirit in Your Life
The principles that apply:
- The Gospel believed is God’s power to salvation - Romans 1:16-17; 1
Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Acts 20:24,32
- The Bible was written
under inspiration of the Holy Spirit - 2 Peter 1:21; John 6:63
- Bible Truth
is what sanctifies disciples of Christ - John 15:3;17:16; Psalm 119:9,11;
- Our spirit, or mind and heart, is what the Truth sanctifies -
Ephesians 4:23; 6:18; Romans 1:9; 2:29; 7:6; 8:5-6; 1 Corinthians 6:20;
- As a result, the Bible frequently uses the expression “a Holy
Spirit” to describe our hearts when cleansed by the word of God - Jude 20;
Romans 9:1; 14:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Acts 7:55,59; Titus
When will they be re-issued?
The powers will return when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. In
Ephesians 1:13-14 they are described as having been given in the first century
as a deposit or down payment until Christ’s return. In Hebrews 6:4-7 they
are described as ‘the powers of the age to come’. First
century believers were merely given a foretaste of that which all saints would
be given when the Kingdom is established on the earth.