The Holy Spirit
When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Christianity teaches that He is God just as much as the Father and our Lord Jesus are. So it goes without saying that He is authoritative in and of Himself. The Holy Spirit being given in the Church 2000 years ago and empowering the church up until this point implies the presence of God in the Churches. I will preface by saying that not all things that are done by those in Christianity are done so by the Holy Spirit, but that all parts of genuine Christianity are empowered by the Spirit. I think its agreed upon that the Holy Spirit is a very real and present authority in the Churches, but in what way is He a means of authority and interpretation? In other words how do we experience the Holy Spirit like we read the Scriptures and interact with tradition? Since I argue that He is empowering all things within Christianity then my point is that we see Him in the Apostles, in Scripture, the Sacraments, Grace Gifts given to the believer, and whatever other parts of genuine Christianity there be, He is involved. To be clear I mean that He was working in the past, but that He also is working today. So let me briefly touch on these points and then I will get to my conclusion.
The Holy Spirit Empowers Christianity as living and present Deity in the Churches
- Holy Spirit is God in the Churches (Supreme Authority in and of Himself)
- He is the Empowering Force in all things in the Churches
- Churches started and equipped through them by the Spirit’s power
- The Sacraments
- The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church
- Especially via Martyrdom
- Other gifts
e. Jesus Himself as Head of the Church was also Empowered
III.The Above Evidenced in
- Promise: John 14:26, Acts 1:8
- Fulfillment: Acts 2 (Pentecost)
- Apostolic Affirmation of the Spirit’s Power in them: Romans 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-4, 2 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5
- Inspiration of Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:10-12 (Concerning the Prophets themselves), 2 Peter 1:20-21 (Same as previous)
- The Spirit in the Sacraments: 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
- The grace gifts of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:11, Entire Book of Acts
- Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 39
- The Spirit on Jesus: Matthew 3:16-17, Luke 4:18-19, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 2:4
- God in the Churches Ephesians 2:21-22, Acts 5:1-6
- Early Christianity also witnesses to these things above
- What Church doesn’t believe the Holy Spirit is active in at least some small way?
- Holy Spirit Empowers and Inspires all things New Testament
I am going to begin by looking at what Scripture has to say on the subject. I am going to start out with the Apostles.
As I mentioned earlier the Apostles are the foundations of the Church. They primarily built the Church after Jesus’ ascension. It is clear from Scripture that they did not do it by their own strength alone. We know they were empowered by the Spirit to do these things. Before the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles Jesus had clearly promised them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit down upon them. We see this fulfilled at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The rest of Acts records some of the historical dealings of the Apostles and the start of the Churches. As we see many times throughout the book they were inspired by the Spirit. They were reminded of Jesus’ teachings, they taught great wisdom, set up the churches, and performed many signs and miracles all by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We even have statements from the Apostles themselves that show that they believed they were empowered by the Spirit.
Promise (John 14:26, Acts 1:8)
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” John 14:26 NET
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NET
The Fulfillment (Acts 2)
The Continuing of the Church (Acts)
Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on His own work
According to Paul’s own words they received power for preaching, they prophesied, and worked many wonders by the Spirit.
“But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation;” Romans 15:15-20 NASB
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 NASB
“The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB
“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 NASB
II. Scripture and Inspiration
When it comes to Scripture we know that these writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit. When we look at the inspiration of Scripture we see the intersection of all three authorities. When the prophets received revelations of God it was because the Holy Spirit was upon them. Then when the inspired men recorded the said inspired information in writing, or Scripture, then the introduction of the inspired Scripture came to be. It’s the same with the Apostles. The Holy Spirit is the one who empowers the Scriptures in their very inspiration.
“All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NRSV
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!” 1 Peter 1:10-12 NRSV (Referencing the Prophecies recorded in Scripture)
“Above all, you do well if you recognize this: No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” NET 2 Peter 1:20-21
III. In the Sacraments
Without getting too controversial here I would just like to mention that the authors of Scripture believed that the Holy Spirit was active in the communal meal and in Baptism.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 NRSV
IV. The Individual Grace Gifts in the Church
When it comes to the individual grace gifts in the Church Paul thinks highly of them and says that they are for the building up of the Church. He sees the Holy Spirit in this and that this is very important.
Paul’s Apostolic Reflection on individual grace gifts
Generally the Church also has been given gifts for the building up of the church
“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11 NASB
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NASB
The Book of Acts is full of the Holy Spirit’s gifts in the Church. Just two examples below.
Stephen sees the Lord, but was first filled with the Holy Spirit Acts 6:5
The Prophetess’ of Philip and Agabus Acts 21:8-14
Exhortations to Utilize the Spirit’s Gifts
When it comes to the Spiritual gifts not only does Paul mention them, but he also exhorts his audience to utilize the gifts of the Spirit. This continues to show that the Apostles thought very highly of the Spirit in the Churches.
“Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1 NRSV
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NRSV
V. Jesus Himself Empowered
Jesus the great head of the church is said to have been empowered by the Spirit to do things. Luke records Peter saying that Jesus Himself was anointed with the Holy Spirit and went about doing good works in Acts. Jesus exorcises demons by the Spirit as He is recorded as saying to the Pharisees in Matthew. Jesus claims Isaiah’s gospel fulfillment for Himself after He His baptism and His testing in the wilderness. Even Jesus Himself was at times empowered by the Spirit.
“how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Acts 10:38 NRSV
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21 NRSV
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” Matthew 12:28 NRSV
So my main argument from tradition is that Christians early on and still to this day affirm these things. I’d like to start out by referencing where these above beliefs are reflected in the early writers of Christianity. First up is their references on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment of the Apostles.
I. Apostles and the Holy Spirit
(His Commentary on 1 Corinthians 7:40)
“In granting indulgence, he alleges the advice of a prudent man; in enjoining continence, he affirms the advice of the Holy Spirit. Follow the admonition which has divinity for its patron. It is true that believers likewise have the Spirit of God; but not all believers are apostles. When then, he who had called himself a believer, added thereafter that he had the Spirit of God, which no one would doubt even in the case of an (ordinary) believer; his reason for saying so was, that he might reassert for himself apostolic dignity. For apostles have the Holy Spirit properly, who have Him fully, in the operations of prophecy, and the efficacy of (healing) virtues, and the evidences of tongues; not partially, as all others have. Thus he attached the Holy Spirit’s authority to that form (of advice) to which he willed us rather to attend; and immediately it became not an advice of the Holy Spirit, but, in consideration of His majesty, a precept.”
“For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all, the word of God.”
II. Scripture (Inspiration)
“Look carefully into the Scriptures, which are the true utterances of the Holy Spirit.”
“But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them. For sometimes He declares things that are to come to pass, in the manner of one who foretells the future; sometimes He speaks as from the person of God the Lord and Father of all; sometimes as from the person of Christ; sometimes as from the person of the people answering the Lord or His Father, just as you can see even in your own writers, one man being the writer of the whole, but introducing the persons who converse.”
“it seems necessary to show, in the first place, that the Scriptures themselves are divine, i.e., were inspired by the Spirit of God.”
“There is, then, unity of authority, unity of appointment, unity of giving. For if you separate appointment and power, what cause was there [for maintaining] that those whom Christ appointed as apostles, God the Father appointed, and the Holy Spirit appointed? Unless, perhaps, as if sharing a possession or a right, They, like men, were afraid of legal prejudice, and therefore the operation was divided, and the authority distributed.”
“Whence is it that we are Christians? Through our faith, would be the universal answer. And in what way are we saved? Plainly because we were regenerate through the grace given in our baptism. How else could we be? And after recognizing that this salvation is established through the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, shall we fling away that form of doctrine which we received?”
IV. Individual Grace Gifts
“And though He is One in nature, yet many are the virtues which by the will of God and in the Name of Christ He works. For He employs the tongue of one man for wisdom; the soul of another He enlightens by Prophecy; to another He gives power to drive away devils; to another He gives to interpret the divine Scriptures. He strengthens one man’s self-command; He teaches another the way to give alms; another He teaches to fast and discipline himself; another He teaches to despise the things of the body; another He trains for martyrdom”
“He makes them spiritual by fellowship with Himself. Just as when a sunbeam falls on bright and transparent bodies, they themselves become brilliant too, and shed forth a fresh brightness from themselves, so souls wherein the Spirit dwells, illuminated by the Spirit, themselves become spiritual, and send forth their grace to others. Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God”
Prophecy of the martyrs
“But the most admirable Polycarp, when he first heard [that he was sought for], was in no measure disturbed, but resolved to continue in the city. However, in deference to the wish of many, he was persuaded to leave it. He departed, therefore, to a country house not far distant from the city. There he stayed with a few [friends], engaged in nothing else night and day than praying for all men, and for the Churches throughout the world, according to his usual custom. And while he was praying, a vision presented itself to him three days before he was taken; and, behold, the pillow under his head seemed to him on fire. Upon this, turning to those that were with him, he said to them prophetically, “I must be burnt alive.”
“I saw a golden ladder of marvellous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder was fixed every kind of iron weapon. (Skipping a bit) And I immediately related this to my brother, and we understood that it was to be a passion, and we ceased henceforth to have any hope in this world.”
V. Jesus and the Spirit
“In the former book we have shown by the clear evidence of the Scriptures that the apostles and prophets were appointed, the latter to prophesy, the former to preach the Gospel, by the Holy Spirit in the same way as by the Father and the Son; now we add what all will rightly wonder at, and not be able to doubt, that the Spirit was upon Christ; and that as He sent the Spirit, so the Spirit sent the Son of God. For the Son of God says: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me, He has sent Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and sight to the blind. And having read this from the Book of Isaiah, He says in the Gospel: Today has this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears; that He might point out that it was said of Himself.”
Modern Church Tradition
I am not sure of a Church tradition that doesn’t acknowledge the Holy Spirit working in the Churches. There may be certain degrees or so. Even Evangelical cesasionalists in some small way still affirm that the Holy Spirit is at work doing something.
So to conclude this section I just want to highlight that my main arguments concerning the Holy Spirit are these. First is that He is obviously God in the Church and thereby an authority of Himself. The second is that He is the empowering person whereby all things true to Christianity find their power. His person and work in these things make Him someone to look to as an authority. There are many things today that are said to be done of the Holy Spirit, I get it. This is the same case when it comes to the canon of Scripture and its interpretation. We don’t skip out on reading Scripture simply because we know that there is error out there, but instead we continue to read and discern it to find the truth. Sometimes when it comes to the moving of the Holy Spirit some take an all or nothing approach, and by that I mean some seem to think that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t always do something that He isn’t active at all. This is false and when we don’t engage in sifting through the working of the Holy Spirit we ourselves are lazy and unfaithful.