I know I’ve been away from this series of posts for a long time, and I hope this installment is worth your wait.
A quick summary:
In the Old Covenant, God’s Holy Spirit was present and instrumental in creation while hovering over the waters. He is spoken of as contending with man – but during a more limited lifespan for each man. He inspired creativity in the temple architect. His companionship was parceled out from Moses to seventy elders. He stirred and empowered military leaders – judges and kings. He spoke through David. He inspired scripture. He instructed and admonished people through the prophets. He was promised to be poured out on God’s Anointed One to come, and on all kinds of people – old, young, male, and female – through visions and dreams.
In the pages of the New Covenant, that Holy Spirit filled John and rested upon Jesus at baptism; Jesus who became flesh by His intervention. He also filled Jesus, who promised that He would speak through Jesus’ followers in times of trial. Jesus speaks of Him in connection with truth, life, living water, and baptism. Jesus promised His comfort after He would be physically gone; providing conviction of sin and guidance into all truth to those willing to follow Him. And after His Spirit left Jesus’ body, His Spirit restored life to God’s Chosen One.
He filled Jesus’ followers at Pentecost and spoke boldly through them in the native languages of many listeners. He revealed truth, and lying to Him was disastrous. Attempting to buy His gifts was shameful. He gave irrefutable wisdom to those through whom He spoke. He enabled some to prophesy; sometimes to predict future events through visions and dreams. He also spoke directly to some: “Go to that chariot” … “Set apart Barnabas and Saul.” He encouraged and strengthened the church. He compelled some journeys and prevented others. His connection with new believers was frequently very close to the time of their baptism into Jesus Christ.
When Paul wrote of Him, he used words like “peace,” “power,” “life,” “love,” “joy” and “hope.” He spoke of God’s Spirit living within the disciple of Christ, controlling that life when willingly permitted, in order to weed out selfish living and nurture selfless giving. He would serve as the agency of adoption into God’s family, sanctifying the believer. And He would protect a follower’s life through suffering to glory, translating our groaning prayers. Without Him no one can say “Jesus is Lord,” nor can anyone speak through Him and curse the Christ. He gives unique gifts to Jesus’ followers so that all of His body’s members have a needed and useful function in building it up and helping it grow. Though miraculous gifts were given to and through some, there was no promise that these would be needed or given forever.
He gives to all freedom from law and sin and death. He serves as our security deposit on the eternal life to come. And as the final vision of the New Covenant closes He calls, along with the Bride – the saints – for all to come and drink from the living water, the water of life that does not end.
End of summary.
He is introduced with water, accompanies water, is described in watery terms (“poured out on,” “filled with,” “water of life”), present near immersions; He is fluid and powerful by nature. He wants to envelope and love and cherish the believer from without (“clothed with, rested upon”) and within (“filled with”). At other times, He is spoken of in terms of wind, breath and air. And He rests upon some in the image of fire. Visible, but not fully visible. Tangible, but not completely tangible.
He does not seem to go where He is not welcomed; does not seem to control where He is not given control. His purposes seem to include serving as the invisible yet tangible presence of God through Christ in this world; drawing people closer to God through Christ in this world and by His word; purifying and distributing gifts of life and purpose and empowerment and fulfillment and joy.
However, He has no reservations about blinding the spiritually blind or striking dead the spiritually dead.
So He displays the very same attributes of character as God the Father and God the Son: righteousness, love, holiness, mercy, justice, forgiveness.
I still have lots. Three years later, I don’t know that the answers are as important to me. Knowing that God is One and yet His three distinct Personages have the same nature and character – simply different relationships to each other and to mankind – is enough for me to trust Him, love Him, thirst for Him and to want Him to live within and through me. It is inconceivable that He would do anything to contradict God’s word that He inspired. Yet I deem it foolish to limit God to what He has chosen to reveal to us through His word, His Son, His Spirit. There is bound to be much more than we can comprehend, much more mystery to be grasped in the life and relationship with Him that is yet to come. Knowing all the answers has become far less important than believing all the truth.
Do we need miraculous gifts to confirm God’s nature and power and love for us? Is it not enough that His very own Spirit envelopes the believer, convicting of sin and guiding into all truth, comforting and gifting and translating prayer? Granting us purpose and power to good to others that confirms His good word? Empowering us, speaking through us, protecting our spirits from hopelessness? Emptying us of self and filling us with good? Purifying us, sanctifying us, consecrating us and imbuing us with His own holiness and unending life?
Dare we ask for more? Can we dictate whens and hows to Him?
It’s natural to want answers. There are things that even angels long to look into.
How we go about seeking them says a lot about us.
There are schools of thought about the way we view God’s word that too often exclude each other. One elevates law and logic to the highest pinnacle of interpretation. Another venerates story/narrative/passion. When they exclude each other, they are flawed. But when they exclude God’s very Spirit, promised and given as the way to interpret the word He inspired, they are fatally flawed. Logic and law, passion and story all have their roles in scripture, interpretation and hermeneutic. But thinking and feeling can both take you exactly where you want scripture to go. Using scripture to interpret scripture will only go as far as scripture goes. To say that, by one means or another, we can and do know all the answers is human arrogance run amuck. To say that we can’t know any answers for sure is a lack of faith in God’s faith in us.
The important answers are clear. God has seen to that. The rest of our questions are the result of the innate curiosity He designed into us, designed to draw us ever closer, ever seeking His face and embrace.
Why not let God’s gift of His own Interpreter help?
(It’s always polite to ask.)
If we do, will He give us a stone or a scorpion instead?
“This is what the LORD says, he who made the earth, the LORD who formed it and established it—the LORD is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ ” – Jeremiah 33:3