Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.
1. God and His Spirit
Early in the Bible, we are introduced to the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2). We are told that God created the heavens and the earth, and then we are told that the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Clearly, God and the Spirit of God are related, but they are not the same. We can make a distinction between one and the other.
What is the Spirit of God doing in Genesis 1? It is unlikely that the Spirit of God is casually hovering over the waters without any purpose. The presence of the Spirit of God in Genesis 1 makes the Spirit of God immediately relevant to the account of creation. It would even seem as if the Spirit of God is waiting for God's next act.
God then commands that there be light, and light is immediately formed (verse 3). But why does God speak? Is there any relevance to God speaking? Could not God bring light into existence by simply thinking about it? The role of God's word during creation is an important topic in the rest of Bible (Psalm 33:6; John 1:1-3).
Interestingly, Psalm 33:6 not only indicates that God made the heavens by His word, but also by means of His breath. This word, breath, is the same word translated Spirit in Gneesis 1:2. Could it be that Psalm 33:6 is telling us that the Spirit of God was participating in creation?
As I read Genesis 1 and wonder what the Spirit of God is doing, it seems to me that the most logical conclusion is that the Spirit of God is present to follow God's directives. God is directing the Spirit of God on what to do, and the Spirit of God is responding by doing what God directs Him to do.
If this is so, verse 6 and verse 7 introduce an interesting possibility. In verse 6, God directs the Spirit of God to make a firmament; and in verse 7, God creates the firmament. If the Spirit of God is following God's directives, why then does God Himself make the firmament? I think it is because verse 7 is calling the Spirit of God God.
The Spirit of God, though distinguished from God, is related to God: He proceeds from God as breath proceeds from a man. Moreover, the Spirit of God can move: He can hover like a dove. The Spirit of God can also be directed by God through His word, and the Spirit of God responds to God's instructions. Consequently, the Spirit of God appears to be a person who is a part of God Himself. It is not surprising, therefore, that verse 7 would call Him God.
Thus, the Spirit of God is not only God's power; He is not only God's breath. The Spirit of God is a person who is a part of God Himself and who is therefore rightly called God.
Questions for Reflection
Do you agree that the Spirit of God can be distinguished from God Himself?
If the word for spirit and the word for breath are the same in Hebrew, could Genesis 1:2 simply be talking about the breath of God? Why or why not?
Why would the Bible tell us that the Spirit (or breath) of God was hovering over the surface of the waters? What is the Bible trying to say about the Spirit of God?
Do you think it makes sense that the Spirit of God is responding to God's directives in Genesis 1? If He is not responding to God's directives, what do you think He is doing?
Lord God, you are great and wonderful! Human beings cannot comprehend everything about you; your greatness exceeds our understanding. However, I can trust in your word; I can trust in what you say about yourself. Before you I bow and worship, Lord; I recognize that the Holy Spirit proceeds from you and is a part of you. Amen.
2. God and His Spirit Speak
If we put aside everything we think we know about God, and if we then read the Bible from the beginning, one of the very first things about God that should catch our attention is that God speaks.
God's power amazes us because all He has to do to bring about wonderful things into existence is speak. He commands for things to be, and things come into existence (in my lesson, I mentioned I believe that God is actually talking to the Spirit of God, and that the Spirit of God is creating the things God is directing Him to create).
Finally, on verse 28, God speaks to the first human beings He has created. God blesses them and gives them instructions.
God's ability to speak indicates to us that God is a person. His speech reveals that He is aware, that He has intention, that He is intelligent, and that He can relate to other persons, to other sentient beings. Clearly, the God of the Bible, the God of Genesis 1 (although we may not understand His nature) is not just energy, but a person.
God's ability to speak says so much about God. It establishes, early in the Bible, that God is a person.
What about the Spirit? Does the Spirit of God (Spirit of the Lord, or Holy Spirit) ever speak in the Bible? If He did, we would have strong evidence that the Spirit of the Lord is indeed a person (and therefore it would not surprise us that God speaks to the Spirit of God in Genesis 1). If the Spirit of God were to ever speak in the Bible, we would need to realize that the Spirit of God, as far as human beings can tell, is indeed a person.
I searched in the Bible for Scriptures where the Spirit of God speaks. The first one that caught my attention is 2 Samuel 23:2-3. There, David states that the Spirit of God spoke through him. My only objection was that maybe David only meant that the Spirit of God enabled him to prophesy. Could I find clearer Scriptures where the Spirit of God speaks?
The next Scripture that caught my attention is Ezekiel 3:12. The Spirit of God does speak in this Scripture, but the it takes some work to arrive to this conclusion. First, the Spirit of God is often depicted as a wind. Ezekiel was lifted up by the Spirit of God much like a kite is lifted by the wind, and the sound of the wind that he heard behind him actually spoke to him. Ancient Jews recognized that this was indeed the Spirit of God speaking.
The next Scripture that caught my attention is Ezekiel 3:24-25. There, the Spirit instructs Ezekiel to shut himself in his house, and then warns him that he (Ezekiel) will be bound by his compatriots.
The last Scripture in the Old Testament (TaNaKh, Hebrew Bible) to have captured my attention regarding this topic is Ezekiel 11:5. There, the Spirit of the LORD commands Ezekiel to prophesy and tells him what he should say.
We can also find Scriptures in New Testament (B'rit Chadashah) where the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) speaks. In Acts 8:29, the Spirit instructs Philip to get close to a man whom Philip should evangelize. In Acts 10:19, the Spirit alerts Peter that three men are looking for him, and instructs him to go with them (Peter will eventually evangelize these people). Moreover, in Acts 21:10-11, the Prophet Agabus delivers a message from the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, Romans 8:26 teaches that the Spirit makes intercession for the believers; and 1 Corinthians 2:11 tells us that the Spirit of God has the ability to know. Though these two verses do not tell us that the Spirit of God speak, they clearly give the Spirit personal attributes.
Finally, in Revelation 14:13, the Spirit replies to the voice from heaven.
Clearly, the Bible teaches that the Spirit of God speaks. While speaking is not something the Spirit does often in the Bible (most of the time, the Spirit is depicted as a wind or an imaterial presence that prompts God's servants to action), the Spirit of God does indeed speak on rare occassions. In fact, the New Testament even ascribes to Him the attributes of knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:11) and caring (Romans 8:26).
Given that personal attributes are intuitively ascribed to the God of the Bible because He speaks, we must conclude that the Spirit of God (though certainly mysterious) shares the same personal attributes as God.
Questions for Reflection
- Do you think it makes sense to say that since the Spirit of God speaks, He is a person? Why or why not?
- What other characteristics of God tell us that God is a person?
- What other charactersitics of the Spirit of God tell us that the Spirit of God is a person?
- Why is it difficult for some people to believe that the Holy Spirit is a person? What would you say to such people?
Lord, as far as I can tell from you word, the Bible, your Holy Spirit is a person. He knows you, and He knows me. He has come into my heart. He can empower me, He can teach me, He can lead me, He can comfort me, and He makes intercession for me before you so you accomplish your will in me. Help me not to grieve Him, and help me to listen carefully when He speaks. Amen.
3. The Spirit Manifests Himself as Wind
Read Acts 2:2
The Hebrew word that is often translated in the Old Testament portion of the Bible (the TaNaKh) as spirit is the word ruach, and it can mean breath, wind, and spirit.
In Job 19:17, ruach refers to the breath expelled from the mouth when a human being speaks. In Psalm 33:6, it is used in the same way to anthropomorphize God. Exodus 15:8, also using an anthropomorphism, uses it to refer to the air exhaled through God's nose.
It is not surprising, therefore, that when the Spirit of God (or Holy Spirit) manifests Himself in the Bible, He sometimes manifests Himself as a wind.
Elisha, for example, asked Elijah for a double portion of Elijah's spirit (an expression that means Elisha wanted to be Elijah's sole successor as a prophet). Elijah was eventually caught by a whilwind (2 Kings 2:9-11). According to the sons of the prophets, this whirlwind was a manifestation of the Spirit of the LORD (2 Kings 2:16).
In Ezekiel 3:12-14, Ezekiel is taken up, lifted up, by the Spirit. Though Ezekiel hears the voice of the Spirit along with the sound of an earthquake, the sound of wheels, and the sound of wings, his experience seems to be similar to Elijah's in that he is lifted up from the ground by a manifestation of wind.
Therefore, it is not surprising that on the day of the Pentecost following the Lord's crucifixion and resurrection, the Apostles heard the sound of a powerful wind, and the room itself was filled with the wind: this was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to fill them, empowering them to proclam the Gospel of Christ (Acts 2:1-4).
In his conversation with Nicodemus, the Lord also made reference to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as wind (John 3:6-8). His point was that those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God are influenced by the Him and therefore behave in a spiritual manner.
Questions for Reflection
- Does this lesson propose the idea that the Spirit of God is made of wind?
- Does this lesson support the view that the Spirit of God is inanimate like the wind?
- According to the Lord's words in John 3:6-8, how is the Spirit like wind?
- Do you believe you have received the Holy Spirit? How would you know whether you did receive Him or not?
- Why do you think the Spirit of God would choose to manifest Himself as wind? What effect did this manifestation have on the prophets and the apostles? What effect does it have on us as we read about it?
Lord, I am filled wonder and awe when I read your words and think about you. How great and incomprehensible you are! How holy! How awesome! My desire is to draw closer to you. Make me a new man, a man like Christ. Teach me, lead me, and make me aware of your wonderful presence. Amen.
4. The "Breath" in Humans, Lesson on The Word "Spirit"
In the previous lesson, I explained that the word ruach in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament, or TaNaKh) means breath, wind, and spirit. Before we continue to explore the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in my future posts, I would like to note that the word ruach (which is used to refer to the Spirit of God) can have other meanings that will later shed light on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians.
First, the word ruach can refer to the breath of life, the element that gives life to all creatures. In Genesis 6:17, 7:15, and 7:22, the word ruach refers to the breath in every living creature, both animals or humans. Consequently, Moses and Aaron seem to indicate that all creatures (humans and animals) have ruach (Numbers 16:22). Psalm 104:29 also indicates that all creatures die and return to the dust when God takes away their ruach (breath). Thus, the word ruach refers to the breath of God, which He uses to give life to all creatures on Earth.
Second, the word ruach can refer to the human spirit (or soul), an immaterial component in every human being. In Job 32:8, there is a distinction between the ruach in a human being and the breath (neshamah) of God (the breath that God breathed into the man's nostrils in Genesis 2:7).
In Proverbs 16:2, God weights the spirits (ruach) of human beings. Here, the human ruach is equated with the human heart; it is the human component where a person's intentions are found. In fact, in Isaiah 26:9, the soul (nephesh) and the spirit (ruach) are equated with each other.
Third, the word ruach (seeing that it can refer to the human soul) is also closely associated with emotions. In Proverbs 18:14, the human body can experience sickness and the spirit (ruach) can experience an emotional wound. In Genesis 41:8, Pharaoh's spirit (ruach) is vexed because of a dream. In Numbers 5:14, a husband can feel extremely jealous because of a spirit (ruach) of jealousy. In 1 Samuel 1:15, Hannah's spirit is sorrowful (ruach). In Psalm 106:33, Moses' spirit (ruach) is provoked to anger. In Job 7:11, Job's spirit (ruach) experiences anguish.
Sometimes, the figurative state of a person's spirit represents emotions. In Genesis 45:27, Jacob's spirit revived when Jacob learned that Joseph was alive: this does not mean that Jacob's spirit was literally dead, but that upon hearing good news, Jacob was filled with excitement. In Joshua 5:1, the kings of the Amorites and the Canaanites had no more spirit in them because they feared the Israelites; and in 1 Kings 10:5 and 2 Chronicles 9:4, the Queen of Sheba had no more spirit in her because she was perplexed by Solomon's wealth. Once again, these verses do not mean that people were literally left without a spirit, but that the emotions they experienced were so strong they overwhelmed them.
As we can see, the word ruach is very diverse. It can refer to the life-giving element in every living creature, it can refer to the human soul, and it can also be associated with human emotions. This is all very interesting, especially when we consider that God often uses the spirits of human beings to get human beings to accomplish His will.
In 1 Chronicles 5:26, God stirred the spirits of the kings Pul and Tiglathpilneser to take captive the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh as a punishment for their sins. In 2 Chronicles 21:16, God stirred the spirits of the Philistines and the Arabians against Jehoram, and so the Philistines and the Arabians attacked Judah and took away Jehoram's wealth and family. This was also God's punishment over Jehoram.
Finally, in 2 Chronicles 36:22, God stirred the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia; and Cyrus gave the command to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem so that God's prophesies through Jeremiah would be fulfilled. Moreover, even when reading Exodus 35:21, we should not lose sight that it is the Lord who stirred the hearts and made willing the spirits of the people.
Given the close association of the word ruach with the human soul and with human emotions, it seems that when the Bible indicates that God stirred someone's spirit, it means that God caused strong emotions in that person(s) so that he or she would do God's will. Not only does this knowledge give us insight in how God worked in people during Old Testament times, but I think it also gives us some insight in how He worked in people during New Testament times, and in how He continues to work in us today.
Questions for Reflection
- How is the biblical use of the word ruach similar or different to the modern use of the word spirit?
- According to the Bible, there is an immaterial component (a soul or spirit) in every human being. Do you agree with this view? Do people in our day and age agree or disagree with this view?
- How does understanding the meaning of the word ruach enrich your understanding of the Holy Spirit in the Bible?
- Have you ever experienced strong emotions directing you to do something for God or according to God's will?
God, our Father, you are the God of the spirits of all flesh: you have given life to all, and you keep us all alive by your great power. You know me, you know my soul, you know my emotions, and you know my intentions. Nothing about me is hidden from you. To you I confess my sins, my faults, and my dreams.
Lord, I bow down before you. Stir my spirit to obey you, stir my spirit to worship you, stir my spirit to serve you. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, I pray to you. Amen.
5. The Spirit Enables God's People
Since Old Testament times, the Spirit of God would enter into people to direct them and enable them to do something for God, whether it was prophesying, crafting something, leading, exercising supernatural strength, gathering an army, or going to war.
In Genesis 41:38, Pharaoh states that the Spirit of God is in Joseph. Pharaoh deduced it was so because Joseph was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream and give good advice. Similarly, in Exodus 31:3, God states that he filled Bezaleel with the Spirit of God to give him wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and ability to work with precious metals and precious stones.
In Numbers 11:25-26, the spirit is said to have been on Moses and to have rested on the elders of Israel: His presence enabled them to prophesy (Numbers 11:29 clarifies this was the Spirit of God). In Numbers 24:2, the Spirit of God came on Balaam and enabled Balaam to prophesy. In Numbers 27:18, the Spirit of God is said to be in Joshua. In Numbers 34:9, Joshua was said to be full with the Spirit of Wisdom
because Moses laid hands on him (apparently, God's Spirit gave him wisdom to lead the people when Moses laid his hands on him).
In Judges 3:10, the Spirit of the LORD came upon Othniel and enabled him to judge Israel and to defeat Chushanrishathaim, King of Mesopotamia. In Judges 6:34, the Spirit of God came upon Gideon and enabled him to blow a trumpet to successfully raise an army. In Judges 11:29, the Spirit of God came upon Jephthah, and it appears the Spirit of God led him to pass through the land until he met Ammon in battle.
In Judges 13:25, the Spirit of the LORD began to move Samson in the camp of Dan: in other words, the Spirit of God began to direct Samson to do God's will. In Judges 14:6, the Spirit of the LORD came mightily on Samson and enabled him to rend a lion! In Judges 14:19, the Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson: the Spirit seems to have directed Samson to go to Ashkelon and to have enabled him to kill thirty men. In Judges 15:14, the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon Samson and caused the cords with which Samson was tied to weaken (as if they had been burnt), and then He enabled samson to kill one thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey.
In 1 Samuel 10:6 and 10, the Spirit of God came upon Saul and enabled him to prophesy. In 1 Samuel 11:6-7, the Spirit of God came upon Saul and enabled him to gather an army. In 1 Samuel 16:13, the Spirit of God came upon David; and in 1 Samuel 16:14, the Spirit of God departed from Saul. In 1 Samuel 19:20-21, the Spirit of God came upon Saul's messengers (whom Saul had sent to capture David), and they prophesied. In 1 Samuel 19:23-24, the Spirit of God came upon Saul and caused him to prophesy naked all day and all night.
Thus, the Spirit of God often entered into people to direct them and enable them to do God's will. Sometimes, the work did not appear to be supernatural (like when Gideon was able to raise an army by blowing a trumpet, or when Saul was able to raise an army by threatening to cut people into pieces), and sometimes the work was obviously supernatural (like when Samson tore a lion into pieces with his bare hands, or when the cords that bound Samson became as if they had been burnt). Most of the time, the Spirit of God chose to work through men who were committed to following Him (like Moses, Joshua, and David); but there were also times when the Spirit worked through people who were not wholly committed to following Him (like Balaam, who tried to curse God's people; Jephthah, who vowed to sacrifice the first one who came to greet him; and Saul, who tried to apprehend David but instead ended up prophesying).
What can we conclude from these Scriptures? God is sovereign, and He fulfills His will as He esteems best. Happy are we if we submit to His will and follow the direction of the Spirit, but even if we sin or resist, God can still accomplish His purpose. Praise God!
Questions for Reflection
- Should you expect the Spirit of God to manifest Himself in your life in the same way He manifested Himself in the lives of these Old Testament believers?
- How is the ministry of the Spirit of God during Old Testament times similar and different to His ministry during New Testamet times?
- Do you believe your sins and failures limit the Spirit's work in you and through you? If so, how?
- Has God called you to serve Him and accomplish something for Him? If so, why should you rely on the Spirit's power and not on your own skills?
Lord God, I surrender to your will. Forgive my sins, my failures, and my shortcomings. May your Spirit lead me and enable me to serve you and to do your will. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. In the name of Jesus the Christ, amen.
6. The Holy Spirit and Jesus
Read Isaiah 11:1-4
According to Isaiah, the Spirit of the LORD would play an important role in the ministry of the Messiah. Accordingly, the Spirit of the LORD (the Holy Spirit) was much involved in the life and ministry of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit caused Mary to conceive while she was a virgin (Matthew 1:18-20, Luke 1:35). John the Baptist taught that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, John 1:33-34). Also, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16, John 1:32). Moreover, the Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1).
Although Jesus is the Messiah, he was never anointed with oil as were the priests and kings of the Old Testament (for example, Aaron and David). Instead, Jesus demonstrated over and over again that He was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. He claimed that many of the miracles he performed, including exorcisms, were performed by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28).
Moreover, the Holy Spirit was also involved the Lord's resurrection (Romans 1:4).
Questions for Reflection
- How did the work of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Christ fulfill prophecy regarding the Messiah?
- How would people know that the Messiah was indeed anointed with the Holy Spirit?
- How did the Holy Spirit's work validate the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ?
- What does the Holy Spirit's work in the life and ministry of Christ mean to you personally?
Lord God, I am continuosly filled with wonder by your works and by you: for you do great things because you yourself are great beyound comparison. My faith in Jesus is strengthened when I think that all He taught and all He did was in accordance to the Scriptures, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I invite you to respond to the following questions on the comments section:
- What points do you agree with or disagree with?
- Did you find the information in these lessons helpful?
- Do you have questions or insights you would like to share?
- Did you find these lessons helpful? How so?
© 2020 Marcelo Carcach