Recently a television evangelist stated that the Holy Ghost had spoken to him and told him to ask his “partners” for thousand dollar donations. Other preachers are heard speaking as though the Holy Spirit was directly working on them. Other Christians believe that God’s Spirit directs their Bible studies so that they may determine what is true or not. Other sincere Christians wonder just how God’s Spirit works on His worshippers. Some feel God’s Spirit has abandoned them.
The purpose of this article is not to argue with Trinitarians whether God’s Spirit is a third person of a triune godhead. We believe God’s holy spirit to be the active force of the Divine Mind as it exerts invisible pressure to accomplish His will. Isaiah 59:19 compares God’s Spirit to just such a pressure: “For he will come as a rushing stream, which the [Spirit] of Yahweh drives.” [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000© on 1 Corinthians 2:16.] The holy spirit, or Pneuma, is not a person but an invisible force resulting from God’s own thoughts as He projects these to fulfill his purposes. It may be compared to either an down hill wind pushing a stream along, or the invisible pull of gravity that forces the stream downhill to its destination.
What does the Bible say about God’s Spirit? How has it operated or functioned throughout the thousands of years covered by Biblical history? This article, God’s Spirit And You, is in two parts. The first will cover the Biblical record and the hundreds of occurrences from Genesis 1:2 to the teachings of Jesus and Paul. The second article will deal in review and a verse by verse consideration of 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14. First, we begin at the beginning.
The English word SPIRIT is often used to translate the Hebrew RU’ACH and the Greek PNEU’MA. Both words are literally drawn from “breath” or “wind” - both invisible active forces or pressures. Just as the English word the Hebrew and Greek have ranges of meaning - wind, breath, spirit-being, inspiration, a mental disposition, or an attitude of mind, as well as the life force or energy in all living things. It is sometimes difficult to determine which form of “spirit” is being used.
In the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures the actual form “holy spirit” only occurs three times. The first comes from the words of David at Psalm 51:11, “Do not put me away from before you, or take your holy spirit from me.” [BAS] This verse indicates that God may place His “holy spirit” on an individual. It does not necessarily state that all worshippers of God have the holy spirit in the same manner. Isaiah is the only other inspired writer to use the designation “holy spirit.” The prophet does this In Isaiah 63:10, 11: “But [the Israelites] rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, Moses and his people, saying, Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? where is he who put his holy Spirit in the midst of them?” [WEB] Thus, here God’s Spirit may be among an entire group of people.
The word “Spirit” as it relates to God does occur more often. Some versions render the Hebrew RU’ACH in Genesis 1:2 as God’s Spirit “moving back and forth across the surface of the waters.” [Compare Psalm 33:6] Others prefer “wind” or “breath.” Many see God’s Spirit here working on the formation of the earth, or the dry-land of the earthly globe.
God’s Spirit is mentioned again at Genesis 6:3, “Yahweh said, ‘My Spirit will not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; yet will his days be one hundred twenty years.’" [WEB] Thus, in certain ways and manifestations it can be said that God’s Spirit can move among all humanity. Such a Spirit can also be removed from the same. An ancient ruler of Egypt recognized that God’s Spirit could work on a particular individual in an extraordinary manner. Genesis 41:38 reports, “Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find such a one as this [Joseph], a man in whom is the Spirit of God?’” [WEB]
God’s Spirit can work on individuals in specific manners to accomplish a special work. [Exodus 28:2; 31:3; 35:31] God can also take some of His Spirit from one servant of God and place it on others. [Numbers 11:17, 25, 26] God does not put His Spirit on all His people in the same way, as Numbers 11:29 shows, “Moses said to him, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all Yahweh's people were prophets, that Yahweh would put his Spirit on them!’” [WEB] So, just because certain people belong to a larger group of God’s worshippers does not mean that His Spirit is working on each of them in the same way. God’s Spirit could even work upon a false prophet to force his words into a Messianic prophecy. Numbers 24:2 records such, “Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came on him.” [WEB]
God’s Spirit may appoint or ordain a person to an official position. [Judges 3:10; 11:29] God’s Spirit can strengthen or move a person to do something. [Judges 6:34; 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14] God’s Spirit can inspire a person to speak as a prophet, “The Spirit of Yahweh will come mightily on you, and you shall prophesy with them.” [1 Samuel 10:6, 10 WEB; compare 1 Samuel 19:20, 23] God’s Spirit can actually force a person’s real attitude to manifest itself. [1 Samuel 11:6;16:14-16] Though one may be a worshipper of Yehowah, His Spirit may come upon an individual in a special manner. [1 Samuel 16:13] God’s Spirit in the past may inspire an individual to write or add to the Holy Scriptures. [2 Samuel 23:2]
God’s Spirit can move a person from one location to another. [1 Kings 18:12; 2 Kings 2:15] God’s Spirit can move a person to speak to a congregation. [2 Chronicles 20:14; 24:20] God’s Spirit can make a people prudent. [Nehemiah 9:20, 30]
The very breathing process of humans is spoken of as God’s Spirit. [Job 27:3; 33:4] So, in a very broad sense God’s Spirit resides in all breathing human beings and all living creatures. God’s Spirit is creative as Psalm 104:29 puts it, “If you send forth your spirit, they are created.” [WEB] No one can escape the reach of God’s Spirit, for Psalm 139:7 asks, “Where could I go from your Spirit?” [WEB] God’s Spirit is identified by goodness, “Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness.” [WEB] Those who possess it will always walk in goodness and uprightness, and though they might stumble - even severely some times - their spiritual compass will always return to North.
It is foretold that God’s Spirit would manifest itself on the Messiah. Isaiah 11:2, 3 promises: “There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. The Spirit of Yahweh shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh.” [WEB; compare Isaiah 42:1] The manifestation of the Spirit on Messiah would be characterized by wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of God. It is God’s Spirit that would anoint the “Messiah.” [Isaiah 61:1] Also the promise was made that God’s Spirit would be poured out on His people during a special period of time. [Isaiah 32:15; 44:3]
God’s Spirit is associated with God’s Mind according to Paul. He quotes Isaiah 40:13 which says, “Who has directed the Spirit of Yahweh” in the Hebrew Text, but “Mind of God” in the Jewish-Greek Text of the 3rd Century BC. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:16. God’s Spirit is often associated with His Word: “My Spirit who is on you, and my words which I have put in your mouth.” [Isaiah 59:21 WEB]
God’s Spirit inspired and moved Ezekiel to speak. [Ezekiel 11:6, 24] Yehowah promised through Ezekiel to use His Spirit to renew His People: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit [attitude, disposition] will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my ordinances, and do them.” [Ezekiel 36:25-27 WEB] God’s Spirit can always be identified by obedience to His commandments. Those who claim to possess God’s Spirit but who do not “keep His ordinances” are lying. A person who is a slanderer but claims to have God’s Spirit has deluded himself/herself. [Zechariah 7:12]
God’s Spirit can cause His prophet to travel either in vision or literally to see something futuristic. Ezekiel reports: “The hand of Yahweh was on me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Yahweh, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.” [Ezekiel 37:1 WEB] God’s Spirit can restore and renew a People: “I will put my Spirit in you, and you shall live.” [Ezekiel 37:14; 39:29 WEB; compare Revelation 11:11]
Joel 2:28, 29 foretold how Yehowah would pour out His Spirit upon the
disciples of Messiah: “It will happen afterward, that I will pour out my
Spirit on all flesh;
And your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. And also on the servants and on the handmaids in those days, I will pour out my Spirit.” [WEB]
The inspired prophet is filled with courage to speak truth to God’s own People: “But as for me, I am full of power by the Spirit of Yahweh, And of judgment, and of might, To declare to Jacob his disobedience, And to Israel his sin.” [Micah 3:8 WEB] God’s Spirit may accomplish things impossible by human might and power: “’Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh of Hosts.” [Zechariah 4:6 WEB]
With the coming of the Anointed One God’s Spirit introduced new life and new possibilities in a manner more far-reaching than anything in the past. Though quiet for over 500 years, God’s Spirit was now to manifest itself in unique ways on unique persons.
The first recorded mention of God’s Spirit in the Christian Bible is recorded factually by the educated doctor Luke. He reports with accuracy how the Spirit first began to operate in a way it had with ancient Abraham and Sarah. Luke 1:13-17 records the event: “Then the angel said to him: ‘Do not to be frightened, Zechariah! For your prayer has been heard and your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son and you will call his name ‘John’. And you will become filled with joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in YHWH’s sight and ‘he will not drink wine or strong drink’. [Numbers 6:3] He will be filled with holy Pneuma even while in his mother’s womb. He will ‘restore many of the children’ of Israel to YHWH their God. He will be a forerunner before [the Messiah] in the inspiration and power of ‘Elijah.” [NCMM] Thus, about the year 3 BC God’s Spirit was to cause an elderly couple to become pregnant and produce the one to be called John the Baptist.
Within six months another manifestation of God’s Spirit would make its appearance in a singular and unique manner - something the Spirit had never done in the history of humankind. Luke records the words of the angel Gabriel to the Jewish virgin Mary: “So the angel answered her: ‘Holy Pneuma will come over you and the Most High’s power will overshadow you. As a result the One to be born will be also called Holy, God’s Son’ [Psalm 89:26].” [NCMM] Though such a thing would have been considered impossible throughout the last two thousand years, now with modern studies of the human genome and DNA, such is no long inconceivable.
About six months later the first occurrence of God’s Spirit ‘filling’ someone in the Christian Bible is mention. This spirit-experience fell upon Elizabeth, the pregnant mother of John the Baptist. Luke 1:41 records: “Now the moment Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting her baby suddenly moved in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with holy Pneuma.” [NCMM] No too long later God’s Spirit again “filled” Zechariah and under its inspiration he uttered the prophecy of Luke 1:67-79.
Following the birth of John the Baptist another blessed individual had God’s Spirit come upon him. Luke writes: “Now look, there was a person in Jerusalem named Simeon. And he was righteous and reverent and was waiting for Israel’s consolation, and holy Pneuma was upon him. For it had been revealed to him by holy inspiration that he would not experience death until he had seen YHWH’s Christ. [Psalm 2:2] So under inspiration he arrived in the temple [courtyard] and when the parents of the little boy Jesus brought him - for it was according to custom regarding an infant -- and thus Simeon welcomed [the Christ] into his arms.” Luke 2:25-28 NCMM]
With the arrival of John the Baptist and the beginning of his ministry about the year 28/29 AD, it is a prophet like Elijah who was to introduce someone who would “baptize in holy Spirit.” Luke 3:15, 16 reports: “Now the people were in great expectation and everyone was wondering in their hearts regarding John, whether he might be the Christ. So then John told them all: ‘I baptize you with water, but someone is coming who is stronger than me - someone I am not worthy to even untie his sandal straps - he will baptize you with holy Pneuma.’”
Both Luke and John record one of the greatest of all manifestations of God’s Spirit in connection with the anointing of the ma·shi'ach [Hebrew for “Messiah”; the Greek is Khri·stos']. Listen to the record of this most important of events:
“Now it happened during the time all the people were being baptized Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying the sky opened up, “And the holy Pneuma descended upon Jesus in the bodily shape of a dove. Then a Voice came out of the sky, "You are my beloved Son! I confirm you!" And so when Jesus began his work he was about thirty years old. … John further testified: "I saw the Pneuma -- like a dove --descending from the sky and it remained upon him. And I had not recognized him, but the One who sent me baptizing in water said to me, 'Upon whoever you see the Pneuma descending and remaining, this is the one baptizing in holy Pneuma.' And I saw, and I have testified that this one is ‘the Son of God’. [Psalm 2:6]” [Luke 3:21-23; John 1:32-34 NCMM]
Thus was introduced to the world of humanity the one Person who would in the future be the channel or conduit through whom God’s Spirit would function in a variety of manifestations.
This would be an appropriate place to make a few general observations about God’s Spirit. The term “holy spirit” - while only occurring three times in the Hebrew Bible - occurs 94 times in the Christian Scriptures. Most often this full term occurs in Acts [40 times] while not occurring at all in Galatians, Philippians m Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Philemon, James, 2 John, 3 John, or Revelation, and the word “spirit” not at all in 2 John and 3 John. God’s Spirit is very active in the Christian Bible and referred to over 350 times.
With the coming of the ministry of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, God’s Spirit manifest itself in ways never witnessed in the Hebrew Bible. The first reference to God’s Spirit operating on Jesus after his baptism was with regard to a desert temptation. Luke 4:1, 2 records: “Now, Jesus full of holy Pneuma, returning from the Jordan, was guided by the Pneuma into the desert, and throughout forty days he was tempted by the Devil. During those days Jesus had nothing to eat and so at the end he was hungry.” [NCMM] The account and what follows shows that even the Messiah full of God’s Spirit was not immune from satanic temptations or physical limitations such as hunger.
How would Jesus respond to God’s Spirit? Luke 4:14-21 tells us of further operation’s of divine Pneuma: “Now Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Pneuma. Reports about him went out throughout all of the surrounding countryside. He was praised by everyone as he continued teaching in the synagogues. Now Jesus arrived in Nazareth where he had grown up and there he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath as was his custom. When he stood up to read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it had been written: ‘YHWH’s Pneuma is upon me for He has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind -- to send the oppressed away to freedom -- to preach YHWH’s acceptable year.’ [Isaiah 61:1, 2 LXX] After he rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant he sat down. Everyone’s eyes in the synagogue were fixed firmly upon Jesus. Then Jesus told them all: "Today this Scripture you heard is being fulfilled as you listen." [NCMM]
And so in two different ways God’s Spirit had affected Jesus: first, by empowering him as he returned from the wilderness temptation. And, second, by quoting from the inspired prophet Isaiah who had foretold the spirit-anointing of Messiah. He had also given an inspired interpretation of Isaiah 61:1. We also cannot help noticing that God’s Spirit acted as a divine pressure energizing Jesus to preach the Gospel.
It was probably not too long after this that Jesus taught some private truths to a “secret disciple” who was a member of the Jewish clerical hierarchy. These intimate words are recorded by John: “Jesus responded to him: ‘I tell you this truth: Unless anyone is born from above he cannot experience the Kingdom of the God.’ But, facing toward [Jesus], Nicodemus asked: ‘How is a person able to be born when old? He is not able to enter the womb of his mother a second time to be born.’ Jesus answered him: ‘I tell you this truth: Unless anyone is born from water and Pneuma he cannot enter into the Kingdom of the God. That which is born from flesh is flesh, and that which is born from the Pneuma is pneuma. Do not wonder because I said, It is a necessity to be born from above. The wind blows wherever it wants, and you hear the sound of it, but you have no idea where it came from and where it is going. Just so is everyone born from the Pneuma." [John 3:3-8 NCMM]
Here Jesus the Nazarene taught that those who would become members of God’s Kingdom - or the Realm of Profession, the Church - must first undergo a spiritual genesis, a New Birth. This theme is repeated in the context of God’s Spirit in later inspired writings of the Nazarene’s disciples. It is Paul who is first to write in a similar vein: “For everyone led by God’s Pneuma are God’s sons. Because, you did not receive a slave’s frame of mind causing more fear. Rather, you received an adoptive son’s frame of mind, in which we cry out, ‘Abba! The Father!’ The Pneuma [of God] itself provides testimonial evidence with our frame of mind that we are God’s children. Therefore, if we are children [we are] also heirs.” [Romans 6:14-17 NCMM]
Peter expresses the same conviction: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy, has [given us] a New Genesis unto a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. … For you have been ‘born again’ [John 3:3], not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible [seed] by means of the Word ‘of a Living and Abiding God’.” [1 Peter 1:3, 23 NCMM] In the Nazarene’s language this new spiritual birth occurs by means of “truth” and in Peter’s phrase it is “The Word” that is involved. So, it is not enough for God’s Spirit to be involved, His inspired Word is also necessary.
The disciple James is also to mention this kind of new birth: “Having willed it, [the Father] gave birth to us by the Word of Truth so that we might become a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” [James 1:18 NCMM] He also includes “the Word of Truth” in this new-birthing process. Therefore, such a new genesis, or new birth - that is the process of being born again - cannot occur without an in-depth experience with God’s Word.
That is not all that is involved in being God-born by His Spirit according to the beloved apostle John. For he echoes his Master on the subject of a spirit re-birth in his first inspired epistle. Consider the numerous mentions of a God-birth and the characteristics involved:
“If you realize that God is righteous you will also realize that those God-born continue in righteousness.” [1 John 2:29 NCMM] First the person who has experienced a higher birth by means of God’s Spirit is characterized by continual righteousness. Second, such a person born by God’s spirit is not a habitual sinner: “Now grasp the character of this loving concern the Father has bestowed on us so that we should be called ‘Children of God.’ … Anybody who is God-born never habitually continues in a sin because God’s seed resides within that person. This is the reason the person is unable to continue in a course of habitual sin because of being God-born. The children of God and the children of the Devil are clearly revealed by this: anyone who does not continue in righteousness does not originate with God.” [1 John 3:1, 9, 10 NCMM]
What else does John say characterizes those with a higher spiritual birth? John writes that such a God-born person will be known by his/her loving manner: “My loved ones, let us all continue to have a loving concern for each other, because this kind of loving concern is from God. Every individual who continues to show loving concern is God-born. Such a person has an intimate relationship with God. The individual who refuses to show loving concern has no intimate relationship with God because God is love.” [1 John 4:7, 8 NCMM Paraphrase]
Of course all those who can expect a new birth from God’s Spirit must have deep conviction that Jesus the Nazarene is God’s Son and Christ. 1 John 5:1 says, “Every individual who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been God-born.” [NCMM] Such a Christian is finally triumphant as John writes, “Every person God-born is victorious over the world.” [1 John 5:4 NCMM]
God’s Spirit abounded in the life of Jesus the Nazarene. He was sometimes particularly moved in joy to express his thanks to his Father. Consider “the theologian of joy” Luke, “At that same moment, Jesus was filled with the joy of the holy Pneuma, and said: "I praise you, Father, Lord of the Heaven and the Earth, because You concealed these things from the sophist and intellectual, and You revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for such was well-pleasing in Your sight. Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father; and, who the Father is no one knows except the Son, and to anyone whom the Son wishes to reveal Him." [Luke 10:21, 22 NCMM]
In his teachings Jesus promised that God’s Spirit would be given to those who are persistent: “At that same moment, Jesus was filled with the joy of the holy Pneuma, and said: ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of the Heaven and the Earth, because You concealed these things from the sophist and intellectual, and You revealed them to babes. Yes, Father, for such was well-pleasing in Your sight. Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father; and, who the Father is no one knows except the Son, and to anyone whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.’” [Luke 10:21, 22 NCMM]
The Nazarene Master also gave serious warnings against speaking in a blasphemous way regarding God’s Spirit: “Also, anyone who makes a statement against the Son of Humankind will be forgiven. However, anyone who speaks abusively against the holy Pneuma will never be forgiven.” [Luke 12:10 NCMM] By comparing Matthew’s account of this we get a fuller picture regarding sinning against God’s Spirit: "Because of this I tell you: Every human sin and blasphemy will be canceled, but blasphemy against the Pneuma will not be canceled. And so whoever speaks a word against the Son of Humankind -- it will be canceled. However, anyone who speaks against the Holy Pneuma, it will not be canceled -- not in this Age, nor in the New Age.” [Matthew 12:31, 32 NCMM] In this particular context it was the Jewish clerical hierarchy who charged that Christ’s cures were by satanic power, and thus they sinned against, or blasphemed God’s Spirit working on Jesus.
Jesus also comforted his personal apostles not to worry about what they were to say when brought before religious, civil or governmental judges: “So when they bring you [disciples] before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not be overly concerned about how or what you will speak in your defense or what you will say. For the holy Pneuma will teach you [disciples] what it is necessary to say in that same hour.” [Luke 12:11, 12 NCMM] Since Jesus is shown to be speaking directly to his “little flock” of personal disciples, it need not be taken that such help always helps a Nazarene disciple when they speak. [Compare Luke 12:1, 32]
However, Jesus confirmed that God’s Spirit was not given “sparingly.” His beloved apostle reports this in John 3:34, “For the One the God sent forth is speaking the Sayings of the God, because He does not give the Pneuma by measure.” Other versions use the word “sparingly” [MON]. God gives His Spirit to accomplish His will.
The Nazarene taught that true worship would involve two factors: the Truth and God’s Spirit. At a well he tells a woman of another form of worship: “The God [is] Pneuma, and those worshipping Him must of necessity worship spiritually and in harmony with Truth." [John 4:24 NCMM] Jesus teaches that his Father is a Spirit-Being and therefore those who worship Him must also worship spiritually and in harmony with His Truth. [John 17:17] How this is to be done becomes clear when considering the early history of the Christian Church.
Jesus states an important principle regarding God’s Spirit - it cannot be disassociated from the Sayings and Teachings of Christ. For the Nazarene says: “The Pneuma is the thing that makes alive, the flesh is of no profit. The Sayings that I have spoken to you [disciples] are Pneuma and is Life.” [John 6:63 NCMM] Other versions render this: “The words which I have said to you are spirit”. [BAS] Thus, God’s Spirit is manifest in the most transparent manner in the words or message of Christ Jesus, and later his inspired disciples who wrote the New Testament. Thus, without being familiar with the whole Gospel story one could not possible ever be “filled” with God’s Spirit.
Over three decades later Paul would virtually make a commentary on the Master’s words above: “For the Word of The God is a living [thing], energizing, and sharper than a two-edged sword. [God’s Word] cuts through so deep as to separate psyche and pneuma, even joints and marrow. It is a judger of thoughts and inner heart motives. There is not a creation not exposed in His sight. Everything is naked and laid wide open to the eyes of Him with whom we have an accounting.” [Hebrews 4:12, 13 NCMM]
The favored apostle reports that during the ministry of the Nazarene God’s Spirit had not yet come upon these faithful followers. This was not to happen until after Christ was glorified upon his heavenly throne. John 7:39 states: “However, Jesus said this about the Pneuma [Spirit] which those who believed in him were about to receive. For at that moment there was no Pneuma [Spirit] because Jesus was not yet glorified.” [NCMM] So, in the past there have been cases where godly disciples did not possess God’s Spirit.
However, on the evening before his execution, Jesus promised his eleven faithful apostles a special helper in the form of God’s Spirit. This is recorded in John chapters 14, 15 and 16. When reading these words we must understand that Jesus is not speaking to all of his disciples but to those eleven present, and likely others Jesus would choose himself - Paul, James and Jude. With this in mind let us read of this promise:
JN14:16 “Then I shall request the Father and He will give you [apostles] another Helper, so that it may be with you [apostles] unto the Age - JN14:17 the Truth-Pneuma - which the world of humankind is unable to receive, because it does not behold it, nor knows it. You [apostles] continue to know it, because it is remaining with you [apostles], and it is in you [apostles]. … JN14:26 But, the Helper - the holy Pneuma which the Father will send in my name - that one will teach you [apostles] everything, and will heighten your memories of everything I told you [apostles]. … JN15:26 Whenever the Helper arrives that I shall send to you [apostles] from alongside the Father - the Truthful Pneuma that comes from the Father - that one will testify about me. … JN16:8 Then, having arrived, that one will reprove the world of humankind regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment. JN16:9 Regarding sin for sure, because they are not believing in me. JN16:10 Regarding righteousness, because I am departing toward the Father, and you [apostles] will not see me for awhile. JN16:11 And, regarding judgment, because the ruler of this world of humankind has been condemned. JN16:12 I have yet many things to tell you [apostles], but you are unable to bear them at the moment. JN16:13 However, whenever that [Helper] arrives - the Truthful Pneuma - he will guide you [apostles] into all the Truth, for he will not speak from himself, but everything he hears he will speak. Also, he will proclaim to you [apostles] future things.” [NCMM]
Jesus has much to still teach these eleven apostles but at that moment they were not mature enough to handle these truths. [Compare 1 Corinthians 3:1-3] So Jesus promised to send another Helper - the Spirit of the Truth. He speaks of God’s Spirit in an analogy [or, parable, illustration; compare John 16:25] as though personifying the divine pressure of God’s Mind. This “Helper” would bring back to the memories of these apostles everything Jesus had taught. Also, this Helper would testify on three subjects: sin, righteousness and judgment. The lack of the word “salvation” might startle some, but in truth, the epistles that now compose what is called the New Testament all speak on these three subjects: sin, righteousness, and judgment.
For example consider the use of the words sin, righteousness and judgment:
By comparison the word “salvation occurs in only 13 of the 29 books of the New Testament for a total of 36 times. So the promise of Jesus came true in a most literal way when God’s Spirit Helper inspired chosen male disciples to incorporate these themes in virtually all of their writings.
Jesus also said that this Spirit-Helper would speak of “future things.” And just so we find specific prophecies included in such Christian Books as Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, 2 Thessalonians 2, 2 Peter 2 and Revelation 6-22.
The above ought to be enough to make it clear that our Master’s promise to send a Spirit-Helper was a special manifestation of God’s Spirit upon certain chosen men and not all future disciples of Christ. And in keeping with this promise, following his death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to his faithful eleven apostles and preformed something of a portent upon them. John 20:21, 22 records, “So, Jesus said again to them, ‘Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me forth, I am also sending you [apostles].’ And having said this, Jesus took a deep breath, and then said to them: ‘You [apostles], receive holy Pneuma! For a certainty should you [apostles] forgive others their sins, their sins have been forgiven. For a certainty, if you [apostles] do withhold such forgiveness, they retain their sins.’” [NCMM] This special manifestation of God’s Spirit authorized the apostles to forgive or retain the sins of others.
It seems clear that our Master’s promise of the Spirit-Helper, and his later demonstration of breathing upon these same apostles, that it was them particularly who would be the recipients of the long promised spirit-outpouring.
And just so the Risen Master told his faithful apostles: “And, look, I will send the promise of my Father to all of you. So remain in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [Luke 24:49 NCMM] Thus Jesus spoke to the eleven faithful apostles, and this is repeated again in Acts 1:8, “However, you [apostles] will receive power when the holy Pneuma comes upon you. Also, you [apostles] will be my witnesses through Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” [NCMM] It was only to these eleven faithful apostles Jesus gave such a command involving the future work of God’s Spirit. What would happen?
The book the Acts of the Apostles mentions God’s spirit over 60 times. Indeed, it begins with the mention of the “holy spirit” - “In my first record, O Theophilus, I wrote concerning everything that Jesus did and taught, from the very beginning, until that day when he was received up, after he had given orders to the apostles he had chosen by means of the holy Pneuma. … Now while eating with them he gave them instructions not to depart from Jerusalem, but ‘to wait for the promise of the Father that I told you about. AC1:5 For John immersed in water, but you [apostles] will be immersed in the holy Pneuma only days from now. … You [apostles] will receive power when the holy Pneuma comes upon you.’” [Acts 1:1, 2, 5, 8 NCMM] What pressure - or how would His Spirit move - would come upon these eleven apostles? The book of Acts records this Power that came upon the Church as a whole as well upon certain individual’s God was using to form this new spiritual community, as well as lay the foundation of a Spiritual Temple. [Ephesians 2:19-22]
The Spirit bursts on the apostolic scene with great power and energy in chapter two of Acts. Though some have different views, it seems to others that this out-pouring of God’s Spirit occurred only, first, upon, the Twelve, just as Jesus had promised. The account reads: “Now when the day of Pentecost was fulfilled, all of the [apostles] were gathered together at the same upper room. Suddenly there was a sound from above like the noise of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Split tongues of fire appeared and these rested upon each one [of the apostles]. All of them were filled with the holy Pneuma and foreign languages were given to them.” [Acts 2:1-4 NCMM] This ability to speak in tongues or foreign languages must have surprised the apostles as much as it did those Jewish men from “every nation under heaven.” They had not been told exactly what God’s Spirit would do. They did know that whatever it did it would have the Gospel Witness as its central focus.
And, thus, the small Church got off to a wondrous start as thousands of Jewish men heard the Gospel message in their own language. [Acts 2:2-13] But something even more marvelous was in store, for Peter continues to quote under inspiration from the prophet Joel, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel and what will occur in the Last Days: ‘The God says, "I will pour out my Pneuma on all flesh, and your sons and daughters will prophesy. Also, your young men will see visions, and your elders will dream dreams. And in those days I will pour my Pneuma upon my male slaves and female slaves, and they will prophesy.” [Acts 2:16-18 NCMM] Thus, Peter’s inspired tongue let all that international crowd of Jewish men know this was the beginning of the promised outpouring of holy Spirit as foretold in Joel. As a result thousands were baptized as disciples of the Nazarene. In should be noted that these thousands did not themselves begin speaking in tongues. Rather, it was by means of the apostles other signs and portents were given. [Acts 2:41, 43]
It was Peter who was the first to experience the promise of Christ Jesus regarding God’s Spirit helping an apostle when speaking before authorities. [Acts 4:8] It was God’s Spirit and His angelic representatives that urged the apostles to keep speaking about the Good News. [Acts 4:31] Peter was also the first - on the basis of God’s Spirit - to judge the sins of others. [Acts 5:1ff] This was as Jesus had authorized. [John 20:22] So, to lie to Peter was the same as lying to God. Indeed, Peter later states that God only gives His holy spirit to those who continue to obey Him. [Acts 5:32]
As the early Church grew it needed men to serve the interests of the membership. These are described as men who were “full of the spirit of wisdom.” Of the original seven so chosen, only one is singled out and identified with the words, “full of holy spirit.” [Acts 6:3-6] Later, this one named Stephen was very effective in defending the Gospel because he had God’s Spirit. [Acts 6:10] After giving a mighty sermon, this angelic-faced disciple was again “filled with the holy spirit” so that he saw a vision of Christ enthroned next to his heavenly Father. [Acts 7:55; Daniel 7:13]
Next the historical accounts speaks of Peter and John going to Samaria so that they might lay hands on new disciples for them to receive God’s Spirit. [Acts 8:14-24] It was observed by one of these who had formerly been a magician that it was only by the hands of these apostles that the spirit was given. He offered money for such a gift and thus the word “simony” came into the English lexicon. It is noted that these new Samaritan disciples did not begin to speak in tongues when they received God’s Spirit.
Later Philip the missionary is directed by an angel of God to travel to a certain location to present the Gospel to an official from northern Africa. [Acts 8:26-29] The account says that “the spirit” told Philip what to do. Though some see God’s Spirit here, it is also possible that “the spirit” is referring to the “angel” previously mentioned as angels are “spirits.” [Hebrews 1:14] Either way, the account demonstrates how spiritual guidance is provided some in the performance of their ministry. After the baptism of the first Ethiopian disciple, the account states that God’s Spirit led Philip away. [Acts 8:39]
The ability for others in addition to the apostles to lay hands on another to receive God’s Spirit is seen in the case of Saul’s conversion. After his Damascus road experience the disciple Ananias saw a vision in which the heavenly Master directed him to Saul. Ananias journeys to meet Saul and laid his hands upon the former persecutor so that his sight might return. [Acts 9:1-19] We note that Paul is then baptized and receives the “holy spirit” though nothing is said about him speaking in tongues or displaying any other spiritual gift. However, Paul will become among the most charismatic or gifted of the men mentioned in the book of Acts. Christ chose him to become one of the major instruments of the promised Spirit-Helper in order to compose the majority of the Christian Bible.
Indeed, the early Church continues to grow in greater numbers thanks to God’s Spirit. Acts 9:31 records: “At this time, the Church throughout all of Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a period of peace and upbuilding. They continued advancing in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the holy Pneuma, as well as increasing in numbers.” [NCMM] The word “comfort” here is the same as the word the Master used when promising the Spirit-Helper - PARAKLESEI. So, we can see right from the beginning this Spirit-Helper operated on the apostles as Jesus had promised. Evidently some of the apostles laid their hands on other qualified men who received the gift of the holy spirit and could then also lay their hands on others to receive the same.
The next important event connected to God’s Spirit is Peter’s visit to the first non-Jewish convert to Christianity, Cornelius. After Peter gave the household a sermon on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, all of these Jewish Christians were amazed when God’s Spirit came upon these new disciples. The account reports: “As Peter was speaking these words the holy Pneuma fell upon all those hearing the Word. Now Peter and those of the Circumcision with him were amazed that the gift of the holy Pneuma was poured out on non-Jews. For they were now hearing all of them speaking in tongues and exalting the God. Then Peter responded: ‘Surely no one will refuse the water of baptism to these who have received the holy Pneuma just as we have?’ And so Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterwards they asked Peter to remain for several days.” [Acts 10:44-48 NCMM]
No doubt God’s Spirit operated in this unique manner for the benefit of the Jewish disciples of Christ. For seven years only those who were Jews had become Christians with God’s gift of the holy spirit. This operation of God’s Spirit on this non-Jewish household would later become part of the proof presented at the first Christian synod. [Acts 15:6-11] Thus, some visible manifestation served to convince Peter and others that these had indeed received God’s Spirit. In this case they spoke in tongues just as Peter and the other apostles had on Pentecost. Indeed, up to this point the gift of tongues has only been experienced by the apostles [Acts 2:3, 4, 11]. Peter is to go on and retell this story in which he describes this action of God’s Spirit as “baptism in holy spirit.” [Acts 11:5-17]
So according to Luke’s account seven years have passed without anyone other than the apostles speaking in tongues. In the whole period of the first three decades of the early Church the gift of tongues is experienced only three times, and most likely on men only. [Acts 19:6] It should be noted that in these two cases those speaking in tongues glorified God and not Jesus.
Another man is mentioned being “full of holy spirit” - Barnabas. He has been mentioned earlier as a former Jewish Levitical priest from Cyprus who sold his property and gave the proceeds to the apostles. [Acts 4:36, 37] It is interesting that his name means “Son of Comfort.” His name is also drawn from PARAKLESEOS. He is also called a good man, full of faith. [Acts 11:22-24] He becomes very instrumental as an associate of Paul.
Another man makes his appearance, Agabus, and he is moved by God’s Spirit to make a prophesy and warn the Church about a great famine to come upon the Roman Empire. [Acts 11:28] Later, about the year 47 or 48 AD, God’s Spirit functions through appointed elders to commission Paul and Barnabas to a grand missionary tour. The account reports: “Now in Antioch there were prophets and teachers in the congregation. Their names were Barnabas, Simeon of Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was raised with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. And as they were publicly worshipping to the LORD, the holy Pneuma said: ‘Set apart to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them.’ Then they fasted and prayed, and after laying hands upon them they sent them away.” [Acts 13:1-3 NCMM] It is likely that God’s Spirit spoke by means of one of the prophets or teachers in the Antioch congregation. God’s Spirit would direct Paul’s missionary work. [Acts 13:4, 9, 50]
God’s Spirit became particularly operative during the first major conflict in the Christian Church. A schism was created by those Jewish Christians who insisted on the keeping of the Law and the circumcision of any males who became disciples. Certain elders of Jerusalem and apostles gathered “to see about the affair.” Peter, Paul and Barnabas related their experiences among the non-Jews and how they had received God’s Spirit. [Acts 15:8] The final decision of the apostolic body is summarized by the disciple James, the brother of the Master, who seems to serve as something of a presiding officer for the synod. He states that their decision has the force of God’s Spirit behind it. [Acts 15:28]
In Paul’s next missionary tour God’s Spirit directed which areas he was to avoid. Luke reports: “Now because the holy Pneuma had forbidden them to speak the Word in Asia [Minor], they traveled on through the provinces of Phrygia and Galatia. And when they got down to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Pneuma of Jesus did not permit them. So, skipping Mysia, they descended to Troas. Then during the night Paul had a vision of a Macedonian who was standing beseeching him, and saying: ‘[Paul], step over to Macedonia and help us.’ As a result, when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we left for Macedonia, concluding the God had called us to declare the Good News to them.” [Acts 16:6-10 NCMM] Here we note that God’s Spirit also functions through the Risen Master Jesus and it is by these means that Paul experience of a vision directing his ministry. As we have seen throughout Acts of the Apostle God’s Spirit only operates in connection with the spread of the Gospel.
A particularly charismatic or gifted man makes his appearance in Acts chapters 18 and 19. Apparently, Apollos was an educated Jew who had been baptized as a disciple of John the Baptist, possibly down in Alexandria, Egypt. He is described as “mighty in Scripture” and speaks “aglow with the spirit.” [Acts 18:25] It is not likely this use of “spirit” means God’s Spirit, but rather is an expression similar to “filled with enthusiasm.”
Apollos is with Paul when they meet more male disciples of the Nazarene who were not aware of God’s Spirit and its operations on baptized Christians. The account reports: “Now it happened that while Apollos was staying in Corinth, Paul traveled through the upper areas and came then to Ephesus. There he discovered some disciples. And he said to them: ‘Did you receive the holy Pneuma when you believed?’ And they said: "No, we have never even heard that there is a holy Pneuma.’ So Paul asked: ‘Into what, then, were you immersed?’ They said: ‘Into the baptism of John.’ Paul said: ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the One coming after him -- Jesus.’ Having heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Now when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the holy Pneuma came upon them. Then they all began to speak in tongues and prophesied. Now there were about twelve men in all.” [Acts 19:1-7 NCMM] It will be not too long after this that Paul will write to the Corinthian congregation - perhaps having some of these men in their fellowship - and outline “the Lord’s commandment” regarding the use of God’s Spirit in tongues and prophecy.
It is near the end of Acts and the drama that will lead Paul to Rome that God’s Spirit is still the ministering Pressure directing affairs. [Acts 20:22-24] Paul gathers a group of elders near Ephesus and gives them a fair-well speech in which he affirms that their appointment as overseers had the support of God’s Spirit. Acts 20:28-30 records his words: “You [elders] keep paying attention to yourselves as well as to the entire flock, because the holy Pneuma appointed all of you overseers among [the flock]. Shepherd the congregation of the God, which He reserved for Himself by means of the blood of His Own. I realize that after my departure burdensome wolves will enter your midst and will not spare the flock. Also, right from among you [elders] men will appear speaking twisted things to mislead the disciples to follow them.” [NCMM; compare also Acts 21:4] Thus, Paul indicates these elders became such by the appointment of God’s Spirit, most likely by the laying on of hands of someone already appointed by God’s Spirit.
It is also clear from Paul’s words that elders who claim such spirit appointment cannot also be characterized by the attitude of “burdensome wolves” who do “not spare the flock.” Nor could those men who “speak twisted things” and try to mislead the disciples as their own followers. Those elders may not have realized it at the time, but Paul is prophetically pointing forward to a dark period in the Gospel Age. [Compare 2 Thessalonians chapters 2.]
The Christian prophet Agabus utters a prophecy regarding Paul: “While we remained there for several days, a certain prophet from Judea named Agabus arrived. When he arrived among us, he took hold of Paul’s belt and then bound his hands and feet, saying: ‘Thus the holy Pneuma says: “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind this man with his own belt and shall then turn him over to the non-Jews.”’" [Acts 21:10, 11 NCMM] And so the gift of prophesy, inspired by God’s Spirit, served the interests of the Church.
With this God’s Spirit and its operations and manifestations come to a conclusion in the record of the Acts of the Apostle by the disciple Luke. What conclusion is it fair to draw from such a record?
What does the formation of the New Testament Biblical canon say about God’s Spirit and the Christian Church and those disciples who are members of it?
The earliest of the inspired epistles are to the congregation in Thessalonica. Paul writes to these Christians: “For our Gospel came to you - not just in speech - but also in power and in holy Spirit and with complete conviction. You realize the type of men we prove to be while among you in your own behalf. As a result all of you became imitators of us as well as the Lord, for you accepted the Word under considerable persecution, and this with joy inspired by the holy Spirit. … Therefore, anyone who disregards this, disregards not a human but the God, the One who gives His holy Spirit to all of you. … However, we feel obligated, brothers, beloved of YHWH, to continually thank the God in your behalf, because He selected all of you originally, leading to salvation through being sanctified by the Spirit and your belief in the Truth.” [1 Thessalonians 1:5, 6; 4:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:13 NCMM]
In these early references to God’s Spirit we note attributes associated with it: faith, joy and the truth. Paul also associates salvation with those who have been sanctified [or, separated, consecrated] by God’s Spirit. Here is an echo of the Nazarene’s words regarding worshipping God in “spirit and truth.” [John 4:22-24]
Another epistle written early within the third decade of the early Church is the letter to the Galatians. Here he mentions God’s Spirit eighteen times. Paul first asks rhetorical questions regarding God’s Spirit and the Law of Moses. [Galatians 3:2-5] The “promised spirit” only comes through faith and not obedience to the Law of Moses. [Galatians 3:14]
Paul writes to the Galatians: “And so now because you are sons, God has sent the Son’s Spirit into your hearts, so you can cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” [Galatians 4:6 NCMM] Though it is possible the expression “the Son’s Spirit” may refer to God’s Spirit as it flows through the Son, it must be remembered that all living beings possess spirit, particularly humans. The Greek PNEUMA may also refer to a certain mental attitude, frame of mind, or disposition. Thus, it is possible here Paul means that the Saints share the same inclination of mind as children of God. The intimate expression ABBA is an Aramaic word meaning something like Papa. Jesus used it only once. [Mark 14:36; compare Romans 8:15] It suggests an intimate relationship with God.
It is in chapter five of Galatians that Paul’s reveals some of the most important truths about God’s Spirit. He begins saying, “So now I tell all of you: if you continue to walk by the Spirit you will not follow through on any fleshly desire. For fleshly desire is opposed to the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are opposed to the flesh. They are opposed to one another to prevent you doing what you wish to do. However, if all of you are led by the Spirit you are not subject to the Law [of Moses].” [Galatians 5:16-18 NCMM] Paul makes it clear that the Nazarene disciple who walks according to God’s Spirit is not driven by fleshly desire. Nor is a spirit-filled person subject to the Law of Moses.
Paul next lists some of the attributes of fleshly desire that would mark a person who is not possessed of God’s Spirit. He makes one of his many lists, and this one deals with those who will never inherit God’s kingdom. Galatians 5:19-21 says regarding those not led by God’s Spirit, “Now fleshly works are obvious - sexual immorality, impurity, loose behavior, idolatry, drugs for spiritism, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contention, divisions, heresies, envies, drunkenness, revelries, and such things. I caution all of you, as I warned you earlier, that all those who continue to do these things will never inherit God’s Kingdom.” [NCMM] So, any Christian who habituates the above and yet claims to possess God’s Spirit is, as John later says, “a liar.” [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on Galatians 5:19-24.]
Paul follows this with a list describing the fruitage of God’s Spirit: “On the other hand, the Spirit’s fruitage is - love, joy, peace, tolerance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, mildness, self-control. There is no law against such things. And so those who belong to Christ have impaled their flesh along with its passions and desires.” [Galatians 5:22-24 NCMM] Paul does not mean there are nine ‘fruits’ of God’s Spirit, but rather a person possessed of the holy Pneuma will have all of these attributes as part of his/her character. It is clear that any person “filled with God’s Spirit” is not motivated by fleshly passions or human desires.
Paul adds to the above with: “If we continue to live spiritually we will also conduct ourselves spiritually. May none of us become self-centered, nor adversarial with one another, nor envying one another.” [Galatians 5:25, 26 NCMM] Others render this first phrase: “If we are living by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us be guided.” [BAS] Obviously “living by the Spirit” means producing the fruitage described early, and avoiding the “works of the flesh.”
Concluding his remarks regarding God’s Spirit, Paul makes it clear that salvation depends on walking and living in harmony with God’s Spirit: “The person who sows in a fleshly manner will also reap corruption. But the person who sows spiritually will reap spiritually to life without end.” [Galatians 6:8 NCMM] Others render this: “He that sows to the Spirit, from the Spirit shall reap eternal life.” [DAR] Interestingly the context deals with charity and hospitality, particularly toward Christian teachers. [Galatians 6:6] So, according to Paul, there is much involved in walking and living in harmony with God’s Spirit.
About five years later Paul writes to the congregation of Saints in Rome and uses language similar to that in the epistle to the Galatians. Echoing the “fruitage of the Spirit” in Galatians, Paul writes the sublime line: “The love of The God has flooded our hearts by means of the holy Pneuma given to us.” [Romans 5:5 NCMM] Surely, it is clear that a person who is possessed of God’s Spirit is also a person characterized as a loving individual.
As in Galatians Paul makes it clear that God’s Spirit does not reside in someone in slavery to the Law of Moses. [Romans 7:6] In language similar to that in Galatians, Paul again affirms that the person possessed of God’s Spirit does not walk, live or conduct himself/herself in harmony with fleshly desire. He writes in one of the most popular chapters in the Christian Bible: “For those who are in harmony with the flesh are thinking about fleshly things. However, those in harmony with the Pneuma [Spirit] the things of the Pneuma [Spirit]. Because fleshly thinking means death, but Pneumatic [spiritual] thinking [means] life and peace. Because fleshly thinking [means] enmity with The God, for [such thinking] will not subject [itself] to the Law of The God -- nor ever can be. Those who are fleshly can never please God.” [Romans 8:5-8 NCMM] As in Galatians the fleshly person - the person driven by earthly and physical inclinations - can never possess God’s Spirit. [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on Romans; or, the work Commentary On Romans]
Paul again emphasizes that the person who has God’s indwelling Spirit is also possessed of Christ’s attitude of mind [Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 4:1] and has put his/her fleshly body to death. Paul writes: “However, you are not in flesh but in Pneuma [Spirit], if God’s Pneuma [Spirit] even resides within you; but, if anyone has not Christ’s pneuma [attitude, disposition, frame of mind] this one is not His. Indeed, if Christ is in you, [the] body is dead by means of sin, but Pneuma [Spirit] -- life by means of righteousness. But, if the Pneuma [Spirit] of the One who raised up The Jesus from the Dead resides within all of you, the One who raised up Christ Jesus will also make your mortal bodies alive by His indwelling Pneuma [Spirit] in you.” [Romans 8:9-11 NCMM]
This spirit-driven attitude creates a new sense of relationship with God and His Spirit. The Christian disciple no longer possesses the disposition [spirit] of a slave to legalistic requirements, but rather the sense or emotional feeling of a child of God who craves to do His will. Paul writes some of the favorite verses in the Christian Bible: “For, if you live in a fleshly manner you are destined to die. However, if you [live] a spiritual [life], and put the body to death, you will live. For everyone led by God’s Pneuma [Spirit] are God’s sons. Because, you did not receive a slave’s frame of mind causing more fear. Rather, you received an adoptive son’s frame of mind, in which we cry out, ‘Abba! The Father!’ The Pneuma [(Spirit) of God] itself provides testimonial evidence with our frame of mind that we are God’s children.” [Romans 8:13-16 NCMM]
Each genuine Christian who has accepted or received Christ has been adopted as a child of God. [John 1:12, 13; 1 John 5:1] Each person who is a true child of God is also continually led by God’s Spirit. The person who is not led or guided by God’s Spirit is not a child of God. Those who are led by God’s Spirit produce the “fruitage of the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:22-24] Unlike Jews under the burden of the Law of Moses - who felt more like slaves - the Spirit-led Christian has, not a sense of being a slave, but rather a heart-felt relationship of a child to its father. This inner feeling of childhood is confirmed by God’s Spirit and the internal evidence it gives of such a relationship.
This most intimate of spiritual relationships with God is reflected in spirit-inspired prayers uttered in the gift of tongues. In the early Church God’s Spirit operated in unique ways when it came to prayers. Paul mentions this in 1 Corinthians 14:14, 15. [See details in Part 2.] It is in this context that we may understand Paul’s next words: “And likewise also the Pneuma [Spirit] joins in with help for our weaknesses. Because what we should pray for as is necessary we do not know; but, the Pneuma [Spirit] itself pleads our case in moans unspoken. However, the One searching the hearts knows what the mind[ing] of the Pneuma [Spirit] is according to pleadings to God regarding the Saints.” [Romans 8:26, 27 NCMM]
This indwelling Spirit is so intimate and strong that Paul can appeal to it regarding his truthful conscience. [Romans 9:1] The Christian will manifest a spirit-inspired enthusiasm. [Romans 12:11] It is also recognizable in joy and inner tranquility. [Romans 14:17; 15:13] God’s Spirit is something that produces a loving concern for others in true empathy. [Romans 15:30]
Paul begins to conclude his epistle to the Romans with the words: “Now, brothers, I urge you by our Lord Jesus Christ and by spiritual love: agonize together with me in prayers to the God in my behalf.” [Romans 15:30 NCMM] Other versions render this: “by the love of the Spirit.” [BAS] It is likely Paul means love that is one of the products of God’s Spirit.
Before considering the epistle with the largest number of occurrences of references to God’s Spirit, First Corinthians, let us take a brief look at the remaining epistles from Paul, James, Peter, Jude and John.
Paul mentions a particular manifestation of God’s Spirit - sealing, or a spiritual confirmation. He writes: “After you believed in the Christ you were spiritually confirmed regarding the sacred promise. This is but a token or foretaste of our inheritance by means of a redemptive release as that which is to be preserved, to His glorious praise. … I offered these supplications that our glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would provide you with spiritual wisdom in a revelation to understand your heightened intimacy with the Father. I prayed your heartfelt inner sight might just grasp the idea of the hope that results from His calling. This hope includes an inheritance of magnificent wealth together with all the Saints.” [Ephesians 1:13, 14, 17, 18 NCMM] Associated with this “sealing” [2 Corinthians 1:22] is “spiritual wisdom in a revelation.” [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on Ephesians; or, the book Commentary On Ephesians.]
When a new disciple embarks on a life of following in the footsteps of the Master, this usually begins with water baptism and a confession of Jesus Christ as Master. [Romans 10:10, 11] This baptism causes the new Christian to experience four special manifestations of God’s Spirit: First is the consciousness of having been born again as one of God’s children. Second, this consciousness indicates the disciple has been baptized or immersed into God’s Spirit and therefore is now also baptized into the Body of Christ, the Church. This admission into the Body of Christ means each member comes under the anointing of the Head, Christ. This may be compared to the way the seventy representatives of Israel came under the anointing of Aaron. These three operations of God’s Spirit includes a confirmation called “sealing” which serves as a token or guarantee that such a disciple is now God’s property and entitled to a certain inheritance condition on faith and love. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000© Biblical Articles, “Fifteen Steps to Heavenly Glory.”]
This does not necessarily mean that there are four individual feelings or emotions with each one of these operations of God’s Spirit. It may be compared to a loving couple making arrangements to adopt a child. At the adoption the child has no comprehension of what his/her adoptive parents have done. But, later, the child my take up a study of all the different steps the parents went through in order to adopt him/her.
Paul argues that now both Jews and non-Jews have been harmoniously joined into one so that they can approach God with a unified spirit, “Because by means of Christ we are being led together in one unified mind [or, one spirit] to approach the Father. … In union with Christ the whole structure is joined stone into stone. You non-Jews are also under construction, growing into a holy Temple of God, within Him you non-Jews are also under construction, all together built into a [spiritual] residence for The God to dwell.” Ephesians 2:18, 21, 22 NCMM] Just as Yehowah’s Spirit operated on the whole nation of Israel, it also manifested itself in a general over-all energizing of the Christian Church. These truths were revealed to the whole Church by God’s Spirit. [Ephesians 3:5]
As a whole God’s Spirit is available to supply strength to this one Body, the Church. Paul assures them: “I so pray that the Father may make you Ephesians strong within the inner person in spiritual mightiness through the wealth of His glorious power. I pray the Christ will reside within your hearts because of your faith and love.” [Ephesians 3:16, 17 NCMM] How is this done? Does Jesus literally take up residence in each disciple’s heart? Paul here explains that this indwelling is by faith in Christ. In Colossians 3:16 Paul explains that this spiritual indwelling is the result of letting Christ’s message make its home in your heart. There is only “one Spirit” that unifies the “one Body” in “one faith.” [Ephesians 4:3, 4]
Paul cautions of a certain danger in connection with God’s Spirit: “Additionally, do not grieve God’s holy spirit. With this spirit you were confirmed with a seal until that Day of Redemption.” [Ephesians 4:30 NCMM] Other versions render the first phrase: KJV: grieve not the holy Spirit; GDS: not offend; KNX: not distress; PME: never hurt. The phrase is very similar to Isaiah 63:10, “... and made his holy spirit feel hurt.” The one saddened or grieved is God who is the source of the Pneuma, the mental force of His mind (1Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 40:13 LXX). Judging from what Paul writes elsewhere the habitual practice of the “works of the flesh” would cause this grief on God’s part. [Galatians 5:19-21; compare also Romans 1:24-32 and Mark 7:20-23]
On the other hand Paul urges: “Be constantly filled up with the Pneuma [Spirit].” [Ephesians 5:18 NCMM] Other versions render this: TCN: seek to be filled with; WEY: drinking deeply of; WMS: ever be filled; PME: let the Spirit stimulate your souls. This is a phrase rare in the Christian Bible, and always found in Luke’s writing, accept for here. [Luke 1:15, 41, 67; Acts 2:4; 4:8; 9:17; 13:9] When a glass is filled it cannot contain any more. To be “filled with holy spirit” is to allow God’s Spirit fully operate on mind, heart and life. Since Jesus said that his Sayings were “spirit” then to the degree that a Christian imbibes on these teachings as found in the Gospels, then such a believer will be “full” and his/her life will be evidence of God’s Mind at work.
We might take Peter as an example. He thought he was comforting his Master when he told Jesus that he would not suffer as he thought. Peter was ignorant of the Biblical prophecies, such as Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. So Jesus rebuked Peter: “Get behind me, Satan, for you do not think God’s thoughts.” [Matthew 16:23 Clearly Peter was not “filled with holy spirit” at that moment. The more we think like humans, the less we think God’s thoughts, and so the less we are filled with God’s Spirit. In this regard Paul calls God’s Word the “sword of the Spirit.” [Ephesians 6:17]
To the congregation in Philippi, Paul only mentions God’s Spirit twice. One is a rare phrase, “[I rejoice in] … the over-supply of Jesus Christ’s Pneuma.” [Philippians 1:19 NCMM] Other versions render this: the giving out of the stored wealth of the Spirit of Jesus Christ [BAS]; supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ [DAR]; a bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ [WEY] The meaning could be two-fold: a] Jesus is the conduit through which God’s Spirit flows creating the divine pressure to do His will; and, b] the word PNEUMA can be used of “mind” or “mental attitude.” The disciple of the Master is mainly so because of accepting and meditating on the spiritual Sayings of the Teacher. This is an unlimited supply - a store of wealth - of godly and spiritual thinking which none can exhaust.
In Philippians 3:3 there is an echo of John 20:22-24 where Christ identifies true worshippers as those who “worship in spirit and truth.” Paul uses the phrase, “[We are] … those rendering holy worship by God’s Pneuma [Spirit].” Others phrase this: render to God a spiritual worship [WEY], who by the Spirit are serving God [YLT]. In the early Church this phrase likely included those charismatic gifts we will be discussing in a moment. Again, PNEUMA may mean “mind” and thus a Christian worships God according to His way of thinking and by the strength He supplies.
In his personal epistles to Timothy Paul virtually ignores the holy spirit and only once makes a direct mention of the indwelling of God’s Spirit within the Church, or Nazarene community. In 2 Timothy 1:14 he writes, “Protect and preserve that most excellent trust that is laid up for you [Timothy] by means of the holy Spirit dwelling within us.” [NCMM; or, MON: who makes his home in us; GDS: that lives in our hearts.] This is another way of stating “the mind of God by Christ resides within us.” [Compare 1Corinthians 2:16; Isaiah 40:13.] God’s spirit or pneuma dwells within the spiritual Temple as a whole [See notes on Ephesians 2:19-22.].
In another personal epistle Paul wrote to Titus: “According to His mercy [The God] saved us by a regenerative washing and renewal of holy Pneuma [which He bountifully poured out on us by means of Jesus Christ our Savior].” [Titus 3:6 NCMM] Likely Paul refers to water baptism followed by a spiritual immersion into the Body of Christ. This person who now embarks on a course of discipleship to the Nazarene becomes a New Person. [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on Ephesians 4:20-24.] The phrase “renewal of holy Pneuma” is also rendered: “the moulding anew of holy spirit.” [RHM] Judging from Ephesians 4:20-24 this renewing or remolding occurs by a knowledge - and application of - the teachings of Jesus Christ. These teachings were brought back to the memories of the apostles who then put them down with pen and ink on parchment. Now, by reading these “spiritual-sayings” [John 6:63] - those words created by “the Spirit of the Truth” [John 16:13] - the heart and mind become filled with God’s Spirit through Jesus Christ.
This idea of benefiting from God’s Spirit through the vehicle of the inspired writings is mentioned in Paul’s letter to Hebrew Christians. First though he points out that the truth about Jesus was further confirmed by certain “signs” - “… while The God provided His own joint testimony in the form of signs and miracles, as well as a variety of dynamic powers, distributing the holy Pneuma just as He willed?” [Hebrews 2:4 NCMM] Paul is to write regarding the Jews: “Jews ask for signs.” [1 Corinthians 1:22] This is something Jesus also observed. [Matthew 12:39; Luke 11:29]
Paul shows that God’s Spirit speaks through the inspiration of such men as were used to compose the psalms. At Hebrew 3:7 he quotes Psalm 95:7-11 and attributes the words to God’s Spirit though they were written by a human writer. [Compare also Hebrews 9:8.] Another example is given by Paul in Hebrews 10:15 when he writes: “Additionally, the holy Pneuma [Spirit] testifies to us, for later it has spoken to us: ‘This is the covenant that I will covenant toward them after those days,’ YHWH is saying.” [Hebrew 10:16 NCMM] Thus one of the ways the holy Spirit testifies, or bears witness, is by means of the inspired Writings as here in the case of Jeremiah 31:31. [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on 1 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:21.]
That the inspired Word is - in a figure of speech - a living thing, Paul writes in Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of The God is a living [thing], energizing, and sharper than a two-edged sword. [God’s Word] cuts through so deep as to separate psyche and pneuma, even joints and marrow. It is a judger of thoughts and inner heart motives.” [NCMM] A way to understand this is that God’s Mind or Spirit inspires a Biblical writer and the words become something like frozen Spirit. When the believer allows this to melt and drinks from it, then God’s Spirit [or, Mind] now takes up dwelling within heart and mind. If the Bible is never opened it remains a frozen block of ice, but when the warm heart embraces God’s Word the holy Pneuma now can act as an invisible pressure moving that heart to want to do His will. In such a way Christians “have tasted the heavenly free gift, [and] have become partakers of holy Pneuma.” [Hebrews 6:4 NCMM]
Concluding this portion, let us take a look at the mention of God’s Spirit in other inspired epistles. It is possibly a reference to God’s Spirit is made once in the epistle of James: “Or, do you think the Scripture says in vain: ‘The pneuma dwelling within us desires us jealousy’?” [James 4:5 NCMM] Scholars do not agree on the exact source or wording. Another wording may be: “With jealousy the Pneuma He caused to dwell in us, desires us.” Others render the verse: KJV: the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy; BAS: the spirit which God has put in our heart has a strong desire for us; NEB: the spirit which God implanted in man turns towards envious desires. There are two general views: a) humankind’s fallen condition produces a disposition or inclination which tends to jealousy. [Genesis 6:5; 8:21] This seems in line with the general context, as jealousy has been mentioned previously; or, b) the Holy Spirit which resides in the Church has a singular jealously for it as its own [Deuteronomy 4:24ff].
Peter refers to God’s Spirit only a few times. He states that God’s Spirit is a sanctifying force. [1 Peter 1:2] This happens in two ways: a] God’s Spirit separates or consecrates an individual when discipleship is begun; and, b] the disciple must share in this sanctification by obedience to God’s Word. [John 17:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4]
After hearing and learning from the Gospel God sends His Spirit. [1 Peter 1:12] Peter speaks of God’s Spirit “resting” on the Church. [1 Peter 4:14] The same Pneuma resting upon the Messiah now rests upon the members of the “holy nation.”
In his epistle John also mentions God’s Spirit: “Now the individual ‘who observes His commandments abides with Him and He abides in them’. This is how we know because the Pneuma He gave us continues to abide within us.” [1 John 3:24 NCMM] “Because God has given us His Pneuma we have become aware that He dwells in us and we in Him.” [1 John 4:13 C2001]
“Jesus Christ is the one who came through water and blood. Not just the water. But by water and blood. Also, the Pneuma provides testimonial evidence because the Pneuma is always truthful. Therefore, there are three who provide testimonial evidence: the Pneuma, the water, and the blood. And these three agree in their testimony.” [1 John 5:6-8 NCMM] The verses are much disputed between Trinitarians and Unitarians. What is obvious is that God’s Spirit is associated with two fluids - water and blood. One view is that John means God’s Spirit has provided testimonial evidence that Jesus the Nazarene is God’s Son. First, by the Spirit that anointed him at his water baptism. And, second by his sacrificial death in perfect integrity.
John also echoes the Master when he says, “the Spirit is the Truth.” [John 16:13; compare KJV] The Twentieth Century New Testament version goes so far as to say: “the Spirit is Truth itself.” As we have seen in Paul, God’s Spirit materializes in a manner when inspired men put down on parchment with pen and ink God-breathed words. [2 Timothy 3:16, 17] Jesus taught also that “[God’s] Word is Truth.” Thus, whenever we read His Word we literally absorb or imbibe God’s Spirit [or, Mind] and this pressure acts like wind in the sails of a boat. However, even though the wind is blowing it is useless if the sailor does not have his spinnaker up and the rudder is pointed in the right direction.
Another illustration regarding God’s Spirit is this: God is the Sun who creates its own energy and sends forth light and warmth - as well as the power to feed grasslands, flowered meadows, and rain forests.This energy coming from the sun is comparable to the holy Spirit. When the “solar winds” blow over the earthly globe with its atmosphere it creates “northern lights” and thus manifest its invisible self. The Son may be compared to the full moon that also reflects the Sun’s light and thus is master of the darkness.
Fittingly the inspired epistles end with the disciple Jude’s exhortation to “continue building up yourselves in your most holy faith, praying in holy Pneuma.” [Jude 20 NCMM] He means to allow God’s Spirit [or, Mind] that we have absorbed through His Word to well-up within as we prayer to Him.
We leave the study of Revelation and God’s Spirit to a study of several sources: Nazarene Commentary 2000© on Revelation, Nazarene Apocalypse 2000, and in Error of the Trinity the subject headings dealing with the holy spirit in Revelation. There are five occurrences of the Greek PNEUMA in Revelation where it may be translated by “inspiration” for these largely deal with John’s visions. [Revelation 4:2; 14:13; 17:3; 21:10; 22:17] There is another phrase repeated seven times which may or may not also refer directly to the inspiration caused by God’s Spirit. [Revelation 2:7, 11,17, 29; 3:6, 15, 22] The “holy Spirit” is never mentioned in Revelation.
Having considered how the Christian Bible speaks of God’s Spirit we now return to those epistles of Paul that mentions a form of the word PNEUMA [or, spirit(ual)] most often - First and Second Corinthians - for a total of about 80 times.
There may be two reasons for this oft-used word PNEUMA: first, because the Corinthian congregation is described by Paul as “fleshly” and filled with associated problems. [1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:20] And, second, the Corinthians had misused or abused certain “gifts” of the Spirit.
Paul first uses the Greek PNEUMA in 1 Corinthians 2:4, “My speech and my message were not presented in persuasive words of wisdom, but rather in a demonstration of Pneuma [PNEUMATOS] and Power.” [NCMM] As elsewhere, including Jesus, the spirit is associated with “power.” [DYNAMEOS] It is possible this occurrence refers not to God’s Spirit directly but a “spiritual” gift demonstrated in Paul’s ministry among the Corinthians.
The subject of God’s Spirit can become confusing to some, and indeed, certain scholars and teachers have mistaken notions on this subject. The problem can be cleared up by examining what Paul now goes on to say. First consider, 1 Corinthians 2:10: “However, by means of the Pneuma [Spirit], The God has revealed [this secret Mystery] to us. For the Pneuma [Spirit] searches everything, including ‘the depths of The God’. [Job 11:7]” [NCMM] What is Paul’s meaning? First, it is good to understand how Paul uses PNEUMA in relation to God. Below we will discuss 1 Corinthians 2:16 where Paul uses the word “mind” as a synonym for “spirit.”
Jesus had promised his disciples that he would send the Pneuma [the spirit of the truth] and it would lead them “into all the Truth.”[John 16:12, 13] Paul is one of the major instruments of this Christ-sent Pneuma. It is by Paul and John that the majority of the “mysteries” are revealed to the Church [Deuteronomy 29:29; Mark 4:11; Ephesians 3:5].
Paul says, “the Spirit searches everything.” That is it explores, or fathoms everything. As Paul will show in the next few phrases that he uses PNEUMA as “mind” and so the meaning here is simply that God, by his own thought process [intellectual pressure], knows everything. [Psalm 11:4; 33:13; 66:7; Proverbs 15:3; Zechariah 4:10; Hebrews 4:10] It might be paraphrased, “God’s Mind fathoms everything.”
This encompasses what Paul calls “including the depths of The God.” [Or, deep things, inmost depths.] The Greek is BATHE [English bathiscope]. Only God’s own thought process [His Pneuma] could search into the depths of His own Mind. There is a good possibility Paul borrows from Job 11:7, 8 where BATHYTERA is used in connection with God’s thinking and actions. [Romans 11:33; Ephesians 3:18]. These would include his “eternal purpose” and the future He has in mind for everything. So, one might paraphrase the whole idea as, “God’s Mind fathoms everything, including His deepest thoughts in all His creation.”
This view seems supported by the analogy Paul now uses: “Who among humankind is aware of the thoughts [literally, spirit] of another human, except that human’s own pneuma [or, spirit]? Exactly so, also, no one has known the [thoughts] of The God except the Pneuma of The God.” [1 Corinthians 2:11 NCMM] [Or, GDS: can understand a man’s thoughts.] In other words, no one can read another person’s mind. Only they know what they are thinking. Just so, no one - including Christ - can read God’s Mind except God Himself. (Compare Koehler and Baumgartner’s Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, Leiden, 1958, pp. 877-879; Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 1980, pp. 924-926; Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G. Friedrich, translated by G. Bromiley, 1971, Vol. VI, pp. 332-451.)
It is interesting to note that the Son is omitted in this formula. [Compare Matthew 11:27.] The Absolute God is infinite and none of his finite creatures, including his Son, can know Him absolutely. [Matthew 24:36] Only His own Divine Mind can do this. [Acts 1:7, 8]
1 Corinthians 2:12 reads in some versions:
“But we have not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which comes from God, so that we may have knowledge of the things which are freely given to us by God.” [BAS]
“But we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which comes forth from God, that we may know the blessings that have been so freely given to us by God.” [WEY]
“And we the spirit of the world did not receive, but the Spirit that is of God, that we may know the things conferred by God on us.” [YLT]
The 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures [NCMM] paraphrases this: “Now, we did not accept the [mental inclination] of the social order of humankind, but rather the Pneuma from The God. Thus, we may know the things freely given to us by The God.”
Each time period, each age of humanity, has been characterized by its own “spirit” or disposition. Disciples of the Nazarene are “no part of this world” [John 15:19; 17:14, 16] and therefore do not think or speak like the world [1John 2:27; 1John 4:3-5]. The “world” lies under the influence of its god, Satan. [2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19] Thus, his mind or spirit is imprinted on this world at the present. [Ephesians 2:2]
Christians are not influenced by this worldly spirit for they have received God’s Spirit. One of the major channels for His Spirit is through that spirit-helper Jesus promised at John 15:26. [John 16:12] The foretold Spirit-Helper or Pneuma was promised to his apostles, and likely their appointees, as a guide and memory power. Among the original apostles, Matthew, Peter, and John were major sources of this spirit-helper. The disciples James and Jude were also used. Jesus himself appointed Paul as his hand-picked instrument and so the former Jewish rabbi composed half of the Christian Bible.
It is mainly through these spirit-directed and inspired men that we have “come to know the things freely given to us by The God.” God does not inspire every disciple of the Nazarene. Each member of the Christian Church must “learn” through instruction what “things have been freely given by God.”[Ephesians 4:20; Colossians 1:6-10; Philippians 4:9; 2Timothy 3:14-17] Only through “their words” can we get to know these things of God. [John 17:20]
At the time of Paul’s writing to the Corinthians around the years 55/56 AD. What would become the Christian Bible canon contained only Matthew, the epistles to the Thessalonians and Galatians. Of course, Jesus and his inspired disciples all made considerable use of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles or “Old Testament,” referring to these verses many hundreds of times. Indeed, to a large degree the “New Testament” is really a commentary on the “Old Testament.”
However, there were entirely new revelations, new mysteries, to be unveiled. Paul will admit later that at the time of his writing 1 Corinthians he possessed only “partial knowledge” and prophesied only in part. [1 Corinthians 13:9] Thus, the early Church was sent a spirit-helper to guide it through its infancy until maturity was achieved.
Paul then continues to write regarding God’s Spirit: “These things we also speak - not in words taught by human wisdom - but rather in [words] taught by the Pneuma [Spirit] - as we discern pneumatic things pneumatically.” [1 Corinthians 2:13 NCMM] The later phrase may be paraphrased: “as we discern spiritual things spiritually.” Other versions read: KJV: comparing spiritual things with spiritual; ASV: spiritual things with spiritual words; CON: explaining spiritual things to spiritual men; ABU: interpreting spiritual things to spiritual men; KNX: matching what is spiritual with what is spiritual; NJB: fitting spiritual language to spiritual things. The Greek phrase is, PNEUMATIKOIS PNEUMATIKA SYNKRINONTES. Literally this is, “spiritual things, spiritually discerned [judged] with.” Note ANA-KRINEI [re-discerning] in 1Corinthians 2:14. It is impossible to discern, judge or understand spiritual or divine matters and words through the filter of human wisdom.
The one clear thing God’s Spirit does is causes believers to “speak.” [2 Corinthians 4:12, 13] And these spoken words under the pressure of God’s Pneuma are not from a human source. Some versions render this: TCN: not in language taught by human philosophy; MON: of these high themes we speak in words not taught by human philosophy. [Compare Colossians 1:28; 1Timothy 6:20.] Human wisdom can create numerous human opinions [1Corinthians 1:10] that create disharmony and division within the Church [Ephesians 4:14-16].
Instead of speaking from human and worldly philosophy or wisdom, Christians speak words regarding these spiritual mysteries “in [words] taught by the Spirit.” [Or, KJV: the Holy Ghost teacheth.] This is in fulfillment of Christ’s promise at John 16:12, 13 and are mainly characterized in the apostolic “word.”[John 17:20] These spirit-inspired, or God-breathed words would finally be complete when the Christian Bible was finished near the end of the 1st Century.
Paul now compares the physical [worldly] and spiritual [godly] person. 1 Corinthians 2:14, 15 read: “In contrast, the psychical [soul-like, physical, natural] human does not accept the things of the Pneuma of The God, for they are foolish to him. So, such a person is unable to know them because they are pneumatically [spiritually] discerned. However, the pneumatic [spiritual person] discerns everything, though [such a person] is indiscernible by anyone else.” [NCMM]
Paul’s literal phrasing will seem a contradiction to those raised on the Egyptian-Greek doctrine of the immortal soul. Here Paul uses PSYCHIKOS [Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #5591, natural, animal, sensual] to describe the “physical” or worldly person. [Compare notes on 1 Corinthians 15:44-48.] This word is variously rendered: natural man, unspiritual man. An example of this may be observed in John 3:1-12. So, it is the “soul-man” who cannot understand spirit-matters. Such a person considers or judges spiritual things as foolish or stupid. There is an example of this at Acts 17:32. The soul-man may view belief in God’s existence as foolishness [Psalm 14:1]. To such a person creation, the Flood, Biblical miracles, and the resurrection of Christ are all foolishness.
Paul’s reason for saying this is that the soul-man, or physical person, cannot understand spiritual things because they need to be examined from a spiritual standpoint. The phrase PNEUMATIKOS ANAKRINETAI is similar to that in 1 Corinthians 2:13. Compare an example of Peter’s temporary imbalance at Matthew 16:23. One wastes breath by trying to convince such a person.
On the other hand, from the spiritual perspective - and in the grander scheme of things - the spirit-man discerns everything that is divine and important. [Romans 8:5]. The pneumatic, or spiritual person uses those words inspired by the Pneuma [Spirit] to discern truth and falsehood, good and bad, or even future matters [Hebrews 4:12; 5:14; 1 John 4:1]. At this particular time in the latter half of the 1st Century AD such a spiritual person had the benefit of certain infant traits of the Church in special charismatic gifts that aided in this discernment. Later, the Bible became the major instrument in “discerning everything spiritual.”
The American Translation by Smith and Goodspeed renders the closing phrase: “but his own true value no unspiritual man can see.” There is a strong echo here of John 3:8, 12. The physical or worldly thinking person with a mind trained in human philosophy could never identify a true spiritual person.
Paul concludes this particular discussion on God’s Spirit and the spiritual person with the words: “For, ‘Who has known the Mind of YHWH? Who will instruct Him?’ [Isaiah 40:13 LXX] However, Christ’s mind we do possess!” [1 Corinthians 2:16 NCMM]
Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 from the Jewish Greek Septuagint of the 3rd Century BCE. The LXX uses TIS EGNO NOUN KYRIOU. The Hebrew Text does not use “mind” [NOUN] but RU’ACH or “Spirit.” Thus, Paul understands the “Spirit” to be “the Mind” of God. In both the LXX and the Greek text of Paul there is no article before KYRIOU suggesting the Tetragram [YHWH] could well have been in the original.
In contrast Paul says “we do have the mind of Christ.” The word “mind” here could use the rare synonym “spirit.” Other versions phrase this: PME: we who are spiritual have the same thoughts of Christ; MOF: our thoughts are Christ’s thoughts [NOTE: if Jesus Christ was, in fact, Jehovah, it is not logical that one could have the mind of one and not the other.]. Consistent with the previous phrase this could all read: “Who has known the Spirit of YHWH? ... But, we do have the spirit of Christ.” In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul counseled to have the “same mind” and here we now know what “mind” this is. [Compare Romans 15:5, Philippians 2:5, 1 Peter 4:1.] A reading of the Gospels will introduce one to this “mind” of the Nazarene characterized by his actions, speech and teachings.
Paul has appealed for unity among the Corinthians - in doctrine and worship - and he has described the Spiritual Person with the Christ-Mind that can accomplish this. He will go on in First Corinthians to discuss doctrine and church order in more detail, and some of these will deal with God’s Spirit and how it worked on the early Church.
Appealing to the immature Corinthians to grow up, Paul lets them know that the whole Church is like a Temple where God’s Spirit may reside: “Are you not aware that you are God’s Divine Habitat, and that the Pneuma of The God dwells in you? If anyone attempts to corrupt God’s Divine Habitat, The God will corrupt this person. Because God’s Divine Habitat is holy, which you are.” [1 Corinthians 3:16, 17 NCMM; compare 1 Corinthians 3:1-3] This being the case, there is great spiritual danger in having any share in the corrupting of this Temple. Paul will go on to show that this corruption may occur in matters of doctrine, morals and worship.
For their sake, Paul determined to speak only fundamental truths to them because they were not prepared for weightier matters. In contrast, he does say that “among the mature we do speak divine wisdom.” [1 Corinthians 2:6] In saying “mature” he uses the Greek TELEIOIS, a word he will go to use in the context of Church maturity.
Paul deals with the morality of the Corinthian church and then cautions them: “Or, do you not realize that the [unrighteous] will never inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled! These will not inherit God’s Kingdom - the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, persons who abuse themselves with others, men who lie with men, thieves, greedy persons, drunkards, slanderers, extortionists. And you all used to be these sort of persons. But, all of you were cleansed. All of you were sanctified. All of you were declared not guilty in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Pneuma [Spirit] of our God.” [1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NCMM]
When one becomes a disciple of the Nazarene, repents, confess, turns around, is baptized and starts a new life-style such a person is said to be “justified” or “declared innocent” of past sins. However, the Corinthians, though having been the type of people Paul describes - and having been declared righteous through God’s Spirit - were now in danger of losing their sanctified state. Paul makes it clear that persons who habitually sin in the areas he has mentioned simply will never inherit God’s Kingdom. Such a person will never have God’s Spirit in continual support. [Compare also Nazarene Commentary 2000© on 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.] Such Christians who have become habitual sinners are those who corrupt the Church, God’s Temple, and Paul has said such will be destroyed. No matter how many times they cry, “Lord, Lord,” they never had a relationship with Christ. [Matthew 7:21-23]
Consequently Paul urges them to avoid such sins: “All of you continue to flee from sexual immorality. Whatever sin a human might do is outside the body, but the person who practices sexual immorality continues to sin against their own body. Or, do you not realize that the Body of all of you is a Divine Habitat [or, Temple] for the holy Pneuma [Spirit] from the God? Also, you do not belong to yourselves. All of you were bought with a price. Now, actually all of you glorify the God in your Body.” [1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NCMM] One cannot claim to belong to the true Church of Christ and persist in godless and immoral conduct. No matter who claims to speak for Christ, the person who is a habitual sinner does not have God’s Spirit. [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on Hebrews 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 2 Peter 2:20-22.]
As Paul continues he gives his opinion on certain matters of marriage and celibacy. In doing so he qualifies what he says, “… according to my own opinion. For I think I also have God’s Pneuma.” [1 Corinthians 7:40 NCMM] He means as a mature elder and Christ-chosen apostle he has God’s Mind on matters.
Paul next mentions God’s Spirit in such a manner: “Therefore, I want to make you aware that no when speaking in God’s Pneuma says, ‘Curse Jesus!’ Also, no one is able to say, ‘Lord Jesus,’ if not in holy Pneuma.” [1 Corinthians 12:3 NCMM] There is a tendency to take this out of the 1st Century context. It is not an overall rule for all time throughout the Gospel Age. For Christ himself speaks of those who call him, “Lord, Lord,” but never had a relationship with him. [Matthew 7:21-23]
Beginning next Paul plunges into the manifestations, operations and gifts of God’s Spirit as it worked on the 1st Century infant Church.
1Co12:4 Now, there are varieties of charismatic gifts, but the very same Pneuma. 1Co12:5 [There are] varieties of services, but the very same Lord. 1Co12:6 [There are] varieties of inner-energies, but the very same God - the One energizing everyone in everything. 1Co12:7 However, to every person is given the manifestation of the Pneuma for a purpose. 1Co12:8 Indeed, to one person is being given a word of wisdom by the agency of the Pneuma; but to another person a word of knowledge according to the very same Pneuma. 1Co12:9 To a different person a faith by the very same Pneuma; To another charismatic gifts of healings in the one Pneuma. 1Co12:10 But, to another inner-energies of dynamic powers, to another a prophecy, to another discernment of inspirations. To a different person different languages, but to another person interpretation of languages. 1Co12:11 But, within all of these [persons] the one and the same Pneuma is an inner-energy, uniquely distributing to each person just as it wills.” [1 Corinthians 12:4-11 NCMM]
First Paul states at 1 Corinthians 12:4 - “Now, there are varieties of charismatic gifts, but the very same Pneuma [Spirit].” [Or, KJV: diversities of gifts; BER: gifts of grace.]
The Greek is CHARISMATON from which comes CHARIS [grace; unmerited favor; charity]. In Latin-based languages the associated words some times mean a gifted person, a person specially graced. Here Paul will create three primary categories: charismatic gifts, services, and inner-energies. Paul will go on to list some of these gifts in a partial inventory at 1 Corinthians 12:27-30. By comparing notes on Romans 12:4-8, Ephesians 4:11-13, and 1 Peter 4:10, 11 in Nazarene Commentary 2000© one may see something of a larger catalogue. One may read the book of Acts and see some of the pneumatic and charismatic gifts that were displayed by the apostles and those upon whom they laid their hands. [Hebrews 2:4] Nothing can divide a people more than particularly gifted persons, for some will polarize around them, while others will behave jealously, or even hatefully. But no matter the gifts - great or small - it is God’s Spirit that dispenses these gifts.
The first category of gifts of God’s Spirit Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12:5-7, “[There are] varieties of services [Or, ministries, administrations.], but the very same Lord. [There are] varieties of inner-energies, but the very same God - the One energizing everyone in everything. However, to every person is given the manifestation of the Pneuma [Spirit] for a purpose.” [NCMM]
The Greek for “services” is DIACONION from which the English form “deacon” is derived. [See notes on 1 Timothy 3:8.] This is the first of three of Paul’s list here. Both men and women may be so moved by the pressure of the Pneuma to be of service to others in the congregation. Compare those women who followed Jesus. [Luke 8:2; compare notes on Romans 16:1 in Nazarene Commentary 2000©] But, no matter all these gifts come from the same Master, Jesus Christ.
Paul also mentions “varieties of inner-energies.” [Or, operations, inworkings, things accomplished, activities, different ways of doing things.] The Greek is ENERGEMATON. In Greek the word for “work” is ERGON. The “erg” is a basic measure of work or energy. This manifestation is particularly associated with the God who is the source of the Pneuma, and Christ the channel through which it flows. [Acts 2:43] So no matter what energy given as a gift, they are all from “the very same God.” He is “the One energizing everyone in everything.” [Or, KJV: God worketh all in all; WMS: by putting energy in us all.] The Greek is ENERGON and only God possesses such an infinite supply. The phrase “all in all” would include His own Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, it is God who “energizes” the Son and all others. [1 Peter 4:11]
To each person in the Church of Christ some spirit-gift is given in harmony with the manifestation of God’s Spirit. [Or, KJV: to profit withal; PME: for the common good; CON: profit of all; BEC: to make him useful.] Most translators use “man” in these renderings. [Compare 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:7] In agreement with his later writing in Ephesians 4:15, 16 each member of the Church has something to contribute to the Body whole.
Paul now lists some of these gifts of the Spirit given to members of the 1st Century infant Church: “Indeed, to one person is being given a word of wisdom by the agency of the Pneuma [Spirit]; but to another person a word of knowledge according to the very same Pneuma [Spirit]. To a different person a faith by the very same Pneuma [Spirit]. To another charismatic gifts of healings in the one Pneuma [Spirit]. But, to another inner-energies of dynamic powers, to another a prophecy, to another discernment of inspirations. To a different person different languages, but to another person interpretation of languages. But, within all of these [persons] the one and the same Pneuma [Spirit] is an inner-energy, uniquely distributing to each person just as it wills. [1 Corinthians 12:8-11 NCMM]
First Paul mentions “a word of wisdom” as a gift of God’s Spirit. [Or, by the Spirit; message of wisdom; ability to speak wisely.] Wisdom [SOPHIA] is generally defined as the right use of knowledge. Though a general “pneuma of wisdom” is given to all the Saints, it is likely this gift is a particular “word [or message] of wisdom” which comes upon an elder for the benefit of the congregation in a specific instance. Solomon and Christ are two premier examples. Before the Christian “New Testament” was formed by the end of the 1st Century there would be a whole range of matters which would require inspired wisdom to deal with different problems. [Proverbs 2:1-7] Paul is to list nine gifts of the Pneuma.
The next gift is “a word of knowledge.” [Or, GDS: the power to express knowledge; BEC: the ability to speak intelligently; MON: a word of insight.] Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. As above, this is likely a specific gift upon an elder with a particular fact that may benefit the congregation. All Christians are gifted with knowledge and are encouraged to continue to increase in such. [Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:9, 10] Some Christian teachers, because of humble application within the Word of God, have acquired considerable knowledge of the Bible. As with the above gift of wisdom it generally becomes well known in the congregation who is and who is not possessed of such gifts. Compare notes on 1 Corinthians 14:6 and 2 Corinthians 8:7. There is likely an example of this at Acts 21:4.
The next gift might surprise some. It is “faith.” All Christians have faith or conviction [belief and trust] in God and His Word. However, faith comes in strength and size. Compare the notes on Romans 12:3. It is possible this particular gift of “faith” or conviction is something special or noteworthy in a given situation where such would greatly strengthen the whole congregation. Often individual examples of faith in the face of great test are a source of godly morale within the Nazarene community. Many of these were displayed before the Roman lions. In the Hebrew Bible there is a long list of noteworthy examples of unusual charismatic faith. [See notes on Hebrews chapter 11 in Nazarene Commentary 2000©.]
Paul now mentions the “charismatic gifts of healings.” [Or, ability to heal, cure.] Christ had authorized his apostles to “cure sick people.” [Matthew 10:8; Luke 9:1, 6] Later Jesus authorized 70 others to do the same. [Luke 10:9] In the book of Acts it is generally the apostles, and only certain ones, who are seen healing. [Acts 3:7; 4:4, 14, 22, 30; 5:16; 8:7; 9:34; 28:8, 9] It is worthy of note that in the entire Bible no woman is ever seen doing a miraculous cure. These “gifts of healings” were likely those of elders under the pneumatic pressure. [James 5:14, 15] Though healings are most often performed on non-believers, there are cases of cures of the greatest kind - from death -- by apostolic representatives. [Compare three cases: Paul in Acts 9:17, 18; Dorcas in Acts 9:37-41; and, Eutychus in Acts 20:9, 10.]
There is another gift literally called the “inner-energies of dynamic powers.” [Or, KJV: working of miracles; TCN: supernatural powers.] The Greek is ENERGEMATA DYNAMEON and possibly refers to extraordinary works of strength or power. [Hebrews 2:4] This may be a general category for miscellaneous supernatural feats. One cannot read of this and not think of the prophecy of Isaiah 40:31. Though exorcism of demons is no where mentioned here it is possible it is included here. There were a very few cases of exorcism in the Acts of the Apostles performed by the apostles.
The gift of prophecy is one that Paul will go on to mention often. It is likely this was a special gift of prediction regarding matters of congregational or Church-wide concern. An example occurs at Acts 11:27, 28. However, both men and women are seen prophesying in general as Acts 2:18 shows. [Acts 13:1; 21:9] In the case of the premier offices of elders [apostle, prophet, teacher, pastor, missionary - compare Ephesians 4:11, 12] these were performed by men in the early Church. The word “prophesy” can mean simply speaking to others and have nothing at all to do with foretelling events.
“The discernment of inspirations” follows in Paul’s list. [Or, KJV: discerning of spirits; WMS: discriminate between the true and false spirits; TCN: the gift of distinguishing between true and false inspiration.] The Greek is DIAKRISEIS PNEUMATON, or “judging pneumas.” PNEUMA may sometimes refer to the “inspiration” [in-breathing] of something. Compare notes on 1 John 4:1 where all Christians are warned to “test spirits.” An example of this may be Paul’s discernment of the spirit medium who kept proclaiming, “These are servants of the true God.” Though what she said was true, the source was demonic. [Acts 16:16-18]
Finally, Paul lists the most insignificant of the charismatic gifts, the ability to suddenly speak in different languages, including foreign tongues. Jesus the Nazarene never spoke in tongues as he had come only “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” who all spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. It was only when the Church reached out to people of other nations when the gift of speaking another language was given to some. Note the first such miracle was when the twelve apostles spoke the twelve languages of the thousands of Jewish men present at Pentecost. [Acts 2:4-13] In chapter 14 Paul is to go on to discuss this gift in detail, defining its purpose and limitations. [See Part 2.] It is noteworthy it is here listed next to last in Paul’s list as it is again at 1 Corinthians 12:28. The Greek is GLOSSON. See the English word “gloss” and related words. According to Eusebius such gifts began to vanish about the middle of the 2nd Century. See the Biblical Article in Nazarene Commentary 2000©, ARE THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT STILL AVAILABLE TODAY?
Then last in the list is the need of “interpretation [or, translation] of tongues.” Paul will later state that if such a translator is not present no one should speak in tongues. [See notes on 1 Corinthians 14:28.]
No matter the charismatic gift Paul assures that “within all of these persons the one and the same Spirit is an inner-energy.” [Or, KJV: all these worketh; BER: all these abilities one and the same spirit energizes; WMS: the one and same Spirit accomplishes all these achievements.] [1 Corinthians 12:6] These gifts are being “uniquely distributed to each Christian just as the Spirit moves.” [Or, KJV: dividing to every man severally as he wills; RSV: apportions to each one; GDS: as the spirit chooses. Though some translators use “him” the Greek is more likely neuter. The question rises as to how can an inanimate energy “will”? Jesus uses PNEUMA as an analogy to Nicodemus when discussing the spiritual rebirth. John 3:8 records the Nazarene’s comparison: “The Pneuma [wind] is blowing wherever it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know its source of destination.” [NCMM Paraphrase] It is clear from the wording that Jesus has in mind the wind and yet the wind “wills.”
Irrespective of what gift an individual Christian may be blessed with, Paul makes sure the Corinthians understand: “For just as the Body is one and yet has many members, all of these members though many are one body - so also the Christ. For as in one Body we were all immersed into one Pneuma [Spirit] - whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons - and all of us were made to drink one Pneuma [Spirit]. [1 Corinthians 12:12, 13 NCMM] Paul’s analogies or figures of speech paint the image of Christians immersed into the Church and all drinking from one source - God’s Mind.
It is likely Jesus had in mind his own spirit-sayings which are likened to water and when imbibed refresh to everlasting life: “But those likely to drink from the Water that I shall give will never get thirsty throughout all periods of time. Because the Water I will give will become an inner water fountain, bubbling up unto ageless life. … Let anyone thirsting come to me and drink! The person who continues to believe in me, just as the writings said: ‘From his inner being rivers of living water will flow!’ [Exodus 17:1ff]” [John 4:14; 7:37, 38 NCMM] There is an echo here of Isaiah 55:1-3, “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come you to the waters, and he who has no money; come you, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for that which is not bread? and your labor for that which doesn't satisfy? listen diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Turn your ear, and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live.” [WEB] In proportion to the amount each Christian disciple drinks of these spiritual waters will depend on how much and how often they are “filled with the Spirit.”
Paul enumerates again a basic outline or list of those gifts and offices God’s Spirit has ordered or arranged within the infant Church: “But all of you are Christ’s Body and members individually. Really, the God has set [these members] in the Congregation: apostles first, prophets second, teachers third; thereafter, dynamic works, charismatic gifts of healings, helpers, guidance, different languages. Are all Apostles? Are all Prophets? Are all Teachers? Are all Dynamics? Are all gifted charismatically? Are all possessed of healings? Are all speaking [different] languages? Are all translators? However, continue zealously seeking the greater charismatic gifts. And yet, I point out to you a more elevated way.” [1 Corinthians 12:27-31 NCMM] Here Paul makes it clear that the gifts of tongues and translation are the lesser gifts. He urges the Corinthians to seek “the greater charismatic gifts” - with apostle, prophet and teacher as the greatest - and yet he will go on to demonstrate the greatest spiritual gift of all. One that ALL Christians can use to glorify God. [NOTE: Paul possessed all of the greater gifts. (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Timothy 1:11)]
Having established and listed the variety of operations and gifts within the early Christian Church, Paul points to the greatest gift of all.
If I should ever speak in the languages of humans and angels, but do not possess real [divine] love, I have become merely the sound of copper or a clanging cymbal. And if ever I should possess [the gift of] prophecy, and should know all the Divine Mysteries and Know all - and if ever if possess all the conviction needed to transplant mountains, [Luke 17:6] but do not possess real [divine] love - I am nothing. And if ever I should sell all my possessions so that I could feed the largest number - and if ever I should offer up my body so that I might boast - but do not possess real [divine] love - I am profited nothing.” [1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NCMM]
In other words, no matter how gifted a person might be, if he or she lack love of the divine sort they have no spiritual profit at all. Paul goes on to define love by what it is and what it is not.
“Real [divine] love is tolerant and kind. Real [divine] love is not jealous, does not brag, does not swell with arrogance, does not behave ill-mannered, does not continue to seek its own self-interest, does not get provoked, does not record harm, does not rejoice over injustice. But rather [real (divine) love] rejoices with the truth. [Real (divine) love] covers over everything, trusts in everything, hopes in everything, endures everything.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NCMM]
Having made clear what is the “surpassing way” of love, Paul now adds another reason for the Corinthian Church to have a balanced view of certain charismatic gifts of God’s Spirit. Using the analogy of an infant in contrast to a mature person, Paul writes:
“Real [divine] love never fails. But, prophecies will be rendered useless. Tongues will cease. Knowledge will be rendered useless. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. However, when full maturity should arrive, the part will be rendered useless. When I was an infant my speech was infantile. I thought like an infant. I reasoned like an infant. When I will have finally become an adult man, I will have made the infantile things useless. For right now we are looking through an enigmatic mirror, but then ‘face to face’. [Exodus 33:11] Right now I know in part, but then I shall know completely just as I am also completely known. But, now there remain faith, hope, love - these three things - but of these, real [divine] love is greater.” [1 Corinthians 13:8-13 NCMM]
Paul states several things clearly: a] Love never fails; b] the charismatic gifts of tongues, partial knowledge, and partial prophesying will all end, or “be rendered useless.” He gives an analogy with the Church in mind: in its infancy it spoke, thought and reasoned like an infant or baby. However, when the Church would become mature and full-grown it would no longer make use of infantile things.
Some versions render the critical phrase, “until that which is complete [or, perfect] arrives.” The word for “complete” or “perfect” is TELEION [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 5046, … 4b1) full grown, adult, of full age, mature] and may also be translated “mature” or “full-grown.” Paul has already used the word in a charge against the infantile nature of the Corinthian Church. [1 Corinthians 2:6; 3:1, 2] In doing so he accuses the church of being “babies” - the same word he again uses at 1 Corinthians 13:11. In the context of the charismatic gifts of tongues and prophecy he will use the word “babes” again at 1 Corinthians 14:20. [See Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes on Galatians 4:3 and Ephesians 4:14.]
Paul uses TELEION for “mature” at least two more times, both in the contexts of growing from infancy to manhood. In Ephesians 4:11-16 - also in the context of spiritual “gifts” Paul writes:
“These "gifts" given to humans include apostolic representatives, prophetic spokesman, missionaries of the good news, pastoral shepherds of congregations, and teachers within the Church. The purpose of these "gifts" is to rearrange and perfectly equip all the Saints for the work of service to others; and, for the upbuilding and strengthening of the whole Body of Christ. And this until all of us attain a perfect unity of faith and a heightened relationship with the Son of God. Until we all together grow into perfect maturity [TELEION] measured by the full stature of the Christ. So we no longer remain babies, tossed here and there by (doctrinal) waves, carried aimlessly by every wind of teaching. By the deceptive slight of hand always engaging in methodical plans. Rather, these "gifts" aid all of us to maintain loving truth, constantly growing in Christ in every way. Christ is the Head, the one from whom the whole Body is perfectly joined and fitted together by means of every connective muscle and tissue. Thus the entire Body is furnished by an inner energy according to each members gift, each one a part contributing to the Body’s growth and maturing as it is built up in loving concern.” [NCMM]
Paul does something similar again in his letter to the Hebrews:
“Regarding [Jesus] we have the word to speak and hard to interpret since you have become sluggish in your hearing. For there are those who ought to be teachers by now, but you have a need to be taught by someone all over again from the beginning the elementary principles the sacred words of The God. You have become those needing milk and not solid nourishment. For every person partaking of milk is really unfamiliar with the word of righteousness because they remain babies. However, solid nourishment belongs to mature persons [TELEION], those who through the use of their sensory organs have been trained like an athlete to be able to distinguish between what is good or bad. HE6:1 Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection [TELEIOTETA].” [Hebrews 5:11-6:1 NCMM]
Above Paul uses the same words he used in 1 Corinthians 13 - “babies” and “maturity.”
In summary, let us ask: “Is the Church today still in its infancy?” Hardly could this be the case with an institution two thousand years old. When did the Church - to use Paul’s analogy - become mature or full-grown? Paul encourages such growth even in his own day when he concludes to the Corinthians: “Grow up!” [1 Corinthians 16:13] The clue may lie in Paul’s acknowledgement that at that time in the 3rd decade of the Church’s growth it was still an infant. But, when it gain maturity it would no longer speak, think or reason like a baby and will have done away with such infantile traits. These Paul alluded to as tongues as well as partial knowledge and prophecy.
When Paul wrote his epistles to the Corinthians around the year 55 AD only a handful of the New Testament had even been written. Some think the only other inspired writings as the product of the spirit-helper were Matthew, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Galatians. Whether some of these congregations had yet received copies of these is unknown. There were still over two dozen books of the New Testament to yet be written and distributed to the infant Church. The final books were most likely John’s writings of his Gospel, three epistles and Revelation - all near the end of the 1st Century. It is about this time John writes that “it is the last hour.” [1 John 2:18] Surely by the 100 AD the Church was reaching that mature state Paul had projected. Some point to about the year 150 AD when the Christian Church had made a full break from the Jewish system and now had its full canon of the New Testament. Thus, one could say that by the year 150 AD the Church had become mature or full-grown, for it was over a century old. Therefore, it no longer needed the infantile charismatic gifts of the early Church. [For more details see Nazarene Commentary 2000© notes and the Biblical Article: “Are the Gifts of the Spirit in Operation Today?”]
However, while the infant Church was in the process of growing to maturity how should it deal with the charismatic gift’s of God’s Spirit? For the answer to this we move on to 1 Corinthians chapter 14 in part two of this article.
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
Back to Index to Biblical Articles