Three things seem to confuse the body of believers when it comes to the Holy Spirit (Hebrew: Ruach Kodesh). The first is the notion promulgated by the church that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Shavuot (Pentecost) inaugurated the ‘church age.’ The second thing is the belief that the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs upon the confession of faith in Jesus (Yeshua) and the indwelling Holy Spirit arrives when we are baptized and He is “invited into our heart.” And the third thing is that the Holy Spirit is one of three ‘persons’ that make up the Trinity. Each of these doctrines requires further study. This series will attempt to find Biblical evidence to uphold or reject these doctrines. Why is the Holy Spirit such a source of confusion and why is it no one seems to discuss it?
The Unforgivable Sin
Perhaps it is difficult to explore this topic and unseat long-held beliefs about the Holy Spirit because of these verses:
Mark 3:22-30 states, “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He has Beelzebub,’ and, ‘By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.’ …‘Assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation;’ because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit’” (NKJV note: The Pharisees made the same charge in Mat 9:34.).
In Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus says to the Pharisees,“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come”
Okay then. This is serious and scary to contemplate a sin that will not be forgiven! Maybe that is why no one seems ready to challenge anyone who claims to have heard from the Holy Spirit, or who speaks in ‘tongues,’ or causes people to be ‘slain in the spirit,’ or makes prophetic statements claiming the Holy Spirit. After all, if it truly IS the Holy Spirit that animates any of these things, speaking against it is a ticket to ‘eternal condemnation!’ Isn’t it?
The only definitions I have for truth are found in the Bible. Presumably, those of you who are reading this article are ready to accept that what the Bible says is true. If not, I don’t know what to tell you. I will use the Bible to help with this investigation and search for the Holy Spirit, because I believe the Bible is true.
DEFINE Holy Spirit:
The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach. Here is the first mention of Spirit in the scriptures:
Gen_1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit (ruach) of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
ruach H7307 BDB Definition:
1) wind, breath, mind, spirit 1a) breath 1b) wind 1b1) of heaven 1b2) quarter (of wind), side 1b3) breath of air 1b4) air, gas 1b5) vain, empty thing 1c) spirit (as that which breathes quickly in animation or agitation) 1c1) spirit, animation, vivacity, vigour
1c2) courage 1c3) temper, anger 1c4) impatience, patience 1c5) spirit, disposition (as troubled, bitter, discontented) 1c6) disposition (of various kinds), unaccountable or uncontrollable impulse 1c7) prophetic spirit 1d) spirit (of the living, breathing being in man and animals) 1d1) as gift, preserved by God, God’s spirit, departing at death, disembodied being 1e) spirit (as seat of emotion) 1e1) desire 1e2) sorrow, trouble
1f) spirit 1f1) as seat or organ of mental acts 1f2) rarely of the will 1f3) as seat especially of moral character 1g) Spirit of God, the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son [Author’s note: Where did they come up with this?]
1g1) as inspiring ecstatic state of prophecy 1g2) as impelling prophet to utter instruction or warning 1g3) imparting warlike energy and executive and administrative power 1g4) as endowing men with various gifts 1g5) as energy of life 1g6) as manifest in the Shekinah glory 1g7) never referred to as a depersonalized force
Well, that certainly narrows it down, doesn’t it?
Maybe if we look up holy it will help.
Holy in Hebrew is Kodesh. H6944 BDB Definition:
1) apartness, holiness, sacredness, separateness 1a) apartness, sacredness, holiness1a1) of God 1a2) of places 1a3) of things 1b) set-apartness, separateness
Let’s stipulate that the ‘Holy Spirit’ is ‘God’s Spirit.’ There may be other spirits out there, but the spirit that we are most concerned with is His Holy Spirit. It is the same spirit that hovered over the face of the waters at creation, is the same spirit that Yeshua promised as a gift to his disciples. I even believe that His spirit is with us today! But, how do we identify that spirit? Does everyone receive the same portion of the spirit, or does it manifest in different ways to different people? Is it a constant companion to every believer? Is Acts Chapter Two the first time the Holy Spirit makes an appearance to men in the Bible?
Even if you don’t want to consider the Old Testament writings, the New Testament says that Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist, son of Zechariah) was filled with the spirit.
Luk 1:13- 15 But the angel told him, “Stop being afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy, and many people will rejoice at his birth because he will be great in the Lord’s presence. He will never drink wine or any strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
And Peter received revelation directly from the Father and Yeshua called him blessed!
Mat 16:17 And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.
Yet, just a few verses later we read this!
Mat 16:22 Peter took him (Yeshua) aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God be merciful to you, Lord! This must never happen to you!”
Mat 16:23 But Jesus turned and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, because you are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts!”
Yikes! From being blessed with divine revelation by the Spirit of YHVH to being called Satan!
What did John the Baptist teach?
John 3:27 John replied, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to them from heaven.”
And about Yeshua:
John 3:34 The one (Yeshua) whom God sent speaks the words of God, because God does not give the Spirit in limited measure to him.
John 3:35 The Father loves the Son and has put everything in his hands.
This fairly leaped off the page at me this morning. To say that Yeshua received a full measure of the Spirit from the Father suggests that the Spirit may be dispensed to others in a ‘limited’ fashion. That is really comforting to me because I don’t think I have ever had the same kind of experience with the Holy Spirit that others have claimed.
In the Old Testament we read:
Num 11:16 Then the LORD told Moses, “Gather together for me 70 men who are elders of Israel, men whom you know to be elders of the people and officers over them. Then bring them to the Tent of Meeting and let them stand there with you.
Num 11:17 Then I’ll come down and speak with you. I’ll take some of the spirit that rests on you and apportion it among them, so that they may help you bear the burden of the people. That way, you won’t bear it by yourself.
This all happened before the outpouring that is described in Acts Chapter Two.
I have heard it explained that the event on Shavuot (Pentecost/Acts 2) was different because it made the Holy Spirit accessible to ‘everybody.’ Is this true? Weren’t the disciples the only ones who were touched by the rushing wind and flames of fire as described in our Bible? Did the rest of the pilgrims that came to the Feast receive the same unction, or was it a limited, albeit profoundly miraculous, event that was given as a gift to his disciples?
WHAT ABOUT ACTS CHAPTER TWO?
Here is the account from the ESV:
Act 2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
Act 2:2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Act 2:3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
Act 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Act 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Act 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Act 2:40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
Act 2:41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
[Some of the particulars of this event are explained in the article about Shavuot. I also recommend listening to The Upper Room Conspiracy by Chaim Goldman.]
Wow! This spectacular event has been used as the miraculous birth of the ‘new-testament’ church. I learned there was no church before this event, and no one before the disciples was ever filled with the Holy Spirit.
I have already shown that the Spirit was dispensed prior to this event! It was certainly special and spectacular, but it wasn’t the first time the Holy Spirit was shared with men! So, how are we to understand if we ‘have’ the Holy Spirit?
This is where our western Gentile church has not served us well. There is a sense among the church believers that the Holy Spirit is dispensed to everyone just like it was to the disciples in Acts Chapter Two. There is an almost Svengali-esque mysticism attached to the Holy Spirit. I have friends who believe that they are no longer able to sin because the Holy Spirit will guide them! Really? All our free will is usurped by the Holy Spirit? If that were true, we should expect to see a lot less apostasy and ‘men of faith’ falling into adulterous affairs and the like! Shouldn’t we?
If we can place Acts Chapter Two in proper context and within YHVH’s calendar of Feasts, we can begin to put the pieces together. Where would the disciples have been a ‘few days’ following the Messiah’s ascension into heaven? Remember, Yeshua was with them for forty days following his resurrection! And before he left he admonished them to remain in Jerusalem when he would send the ‘comforter.’
The disciples were gathered with the pilgrims from diverse places (see Acts 2:5-11) when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened. Would that be possible in a small ‘upper room?’ What House were they in?
We all understand that this happened on Shavuot (Pentecost), but why is this so significant? Were all of the pilgrims in Jerusalem for a now-obsolete ‘Jewish’ feast, or was this precisely the day that the Almighty chose to re-establish His covenant with us? [note: I do not believe that any of His Feasts are obsolete.]
There are no idle words in the Bible. And, even more important, there are no idle Feast days! Shavuot is the anniversary and an echo of an earlier event. Shavuot is when the Torah (Commandments/Law) was handed to Moses on Mt. Sinai! It was given with thundering, fire, and all the people in the mixed multitude heard the commandments in their own language!
Now that we understand that, we can place this event in its proper context! The ‘upper room’ is NOT where the disciples were when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit happened. They were on the Temple Mount (the “House”) along with the mixed multitude (just like those with Moses at Mt. Sinai) when the people heard the words spoken in their own languages! The rushing mighty wind and flames of fire are similar in every way to the Mt. Sinai event which all followers of the Scriptures would have recognized. Furthermore, it would have been an easy thing to baptize (mikveh) three thousand believers since the Temple mount has hundreds of mikveh pools for this express purpose!
Most important of all, the disciples were speaking the SAME MESSAGE, but it was understood by all of the nations in their native language! That’s the miracle! The Message, not the means by which it was delivered! The message that drew the listeners to the Father!
How are we to understand this event?
Act 2:6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
Act 2:7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
Act 2:8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
Think about this. It seems impossible that there was a cacophony of different languages being spoken at the same time. The text really doesn’t say how this all transpired. I always thought that every disciple was suddenly speaking in a non-native language, or they were speaking gibberish (sometimes called tongues) that the crowd was able to interpret in their own language.
What if that’s not the case?
Act 2:11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians–we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
Act 2:12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”
Act 2:13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Who were being mocked? The disciples? Or the ones astonished at hearing in their own language? Who was doing the mocking? Might the mockers have been those who did not hear anything out of the ordinary and didn’t understand the amazement expressed by those who did hear the miracle when they did not? Who had ears to hear?
Obviously this is speculation. However, the Almighty is not a God of confusion. How could all of the many ‘Jews and proselytes’ discern their own language and hear what was being said if everything was being spoken simultaneously in a myriad of different languages? It would have been chaos! It is easier to believe that the disciples were speaking the same message and it was received (heard) by the crowd in their own native tongue. That would have been an amazing thing, especially when men standing side by side in the crowd could not communicate with each other but could suddenly hear and understand every word spoken by the disciples!
Whatever the actual facts of the miracle, what is lost in this ‘speaking in tongues’ doctrine is the content of what the disciples were sharing with the crowd! Shouldn’t we care more for what was being said than how the message was delivered?
Were they telling them the gospel of the Kingdom…the same gospel that they had been tasked to preach by Yeshua himself? Or might they have been speaking the terms of the covenant with the Father that was made with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai? It was the anniversary of that event, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the refreshing of that agreement. How much clearer could He have been than to have the disciples speak the Commandments just as were heard at Mt. Sinai? The covenant has never changed!
How better to re-confirm His covenant with us than to perform a miracle that takes us back to the original Mt. Sinai covenant event?
So, how are we to understand the miracle of Shavuot? Do we see believers today walking with flames on their heads and speaking in tongues? For that matter, do we see the kinds of miracles that the disciples performed in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles? Can we challenge the notion that a confession of faith leads to the indwelling Holy Spirit and renders all believers incapable of sin?
Perhaps we are being presumptuous if we take upon ourselves the gift that was promised to Yeshua’s disciples. Was this a unique event or a pre-cursor to a ‘new’ age?
Even a cursory reading of the New Testament will show that the disciples stumbled now and then. Peter was rebuked by Paul in Antioch, and Paul admitted to a thorn in his side. How is this possible if the ‘church’ doctrine of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit is fact? How could Peter be graced with revelation from heaven in one minute and be rebuked by the Messiah the next for being ‘human?’
How dare we accept for ourselves what may not have been promised to us, or what may be promised but in limited and selective ways? The following is from Tyler Dawn Rosenquist.
If we understand that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit documented in Acts Chapter Two is a replay of Mt. Sinai, why is it that the ‘church’ has made it out to be a singular event that was done to usher in a whole new doctrine and a new religion called Christianity?
“One of the most egregiously stolen promises is found in John 14 – during a private conversation between Yeshua (Jesus) and the eleven remaining disciples. It is not spoken to the world, but to his select students:
25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
We see a few very specific things tied together.
- Yeshua reminds them of things spoken personally, to them, the eleven.
- Yeshua promises that the Spirit will teach them personally all things (that the Spirit will do away with their confusion in the wake of what is about to happen, preparing them to go forth with the Gospel).
- Yeshua promises that the Spirit will cause them to remember what Yeshua spoke personally to them, as a way of bringing about #2.
This is not a promise to the world and yet we hear people loudly claiming that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things whatsoever. And what is the fruit of that misappropriated promise? A Body of Believers who often attributed every flash of “inspiration” to be Holy Spirit inspired – resulting in doctrines based on nothing more than opinion and often flying directly in the face of what is written. ~ Tyler Dawn Rosenquist “The Ancient Bridge”
Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is not available to us? Of course not! Cornelius is a prime example of the Holy Spirit at work (see Acts 10-11). It seems, however, that we must use some caution with this gift that is available to us. Even the apostles made errors and had questions arise that required the council of the elders. If the Holy Spirit that was poured out on Shavuot was a permanent and ever-present gift from the Father, why would that be? Isn’t it enough to know that we wouldn’t hear the message at all unless the Father (Spirit) drew us to hear? (Act 2:39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”)
Does the Holy Spirit speak to us? What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? I confess to having a hard time understanding this state of being. I believe I have had ‘impressions’ or insight provided at times, but I am a skeptic when it comes to those who say they have the Holy Spirit inside them while participating in things described as abominable in the Scriptures. I have been sure I need to write this article, but I have been struggling and asking for guidance on how to proceed.
Last night I dreamed “Psalms 186.” First of all, it is rare for me to remember my dreams, much less a specific thing, but, I roused up three times, and each time I was ‘reminded’ of this verse. I saw it clearly written. I knew I had to find what it meant this morning.
Most of you recognize that there is no Psalms 186, neither is there a Psalm 1:86. So, I was left with the only option for these numbers:
Psa 18:6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. (KJV)
Is this evidence of the Holy Spirit? I believe it is. I have taken comfort that He hears my voice. Am I still frustrated that I didn’t get an answer for what troubles me? Yes and no. Yes, MY choice would be for a direct and clear answer to what I want, but, I am learning that I need to be humble and wait on Him. It is all about trust. I am resting on His promise that if we Seek we will find Him.
When it is needed, He will send his gift of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation, the Spirit that spoke the Commandments at Mt. Sinai, and the Spirit that called the believers to repentance on a certain Shavuot following the crucifixion. The same Spirit that let me hear the true gospel of the kingdom and begin this walk of Torah-obedience.
Could a verse remembered in a dream be from Him? Is He most evident in the ‘still small voice’ that reminds us of His Word? Yochanan the Immerser told us that we are among those ‘the Lord our God calls to himself.’ At Shavuot He used the Holy Spirit to call out to those with ears to hear. That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The next article will further explore this gift of the Holy Spirit.