Not a Power, But a Person
‘He is the Holy Spirit … he lives with you now and later will be in you.’ (John 14:17, NLT)
Listen to many Christians and it won’t be too long before they start speaking of the Holy Spirit as little more than the power or presence of God – some ‘thing’ to be called upon in time of need. But whenever we talk like that, we are still living as Old Testament believers, with their limited appreciation of who the Spirit was. And who wants to live with an old revelation when a far better one has come along?
Throughout the Old Testament, the Spirit was rarely seen as a person, but more as the power or presence of God. By the New Testament, however, he is seen, not as some impersonal force, but as the third person of the Trinity. He is constantly referred to as he, not it – even though the Greek word for ‘Spirit’ is a ‘neuter’ gender, grammatically requiring the use of ‘it’. (In other words, they were so convinced the Spirit was a person that they broke the rules of grammar to make their point!) As a person the Spirit is seen doing what a person does: he thinks, loves, decides, hears, speaks, helps, gives gifts, gets hurt … Get the message? The Spirit is no impersonal force – a mere ‘it’. He is a he, a person of the Trinity, God at work among us.
If he is a person, then we should be careful not to treat him as some ‘commodity’ to be used at our command. That was the lesson that Simon the sorcerer had to learn. When he saw how the Spirit was given as the apostles prayed for people, he wanted ‘it’ too. ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 8:19). But Peter’s harsh rebuke could not have left him in any doubt about such an attitude.
If you have been seeing the Holy Spirit more as a power than a person, then you are living under the old covenant rather than the new! Don’t do that today; rather ask him to come, just as Jesus promised, and help you see who he really is.
And do not make the Holy Spirit sad. (Ephesians 4:30, NCV)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont
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