July /August 2016
An Influence Within
“If the spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His spirit that dwelleth in you … For as many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:11-14).
From a discourse by John T. Reed
Listen to audio:
God’s spirit — what is it, how is it manifested and what does it do? Because the indwelling of the holy Spirit is the evidence of being a son of God, it seems both essential and proper that we know the answers to these questions, that having understanding minds and hearts, we may know just where we stand in our relationship to God. Paul also says, “Know ye not your own selves how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates” (2 Corinthians 13:5)?
Those who have been blessed with the great increase of light made available to God’s saints are not handicapped in their understanding of this matter, as are those who believe the holy Spirit to be a personality — that is, the third person in a triune God. Belief in a trinity has been responsible for much that has been confusing and unreasonable in the teachings which men have set forth to define truth, and to safeguard themselves and others from false teachers and false doctrines.
And, if we understand the scriptures rightly, the holy Spirit is always the exercise of God’s power and influence by the means of which He is able to employ and control, and His is the intelligence in back of it all!
The Spirit of God
The Spirit is first mentioned as being the power of God in creation: “The Spirit of God moved (or brooded) upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). God’s Spirit provided the ability and skill for the Israelites’ workmen to construct all things pertaining to the Tabernacle. God calls them “the wise-hearted whom I have filled with the Spirit of wisdom” (Exodus 28:3).
Regarding prophecy, Peter tells us that “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). But did the holy Spirit speak out of its own will and understanding? Certainly not: “God … at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets” (Hebrews 1:1). Respecting the blessings promised to all the families of the earth through the seed of Abraham, Peter designates them as “times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
The holy Spirit is never represented as bestowing itself, but being bestowed or poured out by God. Through the Prophet Joel, God said: “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh … and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit” (Joel 2:28,29). According to Peter, there was a partial fulfillment of this prophecy at Pentecost. It would be a peculiar being indeed that could be poured out upon thousands and abide in them all at one and the same time, but it is reasonable to think of God’s mind and influence operating in that way.
The Hebrew word that is translated spirit is ruach (Strong’s #7307), which literally means wind or current of air. It occurs 389 times in the Old Testament, and is rendered 224 times as spirit and 165 times by various other words such as wind, air, anger, blast, breath, mind. Its meaning must, therefore, be deduced from its usage.
The root idea running through all passages is that of an invisible force, power, or influence. This force is exerted in varying forms, and manifested in diverse ways. However, it always represents that which is invisible except for its effects — its manifestations.
Commentator Henry Aldridge, in his review of the word “spirit” in the Old Testament, says: “The conclusion seems clear that Jehovah himself, by His Spirit, is the active worker behind His word. By His Spirit He creates; by it He animates; by it He inspires men to receive His word and to act for the carrying out of His purposes. … Indeed, it is a rather startling thing to reflect upon the fact that during 3500 years of recorded history in which are found clear statements of the operation of the Son of God, nothing is found which even hints at personality” (Bible Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, 1931, Clay Publishing).
Holy Spirit in the Gospels
Usages of the word “spirit” in the synoptic gospels follow much the same pattern as we have seen set forth in the Old Testament. There is no intimation of personality, but only an invisible power or influence from God operating in various ways. Both John the Baptist and Jesus were begotten in their mother’s womb through the operation of God’s Spirit — John in the natural way, and thus was called the son of Zacharias; Jesus as a divine act of God through His spirit and so designated “that holy thing born of thee which shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
If the holy Spirit was a personality, then the announcement made to Mary would admit of no possibility of her child being other than the child of the holy Spirit; but always, Jesus is called the Son of God. When Mary questioned as to how it was possible for her to be a mother seeing she had “known” no man, “The angel answered and said unto her, the holy Spirit shall come upon thee and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
In John 15:26, Jesus said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.” The reason for the masculine pronoun “he” in this instance is to agree linguistically with the gender of the noun “comforter” (parakletos). In Greek, as in some other languages (but not English), nouns carry genders, and pronouns referring to them necessarily follow the gender of the noun. In this case the word “he” comes from the Greek word ekeinos, “that one,” masculine gender, to agree with the gender of parakletos.
Jesus said that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. Thus he reaffirms that the holy Spirit is from God, is exercised through Himself, and is in no sense a distinct personality.
The word “spirit” comes from the Greek word pneuma, which is of neuter gender. In John 14:17 Jesus said, “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” These five pronouns, in the Greek, are all of neuter gender, to agree with pneuma. They should be rendered which, it, it, it, it, respectively — as they are in the Rotherham, Wilson’s Diaglott, and RVIC translations.
Holiness of the Spirit
Job speaks of “the spirit of God in my nostrils,” using the same figure of speech for the invisible power or spirit of life that was used in connection with the creation of Adam: “God breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:17). The perfect organism of Adam was lifeless until animated by the spirit of life. He was caused to live by the same principle of life that animates all of creation.
God’s Spirit still operates to give life. Jesus said: “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you they are Spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). The word “quickeneth,” when literally translated, is “makes alive” (Wilson’s Diaglott). It is the Spirit that “makes alive.”
Paul says: “For in Jesus Christ I have begotten you through the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). “To be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). If the peace is real, then the life must also be real.
This new creature or new mind is made to exist in the brain of these old fleshly bodies. And if it lives and thrives, it will appropriate the powers of the body to its own use. Paul says: “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11).This does not mean a restoring of these bodies to perfect life and health, but to their being made active as instruments of righteousness.
It is the deeds of the body that we mortify or destroy, not the body itself. It is the old man in the sense of the old mind that must be killed in order that these bodies may now become the temporary organisms of the new mind. Paul says: “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:15, 19).
We become new creatures in Christ through the life-giving power and influence of the Spirit of God. But figuratively speaking, we are only begotten and quickened; our life is hidden with Christ by God. Our birth comes in the resurrection. God’s Spirit is also the spirit of wisdom in those in whom it abides. It was not a creative power in Moses, Joshua, or Solomon, but it did impart wisdom and might.
The Holy Spirit in Jesus
Of Jesus it was prophesied: “And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah; and shall make him of quiet understanding in the fear of Jehovah” (Isaiah 2:3). These manifestations of the Spirit are so interdependent that to differentiate and designate the points of difference is somewhat difficult. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge have many points of similarity. Let us consider each of them
● Wisdom is the result of reasoning made perfect by knowledge rightly applied. Understanding is the power of the intellect to comprehend whatever is taught or studied.
● Counsel relates to the giving or receiving of advice. In Proverbs 4:1,7, the wise man gives counsel when he says, “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know [that is having knowledge] to acquire understanding…Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding.”
● Understanding that results from God’s Spirit always pertains to a righteous course and control over self. “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding” (Proverbs 14:29, 25:28).
● Might refers to the grace and strength to do God’s will and follow His counsel regardless of obstacles. Paul requested that we “be strengthened with might by God’s spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).
● The “fear (awe) of Jehovah” relates to unquestioning obedience, not because of apprehension or dread of God being vengeful, but because of a true appreciation and reverence for His justice and righteousness of character.
Our Lord had a deep respect for his Heavenly Father’s abhorrence of sin, and his fear consisted in the taking of extreme care to be fully obedient, realizing that only thus could he continue to bask in his Father’s love and favor.
This fear is declared to be the beginning of wisdom. Surely then the only wise course is to have that wholesome respect for God that will insure cheerful and careful obedience to His will. It is possible to have considerable knowledge and yet display very little wisdom in using it. It is also possible to be wise in applying the knowledge we possess and be slow to comprehend God’s will in other respects.
The perfection of our Lord imbued with God’s Spirit resulted in perfect wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and obedience. We, being very imperfect, are limited in our ability to manifest the Spirit’s graces. But the fear of Jehovah — the true spirit of obedience — will enable us by God’s grace to grow in the exercise of these manifestations of the Spirit more and more as we continue to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Christ is made unto us wisdom when we observe his life and example, and earnestly seek to copy the same as he leads us in the way of Godly counsel and understanding. Jesus had a sound mind, but we are limited in that regard. By relying upon the divine mercy and grace exercised through Christ, we stand before God approved and justified. “For there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled by us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).
This declaration of freedom by Paul reveals the freedom of which Jesus speaks in his promise to the disciples: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). What is that truth that will make us free? The word “know” here is used in the sense of having an understanding, and the truth that is revealed does not consist merely of the knowledge of doctrine, but is the realization of a great variety of experience.
Mere comprehension of the philosophy of the ransom could not give freedom from condemnation and death, although it may assist us to a deeper understanding of that great truth. Only through a faith that relies upon the wonderful provision God has made available thought the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can we be made free from the condemnation and death that was our Adamic inheritance. The legal sentence that was satisfied by the vicarious death of Jesus can no longer hinder man from being restored to life by the means which God devised through His Son to satisfy the demands of justice.
“Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). The atonement work requires more than a ransom price. The ransom alone would be of no benefit to mankind without the work that is to follow. Paul tells us, “Jesus was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The under-priests, though anointed of God’s holy Spirit, could have no part in providing the ransom price. Jesus only could do that, but they do have a share in the great atonement work that will restore mankind to perfection of being. To do this, however, they too must be schooled through self-denial, suffering, and death, as was their Lord. To follow him they must forsake all else, take up their cross daily, even though it means death to all human hopes of life and inheritance, they must make a covenant with God by sacrifice (Psalm 50:5). In Hebrews 2:11 it is declared, “Both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one.” They have the one Father; they are begotten of the one Spirit as the result of the great promise made to Abraham (Galatians 3:27-29), “for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.”
Witness of the Spirit in Us
It is the indwelling of the Spirit of God that is the proof of our relationship to Him as sons and to Christ as brethren. It was at Jordan that Jesus gave up all right to human existence for himself; and when we consecrate and are accepted of the Father, we also enter the Jordan of death to human life and inheritance, which must be crossed to participate in the kingdom.
God’s acceptance of us as prospective members in the body of the Christ (anointed) is shown by the possession of His Spirit. It is by this same Spirit of God, dwelling in us, that we become new creatures and are given the hope of close association with Jesus as the Christ of God on the divine plane of being. The Christ, head and body, has had to live a life of faith.
It is only by faith that we can realize peace with God, and participation in the glorious hope set before us. It is faith that opens our minds and hearts for the Spirit of God to enter and become the medium by which we receive the blessings and powers of Christlikeness imparted to us. It was the indwelling Spirit of God that motivated all of our Lord’s acts, and to follow him and be conformed to His image, which same Spirit must control and motivate us.
Paul is led to attach great emphasis and importance to the indwelling of the Spirit. We fulfill the righteousness of the law by walking (Romans 8:4), that is conducting our lives according to the promptings of the Spirit. The Spirit, operating through conscience, exerts its influence toward what is right, and the doing of God’s will by mortifying the deeds and desires of the flesh. Anyone making a consecration to God that is not conscious of being in the arena of warfare between the Spirit and the flesh may have reason to think that his or her consecration had been lacking in something.
Romans 8:5 points out the Spirit as proof of that which motivates us. “Those who live according to flesh, are minding [obeying] the things [the impulses and desires] of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Wilson’s Diaglott).
God by His spirit speaks to our minds through the voice of conscience, prompting us to heed the precepts of His word. And if we strive to obey, then we follow after the Spirit and are assured of life. Manifestly then, as stated in verse nine, if anyone possesses not the spirit of Christ — the spirit of the anointed — he is not a child of God in the spiritual sense.
“If the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Romans 8:11). In making alive your mortal bodies, He is causing you to strive earnestly to do his will.