Archives for March 2006

The Promised Holy Spirit – arrived!

This post is not meant to be a New Testament overview of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Instead, it’s a follow-up to my recent The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

When the Holy Spirit returned after 400 years of silence, He did not come quietly. He bursts onto the scene. The Spirit overshadows Mary so she conceives a child (Luke 1:35). John the Baptist (Luke 1:15), his mother (1:41) and father (1:67) were all filled with the Holy Spirit and both parents prophesied as a result. The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon in the temple (2:25). When John began his ministry, he did so speaking of the one who would baptise with the Holy Spirit (3:16), and testifying of the one on whom the Spirit descended (John 1:32f).

The Holy Spirit’s activity in the early chapters of the gospels was remarkable. For the first time the Holy Spirit was described as having filled a person. For the first time we are told explicitly that He visited women. But it was after all only two women, and only half a dozen people in all – and all of them Jews. Remarkable and unexpected as it was, this was not a pouring out on all people. The promises in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel were not yet fulfilled.
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Articles in this series:

  1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
  2. The Promised Holy Spirit – arrived! <-- This article

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The Holy Spirit is active during the Old Testament. At creation, we find that the Spirit of God is hovering above the waters. During the exodus from Egypt, the time of the first kings, and most notably during the ministry of the prophets, the Holy Spirit is active. But despite the wide ministry of the Holy Spirit during all of this period, what the Old Testament believers saw was just a small deposit of what was to come.

For example, in Numbers 11:17 we read that “God will take of the spirit that is on you [Moses] and put the spirit on them.” (The “them” are Israel’s elders.) God did exactly what he promised, and “when the spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.” (11:25) The narrator goes on to tell us that two elders, Eldad and Medad, were not with the others. “Yet the spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp.” Moses, brushing aside Joshua’s concerns, exclaimed, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!” (11:29)

This vignette from the Pentateuch illustrates perfectly the nature of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament. 1) The event is exceptional: the Holy Spirit came on little more than a few hundred men in the thousands of years than encompass the Old Testament. 2) The event is transitory: the Holy Spirit came, then went.

And yet there was a hope (you might say a prophecy), that one day all of the Lord’s people would be prophets and the Lord would put His Spirit on them.
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Articles in this series:

  1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament <-- This article
  2. The Promised Holy Spirit – arrived!

Have we let the world squeeze us into its mould?

J B Phillips’ famous translation of Romans 12:2 is “Do not let the world squeeze you into its mould, but instead let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

It’s easy to apply this to the big things in life: immorality, drunkenness, pornography. But Paul has in view the subtle as well as the obvious, as the next chapters prove. And perhaps the best way to expose our failings in this area is to examine the things we do without thinking. It’s those things that show us what our mind is really like.

So, when you come home from work and slump onto the sofa? If you’re hand stretches for the remote control, then it’s likely that the world has squeezed you into its mould. But if your hand reaches for your young child, or to help your wife in the kitchen, or your eyes close in silent grateful prayer for another day spent in the presence of God, then it’s likely that your mind is being renewed.

If you’ve had a bad day, and are thoroughly fed up, and your hand reaches automatically for the fridge door or the cookie jar, then it’s likely that the world has squeezed you into its mould. But if your hand reaches for the Scriptures, and you open them at the Psalms or the Gospel accounts, then it’s likely that your mind is being renewed.
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