Understanding what the scriptures say about the Holy Spirit

You know things have been neglected when it takes a year to roll back around to them. But in Marie Kondo style, this blog sparks joy for me so we’re back to it!

This year’s Ignite Training Conference is going to be excellent – with a focus on what the scriptures say about the most misunderstood member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. Check back daily for the live blog of the talks and selected workshops.

Morning Talk 1 | The Breath of Life | Genesis 1 & 2, Ezekiel 37, Numbers 11, John 1:1 | Tony Rowbotham

One of the great privileges in life is to know someone – to know them well, not just in passing. And we love it when people know us well. When somebody knows us well it makes a world of difference.

And that’s what we’re doing this week. We’re thinking about the Holy Spirit – not just learning things about Him, but venturing into something far more significant: knowing God.

Tony hopes we’re both excited and daunted by this journey. It’s such a massive task – there is a huge amount of material to sift through. And it’s daunting because we’re getting to know the creator of the universe!

What is ‘spirit’? (Prov 20:27; 1 Cor 2:11)
We know in this life that we do not just live in a physical world, but also in a spiritual world. Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 6. We know from the gospels Jesus rules over this world.

Prov 20:27 – the human spirit is a part of our inmost being. When you peel away our facebook posts and what we present to others our spirit remains.

1 Cor 2:11 – and yet at the same time we learn here that the Spirit searches all things, even the spirit of God. To know God is only possible through the Spirit of God. To know a person you have to engage with that person’s spirit – and likewise the Spirit of God reveals God to us.

  1. The Spirit carries God’s powerful words, and enables their effect

The pattern: Genesis 1:1-2
In the opening pages of the Bible, we read of the creation of the world, and we learn of the Creator. We learn that he made everything and without help.

In the opening verses, we also meet the Spirit of God – hovering over the waters. Before creation was made there was a watery chaos, darkness over the face of the earth. Like a child given a plasticine lump, the Spirit of God is hovering over these waters and is ready to create.

By the end of Genesis 1 we will find a creation that now has shape and is filled – it is a wonderful creation, and the Spirit of God is present. He is not just giving form and shape, but he is giving ‘birth’ to a canvas but a living thing.

So what is the Spirit doing here? He no longer appears after this point.

Literary Context (Genesis 1)
In the opening ‘let there be’ pattern we see God creating and filling the earth. In the latter part of the patterns we see the lines ‘God saw… God named… etc’. So where is the Spirit in all of this?

The Hebrew word for Spirit is ‘ruach‘ which is can be translated as ‘wind/breath’. If you covered your mouth and spoke you’ll feel something in your hand – our words are carried by our breath. And without breath there are no words. God speaks and the Spirit takes those words to do the will of God.

This is one of the most fundamental aspects of the Spirit of God: taking the word of God to enact the will of God.

God could have created everything with a thought – but he used words. Why? Because he uses words breath is needed – the Spirit is required.

Whatever the Spirit is doing here in Genesis 1 it is essential to the creation process. God’s will is enabled through God’s speech – Spirit carries God’s Words, bears God’s Words, and brings God’s Words into effect.

Note – the Word does not originate with the Spirit. God said – not ‘Spirit’ said.

OT Context (Numbers 11:24-26; 1 Samuel 19:19-24
Numbers 11 – Moses is not coping, the people are complaining and it is becoming too much for him. So God says that he will take the Spirit that is upon Moses and place it on the 70 elders. And as soon as it rested on them they prophesied.

1 Samuel – Saul is king of the land, David also has been anointed and his popularity is growing. Saul sends off some soldiers to arrest David but when they arrive they end up prophesying David will be King – and he sends a second lot and a third lot and they still end up doing the same thing. So he takes the job of bringing David back himself, but when he arrives to David the Spirit rests on him and he prophesies that David will be king.

NT Context (Acts 2:1-4, 11; 14ff, 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Tim 3:16)
Acts 8 – when Luke recounts what happens with Philip – told by the Holy Spirit to go stand by a particular chariot. In that chariot is an Ethiopian Eunuch – and he hears this man reading the Word of God. So they strike up a conversation starting from that very passage of scripture.

2 Peter 1 – no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation – for prophecy never had its origin in human will, but men spoke from God through the Holy Spirit.

2 Tim 3 – all scripture is God ‘breathed/Spirited’ so that the servant of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work – everything you need to know about God is in scripture because it is from God.

So where do you go to connect with the mind of God? The Word!

3 Errors (one Error in three ways)
You cannot emphasise the Spirit and negate the Word of God. The Spirit affirms and works through the Word of God. If you negate the Word of God you are working against the pattern and work of the Holy Spirit.

Error 1 – preachers and teachers saying, ‘God revealed to me through… (something other than scripture)’ – and this revelation is often independent of the Word of God. The Bible then becomes illustrative of what the Preacher wants to say, rather than authoritative. What the preacher says might be true, but how the preacher has said it undercuts severely a biblical understanding of the Spirit.

Friends, the cutting edge of the sword of Spirit is the Word of God.

Error 2 – the Spirit residing in an institution or the head of an institution – the Bible becomes not enough. The Spirit gets affirmed, but the Bible gets negated. John Calvin noticed this: Word and Spirit belong inseparably together (Institutes 1:9:3)

Error 3 – where we emphasise the Word, that we can understand the word through human activity, study, and technique we can understand the Word of God. Wrong. You can only understand the Word of God through the
ministry of the Holy Spirit.

John Calvin – Accordingly, without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the Word can do nothing (Institutes 3:2:33)

2. The Spirit is Life-Creating and Sustaining
At the beginning of Genesis 1 we have ‘stuff’, at the end of Genesis 1 we have ‘life’ – and all accomplished through the Spirit.

Just as the Holy Spirit brings life into being, so too does the Spirit bring new life to us in Christ.

John 3 – no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and Spirit. Without Spirit there is no new life. The Spirit is life creating and life sustaining.

Holy Spirit – the breath of life
God is a powerful speaker. The Spirit of God carries God’s words and makes them effective – and does so for the purpose of life.

What brings the Spirit joy? Bearing and enabling the Word of God for the purpose of bringing life, and eternal life.

[What a great start! A short survey of key texts reminding us that the Spirit’s main role is to take what is God’s – his Word – and enact it.]

[Back this evening with the night talk. No afternoon workshops were held today. Not sure how many people are planning to turn up – so come early to make sure you get a chance for parking and a seat! And while you’re early, come check out the bookstall ;)]

Evening Talk 1 | John 14:1-14 – Jesus Is The Way| Paul Grimmond

  1. John 14-17 and the Holy Spirit?

When it comes to understanding the Holy Spirit – we will be looking at 1/3 of 1% of the Bible. So to understand what the Bible says about teh Holy Spiri – is this a good way to start? In fact, our passage tonight has no mention of the SPirit! Are we happy with that?

Often we come to the BIble with our own quesitons – with our own ideas and things because they affect me. But as God tells us abotu himself in the Scriptures he does so in a big story from Genesis to Revelation. An epic – a Lord of the Rings kind of story. The whole of human history is recounted – a sotry with kings, adventures, wars – people sing and dance, and write poems, have children, build houses, lose houses – a story about the whole history of the world.

To know God well it is not a matter of us picking and choosing what we want to read and making a story about them.

Part of the process of knowing God well is to read in context – bit by bit – as God tells us about himself in the way he tells us about himself.

in John 14 we have this – a long speech about the Holy Spirit – but he begins not with the Spirit. We are introduced to the Spirit in the context that Jesus introduces us to Him.

2. Where are we up to in John?

The Gospel of John covers a big amount of time – 12 are spent on three years, but the final 9 focus on the final three weeks of Jesus’ life.

The context of Jesus’ life – something has happened that has changed everything. In John 2 at the wedding at Cana in Galilee Jesus tells Mary, ‘Woman – what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ At this point we know nothing of ‘the hour’, and through the following chapters we keep reading that ‘the hour has not come’ – but at the end of chapter 12 we read ‘the hour has come’ (see 12:23, 27; 13:1) – Jesus realises that now is the moment that he is going to die on the cross.

So at this point Jesus takes his disciples aside and gives them the longest block of teaching from him. How are they going to live without him in this world? This section lays it out.

14:1 says ‘let not your hearts be troubled’ – he sets the tone that they should not be afraid, because what he says next will help them through his absence.

3. The questions of the text:
  i. Where is Jesus going?

He’s going to the Father. When he says that he is going to the Father’s house the key thing to know about that is that he is going to his Father.

Paul shares about how his family has moved many times – and yet he will call each of them his ‘home’ – because what makes a place ‘home’ is the people and the relationships he has with them. The place where he experiences all the warmth, love, and generosity of his parents to himself and his own children.

When Jesus speaks of going to the Father he’s not talking about the place itself. When we get to heaven the fact that we share it with our brothers and sisters in Christ pales to the fact that we share it with Jesus.

ii. How do you get there?

14:6-7 – when Jesus speaks of no one coming to the Father except through him it’s related to the next thought in v7 – no one can see the Father, but if you have seen Jesus then you have seen the Father.

Genesis 32:30, Deuteronomy 4:12. 5:24 – seeing God was utterly frightening. Nobody in the OT gets to truly see God face to face.

John 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:15-16 – reiterate the OT points above.

So when Jesus says if you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father is utterly astonishing in the whole of scripture.

Philip in v8 says something a little silly next – Jesus has said ‘looking at me is looking at God the Father’ – so Philip is asking for what has already been given!

Jesus’ response reiterates his earlier point – Jesus in all his fullness displays God in all his fullness.

So what have we done with this profound truth? How much of our live has been given to wrestling with, and reading and re-reading the Jesus we have revealed to us in scripture?

God reveals himself – and we live lives of distraction in a world of distraction made by people who live off your distraction.

The people who made the technology that distracts us do not allow their children to use the tech. Why? Probably because they realise that it’s so addictive. When we scroll the page on our screen our little finger needs to bow down… which is somewhat metaphorical for what we are doing. And sadly most of our time our Bibles remain beside us unread.

Jesus says, ‘You’ve seen me… you’ve seen the Father’ – how much more should we be people who are captured by this truth, to let it dominate our lives? We have in our hands, in the scriptures, the knowledge of the God of this world.

14:10ff – it’s a bit of weird passage – he says I don’t speak on my own authority, but when I speak God works… and the secondary reason for believing me is all the things I have done. The fundamental reason you should believe in me is because I have told you that it’s true.

The gap between what we speak and what we do is huge. Do we believe our politicians? Do we believe our neighbours? Do we believe ourselves? We tend to say things but not often fulfil them.

In Christ there is never any gap between what Jesus says and what he does. Every word he speaks is true because he is the very definition of truth. Out of Jesus’ very essence Jesus speaks and works. To hear Jesus is to hear truth, to believe his words is to believe the truth.

This is so counter-cultural to us – our non-Christian family and friends will never believe this. Our own beliefs change over time – nobody believes exactly the same things they did when they were 14. Even science changes as it evolves – and all along the way people believe they are right because they are doing the science of their day.

When Jesus speaks he speaks with all the authority of God. I am so righteous true and good that what I say is righteous true and good. So if we’re reading the Bible and we start to say, ‘Jesus, I’m not sure I believe you here…’ the problem is with us and not Him.

Do we come to the Bible with a longing to hear God speak to us, and to speak with is true to us? You can only know the Father through Jesus – and you can know God through knowing Jesus.

iii. If you ask anything in my name? (to be continued)

14:12ff – in the midst of all that he has just said, he then goes on this tangent about doing things in his name? Why? Come back tomorrow night. (Edit – see… I’m not the only one who does that!!)

4. What should I do with Jesus?

What is something you could do to engage more clearly with the words and life of Jesus so that we can know God better? What practical steps might we need to take – what things might we need to cut out of life to know God better in the Word?

And if we have friends or family who don’t know Jesus, and you want them to get to know God, how is it that they are going to come to know him? There are all sorts of questions we might have – but people don’t come to know Jesus simply by answering those questions. What will we share with them about how Jesus is affecting us? How his life is shaping us? Let’s begin with thinking about how we can share the reality of Jesus shaping our lives.

[Whenever I hear a talk about the astonishing beauty of Jesus I’m always floored. Tonight was a great reminder of this.]


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