#4 – Commit to exploring the mystery and majesty of engagement with and empowerment by Ruach HaKodesh (The Holy Spirit) 

When it comes to matters of our engagement with and empowerment by the Holy Spirit there are two problems that confront us, and both are in the realm of imagination, which is a tightrope we are obliged to travel in these matters, while seeking to avoid falling off to one side or the other.

On the one hand, we may fall off in the direction of too much imagination. There are those who attribute just about everything and all kinds of things to the Holy Spirit. And many of these imagined things are bizarre, solely imaginary, and raise false expectations of miracles every day, and double on week-ends. We must avoid falling off the tightrope of Holy Spirit imagination on the side of the overdeveloped imagination.

On the other hand, there are those with unstimulated, untaught, and undeveloped imaginations when it comes to the role of the Holy Spirit. These are people who expect little, who take no risks, and who rely upon pious theological constructs in their faith-sharing, without recognizing at all that it is the Spirit who does the heavy lifting and that the Spirit is richly present in the encounter. We have just been conditioned and even warned not to look for him. If so then, we fall off the tight rope on the side by succumbing to an underdeveloped imagination.

What is our solution? What we need is a repentant, informed, submissive, expectant, and hungry-thirsty Holy Spirit imagination.

  • Some will need to repent of their gaudy inflated rhetoric in this regard.
  • Others will need to repent of their meager expectations.
  • Instead we need to become informed—to make a study of the matter in our Bibles and from dependable and responsible other sources, under the guidance of trusted mentors or teachers.
  • We also need to become submissive to what we discover—it may not be what we were taught, what we prefer, or what we have believed up until now. But as we study what Scripture says on these matters, we must do so with submissive hearts.
  • We need to prayerfully grow in expectancy that as God was for “them” he stands willing to be for us, that what he promised he is willing and able to fulfill.
  • And we need to value and cultivate being hungry and thirsty for all that God intends for us in the realm of the Holy Spirit.

There is so much that can be said about these matters, but we haven’t space to go into detail here, even though I have some extensive teaching materials on the subject.

However, for our current purposes let’s bear the following in mind. Scripture speaks of FOUR aspects of our relationship with the Spirit, all of which are central to our life with God this side of the resurrection.

1. The Spirit Prior –  The Spirit was at work in our lives prior to our having any interest in the things of God. In fact, without our knowing this to be true, it was the Spirit that kindled our openness, curiosity, and even faith.  See 1 Cor 12:13; John 6:44.

2. The Spirit Within – The Spirit is at work within everyone who trusts and follows Yeshua, everyone with Yeshua-faith.  Some of the operations he performs are these:

  • The Spirit’s work of transformation – Regenerating – 1 Peter 1:23; John 1:13, 3:5
  • The Spirit’s work of illumination, guidance into truth – (John 14-16; 1 john 2:27).
  • The Fruit of the Spirit, producing in us godly character – Galatians 5.

3. The Spirit Upon – This is the Spirit’s equipping and empowering work. Although all Yeshua believers can equally attest to experiencing the Spirit prior and the Spirit within, the Spirit upon is an additional aspect of the Spirit’s mystery and majesty which should be constantly sought, but sadly, is missed by many. This is a category which we find repeatedly in the Older Testament, among special people, judges like Samson and Gideon, and prophets. Now that Yeshua has been raised from the dead and ascended to the Father, this kind of empowering spiritual infusion is available to all who will seek it and value it. It is the Spirit empowering us for service (see Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8, 10:38; Isaiah 61:1-2 and Lk 4:18-19).

It is here that we speak of being immersed in the Spirit, of receiving the Spirit, and of being filled with the Spirit, all terms for this infusion with power which the first disciples experienced, and which spread to others through the message that they preached.

This is why, for example, Paul can ask the Galatians “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?,”[1] and could ask a group of disciples in Ephesus, ““Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”[2] In each of these cases and more, receiving the Spirit was an experienced event—something to which people could answer “Yes” or “No” as to whether this had happened to them. Again, we are not speaking of a doctrine to be espoused but an empowering experience with God of which a person could say, “Yes, that happened to me,” or, as in the case of the Ephesians, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

4. The Spirit Among –  The Spirit of God is active in a different manner whenever Yeshua’s people gather together for purposes of worship, remembrance of the Messiah, and for mutual upbuilding. Paul repeatedly uses the metaphor of a body to describe the people of God gathered in this manner. He will tell the Ephesians,

There is one body and one Spirit, just as when you were called you were called to one hope. And there is one Lord, one trust, one immersion, and one God, the Father of all, who rules over all, works through all and is in all.[3]

This “one body” is the community gathered together, energized and gifted by the same Spirit. The one Lord is Yeshua himself, and God the Father rules over all, working through all and is in all—that is, in each of us who is part of the Body—the community gathered.

Paul explores this also in Romans 12, where he says, “For just as there are many parts that compose one body, but the parts don’t all have the same function; so there are many of us, and in union with the Messiah we comprise one body, with each of us belonging to the others.”[4]

Finally, he explores this further in 1 Cor 12-14, but especially in chapter 14. In each of these contexts he discusses what are known as “spiritual gifts,” which are divinely given capacities to contribute to the spiritual well-being of the gathered community. And in each case, it is the Spirit at work in the midst, among God’s people, that makes it all happen so that “the whole body is being fitted and held together by the support of every joint, with each part working to fulfill its function; this is how the body grows and builds itself up in love.”[5]

The Spirit among is the communal modality of the working of the Spirit. The gifts that operate among us in this context are foretastes of the perfected well-being that will be ours in the Age to Come, of which we have been made citizens through our being joined to the Messiah and all he accomplished.

And Finally . . .

All of this is rather formidable. But if we are to deal honestly with the text of the Bible then we must commit to the need to explore, seek, and submit to these realities. We should always remember the words of Yeshua who told his disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I don’t go away, the comforting Counselor will not come to you. However, if I do go, I will send him to you,”[6]  and who also said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being! (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive later — the Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified)”.[7]

But now Yeshua has been glorified, that is, he has ascended to His Father after his triumphant resurrection. The Spirit has been given, has been poured out. Peter speaks of this dramatically on the Day of Shavuot when the first disciples received the Holy Spirit, saying, “God raised up this Yeshua! And we are all witnesses of it! “Moreover, he has been exalted to the right hand of God; has received from the Father what he promised, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh; and has poured out this gift, which you are both seeing and hearing . . .  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for those far away – as many as ADONAI our God may call!”

Yeshua said he would send the Spirit, and indeed, with his resurrection and ascension, the Spirit has been poured out. The promise of this Spirit and all he brings is for us, for our children, for those far away (meaning even the Gentile nations) as many as ADONAI may call. This means you. This means me.

But the question remains: what are we going to do with it?

  • Are you seeking?
  • Or are you satisfied just assuming?
  • Or do you prefer simply avoiding?

Good questions.

Meanwhile, be on the lookout for the following:

  1. Hallelujah hucksters who are merchandising themselves as they claim to be delivering the Spirit
  2. People whose main message about the Spirit is to warn you away. These are like people who cannot swim who warn you to stay away from the pool.

But just maybe you would rather learn how to swim.

(And if you want to talk about these things, send a note to stuart@interfaithfulness.org)

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[1] Gal 3:2
[2] Acts 19:2
[3] Eph 4:4-6
[4] Rom
[5] Eph 4:16
[6] Jn 16:7
[7] John 7:37-39