Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Part 4: The Holy Spirit – His Names and Descriptions (ii)

Actually, this series is from Understanding Bible Truth booklets by Robert Hicks and Richard Bewes (1981), but I have expanded some texts for modern readers (to make it easier to read) and added Scripture quotes (I’m using ESV Bible) into these writings to clarify its points more clearly. My purpose of making this series available in the internet is single: So that you can be clear the essential facts about the Bible’s teaching in a readily understandable form.

Simple Introduction
Picture: "Descent of the Holy Spirit"
by Dore
Undoubtly the least understood Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. J.I. Packer in Knowing God writes, “The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the Cinderella of Christian doctrines. Very few seem to be interested in it”. Even so, His works are the most important of all. “Were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit”, Packer continues, “there would be no gospel, no faith, no church, no Christianity in the world at all”. Therefore, it is worth knowing who is this Person, the Holy Spirit’ names and descriptions – because He is, after all – God the Spirit. Come and learn…

His Names
The Holy Spirit
The third person of the Trinity is best known by this name. It was the name used by Jesus in His final words of promise to His disciples, and by Peter in His sermon on the day of Pentecost. Peter said, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” (Acts 2:32-33).
The name conveys the Spirit’s holiness and opposition to sin.

The Spirit of God
This title is used many times in both Old and New Testaments. It signifies both that the Spirit is God, and that He has God’s power. Jesus claimed that it was by the Spirit of God that He confronted the demonic world of His day. He said, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28)

The Spirit of Christ
This title brings great comfort and assurance to Christian believers, because it shows us that Christ was true to His word by not leaving His followers desolate when He descended to heaven. The Spirit was sent in fulfillment of Christ’s promise: “I will come to you”.
Paul writes to Christians at Rome, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).

The Spirit of Truth
The apostles were assured that the Holy Spirit would enable them to remember Christ’s teaching and lead them into all the truth. The reader of the Bible may be thankful for its trustworthy, divine authorship. Jesus said to His disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” (John 16:13).

The Counselor or Helper
The literal meaning of the term “Counselor” is one who comes alongside. This name is reassuring for Christians facing temptation, doubt, demanding service or opposition. Jesus declared, “If I do not go away [to the Father], the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

His Descriptions
This vivid description of the Spirit’s activity is used often in the Bible. There is Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones being given new life in Ezekiel 37; there are Christ’s words to Nicodemus in John 3, and the sound of rushing wind at Pentecost in Acts 2. The key ideas conveyed are mystery, sovereignty and energy.

The chief reference to the Spirit’s work as water comes from some words Christ spoke. Jesus talked about the streams of life-giving water “the Spirit” flowing from those who believe in Him. He was clearly talking about the life-giving activity of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).

The prophet Malachi predicts the coming of God’s messenger in terms of refining fire, and this picture is picked up in the New Testament. “…For he is like a refiner's fire…” (Malachi 3:2). John the Baptist said that Jesus would “baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). It is possible that the tongues of flame at Pentecost were meant to show the Spirit’s refining activity.

In the Old Testament, anointing with oil was a sign that God had chosen someone for a particular task. In this way, priests or kings were set apart for God’s service. The Bible tells us that Jesus was “anointed” by the Spirit, and this is also true of His followers. Apostle Peter said, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38).

The Spirit, in the form of a dove, descended upon Jesus at His baptism. ‘[The] heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (Mark 1:10). While Jesus undoubtly possessed the Spirit already, this even pictures the gentleness associated with the dove. This gentleness would characterize Christ’s work.

My Conclusion about the Names and Descriptions of the Holy Spirit
We must noted and be careful not to press these images, especially of the descriptions of the Spirit’s work into being anything more than helpful pictures. The Holy Spirit is not wind but like a wind; not water but like water; not a dove but gentle like a dove etc. Be extra careful not to be confused by religious or secular physical images of the Holy Spirit. I think… if we want to be faithful to the Scripture, we should let His ‘image’ remain invincible or write down some remarks if you want to use images.

However, no doubt, to know His many names and different example of His descriptions can enrich our understanding about Him. Though He is unseen, He should be known. Though He is spirit, He should be understood correctly (Biblically). Though His ministry is to glorify Christ, He is to be glorified also – in our worship of the Trinity, the One True God! Amen.

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