TEXT: Acts 1:8; 2:16-18a; Romans 8:6-10,14
I want to begin today by re-reading two verses from our Romans 8 passage. Here Paul makes a bold and startling claim that should challenge us to examine not only our beliefs, but our behavior as well. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that one does not belong to Him.” (v.9) And then a few verses later… “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.” (v.14)
Today we are looking at the HOLY SPIRIT, #6 in our series of “The New Testament in 7 Sentences.” And that first verse from Romans 8:9 is our sixth sentence. While some branches of the Church focus quite a bit on the Holy Spirit, modern Presbyterians have not particularly. And that is unfortunate, because the Holy Spirit IS God, is prominent in all of scripture, and is actually part of our Presbyterian heritage as well.
As a brief recap of the New Testament themes, we have talked about FULFILLMENT, as Jesus embodies God’s promises and redemptive plan for humanity. We have talked about the KINGDOM of God, featured prominently in Jesus’ teaching and ministry. We have talked about the meaning of the CROSS, both as atoning sacrifice and call to follow Jesus. We have talked about GRACE, God’s gift of love, mercy, and reconciliation toward us in Christ. And last week we returned to a theme that featured prominently in the Old Testament: COVENANT, which describes God’s actions toward and with fallen humanity to rescue, redeem, and restore us to God. Jesus reconstitutes the Old Testament covenants in a new one in his body and blood.
I want to run (sprint?) through the scriptures and look at the Holy Spirit, then talk about some of the implications for our modern lives as followers of Jesus.
Often the Trinity is understood only in New Testament terms. Christians maintain the Jewish and Old Testament declaration that the Lord, God is ONE. But Christians believe that the one God is also three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. But we see warrant for that in the pages of the Old Testament as well.
The Spirit of God was present at Creation. Listen to Genesis 1:1-3…
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.
Leaders, prophets, and kings of Israel were described as having the Spirit of the Lord upon them and in them. For this reasons prophets would not just speak about God, but deliver messages tagged “thus saith the Lord!” Prophets like Joel also spoke of a future time when God’s Spirit would be poured out in a special way upon humanity.
King Saul notably lost the Lord’s presence and blessing when the Holy Spirit departed from him and came upon David in 1 Samuel 16. Anointing was the ritual by which the Spirit of the Lord was requested and understood to come upon a king. This is why the Messiah is known as “the anointed one” – because it was understood he would not only be a King, but also have the Spirit of God in and upon him in a special way.
Jesus and the Spirit
Jesus understood himself to be that anointed one, the Messiah. Notably, at his baptism in the Jordan River by John, the Holy Spirit is manifestly present. John describes the moment, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.” (John 1:33) Not only does the Spirit descend on Jesus, but remains with Him! And Jesus is the one who will usher that outpouring of the Spirit promised through the prophets: he will baptize in the Holy Spirit. And not to be dismissed, John adds, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (v.34)
In his ministry, then, Jesus continues to reference the Holy Spirit. He claims the prophetic role, reading from Isaiah in the synagogue that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me” to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed, and the year of God’s favor. And he says, today this has been fulfilled. (Luke 4:18-21) He stands up in the middle of the Jewish water festival, which visibly involves the pouring of water to point to the pouring out of God’s Spirit and he interrupts, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me… from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) John explains, “But this he spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive…” (v.39)
In the Upper Room before the Crucifixion Jesus promises his disciples that he will leave a Comforter and Helper – the Holy Spirit – when he leaves them. (John 14) Later, after the Resurrection, he breathes out (the Hebrew word for spirit is ‘breath’) on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
Acts and the Early Church
And then in Acts, we read that the Holy Spirit will give Jesus’ followers power to be witnesses near and far. (Acts 1:8) Shortly after Jesus ascends to Heaven, the Holy Spirit falls upon the Apostles at Pentecost and they indeed serve as powerful witnesses in multiple languages of all God had done through history and through Jesus. Peter notably quotes the prophet Joel, with his promise of a future outpouring of the Spirit, and says that promise is happening now in their midst. (Acts 2:16-18)
As you read through various letters in the New Testament, you see the Spirit playing a very active role in the life of the early church, empowering Christians with spiritual gifts and fruit for God’s glory. In some cases, notably the church in Corinth, some were abusing this spiritual power and excluding others. But again and again the New Testament letters call believers to unity, charity, and focus on the mission of God.
When we read a list of spiritual gifts, it’s easy to get side-tracked by the wild sounding ones like tongues or healing. But if you look at the list, the focus is on learning, unity, restoration, and the mission of God. Spirit-gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, and more. They are from the Spirit “for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10)
When we read a list of spiritual fruit, we see characteristics God desires among the people of God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) There Paul goes on say, “Let us walk by the Spirit.” (v.25)
It makes sense, then, that Paul would write in Romans that true followers of Jesus would have and be led by the Holy Spirit, interchangeably described as “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ.” (Romans 8)
Led by the Spirit
I mentioned two verses from Romans 8. There is verse 9… “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that one does not belong to Him.” That may sound scary, but recognize this: if you trust and follow Jesus Christ, he has promised to give you the Spirit. That makes v. 9 simply logical. Flip it around: if you belong to Jesus, then you DO have the Spirit of Christ.
The point of this verse is not for you to determine another person’s spiritual status, but to evaluate your own discipleship, your own following of Jesus. The goal is there in v. 14 – it is TO BE LED by the Spirit of God.
We certainly can profess faith in Jesus and refuse to be led by the Spirit. But the goal of our faith, the purpose of our salvation is to be led by God’s Spirit. And haven’t we seen that throughout the summer? We are blessed to be a blessing. We are saved to be sent. What does the Lord require but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Our faith is not just a mental exercise, it is a lifestyle and a life-mission.
Christianity is not just insurance for the afterlife, it is marching orders for the this-life.
I have been so struck this summer at how consistent and persistent this message is in ALL of scripture: God loves and wants you, to redeem and restore you, to welcome you in to God’s family, and to share God’s glorious purpose and mission in this world with you.
Jesus said it so succinctly and compellingly: “Come, follow me.”
How will you be led by the Holy Spirit? How are you being led by the Holy Spirit? And how will you respond?
Some Music Used
- Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God
- Great Are You, Lord
- Spirit of God Who Dwells Within My Heart