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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Holy Spirit

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HOLY SPIRIT . The Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit arises out of the experience of the Church, as it Interprets, and is itself interpreted by, the promise of the Comforter given by Jesus to His disciples ( John 14:1-31 ; John 15:1-27 ; John 16:1-33 ). This appeal to experience follows the method adopted by St. Peter in his Pentecostal sermon ( Acts 2:33 ). The teaching may briefly be stated as follows: The Holy Spirit is God; a Person within the Godhead; the Third Person, the knowledge of whom depends on the revelation of the Father and the Son, from both of whom He proceeds. He was in the world, and spoke by the prophets before the Word became flesh, and was Himself the agent in that creative act. Through Him the atonement was consummated. He is the life-giving presence within the universal Church, the Divine agent in its sacramental and authoritative acts; communicating Himself as a presence and power to the individual Christian; mediating to him forgiveness and new birth; nourishing, increasing, and purifying his whole personality; knitting him into the fellowship of saints; and finally, through the resurrection of the body, bringing him to the fulness of eternal life. The purpose of this article is to justify this teaching from Scripture.

1. The promise of Christ . It is unnecessary to discuss the historical character of the Last Discourses as presented in John, because the fact of the promise of the Spirit is sufficiently attested by St. Luke ( Luke 24:49 , Acts 1:4-5 ; Acts 1:8 ; Acts 2:33 ), and its significance corroborated by the whole tenor of the NT. The specific promise of the Paraclete ( John 14:16-17 ; John 14:26 ; John 15:26 ; John 16:7-15 ) must be read in view of the wider promise of the Abiding Presence, which is its background ( John 14:2-3 ; John 14:18-23 , John 15:4-11 ). The first truth to be grasped by the Christian disciple is that to see Jesus is to see the Father ( John 14:9 , cf. John 12:45 ), because the Son abides in the Father ( John 12:10 f., John 17:21 ; John 17:23 ). Next he must realize the true meaning of the comfort and peace he has found in Christ as the way through which he attains his own true end, which is to come to the Father and abide in Him ( John 14:6-9 , John 17:21 ; cf. Hebrews 7:25 ; Hebrews 10:19-20 ). So the promise takes, first, the form of a disclosure. If Jesus is not only to embody God but to be the channel through which the faithful have communion with Him, He must Himself depart to prepare abiding-places in the Father’s house ( John 14:2 ), that He may lift men to the sphere of His own eternal life, and that where He is they too may be ( John 14:5 , cf. Hebrews 12:26 ). It is necessary, therefore, not only that the disciple should behold Jesus ( John 16:16-17 ; John 16:19 ) as the Apostles did with their eyes ( 1 John 1:1 , John 19:35 ) and as later believers do through the Apostolic word ( John 17:20 , Luke 1:2 ), but that he should abide in Him ( John 15:4 ). Thus the purpose of the Incarnation is fulfilled in the linking up of the chain the Father in the Son; the Son in the Father; the believer in the Son; mankind in God.

The method by which Jesus is to consummate this reconciling work is declared in the promise of the Paraclete. (For the question whether the word Paraklçtos is to be translated ‘Comforter,’ or ‘Advocate,’ see art. Advocate.) Having promised another ‘Comforter,’ the Lord proceeds to identify Him with the Spirit ( John 14:17 ), which enables Him to give to the Person, of whom He speaks, the name of ‘the Holy Spirit’ ( John 14:26 , the Greek having the definite article before both ‘Spirit’ and ‘Holy’). Only once in His previous teaching is He reported to have employed this title ( Mark 3:29 ||). Mark 12:36 ; Mark 13:11 appear to supply other instances, but comparison should be made with the parallel passages in either case ( Matthew 22:43 , Matthew 10:20 , Luke 21:15 ). And there is something abnormal in the warning concerning the unpardonable sin, being one of the hard sayings fully interpreted only in the light of subsequent events) cf. Mark 8:34 , John 6:58 ). But ‘Spirit’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ occur as used by Christ in the Synoptics ( Matthew 12:28 , Luke 11:13 ; Gr. no definite article) and in John ( Luke 3:8 ). Too much cannot be made of this argument, as we are at best dealing with a Greek tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the words actually used by our Lord. But it remains true that in these cases a new and unexpected development is given to old ideas, as when Nicodemus fails to understand the spiritual birth ( John 3:10 ), or disciples are scandalized by the spiritual food ( John 6:60 ), yet both the terms used and the thoughts represented are familiar, and postulate a previous history of doctrine, the results of which ‘a master in Israel’ ought at least to have apprehended. The passage read by Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth ( Luke 4:18-19 , Isaiah 61:1-2 ) forms a link between the Gospel and the OT in respect to the Spirit.

2. The Spirit in OT

(1) General . The OT never uses the phrase ‘the Holy Spirit.’ In two passages the epithet ‘holy’ is applied to the Spirit, but in each it is still further qualified by a possessive pronoun ( Psalms 51:11 ‘thy,’ Isaiah 63:10 ‘his’). But the conception of the ‘Spirit of God’ is characteristic, being closely related to the Word (Schultz, OT Theol . il. 184). The distinction between them is that between the breath and the voice, the latter being the articulate expression of thought, the former the force by which the word is made living. The Spirit is the life of God, and, as such, is life-giving. The account of creation in Genesis puts us in possession of the root idea ( Genesis 1:2-3 ). ‘It was no blind force inherent in nature which produced this beautiful world, but a divine Thinker’ (Cheyne, OP , p. 322). The Spirit is the life of God communicated by a ‘word’ (cf. Psalms 33:6 ; Psalms 51:11 ; Psalms 104:30 ; Psalms 139:7 ). This creative principle, which animates the universe, finds a special sphere of activity in man ( Genesis 2:7 , Job 27:3 ; Job 33:4 ), who by its operation becomes not only a living soul, but a rational being created in the image of God and reproducing the Divine life ( Genesis 1:27 ). Thus the Spirit is the source of the higher qualities which manhood develops administrative capacity in Joseph ( Genesis 41:38 ), military genius in Joshua ( Numbers 27:18 ), judicial powers in the seventy elders ( Numbers 11:17 ), the craftsman’s art in Bezalel and Oholiab ( Exodus 31:2 ; Exodus 31:6 ). So far there is nothing directly moral in its influence. But above all it is the Spirit that reproduces in man the moral character of God ( Psalms 51:11 ; Psalms 143:10 , Isaiah 30:1 , Nehemiah 9:20 ), though this aspect is by no means so clearly presented as might have been expected. Wickedness grieves His Spirit ( Isaiah 63:10 ), which strives with the rebellious ( Genesis 6:3 , Nehemiah 9:30 ). This comprehensive dealing, affecting alike intellect, affections, and will, arises out of the central conception, stated in the Book of Wisdom, that God made man ‘an image of his own proper being’ ( Wis 2:23 ).

(2) The Chosen Race . The epithet ‘holy’ as applied in the OT to the Spirit, though it may include positive righteousness and purity, arises in the first instance out of the negative meaning primarily attaching to holiness in Scripture; namely, separation to Him whose being is not compassed by human infirmity and mortal limitations. The Spirit, therefore, in its more general bearing, is the indwelling influence which consecrates all things to the fulfilment of the universal purpose. But Israel believed that God had a particular purpose, which would be accomplished through His presence in the Chosen Nation. A special consecration rested upon Jacob, in view of which the Gentiles might be regarded as aliens, sinners, who were outside the purpose ( Galatians 2:15 , Ephesians 2:12 ; Ephesians 4:18 ). Thus the presence of God’s good or holy Spirit is the peculiar endowment of the Hebrew people ( Nehemiah 9:20 , Isaiah 63:11 ), which becomes the organ of the Divine self-manifestation, the prophetic nation ( Psalms 105:15 , cf. Isaiah 44:1 etc.). The term ‘prophet’ is also applied to those who were representative leaders to Abraham ( Genesis 20:7 ), Moses ( Deuteronomy 18:15 ), Miriam ( Exodus 15:20 ), Deborah ( Judges 4:4 ), and Samuel. The Spirit ‘came upon’ David not only as the psalmist ( 2 Samuel 23:2 ) but as the ideal king ( 1 Samuel 16:13 ). The instruments of God’s ‘preferential action’ Israel, and those who guided its destiny became the channel of revelation, the ‘mouth’ ( Exodus 4:16 ) through which the message was delivered. More directly still, God ‘spake by the mouth of his holy prophets’ ( Luke 1:70 ; cf. Isaiah 51:16 , Jeremiah 1:9 ), who hear the word at His mouth ( Ezekiel 3:17 , 1 Samuel 3:11 ).

(3) Prophecy . This brings us to the yet more definite sphere of the Spirit’s action in the OT. ‘It appears to the earlier ages mainly as the spirit of prophecy ’ (Schultz). Among the later Jews also the Holy Spirit was equivalent to the spirit of prophecy (Cheyne). From Samuel onwards prophecy takes its place alongside the monarchy as an organized function of the national life. From the visions of seers ( 1 Samuel 9:9 , 2 Samuel 24:11 , 2 Chronicles 9:29 ) and the ecstatic utterance of the earlier nebi’im ( 1 Samuel 10:6-10 ; 1 Samuel 19:23-24 , 2 Kings 3:15 ; cf. Numbers 11:25 ) to the finished literature of Isaiah and Jeremiah, revelation is essentially a direct and living communication of the Spirit to the individual prophet ( Deuteronomy 34:10 , Amos 3:8 , Micah 3:8 ). Though the Spirit is still an influence rather than a personality, yet as we rise to the higher plane of prophecy, where the essential thought is that of God working, speaking, manifesting Himself personally, we approach the NT revelation. ‘The Lord God hath sent me, and his spirit’ ( Isaiah 48:16 , cf. Matthew 10:20 ).

(4) The Spirit and Messiah . The point of contact between the OT and NT is the expectation of a special outpouring of the Spirit in connexion with the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom ( Ezekiel 39:29 , Joel 2:28-29 , Zechariah 12:10 ; cf. Isaiah 35 , Jeremiah 31:7-9 ). This was to distribute itself over the whole nation, which was no longer to be by representation from among its members the prophetic medium of Jehovah’s messages, but universally the organ of the Spirit. The diffusion of the gift to ‘all flesh’ corresponds with that extension of the Kingdom to include all nations in the people of God which is characteristic of later Hebrew prophecy ( Isaiah 56:7 etc., Psalms 87:1-7 , Luke 2:32 ). But it is on Messiah Himself that the Spirit is to rest in its fulness ( Isaiah 11:1-5 ). Its presence is His anointing ( Isaiah 61:1 ). This is the connexion in which the relation of the Spirit to the manifestation of righteousness is most clearly shown ( Isaiah 11:5 , Psalms 45:4-7 ). So when Jesus of Nazareth begins His work as the Anointed One of Hebrew expectation, there lights upon Him what to the outward eye appears as a dove ( Mark 1:10 ||), emblem of that brooding presence (cf. Genesis 1:2 ) which was to find its home in the Messiah ( John 1:33 ‘abiding’); in the power of which He was to ‘fulfil all righteousness’ ( Matthew 3:15 ); to be driven into the wilderness for His fight with temptation ( Matthew 4:1 ); to return to His ministry in Galilee ( Luke 4:14 ); to work as by the finger of God ( Luke 11:20 , cf. ||); and to accomplish His destiny in making the Atonement ( Hebrews 9:14 ).

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