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The Holy Spirit: Pneumatology Questions III

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Question #1:  

Love your website - I have learned so much.

After finishing your information, do you have any further suggested readings in addition to the Bible? I am searching for more materials with regard to Deliverance, Demonic possession and Exorcism to help set the captive free. I have recently come out of the Masonic Mormon Cult and still have my entire family stuck there and I am working with your materials to point them back to the BIBLE as the source for TRUTH. Additionally, I have just started helping a local group in that focuses on helping people come out of Mormonism. We are preparing for a trip to Utah. There have been as many as 250 Christians that travel from across the country to witness to the Mormon people and although I have never gone personally, from reviewing the video recordings, I do not see much actual conversion taking place. From my own personal experience and in listening to the Holy Spirit in me, I keep getting that the members of the Mormon church have scales on their eyes and pugs in their ears that is keeping them from the truth. I know that Joseph Smith and his deceptions were dictated by Lucifer and his fallen angels or demons and as such, this battle is a spiritual one. Most so called Christians, Pastors and churches would rather put the people out of their churches than take authority over and cast out the evil spirits. Because of this, it is difficult to find solid, Bible based instruction on these matters. For example, I still am not clear on if there is a real difference between a Fallen Angels and Demon? I would like to be a more usable weapon in the battle of the Lord and in order to pull down some on these strongholds, I am wondering if you have any further teaching on the subject of Deliverance, Demonic possession and Exorcism as it relates to the teaching from the Bible. I am going through some of Derek Prince's work and about to start going through the work of Win Worley. I think your insights would be very helpful to my studies. One other question I have is this. My wife has been focused in the area of spiritual discernment which she says gets her more clearly in communication with the Holy Spirit. These sessions are offered via Dr. Paul Cox. For me, it's just a little too 'spiritual' meaning that I don't seem to have built up my spirit man to the point where I can sense 99.9% of the things they refer to in many of their sessions. I have had one experience of receiving an anointing of oil on my hands and since it's occurrence, I can still sense the presence of the oils on my hands. Have you any context from the Hebrew and the Greek of these matters? I don't think there is anything wrong with these discernments, but I am wanting to understand the ways of the Holy Spirit in the ongoing guidance and direction of our Spirit Man. Do you have any insights in your current works or in your future works that might help me in this area? NOTE: I have been so enjoying your site and materials in my search for Truth. I have been reading, studying and printing them out.

Thanks for your ever faithful work.

Response #1: 

Thanks much for your emails, and also for your kind and enthusiastic words. I also want to thank you for your generous offer re: the binding machine. I do recognize that not having these materials available in printed format is an impediment to many folks. I have struggled with this issue for many years (see the link: Ichthys books?), and have so far resisted taking this step. Perhaps at some point in the future it will be possible. 

Let me start by giving you some of the main links for "spiritual warfare" which will give you my perspective on these matters (e.g., I do not believe that exorcism is a "gift" currently being given to the Church nor a practice in which believers are allowed to engage):

The Satanic Rebellion Series (this is a long, five part series, but lays the groundwork for answering all such questions)

Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare II

Resisting the Devil


Demon Influences

The Demon Possessed Girl in Acts 16:16

The Final Disposition of Satan and his Angels

Drug Use and Demon Possession

Prayers for Binding

Angelic Issues III: Demons, Satan, Elders, Female Angels and Guardians

There is a good deal more scattered throughout the site (much of which can be found through links in the studies above and also through the Subject Index).

There is no difference between a demon and a fallen angels; the terms are merely synonyms. There is a rank structure for Satan's angels (see the link in BB 2A Angelology: "The Organization of the Fallen Angels").

I certainly agree with your analysis of Mormonism. Sadly, there are many such pseudo-Christian groups around these days, and many of the denominations are turning into the same, more so day by day – which explains why this ministry is on the internet.

As to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, BB 5: Pneumatology, will eventually treat all such issues in what it is hoped will be a comprehensive way (if all goes well, I plan to have it out by the end of the year). But to answer your specific question, the guidance of the Spirit is something all believers have. The question is, whether or not they are willing to allow themselves to be guided. What is commonly missed in these discussions is that the key to a proper response is biblical truth in the heart, put there by believing it so that mere "knowledge" is turned into "usable knowledge" (Greek epignosis as opposed to mere gnosis; see the link).

Truth in a believer's heart is the Spirit's working capital, the Spirit's fulcrum. The more a believers has progressed in the faith, the more closely and demonstrably the Spirit will guide him or her. There has to be a willingness to listen to the "small, still voice", but there also has to be the spiritual acuity to do so, beyond very obvious large "corrections", that is. Also, the Bible is the touchstone we must use to discern between mere emotional reaction and the true guidance of the Spirit.

The problem with many groups today is that they enshrine emotionalism in place of the Spirit and call it the Spirit. Our emotions are meant to support our spirits, not to lead them (see the link: "Emotions"). So, again, the more we know and believe about the truths contained in the Bible, the more clearly we will be able to differentiate between false signals and the Spirit's true prodding. And as I sometimes say, the two extremes to avoid in this process are the hyper-rational and the hyper-emotional. If we down-play the reality of the guidance of the Spirit within us we are missing a good deal and we may easily fall into false rationalization when charting our course (especially in justifying things we want to do); on the other hand if we are so intent on hearing something that we begin, out of emotional excess, to hear things that aren't there (especially things we want to hear), we are equally likely to be led down a false path. As is generally the case, the "sweet-spot" for the best possible Christian walk is in the middle between the two extremes. To be successful, this process takes spiritual growth and it takes practice in implementing that truth to our lives. We can always improve in our response to the Spirit, and the more we believe that is true from the Bible, the better we are bound to get at applying it with the Spirit's help (please see the link: Peter #16: "The Leadership of the Holy Spirit").

Finally, please also see FAQ #8 for a suggested approach in tackling these materials.

Thanks again, my friend. Please do feel free to write back any time.

Your fellow Christian warrior in the cause of our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  


I have been struggling with the following problem for more than 20 years. Accepted Jesus as my Saviour more than 20yrs ago. Lived very close to God. Experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit. After few years, fell back into a horrible sinful life. Since then trying to return to God, but God seems to have shut me out for ever. Trying to live a Christian life, read Bible, pray, go to church, flee from sin, but everything seems to be so empty, feels like a hypocrite. Been searching for God with all my heart, no answer. Nothing changed. Know there is something missing. Afraid that Holy spirit has left me. My heart has hardened so much. I feel spiritually dead ! Gods voice is silent in my life.

Now, is it possible for a born-again believer to fall willfully into a sinful lifestyle up to the point where God will withdraw His Holy Spirit from that person so that it becomes impossible for that person to return to God , doesn’t matter how much he long to return to God?

Now I am in a place where I find it completely impossible to return to God. I have stopped praying all together, because I find it impossible to pray. It even irritates me when someone talks about spiritual things. I am really scared. I think God had enough of me.

Response #2: 

Dear Friend,

First let me apologize for the delay in response. Your email was sequestered in my online account and was not forwarded immediately. After I did find it, I had already come down with a rather bad chest-cold and have been behind in my responses ever since.

I would like you to know that Jesus loves you. He died for all of yours sins – and mine too. The only thing that hampers our relationship with Him is us. All believers have the Holy Spirit (e.g., Rom.8:9), and if you have trusted in Jesus Christ for your salvation and still do believe in and still do trust in Him, then you are His and you do have the Holy Spirit.

I do understand what you are saying. I have received many such emails over the years and heard this complaint many times from many people in many places. But it is not a matter of how you feel. There are all manner of reasons why we might not feel good or might not feel close to God. Obviously, when we let ourselves down and go down the wrong road, it is part of the loving grace of God that He does not let us feel good about that forever, but eventually woos us back to Him with His strong hand of divine discipline (Heb.12:1ff.). But even if we never depart from the straight and narrow road we cannot expect the warm glow we may have had at our conversion to last forever. We cannot expect the honeymoon of our salvation experience to last forever. We have to realize that this is the devil's world and that as believers in Jesus Christ we are here as His representatives. As such, we are going to be attacked. As such, we are going to be tested. As such, the evil one is going to do whatever he can to get us off of the right road and, once off, to keep us from getting back our spiritual momentum. It seems to me that this is where you are: wanting to get back into the fight but being opposed in the process.

The good news is that the way of spiritual recovery, the way of regaining spiritual momentum, is the very same way, the very same road that all believers who wanted to follow the Lord and serve God with their lives have always had to tread: the road of growing spiritually through hearing, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God. Prayer, worship, fellowship, etc. are good and fine and necessary. But the foundation of the true Christian life that glorifies our Lord is the seeking out, learning, believing and applying of the truth of scripture. Since you are exploring that with your search for solutions, you are already in the process of making your way forward again.

As with many things in life, the burden that seems impossible to lift is often very much "lift-able" – after a person finally gets down to business and gives it a few serious tries. You can and, I have faith in the Lord, you will lift up that burden again and start following Jesus closely again. It does take effort, and it does take going the right way down the right road. That means not only turning away from sin (that points you in the right direction) but actually picking up your cross and following Jesus Christ – that takes commitment to the learning and believing and practicing of the truths He has given us in His holy Word.

And truth makes all the difference. It is the fuel that empowers our spiritual life and it is the capital, the fulcrum, of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who wants to experience the true power of the Spirit after the initial joy of salvation must do the same thing: learn the truth with the Spirit's aid, believe it and make one's own through the Spirit's ministry, and then, after some good momentum is built up in this process, there will be a positive emotional response to the good decisions one is making. But please do understand: genuinely positive emotion (as opposed to something merely worked up) follows the truth we have decided to believe. If we make our emotions our leader and seek to judge our spiritual progress or situation purely by how we feel, then we will quickly be led from the straight path. When Paul was stoned, when he was shipwrecked, when he was beaten, when he was persecuted and imprisoned and abused, if he had not had a wealth of truth in his heart so firmly believed that it transcended what he saw and heard and felt, how would he not have felt "bad"? But as an incomparably mature believer, he was able to "count it all joy", as James tells us to do, focus on his reward, and see our Lord Jesus through his tears.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV

It takes more than most if not all of us have to get to this point. But we can all and we should all get to the point where we are "going with what we know" by faith, and not "reeling with what we feel" because of a lack of spiritual maturity.

So I commend your process of searching for answers and hope that you will explore Ichthys more. There are many postings of various sizes which deal with all of these and related issues – and every wise Christian will be desirous of learning the truth of what the Bible says about everything. Here are a few good links to get you started.

No, You have not lost your salvation

Who controls our thoughts and emotions?

The Holy Spirit: Pneumatology Questions I

The Holy Spirit: Pneumatology Questions II

The Peter series: Coping with personal tribulation

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above. Good to make your acquaintance, and, again, my apologies for the delay.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

Thank you so much for your reply sir. I know you are a very busy man and I appreciate the time you took to write to me. Although I know the right thing to do, is go on my knees and repent of my sin , I don’t really feel remorse of my sin anymore (hardened heart). And the way I see it , it will be nothing more than hypocrisy if I do it, because I have done this so many times before and nothing has changed in my life. I feel as if it is just formality. This is my problem, even if I pray to God (which is very hard for me to do at this stage), I feel it is not going to change anything.

Please understand that I want to return to God more than anything, but I find it impossible. I hope this makes sense to you.

Now I am in a place where I find it completely impossible to return to God. I have stopped praying all together, because I find it impossible to pray. It even irritates me when someone talks about spiritual things. I am really scared. I think God had enough of me.

Response #3: 

Dear Friend,

When we confess our sins, 1st John 1:9 tells us quite straightforwardly that God forgives us. I do understand that there are certain sins that some believers have trouble "giving up". This is precisely what Paul addresses when he tells the Hebrews that they have "not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood" (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1). The point is, we have free will, so that no matter how difficult or challenging it may be to relinquish a particular sin or category of sin, it can be done with God's help. But we have to take responsibility for our own actions and realize that while we are challenged in doing so, yet we can do so, if we are truly willing to do so. God has put His Holy Spirit within us, and if we will only cede our will to Him instead of to our flesh, it is possible to gain victory.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 NIV

A couple of important points on this:

1) Gaining victory does not mean becoming superior to all sin forevermore. No Christian ever attains "sinless perfection" in this life (e.g., 1Jn.1:5-10). If we are walking with Jesus and if we are fighting the fight the way we should, we will get better; we will sin less often and less dramatically. But no one should think that as long as we inhabit these bodies infested with the old sin nature that we will ever be able to be perfect. That is the standard to which we are held, yes, and that is one of the goals we are pursuing, but if we get the wrong idea here it is going to be spiritually devastating one way or the other, either frustrating us because we can't be perfect or forcing us into a self-righteous redefinition of sin for our own benefit to relieve the pressure of this uncomfortable truth.

2) To win this fight, we have to get serious about it. And, quite frankly, if we are continuing to fail, it is precisely because we have not gotten serious enough about fighting it. We have to recognize that we are responsible for what we do and that we have control over what we do. If we are willing to fight, willing to abstain from whatever it is we should stop or engage in whatever it is we should start, then the Spirit will give us the help we need to get over the top. But the Spirit does not abrogate our free will. And no amount of emotional self-loathing after the fact will change anything.

3) It is also important not to look back. If we define our Christianity only by where we have been and not by where we are going we are making a big mistake, possibly the biggest mistake a Christian can make. If Paul had looked back in this way, he would have been paralyzed with self-loathing for what he had done to so many Christians before he turned to the Lord. But God deals with us where we are now, not where we were yesterday. That is true if we were good yesterday but bad today and also (and in this case especially) if we were bad yesterday but have finally decided to take responsibility and begin moving forward spiritually with Jesus for the sake of His Name today. The first rule of being in a deep hole is to stop digging it deeper. If we do decide to move forward, the Lord will help us every step of the way.

4) How we feel is not an issue. We may feel great but be about to experience God's discipline; we may feel rotten but be doing what the Lord wants us to do. A big part of the Christian life and an absolute necessity for spiritual growth is the acceptance of the fact that the truth is the truth regardless of how we may feel about it. If we really are praying, reading our Bibles, accessing good Bible teaching, believing the truth of what we learn, putting into practice in our lives, and making the most of the ministry opportunities we are given to help others do likewise then that is objectively "good" even if we feel lousy; on the other hand if we are on an emotional high through some pseudo-spiritual activity or another, though we feel "great", God's opinion of us may be entirely different.

5) If we are going to make it anywhere in the Christian life, we cannot afford to allow a failure here or there or some chronic problem we have long been battling put us entirely out of action. That is just what the devil wants to do with all Christians who ever begin making a difference for Christ. We have to have short memories for our personal failures and long ones for the gracious deliverances the Lord has bestowed on us.

In short, I would encourage you to get up off the canvass and start punching again for Jesus Christ. If you have failed, you have plenty of company as we all fail from time to time. If you have failed spectacularly, well, I know of few Christians who do not have similar tales to tell (even the great believers of the Bible). What you should not do, what you absolutely cannot allow yourself to do is to get so hung up on past failure as it relates to your present problem that you allow yourself to be taken out of the game: just as it is true that just becomes a person did not fail in the past that does not mean that they will not fail in the future, so also the fact of prior failure does not doom us to future defeat – unless we foolishly let it do so. What we all need at such times is to do what scripture tells us to do: confess and start moving spiritually forward once again. If you do, you will find, eventually if not immediately, that your emotions will come along for the ride too, and you will begin feeling better about the life Jesus has given you to live and the fight He has given you to fight.

So do not despair. Jesus loves you. He is trying to help you. Stop looking back. Be willing to be helped. Take charge of yourself, look forward, get up and get moving again in the race to the finish. In doing this, in hearing, believing, living, and ministering the Word of God, there is the greatest reward laid up for you in the future, and a confident, powerful walk with the Lord, peace in the midst of the storm, while in this troubled world.

In Jesus who is our hope and our salvation, the One who died to wash away all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Hi Dr Robert Luginbill!

I have been reading your Genesis series through to judgments and eternity. I appreciate your great detailed and well versed exegesis of these series but I have got to be cleared on these two questions if possible.

(1) By Jesus, the Holly Spirit is said to be the guide and teacher of the truth to the believers or followers of Christ, Paul has talked about him as being a restraining power over the lawless one until his appointed time, (removal of the Holly spirit to give a leeway to the Ant-Christ for his misbehavior); if the church (believers in Christ) will go through to the seven years of tribulation (according to your explanation) where we see the restraint power removed, what will come of these believers after a separation with the Holly Spirit who dwells in them for their nourishment?

(2) During Christ's millennial reign on earth, is he really going to actively live on this evil world in his glorious body, and (the resurrected interacting with the still mortal, from your series)?

Response #4: 

Hello Friend,

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your questions:

1) The special restraining ministry of the Holy Spirit which prevents the devil from working his will on earth to such a degree that he can install his son as its head is what comes to an end when the Tribulation begins. The Spirit is God and is omnipresent in the world. He has many ministries (as will be apparent in the forthcoming part 5 of Bible Basics: Pneumatology). The only ministry to which 2nd Thessalonians chapter two refers as terminating in the Tribulation is the ministry of restraint of lawlessness and the coming of the lawless one into power (otherwise antichrist would not be able to conquer the world). Throughout the Tribulation, the Spirit will still be evangelizing, teaching, guiding, comforting, and, yes, indwelling believers.

2) Absolutely yes. Jesus was perfect during the first advent too, and the fact of His perfection in every way did not prevent the Father from sending Him nor Him from coming. Indeed, it was only because He was perfect in His humanity that He was qualified to bear our sins on the cross. So the precedent of the first advent shows that a fortiori there would be no problem with His residence on earth at the second as the reigning Messiah now that He is resurrected into His eternal and immutable human form as the perfect God-man – just as all the Messianic passages of scripture assure us He will do (on this, please see the link: "The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ").

Please do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:    

Dear Brother Bob,

I pray you are well this beautiful day. While waiting for the email update this evening, I was browsing through previous emails. I've always been taught the pre-trib rapture doctrine, but I realized some time ago it didn't fit the Scripture. I thank you for reinforcing that belief and showing us the reasons for it. My question came up while I was reading the previous email titled "No Rapture." You briefly discussed the restraint of the Holy Spirit. Does the Helper retreat from the earth during the Tribulation? I understand He is holding back the tide of evil that is coming, and preventing the evil one from fulfilling his plans, and when the time comes, He will remove that restraining force to allow the prophecies to be fulfilled.

Some people have told me the Holy Spirit withdraws completely from the world during the tribulation. That is how they justify their belief in a rapture. It seems a very cold and selfish thing for other Christians to teach. This doesn't make sense to me for a couple of reasons. First, Jesus promises He will never leave us or forsake us. He will send a Helper and Comforter. Second, how can people come to Christ without the Holy Spirit's prodding? Certainly, if we live through the tribulation, we will need all the help and comfort we can get. And we will need the Spirit to inspire us when we speak to others of the wondrous plan God has for us.

I don't believe He retreats from the world. I believe He will be with every martyr, every convert, and every survivor. A world without God would be hell indeed. I appreciate if you can clear up my confusion on this issue.

I pray The Lord continues to bless you and keep you from all harm.

Response #5: 

Hello again, and thank you so much for your good words.

As to your question, you are entirely correct in your analysis of this issue. It is always very encouraging to me to see "Christian common sense" in action like this! A believer who has truly advanced in the Word and who is genuinely trying to get to everything the Spirit is revealing will often see right through trumped up falsehoods by means of the spiritual insight the Spirit provides – working, of course, with the truth already understood and believed in that Christian's heart. Of course the Spirit was in the world and absolutely essential to the walk of every believer before the first Pentecost of the Church – and He always will be. The "moving out of the way" is not a withdrawal from the world (the Spirit is God and is omnipresent) or a withdrawal from believers (we will always have the Spirit). Rather, the Spirit currently prevents the evil one from gaining complete control of the world. Such will not be the case during the Tribulation. For the first time, the devil will achieve absolute physical control in terms of the nations of the world, for they will all be ruled by his son, antichrist. This could never happen except that God will allow the worst time of human history (worst in no small measure because it will be the time of greatest satanic control) to precede and thus be set in direct contrast to the best time of human history when Christ returns and assumes complete control of the earth during the Millennium.

As I say, you have stated these matters in precisely the correct way. I have the details written up at the following links if interested:

The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit (in SR 2)

The Restraining Ministry of the Holy Spirit (in CT 2B)

2nd Thessalonians 2:7

The Restrainer is the Holy Spirit (more on the meaning of katecho)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for whose return we earnestly wait.

And thank you so much for your prayers!

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Why do some if not most leaders claim that no one was every filled with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? The Spirit Of the Lord is what we see today as the Holy Spirit . That word "upon' I need help on as well.

Ex 28:3 And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.

Ex 31:3 And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,

I was wondering why so many leaders can't agree on something like this here. They say when there is a lower case s as in spirit is not the Holy Spirit or not the Spirit of the Lord as the Holy Spirit. What's the different the way it is presented spirit of God, Lord of the Spirit, Holy Spirit.

Thank you

Response #6: 

Dear Friend,

First let me say that I certainly agree with your interpretation of these passages in that the Spirit is the One who is being discussed. The justification for seeing it the other way rides on the fact that in both of these particular passages there is no definite article with "Spirit", that is, no "the". However, that is not necessary for the word "spirit" to refer to the Holy Spirit, even in the New Testament:

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
John 20:22 NKJV

Although all the major versions print "the" with this verse, the Greek merely has "Holy Spirit" – so that one could translate "a holy spirit". The latter would be wrong, in my view, but the point is that the situations are parallel between what our Lord did for the disciples in the days before the outpouring of the Spirit at the first Pentecost of the Church Age and what we see Him doing for those who were empowered to make the trappings for the first tabernacle. In both cases we have a divine empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Incidentally, one of the reasons for the potential confusion is that ruach in the Old Testament and also pneuma in the New Testament are the words employed both for the human spirit and also for the Holy Spirit (along with some other uses such as "wind" in both cases, which is the essential meaning of both the Hebrew and Greek words).

The other question, the question of the precise theological terminology, or, better put I suppose, what these situations mean and how they are similar to or different from other manifestations of the Spirit described in scripture, is a bit more complex. There is a difference between these sorts of specialized, and one might say "automatic" divine empowerments on the one hand, and between the present day indwelling of the Spirit on the other. The confusion which exists on these points is somewhat understandable inasmuch as these different ministries are somewhat difficult to distinguish in a casual reading-through of the Bible – since, after all, they all have to do with the Spirit working with the believer in one way or another.

Specialized empowerments wherein the Spirit "takes over" to one degree or another are somewhat rare in scripture and always serve some specialized purpose, such as the empowering of these artisans in Exodus for the purpose of constructing the tabernacle and its regalia, or the empowering of the Jewish elders to help Moses (Num.11:17; cf. also Num.27:18), or the empowering of king Saul for the initial establishment of the Jewish kingdom (1Sam.10:6), and it is into this category that the temporary empowerment of the disciples in John 20:22 belongs. Individuals who are used of the Spirit in this way are said to be "filled with the Spirit", indicating the Spirit's empowering and directing of said persons in their carrying out of the specific and needful tasks God has assigned them (e.g., Deut.34:9, as well as your passages here). Significantly, those who are called by the Lord to prophesy are also said to be "filled" in this way (Mic.3:8; Lk.1:47; 1:67), and that is certainly understandable inasmuch as we know from Peter that "prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2Pet.1:21 NIV). John was "filled" in this way since birth (Lk.1:15), and that particular instance shows clearly the WILL of the Spirit as the key factor (since of course as an infant John would have no way of responding to Lord as yet). This is the key in "filling". As the example of Saul makes clear, even though the Spirit took control to a great degree, nevertheless Saul's free will was not removed, and in the end he asserted that will for evil rather than for good with the result that "the Spirit of the Lord" departed from Saul (1Sam.16:14).

The main difference between the pre-Pentecost Old Testament and post-Pentecost New Testament regimes is that in Old Testament times only certain individuals were selected for such empowerment which would result in such "filling". The word "filling" and the phrase "full of the Spirit" both clearly indicate the influence which the Spirit is wielding over the individual at a given time. So if someone is described as "full of the Spirit" generally, it indicates that Spirit is using that person mightily at the time mentioned. This often happens at specific times for short, important intervals when a person is described as "full of / filled with the Spirit" and then does some powerful deed for the Lord. What we find in common in both pre- and post-Pentecost times is that the Spirit always works with believers to empower them, and not only in these specialized cases. The differences are in the degree of that support and the degree to which the Spirit is in control rather than the individual. Clearly, as we know from Galatians chapter 5 and 1st Corinthians chapter 12, none of us can do anything in God's WILL without the Spirit. But if we are operating entirely with our will responding to God's WILL, even though we are being empowered by the Spirit, that is something different from the Spirit taking over our will to some degree as happened in these mainly Old Testament and early Church examples.

One might be tempted to think on the basis of the above, therefore, that the Old Testament regime was superior, but that is not at all the case. The Spirit was "with" Old Testament believers; the Spirit is actual "in" all who belong to Jesus Christ today (Jn.14:17; Rom.8:9). We today have the Spirit residing in our bodies, the "indwelling" of the Spirit, as it is usually termed. That is a tremendous advantage because it means that the distance between our desire to be empowered and the Spirit's empowerment has been significantly reduced and made universally available at all believers at all times (conditional upon our response only). He is actually in us, guiding us and empowering every correct thought, word and deed in a way in which the average Old Testament believer never experienced. So now we are all like David in this regard (1Sam.16:13) – or at least potentially so (we still have to respond to His ministry and guidance in the proper way), and that will never change as it did with Saul, as long as we remain "in Christ".

The difference between the Spirit's influence on believers which came from His being with believers (then) and in us of the Church Age (now) depends upon our level of response, not just in any given instance, but also in the aggregate. Just as Saul did not lose the Spirit instantaneously but pulled away from His influence over time, so in a reverse way we today may become more responsive to the Spirit and gain greater access to His empowerment by our growth and progress in believing God's truth. Truth is the key for us today, because truth is the Spirit's fulcrum, so to speak, whereby He exercises His leverage on us, speaking to our consciences, and empowering all the positive responses we may have to Him and to our Lord Jesus. Unlike the cases of specific empowerment for specific purposes in the Old Testament, the Spirit does not override our will now in any way; what He does do is to empower us and guide us when we are willing to respond to His leadership, first in seeking and accepting His truth, then in applying it, and finally in ministering it.

Being "filled" with the Spirit, therefore, is somewhat different from being indwelt by Him or being generally empowered by Him. "Filling" refers to specialized cases, even when these occur in scripture after Pentecost, as, for example, when Paul is told by Ananias that he will be "filled with the Spirit" (Acts 9:17): the miraculous prophesying and speaking in tongues that occurred in those early days is an example of such filling which does not take place today; and even then it was generally a salvation experience, not one which continued for years, for example.

The only apparent exception to this rule is in truth only apparent, namely, Paul's command to the Ephesians at Ephesians 5:18. In that verse, Paul actually says "be filled to the full" or "be fulfilled"; the language is similar to but significantly different from the other scriptures where believers are said to be "filled with the Spirit". Here, we are commanded to respond; elsewhere, the Spirit is said to be filling the believers under His own initiative. The difference, though subtle, defines the regime of spirituality for believers since that apostolic age. We have the opportunity to be influenced, guided and empowered by the Spirit as never before, since He is now actually in us and available for these wonderful ministries without limitation. What we must do, however, is to accept that ministry, to respond to Him, and the only way to do that is through believing and living the Word of God.

There is much more to say about this subject, but the above may suffice for now. Feel free to write back about any of the above, and here are some links which (until BB 5: Pneumatology becomes available) will provide more details:

Peter Lesson #7: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

Peter Lesson #16: Leadership of the Holy Spirit

Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit

The Filling of the Spirit

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Is it biblical to pray for a Christian to be filled with the Holy Spirit after that Christian has already been baptized spiritually? I have always associated gifts and graces with the Holy Spirit, and that includes also graces that I would like fellow Christians to benefit from. At the same time, as Christians we have the Holy Spirit 'indwelling' in us and hence the question - is such a prayer: for one to be filled with the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit, to be given graces through the Spirit, biblical when said for a fellow Christian?

Response #7: 

All genuine Christians have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and there is no point in praying for that. Scripture describes Old Testament believers receiving a special unction of the Spirit through God's direct intervention as in the case of Saul or any of the prophets or when our Lord breathed the Spirit on the disciples before the day of Pentecost; that is a miracle which is to some degree not necessary in this age: we believers all have the Spirit; we only need to learn how to maximize His power and influence in our lives by giving our will over to Him (Gal.5:17 – NOT correct in 2011 NIV). That is something that happens both in terms of our spiritual progression (i.e., the more we learn and believe of the truth the more this will be the case generally) and also in terms of our moment by moment experience (i.e., we need to learn to how to lean on Him and not ourselves – and this is absolutely not independent of our spiritual progress overall). It may be that, as with other overtly miraculous "sign" gifts and other miracles, God will be doing more of this as we approach the end, but as things stand now, the filling or fullness that appertains to us is the growing influence of the Spirit in our lives as we grow closer to the Lord day by day, and the better moment by moment application of the truth we have believed so as to be more often under the Spirit's control. This is a subject which will be covered in greater detail in part 5 of Bible Basics (but I confess to being woefully behind on it at present).

Question #8: 

John 14:16-17: I will ask the Father, and He will give you another comforter to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, for it neither sees Him, nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He abides with you, and will be in you.

I) Since the Spirit was given to the apostles after our Lord has already ascended to heaven and was with the Father, why did He have to ask for it to happen?

II) Could you please explain - how is it possible that on one hand the 'Comforter' will be given, on the other hand it had already 'abided' in the apostles?

Response #8: 

John 20:22 is a special divine empowerment of the Spirit (in the same way that Saul, for example, was empowered: 1Sam.10:6; cf. Deut.34:9; Num.11:17; 27:18), and not the indwelling of the Spirit – a gift which could only follow Christ's glorification (and that official recognition of His victory happened after His ascension to heaven). It is this distinction, that is, "He is with you but will be in you", that explains the difference. Our potential for the Spirit's filling is unlimited since we have Him within us. Fulfilling that potential depends upon our giving over of our will to Him in responding to His "still, small voice" both step by step and also in terms of the trends of our behavior: the latter will included all aspects of spiritual growth, the former the actual application of truth in response to the Spirit's prompting.

Question #9:  

You wrote: There is only "one [true] baptism" - the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:5), the gift of the Spirit that all receive upon belief in Christ independent of any ritual (cf. Acts 10:44-47 where the water follows the more important reality).

Why does Peter perform the ritual and does so having been given the Holy Spirit at Pentecost? Does it mean that even though true baptism is true regardless of the ritual, it is acceptable to commemorate it with ritual?

Response #9: 

Having the Spirit does not guarantee we have learned the truth that the Spirit is yearning to teach us. Peter certainly had not completely done so at this early point. Indeed, we know from Galatians that even much later he was still having issues with the new reality of the superseding of the Jewish Age by the Church Age (Gal.2:11-14). I have posited elsewhere that the continuation of "John's baptism" (which is what all such water-baptism is) was logical during the transitional period for Jews who associated John's ministry with the Messiah – and it is probably for this reason that God does cause this short continuation of the ritual to be prevented. What God does do is to make it clear through the miraculous provision of the Spirit to the gentiles that such rituals are unnecessary (Acts 10). Getting to the point of stopping the practice entirely took a little longer (1Cor.1:14ff.). The ritual ceased to have any true utility once the generation of Jews who had had personal experience of John was gone on the one hand, and once the vast majority of those flooding into the Church were gentiles who had no prior knowledge of these matters on the other. Just as the Roman priesthood is a deliberate replacement of the Jewish priesthood, so it is with water-baptism and John's baptism: both are unauthorized and each does its own particular damage to true Christian faith and practice.

Question #10:  

John 7:38 (NASB): He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’"

What scripture is Jesus quoting here?

Response #10: 

This is not a quotation. There is a problem here with the English translations, specifically, with the punctuation. The verse should read:

"Whoever believes-in-me-as-Scripture-has-said [should be done], rivers of living water will flow from within them."
John 7:38 NIV

What the scriptures witness to is the need for believing in Christ (and that theme is ubiquitous in the Old Testament); all who do will, as Jesus prophesies, soon be given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Question #11:  

Acts 20:23 (NASB): except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.

In what way did the Holy Spirit testify to Paul?

Response #11: 

This seems to have been the Spirit speaking directly to him in a verbal and audible way, something which was unique to the prophets and apostles, generally speaking (cf. Acts 21:11 where we have the precise text of what the Spirit says, and also Acts 10:19 where the Spirit speaks directly to Peter). Today, the Spirit speaks to our consciences and our hearts in a non-verbal and inaudible way through the verbal, audible words of the scriptures and the truths they contain.

Question #12:  

1 Corinthians 12:13 (NASB): For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

What does Paul mean by 'we were all made to drink of one Spirit'?

Response #12: 

Paul is comparing the baptism of the Spirit to drinking. It is an apt comparison because the Spirit is "in us" as a result of this supernatural baptism when we believe in Jesus Christ. It is also evocative of the "drinking in" of the water of the Word of truth (see the link), a very common comparison, which can only really be drunk through the Spirit's ministry, and we see these two essential partners, the Spirit and the Word, conjoined closely in many places in scripture (e.g., Jn.3:5; 4:14; 7:37-38; 1Jn.5:6-8; Rev.21:6; 22:17).

Question #13:   

Acts 1:2-3 (NIV1984): until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

If my understanding is correct, our Lord was taken up to heaven after he appeared for a period of forty days?

Response #13: 

Yes, that is correct – which means that there was a period of approximately one week between our Lord's ascension and the day of Pentecost (i.e., the "fiftieth day" after Passover) wherein the Spirit was given.

Question #14:   

Acts 1:4-5 (NIV1984): On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Baptism of the Spirit takes place at the point of belief, but apostles were baptized only after our Lord's departure? I take it then that from Pentecost onwards believers receive the Holy Spirit - how about those before?

Response #14: 

The gift of the Spirit to those who were genuine believers before the first Pentecost of the Church but who were not present in Jerusalem at that time apparently had to be mediated by the apostles through the laying on of their hands (as happens with the Samaritans when they believe in Acts 8). The one recorded case we have of this in Acts 19 where Paul meets some "disciples" who have not received the Spirit; Paul mediates their reception of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of his hands (this is the "baptism" in that context; there is no water in that context, though that is often assumed).

Question #15:    

I should have been more specific here - I wanted to know what was the situation of Old Testament believers in regard to the Spirit. You explained what it means to be "filled with the Spirit" and that it was a domain of chosen few in the Old Testament, but what about "regular" believers?

Response #15: 

Jesus explains it this way:

"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
John 14:16-17 NKJV

In the time before the first Pentecost of the Church, the Holy Spirit empowered believers and occasionally rested upon special believers as in the cases of Moses, David, Elijah and Elisha. In our time, all believers have the Spirit actually indwelling them. To use a crude analogy, there is a difference between an ox-cart occasionally hooked up to a tow-truck with 600 HP on the one hand, and a sports car with a 600 HP engine already in it. Of course, if the sports car sits in the garage and its engine is never turned over, even an ox cart will go farther – especially if from time to time it takes advantage of the tow. In practical terms, we are very blessed to have the Spirit. Just by virtue of being believers in the Church, we are "better off" in every spiritual aspect of the walk with Jesus to which we have been called. It is easier for us to learn the truth, we are more quickly encouraged, we can accomplish more with less, etc., etc. The "rub" is that in order for us to get any benefit out of the Spirit's ministry we have to be in fellowship with the Lord, growing and progressing with Him. Old Testament believers who were "positive" in this way were likewise helped immensely by the Spirit, so that telling the difference can perhaps be difficult. But I think the obvious comparison between the record of Israel and the record of the Church shows that anyone from that previous age would gladly have had the Spirit and that all would have accomplished more than they actually did because of the nearness of the One who provides all of the empowerment in the plan of God. The notable accomplishments of great believers like David who did more than we do with less merely serves to show how truly great they were – and how far short we fall from exploiting the marvelous and truly unlimited power we have as those who actually possess the Holy Spirit of the Lord Jesus right inside of us at all times.

Question #16: 

John 16:7 (NIV 1984): But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

Could you please explain why did our Lord have to go in order for the Spirit to be given?

Response #16: 

The Church Age is the province of the Spirit's ministry and Christ is not manifestly present during this two millennial time frame. The Church Age is an interpolation into the prophetic tapestry of the Plan of God, explaining why there is no unfulfilled prophecy for this Age as all that is left concerns the Day of the Lord and what follows (i.e., the fall cycle of festivals ought to follow the spring cycle immediately if that were not the case; see the link: "The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar"). So since the Church Age could not begin until Christ ascended and was glorified, the Spirit could not be given until these events took place.

Question #17:  

Regarding John 16:7: Could you please explain why did our Lord have to go in order for the Spirit to be given? Could you explain what you mean by: The Church Age is an interpolation into the prophetic tapestry of the Plan of God, explaining why there is no unfulfilled prophecy for this Age as all that is left concerns the Day of the Lord and what follows (i.e., the fall cycle of festivals ought to follow the spring cycle immediately if that were not the case; see the link: "The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar")

Response #17: 

No one knew in ancient Israel that there would be a massive calling out of the gentiles to fill up the Messiah's assembly or "Church". Everyone, including the disciples, thought that the Kingdom was going to commence immediately at His first arrival. That is why the Church is often described as a "mystery". Looking at eschatology entirely from the perspective of the Old Testament prophets, the end times would begin when the Messiah arrived and He then rained down judgment upon the gentile hoards encircling and oppressing Israel; after which the Millennium would commence. This is all true, but it leaves out the suffering of the Messiah and also makes many of the prophecies which explain the details of the Tribulation difficult to reconcile with our Lord's first advent – and they would have been truly irreconcilable in the end if there were only one advent and no Church Age set between the two advents. That is why even "the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace [that would come] to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow" (1Pet.1:10-11 NKJV). The prophecies seem to conflate suffering with conquest, but the Church Age and the doctrine of the two advents resolve all of these questions. Because the Church Age was not revealed to the prophets of the Old Testament, by definition there is no prophecy about it in Old Testament prophecy.

Question #18: 

What is the true meaning of blasphemy and why is it such a hard term to define? Especially since it's connected to the one unforgivable sin. Almost as if they don't want us to know what it is?

Response #18: 

Blasphemy is the English transliteration of a Greek term, but it has picked up its own connotations in English. That is to say, in Greek "blasphemy" means merely "to speak ill of" rather than being something highly technical or specifically religious or "magical". The reason why speaking ill of the Spirit cannot be forgiven is because it is the Spirit who makes the gospel clear so that it may be believed. But if a person turns away the words of the Spirit and rejects the gospel which the Spirit has made clear as being the truth, then such a person cannot be forgiven: the one sin for which Christ could not die was the sin of rejecting Him and His work on the cross through faith since faith in Him and His work is the only way in which sin is forgiven. Please see the link: "The unpardonable sin".

Question #19:  

Romans 12: 6-13 Paul talks about gifts. I remember that we'll eventually find out God's plan for us in time, and does the same apply to this? How can we tell what gifts we have, and/or if we should utilize them?

Response #19: 

The Bible gives us quite a bit of information about spiritual gifts (the main passages are Rom.12; 1Cor.12-14; and Eph.4). But the only way to really "know" what one's own gift(s) is/are is through the process of spiritual growth and the guidance of the Spirit. In other words, until a person gets to the point of being spiritually mature and therefore potentially useful to the Spirit for the edification of the Church, "knowing" is not that important anyway. As you grow, as you get more information and believe it and apply it, you will come to understand more about what the Lord has for you to do in this life, and that mission will be consonant with the gifts you have been given.

Question #20:  

Why didn't the holy spirit allow Paul to preach in Asia? Could this have anything to do with the widespread idol worship even till this day in that region?

Response #20: 

The book of Acts doesn't say, but in view this has more to do with the positive response the Spirit wished for Paul and co. to respond to and to serve in Greece rather than anything negative in Asia (Greece was awash in paganism too, after all; cf. Acts 17:22-31):

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
Acts 16:9 NIV


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