The Spirit and the Word
We saw in The New Covenant that God promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh and put His Word in people’s hearts. We also saw in that article and in New Covenant Commandments that while the complete fulfillment of that covenant would be when Christ returned, we have a foretaste of it now. This is the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit. To many, walking “by the Spirit” often means getting revelation, working miracles, or speaking in tongues. While there is power involved (God’s power), the supernatural manifestations are not the primary purpose for the Holy Spirit, and often overshadow what the purpose of the Comforter actually is.
The majority of Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is a person, specifically the Third Person of the Trinity. Others believe that The Holy Spirit is simply another name for God, who is the Giver of His Gift of holy spirit. But the Bible presents the Holy Spirit as the personal presence and power of God at work within people or in situations. For an in-depth study of what the Holy Spirit is and is not, see the Closer Look article, The Holy Spirit of God.
Throughout the Scriptures, God's spirit is closely associated with His Word and His words. When I speak words which reflect my mind and heart I am communicating my spirit. Likewise, God's Word communicates His Spirit.
II Samuel 23:
2 The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.
2 How hast thou helped him that is without power? how savest thou the arm that hath no strength?
3 How hast thou counselled him that hath no wisdom? and how hast thou plentifully declared the thing as it is?
4 To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?
23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I [wisdom] will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. [see NASB]
My spirit is communicated by words which are spoken, and speaking literally involves breath. In the same way, God's breath (the same word ruach that is translated "spirit") is associated with His Word. He created all things by His breath, or His Word, according to Psalm 33:6 - "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." The breath of God is one way the Scriptures refer to His power being exercised (Exodus 15:8; Job 4:9; 37:10). God breathed life into man (Genesis 2:7; Job 27:3; 33:4), and His Word (which is "God breathed" according to II Timothy 3:16) is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). God's breath or spirit communicates His Word and exercises His almighty power – the very power that created the heavens and the earth.
We saw in The Holy Spirit of God that there was clearly Holy Spirit before Pentecost, yet in John 7:38-39 Jesus said, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" This is because there is a distinction between the Spirit of God before Pentecost and what came after. Before Christ the spirit of God was God's presence and power at work in people and situations, but it was only on certain people at certain times. (Moses said, “…Would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” - Numbers 11:29). But since the day of Pentecost, the spirit of the risen Christ dwells in every believer, and it is by way of the spirit that Jesus comes to disciples and interacts with them. Jesus said that God would give them "another" comforter, namely the spirit of truth. It is "another" comforter because it would comfort them the way he had done when he was with them.
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.
20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in
me, and I in you.
Notice again the close association with the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus. "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (v. 23). Remember we saw in The New Birth that the Word of God, as communicated through the words of Jesus, was the key to eternal life, and was the seed which provides the new birth. Here we see that the spirit indwells a person when they have the words of Jesus abiding in their heart. The spirit, besides being called the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God, is also called the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; I Peter 1:11) and the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19). There is no difference since Jesus made God known and always did the Father's will. In fact II Corinthians 3:17 says that "the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."
Jesus Christ is called "the Word made flesh" in John 1:14. His very existence is due to the Holy Spirit begetting him in Mary's womb (Luke 1:35). This is why he is the ultimate communication of God and His Word. (For more on this idea, see the Closer Look article on Who is Messiah?) Because of this, the words that he spoke were God's words, spoken by the influence of God's Spirit (John 3:34). It was foretold by Moses that God would raise up a prophet and put His words in that prophet's mouth (Deuteronomy 18:18). Jesus said his words were not his own but His Father's (John 14:10,24). "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). This is why his words are the key to eternal life as we saw in the article on the New Birth.
The Spirit of God, as communicated by the Word of God is what makes Jesus who he is. When a person accepts him as their Lord, that Spirit of God in Christ dwells in them, and thus Colossians 1:27 refers to "Christ in you, the hope of glory." It is the hope of glory because the Word is the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God, when Jesus will rule the earth and be glorified, with believers ruling with him and sharing his glory.
It is by way of the Holy Spirit that God and His Son dwell in a person who believes the words Jesus spoke. This is how Jesus would be with them until the end of the age, as he promised in Matthew 28:20. While Jesus is physically in heaven, seated at the right hand of God, his spirit, which is also the Spirit of God, is within each believer, and thus the Church is the Body of Christ with Jesus himself as the head. In this way Jesus can strengthen and encourage each member in a way that he could not do when he was physically present on earth.
The words Jesus spoke are spirit and life (John 6:63). To abide in the spirit is to abide in his words, and thus to abide in him.
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. [see NASB]
Thus when we speak or act under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we are speaking and acting according to the very power that created the world, and that raised Jesus from the dead. This is why the fruit that we bear is called the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). It’s more than just the fruit of “operating the manifestations” as I was taught. This power indwelling the believer has the effect of regenerating the believer, by that same power.
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but
according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration [paliggenesia],
and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Putting it all together, we see that the washing of regeneration is accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of God in Christ in the believer who continues to abide in the words of Christ, the Word of God which has power – the same power that created the world and raised Jesus from the dead. It starts with the New Birth – the intelligent receiving of the Gospel of the Kingdom – and that growth and regeneration continues as long as the believer continues in Christ, and is completed at the return of Christ when the dead will be raised and the mortal will put on immortality.
When one is born again and has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him, he is a new creature and old things are passed away (II Corinthians 5:17). The Christian walk is not a matter of changing one's behavior from the outside, but living in light of what has changed on the inside. We will examine this in the next two articles.