The first mention of the Holy Spirit in the Bible is in Gen. 1:1,2, which says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." The Old Testament, in speaking of the Holy Spirit, often uses "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of the Lord." In a few places, "Holy Spirit" is used. See Ps. 51:11, Isa. 63:10,11.
In the Old Testament, the singular term for God is "EL;" the plural form is "ELOHIM." The Hebrew for "God" in Gen. 1:1 is plural. In Gen. 1:26 God says, "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." Gen. 3:22 says, "The Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil.'" In all these texts it is not revealed to whom God was speaking. It may be learned from the New Testament that this was a conversation among God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In Gen. 6:3 "The Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh." The Chinese text says, "My Spirit shall not dwell in man forever, for he is indeed flesh." Exod 31:1-4 says, "The Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to design artistic works, to work in gold, in silver, in bronze." Prov. 1:23 says, "Turn at My reproof; surely I will pour out My Spirit on you; I will make My words known to you." So the Holy Spirit can dwell in people, struggle with them, and be poured on them, and fill them with wisdom and understanding.
1) I hear that the Jewish people cannot accept the New Testament teaching of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Does that mean that the Old Testament teaching on this point is not clear enough?
Answer: The many plural forms of "God" and the texts in Isa. 7:14 and 9:6, and many Old Testament texts on the work of the Holy Spirit are self-evident truths. However, the Jews insist on the text in Deut. 6:4, which says,"The Lord our God, the Lord is one." They reject the truth in Matt. 28:19 on "the Father, Son and Holy Spirit," which is an advanced clarification of truth. For the revelation of truth is progressive. Prov. 4:18 says, "The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." Old Testament truth is like the dawn of day; The New Testament is the noontide sun. The Old Testament can be compared to a flower bud, and the New Testament to the flower in full bloom.
The Bible records that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Of His baptism we read,"Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. . . Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Later He said to the Jews, "If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you."Matt. 3:16; 4:1; 12:28. These are added revelations in the New Testament.
2) Jesus taught us to call God our heavenly Father. Where are the Bible texts that reveal that Christ is God, the Holy Spirit is also God and one with the Father?
Answer: Gen. 2:4 calls God"Jehovah."Rev. 4:8 calls Him"Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come. " In Exod. 3:14 God says, "I AM WHO I AM." In John 8:24,28,58 Christ stated, "I AM" three times. By omitting the "He" in verses 24 and 28, which was supplied by the translators, we read in v. 24,"If you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins." And in v. 28 He said, "When you lift up the Son of man, then you will know that I AM."
In Heb. 1:8 we read, "But to the Son He says: 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.' Acts 5:3,4 speaks of the Holy Spirit as God. Peter says, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? . . . You have not lied to men but to God.."
3) Where in the Bible is the Holy Spirit called "Spirit of truth?" Does the Holy Spirit have any other titles?
Answer: In John 14:16 Jesus said, "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even 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."The "Helper"of the NKJV is called "Comforter" in the KJV. The Greek Parakletos means "one called to one`s side,"to be a counselor or guardian. Jesus had always been a counselor and guardian to the disciples. After His departure, He will ask the Father for another counselor-guardian to be with them, to dwell in their hearts to comfort and guide them.
4) It is difficult to grasp the Bible definition of the Holy Spirit. He is a person that can be deceived, and then He is also fluid, so that He can fill people and be poured on people. Please explain.
Answer: In studying this topic, we need to be reverent, firmly believing the words of Scripture, and yet daring not to make hasty conclusions nor forcing our own ideas on to the Bible teaching. The following texts deal with the personality of the Holy Spirit. a) "The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." John 14:26. b) "When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me." John 15:26. c) "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged." John 16:7-11. The Holy Spirit convicts men (1) of sin, because they do not believe in Christ, who is the only one who can save men from sin; (2) of righteousness, because men are justified by faith, not by sight; (3) of judgment, because the Bible reveals the plan of salvation typified by the sacrificial services of the sanctuary, and believers see how the prince of this world with all his followers will eventually be judged and perish.
5) Since the Spirit of God has been active among men from the days of creation, how can Jesus say, "If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you?"
Answer: Jesus speaks here of the Helper taking over His work. When he was among them, the disciples did not feel the need of another helper. So Jesus said, "It is to your advantage that I go away." This was because the work of the Helper was of greater scope and duration. Jesus has assumed human nature and is limited physically. After He rose from the dead, He said to Mary, "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father." John 20:17. This proves that His resurrected body was still spatially limited, unlike the Holy Spirit, who can be omnipresent. Jesus said to the disciples, "I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you. . . He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. . . .If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." Jn14:18,21,23. Jesus coming to us, manifesting Himself to us and making His home with us, all these acts are done through the Holy Spirit.
6) Is it true that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit covers a special period when the gospel is preached to all the world?
Answer: Yes. In John 7:38 Jesus said, "'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' This He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." Before His ascension, Jesus told the disciples, "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you, but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8.
The fulfillment of these words are recorded in Acts 2:1-8: "Now when the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marvelled, saying to one another, 'Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?"
Moved by the Holy Spirit, the disciples preached to the people of salvation through Christ, and 3000 souls turned to Christ in one day. Acts 2:14 says that 12 disciples spoke on that day, while Acts 2:8-11 enumerates 16 foreign countries from which the Jews came. So we conclude that the disciples spoke in their native tongue, and the Holy Spirit interpreted their words into many languages. This miracle was the reverse of the one in Gen. 11:6-9, where God confused the language of the people. That first miracle caused people to scatter; this second one was to gather believers into the church.
7) The New Testament speaks of spiritual gifts. Will you please discuss their place in the work of the Church today?
Answer: 1 Cor. 12 to 14 deal with gifts of the Spirit. It is a revelation of the New Testament Scriptures. Yet like the work of the Holy Spirit, these gifts also existed in Old Testament times. The gift of prophecy appeared in olden days, and in the New Testament era it appears in the Church. 1 Cor. 12:27-30 says, "Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"
Some charismatics claim that tongues is evidence of being filled with the Spirit. They teach people to repeat a set phrase many times to force themselves to mutter strange sounds that pass for tongues. Such tongues edify no one, yet give one the illusion of being filled by the Spirit, thinking himself already perfect, so he feels no need to study the Bible.
8) Were there other apostles in the early church besides the 12 apostles? Were there any prophets?
Answer: Yes. Rom. 16:7 notes two apostles: "Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me." Acts 11:27,28 mentions prophets, saying, "In these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world." Acts 13:1 says, "In the church that was in Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, . . . . " Acts 21:9 says, "Now this man (Philip) had four virgin daughters who prophesied."
9) Did the medieval church have prophets? Does the church in our day have prophets?
Answer: The church in the Middle Ages had no prophets, because it had apostatized. 2 Thess. 2:3,4 says, "For that day [the second advent of Jesus] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." These words are based on the prophecy of Daniel 7:25, which foretold the rise of the Vatican in Rome and its hegemony over the western world during the Middle Ages. The verse reads:
"He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time." According to Bible reckoning, a "time" is 360 days, "a time and times and half a time" is 1260 days. According to the year-day principle of Num. 14:34 and Ezek. 4:6, this is equal to 1260 years, the duration of the Dark Ages when the pope of Rome reigned supreme over the churches of Europe, Asia and Africa, from AD 538 to 1798. In this period, no prophets appeared.
10) After the period of the Dark Ages, has the gift of prophecy appeared in the Church?
Answer: The Revelation prophesied that near the close of the great controversy, there will appear a distinctive body of believers "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." Rev. 12:17. A corresponding text in Rev. 19:10 says, "the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy." This means that in the last days, there will appear among believers a class who keep the commandments of God as distinguished from those who break them. And the gift of prophecy will appear among the commandment keepers. This is most significant at a time when false Christs and false prophets are rife. Eph. 4:12 says, the gifts of the Spirit are "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Otherwise the saints will not be equipped, nor will the body of Christ be edified.
In 1844, the Adventists in America began to keep the Sabbath, and God gave the gift of prophecy to a black Adventist Hazen Foss. After he rejected it, God said He would give the gift to "the weakest of the weak,"who turned out to be a 17-year-old invalid woman Ellen Harmon, who after her marriage became Ellen White. In her 70 years of service she saw about 2000 visions and wrote 45 books. Among them Desire of Ages, The Great Controversy, Christ`s Object Lessons have been translated into 60 languages, and portions of her writings have been translated into 148 languages.
The Bible calls the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit the "former rain," and the second one the "latter rain." Joel 2:23 says, "He will cause the rain to come down for you---the former rain, and the latter rain." The three-and-half years of dearth in Elijah`s day typified the 1260 years of spiritual famine in the Middle Ages. At the end of that period, the "sound of abundance of rain"(1 Kings 18:41) typified the spiritual revival brought by the Spirit of prophecy in the last days.
In her day people often asked Ellen White, "Are you a prophet?" She answered, "The Lord told me that I am His messenger." Some sought to inquire of the Lord through her. She was always careful of the response, and often said, "To your question I have received no instruction." If it was an ordinary question of right and wrong, she would answer according to the teaching of the Bible. She found it extremely difficult to convey messages of rebuke God had for various individuals. If she tried to soften the message, an angel would warn her of the grave consequences of altering God`s word. Before she died in 1915, she was asked if she would have a successor. She did not know, but said that after her death, her books would continue to speak. Now from her book Mount of Blessings, p. 17 we quote the following:
"The Father`s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Savior, who surrounds him with his presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord`s permission, and "all things" that are permitted "work together for good to them that love God." Rom. 8:28.