Proof-Texts in Context, Part 2: The Holy Spirit

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Proof-Texts in Context, Part 2: The Holy Spirit

The second installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #5—God the Holy Spirit. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis for why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction of the first installment. In there, I did not explicitly indicate this, but I established a couple of patterns that I plan to carry across much of the rest of the series:

  1. With the understanding that the selection of verses I implement is only representative, for the sake of time and space, I will strive for a reasonably balanced spread throughout the Bible
  2. I will list them in canonical order

I know this is just part 2, but please allow me to run loose with the patterns. The main rationale is that the Gospel of John seems to be the most sensible starting point in this case, especially since chapters 14–16 might offer the most concentrated density of evidence pertaining to the Holy Spirit’s nature, personhood, and “job description.” Although, Acts is pretty close, as well as corroborative.

John 14:16–17—“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” Jesus followed up this passage with the words, “I will not leave you as orphans” (v. 18). Because He was about to serve in His new role as our great High Priest, which is contingent on His permanent humanness and relinquishment of omnipresence, the Holy Spirit would now be by the disciples’ sides (and ours).

Chapter 14 is primarily a dissemination of encouragement. Jesus pointed their attention to eternal anticipation, promising to prepare their residences in heaven (and the new earth). He also asserted His unity with the Father. He assured them that they would see Him again, though briefly, before the third Person of the Godhead increased the ubiquity of His presence as Christ’s constant representative.

John 16:7–8—“But 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 go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Chapter 16 is more mixed than chapter 14 is. There are positive themes, such as the Father’s faithfulness in answering the disciples’ prayers in Jesus’ name. However, there are warnings too.

Our Savior made it clear that they would face violent animosity, from religious folks to boot. This part of the discourse continues from chapter 15. He deemed this the proper time to reveal these imminent realities, as opposed to earlier in His ministry, as He was about to depart. He alluded to His death, but also His resurrection. In between, He supplied more details regarding what the Holy Spirit would accomplish for and in His people.

Acts 13:2—“While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” Though this study isn’t as much about unpacking the Holy Spirit’s being, I tend to think that Luke was purposeful here and elsewhere. Anyhow, getting back to the larger context, the third Person of the Godhead commissioned Paul (still called Saul for a little bit longer) and Barnabas for what we know to be the first missionary journey.

This chapter is fraught with opposition. A magician and false prophet attempted to thwart their message, but Paul, with divinely bestowed discernment, recognized his motives and summoned God’s discipline, demonstrated in the form of temporary blindness. Later, some Jews strove to disrupt Paul and Barnabas’ preaching to the Gentiles, but they affirmed the Lord’s intention to reach the world, thus infusing the congregation of “outsiders” with joy.

John 7:39—“But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” There is a general conclusion that Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension were the historical, global pivot point for the transition in the Holy Spirit’s labors. This verse, combined with 16:7, seems to constitute the backbone of this conclusion. Though it isn’t wise to build a sub-fundamental on two verses, this understanding is reasonable, bearing in mind the practical differences in how He manifested Himself in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Jesus spoke of the Spirit in relation to His provision of flowing rivers of living water to those who are thirsty. More broadly, the theme of His sermonette was His union with the Father and the legitimacy of His Messiahship. Conflict and division are becoming a secondary matter in this study, as John 7 mimics some of the other Scriptures that we’ve already examined.

Exodus 31:3—“I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship.” The Lord gave Bezalel, and also Oholiab and others, creative abilities that they used to make the various elements associated with the Mosaic tabernacle. Art isn’t on the lists of spiritual gifts as we know them, but even now, it’s a valid option, and back then, the sanctuary was a major trumpet that proclaimed the gospel throughout the earth.

Judges 3:10—“The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the Lord gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim.” God set up Othniel, Caleb’s nephew, as judge and deliverer of Israel. This was a merciful response to their upward pleas after He corrected them through servitude to the Mesopotamian king, a consequence of their dalliances in mixed marriages and subsequent idolatry. Othniel’s faithful dependence on the Spirit led to the nation’s freedom and peace.

Related Article: The Work of the Holy Spirit and a Search for Relevance

I alluded to apologetic preparedness in the preamble to this series. The necessity level is higher for this fundamental than it is for most of the others, considering the current “pot-stirring” in our church. Unfortunately, the odds of running into a precious soul from Pioneer Health and Missions or some similar faction may be climbing. To that end, increasing our comprehension of who the Holy Spirit is is perhaps more crucial than ever before.

Related Article: Ellen White and the Personhood of the Holy Spirit

As disconcerting as this pot-stirring can be, no matter what the topic is, I would encourage everyone to afford God the opportunity to provide a blessing in disguise. Though there are differences between this and something like Desmond Ford’s apostasy, and though I would never want to minimize the collateral damage thereof, we can be grateful that it instigated the world church to invest significant time, research, and prayer into deepening our entrenchment in our prophetic and sanctuary foundations. The DARCOM (Daniel and Revelation Study Committee) series quintessentially reflects this. An equivalent result may transpire when (or if) the dust settles on our increased attention on the Holy Spirit.

Part 3 will cover SDA Fundamental #7—The Nature of Humanity. Please “stay tuned” to its upcoming release.

Click here to read the rest of this series on the Fundamental Beliefs!

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About the author

John Simon

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.