What Scripture Says About Salvation
A Bible Study by Fred Kenison
Monograph 23: What the Spirit Does
There are many misconceptions about what the spirit does, and how the spirit acts upon us, if it does. Many ridiculous actions are credited to the holy spirit which many claim causes people to act in specific ways. Some people get very emotional in church services, claiming that the spirit causes them to act in strange ways. Is it the holy spirit that causes this, or is it their own emotions which are acting upon them? In this section we will examine the scriptures to see what the spirit does or causes men to do.
Matthew 4:1 says,
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil."
This is definitely an example of the spirit being the agency which moved Jesus to act. Led is a passive verb followed by of the spirit, upo tou pneumatos, or under the spirit. The spirit was acting upon Jesus and he was under its control.
Dana and Mantey (p. 112) said,
"Upo is most frequently used for expressing agency. In fact, agency is expressed with the aid of upo more frequently than it is by all the other methods combined."
This verse in Matthew is the first of only four scriptures in the New testament to describe the spirit acting as agency.
The next scripture to express agency in this manner is Luke 2:26.
"And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ."
As an aside, this verse is not clear as to whether it was the holy spirit, or holy spirit, which informed Simeon. In the previous verse (2:25) reference is to holy spirit. If this is simply a renewed mention in verse 2:26, as it appears to be, then the article would be referring the reader back to verse 2:25.
Another scripture which shows agency is Acts 13:2-4.
"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." Agency is also referred to in Acts 16:6-7: "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not."
In these four examples, the spirit placed someone under its control, upo tou pneumatos: Jesus, Simeon, and Paul and his companions. It was not a common thing for someone to be put under this kind of control, yet the charismatic churches claim that this is a very common phenomenon. Maybe so; but on the other hand, if those claiming to be activated by the spirit are wrong, then where does the power they feel come from?
Acts 8:14-24 relates how Simon the magician wished to have the power to lay hands on someone and give holy spirit to them. Peter rebuked him because he misunderstood that holy spirit was a gift of God. Yet many today still make the mistake of wanting holy spirit so they will have power to do the things they consider to be proof that they have "it."
Power of holy spirit is given for testimony of Jesus Christ, and if used for any other purpose it becomes perverted. Every person has received some of God's spirit, holy spirit, and having been immersed in it by Jesus Christ, it is to be used for his glory, and the glory of the Father.
Only the latter two scriptures, Acts 13:2-4 and 16:6-7 are of holy spirit coming after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first two scriptures, Matthew 4:1 and Luke 2:26, are still under the Old Testament economy. So, in reality, there are only two examples of holy spirit being given after Jesus had ascended.
There are another 12 scriptures which discuss what the spirit does. Three of these are of Old Testament usage as they refer to events which happened before the ascension of Jesus. Two predict when the holy spirit of truth will come, and the other ten refer to events after the ascension of Jesus.
All three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) give their version of Jesus being led into the wilderness. Matthew 4:1 was discussed earlier. Mark 1:12-13 says,
"And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan." Luke 4:1 says, "And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness."
In Mark, the spirit, to pneuma, drives Jesus into the wilderness. In Luke, Jesus was led into the wilderness.
All three versions are somewhat different because of their grammatical construction. In the first (Matthew 4:1), agency is expressed by the genitive upo tou pneumatos. In the second (Mark 1:12), to pneuma is the subject of the sentence and is definitely driving Jesus. In the third, (Luke 4:1), Jesus was led en toi pneumati, in the spirit, into the wilderness.
This third case contains the preposition en, which must always retain its sense of location. Therefore, Jesus was in the sphere of spirit being led. It was his own spirit which led him to be obedient and go into the wilderness. In Matthew 4:1, the emphasis was on the leading of the spirit; in Luke 4:1, the emphasis is on Jesus' obedient spirit. He knew the desire of the spirit (in Matthew), and his obedience was noted (in Luke).
Another scriptures which tells of the spirit moving upon someone is Matthew 10:20.
"For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you."
Keep in mind that this list of scriptures so far are cases where God had chosen someone to accomplish something for his glory. They are also still in the Old Testament economy, before the resurrection and glorification of Jesus.
The question that arises with this scripture is whether the spirit speaks "in" them, or "among" them. Will they speak individually by the spirit, or as a group?
In you comes from en humen, which is plural. When the Greek en is used with a plural, or group, it should be translated as "among." However, the subject, pneuma, is both neuter and singular, and the verb "speak" is also singular.
For an answer to this, we turn to Dana and Mantey (p. 165).
"When a collective subject is taken in mass, the verb is singular, but if the component parts are viewed individually the verb is plural."
Therefore, Jesus was telling them that the spirit would speak among them as a group.
The significance is this: holy spirit had not yet been given. This was The Holy Spirit of The Father. Jesus was speaking to the 12 disciples and told them The Spirit would speak among them. The Spirit is never put upon anyone, except perhaps Jesus.
Another activity of the spirit is described in John 6:63.
"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
This was said after Jesus had told his disciples they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life (John 6:53-58).
What exactly did this mean? Were they to actually eat his flesh and drink his blood, or was this just a manner of speaking in that day? Verse 6:63 explained it. They (the disciples) were to believe what Jesus said to them. When they believed, then the words which Jesus had spoken were "life" and "spirit" to them.
Jesus was telling them that when they believed what he told them (eat his flesh and drink his blood), they would have spirit and life, or eternal life, or abundant life, because it is the spirit which quickens. "Eating the flesh" and "drinking the blood" are figures of speech which mean believing what Jesus said, or taught.
This theme was expounded to a greater degree by John. In John 14:26 he said,
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." And in John 16:13 he said, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come."
When this happened, and they believed, they had eternal life. An earlier monograph showed that eternal life is a gift of God to all, but to experience eternal life we must believe the things of Jesus Christ.
These scriptures all occurred before the glorification of Jesus and the coming of holy spirit. Some of them contained the same usage of spirit as those in the Old Testament, while others looked forward to the time after the ascension. The disciples could look forward to the time after the coming of the spirit of the truth when they would recall and understand the things taught by Jesus.
Many today consider that these last two scriptures are also applicable to people today. However, they were spoken to the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus.
If his followers of today read his word and study it, perhaps the spirit of truth will also provide them with recall and understanding of what they have studied. Unfortunately, these scriptures do not actually indicate whether or not that is true today.
The next group of scriptures concern pneuma after the ascension of Jesus. The first is Acts 20:23:
"Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me."
The word witnesseth, diamarturetai, means this is done through the agency of men. In other words, people, guided by "the spirit the holy," were telling Paul about the tribulations that would await him.
In Romans 8:26-27, Paul gave an insight into how the spirit helps in the matter of prayer.
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God."
In verse 8:26, the word helpeth comes from sunantilambanetai, which according to Green (p. 152) means, "to help by coming into association with."
Thayer (p. 522), adds considerably more light:
"Rom. 8:26 means, as the whole context shows, nothing other than this: although we have no very definite conception of what we desire, and cannot state it in fit language in our prayer but only disclose it by inarticulate groanings, yet God receives these groanings as acceptable prayers inasmuch as they come from a soul full of the holy spirit."
In John 16:14, Jesus told his disciples,
"He [the Spirit of truth] shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you."
Paul said essentially the same thing in I Corinthians 2:9-11.
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."
The spirit gives men hope of things to come by showing the things which are Christ's. It also searches all things, or examines into all things.
Another activity of the spirit is found in I Corinthians 12:11.
"But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will."
The things the spirit works, or energizes, are those things listed in I Corinthians 12:4-10:
"Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues."
So far, there are three divisions: (l) gifts, (2) administrations or services, and (3) operations.
Gifts are something graciously given. In conjunction with this, in verse 12:4, Paul said the "same spirit." The "same spirit" as what? In verses 12:3, Paul said,
"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God (en pneumati theou) calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost (en pneumati agio)."
The same spirit Paul referred to is en pneumati without the article, in the dative. Remember, the dative adds something while the genitive subtracts. The "same spirit," then, is the one that God poured out upon all flesh, and that portion which every man was given. The gifts are contained in the different portions of spirit given to each person.
Verse 12:5 said that Lord and services are connected. Men are to serve Jesus, the Christ, and through him, serve God. Verse 12:6 said it is God who energizes, or operates, all things in all. God gives men spirit for the testimony or service of the Lord Jesus, and within this "spirit" He energizes or gives the power to operate whatever "spirit" or "gift" He bestowed when he poured out some of his spirit upon all flesh.
In verse 12:7, Paul said that each person was given the manifestation of the spirit for profit. We are to manifest whatever portion of spirit was bestowed upon us by grace, which simply means that we did not have any merit of our own. God bestows and God energizes.
Verse 12:8 listed the first group of manifestations which consisted of "a word of wisdom" and "a word of knowledge." In verse 12:9, Paul commented on a different group, another, signified by the word heteros, which means a completely different set of people. To these were given faith, gifts of healing, works of power, and prophecy, and discerning of spirits.
Then, Paul used heteros again, indicating a different group, to which was given different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues. The word heteros is used to denote separate groups or categories, while allos is used of another in the same group.
This brings us back to verse 12:11, which said it was the "same spirit" which energizes, or works, all these things and divides them to people as it wills. There were three groups mentioned in verses 12:4-6: gifts, services, and operations. There were also three groups listed in verses 12:8-10. These manifestations are often referred to as "the nine gifts of the spirit."
Paul apparently meant this to be only an exemplary list, not an exhaustive one, since he also referred to other manifestations in Romans 12:6-8 and Ephesians 4:7, as did Peter in I Peter 4:10-11.
Hebrews 2:4 says,
"God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?"
The word gifts, merismois, is the same word translated in Hebrews 4:12 as dividing asunder.
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Earlier, in I Corinthians 7:7, Paul said that he wished everyone,
"were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that."
Notice that these graces, or gifts, are ek, out of, God. They are freely bestowed, not earned or merited. I Peter 4:7-11 summarizes this quite well.
"But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
The gifts, or manifestations, are not separate from spirit, but are themselves contained in the portion of spirit God bestowed on every person when he poured out some of his spirit upon all flesh.
In the Old Testament, spirit was given only to those chosen by God for some special assignment, such as prophets, priests, kings. In the New Testament, spirit was given to everyone, indicating that God has now called, or chosen, everyone.
# Many ridiculous actions are credited to the holy spirit which many
claim causes people to act in specific ways.
# The scriptures indicate only four examples where the spirit placed
someone under its control: Jesus, Simeon, and Paul and his
companions. It was not a common thing for someone to be put under
this kind of control, yet the charismatic churches claim that this is a
very common phenomenon.
# Every person has received some of God's spirit, holy spirit, and having
been immersed in it by Jesus Christ, it is to be used for his glory, and
the glory of the Father.
# "Eating the flesh" and "drinking the blood" of Jesus are simply figures
of speech which mean believing the things that Jesus said, or taught.
# Eternal life is a gift of God to all, but to experience eternal life we must
believe the things of Jesus Christ.
# We are to serve Jesus, the Christ, and through him, serve God.
# It is God who energizes, or operates, all things in all. God gives us
spirit for the testimony or service of the Lord Jesus, and within this
"spirit" He energizes or gives the power to operate whatever "spirit" or
"gift" He bestowed when he poured out some of his spirit upon all
# We are to manifest whatever portion of spirit was bestowed upon us by
grace. God bestows and God energizes.
# The gifts, or manifestations, are not separate from spirit, but are
themselves contained in the portion of spirit God bestowed on every
person when he poured out some of his spirit upon all flesh.
# In the Old Testament, spirit was given only to those chosen by God for
some special assignment, such as prophets, priests, kings. In the New
Testament, spirit was given to everyone, indicating that God has now
called, or chosen, everyone.
© 2009, Fred Kenison and Merrill Douglass. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.