Ministry Resources

The Spirit Who Communicates

Since Creation, God has communicated with His people by various means. In the Old Testament He spoke through the Holy Spirit to the prophets, who passed on God’s message to the people. Some prophets and other men chosen by God recorded His message so it could be passed from one generation to the next.

Jesus was the Living Word of God, anointed of the Holy Spirit. He came to show us what God was like. The Gospels record His teaching and the details of His ministry on earth. The written record came from men who walked and talked with Him, and they wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles continued to communicate God’s message. Several of them were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the message, giving us the canon of Holy Scriptures. In all of this communication, God has worked through the Holy Spirit to give His Word to men and women so that they will know and obey Him.

The Written Word

A Written Need

God’s message to man is a life-and-death matter. The Psalmist David said, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

God’s desire to communicate His message to men and women is made very clear by the writers of the Old Testament. The words “Thus said the Lord” or similar words are used more than 3800 times. It is by hearing the Word of God and acting upon what we hear that we are saved from eternal death.

The first time God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He wrote them Himself:

Moses . . . went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets (Exodus 32:15-16).

Moses broke those tablets when he saw the sin of the people. A second time God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses with these instructions: “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Exodus 34:27). Verse 28 reports that “Moses wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

Why is a written communication better than an oral one? Because an oral message passed from person to person usually changes each time it is passed on.

A game called gossip is an illustration of this. The players sit in a circle. A message is written on a piece of paper and held by the first person. Then it is whispered from ear to ear all the way around the circle. By the time the last person repeats it to the first, the message can hardly be recognized as the one that was written.

If the written message itself had been passed around the circle, each player would have received it in its purest form. The last person would have received the same message as the first.

God’s message to man must be received exactly as God delivered it. No one has permission to change it even a little. This is why it was necessary for the Holy Spirit to give us the complete, infallible Word of God in written form. Infallible means “without error.” God’s message had to be written so that it would not change as it was spoken from person to person. It had to be complete so that no one would need to add to it or subtract from it to his own liking, and it must be infallible. While it does not treat every aspect of our present and future existence exhaustively, God has revealed what He wanted us to know about salvation, maintaining spiritual life, our responsibility to Him and our fellow man, and the future of sinner and saint. The Bible may be regarded as our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice. It is the full revelation that God intended to communicate to us, and it is entirely trustworthy. Because of these things we can trust it without doubt or reserve.

When God wishes to communicate with His people, He does it through the agency of the Holy Spirit. There are three ways the Holy Spirit communicates to people: by revelation, by inspiration, and by illumination.

1. Revelation is the revealing, or making known, of something previously not known. When the Holy Spirit speaks to someone directly and tells him something he has no other way of knowing, it is a revelation.

2. Inspiration is the moving of the Holy Spirit upon a man’s intellect or emotions to express the mind of God. When the Holy Spirit used the Bible writers, to record the truth without making mistakes, that was inspiration. This truth could be things they already knew, or it could be by revelation of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).

Christian leaders and scholars often refer to the plenary inspiration of Scripture. Plenary carries the idea of fullness. Therefore, plenary inspiration means that Scripture, in its fullest extent, was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The verbal inspiration of Scripture is often referred to also. Scripture teaches us that spiritual truth is expressed in spiritual words (1 Corinthians 2:13). Verbal inspiration means that not just the ideas but the very words of Scripture are inspired by the Holy Spirit.

3. Illumination is the clarifying of something, the shining of a light upon something. Illumination occurs when the Holy Spirit helps either the writers or the readers to understand what is being written.

All of these forms of communication are used by the Holy Spirit in giving us God’s message and making it come alive in our hearts. God’s written Word, the Bible, was given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, because a written record was needed.

A Writing Protected

Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed . . .” (2 Timothy 3:16). This simply means that the writing of all Scripture was controlled by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s words are further explained by the apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:20-21):

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In other words, the prophets and apostles who wrote the Bible were watched over and inspired by the Holy Spirit so that the words they wrote are what God wanted them to write—they are without error and can be called the Holy Scriptures.

About 40 writers contributed to the miracle book we call the Bible. They came from many different places and lived over a period of about 16 centuries. While their writings differ in expression and style, there is a supernatural unity in their message, because the guiding intelligence behind them was the Holy Spirit.

The Bible’s unity is remarkable in view of the number of men God chose to write it and the period of time over which they wrote it. One Bible scholar points out that there is one doctrinal viewpoint, one moral standard, one plan of salvation, one program of the ages, and one world view in the Bible (Thiessen, 1979, p. 67). This was possible only because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit upon those who did the writing.

The divine authorship of the Bible is confirmed by the writers of the Scriptures themselves. In 2 Samuel 23:2, in his last song to Israel, David said, “‘The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.’” Jesus confirmed the fact of David’s inspiration as recorded in Samuel by stating, “David himself speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared . . .” (Mark 12:36) Again, in Hebrews 3:7 the writer quotes Psalm 95, introducing it with these words: “So, as the Holy Spirit says . . .” These examples demonstrate that the writers of Scripture acknowledged the divine authorship of the Scriptures. Jesus’ testimony also reinforces this fact.

God’s written Word has also been carefully protected as it has been copied over and over again and passed down from one generation to the next. This again is the work of the Holy Spirit. Certainly He would not carefully watch over the original writings of the Scriptures and then allow them to become unreliable documents when they were copied and handed down to us.

Here again, we believe the Holy Spirit has carefully guarded His divine communication so that our present Bible can be safely called the Word of God. Many people have tried to prove the Bible to be wrong or to assert that it contains errors, but their efforts are in vain. God’s Word is as reliable today as it was when it was first written!

A Writing Recognized

The Old Testament as we have it was accepted as valid by Christ and the apostles, who referred to Old Testament Scriptures often in their teaching. They also recognized it as the work of the Holy Spirit.

The influence of the Holy Spirit can also be observed in the gathering of the New Testament writings and their recognition and acceptance by the early church leaders.

By the fourth century A.D. the church had developed eastern and western divisions, which were influenced by the Greek and Latin cultures. The Holy Spirit’s influence is seen as each division of the church accepted as Scripture the same 27 books that are now the New Testament. Each division of the church came to its decision independently, and both decisions came within a period of just thirty years.

Over the 16 centuries that have followed, this Book of books has been recopied thousands of times and translated into almost every known language. Wherever it is preached, believers recognize it as the Word of God, and lives are changed as the Holy Spirit makes its truths understood to the people of all nations.

In 1778 the French writer, Voltaire, predicted that in 100 years the Bible would no longer be in circulation, but that his own works would be widely published. Today the Bible is still the best-selling Book in the world, translated into more languages than any other book, and its message is preached everywhere. Voltaire’s works, in comparison, are known and read by a very limited number of people.

Wherever God’s Word is preached, the Holy Spirit is active to illuminate the Word and make it come alive in the hearts of men and women, bringing them to repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. We recognize the Bible as God’s Word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, because it changes the lives of those who hear it and receive it, just as the Scriptures say it will do.

The Living Word

Preparing The Word

“The Word became flesh . . .” (John 1:14) is one of the most meaningful statements in the Bible. It describes God the Son becoming a human being so that deity could communicate with humanity on humanity’s level. Before the Word became flesh, God had spoken at many times and in various ways through the prophets, but now He would communicate directly with man through His Son.

Just as the Holy Spirit was the agent of God at Creation, so He was active in moving upon the virgin Mary in creative power. Luke tells us of the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, foretelling the birth of Jesus. The angel told her:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be been will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Later, Luke tells us that Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth, and when she greeted Elizabeth, “Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’” (Luke 1:41-42).

Matthew’s Gospel sheds further light on the role of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation: “She [Mary] was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). Thus, He who was “in the very nature God” took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). Very God and very man—Jesus became flesh through a unique act of the Holy Spirit and lived for a while among us (John 1:14). Later we read Jesus’ words concerning this preparation: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me” (Hebrews 10:5).

The Holy Spirit continued to be active in the preparation of Jesus for His earthly ministry. While we do not read of the Spirit’s active involvement in Jesus’ human development, the implication from what we have learned is that what the Spirit initiated in bringing about the birth of Jesus, he sustained. Luke says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

John the Baptist reveals the unique presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ life on the occasion of His baptism: “‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him”’ (John 1:32). John testified further that God had given him the sign that on whomever he saw the Spirit descend and remain, the same was the Son of God (vs. 33-34). The presence of the Spirit in Jesus’ life seems to indicate that He was there to anoint Jesus for ministry, as we shall see.

The descent of the dove (the Holy Spirit) upon Jesus was a visible manifestation which everyone could see. It was immediately followed by the voice of God from heaven saying, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).

Stanley Horton points out that “the dove to the Jews was more than a symbol of gentleness and peace. It was also the sin offering which the poor substituted for the lamb (Leviticus 5:7). Jesus is God’s own Lamb provided as a substitute for the poor, the needy, the sinful of this world, which includes us all (Romans 3:23)” (Horton, 1976, p. 90).

Jesus was tempted by the devil for 40 days. It is clear that the temptation of Jesus occurred while He was being led by the Spirit. Every phase in the training and development of Jesus was under the watchful care of the Holy Spirit! Chapter 4 also tells us that after the devil finished his tempting (and failed in his effort) Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.

Anointing The Word

Shortly after He returned to Galilee, Jesus went to His home town of Nazareth and visited the synagogue. On this occasion the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. He chose the 61st chapter of Isaiah and read these prophetic words describing His own ministry:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

His ministry confirmed His claim to the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He cast out demons by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28). According to the apostle Peter, Jesus’ healing and deliverance ministry resulted from the anointing of the Holy Spirit on His life (Acts 10:38). Everything that Jesus said He would do under the anointing of the Spirit, He did in His earthly ministry!

You may find it interesting and helpful to read the four Gospels and to make a list of the healings of Jesus; the blind eyes opened, the multitudes who were fed miraculously, the deaf who were healed, the dead who were brought back to life, and the demon possessed who were delivered and given freedom from the devil’s bondage. All these were manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s work in Jesus’ ministry.

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” What is in your heart will come out in your words. Would you like to know what is in the heart of God? The Holy Spirit presents Jesus as the Word of God. Study His words and deeds. He is a perfect expression of the heart of God.

Crowing The Word

The message of God’s love involved more than preaching, teaching, healing the sick, and casting out devils. It meant also the death of God’s Lamb for the sins of the world.

The cross was a horrible ordeal, but Jesus endured it willingly, with the help of the Holy Spirit. He who knew no sin had to take upon Himself the sins of the world and give His life as the perfect sacrifice for sin. The writer to the Hebrews tells us how He was able to do it: “. . . Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God” (Hebrews 9:14). In speaking of Christ’s death and resurrection, Peter testified to the Jews, “We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit . . . “ (Acts 5:32).

The Spirit was present in creative power when Jesus became flesh; He was present in anointing power throughout Christ’s ministry; He was present in strengthening power in Christ’s ministry; He was present in strengthening power in Christ’s great hour of need on the cross; and He was present in resurrection power to give victory over death. He is the Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).

Just before He ascended to His Father, Jesus showed that those who believed in Him were fully restored to fellowship with God. He breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

In the beginning the breath of God had made man a living soul. Now, in a token meeting of believers just before He returned to the Father, God the Son breathed on man again, symbolizing that by the power of the Holy Spirit spiritual life is fully restored to those who will believe on Jesus and obey His Word. This would appear to be the crowning act of Jesus’ ministry. Because of the resurrection, which indicated Christ’s victory over sin and death, man could be reconciled to God. Spiritual death could now be overcome by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Living Epistles

Taught by the Spirit

Jesus knew well the weaknesses and the strengths of His disciples. Many times He rebuked them for their unbelief and wrong attitudes, but always His plan was that after He was gone they would preach His gospel. The whole future of His work on earth depended on them. They would make Him known. How could He entrust His disciples with such responsibility when He was no longer there to guide them?

The answer is simple. It centered in the divine Person who was coming to take His place as their Helper. The same Spirit that rested upon Him would come upon them. After Jesus had finished His work and was glorified, the disciples would receive the Holy Spirit, and He would instruct them and give them power to become faithful witnesses.

Jesus said the Holy Spirit as their counselor would teach His followers. The Counselor would bless them with the ability to recall the Master’s teachings. We can be sure that the Counselor not only reminded them of Jesus’ spoken words but also of His matchless example in responding to the many and varied needs of people (John 14:26; 15:26). Moreover, in the course of their learning, Jesus said that the Counselor would guide them into all truth. This implies the fact that the Spirit of truth would give them the ability to discriminate between His truth and the spirit of falsehood (compare John 16:13 with 1 John 4:1-6). He would also give them insights into the future with a well-balanced knowledge of the relationship between present responsibilities and future reward.

The teaching which Christ’s followers received and which they were to pass on to others was not written on tablets of stone such as Moses received on Mount Sinai. It was not simply “head knowledge” that had little relation to practical living, nor was it written, as Paul’s letters were, with pen and ink. The teaching they had received was “internalized,” that is, it had become a part of them, for it was written on the fleshly tablets of their hearts by the Holy Spirit, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3).

The message becomes a part of the messenger when it is inscribed on his heart by the Holy Spirit. He truly becomes a living letter.

Are you a living letter? Has God’s message been written on your heart by the Holy Spirit? Are you faithful to pass His message on to others?

Empowered by the Spirit

To be an effective living epistle, one must have the power of the indwelling Spirit. Jesus knew this when He admonished, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). He also knew the importance of the Spirit’s enablement when He gave the challenge to His followers to preach repentance to all nations. Thus, He challenged them to “stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49), the gift of the Holy Spirit with which they were to be baptized (Acts 1:4-5). Paul recognized the relationship between exemplary Christian living and the empowering of the Spirit. Thus, in Romans 8 he instructs Roman believers to allow the powerful Helper to control their lives (v. 6) and to triumph over behavior that is unbecoming to a believer (v. 13). With the Spirit’s help we have confidence of our sonship and future inheritance (vs. 15-17). This knowledge enables us to face the dilemmas of life with serenity and peace, because fear has been replaced by security (v. 15). We can be unperturbed in the storms of life because of the Counselor’s help; we can thus reflect His peace and love as living epistles should.

Ruled by the Spirit

As a living epistle, Paul said, you are “known and read by everybody” (2 Corinthians 3:2). It is important that the same Holy Spirit who wrote the message on your heart controls the motives and attitudes of your life. You must communicate God to the world. You can be sure that the world will be watching your behavior as well as listening to your message. Your actions will, indeed, speak louder than your words.

Galatians 5:13-26 very clearly shows us what our life in the Spirit should be like. When we are led by the Spirit, we cannot do as we please. The freedom we have in Christ is not to be used to indulge in sinful pleasure, but it is to be a means of expressing the love of Christ to a sinful world.

This Scripture gives us two lists that are in sharp contrast to one another. One list describes the acts of the sinful nature. The other describes the acts of one who is ruled by the Spirit. The acts of the sinful nature are selfish acts which have no concern for others; the actions of one who is ruled by the Spirit are expressions of love toward others. The only way we can communicate God’s message to other people effectively is under the control and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

To conclude this lesson, read Luke 4:18-19 again. In this Scripture, Jesus, the living Word, proclaimed what He came to do under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He demonstrated His obedience by His life and actions. John reminds us that if we truly love God and acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus, our faith will enable us to overcome the world. This refers to our “being” before God. Our behavior under the control of the Spirit will be acceptable to God. John also says that if we love God we will obey His commands. We will demonstrate our love in practical ways. May each of us aspire to “be” what God wants us to be and “do” the things He wants us to do. Then we will bring glory to his Name.

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