The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) is Gods special power which he sets aside to do miracles. He gave this power as a gift to men and women to perform specific tasks in the early church. Tasks which furthered His purpose and then these gifts were withdrawn. We hope to show that The Holy Spirit, is not a person as popular Christianity teaches, nor is it something which enters into our hearts and makes us understand God.
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
To understand the true teaching of the Bible, the whole Bible needs to be taken into consideration. We will examine God’s Spirit as it is presented to us in the Old Testament – consider the following examples:
- By the power of the Holy Spirit the Bible was written:
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”. 2 Peter 1:21
- By God’s Spirit the creation was performed and life is given:
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. Genesis 1:1-2
“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” Job 33:4
“Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth”. Psalm 104:30
“By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent”. Job 26:13
- When God’s people, Israel, were in the wilderness they were set instructions to build a tabernacle in which to worship God. In so doing God gave them his spirit to accomplish this:
“And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’ garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’ office”. Exodus 28:3
“See, I (God) 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, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…” Exodus 31:2-3
- Moses was also given God’s spirit to help him lead Israel, before he died this was transferred to others to help them continue this work:
“And THE LORD said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the elders of Israel… and bring them unto the tabernacle of the congregation, that they may stand there with thee. And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone”. Numbers 11:16-17
- When Israel had eventually entered the promised land, they were governed by Judges. God spirit is recorded to have been given to some of them:
“And the Spirit of THE LORD came upon him (Othniel), and he judged Israel…” Judges 3:10
“But the Spirit oF THE LORD came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him.” Judges 6:34
“Then the Spirit oF THE LORD came upon Jephthah…” Judges 11:29
- Another of the Judges, Samson, is given the Spirit of God many times to perform specific acts:
“Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit oF THE LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done.” Judges 14:5-6
“And the Spirit of THE LORD came upon him (Samson), and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them…” Judges 14:19
“And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of THE LORD came mightily upon him (Samson), and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.” Judges 15:14
- The Spirit was also given to God’s prophets who spoke His message to the people – here are a few examples:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because THE LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek.” Isaiah 61:1
“And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments oF THE LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken tHE LORD, he hath also forsaken you”. 2 Chronicles 24:20
“Afterwards the spirit took me up, and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God into Chaldea, to them of the captivity. So the vision that I had seen went up from me.” Ezekiel 11:24
So from the above passages then, we can make the following, very important conclusions:
- The Spirit was given to specific followers of God and not all
- It was given to perform a specific task and when that task had been accomplished it was withdrawn
The Holy Spirit gifts in the first century
When we come to the time just after the death of Jesus Christ, we find that the Bible tells us that once again, the Holy Spirit was given to God by his followers. Like before it was given for a specific reason and for a specific task, namely, to authenticate the gospel message which was being newly preached in the world:
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ”. Romans 15:18-19
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 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?” Hebrews 2:3-4
“Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord”. Acts 13:12
Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Acts 14:13
We can see then, from the above verses that the Holy Spirit was given to back up and authenticate the message which was being spoken. The things which Jesus had accomplished, how he had fulfilled the law of Moses and was the messiah, the promised seed of David was to be preached – it was this which was important and as a reason to believe the Holy Spirit was given to show that the message was from God.
This is confirmed by the following key verse:
“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Mark 16:20
It was the message which was important and this was confirmed by the signs. The Holy Spirit gifts enabled certain individuals to perform the following:
- Prophecy – or expound or forth tell Gods word
- Healing – unquestionable healing ability like withered hands being made whole or the raising of the dead
- Speaking in tongues – or in different known languages
- Knowledge – the ability to know things which were humanly impossible to know or to be able to recall scriptures with God’s direct help
Are the Holy Spirit gifts around today?
As we have seen the Holy Spirit gifts were given to believers in the first century to help preach the gospel throughout the world – they were to establish the early church and in the process write the New Testament record for all those who followed to read and have confidence in. This was accomplished and so the gifts were withdrawn. They will be given again though in a more fuller measure when Jesus returns to reward his faithful followers, this time the gifts will be permanent whereas in the first century it was only a temporary gift. Consider these verses:
“…whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away”. 1 Corinthians 13:7-8
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man (better translated: “the maturity of full grown manhood”), unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”. Ephesians 4:11-13
The scriptures then teach that the miraculous gifts were given until the early eccleasia was mature. The word “till” in Ephesians 4:13 shows that the gifts were temporary. Some believe that where we read the gifts were given until “that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor 13:8) or “unto a perfect man” (Ephesians 4:13) that the scriptures is speaking of the return of Chirst – e.g. they say that the gifts were given for all ages until Christ’s return. If this were so then we would have the gifts now but when Christ returns the gifts would cease. This is a massive problem with this view. We know from other parts of scripture that the gifts will anything but cease when Christ returns – they will be poured out once again not stopped (see Hebrews 6:5 – the gifts were a taste of the age to come!).
Jesus promised his immediate disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit for a special reason. Consider the comforter passages:
“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.” John 14:26
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27
“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 shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” John 16:13-15
So we can see then the comforter was given for the following reaosns:
- To teach them all things (John 14:26)
- To enable them to remember everything that Jesus had taught them during his ministry (John 14:26)
- To guide them int “all the truth” (John 16:23)
- Reveal to them additional things from the ascended Jesus (John 16:13)
- Give them prophecy that would show them future things to come (John 16:13)
- Enable them to witness concerning Jesus (John 15:26)
All of these things were done in the first century. Nothing was left undone.
So, is this a problem to you dear reader? Do we really need the Holy Spirit gifts? What does your Bible say? The Bible clearly teaches that the gifts were to support the word of God the apostles were preaching. It is the word of God which was important and not the gifts, they just backed it up:
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect (or complete)” 2 Tim. 3:16,17
We have the word of God now in the form of the Bible. The first century Christians would only had the old Testament and the words which the apostles spake so God gave these spoken words authenticity with the Spirit Gifts. When the rest of the New Testament was written down and circulated there was no need for special gifts to authenticate this had been accomplished. Here is another verse which proves that the word of God is what saved and not the Holy Spirit which was given after repentance and belief:
“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38
The Holy Spirit gifts would have ceased – The example of Simon in Acts 8
In Acts chapter 8 we have a very insightful record of how the gifts of the Holy Spirit were passed on to other believers:
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” Acts 8:5-6
Notice the fact that they heard the words and saw the miracles backing up those words.
“But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” Acts 8:9-13
From the above verses we can see that the Holy Spirit is not something which is given at Baptism or is a power which makes you believe the gospel. These people believed with their own minds and were baptised, only they had not received the Holy Spirit.
“Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” Acts 8:14-17
We can see here that the way they received the Holy Spirit was for hands to be laid upon them.
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Acts 8 18-19
Simon recognized that the apostles had a special power. Not only had they got Holy Spirit gifts but they could pass them on to others. He also wanted this power, the power to PASS ON the Holy Spirit. This shows that only the original apostles could pass the Holy Spirit on and that converts after Pentecost who received the Holy spirit could not pass it on to others, so the Holy Spirit gifts would have ceased upon the death of the original apostles.
Is the Holy Spirit a person of the Trinity?
Because the power of the Holy Spirit is personified (represented by a figure in human form), some Christians conclude that the Holy Spirit is actually a person and part of a “trinity”. For example verses such as this might be quoted:
“When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself…” John 16:13
As we have seen from our studies the idea of the Holy spirit being a person does not fit in with the harmony of the scriptures from the Old and New Testaments. The word “Trinity” does not even appear in scriptures so we are reading a lot into the Bible when we put such a suggestion forward.
Personification is a common way in which concepts are described in scripture. Wisdom is described in the Proverbs as a women:
“Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets.” Proverbs 1:20
“Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:” Proverbs 9:1
Jesus himself describes wisdom as a person:
“But wisdom is justified of all her children.” Luke 7:35
Nobody suggests that Wisdom is a literal women. The Holy Spirit is referred to occasionally by the same principle of personification. To show how common it is for the Word of God to use personification please refer to the below references:
- Riches are personified (Matt 6:24)
- Sin is personified (Romans 5:21, 6:16)
- Death is personified (Revelation6:8)
- Nation of Israel personified (Jeremiah 31:4, 18)
- Believers in Christ are personified (Ephesians 4:13, 1 Corinthians 12:27)
So we have seen then that the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit was the power of God, given to selected men and women for a specific purpose and then withdrawn when that purpose was complete. We have seen that the gifts would have died out with the first Century Christians when the original apostles died as they were the only ones who could pass it on. We have also seen that there is no evidence to support the view that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity.
We have seen that many believed in the gospel by hearing the words spoken and it is those words which we also have recorded for us in our Bibles. We have a personal choice, to continue to find out about God and to believe his word or to reject his teachings. The Holy Spirit does not enter into us to make up our minds for us.
So we would urge you to continue to study your Bible and to find out for yourself what the Bible really teaches…
M Davies – March 2009