Can we know what is the promised Holy Spirit and how
He may help us in our life?
The following is a sermon transcription that will hopefully help you to understand from the Bible what is the promised Holy Spirit, how can we prove that someone has received the Holy Spirit and what impact does His Spirit has in our life.
The Promised Holy Spirit
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Yao Chia Chi)
Many would have seen or heard the works of spirits present in the world and spirits can either be the Holy Spirit or evil spirits. The spirit of God and spirit of angel are holy and belong to God. The spirit of the devil is evil. We need to be very careful about spirits, especially in our pursuit of religion. Why? Because society is filled with the evil spirits’ works meant to deceive men.
When we read accounts in the gospel of how Jesus drove out demons, we see how people are possessed by the demon and plagued with sicknesses due to the evil spirits’ disturbance. When evil spirits come upon people, they lose their self-consciousness and own will; they lose control of their lives and may act in self-destructive or harmful ways. Those who lose consciousness may go into a trance that appears as if they are the bridge between the spiritual and human world. However, these are just obvious manifestations of the evil spirits. In fact, the bible describes a wide scope of the evil spirits’ work. For example, they may deceive people who want to worship God by propagating erroneous teachings. They may erode people’s moral standards so that people sin. They may also cause people to deny the correct faith by fanning their sense of self-righteousness. It is clear from the bible that the world is under the sway of the evil one.
Perhaps it is easy when the works of the devil are so obvious. What if they were subtler? The devil may come in the guise of an angel of light. There are certain manifestations of the spirit in certain Christian denominations that are obviously against the teachings of the bible, but which are interpreted as the works of the Holy Spirit. Unless one is familiar with the truth in the bible, it can be very difficult to discern.
It is therefore pertinent that we learn more about the promised Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is holy, good, and full of truth and power. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, the experience is entirely different from that of being possessed by the evil spirit.
As mentioned earlier, people who come into contact or are possessed by the evil spirit suffer. But, in the True Jesus Church, those who receive the Holy Spirit are fully conscious of their experience. The Holy Spirit is in fact subject to our will; we can stop praying when we want to. The Holy Spirit is also active; we are actively moved and motivated to act in ways that are pleasing to God. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are able to enter into the grace of God and enjoy the blissful and abundant life given by God.
As every Christian denomination has a different experience of the Holy Spirit, there are some things that Christians, in particular, should note. We know that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of God and He did not just appear in the New Testament era. We also see the works of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the nature of the Holy Spirit remains the same throughout both eras because there is only one spirit of God. However, since the accomplishment of God’s salvation plan, the work of the Holy Spirit is different. Today, when we talk about the promised Holy Spirit, we refer to the Spirit of God who comes to dwell within our hearts, the Spirit who came only after Jesus rose from the dead and was glorified.
Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
The gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself and it is evident when one receives this gift; one is able to speak in tongues. His manifestation and work in every person is different. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes Him as the Holy Spirit of promise with whom we were sealed, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our heavenly inheritance, much like a down-payment. God will give us the heavenly inheritance but because Jesus has yet to come again and the time is not ripe yet, those of us who have received the truth are given the promised Holy Spirit. We liken it to a down-payment because it is a promise of the full payment that is to come in the future. This is why we thirst and pray for the Holy Spirit; we want to receive this guarantee of our heavenly inheritance.
“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 Jn 3:24)
We know that God abides in us by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Before Jesus departed, He promised to give His believers the Promised Holy Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (Jn 14:16). This Helper is the Holy Spirit. Even though there are clear manifestations of having received the Holy Spirit, He is not easily received by the world; to those who do not believe, the manifestations of the Holy Spirit may appear strange. They question because they do not believe. But for those of us who have received the Holy Spirit, we understand that God abides with us because we have experienced it.
The Holy Spirit is also meant to be evidence of our status as children of God. Jesus Christ was nailed on the cross so that we may be forgiven of our sins and delivered from sin’s bondage, hence restored our status in Him. Romans 8:8-9 tells us that “if anyone does not have the spirit of Christ, he is not His.” 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 describes how we are established in Christ and has anointed us and He has “sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” Romans 8:14-16 talks about those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God because they have received the spirit of adoption, not the spirit of bondage. The phrase “spirit of adoption” is used to refer to our status as children of God, evident as the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit. These passages within the bible reinforce the importance of the Holy Spirit as a guarantee.
Now every Christian church claims to have the Holy Spirit but why is it that each seems to have a different one? What does the bible tell us about receiving the Holy Spirit?
Many Christian denominations misunderstand the Holy Spirit. Some claim to receive the Holy Spirit the minute they believe, as was recorded in 1 Corinthians 12:3. However, Paul was referring to those influenced by the heretical teachings of the Gnostics here; they did not recognize Jesus as the Lord and hence, there is a problem with the spirit they received. Back then, there was only one apostolic church. There were people who deviated from the truth and hence, Paul told them that if you are in the Spirit, you will recognize Jesus as the Lord. Otherwise, the spirit you received is not the spirit of God. The intention of this verse was not meant for one to determine whether one has received the Holy Spirit or not.
There are some churches who believe that records of the Holy Spirit’s descent in the apostolic era served as evidence that He has indeed descended and that there was no need for current believers to have the same experience as the apostles; those were experiences unique to that isolated moment in time. The Holy Spirit automatically abides in us when we believe or baptize. But the bible does not say so. In fact, it tells us that we do not receive the Holy Spirit automatically the moment we believe or even, when we are baptized. Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise after we hear the word and have believed. Acts 19 records how believers in Ephesus who already believed in Jesus but had yet to receive the Holy Spirit because they did not receive the baptism for forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. Paul baptized them again in the name of Jesus and Acts 19:6 records that when he laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. This tells us that we need to pray for the Holy Spirit; it is not given automatically.
Some churches say that it is evident the Holy Spirit is with them because they fear God, have the authority to perform miracles and many charitable deeds. Yet in John 7:38-39, it specifically says that the disciples had yet to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus had yet to be glorified, and salvation had not been completed. So although the disciples believed, were baptized, and had the authority to perform miracles, it was clearly recorded that they had yet to receive the Holy Spirit. This was the reason why Jesus instructed his disciples to remain in Jerusalem to wait for the promised Holy Spirit before He rose to heaven. Acts 2 records how, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples who had been praying and waiting.
How might we prove that someone has received the Holy Spirit? Are there any unique manifestations of having received the Holy Spirit?
An incident recorded in Acts 8 describes the church in Samaria. Apostles John and Peter were sent to the believers in Samaria and the apostles observed that none of them had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). How could John and Peter tell? This incident suggests that there are unique manifestations of having received the Holy Spirit. It was evident that the Samarian believers had yet to receive the Holy Spirit because they did not speak in tongues, hence the need for John and Peter to pray for them.
There are some denominations who believe that we can learn to speak in tongues. Some others believe that there is no need to speak in tongues each time we pray. There are also churches who believe in the speaking of tongues, but that evidence of having received the Holy Spirit is accompanied by violent external manifestations. They claim all these to be the works of the Spirit. If we were to use the standards set in the bible as a way of discerning these works, how might we conclude? Would we see that the devil disguised as angels of light, out to deceive men? The bible tells us that speaking in tongue is a spiritual language. It is not a sound made by the lips, by the manipulation of air, or violent shouts. Neither can we find signs of people being slain by the spirit to lose consciousness, going into fits, vomiting, as being associated with the receiving of the Holy Spirit; the bible only contains records of people struggling with demon-possession, foaming and rolling on the ground when Jesus drove the demons out. These people regain peace after the evil spirits are cast out. Even then, the bible never said that they had received the Holy Spirit. We must be careful in discerning that receiving the Holy Spirit will not make us lose our consciousness. He will not make us feel pressured or lose our own will.
There are some denominations that are broad-minded about speaking in tongues. They believe that those who speak in tongues have received the Holy Spirit, but those who do not speak in tongues have also received the Holy Spirit. Even within the same denomination, there is no need for uniformity in the manifestation of the Holy Spirit either. It is clear that the evidence of having received the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. Since its establishment, the True Jesus Church has believed in the same manifestation of receiving the Holy Spirit.
How does one receive the Holy Spirit?
We must pray for the Holy Spirit. We must have the right belief, submit to the truth, repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. Then we must pray with perseverance. There are people who misunderstand and think that since the Holy Spirit is promised, there is no need to pray so earnestly since it’s a gift that will be given by God anyway. Even so, if we do not thirst for the Holy Spirit or treasure it, when we do receive it, we will treat it like refuse. This is why the bible reminds us that in our prayers for the Holy Spirit, we need to thirst for it.
How else does the Holy Spirit help us?
2 Corinthians 5:1-4 describes the different between our current life on earth and our future life in heaven. Our earthly house is likened to a tent, one that will degenerate and fall apart. One day, we shall all breathe our last and die, our bodies decay, and we return to the ground. In return, we shall receive a house in heaven, which refers to the spiritual body we shall receive. As we spend our earthly life living in this tent, we live in fear and trembling, making sure we lead a Godly life. For our reverence for God is likened to being clothed in new clothing, a preparation to enter the eternal spiritual body. The one who prepares us for this is God. We are given His Holy Spirit not only as a guarantee, but also as a Helper.
We may meet with various difficulties in life and many of which we find ourselves helpless. Our strength and might are limited and we need God to help us. We overcome these difficulties with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps in our weaknesses (Rom 8:26). We are weak and do not know what we ought to pray for, because we are filled with desires. The Spirit helps us to pray, with “groanings which cannot be uttered”. These groanings are a reflection of emotions which we are unable to express in our own thoughts and words. “Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (v.27). God knows our mind and the Holy Spirit makes intercessions according to the will of God on our behalf.
There are some who feel that praying in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues are not beneficial because we cannot understand it. But speaking in tongues is truly beneficial.
Firstly, 1 Corinthians 14:2 tells us that he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. The target of our prayer is God, who understands the mysteries spoken in the spirit.
Second, as we pray in tongues, we are in fact continually praising God (Acts 2:11). Through this continual praise, we strengthen our spiritual life.
Third, 1 Corinthians 14:4 says that “he who speaks in tongue edifies himself but he who prophesies edifies the church”. When we speak or pray in tongues, we are edifying ourselves. This is an effective work in the spirit.
The works of the spirit are often described in the bible. John 16:13 tells us the spirit will guide us into all truth, which sanctifies us (Jn 17:17). The Holy Spirit is known as the spirit of truth. Through our search of the scriptures, our meditation of the word of God, the Holy Spirit help us to accomplish the work of sanctification. We are strengthened in might through His Spirit in the inner man through His Spirit that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith, that we may be able to comprehend the extent of the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God (Eph 3:16-19). We are moved to love God and out of this love for God, stems love for men, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).
Galatians 5:16-25 describes the constant struggle between the flesh and the spirit; the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. Only when we submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit, are we able to overcome our fleshly lusts and bear fruits of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit helps us understand the things of God; when we are willing to submit, we take on the mind of Christ and put on Christ (1 Cor 2).
It is evident that we receive many gifts from the Holy Spirit and He helps us overcome various obstacles in order that we may be victorious Christians and heirs of the blessings God intended for us.
Our God knows our needs. In Matthew 6, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and teaches us how to pray. He tells us not to use vain repetitions, referring to the repeated prayers for the material such as food, wealth, clothes and enjoyment. Jesus emphasized that our Heavenly Father knows all our needs and hence, there is no need to articulate them before God. Revelations 19:1-6 provides us a good reminder. Here, “Hallelujah” is repeated four times. Even though hallelujah is a command, by the new testament era, it also came to mean “praise the Lord”. The Holy Spirit moves us to speak in tongues that, even though we may not understand, we can be assured that He is praising God and proclaiming the works of God.
The Holy Spirit is interceding for us. When we are weak, the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings. The Holy Spirit is a priceless treasure God promised us. For those who have yet to receive, we must hold on to this promise and pray with perseverance. For those who have received the promised Holy Spirit, we should use this spiritual resource that God has given to us, treasure it and, through the help of the Holy Spirit, we will pray with all prayers that we may be edified.