by Eusebio Tanicala, Ph.D.
Several decades ago, preachers in the United States exchanged ideas on how the Holy Spirit works in or influences the Christian in the 20th century. We have moved into the 21st century but the questions lingered on. Three questions frequently come out that embody the issues:
1. Is there a personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian today?
2. Is there a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life today, the 21st century?
3. Does the Holy Spirit aid the Christian today?
One side declares: “The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian today representatively through the word; the Holy Spirit operates in or influences (aids) the Christian today through the written/oral word only.
The above statement means that the Holy Spirit having inspired the Bible and the canon of scriptures having been completed in its printed/audio form, it is only through the reading/hearing the word that the Christian could be influenced by the Holy Spirit.
The above position is equated to the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) that trains a crew, writes a survival manual in printed and CD forms and then sends the crew on to the moon. NASA headquarters would watch through powerful telescopes as the spacecraft leaves the earth’s orbit, the landing on the moon and the walk on the moon. But radio communication is cut off. In the spacecraft the faucet doesn’t function, one member couldn’t sleep, the antenna doesn’t function, one booster engine doesn’t ignite. We ordinary people on earth say to ourselves: you astronauts on the moon, you have your survival book, read it to fix yourselves. NASA in its headquarters just sits down and watch anxiously.
The other side of the issue declares: The Holy Spirit indwells the Christian today and the Bible is a source of information/instructions in Christian life and how to go to heaven; in addition to the word, the Holy Spirit in person may help, aid, influence, guide, encourage, nudge, prompt the Christian towards a higher level of spiritual life and service.
The above position is equated to the NASA that trains a crew, writes a survival manual in printed and CD forms and then sends the crew on to the moon. NASA headquarters would watch through powerful telescopes as the spacecraft leaves the earth’s orbit, the landing on the moon and the walk on the moon. All the while radio contact and TV image exchanges are maintained. If the crew wants to ask info how to fix the faucet, if a crew member wants to solve his lack of sleep, if one booster engine doesn’t function, the crew could radio back to earth and get help from NASA headquarters. NASA headquarters would tell the crew to check their survival manual, but in addition to the manual on board, NASA experts in various disciplines would radio back their analysis and instructions about the problems. We ordinary people on earth would say to ourselves: you astronauts on the moon, you have your book, read it AND get additional help from NASA HEADQUARTERS because the experts are anxious to help.
Recently some preachers in the Philippines became more outspoken in their advocacy which resulted to two formal discussions, one in Pangasinan and the second in the Metro Manila area.
The propositions discussed in the two meetings were:
(1) Resolved: The scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian personally and directly together with the word of God.
(2) Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit indwells, influences and guides the Christian today only through the word of God.
In the study of the main title, the following presumptions should always be in the student’s mind so that he could readily collate the complex information about the Holy Spirit’s workings.
First, by extension, this corollary question should also be asked: “Does God in person help the Christian today?” This idea comes out from our belief in the Trinity. All three persons share the same attributes.
Second, another question should go with the main title, “Does the Holy Spirit help the Christian today through the oral/written word only as processed by the brain of the person in need?”
Third, still another question goes with the first questions: “Does the Holy Spirit in person help the Christian today through other means above and/or beyond the oral/written word, the Bible, but not contrary to it?”
Fourth, this study presumes our acceptance of God’s attributes as defined by dogmatic theology: omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, transcendence, immanence, unity, trinity, indivisibility, infinity, pure spirit.
Delimitation and Definition of Terms
This study temporarily avoids discussing the term “indwelling” and uses the terms: help, aid, work, influence, guide, nudge, prompt, encourage. By clarifying first the area of help and influence, it will be easier later to deal with the term “indwelling.”
This study is delimited within the Churches of Christ’s belief in the “Ordinary Measure” of the Holy Spirit. The “Full Measure” given to Jesus during His earthly ministry and the “Baptismal and Miraculous Measure” given to the Apostles and those they laid hands on should not be invoked in this discussion. Pentecostalism and claims of prophethood/angelship are excluded.
Terms which are central in this study are person, persona, personality, and personal.
(1) Person, or personality (persona) of the Holy Spirit refers to His having “a self-consciousness, a Being that has intelligence, with the power of choice,” (Moss, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, 24).
(2) Personal, refers to the self-willing act of a person or his direct influence in activating another person or something so that there’s an effect upon another. It is opposed to an impersonal thing/idea either read or heard that is processed by the brain of the Christian as the basis of what a person may enjoy for himself, a belief he might profess, or a command he undertakes.
The Problem Stated
The 21st century Christian asks: “In my daily life, where do some material or spiritual gifts and blessings come from, where do some actions originate, where do some enlightenments come from, where do I derived some ideas and conclusions?”
The Christian sees several avenues and asks:
a. Shall I read my Bible and process the information with my brain?
b. Am I limited to reading my Bible as source of blessings, gifts, information and instructions?
c. Will blessings, gifts, information, instructions, joy be limited according to the limitations of my brain to process biblical information that I read?
d. Do blessings, gifts or imperceptible nudging sometimes come direct from the person of the Holy Spirit?
e. Do items come through some persons or things that are moved by the Holy Spirit Himself?
f. Are there blessings, gifts or information that reside in nature that could help or aid the Christian today which are not written in the Bible but are not contrary to the Bible?
g. Do items sometimes come from/through a combination of two or more of the above?
Purposes of this Study
First, it seeks to improve our biblical knowledge and teach us to avoid committing glaring inconsistencies in interpretation among Churches of Christ preachers.
Second, it seeks to promote our prayer life with the enhanced awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our daily Christian life.
Third, it seeks to promote more spirituality with our awareness of the Holy Spirit’s workings in our daily Christian life.
Fourth, it promotes stronger dependence upon God with the awareness that God in person is personally assisting the Christian today.
Fifth, it promotes Christian humility in that wisdom, strength, victory in life, success and service are not solely produced from the mental and physical prowess of the individual Christian, but that much of these come as grace from a personal God.
Proposition for series #5: The Holy Spirit in person may help, influence, guide, nudge, prompt, or encourage the Christian today through other means above and/or beyond the written/oral word, the Bible, but not contrary to it during periods of trial, seduction and confusion.
If we understand the workings of Satan as a persona, we might be able to more easily understand the workings of the Holy Spirit as a persona. By asking questions in the area and time of seduction/temptation of the Christian, we might improve our understanding of the working and influencing of the Holy Spirit persona on the Christian today.
Did Satan in person seduce and tempt Eve? Answer: Yes. Did Satan in person appear in heaven as read in Job 1 & 2? Yes. Did Satan in person afflict Job with sickness? Yes. Did the Devil in person cause the death of the children of Job? Yes. Did Satan use other spirit personae to afflict people in the time of the Old Testament? Yes. Did the Devil in person afflict people in during the personal ministry of Jesus on earth? Yes. Did Satan in person seduce Jesus Christ in the three temptations after the latter’s baptism (Mtt 4)? Yes. Did Satan in person seduce Judas Iscariot and entered Judas’ personality that resulted to his becoming a traitor (Lu 22:3; Jn 13:27)? Yes. Did unwritten satanic verses inspire Judas to turn traitor? Not a reasonable conclusion. Did Satan in person desire to claim Apostle Peter (Lu 22:31)? Yes. Do I believe that it was some oral/unwritten satanic verses that desired Peter? No!
Based on 1 Cor. 5:5, when an unrepentant disciple is disciplined and is delivered to Satan, is the unrepentant disciple delivered to the persona of Satan? Yes. Or is the unrepentant disciple delivered to the power of the written/oral Bible? No!
When Satan seeks to seduce Christians today, based on the analysis of 2 Cor. 11:14, could the Devil in person transform himself as an angel of light and approach a Christian? Yes. Could an evil person wear a mascara so he could in person seduce the Christian? Yes.
There’s also the temptation described in 1 Cor. 7:5 wherein by mutual consent an extended sexual abstinence between the husband and wife is observed to enhance the couple’s prayer and fasting. Would seduction by Satan in person a possibility by taking advantage of the extended sexual abstinence? Yes. Or could Satan employ some people to seduce personally one or both of the temporarily separated couple? Yes. Is the seducing activity of the Devil limited to the power of literary works authored by Satan and his followers? No!
Based on the story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5:1-11, did Satan in person fill up Ananias’ heart with a lying attitude? Most likely, yes. Acts 5:3-4 says that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit. Was it the persona of the Holy Spirit that Ananias lied to? Yes. Could we say that Ananias lied to the unwritten words of the Holy Spirit? No! Furthermore, this account says that Ananias and Saphira lied to God. Was it the persona of God that the couple lied to? Yes. Or did Ananias and Saphira lie to the unwritten New Testament? No!
According to 1 Peter 5:8-9, when Satan walks around, does the metaphor apply to the persona of Satan? Yes. When Satan roars like a lion, does the metaphor apply to the persona of Satan? Yes. When Satan devours the seduced person, does the metaphor apply to the persona of Satan? Yes. Do you think the walking around and roaring and devouring apply to satanic verses? No!
X-rated films, CDs, and bold stage shows also promote successful seduction. Association with corrupt politicians could seduce the Christian to aspire to obtain political power; handling big amounts of money could seduce the Christian to love mammon above all else. All these are consummated apart from any oral or written satanic literary works.
Because of our consistent “yes” answers in many of the above questions, it is safe to conclude that Satan most often does his influencing and nudging and seducing in person. We recognize, though, that written or oral satanic verses and atheistic philosophical treatises could lead millions into the kingdom of the Devil.
Rev. 12:9 says that Satan deceives the whole world, is this the Devil in person doing the act? Yes. Or does the Devil accomplish his work via satanic verses and atheistic treatises only? It may include literary works but not limited to literary works.
If Satan is allowed to work and deceive the world both in person and through oral/written satanic literature, I would consider it unreasonable and absurd to conclude that the Holy Spirit who is Deity (omnipresent,-omnipotent-omniscient-transcendent-immanent) would be limited by Christians today in His activities through the biblical ideas ONLY, the oral/written word, as processed by the human brain. It is more logical to believe that the Holy Spirit operates in person as well as through the word. It is not and “either one OR the other” but rather it is “either one or both of them.”
Sin Against the Holy Spirit
Our Lord Jesus mentioned the sin/blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. See Matt. 12:1-31. Most Bible scholars believe that the context tells about disregarding the many miraculous deeds that Jesus accomplished to back up His claim of his Sonship and prophethood. In spite of the many miracles done by the Holy Spirit (v.28) through Jesus, the Jews still insisted that Jesus was not what He claimed to be. The oppositionists said that Jesus’ power in driving out evil spirits was from Beelzebub (v. 24, another name for the Devil). Jesus said that the Pharisees have committed the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by assigning the Holy Spirit’s power to Beelzebub’s. Was this blasphemy committed against the persona of the Holy Spirit? Yes. Was the blasphemy committed against the inspired words of the Holy Spirit, the unwritten gospel? No!
Holy Spirit Workings from Creation to the First Century
Did the Holy Spirit in person accomplish His creative work in Genesis 1:2? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person help Gideon (Judges 6:34), Samson (Judges 13:25), Samuel the prophet (1Sam 10:6), King Saul (1Sam 11:6), King David (1Sam 16:13)? Yes.
Did the Holy Spirit in person descend upon Jesus and remained in Him (Jn 1:32,33)? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person assist John the Baptist? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person descend upon the apostles in Acts 2? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person descend upon the household of Cornelius (Acts 10)? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person come upon those whom the apostles laid their hands on in Acts 8? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person help Apostle Paul in his ministry? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person help Timothy and Titus? Yes. Did the Holy Spirit in person help the Roman, Corinthian, Thessalonian, Ephesian, Colossian and Hebrew Christians in the first century? Yes.
Are Verses Applicable in 21st Century?
If from creation up to the time of the apostles of the Lord Jesus, the personal workings of the Holy Spirit was exercised upon nature and upon the servants of God, the remaining problem for this study to solve is applicability upon 21st century Christians of the NT declarations and promises involving the workings of the Holy Spirit in the “Ordinary Measure” of the Holy Spirit.
Remember that the question is considered under the “Ordinary Measure” of the Holy Spirit as understood and accepted by Churches of Christ for decades.
Is the promised succor/aid/help of the Holy Spirit (God, Christ) that are found in Matt. 7:13; 1 Cor. 10:13; Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 4:15-16 applicable to the Christian in the year 2008? Let’s analyze the passages.
*“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matt. 7:13)
(1) In times of trials and we pray, do we deal with a personal God? Yes. (2) When we ask for deliverance from severe temptation, do we expect a personal God to act and help us? Yes, we expect a personal God acting. (3) Is the Evil One a persona? Yes.
*“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you maybe able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)
(1) Based on the above, when the Christian is under severe trial and suffering, does this verse point to a personal God who cares and who could extend help when called upon? Yes. (2) Does this verse point to a God who is faithful and who personally cares? Yes. (3) Does this verse point to a God who personally cares to show the way of escape? Yes. (4) Does this verse say how God would personally show a way of escape? No! (5) Does this verse teach that it is from the written/oral word only, the Bible, that the Christian could determine the way of escape? No! (6) Does the Bible provide an example of escape for every conceivable confusing situation that millions of Christians find themselves in? No! If not, then the Bible does not provide the Christian an example of escape for every situation. (7) Is it reasonable then to think of a God to do some imperceptible nudgings and promptings governed by the spiritual orientation of the disciple and the heart’s attitude of dependence upon God so that the way of escape maybe arrived at? Yes, it’s reasonable. (7) Do I think of this God in our passage as both transcendent and at the same time immanent today? Yes. (8) Do I believe that this passage is applicable to the Christian today? Yes.
*“For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Heb. 2:18.
(1) Based on the above, should I point to the person of Jesus Christ who experienced trials and temptations? Yes. (2) Does the verse point to a persona who could personally help? Yes. (3) Does the verse tell the Christian to read or hear only the accounts of Christ’s suffering and seduction to derive a sense of aid reception? No! (4) Is the aid in this verse derived from Bible knowledge only as mentally processed by the brain of the Christian? No! (5) Should I think of Jesus Christ in the heavens as both transcendent and at the same time immanent? Yes. (6) Is this passage an applicable assurance to the Christian in the 21st century? Yes.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
(1) Based on the above, should I think of Jesus Christ as High Priest in the heavens as a real persona as the high priest in the Old Testament tabernacle and temple was a real persona? Yes. (2) Does this verse point to a real, live persona who has feeling and sympathy? Yes. (3) Does the verse point to a persona who was himself tempted as the Christian today is tempted? Yes. (4) Does the verse encourage the Christian to approach the spiritual throne of grace by faith? Yes. (5) Is the real existence of that throne of grace situated in the heavens or situated in an idea that is read in the Bible? It is in the heavens; it is not a mere idea in the Bible. (6) Does the verse make me feel that the mercy and grace that ooze out from the spiritual throne that give spiritual strength to the Christian flow out from the person of the High Priest? Yes. (7) Does the verse make me feel that the mercy and grace flow out from an idea or mental Bible knowledge as processed by the mind of the Christian? That‘s not a reasonable deduction. (8) Does the verse make me feel that this spiritual strength from the throne of grace is the same in degree to the moral/ethical strength that a communist derives from the writings of Karl Marx – that is inspiration is derived from mentally processed wisdom only without any direct intervention emanating from the dead person? No, it is not parallel. God acts through the word. However He also acts beyond and above the written/oral word but not contrary to it. Whereas, Karl Marx can influence the socialist only through his idea that is read/heard and processed in the brain of the adherent.
Karl Marx is a physically dead persona. His spirit persona is in Hades. Marx’s spirit could not transmit wisdom and strength to a physically suffering and confused communist. A living communist derives wisdom and physical strength only from the mentally processed ideas which are derived from Marx’s writings. When a communist is trapped by a platoon of Army soldiers in the Sierra Madre mountains, would a way of escape be transmitted from the spirit of Karl Marx who is residing in Hades. No! Can the spirit of Karl Marx supernaturally and directly activate forces of nature to help the trapped communist? No
NASA headquarters could radio expert instructions, encouragement, news to its crew on the moon. NASA headquarters could activate computers which in turn activate spacecraft parts to fix themselves while out there in space. The Holy Spirit/God is no less powerful.
On the other hand, Christ/the Holy Spirit are living personae Who could personally and directly transmit abilities, comfort, encouragement, hope, wisdom, to the suffering, seduced Christian. Such enumerated help are derived above and beyond the mentally processed literary ideas from the Bible. These aids may come directly from the persona of the Holy Spirit/Christ. God could even activate nature in degrees imperceptible to the ordinary human senses so that nature would come to the aid of the beleaguered Christian. Or move people to give succor. This idea is backed up by our belief in the guardian angel (Matt. 18:10), of angels as ministering spirits sent out by God to aid the Christians (Heb 1:14), and angels disguised as visiting strangers (Heb 13:2). Or friends and acquaintances who suddenly become so gracious even in the absence of normal or natural human promptings thus supplying the Christian some much needed moral, material or cash assistance in time of dire crisis. ©