A Response To “Power Comes From The Holy Spirit”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Spiritual Life Comes From The Holy Spirit”.  This article is part of my Bible study series on the Gospel of John.  Part of the article focused in on verse 39 of chapter 7 where John comments that “the Spirit had not yet been given.”  I received a response from one of my readers who raises a good question.  I would like to paste his comment and try to give a good response to him.

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Not arguing with your scripture quotes, but how is it that long before Pentecost, various OT prophets were operating in the Holy Spirit with massive power and miracles. It seems that the Holy Spirit was always there for those who sought Him. The OT account seems to contradict Jn7v39. Just wondered what your thoughts were.

I comprehend where you are coming from, but I keep finding anomalies to the plain statement that the Holy Spirit would not be sent until Jesus had ascended.  i.e. Proverbs 1:23 ‘Turn you at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.’

This seems to be quite plain (and present tense) in its meaning, and I don’t buy that there is some difference between pouring “unto” and pouring “into”. Added to which it is an open statement to any reader, not just some OT Patriarch.  I also read some other OT verse the other day saying similar. I have sneaking suspicion that anyone who desired God’s Spirit would never have been refused OT or NT.

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There is no question that God’s Spirit was active long before the day of Pentecost.  We have God’s Spirit involved in the creation of the universe in Genesis ch. 1.  And there are many key people who were empowered by the Spirit of God (Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Saul, David, Elijah, Elisha, Zechariah to name a few).

What many people do not understand is that the Spirit of God was given only selectively to some of these key people that God was empowering to do His work during the OT period.  During the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Spirit did come down and empower Him, just like the OT judges and prophets.  But the Holy Spirit had not yet been released to all believers yet.

In fact, Jesus himself stated in John 16:7 that the Holy Spirit could not come to help believers until Jesus had ascended back up to Heaven.  This is a divine mystery, but it would appear that God decided to limit His direct involvement in the lives of people with only one Person of the Trinity at a time.  But there will come the day when we all who believe will be with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit when we are resurrected into the new heaven and the new earth.

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Let’s take a closer look now at some of the specific times in the OT where God’s Spirit empowered people, and consider the verse our friend pointed out in Proverbs 1:23.  I did check the Hebrew for this verse and taken just by itself, הִנֵּ֤ה אַבִּ֣יעָה לָכֶ֣ם רוּחִ֑י, it can be translated “Behold, I will pour out to you (pl) my spirit.”  In biblical studies and linguistics though, we must always look very carefully at the context in which we find a verse.

Proverbs 1:23 just happens to be part of a larger section (Proverbs chs. 1-4) that deal extensively with the topic of “Wisdom”, and also comes within a unique section of verses in chapter one of vv 20-33.  In this short section, “Wisdom” is personified (which may or may not be a reference to God), and it is Wisdom who starts to say, “I will pour out my….”  So should we translate “ruach” as “Spirit” or something else?

The Translator’s Handbook says:

Wisdom is likened to a fountain of water, a gushing spring for the person who will accept her instruction. Translations differ considerably in this line. NAB has “pour out to you my spirit,” NJPSV “speak my mind,” NJB “pour out my heart,” GECL “I open to you [plural] the treasure of my wisdom.”

It seems best to understand “my spirit” (my thoughts) in terms of what characterizes Wisdom, who is the speaker here. Her essential characteristic is wisdom, and therefore we may say something equivalent to TEV “I will give you good advice” or SPCL “I will fill you with wisdom.”

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Okay, so what about the many other places in the Old Testament where it is quite clear that “God poured out His Spirit” upon His people, or “the Spirit of the LORD came upon them.”  Using word searches like “the Spirit of God”, “God’s Spirit”, and “My Spirit”, I found roughly 50 verses in the entire Old Testament.  With the exception of a few verses which refer to God giving His Spirit to all people, and which are very likely references to the distant future, i.e. in or following the time of Christ, or the end times, almost every other verse was connected to key people and leaders of Israel.

The people to whom God poured out His Spirit were almost exclusively upon Moses and the leaders of his time, upon Judges like Othniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson and Samuel.  Then we see special anointing upon the kings of Saul, David and Solomon.  Finally, the Spirit of God came upon the great prophets, from Azariah to Isaiah, Jerimiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, plus prophetic passages that speak of Christ as in Isaiah 42:1-3 and Joel 2:27-29.

The bottom line is that God empowered special leaders of Israel (judges, priest, kings and prophets) when God needed something specifically to be done.  But otherwise, the people of God back then were not fortunate to experience the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that all believers have access to today.  There is no doubt that we are very privileged to live in the age of the Spirit, who has been  given to all believers after the resurrection and ascension of Christ.  Thank you God!

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Jesus, More Than A Prophet

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John 4:16 – 26

Jesus and the Samaritan Woman – Pt. 2

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

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In last week’s article about the conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman (read here), we learned some important things that show how unusual the conversation really was.  Culturally, it was not really proper for Jesus, a man, to have a social conversation with a woman in public.  Even more significant was the fact that there was a religious stigma attached to Samaritans, and so it was highly unusual for Jesus as a Jew to be talking with this woman.

Then we explored the idea that this woman may have even been a social outcast even in her own small town.  The hint we got from the previous verses was that she was coming down at noon in the heat of the day to get water from the well.  Normally, women would go down either in the cool of the morning or the evening to get their water and would socialize with each other.  But this woman did not appear to be accepted and for this reason came down at noon.  We can see from our passage above the reason for her being ostracized due to being a woman married to five husbands, and now sleeping with a sixth man.

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But Jesus looked past and cut through all these walls of social stigmas and saw a person of worth in front of him.  But how could he do this in a gentle and non-threatening way?  He used her need for daily water to attract her attention by offering to give her “living water”.  This did intrigue her and so the conversation began.  But Jesus also saw all the social and religious baggage that this woman carried and he had to lovingly go slow to bring her to the point of wanting to accept and believe in Him who was the true Living Water.

Jesus began then by asking the woman about her home.  His question seems so simple and innocent, “Go call your husband.”  I believe that Jesus was testing the woman to see if she would be honest with him that she was not actually married to the man she was currently sleeping with.  She does tell the truth, opens up herself on one level, and Jesus takes this opportunity to let her know that in fact Jesus knew all about her home life situation.

Seeing this kind of perception, the woman naturally thought that Jesus must be some kind of prophet.  She is not quite ready to open her heart up further yet, so she counters Jesus with a side topic of worship, pointing out that Jews worship in Jerusalem, but the Samaritans had the religious habit or worshiping God up on Mount Gerazim in the Province of Samaria.  (Was she perhaps trying to impress Jesus that she was a religious person?)

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 But Jesus cuts through that statement to make the bold statement that worship is not to be defined by a specific ritual done in a specific place, whether that was in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerazim.  For as Jesus goes on to explain, true worship of God occurs within a person’s heart.  You see, real worship is based off of a relationship with God and a heart attitude of love, adoration and obedience.  Worship should never be limited to our physical posture and place of gathering.  No, we can worship God anywhere and at any time from out of our heart to God.

This is when the woman clearly sees the point, but deflects Jesus by saying that when the Messiah comes, the One whom God anointed to bring salvation to people, then He would explain things to her and she would be able to worship God in truth and in spirit.  Do you see how gently Jesus led this woman down deeper and deeper into spiritual truth to the point that she admitted her need for the Messiah in her life?  And then Jesus gives his grand statement to her, “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah].”

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What a wonderful passage this is.  And as we will see later, what a wonderful joy came to this woman who had discovered her Messiah.  But let me ask you this now in closing.  Where are you in your relationship with Jesus?  Have you let Him come in to affect positively your life at home?  Are your religious activities just routine habits?  Or have you accepted the face that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the One whom God chose to bring salvation to the world.  Have you given your heart to Jesus?  Perhaps it is time to do just that.

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Dreams & Visions

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God Is The God Of The Unknown

We certainly live in interesting times.  Technology, knowledge and scientific advancements are surging ahead in leaps and bounds.  They call this the “Information Age” with computer technology, data streams, wireless everything, etc.  They even have the forerunners of independent robots and they say we are on the verge of creating artificial intelligence.

Yet for all this advancement of technology, there is an upsurge in spirituality and exploration of the paranormal.  Questions are still being asked regarding the “consciousness of man”.  And the search for the meaning of life is bringing along with that the quest to know if there really is life after death.

I wish that I was able to explore all these fascinating topics more in depth, but I recognize my own limitations and that I am not really qualified to speak authoritatively on them.  Except that in a way, being a strong believer in the Bible as the Word of God, I can say some things about the unknown and the “Great Beyond”.  In this article, I want to touch briefly on the topic of “Dreams & Visions”.

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There are a couple things that prompt me to want to write about this topic.  The first is rather humorous, while the second carries more importance.  The humorous side of this has little to do with my Bible translation ministry, except for the lifestyle and the pace that I keep.  I have been so focused on my translation work for these past months, and along with the fatigue of my muscle condition, I find that I am often taking at least two naps each day to get through the day.

That being the case, I have the possibility of having a dream up to three times a day.  Add to that the fact that I seem to travel to some other part of the world every few months and it would be easy to see that I can both literally and metaphysically find myself “somewhere else”.  I can recall a handful of times now in these past few years where I have woken up from a dream and laid on the bed and stared at the walls and around the room for up to 20 minutes and wondered, “Where am I?”

What is really interesting is what has happened since I have seen the movie “Inception” with Leonardo DiCaprio.  In that movie, the characters go inside the dream of someone else, but inside that dream you can go another layer down by going into the dream of a dream character.  I now can say that I have a number of times “woken up” in a dream, and then realized that I am still in a dream and need to go up one or even two more layers of dreams to come back to reality.

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But that brings us to the question of “So what is Reality?”  Is it this world of flesh and blood that we live in?  Most people would say so, unless you are one of those strange philosophers who question everything.  But as I started at the beginning, we are seeing that millions of people that used to limit reality to just this physical world are now starting to ask about spiritual realities, and the question of life beyond death.

What makes it so difficult for us is that there is no one who has died, crossed the boundary from this life to next, and come back to tell us about it.  (Except that as Christians we hold to the belief that Jesus was in fact raised back from the dead and validated His claim to being the Son of God.)  But let us ask the question of whether anyone can “see” across that boundary line and obtain knowledge of the unknown and the spiritual.

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There are countless numbers of people who “claim” to be psychics and can reach the spiritual realm.  The Bible claims that there are people who can do this in the name of God.  They are called prophets.  What is the difference between a prophet of God and a psychic or “Medium” as we would call them? It’s very simple.  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 states that if someone makes a prophecy (or prediction) and it does not happen, then that person was not a true prophet.  In other words, a true prophet of God gets their predictions right 100% of the time.

So now on a more serious note, why am I bringing up this topic right now?  It is because I am doing my preparation work on the book of Daniel so that I can do the consultant check on the translation of it into a PNG language next week.  And Daniel is really loaded with prophetic visions.  In more than one occasion, when the Babylonian king had an alarming dream or vision, none of the “soothsayers, magicians or astrologers” was able to interpret the dream or vision.

Not so with Daniel.  He is able to interpret correctly every time whatever the message or meaning was of the vision that God had sent to the king.  What I find most interesting is the response that Daniel gives when the king asks him if he could interpret his dream for him.  In Daniel 2:27-28 he says:

“Your Majesty, there is no wizard, magician, fortuneteller, or astrologer who can tell you that.  But there is a God in heaven, who reveals mysteries.”

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So what is my point in this article?  Dreams can be fascinating; visions and prophetic utterances are real and have happened and can happen to people.  But we must not look to human resources or human reasoning to understand what they are all about.  If we really want to reach out to the spiritual realm and understand it, we must look to God for this kind of help.  Anything else is either false or demonic.  There are no other options.