The Holy Spirit in the Bible

Today’s reading is Psalm 139Open Link in New Window.

Here is today’s reflection by Ian.

Available from 2pm Sunday.

This week we begin a short series look the Holy Spirit. This follows on from our recent series before Easter, looking at Paul’s letter to the Galatians, which ends with Paul’s encouragement to ‘live by the Spirit’, and a look at what such a life looks like.

I sometimes hear people say to me as a Christian minister, ‘I understand the idea of God, and I can relate to Jesus as a person, but I find the idea of the Spirit of God difficult’. In Christianity, the Holy Spirit can be the person of God who is most difficult to grasp. That the Sprit is one and the same as God and one and the same as Jesus, can feel like something we want to understand, but we can struggle to.

God is God, ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’, three persons, one God, the Trinity. So, it is vital for our faith and our relationship with God, that we grow in understanding of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is through the person of the Holy Spirit that God reaches out to his people. It is through the person of the Holy Spirit, that we see the Love of God. And as we receive that love, it is the Spirit of God who helps us spread and grow in that love, and pour out our lives in faith, and to live our lives to their full potential.

In the St Matthews church profile, prepared for when you were seeking a new vicar in 2018, it says as follows:

We are a church that seeks to honour God through Word, Spirit and Sacrament.

  • We want to delight in God’s Word.
  • We want to be open to the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
  • We want to know the grace of Christ as we gather around his table.

Our preaching and teaching of God’s Word, in knowing the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, is at the heart of how God is calling us to go deeper in our faith—please do join a home group if you can, use bible notes for your daily reflections, make sure you have a good copy of the Bible yourself.

Our valuing of the Eucharist in the rhythm of normal church life is central to who we are, and encountering the grace of Jesus Christ’s giving of himself for us, through the sacrament of Holy Communion is at the heart of our life and worship as a Christian community.

We’re now going to spend some time on understanding the place of the other statement—‘being open to the empowering of the Holy Spirit.’

This week we begin this series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, by reflecting briefly on the Holy Spirit throughout history, right from the very beginning of the Bible in the Book of Genesis, to the end, and the Book of Revelation.

In Genesis 1:2Open Link in New Window, we read, ‘Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.’

In the Book of Revelation, at the end of the Bible, when John had a vision of heaven with God, at the end of all time, when all thing will be made new, he was ‘in the Spirit’, and it is the Spirit of God speaking, as we hear the exhortation, ‘those who have an ear, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. “I am the Alpha and the Omega” says the Lord, the beginning and the end, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty’. From the beginning of time it has always been God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Throughout the Bible, from the account of creation in Genesis, we can see the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing order out of chaos and working in and through God’s people, through humanity, for the purposes of God. It can be a modern misconception / misunderstanding, that somehow, the role of the Holy Spirit is limited to the New Testament.

As we have already heard, the Spirit participated in creation. The Spirit gave life to humanity and to all other creatures. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 104:30Open Link in New Window, ‘When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.’

When in Genesis 2Open Link in New Window it says that the Lord God formed the people from the dust, and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life’, the word for breath is the word translated elsewhere as ‘Spirit’.

The Spirit came upon certain prophets, Judges and warriors in ways that gave them extraordinary powers from God; Gideon, Samson, Saul (although the Spirit also departed from Saul).

The Spirit inspired holiness in God’s people, and was crucial in helping them anticipate and look forward to the ministry of God’s Messiah, Jesus Christ. Isaiah 11Open Link in New Window is a preview if you like of the work of the Trinitarian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.’

Looking forward to the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Spirit inspired the ministry of the prophet Isaiah, which links us so clearly to the New Testament, and the ongoing presence and work of the Holy Spirit.

In the Old Testament, we can clearly see what God does through history by his Holy Spirit. And it is personal. It is God encouraging ordinary men and women like you and me, through the person of the Holy Spirit. God the Father never acts alone in our lives.

As you think about the Spirit of God, the person of the Holy Spirit, where else can you think of in the Old Testament where the Spirit of God is mentioned?

The New Testament is saturated with examples of the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit becomes deeper and wider through Jesus—who is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit descends on him at his baptism. And we shall be hearing more about the Spirit and Jesus from Gaby next week.

Our short series will be ending at Pentecost, when we read about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles. I mentioned earlier, that the Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible has the Holy Spirit engaging with the churches, to draw them back into a relationship with God.

Right at the end of Revelation 22Open Link in New Window, which one commentators described as a sort of triumphal finale in the Bible, Jesus, the fulfilment of God’s plan of the world, the fulfilment of all the prophecies inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, Isaiah’s ‘Everlasting Father, Prince of peace, He who is before all things, says, ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let those who hear say, “Come!”. Whoever is thirsty, let them come; and whoever wishes, let them take the free gift of the water of life.’

The Bride, that is ‘the Church, welcomes Jesus, the Bridegroom as he comes in glory, and the Church does so, because the Spirit of God, who teaches us to pray, is praying in the same way himself.

The Holy Spirit of God is present in all times and in all places.

  • To know God is to know the Holy Spirit.
  • To know Jesus is to know the Holy Spirit.

It was Athanasius who said, ‘We share in the divine nature through our sharing of the Spirit.’
As you think about the Spirit of God, the person of the Holy Spirit, where else can you think of in the New Testament where the Spirit of God is mentioned?
Psalm 139Open Link in New Window says,

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

How do you respond to the Holy Spirit? Who is the Holy Spirit for you?

Can I encourage you and invite you, wherever you are in your faith journey, and as we begin this short series getting to know the Holy Spirit of God better, to say that simplest, yet most powerful and wonderful prayer of the Church ‘Come Holy Spirit…’.

When we pray, ‘Come Holy Spirit’, we are praying for an increased sense of the presence of God in our lives, a longing for God’s empowering presence in our lives.

As you do so, trust in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to enter into your life in a new way, to receive and know the true depth of his eternal love for you.

Come Holy Spirit…

There will be a video version of the service.

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