The Forgotten God?

Have We Demoted the Holy Spirit?

Jessie Penn LewisIwrite this more as a question than an answer. Something is not right! Let me just share my thoughts with you a little.

I have been reading the Acts of the Apostles, subsequent to the Gospels. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, obviously his followers were overjoyed to see him again, and possibly thought he would now stay on earth and set up the Kingdom.

Jesus told them that day would come, but not yet. Actually he was going back to heaven to be with the Father. BUT, he said "I will not leave you [like] orphans [comfortless]; I will come to you". Then he described the coming of the Holy Spirit:

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you....I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you... and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. ...These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 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."

Returning - But How?

Some have argued that this promised "coming" of Jesus is either the Rapture or Jesus coming to earth to judge mankind. Yet neither of those happened in the lifetime of the disciples. Jesus would open himself to the charge of a false promise if he said those events would be the only comfort for their loss! God is no liar. What Jesus surely intended was to send the Holy Spirit as his replacement, the Comforter!

One commentary has this to say:

I will not leave you behind as orphans, bereft of my paternal guardianship. ... His departure might be the signal for the most utter sense of desertion, exposure, and peril; and even the promise of another Advocatus would hardly console them before the time would arrive when he would receive them unto himself; but, says he, I am coming to you. Much unnecessary comment has here arisen as to whether this coming was the last triumphant parousia of which he speaks in part in Ver. 3, - this would be incompatible with the assurances, that THEN the world would and will see him: "Every eye" shall then "see him," and "before him shall be gathered all nations;" or whether this coming be simply his resurrection with his transitory appearances in the flesh; for both of these representations would fail of the full consolation which would terminate their orphanhood. But surely he speaks of his own spiritual coming in the bestowment of the other Advocate, who, by being with them and in them, would prove to them, notwithstanding his own apparent departure, that he had come again in his glorious fullness of love. [Pulpit Commentary]

And Jesus really did mean that the Comforter would be his replacement!

Imagine the grief and loss suffered by the disciples, their fear, and human weakness. Imagine their lack of direction, wondering what would become of them now that their Lord had gone. Imagine how it had been for them, led and nurtured, healed, inspired, loved and protected in all things by Jesus, their constant Companion. They had been totally dependent upon him, even for their daily bread since some of them had given up everything to follow him.

Now, they were facing an indescribable emptiness. What would they do? How could they continue? Who would inspire and teach them and lead them?

Matthew 23:8-10 Do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

Luk2 22:25-26 The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.

Jesus had given strict instructions that they were NOT to fall back on the old system of asking wise elders to tell them what to believe and how to act. They were not to be mere submissive disciples under the direction of one who "lorded it over them". They were family, brethren, each having equal honour and status. Christ alone was their Teacher - but he had gone home to Heaven! What, then?

What then should they do? To whom would they listen? WHO would lead them now that Jesus had gone?

I Will Come to You

" I will not leave you comfortless - in a bereaved and desolate condition; or (as in Margin) "orphans." I will come to you -"I come" or "am coming" to you; that is, plainly by the Spirit, since it was to make His departure to be no bereavement. [Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.]

And so on the Day of Pentecost:

Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

This much we know, and we are all familiar with the text, I am sure.

But how is it this has just become a historical event to us, not an everyday reality? This was the Lord returning to his Body! Suddenly power, confidence, inspiration, direction and great joy came to the believers as the Spirit of Christ came upon and into them, each one.

As I read on in Acts, I find something remarkable. The Holy Spirit was to the early Church every bit as much a reality as was their Lord Jesus - and even more so, since (as Jesus had promised) the Holy Spirit was during the ministry of Jesus only "upon" or "with" them, but NOW he had come "within" their spirits to be ever with each one individually as well as all corporately! A living Companion, Guide, Comforter, Helper, Teacher - and everything that Jesus had been to them.

Just as Jesus promised to the faithful, " Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

The Father and the Son will indwell the Temple - each individual temple and the Temple corporately; each living member of the Body and the Body corporately!

Just as the presence of God filled and indwelt the physical Tabernacle during the days of Israel, so the Presence of God descended upon and indwelt the LIVING Temple, the Body of Christ. The Glory of God had returned to the Temple on earth! Yet this momentous and world-changing moment seems now to pass us by like the forsaken festival, and the forgotten God!

We read of the awe of God in the Tabernacle, how it was not possible for man to stand on his feet when the cloud of God's Presence filled the Temple, how no man dare enter into that divine Presence except at appointed times, and only then in a state of purity. We know that those who offered "strange fire" before God (even perhaps with good intention) died as a result.

Leviticus 10:1-3 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, "It is what the LORD spoke, saying, 'By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.'"

Why do we not then stand in awe, tremble before God, heed his power and his commands and take them seriously? Why do we seem to ignore, even despise the Presence of God in our hearts and lives as if it's no big deal?

We are not under the Law I know, and our sin is washed away so that we DO have the privilege and even the right to stand before our Father, but even so God never changes and the "fear of God" ought to be our guiding principle just as before.

Hebrews 10:26-31 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose you, shall he be thought worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, with which he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace? For we know him that has said, Vengeance belongs to me, I will recompense, said the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

In a talk about the Holy Spirit, C. I. Scofield said this:

Perhaps God would remind us that He who dwells within us is, first of all, holy. Well, now if we come to believe that, dear friends, I repeat, there will come a change of life. I have seen it again and again.

I remember when I was a young man I was one of a house party at a country house, the home of a young friend of ours; and we were having what we called a good time, playing cards, and dancing, and all worldly amusements of that kind, when at dinner one evening the butler handed our host a telegram.

The face of our host, as he read the telegram, was a study. He appeared glad and he appeared confused, and presently he said, "My dear old mother will be here in an hour, on the next train, and all this dancing and card playing has got to stop. He said, "I would not have her grieved by our doing any of these things in this house where she has lived for so many years for anything." And he told the butler to get every card in the house and burn it up.

Presently she came; a dear, sweet-faced old saint, and we all fell in love with her at once, and as the evening drew to its close she told her son to bring the family Bible, and she said, "You read and I will pray." I noticed it took him a long time to find the place, but at last he did find it, and then she knelt down and prayed. Well, we remained there about a week after that, and the whole life of that house from that moment was keyed to the fact that this Godly old saint had come among us. Everything took color from her presence.

My friends, if we really believed that the Holy Spirit dwelt within these bodies of ours, how long do you think we could allow many things about which we are so careless today?

Knowing the glory and power and godliness of God's Presence by his Spirit, why is the Church acting as if it's only in a holding pattern between the earthly ministry of Jesus, and his return? Where is Jesus today, if not by the Spirit of Christ indwelling his people?

We were not left like orphans, so why do we act as if we were?

And some of us have gone back to our previous pursuits in the meanwhile, thinking there is little to do but wait it out, and we should amuse ourselves just as those young people in the country house, having nothing better to do.

After the Lord was crucified, Peter and some of the others went back to fishing, no doubt reasoning that they had to support their families somehow, so why not? The days of ministering with Jesus throughout the land were over, supposedly, so there was nothing else to do.

How wrong they were, because Jesus had a much wider and more powerful ministry for them, that was to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature". (Mark 16:15)

For that task, they would desperately NEED the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Our Relationship with the Holy Spirit

Are we trying to accomplish the ministry of God without the Spirit, by our own wisdom, insight and intelligence?

I'm well aware of the proper caution, not to call upon, relate to, worship the Holy Spirit in isolation, but to pray to the Father in the Name of Jesus, by the Spirit. Yes, over many years the Church has reached certain conclusions about the Spirit that avoid heresies. This is helpful. We certainly do not want to encourage "Spirit Guides" and supernatural experiences outside of God.

But in our eagerness to avoid error, have we gone too far in the opposite direction? Because in my reading of Acts, I find that the Christians related to the Spirit (and he to them) in a very personal and real way.

Consider two situations in the early Church:

  1. The necessity of choosing another disciple to replace Judas (Acts 1:23-26). They did this by casting lots!
  2. But secondly, after the Holy Spirit came to them, when choosing who to send to preach the gospel (Acts 13) they "ministered to the Lord and fasted and the HOLY SPRIT said to them, 'now separate to me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'." What a difference! No longer are the disciples depending on the old order, casting lots as in the days of ancient Israel, now they could hear directly from God by the Spirit.

After Pentecost, it was no longer hit-and-miss and guesswork, but the Spirit spoke, commanded, led, taught. Is this our experience?

The Spirit's Relationship with Us

Consider also the relationship that these disciples had with the Spirit - a very real and personal one. Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira "lied to the Holy Spirit" and "tested the Holy Spirit" and died as a result. I don't think we would describe the events in such words today. We simply don't think of the Spirit as a Person that one can lie to!

When Peter needed to understand the inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation, it was the Spirit who spoke to him (Acts 10:19) just as the Spirit spoke to Paul and forbade them to go to Asia. (Acts 16:6). How? We might suggest it was by a word of prophecy, but Peter was alone when the Spirit spoke to him!

They clearly had a close enough relationship to God in the Spirit to be able to take verbal instructions (as did Philip Acts 8:29, and Paul Acts 18:5) and these instructions were not vague but specific. How many of us today can say that?

Other Scriptures

What is the role of the Spirit in our Christian lives? Much has been said of the gifts and ministries, so I will just look at other aspects that I feel are overlooked.


The Holy Spirit:

  • He gives assurance that we belong to God: Rom 8:16-17 and Gal 4:6-7 and 1 John 3:24 and 1 John 5:6-7
  • He helps in our weaknesses and confusion: Rom 8:26-27
  • He reveals the things of God to us: 1 Cor 2:9-12
  • He speaks through us with words of wisdom direct from God: 1 Cor 2:13-15
  • He can be offended and grieved: Eph 4:29-31 and Heb 10:29-30 and 1 Thess 5:19-22
  • He sanctifies us: 2 Thess 2:13-14
  • He reveals mysteries and prophesies of things to come: 1 Tim 4:1 and Rev 2:7
  • He watches over us and jealously guards us: James 4:4-5
  • He gives us a yearning to see Jesus return: Rev 22:17

All this and more persuades me that our relationship with and to the Holy Spirit somewhat falls short of what Jesus intended! Are we afraid of stepping over a line? Are we confused about who the Holy Spirit is and how to relate to him? Have we demoted him to a lesser role than the Father and the Son?

I don't know! But it's worth pondering, don't you think?

© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website:  This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information.   One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.