"Rediscovering the Spirit Filled Life"
by Richard Rice
Why are people seeking dramatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit in such numbers?
One possible reason is theological fatigue. We have overemphasized doctrinal orthodoxy
and precision at the expense of attention to Christian experience. When we interpret
salvation as something entirely externalsomething entirely outside uswe create
the impression that everything else in Christian life is strictly secondary.
Another reason people may look for more drama in religion is unsatisfying worship
experiences. for many people, nothing exciting seems to happen in conventional worship
services. The same individuals lead out week after week. The order of service is
predictable. The hymns are familiar, overly familiar. The sermonsand there are always
sermonsare often uninspired, uninspiring, and unoriginal. Years ago a group of
students were talking on a Friday night about the tameness of the worship services at the
college they attended. To make a point, one of them opened the bulletin for the next
days program, read the sermon title, and asked, rhetorically, "Is there anyone
here who doesnt know what the preachers going to say tomorrow?"
A contributing factor to this dissatisfaction with worship services is the sleek form that
popular entertainment comes in. People today are used to sophisticated
programmingwhether they are watching television, motion pictures, going to concerts
or plays, or just scanning the internet. Popular entertainment is slick. Its
well-planned, its fast moving, it has great variety, and its highly
stimulating. As a college professor I have class sessions that run from 50 minutes to five
hours (the outside exception). It is a tremendous challenge to keep things moving.
Especially when todays students, even university students, are used to watching
programs that literally fly past them. For years Seinfeld was the most popular
sit-com on American television. In an average half hour broadcast, there were 8 minutes of
commercials, 22 minutes of comedy, 20 to 24 separate scenes, and four interweaving plot
lines. Viewers didnt have to focus their attention on anything longer than a minute
at a time. No wonder they find it hard to listen to someone talk for half an hour
non-stop! People today are looking for religion in lighter, more compact, more stimulating
Then theres the problem of tepid devotional lives. Many people find little joy,
little excitement, in their attempts to reach out to God in the course of their day-to-day
lives. They just dont feel connected to God. Bible reading is just an exercise. In
some families, daily worship is just another chore.
Another reason people want excitement in religion is the deep desire we all have for
assurance, or certainty, in religion. We want to know God, and we want to know
that we know him. We are tired of wondering if weve worked enough, or repented
enough, or trusted enough, to be saved. And we are tired of the suspense of waiting until
Christ comes to find out. We want tangible evidence that we are right with God right now,
that we are part of his kingdom today, in short, that we are really saved. And a dramatic
manifestation of spiritual power offers provide that evidence. It provides a visible
demonstration of spiritual security.
The answer to this deep desire, we need to recover the Spirit-filled life. And the way
to find such a life is to look at the life of Jesus. He lived the most Spirit-filled life
ever lived. In Gerald F. Hawthornes words, "His birth was singular, his life
unexampled, his death remarkable, and his resurrection unparalleled."
The Holy Spirit in the birth of Jesus
The Holy Spirit, which had been silent for centuries according to the teaching of the
rabbis, burst forth with a flurry of activity surrounding one particular life. The Holy
Spirit was active in an extraordinary way at Jesus birth (Mt 1,18, Lk 1,35), at his
baptism (Mt 3:16), at his temptation (Mt 4:1). There is also running through the early
chapters of Lk statements such as: John the baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from
his birth (1,15); Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed about Gods
new work in the world (Lk 1:41); Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied
of Gods goodness (1:67); John the Baptist, as a child, grew and became strong by the
Holy Spirit (1:80); the Holy Spirit came upon Simeon and gave him special insight and
revelation and prompted him to go into the temple at the right moment (2:25-26). 54.
"And the angel said to her, the Holy Spirit will come upon [overshadow]
you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God." Luke 1:35. 65. Luke makes clear that the
conception of Jesus was not part of the normal course of things, but a miracle, the direct
intervention of God into the course of human events, so that Marys child would be a
gift of God in the fullest sense. 71.
In the OT the expression overshadow describes the protection that the power of
God affords to those who trust in him. Ps 90:4, 139:8. Here in Luke it is an allusion to
the same power coming upon Mary. As the tabernacle was full of the shekinah glory, so Mary
was to carry within herself the Son of God, the glory of Gods people Israel (cf. Lk
The consequences of Jesus conception by the Holy Spirit. Lk 1,35.
- Jesus will be called the Son of God. Lk 1,35b.
Jesus will be called holy. Lk 1,35. Cf. Jdgs 13,7. Just what does the fact that Jesus
was "holy" signify? It means that he was singled out for unique ministry for
God. 82. Many people also feel that it means he was free from sin, the stain of original
sin. The Holy Spirit produced perfect humanity for the Son of God to assume. 85.
Jesus will be full of the Holy Spirit from his birth. John the Baptist was filled with
the Holy Spirit while in his mothers womb. Lk 1,15. Cf. Judgs 13,3-5; 16,17. Isaiah
44,2. So, Jesus was to be filled with Holy Spirit from his mothers womb. From the
very beginning of Jesus existence and onward he was to be endowed by the Holy Spirit
with those gifts of the Holy Spirit that would be necessary for his exercise of love,
trust, and holy affection. Cf. Ps. 22.10.
The Holy Spirit at the baptism and temptation of Jesus
The baptism of Jesus is the most obvious point in his life where he connected with the
Holy Spirit. And the descent of the Holy Spirit at Jesus baptism clearly indicates
that the influence of the Holy Spirit was to last his entire life.
There were three essential elements in baptism of Jesus: heavens open, Holy Spirit
descends, and the voice comes from heaven. 122. (It is a testimony to the highly
"spiritual" nature of the experience that there is no hint that any other person
saw or heard the things that Jesus did. See Mk 1,10.)
Heavens opened. "torn apart." "The language is cosmological,
invoking the concept of a firmament that separates the abode of God above from the world
of human beings below. 124. The language is apocalypticpicturing the
last times as having dawned, the age of Gods salvation as having arrived, the
breaking in of the heavenly into the earthly. The language is propheticpicturing
God as answering the peoples plea (Isaiah 64:1-2, Mal 3:10). It all indicated to
Jesus that God was on the verge of doing some great new thing, that God was about to
manifest himself in some unusual way and to reveal his purpose in an unmistakable fashion,
that God himself was going to come down and act in power.
Descent of the Holy Spirit. Cf. Isaiah 63:14 and 19.
The descent of the dove shows that the Holy Spirit had come to him to stay. Jesus was
now the permanent bearer of the Holy Spirit. Luke say that after his Jordan experience
Jesus was "full of the Holy Spirit" (4:1). The descent of the Holy Spirit is
Jesus anointing, his commissioning as the Messiah of God. OT kings and prophets were
anointed. In Ac 10:38 Peter links the baptism of Jn with God anointing Jesus with the Holy
Spirit and power. 132
In Jesus synagogue sermon of Luke 4, Jesus applies Isaiah 61:1 to himself: The
Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
From the moment the Holy Spirit descended to him, Jesus became aware of a new power
within him to save, to heal, to bind the strong man and overturn his evil designs, to
teach and preach, to release those held captive by sin, to command unclean spirits to come
out of tortured people. 133.
By coming upon him and into him at the baptism the Holy Spirit anointed Jesus with
power and authority to carry out, fulfill, his mission as Messiah; filled him to a greater
extent than before, permeating his being, pervading his thinking, directing his steps,
empowering him (Lk 4,1-2). The Holy Spirit equipped him for service. 134.
"He came to the Jordan as Jesus of Nazareth and left it as the Messiah of
God." It was as a person filled with the Holy Spirit that he was marked to his
followers as the Messiah, not any outward activity of a king that he might have displayed.
The presence and power of the Holy Spirit within him gave reality to messianic claims.
In this connection, it is noteworthy that there is no record that Jesus, the supreme
recipient of the Holy Spirit, ever spoke in tongues. But there is a record about the
impact of his speech on his hearers. The multitudes were astonished at his authority (Mt
7). Those who cam to arrest him exclaimed, "No one every spoke like this man. Jn
7,45-46." The conclusion? The Holy Spirit gave Jesus words extraordinary power
and authority. The evidence of the Spirits influence was apparent in the effect his
words had on people.
Coming of the voice.
The voice confirms and interprets the appearance of the dove. Jesus understanding
of himself as Son of God was not only the result of the declaration from the Father, but
also the result of the inner prompting or illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. 128.
The voice confirms and interprets the appearance of the dove. Jesus understanding
of himself as Son of God was not only the result of the declaration from the Father, but
also the result of the inner prompting or illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. 128.
The words Jesus heard are borrowed from two significant OT texts. One is Ps 2:7,
"You are my son, today I have begotten you." The other is Isaiah 42:1,
"Behold my servant in whom my soul delights." Ps 2 may have been an enthronement
psalm, chanted during the coronation ceremony of Davids heir. In later Judaism my
son was applied to Messiah, as it was in the NT (Ac 13,33; Heb 1:5, 5:5, 2Pet 1:17).
Isaiah quotation is from the Servant Songs (42, 49, 50, 52-53), which begin with God
putting his Holy Spirit upon the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1) and conclude with the
servants suffering and death by which he brings healing and redemption to the people
he represents. 130.
The combination of Ps 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1 gives insight into the person and mission of
Jesus. As the Messiah he is to be the servant of the Lord, anointed with the Holy Spirit,
thrust into the world not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many.
This pronouncement is "a panoramic view of his life." 136.
Baptism as a turning point. From this moment onward the directing and empowering
impulse of the Spirit of God ordered the way Jesus was to go, the things he was to say and
Temptations in the wilderness. We also see the Holy Spirit in Jesus life
in the wilderness temptations. The saviors victory over the tempter was due in large
part to his being filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to see the
subtle dangers that underlay the seemingly innocent appeals of Satan to exercise his
messianic powers on his own authority. And the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to resist these
solicitations to take a course that would run counter to the will of God. 140.
The Spirit in the Ministry of Jesus
Following Jesus healing of a man with a withered hand, Matthew quotes Isaiah
42:1-4. "I will put my Spirit on my servant." 146. There a two statements that
refer explicitly to the role the Holy Spirit in Jesus life.
Following the mission of the 72, according to Lk 10:21, Jesus "rejoiced in
the Holy Spirit." 148. Directly following these words is Lks version of the
famous statement (Johanine thunderbolt in the synoptic sky), "no one knows who the
Son is except the Father or who the Father is except the son and anyone to whom the Son
chooses to reveal him" (Lk 10:21-33, cf. Mt 11:25-27). 150. It appears then that
Jesus was conscious of being in a unique relationship to God, as Son to the Father, and
was a developing one in keeping with his years and in keeping with his ability to
understand and make use of it. It was spurred on by extraordinary events (e.g. baptism,
temptation, transfiguration), by his own constant meditation on the meaning of certain key
OT passages (e.g. 2Sm 7,8-16, Isaiah 42-53, Dan 2:31-35, 7:9-14, Zech 9) and by the
illuminating activity of the Holy Spirit. 151.
Jn 3,34-35. "He whom God sent speaks the words of God, for it is not by
measure that he gives the Spirit. The Father loves the S, and has give all things into his
hand." Jesus excels all other messengers, because they receive the Holy Spirit in a
measured fashion, only partially, but Jesus is given the Holy Spirit without measure.
"The Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus at the baptism to be with him, to remain
in him, to be fully active in his life (Jn 1,33-34) is the Holy Spirit who now in his
fullness inspires Jesus and enables him to speak the words of God with power, to speak
words that are in fact the very words of God. The conclusion of the matter is this: the
teaching ministry of Jesus was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke as the Holy Spirit
filled his mind with new insights prompting him to speak (cf. Mk 13,11). His words came
forth with authority through the enabling power of Gods Holy Spirit." 153.
The Holy Spirit in the death of Jesus
The one text that makes the connection explicitly is Heb 9:13-14. Perhaps the
writer thought of Gethsemane as Jesus greatest temptation, and that he overcame here
as he had before, by relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit. Heb 10:7. So,
"through the eternal Spirit," means that it was by the aid of, through the
morally strengthening support of, by the power of the Spirit that Jesus offered himself as
the perfect sacrifice to God. As the Holy Spirit helped him throughout his ministry, it
enabled him here to achieve his greatest accomplishment. 183-84.
The Holy Spirit in the resurrection of Jesus
The Holy Spirit was the power by which God raised up Jesus from the dead and gave him
life again. Recall that the Holy Spirit is the life-giving power of God in the world, from
creation on and in salvation. 187.
Rom 1:1-4 mentions the Spirit of holiness in connection with Jesus resurrection.
Rom 8:11. "The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he
who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his
Spirit, who lives in you." The resurrection of Jesus was an eschatological event. It
inaugurated the Last Days. That first event was the pledge and guarantee of the last
eventthe resurrection of Christians. 189.
The Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus followers
Jesus bequeathed to his followers the power (and presence) that had guided and directed
his life. Doing this accomplished several things.
On the day of his resurrection, Jesus breathed on his followers and said
"receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20:22). This expression appears nowhere else in
the NT, but it is the verb used of creation in Gen 2:7. This constitutes an anointing
reminiscent of Jesus anointing at his baptism.
Most obviously, it created a new dynamic for living, a new inner power, a new life,
eternal life, the life of the resurrection. 2Cor 5:17.
It bound Jesus disciples to him with ties that can never be broken. Jesus
continued to be present in the world in the lives of his followers (Christ in you, the
life I now live I live by Christ). The Holy Spirit is now the "spirit of
Christ." So the Holy Spirit receives a new identity by virtue of the ministry of
Jesus in the world.
It created a new community in which believers would enjoy a closeness to each other that
human beings had never found possible before.
It empowered the disciples for service. It accounts for the dramatic things they were
able to accomplish. The acts of the apostles were the acts of the Holy Spirit. 238. The AA
shows what God is able to do though people who yield themselves willingly to the influence
of the Holy Spirit: preach boldly, face crises with courage, face persecution and
suffering, heal the sick and raise the dead, arbitrate differences and bring about peace,
know where to go and not to go, what to do and not to do. 238.
The Holy Spirit is God present and active in the lives of Jesus
followersnot to make life rich and comfortable for them, but to equip them to
fulfill Gods mission in the world. And what it that mission? It is a mission of
helping, serving, healing, restoring, giving, sharing and loving, a mission of binding up
the broken, of being just and striving for justice, of proclaiming the good news that God
is king, of taking the Gospel everywhere, preaching the message that God has acted to save
the world and transform people in and through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son
Jesus Christ. 243.
From what we have seen of Jesus own experience, and the experience of his
immediate followers, it is evident that life in the Holy Spirit is a life of service, and
the bestowal of the Holy Spirit is intended to equip its recipients to enter into that
life. The gift of the Holy Spirit is incomprehensible apart from the mission of the
church. The Holy Spirit creates the church, the community of fellowship which extends back
to Jesus own relationship with his disciples, and the Holy Spirit extends that
community outward into the world to include more and more of Gods people within it.
If this is true, it is a mistake to seek the Holy Spirit just to satisfy our personal
needs for spiritual assurance. We need the Holy Spirit to equip us for service. The
Christians highest priority is not to gain personal salvation, but to further the
work of Gods kingdom. We need to shift the focus of the Christian life from self to
service, from the individual Christian to the community of Christians, from what God is
doing for us and in us, to what God wants to do through us and among
Life in the Spirit as life with God
The purpose of Jesus ministry is also to unite us with God in a new and intimate
way. To express this point as dramatically as possible, we must say that the goal of
salvation is to bring us into the inner life of God. The Holy Spirit calls us to become
children of God in and alongside the Son and to join in his self-surrender to the Father.
So the circle of Gods own life reaches out to include us within his. We are invited
inside the Trinity as joint heirs together with Christ. By the Holy Spirit we cry Abba
together with the Son.
Conversionbaptism and the "second blessing"
Looking at the Christian life from the perspective of the Holy Spirit leads us to
conclude that conversion is "an event of the Spirit," to use Clark
Pinnocks happy expression. 162. Jesus became Christ by being anointed by the Spirit.
162. And we become Christians by a similar anointing. We may prefer the language of
"receiving Christ" and "being born again" (Jn 3), but the NT speaks
more frequently of receiving the Spirit when it describes conversion. Pauls
conversion, for example, is described in terms of his being filled with the Spirit. Ac
Thinking of conversion as a "spirit event" requires us to take a new look at
baptism. Baptism is the occasion when the Holy Spirit comes to us. It is that "part
of the conversion complex in which the Holy Spirit is received." 167. So this is what
makes baptism what it isthe transforming entrance of the Holy Spirit into our lives.
Baptism is when the gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifested. It was that way at
Jesus baptism, and it should be the same way at ours.
When we see that baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit are intimately related, it is
evident that the idea of a second blessing, or a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit, is
theologically suspect. It divides what is inherently connected. If you dont have the
Holy Spirit then you havent been baptized, not in the full and true sense of the
word. And if you have been baptized, then you have the Holy Spirit and you dont need
another endowment. So, the concept of the "second blessing" results from the
failure to appreciate all that conversion involves. If we take Jn 3 seriously, baptism
involves the Holy Spirit, not just water. So, there is no need for a second baptism of the
Holy Spirit if the "first baptism" has been everything that a baptism should be.
There is growth in the Holy Spirit, of course. But this doesnt constitute a
second blessing, but the development of the "Spirit gift" to begin with. Baptism
in the Holy Spirit is worked out over time. But there is no need for a "second
blessing," an additional, subsequent endowment of the Holy Spirit that is separate
from and greater than our original baptism.
According to Jerry Vines, this is the basic problem with the idea of the second
blessing. For charismatics, he says, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is "an upgrade in
the spiritual realm." 72. It represents a "distinct work of the Holy Spirit beyond,
separate from, and in addition to salvation." (They also believe that
certain physical manifestations show that a person has experienced this baptism.) You can
be saved without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but with it you move to a higher
spiritual realm. Vines rejects this two-stage approach. Spirit baptism happens to all
believers. It takes place at the moment of salvation, not later. There is no indication
that Spirit baptism moves one to higher level of Christian living or to special holiness.
79. Spirit baptism is part of the salvation package. When you are saved, you receive the
gift of the Holy Spirit. You are anointed by the Holy Spirit, baptized into the body of
I believe that Adventists could do more to emphasize the dramatic, life-changing
spiritual transformation that baptism signifies. If we made a "bigger deal" out
of baptism, we might not have people who feel that their baptism didnt mean very
much to them. I have wished for a long time that we did more to celebrate baptism, to
dramatize it, to identify it as the single most important event in a persons
lifemore important even than birth, marriage, or death. In a way, of course, it is
all three. It is death to the old life of sin. It is birth to a new life by the power of
the Holy Spirit. (Just as spirit is the source of physical life, the Holy Spirit is the
source of spiritual life.) Conversion is also a marriage. It begins a lifelong union with
Christ and his body, the church. It involves the souls union with Christ for
Life in the Spirit as life in the world
If the Holy Spirit filled life begins with baptism, or with the conversion experience
that baptism signifies, and not later, what are its distinguishing features? And if
dramatic manifestations are not essential to it, what does it consist of? Put briefly, it
is a life of service, fellowship, and fulfillment.
The phenomenon of prophetic inspiration is instructive here. In his important study of
prophetism, as he calls it, the Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel compares the
experience of the great Hebrew prophets (particularly the 8th century prophets)
to a wide range of spiritual, quasi-spiritual and pseudo-spiritual phenomena, including
ecstasy, artistic creativity, mental illness and just mental confusion. He finds a number
of things that distinguish prophetic inspiration from other experiences. One of the most
important for us here is the fact that the focus of prophetic consciousness is on what God
is doing or saying, not on the phenomenon of inspiration itself. In other words, the
prophets were concerned with what they were seeing and hearing, not with the remarkable
fact that they were the recipients of such unusual experiences. Another is the fact that
prophetic inspiration was a means to an end, not an end in itself. As the word itself
indicates, the prophets task was one of speaking for and speaking forth. It was
communicating a message. The message was the important thing, not the act of receiving the
Consequently, the prophets were not preoccupied with the state of being in vision. The
important thing to them was the message they were supposed to communicate. The
preoccupation with "power" characteristic of the movements we are considering
misconstrues the nature of the Holy Spirits manifestation. We should not look for
vivid outward manifestations, but for effective consequences, for the benefits to others
that might come from our ministry.
So, whatever dramatic manifestations may accompany the anointing of the Holy Spirit in
our lives, we should never lose sight of the ultimate purpose of this bestowalto
equip us for service. There may be strong emotions when the Holy Spirit enters us, but
they should not be the object of our concern. As Pinnock observes, the Holy Spirit fires
the affections, warms the heart and makes the face shine. But "spiritual
delicacies" (St. John of the Cross) are not given for excitement value but for
fruitfulness. The purpose is to fire us up in the service of God. Augustine puts it this
way. "If it pleases you to clap and shout for joy when you hear Gods love for
you declared, it is well and good! But, if it excites you to praise his love in this way I
hope you will be just as excited when I say that love must be a force that is at work in
your heart, leading you to serve one another."
To put things in perspective, it also helps to remember the parables of growth that
Jesus uses to illustrate Gods presence in the world. His kingdom does not come with
fanfare, with displays of power and majesty. His kingdom is not of this world. We should
look for it in unexpected places. The hidden of godliness, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls
it, is also instructive. There seems to be a conflict between Jesus counsel in Mt
5:16 and 6:1. As he points out in The Cost of Discipleship, the good deeds of the
righteous man are hidden, but they are hidden from the person himself. Truly good people
are typically the last to recognize that quality in themselves.
The hiddenness of godliness is even more dramatically displayed in one of the great
parables of judgment, the parable of the sheep and goats (Mt 25). The kings exchange
with those on his right hand is noteworthy for several reasons:
- This is the final judgment, where eternal destiny is at stake.
- The king commends those on his right hand for "mundane" things.
- The king identifies so closely with the suffering and the needy that serving them is
- Those the king commends are mysteriously unaware of what they have done.
Life in the Holy Spirit is also a life of fellowship with each other. The items Paul
identifies as the fruit of the Holy Spirit are relational in nature: love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Gal 5,22. We
know that we have passed from death to life, John writes, because we love our brothers and
sisters. 1Jn 3,14.
Finally, life in the Spirit is a life of progressive fulfillment. To quote C. Pinnock
once again, "The Spirit is given in baptism and is realized in experience throughout
A Holy Spirit centered view of salvation gives us a new way to look at sanctification,
a source of enduring perplexity for Seventh-day Adventists. What is the goal of
sanctification? Does it lead to perfection in this life, or only in the life to come? And
what is the process of sanctification? Does it mean giving something up, or taking
something on? Looking at sanctification as life in the Holy Spirit gives us a new
perspective on some of these issues.
In Christian theology, sanctification is traditionally identified as the work of the
third person of the Godheadcreation is associated with the Father and redemption
with the Son. Now, if sanctification is the Spirit's work, and if the Spirit's essential
function is to give life, then we should think of sanctification as the enrichment and
enhancement of our lives. In other words, to grow in grace is to become more and more
alive. Too often, we think of sanctification in negative terms. It involves giving up more
and moreovercoming bad habits, eliminating sins from our lives, avoiding
transgression, and so on. But a Spirit centered view of salvation turns things around. The
Spirit enters our lives not to take, but to give. Sanctification means gaining something,
not losing something. In the final analysis, sanctification is not what God wants from
us, but what God wants for us. It is the richest, fullest life possible.
Thats what life in the Holy Spirit is.
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