Scott Aniol

Worship the Spirit

The Holy Spirit inspired the sufficient revelation concerning the elements of gathered worship, and so we should expect that he would naturally work through those elements—reading the Word, preaching the Word, praying the Word, singing the Word, and visualizing the Word through baptism and the Lord’s Supper. This is why Christians have traditionally called these prescribed elements the “ordinary means of grace”—these are the primary means Christians should expect the Holy Spirit to ordinarily work his grace into our lives.

Lots of confusion reigns today regarding how we ought to expect the Holy Spirit to work, but it does not have to be this way. Careful reading of Scripture gives us a robust picture of what should be our expectation for how the Holy Spirit works today.
The Spirit Brings Order
First, the Holy Spirit’s purpose in all he does is to bring order, to both individual Christians and to the Body as a whole. The descriptions in Scripture of the Holy Spirit’s activity overwhelmingly attest to this purpose. The Spirit brought order to the material God created at the beginning of time, and he brings order to time itself in unfolding God’s plan in history. He worked to bring peace and blessing to Israel as he dwelt among them in the Old Testament temple, and he does the same as he dwells within the New Testament temple. This was his purpose in special empowerment given to Israel’s kings and prophets and his purpose in the foundational gifts he gave to the apostles and prophets during the formation of the church.
And that purpose remains the same today. The Spirit brings order to the disordered minds and hearts of his elect when he convicts them of their sin and gives them new life, when he unites them into the triune communion and particularly to Christ himself in his Body. He continues to order the lives of his people in empowering them to submit to his Word and be sanctified by it, conforming them to the image of Christ and producing fruit consistent with the harmony and beauty of God’s character. And he builds up the unity of Christ’s body through providentially gifting his people with abilities to use in service of God and one another in the church, particularly in corporate worship, where he forms his people through filling them with his Word read, preached, prayed, and sung.
The Spirit Works Through His Word
Second, one of the most influential and long-lasting works of the Holy Spirit to bring order to his people was the inspiration of his Word; this is why the most frequently described act of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is the giving of revelation, and why his work of “filling” a believer (Eph 5:19) is paralleled in Paul’s writings with the Word of Christ “richly dwelling” within a Christian (Col 3:16). Thus, believers should expect that the Holy Spirit will work today primarily through his Word, and he will never act contrary to his Word.
For this reason, we must never conceive of any work of the Spirit today apart from his Word. If we expect the Spirit to do something apart from Scripture, we will inevitably subordinate Scripture itself to a subjective experience. We may say we believe Scripture to be sufficient, but ultimately we will ignore the objective Word, always seeking for subjective experiences, feelings, “inner voices,” or impressions that we assume to be the Spirit’s illuminating work. Likewise, we will also find ourselves frustrated when we don’t experience some sort of feeling that we assume to be the Spirit’s work. We will wonder why he isn’t “speaking” to us.
Rather, we must recognize that he has already spoken to us through his sufficient Word—we ought not expect any further revelation. We must simply pray that he gives us wisdom to appropriate his Word and then actively apply and submit ourselves to what he has already spoken.
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Be Filled with…Emotion?

The fact is that qualities like intensity, passion, enthusiasm, exhilaration, or euphoria are never described in Scripture as qualities to pursue or stimulate, they are never used to define the nature of spiritual maturity or the essence of worship, and they are never listed as what the Spirit produces in a believer’s life.

First Corinthians 14 is clear that the central purpose of corporate worship is the disciplined formation of God’s people. All things should be done decently and in order in corporate worship, for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work in worship, therefore, is to bring order and discipline to the worship of God’s people.
With orderly, disciplined formation being the expectation for how the Holy Spirit will work in worship, what role does emotion and music play in worship, and how are they related to the Holy Spirit? This question is particularly relevant since emotion and music are central to the contemporary expectation of how the Holy Spirit works.
Very simply, understanding the ordinary way the Holy Spirit works in worship leads to the conclusion that emotion and singing come as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life, not as a cause of the Holy Spirit’s work. This is one of the primary misunderstandings of many contemporary evangelicals today, who expect music to bring the Holy Spirit’s experiential presence as they are filled with emotional rapture.
Calvin Stapert helpfully corrects this thinking with reference to Ephesians 5:18–19 and Colossians 3:16:
“Spirit-filling” does not come as the result of singing. Rather, “Spirit-filling” comes first; singing is the response…Clear as these passages are in declaring that Christian singing is a response to the Word of Christ and to being filled with the Spirit, it is hard to keep from turning the cause and effect around. Music, with its stimulating power, can too easily be seen as the cause and the “Spirit-filling” as the effect.1
“Such a reading of the passages,” Stapert argues, “gives song an undue epicletic function and turns it into a means of beguiling the Holy Spirit.” By “epicletic,” Stapert refers to the expectation that music will “invoke” or call upon the Holy Spirit to appear. Stapert argues that such a “magical epicletic function” characterized pagan worship music, not Christian.2
This is exactly what contemporary Pentecostalized worship expects of music. Historians Swee Hong Lim and Lester Ruth note how the importance of particular styles of music that quickly stimulate emotion rose to a significance not seen before in Christian worship. They observe, “No longer were these musicians simply known as music ministers or song leaders; they were now worship leaders.” The “worship leader” became the person responsible to “bring the congregational worshipers into a corporate awareness of God’s manifest presence” through the use of specific kinds of music that created an emotional experience considered to be a manifestation of this presence. This charismatic theology of worship raised the matter of musical style to a level of significance that Lim and Ruth describe as “musical sacramentality,” where music is now considered a primary means through which “God’s presence could be encountered in worship.”3 As Lim and Ruth note, by the end of the 1980s, “the sacrament of musical praise had been established.”4
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Gifting for Service: How the Spirit Gifts Today

Our response to this work of the Spirit should be clear: serve the church. Don’t worry about trying to figure out what your “spiritual gifts” are. Simply serve the church in any way you can. The Spirit has providentially gifted you to do so, so serve, and marvel at the ways the Spirit of God has uniquely gifted you to minister to others.

The primary work of the Holy Spirit today in a Christian’s life is his sanctifying believers to be “spiritual”—to be characterized by inner life and external behavior that conforms to the will of God.
However, another result attributed often to the Spirit in the New Testament is gifting. Some gifting was special empowerment for leadership of God’s people. This unique gifting given temporarily to key figures like prophets and apostles often resulted in revelation, special miracles, notable power, and even less extraordinary gifting like boldness and courage. Often this empowerment was described as being “filled [pimplēmi] with the Spirit,” where the Spirit is the content of the filling.
It was by means of this extraordinary Spirit filling that key individuals prophesied. And in the same way, by means of this unique Spirit filling  the disciples spoke in tongues (Acts 2:4), the disciples were given extraordinary boldness to speak the Word of God (Acts 4:31), and Paul was equipped for his apostolic work (Acts 9:17). This kind of filling and gifting is unique and ought not be something we should expect today.
But this is also true of the more ordinary Spirit filling (plērēs/plēroō), where this language is used to describe the Spirit’s work in every believer’s life to sanctify him through his Word and equip him for service. For example, by means of this ordinary Spirit filling, Jesus was given strength to resist temptation (Lk 4:1–2), the first deacons were equipped to serve (Acts 6:3), and Stephen was given courage in the face of death (Acts 7:55).
Furthermore, the New Testament uses several terms to describe gifts that are given by the Spirit of God to believers:

pneumatikon—“spiritual gifts” (1 Cor 12:1)
charisma—“grace gifts” (1 Cor 12:4; 1 Pt 4:10)
diakonia—“service” (1 Cor 12:5; 1 Pt 4:10)
energema—“activity” (1 Cor 12:6)
doma—“gift” (Eph 4:8)
merismos—“distributed gifts” (Heb 2:4)
phanerosis—“manifestation” (1 Cor 12:7)

As can be seen in the representative Scripture references listed above, many of these terms are clearly used to describe the same thing. First Corinthians 12 in particular makes this clear, where the same concept is called “spiritual gifts” (12:1), “grace gifts” (12:4), “service” (12:5), “activities” (12:6), and “manifestation” (12:7). Similarly, 1 Peter 4:10 uses both “grace gifts” and “service” to describe the same thing.
First Corinthians 12 explains that these gifts are given “through the Spirit” (v. 8) or “by the one Spirit” (v. 9), and that they are “the manifestation of the Spirit” (v. 7). Since these passages explicitly ascribe the giving of these gifts to the Holy Spirit, other passages that discuss such gifts may also safely be attributed to a work of the Holy Spirit.
Clearly 1 Corinthians 12 is a key passage that helps us to understand the nature of these gifts. Several important points can be drawn out concerning gifts of the Spirit. First, Paul emphasizes their variety (vv 4, 5, 6). The Greek word translated “varieties” in each of those cases is the word from which we get our English word, “diversity.” And the word translated “apportions” in verse 11 is the verb form of the same word translated “varieties” earlier.
Second, Paul emphasizes that the Spirit gives such gifts to every believer: “to each” (v 7); “to one,” “to another” (v 8); “to another” (v 9), “to another,” “to another” (v 10); “to each one individually” (v 11). This is also clear through the rest of the chapter as he emphasizes the important function of every member of the body, each of whom has been gifted.
Third, both the use of the term diakonia (“service”) as a term for such gifting and the whole point of Paul’s discourse in this passage make clear the purpose of Spirit gifting: service within the body of Christ. He says directly in verse 7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Thus, we could define these gifts are Spirit-given abilities “given for service within the ministry and outreach of the local church,”1 including miraculous gifts (e.g. prophecy, miracles, healing, and tongues) and non-miraculous gifts, which Stitzinger describes as abilities that “operate within the natural realm of order even though God’s hand of providence is involved”2 (e.g. evangelism, teaching, mercy, administration, etc.).
How Does the Spirit Give These Gifts?
Now most cessationists claim that only so-called “miraculous” gifts have ceased, but other gifts of the Spirit continue, such as teaching, hospitality, evangelism, etc. I believe that is a perfectly acceptable position considering the purpose of the gifts. However, I will make a brief case here for why I believe all gifts supernaturally given by the Spirit have ceased in this age, though he continues to gift his people providential through natural means.
This is admittedly a minority position, even among cessationists. Most who hold to a cessationist view limit the cessation of gifts only to what they describe as “miraculous sign gifts”—prophecy, healing, tongues, etc. The argument, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that these gifts were provisional in nature, given temporarily to unique individuals like prophets and apostles at key transitional periods in the progress of God’s redemptive plan. Their purpose was to bring God’s people and purposes into order during times when new revelation was necessary and “epochally significant”3 events were happening in history.
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What Does Spirit-filling Mean?

The command here is nearly identical to Ephesians 5:18, but instead of the command being to let the Spirit fill us, the command in Colossians 3:16 is to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. The implication is that these are related concepts, and thus the content of the filling is the Word of Christ.

Likely the most important truth about the Holy Spirit’s active work that we must remember is that the Holy Spirit always works through his Word. Through his illuminating power, the Spirit opens our minds and hearts to accept and submit to the authority of the Word that he inspired. And thus it is through such submission to the Word that the Spirit sanctifies us. This is critically important to recognize: the Holy Spirit will not sanctify us apart from his Word.
In fact, this is exactly what is indicated when Paul commands us to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). Like Spirit baptism and illumination, Spirit filling is another work of the Spirit that has been significantly confused in by errant teaching, but careful attention to the biblical text will give us clarity as to the exact nature of this work of the Spirit.
Sometimes in Scripture, language of filling is used to describe the special empowerment that the Spirit gave to key leaders of God’s people during important periods in redemptive history. In the New Testament, these all appear in Luke and Acts, where Luke uses the term pimplēmi, in which the grammar clearly indicates that he is the content of the filling. These leaders were filled with the Spirit in a unique way that empowered them to lead God’s people.
In contrast, Luke uses the adjective plērēs five times in which the grammar indicates that the Spirit is the content of the filling and that this is a figurative expression. In other words, these cases describe individuals who are characterized as being “spiritual.”1 Similarly, in one case Luke uses the verb plēroō in Acts 13:52 to describe the disciples as characterized by spiritual joy. This is similar to when we might describe someone as being a “spiritual” person or a “godly” person. What we mean is that the person’s life is characterized by qualities that identify him with qualities of God himself.
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The Holy Spirit’s Most Supernatural Work

The Holy Spirit convicts sinners (Jn 16:8), but he does so by means of the Word he inspired, which is profitable for such conviction (2 Tm 3:16). The Holy Spirit regenerates dead hearts, but he does so by means of his Word. He does not “zap” new life in a person’s heart independently of the Word—”faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Part of the Spirit’s work of creating new life is putting his law within new believers and writing it on their hearts (Jer 31:33).

Many of the Holy Spirit’s works in history unique in unfolding God’s eternal plan in past history. The purpose of ordering the plans of God accomplished by the Spirit through creation, revelation, and special empowerment have been finished. Creation is complete, the Spirit-inspired Word is complete, and Spirit empowerment functioned at key transitional periods in the history of redemption that finished their intended purpose. Therefore, we should not expect these sorts of extraordinary works until the next stage in redemptive history—when the Anointed King comes again.
However, some of the ordinary activities of the Spirit have been at work since the beginning of time and will continue until the eternal kingdom. The most notable of these is the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation.
Scripture appropriates specific acts to each divine person of the godhead in the salvation of God’s elect. The Father planned salvation and sent his Son into the world to save his people. The Son took on flesh, lived a perfect life, and died to pay the penalty of sin, accomplishing redemption for his people. And as with other aspects of God’s eternal plans, the Spirit actively works to order and complete God’s plan of salvation in the lives of his elect.
This work begins with convicting sinners. Jesus promised that he would send the Spirit to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn 16:8). Without the Spirit’s conviction, sinners would have no spiritual awareness of their need of salvation. Conviction is the first step in bringing sinful, disordered souls into order and harmony with God’s perfect will.
Regeneration
Next, the Spirit gives new life. Jesus specifically identified the Spirit as the one who gives new birth (Jn 3:5, 8). Likewise, Paul describes him as “the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2) and tells us in Titus 3:5 that God saved us “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” This work of the Spirit ties directly to his very first work—creation. The regenerating work of the Spirit is his recreation of dead sinners into new creations (2 Cor 5:17).
Some theologians also refer to this regenerating act of the Spirit as “illumination.” This doctrine of illumination is one area where many Christians have unbiblical thinking in which they assume illumination means that the Spirit will reveal to us the meaning of Scripture. However, the reality is that Spirit illumination is part of the Spirit’s regeneration that happens at conversion.
One of the key texts is 1 Corinthians 1:18–2:16. In this passage, Paul describes the fact that “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18). This passage clearly teaches that a key difference between believers and unbelievers is the fact that unbelievers simply do not recognize the truthfulness, beauty, and authority of God’s Word (specifically the gospel), while a believer is one who has come to recognize Scripture as such, not because of any human persuasion, but simply through “the Spirit and of power” (2:4).
Another key passage is 1 Corinthians 2. Verses 10–13 speak of the inspiration of Scripture by means of apostles and prophets. However, verses 14–16 do touch on what we may describe as Spirit illumination.
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The key phrase is “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God.” When the natural man reads Scripture, he does not accept it as God’s authoritative revelation. Rather, he sees it as foolishness. He does not understand its spiritual significance.
On the other hand, the spiritual person recognizes the Word of God for what it is and therefore submits himself to it. These verses do not speak of intellectual understanding but spiritual understanding. If we want to use the term illumination to describe what’s going on in these verses, it refers to the Spirit’s regenerating work to cause his elect to recognize the significance and authority of the written Word of God. Furthermore, this act of the Spirit is not something that necessarily happens in separate points of time as we read the Word; rather, it is something that comes as a result of the new birth—the Spirit gives us new life and enlightens our hearts and minds to recognize the significance of his Word.
In other words, 1 Corinthians 2 refers to two acts of the Spirit: inspiration, whereby the authors of Scripture wrote the very words of God, and illumination, whereby believers are enabled to recognize the spiritual significance of the Word of God.
Second Corinthians 4 makes a similar assertion, this time using explicit language of “enlightening.” The gospel is “veiled to those who are perishing” (2 Cor 4:3), Paul argues. Believers accept and submit to the gospel only because God has enlightened their hearts:
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)
This is illumination—a work of God’s Spirit upon a believer whereby he recognizes the beauty and glory of the gospel and therefore willingly submits himself to it. It should not surprise us that the same divine person who brought order out of chaos and light out of darkness at the beginning of time is the same one who enlightens dark hearts and brings order to disordered souls in conversion.
John Calvin argued, “Man’s mind can become spiritually wise only in so far as God illumines it. . . . The way to the kingdom of God is open only to him whose mind has been made new by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.”1
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Testifying of Christ: The Holy Spirit’s Ordering of God’s People

God the Father has an eternal plan, God the Son accomplished the means for that plan to be fulfilled, and God the Spirit completes and perfects that plan directly in the world. Bringing harmony to creation, revealing God’s plan to his people, and special empowerment of unique leaders of God’s people at significant points in the outworking of that plan all involve how the Holy Spirit brings the plan of God into order.

One of the Holy Spirit’s primary works has been to give revelation to key leaders of God’s people in the progress of God’s redemptive history, culminating in Holy Scripture, which was written by men who were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
But the Holy Spirit also gave some of these same leaders special empowerment in addition to direct revelation. For example, the Old Testament describes the Holy Spirit being “upon” Moses and the elders of Israel, Joshua, judges such as Gideon and Samson, and prophets such as Elijah and Micah. He also uniquely came upon Israel’s kings, Saul and David.
Theocratic Anointing
This Spirit empowerment gave individuals a variety of special abilities primarily so that they could lead God’s people. This is why such special empowerment is sometimes called “theocratic anointing.” In fact, often the prophecy itself was given as a sign that these individuals were chosen and empowered by the Spirit for such leadership.
For example, as ruler of Israel (Acts 7:35), Moses had a special anointing of the Spirit (Nm 11:17). God confirmed that anointing in the sigh of the people through the miracle of changing Moses’s staff into a snake (Ex 40:30–31). Later, Moses “took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it” (Nm 11:25). The special empowerment by the Spirit was so that the elders could “bear some of the burden of the people” as rulers alongside Moses, and they prophesied as confirmation that they were to share the burden of leadership.
That leadership passed on to Joshua as Moses’s successor, who then is described as “full of the Spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him” (Dt 34:9). God specifically told Joshua, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Jo 1:56). And God confirmed Joshua’s leadership of the people with the crossing of the Jordan river on dry ground (Jo 4), a supernatural miracle that would have immediately brought to mind Moses’s miracle of crossing the Red Sea (Ex 14:31). The result was that Joshua was confirmed as ruler of the people: “On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel, and they stood in awe of him just as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life” (Jo 4:14).
Four judges of Israel, are described as having this special Spirit anointing: Othniel (Jgs 3:10), Gideon (Jgs 6:34), Jepthah (Jgs 11:29), and Samson (Jgs 15:14). It is not a stretch to assume that this theocratic anointing came upon all of the judges whom God appointed as leaders of his people.
When leadership of Israel moved to a monarchy, so did the theocratic anointing of the Spirit. After Samuel anointed Saul as king of Israel (1 Sm 10:1), “the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them” (1 Sm 10:10). The same happened later to David: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sm 16:13). Likewise, Solomon’s prayer for wisdom was, in effect, a request for the same special empowerment from the Spirit (1 Kgs 3:9). The first result of the empowerment given to him by the Spirit was his ability to wisely judge the case of the two women fighting over the death of one of their babies. This exercise of divine empowerment confirmed Solomon as leader of God’s people: “And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice” (1 Kgs 3:28).
Prophets, too, appear to have had a special empowerment from the Spirit, though perhaps this would not necessarily be called theocratic anointing since they were not rulers. Yet the purpose of such empowerment was similar: to confirm them as messengers of God. For example, the Spirit was known to carry Elijah to places unknown (1 Kgs 18:12), and Micah declared of himself, “I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might” (Mic 3:8). Indeed, as we have already noted, Spirit empowerment and direct divine revelation went hand in hand.
So this empowerment was primarily given by the Spirit to equip leaders of God’s people, often resulting in unique wisdom, physical strength, and revelation from God, to bring God’s people into order with God’s plan and purposes. And the miraculous works performed by these individuals as a result of the Sprit’s anointing were for the purpose of confirming them as rulers and messengers of God in the sight of the people.
This act of the Holy Spirit was never permanent. The Spirit left Samson after Delilah cut his hair, for example, causing him to lose his special strength (Jgs 16:20). The most notable illustration of this is when “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul” after his sin (1 Sm 16:14). Just prior to that, Samuel had anointed David as the new king of Israel, “and the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward” (1 Sm 16:13). This also explains why David prayed that God would not take his Holy Spirit from him after his sin with Bathsheba (Ps 51:11). David wasn’t afraid that he would lose the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit that brings salvation—once we are saved, we never lose the Spirit in that sense (Eph 1:13–14). Rather, what David feared was that the Spirit would remove his special anointing empowerment given to him as king of Israel.
This special Spirit empowerment was even applied to non-believers on occasion. King Saul is, of course, an example of this. Though God anointed him as king of Israel and gifted him with special empowerment from the Spirit, his actions revealed that he was not a true follower of Yahweh. Likewise “the Spirit of God came upon” Balaam and caused him to bless Israel, though Balaam’s desire was to curse Israel (Nm 24:2).
What is clear, then, is that this empowerment by the Spirit is not related to other works by the Spirit that are given to all believers. This empowerment is unique gifting by the Spirit to leaders of God’s people and prophets in order that he might work his plan among them.
This fact alone reveals the unique nature of Spirit empowerment—it is not intended for every believer, or even just those who are especially holy. Rather, the Spirit empowered very specific individuals who were especially chosen by God to deliver his revelation or otherwise order the people and plan of God at significant stages in redemptive history. Between those significant transitional stages, such empowerment is not ordinary or necessary.
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Beauty and Harmony: The Holy Spirit’s Work in Creation

Every work of the Spirit serves God’s eternal plan for his world and his people. In ordering God’s creation, beautifying Israel’s tabernacle, and bringing life to the First Adam and the Last Adam, the Spirit perfects and completes God’s eternal plan in history.

The first instance of the Spirit’s work appears in the opening verses of Scripture.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.Genesis 1:1–2
On day one of creation, God created all matter, time, and space. Think about it—before the first day of creation, all that existed was the triune God. There was not matter, time, or space. God created all of that on the first day.
But as Genesis 1:2 tells us, that space and matter—heaven and earth—was “without form and void.” Simply creating matter and space did not mean they were yet arranged in such a way so as to be inhabitable by human beings.
And so, it was the Spirit of God who hovered over the face of the waters as the person of the triune God who brought order to creation. The Hebrew term rûach can mean “breath,” “wind,” or “spirit,” depending on the context. The same is true in the New Testament of the term pneuma. We can have confidence that the term in Genesis 1:2 refers to the Holy Spirit because of the verb “hovering,” which would not fit “wind” or “breath.” Moses uses the same verb to describe God “hovering” over his people at the end of the Pentateuch as well, which appears to be a deliberate parallel with the opening verses of the Pentateuch (Dt 32:11).
Additionally, as we will soon note, Moses portrays deliberate parallels between the Spirit’s work in creating the world and his work in the creation of the tabernacle, further evidence that he intended rûach to refer to the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2. Similarly, Job states, “By his wind [rûach] the heavens were made fair” (26:13), and Job 33:4 clearly refers to the divine Spirit when it states, “The Spirit [rûach] of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
In other words, in the opening words of Scripture we find the Spirit of God actively involved in the work of creation. Indeed, in the opening chapter of Genesis we find all three persons of the triune God active in creation: God [the Father] created the heavens and the earth, he did so through his Word [the Son], and the work was brought to completion by his Spirit—these appropriations of the work of creation to persons of the godhead reflect their eternal relations of origin. Psalms 33:6 portrays this trinitarian act of creation: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath [rûach] of his mouth all their host.” So all three persons of the godhead were involved in creation, and as is true with all of God’s works, God performed the work through the Son, and that work was brought to perfection by the Spirit.
Thus, in the six days of creation, the Holy Spirit of God brought order to the cosmos—he brought to completion and perfection the creative activity of God. This orderliness is reflected in the Greek term cosmos, which the Greek translation of the Old Testament uses to characterize the finished work of creation: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host [cosmos] of them” (Gn 2:1). Paul uses this same term to describe creation in his sermon on Mars Hill: “The God who made the world [cosmos] and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.”
The Holy Spirit of God formed the cosmos, an ordered arrangement of heaven and earth such that creation displayed his own orderliness. This is why God declares his creation “good” (Gn 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). The Hebrew word implies more than just moral goodness; the term embodies the idea of aesthetic beauty and harmony. Creation is beautiful because it reflects the order and harmony of God himself.
Psalm 104 poetically embodies this idea of creation manifesting the beauty and order of God, identifying the person of the Trinity who brings about such wondrous creation:
30 When you send forth your Spirit [rûach], they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
The Holy Spirit of God, in his active work of creation, brought wondrous order to the world that God made.
Wisdom and Beauty
Notice also the particular quality that characterizes the Spirit’s work of creation in Psalm 104:24:
24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Wisdom is the quality the psalmist ties to the Spirit’s creative work, and this helps us to further confirm the nature of this first work of the Spirit. Wisdom is the capacity to fit things together as they ought to be, the skill to create harmony and order. Thus we should not be surprised when Proverbs 3:19 states that the Lord founded the earth by wisdom—by the skill to fit things together in a harmonious fashion.
This harmony and order of creation that was brought about by the Spirit of God is what we call beauty. Beauty is fittingness, order, and harmony. This is ultimately the Holy Spirit’s work in creation. As Ambrose of Milan noted, “After this world being created underwent the operation of the Spirit, it gained all the beauty of that grace, wherewith the world is illuminated.” The Holy Spirit is the beautifier.
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God Told Me: The Pentecostalization of Evangelical Theology of Revelation

No prophecy of Scripture comes from a human source. Rather, “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (v. 21). Peter is saying that we ought to trust the sufficient Word because it is revelation from God’s Spirit that is even more sure than if he spoke to us directly. Trust the sufficient Word. It’s all we need. We do not need supernatural subjective experiences, we do not need the voice of God from Heaven, we do not need a still small voice in our hearts, we do not need visions or dreams or impressions or “nudges from the Holy Spirit”—we have something better than all of that. We have more sure the written Word of God. Scripture is sufficient.

I am convinced that contemporary Evangelicalism has been Pentecostalized in significant ways that even many non-charismatics don’t recognize. One significant way this reveals itself even among those who would claim to be cessationists is in common evangelical expectations regarding how God speaks to us and how he reveals his will to us. It is very common in modern evangelicalism, for example, to hear Christians talk about how God “spoke” to them, revealing his will in mystical ways outside his Word.
This teaching characterizes charismatics to be sure, many of which believe that the Holy Spirit still gives revelation with the same level of authority that he did to prophets like Elijah and Isaiah and apostles like John and Paul.
However, more moderate charismatics like Wayne Grudem and Sam Storms argue that while the authoritative canon of Scripture is closed, we ought to still expect “spontaneous revelation from the Holy Spirit” today. In this more moderate view, prophecy today does not have same sort of inerrancy or authority as biblical prophecy or inspired Scripture, but it is still direct revelation from the Spirit. I am thankful that these men defend the closed canon and the unique authority of Scripture, starkly differentiating their teaching from that of other more dangerous charismatics. Nevertheless, we must still measure their teaching against what the Bible actually teaches.
On the other hand, even many prominent evangelical teachers who claim to believe that prophecy has ceased nevertheless teach that we ought to expect the Holy Spirit to speak directly to us, not with words, and they don’t even call it prophecy, but they teach that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through impressions, through promptings, a still small voice, or an inner peace.
Perhaps no single book has done more to spread this kind of expectation among evangelical Christians than Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God. Blackaby says, “God has not changed. He still speaks to his people. If you have trouble hearing God speak, you are in trouble at the very heart of your Christian experience.1 This is someone who claims to be a cessationist. Other teachers like Charles Stanley and Priscilla Shirer have taught that we need to learn to listen for God’s voice outside of Scripture, we ought to expect to receive “personal divine direction,” “detailed guidance,” and “intimate leading.”2
Another way this expectation appears is in common beliefs regarding the doctrine of illumination. Often we hear prayers like, “Lord, please illumine your Word so that we can understand what it says,” or other similar language. Intentional or not, many believers seem to expect that the Spirit is going to help us understand what Scripture means or that he is going to “speak” to us specific ways that the Word applies to our personal situations. However, neither of these are what the biblical doctrine of illumination means.
The fact is that many Christians today think that supernatural experiences were just the normal, expected way God spoke to everyone in biblical times. Here’s Henry Blackaby again:
The testimony of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is that God speaks to his people, . . . and you can anticipate that he will be speaking to you also.3
Charles Stanley argues,
[God] loves us just as much as he loved the people of Old and New Testament days. . . . We need his definite and deliberate direction for our lives, as did Joshua, Moses, Jacob, or Noah. As his children, we need his counsel for effective decision making. Since he wants us to make the right choices, he is still responsible for providing accurate data, and that comes through his speaking to us.4
These are not charismatics or continuationists. These are teachers who claim to be cessationists, and yet they insist that we ought to expect to hear from God outside his Word. And yet, this really is no different from how moderate continuationists define prophecy today.
In fact, Tom Schreiner admits as much in his book, Spiritual Gifts. Schreiner says this:
What most call prophecy in churches today, in my judgment, isn’t the New Testament gift of prophecy. . . . It is better to characterize what is happening today as the sharing of impressions rather than prophecy. God may impress something on a person’s heart and mind, and he may use such impressions to help others in their spiritual walk. It is a matter of definition; what some people call prophecies are actually impressions, where someone senses that God is leading them to speak to someone or to make some kind of statement about a situation.5
And Schreiner even admits that this is not much different from the moderate continuationist theology of prophecy:
The difference between cessationists and continuationists is in some ways insignificant at the practical level when it comes to prophecy,for what continuationists call prophecy, cessationists call impressions. As a cessationist, I affirm that God may speak to his people through impressions. And there are occasions where impressions are startlingly accurate.6
I respect Tom Schreiner greatly, but the problem is that teachings about Holy Spirit impressions such as these are not based on any Scripture at all. Rather, they use phrases like, “We have all experienced this kind of thing,” “these impressions are startingly accurate, so they must be from God,” or they quote a few vague statements by Spurgeon, Edwards, or Lloyd Jones that sound like they believed in such impressions.
I would estimate that a vast majority of evangelical Christians today believe that the Holy Spirit speaks through promptings and impressions, especially with regard to his will for our lives. If you want to truly know God’s will, then the Bible is not enough. The Bible does not tell you specifics about God’s “secret will” for your life, so if you want to know it, you need to learn to listen to God’s voice. Not audible words of course, not prophecy—we’re cessationists after all, but we ought to expect to receive nudges or impressions from the Spirit, an inner peace that will give us guidance.
But what does the Bible actually say about how we should expect God to speak to us?
The More Sure Word
In understanding the nature of the Spirit’s work of giving revelation, it is important that we understand the relationship between the revelation that he gave through prophets and the revelation that he inspired in the sixty-six canonical books of Scripture.
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A Pure Church

Worship in this life that is shaped by our covenant relationship with God through the gospel, the spiritual realities of heavenly worship, sanctifies us into a pure church who live in light of that relationship as we wait for our blessed hope. By reenacting what we are in Christ, Christian worshipers become what we are.

Though during this present age kingdom and cultus (God’s worshiping community) are separated, God intends one day to join them together under the rule of his Anointed One. The question for us is, of course, where we currently fit in this plan of God for a holy theocracy, a perfect union of kingdom and cultus under the kingly rule and priestly ministry of the Second Adam.
The book of Hebrews addresses both kingdom and cultus in this present age. First, the author quotes God’s declaration in Psalm 8 that he intends for man to exercise regal dominion over all the earth; however, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him” (Heb 2:8). The First Adam failed, and still all things are not yet in subjection to the son of man. But, “because of the suffering of death,” Jesus is “crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9)—he has earned the right to rule; Christ is, as Psalm 110 states, presently seated at the Father’s right hand until the Father makes his enemies his footstool. The perfect eternal kingdom has been promised and already ensured, but it is not yet a consummated reality. Christ sovereignly rules over all creation as the Son of God, and Christ presently rules over his redeemed people, but the consummation of his rule over all things on earth as the Son of Man will happen when he comes again, when “the kingdom of this world”—that is, the common grace kingdom—“will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev 11:15).
In other words, if we want to look to the Old Testament for an analogy to our present situation as Christians in this age, we are more like the sojourning patriarchs and the exiled Hebrews than either the Edenic or Mosaic holy theocracies. And, of course, this is exactly how the New Testament portrays us. Peter specifically calls us “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet 2:11). “Our citizenship is in heaven,” Paul tells us (Phil 3:20); we are “citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph 2:19). Like Abraham on his pilgrimage or Daniel in Babylon, Christians participate in the common grace aspects of the earthly kingdoms in which we dwell, but we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb 11:16); we long for the heavenly Jerusalem above our highest joy (Ps 137:6). And that heavenly Jerusalem will one day descend to the earth, uniting kingdom and cultus as was God’s intention from the beginning.
Yet Hebrews also reveals to us the nature of our worship in this age as well. The author proclaims at the end of chapter 12,
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Heb 12:22–24)
This is the heavenly palace/temple Isaiah and John envisioned, the place where God himself sits enthroned, surrounded by heavenly beings.” To this higher kingdom where God reigns Christian worshipers come to the reality, to the true worship of heaven itself. Paul describes this reality for Christians in Ephesians 2:6 when he states that God has “raised us up with [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Christ is seated in heaven as the king/priest, and since we are in him by faith, we are with him there. And he tells us how just a few verses later in Ephesians 2:18: “For through [Christ] we . . . have access in one Spirit to the Father.” We have access to the Father because in one Spirit through Christ, we are actually there, in the presence of God in heaven.
Pure Worship
This biblical understanding situates us in this present age as dual citizens. As members of the human race we are citizens of common grace earthly kingdoms, and so we participate as such. But ultimately we are a called out cultic community with “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us], who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1:4–5). Consequently, as Peter goes on to say, “as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct. . . . Conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers” (1 Pet 1:15, 17–18).
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How Valuable Is Bodily Training?

Bodily training does have some value, because God created the body and he will one day redeem the bodies of his people—but what will bring about the redemption of our bodies one day in the life to come is not bodily training. Our bodies are only part of who we are. When God formed Adam’s body, he breathed into Adam’s body the breath of life, and man became a living soul. We are not only physical, we are also spiritual.

Should Christians care about their bodies? How much emphasis should we place upon bodily exercise?
Some professing Christians in past history have argued that the body is bad—we don’t need to give attention to the body, we just need to focus on spiritual things.
But notice what Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:8: “Bodily training is of some value.” Don’t read that and think Paul is saying bodily training is worthless; he’s not. He is acknowledging here that bodily training does have some value.
Why is bodily training valuable? Well, the Bible actually has much to say about our bodies.
Our bodies matter to God.
First, God made our bodies.
For you formed my inward parts;you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:13–14
Genesis 2 tells us that God formed Adam’s body, and remember, he did this before sin entered the world. The body is a good thing that God made—he saw it, and it was good. God made our bodies, and therefore our bodies are good.
Sin affects our bodies.
But second, sin affects our bodies.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:22–23
God created Adam, but Adam disobeyed God; and as a result of Adam’s sin, God cursed the whole creation, including our bodies. From the moment of our conception really, our bodies begin to wear down and decay. It’s not so bad when we’re young and growing, but you hit 40, and it’s all downhill from there.
I jest, but it’s a reality, right? Even the youngest experiences aches and pains. Our bodies get sick. We break bones and sprain ankles. Our bodies are significantly affected by the reality of sin.
Bodily training is of some value.
The reality of sin is exactly why bodily training is of some value. Disciplined exertion of our bodies through exercise and athletics can help to hold back some of the worst effects of the curse upon our bodies. If we stay in shape and eat well, that can have positive effects on our bodies.
However, ultimately, no matter how much bodily training we engage in through the course of our lives, no matter how healthy our diet, no matter how well we keep our bodies in shape, they still will wear down. The best we can do with bodily exercise is to slow the breakdown of our bodies, and that does have some value. But one day each one of our bodies will fail, and we will die. And our bodies will be placed in the ground, and they will return to dust.
Christ will redeem our bodies.
But there is hope. The third reality that Scripture teaches about our bodies is what Paul said Romans 8:23: we eagerly await for the redemption of our bodies. One day our bodies, along with all creation, will be redeemed. That redemption does not come as a result of anything we do—in other words, the value of bodily exercise is not that our own bodily training somehow redeems our bodies. No, Christ will redeem our bodies.
And we know this for one very important reason: Jesus Christ—who is 100% God, and has existed co-equally with God the Father and God the Spirit for all eternity—took on a human body at his incarnation.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Philippians 2:5–7
That body was truly human—Jesus was hungry, he was thirsty, he got sick, he had aches and pains—his body was affected by sin just like ours is.
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