Lesson for July 12-18
Satan has attempted to malign the character of the Father, to confuse us about the nature of His Son, and to cause us to overlook the Holy Spirit. How sad that the Person of the Godhead who is least understood is the one residing closest to our hearts. Although the Bible tells us of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we really know little of His nature and therefore have trouble visualizing His role in our salvation.
Jesus prayed for the Holy Spirit, whom He called the Comforter, to come to us after His ascension. That should also be our prayer today. The Holy Spirit will abide with us forever, as our Key Text points out, but we must put our order in for Him every day. Like food, we need to be “filled” with the Spirit on a daily basis. Could this have been why Jesus included in The Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our DAILY bread”?
Key Text: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;” John 14:16 KJV
Anyone who has lost a loved one keenly feels the need for someone to comfort them following such a loss. Jesus recognized this need and did His best to assure His disciples that they would not be left unattended in their grief after He was gone.
He would send His personal representative in the form of the Holy Spirit to support, sustain, uphold, and cheer them. But beyond these duties, we discover, through this week of study, that the Holy Spirit plays an enormous role in the whole plan of salvation. There is really no part in which He is not involved.
Sunday: The Representative of Christ
What a close bond Jesus must have had with His small group of disciples on earth. They ate and slept with their Master Teacher. I can’t think of anything more heartbreaking than to be suddenly deprived of the Savior’s presence, when you’ve been privileged to enjoy it for three whole years.
I seem to miss my family members after just a two-week visit! Sometimes our first response to this kind of loss is to find a replacement. Many people can’t wait to replace their pets when they are gone. And often those who had the best marriages are the widows and widowers who find themselves again at the marriage altar.
Jesus foresaw this dilemma, but knew that the Holy Spirit was equipped to take up the slack and provide His followers with additional resources to keep them spiritually engaged. He assured the disciples, “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.” John 14:26 KJV
One of the most treasured things we can take away from our relationship with a deceased loved one is the memories we shared with them. We try to preserve some of their material possessions, but only because they represent the precious memories that we strive to hold onto.
Jesus thus assured them that this Comforter would help them hold onto the memories. What He taught them would be preserved, because the Holy Spirit would be their constant Friend and Reminder.
We wonder today if this Holy Spirit truly is Christ’s representative though. Just how closely does He replace our Savior, the Son of God? The Greek word parakletos is made up of the words “beside” (para) and “called” (kletos). So we might say this Holy Spirit Comforter is “one called to the side of”. In human terms this might mean a mediator, helper, adviser, or advocate.
Interestingly, John uses this parakletos to refer to Jesus Himself in I John 2:1. “…And if any man sin, we have an advocate [parakletos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” KJV In addition, Jesus, in John’s Gospel, called the Comforter the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). Earlier in the same chapter, He announces that He is “the way, the truth, and the life”, v. 6.
Jesus’ human nature prevented Him from being everywhere during His earthly ministry. But even David recognized the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7 says, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” This is just one more reason why it just made sense for Jesus to send us the Spirit as His replacement and representative.
Discussion Questions: Why does a replacement need to be essentially the same as the original? In what ways were the Holy Spirit and Jesus the same? Besides being the “truth”, tell how the Holy Spirit could also be the “way” and the “life”. See John 1:1-3 and Genesis 1:2.
If the Holy Spirit has always had a ministry to perform on earth, how did His ministry change after Jesus died and was resurrected?
Monday: The Holy Spirit Is a Person
Let’s look at some Bible verses that at least give us reason to think of Him as a Person:
- He offers us spiritual gifts, “as he will”–He must therefore have some initiative and operates on His own will, which, of course, would match that of the Father and Son (I Corinthians 12:11).
- He shows intelligence in helping sort out doctrinal issues at the council at Jerusalem (Acts 15:28), and Paul explains that he searches our hearts in order to make intercession for us before the Father (Romans 8:27).
- He has emotions by receiving love from the brethren (Romans15:30) and being grieved by some Christians (Ephesians 4:30).
The actions and works of the Holy Spirit also help us see Him as a Person with a personality. These Bible passages describe His role–John 14:6, 15:26,16:7-1:14. This Comforter not only comforts, He:
- bears witness
- reproves of sin, righteousness, and judgment
- guides us into truth
- glorifies Jesus
Because He is a Divine Person, we must humbly surrender to His will by:
- inviting Him to dwell in our hearts (Romans 8:9),
- allowing Him to transform our characters (Titus 3:5),
- producing fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23).
Discussion Questions: We understand what the gifts of the Spirit are, but how can we remember that the Spirit itself is a gift without losing our view of Him also as a Divine Person?
In what ways are the Father and the Son gifts to us as well?
By serving, glorifying, and uplifting the Father and the Son, why are we more apt to overlook the Spirit’s claim to divinity? What part does humility play in God’s character? Might this be further evidence of His divinity?
Tuesday: The Holy Spirit Is Divine
Several points can be made to verify the Holy Spirit’s divinity:
- Jesus called Him “another” Helper (John 14:16), implying that the shared nature and relationship between the Son and the Father would be available to His disciples.
- John 16:13 says He will “show you things to come”, in other words, He will prophesy, an attribute of God alone (Isaiah 46:9, 10).
- Jesus attributed the Holy Spirit as David’s inspiration in writing the Psalms (Mark 12:36 and Psalm 110:1).
- The Holy Spirit worked with Jesus under His direction while on this earth: anointed by the Spirit at His baptism (Matthew 3:16, 17), “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1), “returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee” to carry on His ministry (Luke 4:14). As a matter of fact, He even helped Him perform His miracles (Matthew 12:28).
- Jesus’ Great Commission to the apostles was to baptize “‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'” Matthew 28:19 NKJV
If that isn’t enough, we have Jesus’ warning us about grieving the Holy Spirit:
“‘Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.'” Matthew 12:31 KJV
Much speculation has been made about the meaning of this apparently unforgivable sin. The idea remains, however, that blasphemy is a sin committed directly against God, so we must conclude that the Holy Spirit has a place in the Godhead.
Discussion Questions: Why do you suppose that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit holds such dire consequences, as opposed to sinning against the Father and the Son? What constitutes speaking against the Holy Ghost?
The titles Holy Spirit and Holy Ghost are used interchangeably, with Holy Ghost exclusively found in the New Testament. Both the words for “spirit” and “ghost” hold meanings of “breath” or “wind” though. How might this help us visualize the nature of this Divine Being?
Wednesday: The Work of the Holy Spirit
So far we have seen the Holy Spirit at work during and after Jesus’ life here on earth. We also realize His role in the inspiration of the Bible. But what did Jesus reveal about His work for our salvation? Does the Holy Spirit play a vital role in this area? The Father gave His Son, the Son sacrificed His body, but how is the Holy Spirit involved in saving this planet?
John 16:8-11 encompasses many of the issues we are looking for:
“And when He is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:Of sin, because they have not believed on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” KJV
The word “reprove” means to correct, convince, or convict. Indeed, how can we be saved unless we recognize that we are sinners. Most people in the world understand the conscience as something that points out right and wrong to us. But we must see the Holy Spirit as more than our conscience, if we are to understand these verses correctly.
In addition to conviction, the Holy Spirit also leads us to Christ. John 15:26 says, “he shall testify of me”, and John 16:14, “He shall glorify me”. Since “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me [Jesus]” (John 14:6), the Holy Spirit performs a valuable service by uplifting Jesus as our only Savior.
After our experience of conviction and repentance, and even being directed to Jesus and His truth, the Holy Spirit’s work isn’t done. The best is yet to come; because our messed up lives require a makeover, the Holy Spirit is our ready and willing partner in this operation.
Jesus explained it to Nicodemus as a new birth that must be ours if we would enter the kingdom of heaven. See John 3:5-8. We know this is done by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 tells us it is “the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” that saves us.
The world may see this as simply a modification or improvement of the old life, but these verses reveal much more. It is actually a miraculous transformation of our nature. We are created anew with God abiding in us, allowing us to love and serve Him with all our heart. We can only accomplish this with by being “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).
This function of the Holy Spirit isn’t just accomplished at the beginning of our Christian walk, but is constantly being done for us on a daily basis. It’s the only way for spiritual growth to happen. We must allow and invite the Holy Spirit into our lives moment by moment. This is why we are told to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17).
Discussion Questions: Why do our bad character habits keep coming back to haunt us–requiring constant vigilance and repeated consecration to God?
How has the Holy Spirit worked in YOUR life?
Thursday: Filled With the Holy Spirit
Here is where we find the most confusion about the Holy Spirit in our Christian churches today: what constitutes being “filled with the Holy Spirit”?
Jesus warned us of the need for this filling in Matthew 12:43-45, when He described just one unclean spirit leaving a man, but being replaced by seven others even more wicked than the first. Luke 4:1 describes Jesus Himself being “full of the Holy Ghost”, and we certainly can see our need of for this filling today, knowing that we must also be cautious about the kind of spirit we are inviting to dwell in us.
My dentist recently explained to me that even one small cavity in a tooth is a sign of decay that will only grow, eventually rotting away the whole tooth. I guess I’ll get the dreaded filling then. All I need to do is call and make the appointment. And all we need to do is pray for and ask the Holy Spirit to fill our life and it will be done. (Luke 11:9-13 says “Ask, and it shall be given you”.)
The words “baptism of the Holy Spirit” has also been misused over the centuries. Jesus’ only recorded mention of this kind of baptism was in Acts 1:5. Reading through verse 8 we are informed that this particular baptism (like the total immersion used in water baptism) was for the purpose of jump-starting the Christian church right after His ascension.
This was soon manifested quite profoundly at Pentecost when the disciples were overtaken by the Spirit and thousands were added to the church in one day (Acts 2:41).
Peter was so amazed at the event that he included in his sermon a mention of the prophet Joel about the Spirit being poured out in the last days. From what he had witnessed, he most likely thought that that day was near at hand. But Joel actually spoke of an early AND a latter rain in Joel 2, and through the centuries we have been led to believe that Pentecost represented the early rain, and the latter rain will occur at some point just before Christ’s Second Coming.
This does not mean that we need to wait for this infilling. As a matter of fact, in order to witness and spread the gospel at any time in church history, we need to be filled. “What we need is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without this, we are no more fitted to go forth to the world than were the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord.” ~Review and Herald, Feb. 18, 1890.
This explains the baptism of the Spirit on a church level, but what about in our personal lives? It seems we all need to be filled, and nothing is more important to our spiritual growth and personal witness.
Ephesians 5:18 makes it sound like this infilling of the Spirit is comparable to being drunk with wine. Drunk with wine constitutes losing our mental capacities, so being “drunk” with the Spirit must be losing our own will, and being totally “under the influence” of God. Since Paul advises us not to be drunk with wine, we might conclude that “drunk” with God has a much different look. Enough said…
Discussion Questions: How would you respond to someone who claims that being “filled with the Spirit” is to be able to speak in what has been called “tongues”? How would you respond to a friend who sincerely believes that this type of manifestation makes him or her feel closer to God?
How can we be cautious about so-called healing miracles and speaking in tongues, and not overlook true manifestations of the Spirit that are also evident in our world? Read I John 4:1, 2, which warns us against false prophets and evil spirits. Is professing Christ merely believing that He exists, or does it mean accepting His full message of salvation, including keeping His commandments and doing His will (Revelation 14:12 and Matthew 7:21).
“The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He [Jesus] could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail.The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead,who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world’s Redeemer.”~Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
“Consecrate yourself to God [through the Holy Spirit] in the morning; make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me, and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’ This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be moulded more and more after the life of Christ.” ~Steps to Christ, p. 70.
Next week: Salvation
To read the Sabbath School lesson or for additional resources, see www.ssnet.org