Paul’s Thinking about the Spirit

Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His people, so it is therefore one of the most important doctrines of the Christian church. The Holy Spirit is someone to be experienced, not some thing to be talked and argued about.

Paul’s uncompromising monotheism dominates his thinking.

Paul is certain that the Holy Spirit is the gift of God:

  1. Consequently, he who rejects [this] is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:8)
  2. So faith [comes] from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
  3. This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2)
  4. Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:5)
  5. His coming into one’s life is not something a man can win or achieve by his own efforts.

The Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance: the first installment of the perfect blessedness which God has prepared for those who love Him.

  1. Who also sealed us and gave [us] the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 1:22)
  2. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 5:5)
  3. Who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of [God’s own] possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:14)

The juxtaposition of flesh and spirit:

  1. Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3)
  2. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-25)
  3. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, (Romans 6:8)
  4. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
  5. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:9)

The Spirit as sign and seal that a man belongs to God: The seal was the sender’s guarantee that the goods came from him, and he was willing to stand by the contents and the conditions of it.

  1. Who also sealed us and gave [us] the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 1:22)
  2. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation–having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)
  3. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

The Jews had two basic ideas about the Spirit: The person who brought God’s revealed word to men and the person who enabled men to recognize the truth and understand it when it came. For Paul, the man who shuts his heart to the Holy Spirit could not possibly receive or recognize God’s truth. The Holy Spirit is the agent in revelation.

  1. That by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. And by referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; (Ephesians 3:3-5)
  2. For who among men knows the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the [thoughts] of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11)
  3. Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual [thoughts] with spiritual [words.] But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:13-14)

The Holy Spirit is the Mediator:

  1. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:5)
  2. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
  3. For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)

Two beautiful thoughts concerning the Spirit:

  1. Our certainty that we belong to God
    1. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)
    2. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:16)
    3. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)
  2. Our prayers are interpreted to God – “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

The Holy Spirit is the source of the Christian life:

  1. And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with groanings too deep for words; (Romans 8:26)
  2. Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)
  3. To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that [my] offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:16)
  4. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
  5. In the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:19)
  6. As unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, 10 as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things. 11 Our mouth has spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, our heart is opened wide. (2 Corinthians 6:9-11)

The Holy Spirit is the source of Christian gifts for the church:

  1. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all [persons.] (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
  2. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (Galatians 5:22)
  3. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
  4. In whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
  5. That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; (Ephesians 3:16)

The Holy Spirit is the source of the great actions and great qualities of the Christian:

  1. For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
  2. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18)
  3. And he also informed us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:8)
  4. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
  5. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
  6. For we are the [true] circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, (Philippians 3:3)
  7. And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

The things of the Spirit are the things of Christ: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, [there] is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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