How does the Holy Spirit work? What is the Holy Spirit's purpose in God's plan of salvation? In the gospel?
Why the trinity?
In much of the modern Church, the Holy Spirit is treated like a genie or a spiritual force that can be called forth according to the will of man.
What is the truth of the Holy Spirit?
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. - John 16:13
Just as He was raised from death, we are raised from death in Him. Just as He walked out of the tomb in victory over death, so we walk out of the tomb in victory over death in Him. Just as He lives in us, we live in Him, and by His grace, we follow Him and bear fruit to His glory.
But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. - Romans 7:6
Old hymns and Christian poetry shed light on the depth of thought and contemplation of the gospel in God's word in earlier times. In this age of hectic busyness and technological intrusion, it is like a drink of pristine water to step away from the world and consider the words of Christians who lived in quieter and simpler times.
Christian, dost thou see them on the holy ground,
how the pow’rs of darkness rage thy steps around?
Christian, up and smite them, counting gain but loss,
in the strength that cometh by the holy cross.
Christian, dost thou feel them, how they work within,
striving, tempting, luring, goading into sin?
Christian, never tremble; never be downcast;
gird thee for battle, watch and pray and fast.
Christian, dost thou hear them, how they speak the fair?
“Always fast and vigil? Always watch and prayer?”
Christian, answer boldly, “While I breathe I pray!”
Peace shall follow battle, night shall end in day.
Hear the words of Jesus: “O my servant true;
thou art very weary, I was weary too;
But that toil shall make thee
someday all mine own,
and the end of sorrow shall
be near my throne.”
- John Mason Neale, 1862
In the many faceted and beautiful narrative of Jesus and the woman of Samaria we focus here on how the Holy Spirit works in bringing a person to Christ through the power of the gospel.
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) - John 4:1-9
We read in the gospels of Jesus preaching to multitudes, but in this story the Savior takes time to speak to one woman - a sinner, a Samaritan who Jews would normally not associate with. She was a lost sheep and through the working of divine providence the Lord brought her to the well in the middle of the day rather than the normal time of early morning. She may very well have come in the middle of the day in order to avoid the other women who may have looked down on her because of her multiple marriages and infidelities. We never know how or why or by what methods God’s plans will be carried out and we see here how providence brought her through her circumstances and condition to meet Christ face to face.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." - John 4:10-15
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” What a profound and wonderful statement Jesus makes here, but the woman does not yet know the gift of God or who it is that is speaking to her - she hears the words of Christ with ears that are spiritually dead and not yet opened to divine truth by the power of the Holy Spirit. So she responds as a natural worldly person does to the Word of God. The lost sinner cannot see beyond the literal, the veil, the words on the page of scripture until the Holy Spirit opens the heart to the divine Word on the page.
Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered him, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You are right in saying, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true." The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to him, "I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am he." - John 4:16-26
When the woman asks for the living water that Jesus told her of the Lord responds in a way that opens her eyes to the sin that keeps her from seeing and knowing the truth of the living water that can only be had through and in Jesus Christ. Jesus brings her sin out into the open by asking her to go and call her husband, and then He opens her eyes more to the truth of who He is by making clear the fact that he already knows of her sin - He is moving toward the cross that will atone for it.
Let’s step out of the story for a minute and try to imagine what this woman may have been like today. Was she insecure? Was she constantly seeking comfort from different men? Was she stable and secure emotionally? Maybe she was past her prime and had been through so many failed marriages that she now just shacks up with the latest guy. Maybe she has developed a drug or alcohol problem in an attempt to cope. Maybe she is one of those people with the barely suppressible anxious panic because it seems it’s all slipped too far to ever be redeemed. Or that person with the overly enthusiastic personality and constant joking who can’t hide the glint of terror in their eyes. Or someone who has become numb and is just living out days without meaning, direction, or purpose. Of course this is all just speculation in order to make a point and bring the story to light in a modern context. But one thing is for sure - she was a sinner as we all are. Everyone has been battered and stained by sin and it’s evil fruit. The stain is just different colors on different people.
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet…” The Lord has begun to open her eyes to divine truth as He must do for all of us. The supernatural divine glory of Christ and His truth begins to shine into the darkness of her sinful reality. Without the working of the spirit opening our eyes to the truth of who Jesus is we will never come to Him. And then the Lord shares with her the greatest truth there is, “I who speak to you am he.” He is the long awaited for Messiah.
Here we see the transition from a spring of living water - the grace of the gospel, to the terrible bondage that keeps the woman and all others from it - the bondage of sin, to salvation in Jesus Christ. This is a model that Jesus is giving us of how the gospel works in the human heart. Jesus shares with her an image of the boundless grace and glory that is in Him, then He brings to light the sin that keeps her from redemption and eternal life springing up as living water, and then He shows her the way out of sin and into eternal glory which is Him.
It is a grave and destructive error to detour around the gospel and try to come to the message of salvation through a method or program of man’s own creation. To cast aside the reality of sin may be to cast aside the reality of salvation in Jesus Christ. Have faith in the gospel and proclaim it as Jesus did and as He commands us in His Word to do. Never back down from the truth. Stay on the narrow path in our life, our ministry, and our witness.
Jesus brought her sin to light in a gentle and loving way - as we all must do because we all are sinners.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb - Revelation 22:1
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. - Matthew 7:24-29
In this wonderful parable of the builders we see that for both the wise and the foolish the rains fall, the floods come, and the wind blows and beats on both their houses. We will all face storms. The deciding factors are the rock and the sand.
This lesson that culminates Jesus’ Sermon On the Mount is such a simple one. But unfortunately, one that is commonly neglected. To truly hear the word of God requires much more than just ears, and doing the word of God requires much more than just acknowledging.
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit do we truly hear.
For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. - Matthew 13:15,16
We learn of the tragic consequences of hearing God’s word but not doing it in the story of Jesus’ interaction with a rich ruler.
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'"
And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth."
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"
And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."
And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, "Then who can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God." - Mark 10:17-27
The rich ruler was a good man by man’s standards. But Jesus knew there was a love and a worship of wealth and power in this man that would be his demise if he did not forsake it and turn and follow Him. The man’s wealth here in this world would contribute to his eternal destruction because it kept him from looking to and following Christ, and therefore Christ lovingly commands him to do what must be done. But the man only hears with ears that can barely hear and therefore he does not understand and turn to Jesus but instead continues on in the worship of his deadly idol. He was unwilling to do the word of God as we all are unless we are blessed to understand that “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God”.
You will not hear this teaching in most of the contemporary Church because man has been taught to rely on the mind of man rather than the spirit of God. Instead of resting faithfully on the promise that all things are possible with God, the modern Christian is instructed to work through their worldly afflictions through programming and self help. And this faithless, cheap Christianity has become so ingrained that many modern Pastors cannot see beyond it to the truth of the power of the gospel and choose to defend the teachings of man over the word of God.
The way through the narrow gate that Jesus teaches about in Matthew 7:13&14 is by hearing and doing the word of God. To hear and to do is to truly die to self and live for Christ. And the vital point for Christians to understand is that the hearing and the doing are not burdensome but the richest blessing.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30
The world is what piles weight upon men’s shoulders - not Jesus.
We must build our house upon the rock. The Church must do so and so must every believer. And we build our house upon the rock by hearing the word of God, by knowing the word of God, and by doing the word of God. Everything other than Christ and His word is just sand. Everything the world offers will eventually fail and lead to destruction.
Ephraim has said, "Ah, but I am rich; I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they cannot find in me iniquity or sin." I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; I will again make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed feast....Ephraim has given bitter provocation; so his Lord will leave his bloodguilt on him and will repay him for his disgraceful deeds. - Hosea 12:8,9,14
So many hear the word of God with ears that barely hear and never do the word of God. The contemporary Church and especially the “Christian recovery” movement epitomizes the heresy of self worship, self promotion, and selfish gain as an endless parade of “Recovery” ministries and programs strive pathetically for the limelight of Christian celebrity.
"As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, 'Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the LORD.' And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. - Ezekiel 33:30,31
The fool hears the words of Jesus but does not do them. But the wise hears and does the words of our Lord. There is only one truth and there is only one final authority - the word of God. The words of Christ will stand forever.
The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. - Ecclesiastes 12:11-13
If we desire on that final day to hear Jesus say “I have known you,” then we must hear His word and we must do His word. And our house will be built on the indestructible everlasting rock.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. - Matthew 7:13-14
The many and the few - everyone will end up in one group or the other. There is no middle ground in divine truth. One of the great errors in the contemporary Church and especially prevalent in the recovery movement that has infiltrated the Church is the idea of an all inclusive universal salvation regardless of what someone believes and whether or not they have truly been born again and follow Christ according to His word. Sadly, many Churches rely on Alcoholics Anonymous or its spin off program Celebrate Recovery rather than the gospel in an effort to help the alcoholic and addicted, completely unaware of the heresy put forth by AA. Consider that on page 46 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous it is stated that, “We found that God does not make too hard terms with those who seek Him. To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open, we believe, to all men". That is a complete contradiction of Matthew 7:13-14 and yet so many Pastors and Churches participate in and promote Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery.
But in truth we once again see the razor's edge of Christianity, the clear distinction that there are only two ways in life: right or wrong, good or evil, Christ or the world, faith in Christ or dependence on programs, the narrow gate to heaven or the wide highway to hell, death with the the many or eternal life In Jesus with the few.
The wide worldly gate to destruction is one of enticement, amusement, entertainment, ease, worldly prosperity, self worship, and is all inclusive - open to all without anything needing to be given up or repented of in order to pass through. The lusts and desires and passions of this world are welcome through the wide gate without question or running the risk of insult. The wide gate is easy to find because there is a constant mass of ignorant humanity fighting to get through it.
The fact that we must enter by the narrow gate has been cast aside in “Christian” recovery programs, and traded instead for the faulty idea that the goal is to get someone over their pain - then, when the suffering sinner is better they can be presented with the Christian message. What a destructive heresy man creates when by lack of faith and sinful pride the gospel is manipulated or ignored and the man made concept of recovery is set up as an idol above the commands of Christ. There is a reason the very first command recorded in Christ's ministry was repent.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 4:17
Christ does not command sinners to clear their head, fix themselves up, get their life back together, and then repent and follow Him. Instead, Christ commands lost sinners to repent and to follow Him faithfully on the hard path to the narrow gate that can only be passed through by grace through faith. But the wonderful paradox lies in the fact that although the gate is narrow and the way is hard - it is a way of inexpressible joy and true peace. Christ does a miracle in the transformation of every sinner that cannot be grasped or understood by the sinful human mind without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. And that is where faith must be exercised in the sharing of the gospel. Unfortunately, for too long much of the contemporary Church has lacked the faith to simply and lovingly share the gospel with the lost drunk or addicted sinner and pray for the working of the Holy Spirit, and instead has devised man made programs that lead only away from the one true way to salvation. By relying on anything of man other than God even with the best of intentions conveys a severe lack of faith in the power of the gospel by the working of the Holy Spirit.
to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. - Acts 26:18
Consider this question: If someone has the greatest gift and you do not, and because you lack this gift you will die, would you want that person to give you the gift even if the giving of the gift may at first be painful and offensive? Is this what you wish others would do to you?
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12
It seems that if we truly are to do unto others as we would have done unto us that we will strive to love them as Jesus would love them, that we would love for the sake of Jesus Christ and the gospel according to the word. We would not lead someone astray with a false worldly connotation of love. Yet, that is exactly what so many do by leading the suffering sinner away from the saving gospel of Jesus Christ and into programs invented by man.
Jesus tells us that we must enter by the narrow gate, and that if we don’t we will enter the wide way to destruction. He also tells us in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." - Mark 1:14,15
For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger,
though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain. - Isaiah 17:10-11
There are certain scriptures during times of Bible study that seem to shine with a more intense brilliance as they apply so directly to the apostasy of the modern idol of recovery that has infiltrated the Christian Church.
Isaiah 17:10-11 is one such portion of scripture.
In a time of suffering and pain when a sinner must be presented with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, so often instead, by the very Church commissioned with proclaiming the gospel, are led into false man made and man centered beliefs in the name of "recovery". The Church and through it's neglect the suffering sinner, "...have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge". The faithless Church instead of pointing to the cross and relying on the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit instead points elsewhere.
You, the misguided sinner may find relief and get back to a normal happy life in a worldly sense through the attainment of sobriety and the idolizing of recovery. But although, "...you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain".
You, the misguided sinner, so in need of hearing the gospel and of being led by the power of the Holy Spirit into it's truth, instead trade the God of your salvation and the Rock of your refuge for an erroneous obsession with a fraudulent recovery that when exposed to the glorious light of the love of Jesus Christ withers in it's futility.
The heretics in the Church worshipping the idol of recovery and the sinners being led to it's altar should heed the last portion of this scripture, "...yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain".
Chad Prigmore is Pastor and President of The Way R122 Ministry USA & Kenya.