Eph. 4:28-30; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Acts 13:1-3
Remember our little talk about the name of God last year in Exodus? He has several titles that tell us about something that he is or does in relation to us: Lord, Savior, God, Master, Friend, Healer, etc. But he only has one name, something he is in and of himself: I Am. Within that name holds a mystery of tension. The first part “I,” refers to his personhood. He is a person, not a force. He has a will, emotions (in some sense of the word), and sentience. He likes some things, loves others, and hates others. The other part of his name—“am”—reminds us of his omnipotence, eternal nature, immutability (the things that make him deserving of worship). If we forget either part of this tension, we’ll have a severely deficient view of God, and we won’t be relating to the God of the Bible.
Why do I bring this up? Because we need to be reminded that the Spirit, like the rest of the Godhead, is a person. He’s not a force or a thing. Let’s look at some Scriptures that tell us this.
Paul was giving some instructions to the church at Ephesus (and us), and he gives some specific directions on how to live. In today’s passage he tells us that Christians should stop stealing and instead make an honest living. We also need to watch our mouths, not just avoiding “bad” talk but employing our tongues for positive uses. And why do we need to do this? Because our behavior can cause the Holy Spirit of God to grieve. When we live disobedient lives, that grieves him. Electricity can’t be grieved.
Paul also spent a lot of time talking to the church in Corinth about the proper use of spiritual gifts. Why do we call them spiritual gifts, by the way? Because they come from the Spirit. Paul makes it clear that the Spirit picks and chooses how to distribute the gifts to each individual member of the church. If you have a gift or don’t have a gift, it’s because the Spirit made a choice. Gravity doesn’t make sentient choices.
And finally we come to the portion from Acts. The disciples were praying, and the Spirit specifically spoke to them. He told them to set apart Paul and Barnabas for the work to which he had called them, and thus started Paul’s first grand missions trip. A force doesn’t talk to you.
Why do I make such a big deal over this? Well, for two reasons. First, there are cults out there that deny this teaching. They don’t come out and say it, but their view of the Holy Spirit doesn’t come from Scripture.
But there’s another reason which is far more serious, at least to me. Bible-believing Christians—hopefully—have an orthodox view on this subject. But do we treat the Spirit as a person? Maybe, maybe not.
Do I ever think about how I grieve the Spirit at times? I know better than doing X, and I do it anyway. For example, the words coming out of my mouth might not be appropriate for a child of the Holy One. How does he react to that, I wonder?
I see how he’s blessed someone else with more “showy” gifts, and I resent that. I think I should be in the spotlight and get the applause, not this other guy. What does that say about my attitude towards the Giver?
He’s trying to speak to me from his word, and I ignore it. He gives me clear instructions, and I turn a deaf ear to them. What does he think about that?
My creed or set of beliefs might say that the Holy Spirit is a person with will and emotions, but what do my actions say?
Holy Spirit of God, for all the times I don’t listen, I’m sorry. Please use your word and whatever other tools you have to correct that.