How Does the Holy Spirit Work?

by: Ronald L. Dart

Email: ron@borntowin.net


Jesus said quite a bit to the disciples about persecution and in John 15:20, He said: "Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." He didnít offer them something that might happen or something that would occasionally take place, He had a categorical firm statement, that if they have persecuted me, they will persecute you. He had a simple question to answer them, did they persecute Him? Certainly. How then that those of us who are Christians, who are following in the footsteps of Jesus, expect ourselves to remain free of persecution? We are told in the Sermon on the Mount, that we are to consider ourselves blessed and that we are to rejoice at persecution when it comes (Matthew 5:11, 44).

We, in the Twenty-First Century Church, have had little opportunity to suffer anything like the persecution that was suffered in the First Century. But beginning in this sixteenth chapter of John, Jesus said: "These things I have spoken unto you, that you should not stumble." The word "offended" in the King James Version comes from the Greek word "skandalizo" which basically means "to stumble or to fall over a stone or rock that might be placed in the road, or a stumbling block." It is easy to see how a person, group or a church if they found themselves under severe persecution could very easily stumble. One of the things that tends to start happening to a human being when he finds himself under stress or under pressure is to conscientiously and sub-conscientiously try to find someway out from under it all, to find out what was the cause, the source of the problem that he is having, to find some way of getting rid of the pressure that he is under.

It is rather fascinating if you want to take the time and go back and read first Thessalonians from this point of view and you will find it a very interesting book, because the Thessalonian Church had, since the apostle Paul left, suffered considerable persecution. In fact if you read between the lines you will come to understand that some people had died for the faith there, not just a few of them. In the very first epistle Paul says in verse 13: "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them who have died", implying that several people were dead from that Church and the people were disturbed, naturally, by it.

Why Am I A Christian?

 

What is interesting is that in the first couple of chapters of the book, Paul spends a great deal of time defending himself, in a subtle sort of way, and when you read it carefully you can ask yourself, why did Paul have to say these things. You come to realize that as these people had suffered persecution, they naturally began to ask themselves the question, why am I doing this? Why do I believe these things that people are dying for? And here I am in prison, or I have lost my job, and my family is about to starve. Wait a minute, why am I doing what I am doing? Do I really believe this? This man Paul, who came up here and preached these things, what were his motives? Was he sincere? Did he really believe what he taught or was he acting under some other motivation? You can see how Paul wrote the epistle in a very encouraging fashion. Do you realize that there were some people in Thessalonica who were in danger of and some may have stumbled? Jesus said to His disciples and to us all these years later: "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not stumble. {2} They shall put you out of the synagogues: yes, the time comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does Godís service" (John 16:1-2). This is a very important scripture because so much of the time we focus our attention when we are studying Church history, on the persecutions of Christians by the Roman State, that is, by the imperial government, by Ceasar, by Nero and by others who severely persecuted people who were Christians.

 

Persecution of the Church

 

The truth is that relatively little of the persecution of the Church down through generations has come from civil authorities, in the Old Testament or New Testament. Most of the persecution of Godís servants has come from religious people. Now the implication here is, as he says to these men who will be dealing specifically with the Synagogue, that they were going to be put out of their former religious affiliation and this was a very serious matter to be put out of the Synagogue. Secondarily, that they were going to die and the people who would kill them would be religious people, people who said that they served the true God, people who might even call His name and pronounce it correctly, people who believed and kept the Commandments, and yet would commit judicial murder, under certain circumstances. Those who kill you will think that they do God a service.

Religious people, putting it another way, are not necessarily true Christians. Are they? Just because people accept and take the name of Christ upon themselves, just because some Jewish leader might teach the Ten Commandments and believe in keeping them and be very meticulous about tithing of mint, anise and cumin, and so forth, who would fast twice in a week, who would do all matters of religious acts, would at the same time be a murderer. It is a very sobering consideration.

They Have Not Known the Father

Letís continue in John 16:3 "And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." There were in that age, in the First Century Church and through every generation of man, and there are today, people who will persecute other people who are Christians, believing that they are doing God a service, and they do it because they donít know the Father nor Jesus even though they may bear His name.

Remember Jesus said: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9). It is possible to worship Jesus Christ of Nazareth in vain. It is possible to believe in Him and think you are doing God a service while you torment, torture and persecute and even kill other people. So the profession of His name was not enough.

 

The Comforter

 

""But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you. {5} "But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and nobody is asking Me, 'Where are You going?' {6} "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. {7} "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is expedient to you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:4-7). Now this is a very interesting verse for a couple of reasons. One, a very clear statement, that Jesus in bodily human form could not be upon the earth at the same time that the Comforter would be here operating in spiritual form. He says it is not possible for the Comforter to come to you while I am here, I have to go there, and then the Comforter will come. That in itself is an interesting question. Why?

Paraklete

Secondly, letís look at this expression, Comforter. Now I donít know if you have ever heard a preacher or a religious writer refer to something called the "Paraklete". The word "paraklete", and it is not a bird in a cage, comes from the Greek word "parakletos". Now there is one root "parakaleo" in the Greek from which three different Greek words are derived "parakaleo", "paraklesis", "parakletos" all of which come from the same root.

"Parakaleo" is translated these different ways in your New Testament: "to comfort, to beseech, to desire, to pray, to exhort, to entreat, or to call." That is a lot of different ways to translate a word, a single verb form from the Greek and there is an enormous amount of variations in the translation. Now this is the verb form. One noun form "paraklesis" is translated "consolation, comfort, or exhortation." The other noun form "parakletos" from which this word "comforter" is taken, is translated only two ways in the New Testament, and not used very often, it is used once as "comforter", and the other as "advocate". In the one case it is referring to the Holy Spirit and in the other case as Jesus Christ being our advocate with God the Father. He is a "paraklete" Himself.

This is interesting because you find these three different words, the verb form "parakaleo" basically comes from the root which means "to call to oneís side", in other words, you call one along side of yourself, and you begin to wonder, where do you comfort, to beseech and to exhort, to entreat. It is difficult to see all of those things. The other noun form basically means "calling near, a summons" and the third one I mentioned means basically "one summoned to oneísí side or called to oneís side, one who pleads anotherís case before a judge". In other words you call a lawyer or advocate to your side who then pleads your case to the judge, he stands by you in time of trouble and pleads for you, who is a counselor for the defense.

A Play on Words

Now letís turn to 2 Corinthians 1 and I want to show you a fascinating play on words which would go by a person if they werenít aware that it was here.

The King James translators, for some reason, lost a little bit of it in the process of translation, in that they couldnít find the word that adequately expressed all of the nuances of these three Greek forms. Beginning in verse 3: "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort." The noun form, "paraklesis", which means consolation, comfort or interestingly enough, exhortation. It is a little difficult to put exhortation into that particular verse, but it would fit with the Greek word.

Verse 4: "Who comforts us", "comforts" is the verb form of the same root, "who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." Notice the back and forth of the verb, noun, verb, noun.

Verse 5: "For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ." Now I donít know why the King James translators shifted to "consolation" at this point, because the word is precisely the same as what was used before and translated as "comfort".

Verse 6: "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation", again the same word, "and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation." Again these two words should have been translated more closely together because of the root, but they switch off from "comfort" to "consolation".

Verse 7: "And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation". This word obviously has no precise English equivalent. As you are translating, you have to grasp some way of expressing the different nuances of a word that just somehow doesnít come through into English.

The best that I could do in this particular passage of Scripture was to translate thus, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all encouragement; {4} Who encourages us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to encourage them which are in any trouble, by the encouragement wherewith we ourselves are encouraged of God. {5} For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our encouragement also abounds by Christ. {6} And whether we be afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be encouraged, it is for your encouragement and salvation. {7} And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the encouragement."

Encouragement seems a little light in translating this word as far as the power but you have to reach for some word like this, because if you donít you lose some of the effect of repetition that the apostle Paul was aiming at when he used the same word again, and again and again, playing back and forth between noun and verb, this time not using the second noun encourager, but simply encouragement. He uses this play so he gets the repetition of the word for the effect that repetition can convey. You lose this effect in the King James Version and I donít recall any translation that Iíve seen that makes a concerted effort that tries to convey, not only the meaning of the passage, but the emphasis of the passage that is conveyed by this repetition that Paul uses of the same word again, again and again.

A Form of Communication

In a sense what we are talking about here is some form of communication that takes place between the Holy Spirit and another, which is for the purpose of changing your feelings about something, for exhortation, for uplifting, for driving or pushing, trying to empower or energize you, whereas you might be otherwise discouraged, let down, out of gas to use the vernacular, very much in need of being pumped up. If you were to take the word "speech" or "to speak" in this category, you have "parakaleo" which is the speaking in the sense of exhorting. You have "paraklesis" which is the speech, the exhortation. You have "parakletos" which is the speaker or the exhorter. You have three different Ways of using this word, in the sense of the thing itself, the verb form and then the one who does, the verb. Now this word is used this way many times in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit is shown to us in this Scripture as an exhorter, not just a comforter. The concept of comforter does not carry the emphasis of what the Holy Spirit does in dealing with human beings.

Encourager does not carry the entire meaning. Exhorter is closer, that is the one who prods, who pushes, the one who moves, the one who tries to influence the things that you do. I think it is a little easier to see the Holy Spirit as prime mover, than merely as one to comfort, even though there are times when Christians need very much to be comforted.

The Holy Wind

The Holy Spirit, I think could be likened to a pressure of sorts that exists on a person, in fact I donít think that it is a coincidence that the word "pneuma" comes from the wind and choice of the word "spirití. When you use the term "Holy Spirit", which is "hagios pneuma" in the Greek, it means essentially "Holy Wind". The whole idea of the wind that puts pressure against the sails of a ship for example, so that even light breezes, if the sails are trim and the rudder is in the right position, can move a large vessel through the waters. The Holy Spirit exerts pressure on the life of a human being. A pressure that can be effective or ineffective depending upon how the sails are set, how the sails are trimmed, and how the rudder is set, and how responsive the crew is set to trimming the sails to the winds and airs that you do receive at a point in time.

The Holy Spirit is Subtle

Usually, the Holy Spirit is very subtle, it doesnít exert powerful influences on human beings except on very rare occasions. The Day of Pentecost 31 A.D. is a case in question when the Holy Spirit descended with an audible noise, with a visual representation of distributed tongues and suddenly a group of men were given a tremendous amount of power of speech. The Holy Spirit usually does not hit a person with that kind of strength, it is much more subtle. Letís take a look at a few Scriptures that might help us to understand the workings of the Holy Spirit in this way and see if we can grasp a little bit of the meaning of this word "paraklete" or encourager, or exhorter in the role of the Holy Spirit in a personís life.

Letís turn back to 2 Peter 1:20: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. {21} For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." This is a very interesting point. There is no indication in the scriptures for either the testimony of the scriptures themselves or from a careful analysis of the original language of the scriptures that would say that the prophets were simply individuals who took dictation. Now if all they did was hear a voice in their ear and then write down the words of that voice, one would expect to find very little variance in the prophets because the Holy Spirit speaking to them would use itís vocabulary with Godís choice of words. The precise layout of concepts and thoughts or style of expression would be much the same from man to man and they would claim more to have heard the words and written them down verbatim. But in most cases it doesnít seem to have worked that way at all. In fact, you can very clearly see in reading through the prophets, the personality of the individual prophet coming through in his writings. You donít have to be a Hebrew scholar to see this if you study the scriptures carefully. As you read along you get a feeling of your own for the difference between those men who are speaking to you under the inspiration of God. And so it is the prophetís own vocabulary is used, his style of speech is used, his personality be it mild or be it severe is reflected through the prophecies that you read in the pages of your Bible.

What we are dealing with is not a case where God speaks verbally or in the ear, or in the language of the prophet to him, that the Holy Spirit rather moves this man, communicates with this man at a level which he may or may not be aware, at a level that no one around him would certainly understand and somehow brings out of his consciousness the words of God expressed by this instrument, in his style, his vocabulary, in his way of doing things.

As I said the Holy Spirit can be very subtle. The awareness of the Holy Spirit, the power of it, is varied from prophet to prophet, and in some situations they fell so heavily under the influence of the Holy Spirit that they went into an absolute trance and sat on the ground and if anyone had spoken to them or waved their hand in front of their eyes they would have received no sign of recognition for hours or perhaps days on end. In other cases the prophet was so moved by the things that he saw around him that he began to preach, or he began to write and out of him by the power of the Holy Spirit, came the ideas, the thoughts, that God saw to it, that it was preserved for us in the scriptures that we now read.

Quench Not the Spirit

Turn back with me to a very short scripture but I think it would be good for you to see it with your own eyes, 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 "See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. {16} Rejoice evermore. {17} Pray without ceasing. {18} In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. {19} Quench not the Spirit."

Verse 19 is a very important scripture because the tendency that we sometimes have is to look at events like Acts 2 and Pentecost in 31 A.D. and the events in how the Holy Spirit affected those people. We read some of the prophets in the Old Testament where it says that the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied or we see these representations of the Holy Spirit taking over a man and we forget that those are very exceptional revelations or manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the lives of human beings. For the most part, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in a personís life is very subtle and it can be quenched. It is hard for example to see Ezekiel sitting by the river Chebar (Ezekiel 3:15) talking to the men and suddenly the Holy Spirit coming upon him and seizing him, throwing him into a trance.

On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) when all of those people were there together in the upper room and the sound of a mighty wind came roaring into the place with cloven tongues, distributed tongues sitting upon each of them, it would be hard to quench that, but this is not what most of us encounter when we encounter the Holy Spirit. We go through the waters of baptism, and we come up out of the waters of baptism and receive the laying on of hands for the begettal of Godís Holy Spirit. We have repented, we have been baptized and the scripture tells us that if you repent and are baptized you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and from that day forward the Spirit of God begins to work in a human beingís life, but how does it work?

How the Holy Spirit Works

Jesus told His disciples "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, it will lead you into all truth" (John 16:13). He also said that the Spirit or Comforter will bring to your remembrance all things that I have taught you (John 14:26). A lot of the work of the Spirit of God is to remind us, to bring to our consciousness things that we otherwise might submerge or put out of our thoughts, or put completely away from ourselves as we go through our daily life. When we come across a temptation to take something that doesnít belong to us, for example, that the Holy Spirit, instead of allowing us to keep that submerged, reminds us that in the process of coming upon that temptation, "thou shall not steal", reminding us about Jesusí words and we say to ourselves "I shouldnít do that." All to often we say "I shouldnít do that ĎBUTí", and that Ďbutí basically leads us astray into an area that we shouldnít go in.

What am I saying? What I am saying is that the Holy Spirit much of the time is indistinguishable from your conscience and in fact in many cases that conscience of yours is something that is used or is the instrumentation or instrumentality of the Holy Spirit in a way in which you are spoken to, you are not spoken to in words, you are not spoken to in audible sounds that you can hear in your ear, you are not spoken to in conscious words spoken to you in your mind. There are many ways of communication and there are many ways of conveying to another human being what you feel, for example, we can convey disapproval to our children without saying a word. You basically know the body language required to convey disapproval to your children. This is a very subtle thing, sometimes we can go away from a conversation knowing that something was wrong but not being able to put our finger on it. We receive what psychologists call subliminal queues, that is, they are below the level of the threshold of consciousness and yet they are there, and you read them and you never really know what they were, and you never really know and couldnít say if a person crossed their arms, they crossed their legs, and turned slightly to one side away from me, and I read their body language and it said, they disapproved. A lot of times you canít put it together, but you know, and you know that you know, that that person disapproves of that.

Now the speaking or the communication to us of the Holy Spirit is also non-verbal. It comes across to us in ways that has nothing to do with any of our sensory perceptions at all. People have tried to do a great deal of work with extra sensory perception, and there are a lot of questions that has to be answered about this, but the point is simply this, it is possible for you to receive information, for you to be communicated with, without the use of your senses, your smell, your hearing, your sight, taste or touch. You simply know. How do you do it? How does the Holy Spirit do it? I could never begin to tell you, but you know, and I know, if you are a Christian and you have Godís Holy Spirit, you know there has been times when the Holy Spirit has led you one way or another and you have either responded or you have not, so the Holy Spirit does lead, and it does lead very subtly and it can be quenched by the conscious decision of the human mind. That is why Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and said "donít quench the Holy Spirit", because if you do not listen, if you do not respond, if you do not follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, then you will become out of touch, you are not going to have that awareness of Godís leadership, you are not going to be able to judge the impulses that go on inside of you to be able to determine whether this is of God or whether it is not.

A Little Angel and A Little Devil

We have all gotten some fun out of some of the images from movies or elsewhere, where they show a little angel and there is a Ďpingí and it shows up on this guyís shoulder and whispers in his ear "Donít do that! You know that that is wrong." Then Ďpingí and on the other shoulder there is a little devil and he speaks in the other ear and says "Ah donít listen to him, he is always trying to keep you from having a good time."

Well, you know really that is not a really bad representation, because what you have to do is to bring things up into the visual consciousness or the senses of a human being in order to represent some of those things and all the author is trying to do, when they draw those little fantasies, is to express the theme that there often is in human beings, conflicts or wars that go on between good and evil, and simply put, the Holy Spirit does, not orally, not verbally, but the Holy Spirit does communicate feelings, desires, rejection, awareness of right and wrong, in ways that we can feel and know, and at the same time the flesh says "I want to do this." The Holy Spirit may, through your conscience, say "you shouldnít do this," and so the war begins. The danger is that if you give in to the flesh to often and you quench the Holy Spirit, when God does try to speak to you, and you really do need to hear what He has to say, you will not be able to hear it.

Apostles to Receive Holy Spirit

Turn back to Acts 1 and we will begin in verse:2: "Until the day in which Jesus was taken up, after that he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: {3} To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: {4} And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, you have heard of me. {5} For John truly baptized you with water; but you shall be immersed with the Holy Spirit not many days hence. {6} When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? {7} And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. {8} But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." This was quite an exceptional occasion where the Holy Spirit came upon these men with power and yet I have to realize that the power of the Holy Spirit was not restricted in itís availability to these men only, but I have to think how could a person who did not have the specific need, or was not in a specific historical time, how could a person come to have or experience or find expressed, through his life, the power of the Holy Spirit?

Still Small Voice

One thing is very evident that you cannot continually quench the Holy Spirit in your life, and expect to come to the place to where you experience the true power of the Holy Spirit in your life. What am I saying? It is really very simple, that Ďstill small voiceí that speaks to us, and it does speak to us, if you are in Christ, if you belong to Him, if you have been begotten by His Holy Spirit, there are going to be times when that voice does speak to you. There are going to be times when you are on your knees in prayer and asking God for His guidance and like the clear light of day you are going to realize what it is that He wants you to do. The problem is that in many circumstances you are not going to want to do what the clear light of day just showed you that you should do.

Try the Spirits

But the way into a closer communion with God is to not quench the Spirit, but to respond and to follow. Now I want to back off for a moment here, because of the proclivity of human beings, some human beings in particular are susceptible to the idea that they start listening to almost any thought or any emotion that comes into their mind and they begin to conclude that it is from God. Some of the most Ďhair brainedí ideas that I have ever heard of have come into peopleís mind or thoughts and then attributed to the Holy Spirit. Now the scriptures tells us to try the spirits (1 John 4:1) and there is not any one place in scripture that gives us all of the criteria whereby the spirits may be tried except that there is one particular statement that you need to bear in mind.

Isaiah the prophet said: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them" (Isaiah 8:20). You are going to find, if you do an exhaustive study of the Holy Spirit, you are going to find a number of references to where the Holy Spirit spoke, most of those references will then make an immediate reference to a scripture. This book, called the Holy Bible, is a comprehensive compilation of the utterances of the Holy Spirit for all of these six thousand years of manís history, therefore, you need to try the spirits in this sense, if something comes to your mind, or some feeling or some idea or a some voice whispers in your ear, it must match the pages of the scriptures. I will tell you, more often than not, the Holy Spirit will speak to you through the pages of the Bible, because when the time comes, and you are asking for Godís guidance and you are praying for Him to show you the way you ought to go, as often as not, the answer will come into your mind, into your remembrance and you will recall a scripture from the Bible of which you are already familiar.

When Jesus faced His greatest temptation, after the forty days of fasting, and Satan came to Him, and he said: "If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" (Matthew 4:3). The Holy Spirit in inspiring and in providing Jesus with His defense in that moment in time, did not come up with a new idea, or a new concept, or a clever approach combating the Devil. The Holy Spirit placed right in front of Jesusí mind the statement: "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4).

Leadership of the Holy Spirit

The leadership of the Holy Spirit will often be expressed in you by the simple recall of a scripture that is relevant to the problem that you face. It is still your decision, it is still your problem, but never discount the scriptures that come to mind, when you face difficult problems or decisions from time to time in your life.

Donít Resist Godís Holy Spirit

Turn over to Acts 7. This is the speech that Stephen made to the Jews at this time, I will only read one verse out of this passage because it so powerful. Verse 51: "You stiff necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do you." Stephen stood there trying to explain to these people, he was preaching right out of the word of God, quoting scripture after scripture after scripture and as he looked at the faces around him, all he saw was hardness and callousness and anger and raw naked hatred. After all of these accounts were made, all of the history of Israel was recounted, as he came down to this point in time, he said: "You do always resist the Holy Spirit". How? By the rejection of Godís word, by them making Godís word of no effect by their tradition, by their despising of the important aspects of Godís Law while they emphasized trivia. I could go on and on about what they did, but it is possible to resist the Holy Spirit, it is possible to quench the Holy Spirit, to shut it out of your life.

How the Holy Spirit Speaks

Turn back to Acts 13 where there is an interesting side light here. Verse 1 says: "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. {2} As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." I doubt very seriously if anyone heard a voice, I doubt very seriously if there was a manifestation or a vision in the night, because had there been, I have no doubt, it would have been recounted as such, because you have a situation where Paul was waiting in Turkey and gets this Macedonian call, a vision in the night where a man of Macedonia appeared to him and said "Come over and help us" (Acts 16:9). So Paul quickly perceived this. The vision was recounted this way. Peterís vision (Acts 10) on the housetop was recounted as a vision.

With the account of Barnabus and Saul, I donít think that a vision is what happened at all. I feel that the Holy Spirit revealed into the minds of all sorts of individuals, who knows how many of them were there as the realization dawned upon all of them as they prayed and fasted and were asking: "What do you want us to do?" Circumstances, ideas, simultaneous concepts came together and those people said: "We assuredly believe that the Holy Spirit has said "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." I donít expect that it was verbal communication at all, I expect that it was non-verbal, I expect non-sensory, I expect that it came into the minds of these individuals without them even being aware of the origin of the thought or how it began.

Turn back to Acts 16 and verse 4 says: "And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. {5} And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. {6} Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia." They were what? "Forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia." Now I wonder how they understood that? Was there a vision? Again, why would we conclude that, because when there was a vision, they described the vision? I suspect that as they attempted to go in one direction, the door was closed, they tried to go in another direction and the door was closed, and in an unusual sequence of events that sort of trapped them into a certain location and they asked: "What are we supposed to do?" And they said: "The Holy Spirit has led us to this point, the Holy Spirit did not permit us to go into that area". In other words, these individuals saw in the circumstances around them, the working of Godís hand. Now it could be a very simple matter, of course, it could be a dangerous thing, a person could assume that he sees the working of Godís hand. How can you know the difference? Know your Bible. Study the scriptures and try to match up the impulses, those feelings, those reactions, those messages that you think that you have with the pages of the Scriptures. Otherwise, Satan can look good to you from time to time.

Working of the Holy Spirit

Turn back to Romans 8 which is the Holy Spirit chapter, there are a number of references that I think are worth bearing in mind when we think about the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people.

In Romans 8:1 Paul says: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." This term "walk" in the Greek is "peripateo" which basically means "to put one foot in front of the other, or to follow a certain path of life", the whole idea of walking after the Spirit means that you actually make decisions in your life, you do the things that following the leadership of the Spirit would cause you to do.

To walk after the Spirit, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). Paul talks about what the law could and could not do, he talks about the carnal mind in the following verse, he says in verse 9: "But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

How the Holy Spirit Leads

Passing on down to verse 13: "For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live. {14} For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." But that leading is not something that takes place without your response. How does the Holy Spirit lead? It doesnít whisper in your ear, it doesnít grab you by the hand, it doesnít put itís hand in the middle of your back and push you, not literally, but it may lead by circumstance, it may lead by conscience, it may lead by a Biblically educated conscience putting pressure on your mind from time to time and saying "donít go that way". It may be nothing more that you feel than the pressure of the wind, speaking as an allegory. It may be very subtle, but in order to be a son of God, you must be led by the Spirit of God. There is that Spirit that works in the lives of human beings.

Paul continues in verse 15: "For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. {16} The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." "Our spirit" refers to our "spirit in man." (Job 32:8) not an "immortal soul" (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Paul proceeds with many more aspects of the Spirit, how it groans (Romans 8:23) and makes intercession for us and he says in verse 26: "The Spirit also helps our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The word "for" is not in the Greek but added by the translators, but the whole idea is that the Holy Spirit is inside of you. Notice the expression "with groanings that cannot be uttered", what he is saying is that there is a form of communication that has nothing to do with utterance, it has nothing to do with verbal communication or even with a non-verbal bodily type of communication, it is something that wells up from inside of a human being that may not even be expressed by vocal cords. It uses the term "groanings", but I donít think it is necessarily talking about sounds that a human can hear, it is talking about a feeling toward God, a reaction toward God, a merging of your Ďspirit in maní and the Holy Spirit of God and the communication that takes place with God in a totally non-verbal level.

Glossanalia

One of the reasons that I feel that the whole concept of glossanalia as is practiced in much of Christianity today is so useless, because God is able to speak with us, not only in any language that we might speak, or that He might speak, but He is able to communicate with man through the Spirit at a level that does not have any language at all. Notice that the Spirit communicates with "groanings that cannot be uttered." Language is utterly inadequate for it. I think that this is something that seems to be overlooked by so many people that feel that some kind of a prayer language is required so you can communicate with God more effectively is somehow important, but the fact of the matter is that there are concepts, and there are communications that cannot be made with God by any form of language known to man. I think that there are times in all of our lives when we have been in desperate straits or have been broken hearted or so sorrowful over the death of a loved one or we have faced a dangerous situation to where in our prayers, with tears rolling down our faces, where we have said to God, "Father I donít know what to say", and for a period of minutes, an hour perhaps, we have had nothing to say, as we weep before our God. Is this prayer? You bet it is. You bet it is. It is a time of communication with God at a level that cannot be expressed in words.

Are you one of those people that always have to be talking? There are some people that cannot stand the sound of silence. If you donít speak or if they are not speaking, they become increasingly uncomfortable, and yet I think also, that we understand how pleasant it is sometimes to be with someone you like and have absolutely nothing to say, just to be together, and I think that there is a form of communication with God that exists at that level, that we donít appreciate in the way that we should.

Conscience and the Holy Spirit

Passing on down to Romans 9, Paul says in verse 1: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit." This is an interesting expression to notice that Paul ties the concept of conscience and the Holy Spirit together. In other words, I really do believe that a great deal of the speaking of the Holy Spirit or communication of the Holy Spirit to us and in us is very similar to the workings of what we in Twenty First Century English call conscience. It is that awareness of right and wrong, that awareness of a course of action that might be harmful to ourselves or others that comes upon us with certain strength or we might even call it an emotional feeling that tells us that this is wrong. I think that this is one of the ways that the Holy Spirit does work with us.

Spirit in Man

Turn back to 1 Corinthians 2:9 "As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. {10} But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God." Notice these are things that the eye has not seen, the ear does not hear, in other words, language can be heard by the ear, the utterances, the words that we speak, the verbal communication is one thing, but these things have not entered into the heart of a man. A man would not imagine them, a man could not grasp them, a man can not put all of this together, but when the Holy Spirit comes into a man, he becomes aware. He says that God has revealed unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.

What man knows the things of a man unless the Ďspirit of maní (Job 32:8) is in him? The implication of this is that there is a difference between life that does not have the Ďspirit of maní, such as a dog or a cat and that of a human being who has an awareness and consciousness that an animal does not have. It goes on beyond mere intelligence or the mere ability to relate facts one to another. There is something in man that enables man to understand and grasp abstract concepts and to feel emotion and have reactions to other human beings and of which animals are unaware of and can not do.

There is an enormous difference between the level of the mind of man and the level of the mind of a beast. What Paul is saying is that there is a far greater difference between the mind of God and the mind of man.

Paul continues in verse 11: "What man knows the things of a man, save the Ďspirit of maní which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. {12} Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." He is saying in a way, that the King James translation makes a little bit obscure, that whenever you receive the Holy Spirit you can begin to understand the things of God, things that human beings cannot understand without Godís Spirit. It is a very important concept, and we need to emphasize it more than we do today. There are some things about God and His word, there are things about His kingdom that you can explain to a human being till the cows come home and he will never get it, unless the Spirit of God empowers him to understand. It is like me setting my dog down, of which I do on a holy day, and I ask her "Do you know what today is? These are the "Days of Unleavened Bread" or in her case I say "these are the days of unleavened dog biscuits." I want her to understand and I explain why she doesnít get her dog biscuits in the Days of Unleavened Bread. I explain this to her every year but she doesnít seem to be any nearer to understanding it than she did in the first place. I am afraid there are a lot of things that God would attempt to explain to us and we would have as much difficulty in really understanding what all of these things are about.

Paul then says in verse 14: "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." So there is a change that goes on in the mind of man when the Holy Spirit comes into him that enables him and empowers him to understand and to grasp the things of God. Somehow, facts that he had previously not been able to relate to one another, and now do relate, and he does understand, and he is able to put together concepts that he wasnít able to put together before.

Gifts of the Spirit

Letís turn to 1 Corinthians 12:4: "There are (in the Church) diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. {5} There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. {6} There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all. {7} But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. {8} To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; {9} To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; {10} To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: {11} But all these works that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." What is going on? Something happens inside the mind of man when the Holy Spirit comes in and turns a key in a lock and it unlocks different things in different people and the Holy Spirit does not give the same gifts to every human being. To one man He gives the gift of extra ordinary faith, not something that the man earned, not something that the man developed, not something that he practiced until he got it right, but the Holy Spirit inside of him somehow, when the moment of time comes, gives that man the confidence that he knows what God will do. Thatís FAITH. An inspirational faith, a strength of faith, and would be very encouraging to anyone who is able to experience it.

The Trinity?

2 Corinthians 3:12-17: "Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: {13} And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: {14} But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ. {15} But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart." They just donít understand it. {16} "Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away. {17} Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty."

I donít know why people donít just read that scripture and take it for what it says. People want the historical ideas that the Holy Spirit is a third party, the Trinity with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, but it says here categorically that the LORD IS THAT SPIRIT. Now maybe that would give us the clue as to why Jesus said that while I am here bodily in the flesh, the Comforter will not come (John 6:7), because Jesus Himself had to be transformed into a spirit being and He is that Spirit, that Comforter, that encourager, that exhorter, that paraclete, that comes into the lives of all of these human beings who are Saints, the Lord is that Spirit. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

Verse 18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Walk in the Spirit

Passing on down to Galatians 5:16: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit." Basically, follow the leadership of the Spirit, that Spirit educated conscience, walk with it, follow it, listen to that small inner voice that tells you the right way. "Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh." {17} "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." Hereís the little images on the manís shoulders that they often like to put on in comedies. "And these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you really would. {18} But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law." That is under the penalty of the Law because God has led you out of that. {19} "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, {20} Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, {21} Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." This is a rose gallery of things. "Of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. {22} But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, {23} Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. {24} And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. {25} If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." This means the things that we specifically, do with your feet as you put one in front of the other, or with your hands, the way you live. If you say you are in the Spirit then walk in the Spirit. Letís listen to that still small voice that tells us the right way and follow it. Donít quench it, donít put it away out of our lives.

Letís turn back to John 16 and I think that point is fairly clear that the Holy Spirit does work in a persons life in subtle ways, and it is very easy for people in the process of time to allow themselves to quench that Spirit and not hear it much any more and get to the place where they can go on for weeks or months and perhaps years on end and never be aware of the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

John 16:7 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Exhorter will not come to you." I would say that the chances are that the Holy Spirit will probably make you uncomfortable more often than it will make you comfortable. I really would not choose the word Comforter for it.

Letís continue in the middle of verse 7: "If I depart, I will send him unto you. {8} And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: {9} Of sin, because they believe not on me; {10} Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and you see me no more; {11} Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. {12} I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. {13} But when the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. {14} He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you."

I think there are some very important concepts to be understood here. It is a tremendous thing to be stumped on the meaning of something, the understanding of something, not knowing the way to go, facing a difficult problem or to be rummaging around in the Bible and to find something that you donít really understand and it could affect your life in a profound way, and you get on your knees in a private place, open the Bible up before God and say "Father, what does this mean?" You read through the scripture, perhaps aloud before God and begin to talk it over before God and then almost like somebody turned on the light, you see it! You know, that is one of the most exciting and most encouraging thing that could ever happen to a man. Maybe that word "encouragement" for "paraklesis" isnít all that bad after all, and to understand the Holy Spirit as the encourager, the one who infuses courage, the one who prods, the one who urges us on in the way is a pretty good way of understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in our life.


This article was transcribed with minor editing from a Sermon given by

Ronald L. Dart titled: How Does the Holy Spirit Work?

(Audio tape #8115) Transcribed by: bb 5/24/08


Ronald L. Dart is an evangelist and is heard daily and weekly on his Born to Win radio program. 
The program can be heard on over one hundred radio stations across the nation.

In the Portsmouth, Ohio area you can listen to the Born to Win radio program on 
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You can contact Ronald L. Dart at 
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