Probably no subject of the Scriptures is more misunderstood than that of the Spirit of God, often known as the Holy Spirit.
The idea of a spirit or unseen power has been part of most religions since primitive times. Pagans, Orientals and Christians alike have recognized a power that they were not always able to explain. Primitive peoples believed in various kinds of spirits, both good and bad. A good spirit was believed to make seed corn sprout and grow; a bad spirit was believed to cause thunder and lightning. Ancient mythology reflected man’s belief in the reality of the spirit world. If the spirit was helpful, it was worshiped; if it was harmful, it was feared. The pagan religions which grew out of such beliefs influenced the thinking of apostatizing Hebrews as the people intermingled.
In this lesson we will discuss the means God used in working with His human family in all ages, beginning with the time when “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” when God first revealed Himself to man on this earth.
The Spirit of God was a power by which men were made capable of performing tasks they could not have done of themselves alone. Joseph interpreted dreams, as did Daniel centuries later. David was strengthened to perform valiant deeds and to preserve his life when he was threatened by an angry king. Elijah, after thwarting the prophets of Baal, was given strength to run ahead of the chariot of Ahab into the city. Kings were directed by this same Spirit of God, and prophets of God were endowed with knowledge to forecast future events and to record them for our learning.
In New Testament times, God’s Spirit or power protected the child Jesus by directing Joseph to “take the young child and his mother, and flee to Egypt,” out of the reach of the wrathful Herod. In later years, this same power enabled Him to escape the angry mob that would have “cast him down headlong” over a cliff when they disapproved of His teachings. By the same power Jesus was able to perform many miracles, from the feeding of five thousand with five loaves and a few fishes to the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus was able to impart a certain measure of this power to others. When He sent out the Twelve, He instructed them to “preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick.” Healing would have been impossible without the power of God. At the same time He told them it would not be necessary for them to prepare in advance what they would say, “For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak: for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10:19-20). He was able also to bestow this power upon the seventy whom He appointed to carry the good news of the gospel into other cities.
After the outpouring of this power at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was the means of the rapid growth of the Christian Church. The Spirit played an important part in the success of the early Church, as we learn from the accounts in the book of Acts.
Today we find a multiplicity of faiths all claiming to be guided by the Spirit of God. Can it be possible that God’s Spirit is leading them in so many varying directions but all toward the same city, as claimed by the popular religions of the day?