The Holy Spirit: Working Behind the Scenes

The lesson this week takes us into some very interesting territory. It leads us to think about an aspect of the Holy Spirit that is very intriguing, namely that the Holy Spirit, for reasons not fully understood by us, works behind the scenes more than in the limelight. The official lesson even uses the word, “elusive.” If we ascribe personhood, or personality, to the Spirit, we could very quickly come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is somewhat introverted, perhaps. Truth is, we do not know very much at all about the Holy Spirit, but we do have lots of evidence that—using the traditional masculine pronoun—he has a lot to do with all kinds of things but not in a prominent or public manner. This thought called a mental picture to mind, a happy little illustration, that of people going quietly to shovel out their neighbors after a big snow storm then leaving furtively before they can be discovered. They have done a good deed, have done it unnoticed, but the effects of their activity are plain to see. And their deed is accepted with gratitude and joy. Given the apparent furtiveness of the Spirit, we might even assume that this lesson, which calls attention to the Spirit and what he does, makes him somewhat uncomfortable!

With this basic idea of the Spirit working behind the scenes, the following items are of interest:

  • The discussion in John 3 in which Jesus likened the Spirit and His doings to the wind. We can certainly see the effects of the wind, but the wind itself is not visible to the human eye. Discuss the implications that might have for our understandings of the work of the Spirit both in our own lives but also in the broader spectrum of life. What might we expect to see if the Spirit is active?
  • The Holy Spirit and his work at creation (Genesis 1:2). We are left to imagine what that activity looked like, the Spirit moving on the waters like wind, perhaps?
  • The Holy ‘Spirit and the construction of the Sanctuary in the Old Testament (Exodus 31:1-5). This story is of particular interest because it states very clearly that the Spirit gifted certain people – one in particular – with the ability to work with their hands, doing all kinds of work with wood and metal and cloth. When talking about the Spirit, we almost always limit out thoughts to things of a spiritual nature. But here, the trades, if you will allow, are included. Might it be that we have under-sold the capacity of those who work with their hands to have good effect on the growth of the Kingdom? (Compare this with I Thess. 4:10-12).
  • The Holy Spirit and Christ. This is could be a very big subject for it runs the gamut from his conception all the way to the ascension. (Luke 1:34, 35; 3:21, 22). The holy Spirit was not only instrumental in “arranging” for Jesus to come to earth. He was also active in elevating the work Jesus did on earth, empowering his activities, and drawing people to the Savior. This kind of work must have gone on within the minds of those who heard, but also in public ways through miracles and powerful teaching and preaching.
  • The Holy Spirit and the New Birth (John 3:3-8). This little passage of Scripture is well-known because of the image of a new birth it speaks of. This metaphor opens a lot of space for thought particularly toward the idea that we, in our natural state, are in trouble enough that we need to be given new life. Classical Christian theology holds tightly to the idea that the Fall spoken of in Genesis 3, has had a universal effect on humans putting us in a situation where we have a preferred future to gain, but on our own we cannot attain to it. The good news is that the Spirit can renew that which was lots and so put us on a right footing with God to the point we can be transformed. Lots to think about here.
  • The Spirit as Advocate and Comforter. (John 15:16; 17). Here, and in other places, we get insight into the fact that, when Jesus left, he did not leave us alone. He promised the Spirit who would be present in a new and great capacity. Particularly poignant is the discussion Jesus had in John 17 with his disciples, an intimate conversation about what was to come for them, and, by specific extension to all those who believe. These portions of Scripture warrant lots of careful thought and contemplation for they let us in on the fact that the Spirit is now active here on earth doing all kinds of things not the least of which is drawing people to God, then transforming them to become more like God. This is a truly remarkable process that unfolds at the behest of the Spirit.

In summary, because the Spirit prefers to work behind the scenes, we should go around paying careful attention to what is done quietly all the while looking for the results to be manifest in public. I suspect that it is in quiet places we will best be able to tune into his doings; it is in humble places we will most readily see his workings; it is in unexpected ways that we will see the results of his work. We need to learn to pay attention to background happenings if we want to tune ourselves to some of the profoundest and most amazing work of the Spirit.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7831

The Holy Spirit has been misused throughout the ages. It is closely allied to scripture and not to Scofield’s notes or for that matter Ellen White’s --I was shown. Certainly Daniel and Revelation are misused in the name of spiritual insight. Thus I stick with Micah – having accepted Christ as Lord and Rdeemer. TZ

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How can anyone use or misuse the Holy Spirit? Does that not in itself imply we are in touch with the ‘wrong’ spirit? Perhaps our own self? God can not to be ‘used’ by anyone.He does not self-exist for any of His creatures to ‘use’ Him. Rather we would give Him not only our worship, but also our respect, obedience, and submission, all implied in the act and service of worship. Perhaps rather TZ meant that we have misunderstood, misrepresented?

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Is not this a misunderstanding or a misuinterpretation of what Thomas J. Zwemer addressed ? I have experienced an abuse of the complete trinity also in rather unimportant, personal, local matters : “I have prayed about it and have asked God to prohibit this or that, if not his will - He did not, so I was right !” - “I always have done what the Holy Spirit lead me to !!” - “Oh, when you married him or when you claimed for divorce ? Hmm?”

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The Holy Spirit seems to be a nickname for an energetic force of which WESTERN religions,at present, know comparatively little. SOME Eastern religions are comfortable with the concept of the survival of an intelligent , if disembodied , entity or spirit after the silver cord is severed, leading to physical death. In fact I have been told that some Upper class Hindus practice have practiced paying debts in the future as follows Representatives of debtors and creditors meet. Debtors suggest the debt will be paid at a certain time span in the future by a dead representative of the family. Charts are drawn and assessments are made as to the reliability of the Astral Spirit chosen to pay the debt in a future life. If agreed with the creditor’s representative a contract is signed accordingly. This has been a longstanding practice and must have succeeded more often than not for the practice to have clontinued for so many millennia. But It seems now as if Western science is on the verge of making a significant breakthrough. The experiments into the realm of “spirit” energy at the LUXEMBORG computer site are moving apace, and any day now it is expected that a device will be marketed which will enable conversations between spirits who have passed over and those still encased in the physical. Each person therefore has a “spirit” which automatically records every action of the person while alive.This is what is perhaps called the HOLY(restricted) SPIRIT. It works behind the scenes in that the individual is not consciously aware of its actions as they are being carried out .

This lesson and this commentary raises an issue that I find very difficult to comprehend. Why is there so much emphasis on the Holy Spirit working in the background or working behind the scenes or being introverted or being furtive.

It is strange to me that the bulk of the discussion on John 3 is about the wind and not about the new birth that comes by the power of the Holy Spirit and without which we cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Christ had no problems giving the Holy Spirit prominence. John 14 reveals the closeness that we as believers, born again, enjoy wit the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Talking of the Holy Spirit Christ says, “… but you know Him…” Why? “… because He abides with you and will be in you.” How much closer and up-front can the Holy Spirit be in our lives? He never leaves us.

I don’t see Pentecost as the Holy Spirit working behind the scenes. The Godhead, working through the awesome power of the Holy Spirit filled the lives of the Apostles and those gathered with them and the world was turned up-side-down for Christ.

Our relationship with the Holy Spirit is very personal and is the reality of Christian living. Through Him we have the same intimate relationship with the Father and with Jesus Himself.

Why are we trying to relegate the Holy Spirit to the background?

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Ray, perhaps it is because there’s no visible evidence of the Spirit working in most SDA churches, and people would rather believe He’s working surreptitiously, than being actually absent.

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Lets not rush into judging at first glance as this course is just getting started and the best is yet to come (I hope), as the attributes of Holy Spirit are spread across the Holy Word. Who are we to give verdicts as we have no right to judge.
Lets get started with Galatians 5:22-26.

Could we be mistaking our failure to develop an observing ego with that of the Holy Spirit? And come to think about it, this phenomena is commonly seen among those with very strong convictions, secular or non-secular which feeds to the common knowledge that cataracts is the most common reason for blindness, followed by religion and politics.

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Certainly, the traditional pronoun is “Him”, but studying tonight I didn’t find the “Him” in my Strong’s Concordance as the definition of “'breath”, although it is masculine for “Comforter”. Assigning gender to a Spirit looks like a grammar thing, or a tradition, not a firm sex assignment. In some languages it has feminine grammatical gender (Aramaic), not masculine, and in one language, Greek, it is neutral. How about not using pronouns, as this lesson does, and just refer to the Spirit?

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"The dispensation in which we are now living is to be, to those that ask, the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. Ask for His blessing. It is time we were more intense in our devotion. To us is committed the arduous, but happy, glorious work of revealing Christ to those who are in darkness. We are called to proclaim the special truths for this time. For all this the outpouring of the Spirit is essential. We should pray for [the Spirit]. The Lord expects us to ask Him. We have not been wholehearted in this work.

What can I say to my brethren in the name of the Lord? What proportion of our efforts has been made in accordance with the light the Lord has been pleased to give? We cannot depend upon form or external machinery. What we need is the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit of God. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, said the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Pray without ceasing, and watch by working in accordance with your prayers. As you pray, believe, trust in God. It is the time of the latter rain, when the Lord will give largely of His Spirit. Be fervent in prayer, and watch in the Spirit."—The Review and Herald, March 2, 1897.

On the individual, personal, functional level, the HOLT SPIRIT is the most active covert member of the trinity

This Holy Spirit issue is a contentious one. For one, it’s hard to rationalize a three person God when talking about monotheistic religion. Secondly, there is no consistency in dividing the godhead. If Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, then why is Jesus calling God his father; and even further, if that kind of parsing doesn’t matter then Jesus could be seen as self-generating, and being His own father. Either there are three, with distinct functions and identify, or not.

While Jesus calls the HS by a pronoun used for persons, doesn’t mean it’s a person. We often attribute personhood to inanimate things. Proverbs assigns personhood to WISDOM - Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice; on top of the walls she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks…

The TRINITY was established as part of the Christian God by the Council of Nicea in the 4th century by a group of guys appointed by Constantine. At the same time Sunday worship was established, which of course, Adventism doesn’t accept. Again, look to church politics even for the definition of God. Personally, I don’t feel obligated to accept it. To then, trying to pin point how the Spirit works, and what his/its personality is in human terms, makes no sense.

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Vio – here are the Gifts of the Spirit from Galatians.
Love – Affection for others.
Joy – Exuberance about life.
Peace – Serenity
Patience – A willingness to stick with things.
Kindness – A sense of Compassion in the Heart.
Goodness – A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and others.
Faithfulness – Involved in Loyal Commitments.
Gentleness – No needing to force my way in life.
Self-Control – Able to marshal and direct my energies wisely.

Perhaps we need to talk more about the Gifts of the Spirit in our religious communities.
The Gifts of the Spirit will RELEASE us from many of the activities of the preceding verses of Gal. 5.

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**Webed - This article was re-published again yesterday as a separate edition (1/24) as noted in a comment I posted, but the replies from Kenn Lutz and myself on the second version were not saved when you deleted the article. Could you re-post them back in this version please?

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Sirje,
Curious as to why you say Jesus could be seen as self-generating, I have a similar view which I will explain, but I believe Jesus incarnation is at least a 2-step process that explains the discrepancy you described:

  1. Jesus was “brought-forth” from the Father - “I proceeded forth and have come from God” (Jn 8:42).
  2. More explicitly: “… for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father” (Jn. 16:26,27).
  3. The “begetting” process I believe is explained in Proverbs 8, which you alluded to - This process happened BEFORE creation as explained in verses 22-30 “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. From everlasting I was established,…When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; Then I was beside Him, as a master workman…” I remain perplexed as to why the pronoun “she” is used for Wisdom (as you noted), but there is scholarly consensus that this chapter describes Jesus the Son, as divine and everlasting with the Father and begotten of Him, also as Creator. In addition believe this is the reason why Jesus is described in Revelation as "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (but this is a separate concern).
  4. The Holy Spirit did overshadow Mary and she conceived Jesus (Luke 1:35) - this is the second step in the process of God becoming human; exactly how this happened is a mystery we may never be able to understand with our human minds but I believe that Scriptures do tells who the Holy Spirit is:
  5. The Greek word to define spirit is “pneuma”, which is gender neutral. You are correct in that Jesus used the pronoun “He” and “Him” to describe the person of the Holy Spirit, and so does Apostle John (I believe he has the best grasp on this topic) very consistently. So the fact that they both ignore the grammar rule that says that a noun must be accompanied by a fitting or matching pronoun, i.e. “it”, is indicative to me that He is a person.

I know many would say this is a technical error of translation, same as Proverbs, but another and much more compelling reason I believe the Holy Spirit is a person is because the Bible and SOP are full of references that say that He is “The Spirit of Christ”, that God sent “The Spirit of His Son”, and abut Christ being our Comforter, also the mystery being “Christ in us” Etc. So there is a duality between Christ and the Holy Spirit which the SDA organization has not done a good job of researching and explaining, I think the SDA pioneers and EGW understood this better and never spoke of a “trinity”

So being careful not to blaspheme God, could it be that the Holy Spirit is Christ’s Divinity having become separated from humanity? EGW speaks to the sacrifice at the cross representing an incalculable and “infinite” cost to God, she also spoke of Jesus being forever and ever limited to a human body, this would at least limit His omnipresence, would it not? In other words, can can Christ be “in us” literally now that He has human form? Trough His Spirit perhaps? These and several other considerations have bothered me for a long time, EGW also says we would spend an eternity learning abut the Plan of Salvation, which clearly involves the three agencies of the Godhead.
@kennlutz

Yes, and made more ‘interesting’ by the fact that early Adventists weren’t Trinitarian, and that paragraph 2 of the Catechism states:

The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p2.htm

Some interesting Adventist quotes here.

If we were all being point-blank honest, wouldn’t we admit that this is a general statement about God, and not just “The Holy Spirit?”

Does anyone here experience God working “in the limelight” in any real sense?

I’ve had some mind-blowing experiences, but pinning them on God, or any fraction thereof, is a challenge I’d not be up to.

Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of the “kiss beyond comprehension.” That works for me.

I also like the word co-inherence.

Why don’t we all go see the Martin Scorsese film Silence, and then talk about that?

Cassie,
I haven’t seen the movie, but based on the preview we have all experience that silence. I know you have and I have. I don’t think anyone here is equipped to discuss it. The story of the cross did warn us early on - I guess that’s what the “good fight of faith” Paul speaks about is all about. And we were taught it was about “these are they…” focused on obedience.

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