Category Archives: Holy Spirit Questions

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Does It Mean that the Holy Spirit Is Our Paraclete?

 

After Jesus announced to His disciples that He would be leaving them soon, He then gave them a statement of great encouragement: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16–17).

The Greek word translated “Comforter” or “Counselor” (as found in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; and 16:7) is parakletos. This form of the word is unquestionably passive and properly means “one called to the side of another,” with the secondary notion of counseling or supporting him. This Counselor, or Paraclete, is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity. He is a personal being who indwells every believer.

During His earthly ministry, Jesus had guided, guarded, and taught His disciples; but now He was going to leave them. The Spirit of God would come to the disciples and dwell in them, taking the place of their Master’s literal presence. Jesus called the Spirit “another Comforter”—another of the same kind. The Spirit of God is not different from the Son of God in essence, for both are God.

During the Old Testament age, the Spirit of God would come on people and then leave them. God’s Spirit departed from King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14; 18:12). David, when confessing his sin, asked that the Spirit not be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). But when the Spirit was given at Pentecost, He came to God’s people to remain with them forever. We may grieve the Holy Spirit, but He will not leave us. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” How is He with us when He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father? He is with us by His Spirit (the Helper—the Parakletos).

To have the Holy Spirit as our Paraclete is to have God Himself indwelling us as believers. The Spirit teaches us the Word and guides us into truth. He reminds us of what He has taught so that we can depend on His Word in the difficult times of life. The Spirit works in us to give us His peace (John 14:27), His love (John 15:9–10), and His joy (John 15:11). He is a comfort our hearts and minds in a troubled world. The power of the indwelling Paraclete gives us the ability to live by the Spirit and “not gratify the desires of the sinful flesh” (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit can then produce His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22–23) to the glory of God the Father. What a blessing to have the Holy Spirit in our lives as our Paraclete—our Comforter, our Encourager, our Counselor, and our Advocate![1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: How Can I Recognize the Guidance of the Holy Spirit?

 

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples that He would send one who would teach and guide all those who believe in Him (Acts 1:5; John 14:26; 16:7). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled less than two weeks later when the Holy Spirit came in power on the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2). Now, when a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit immediately becomes a permanent part of his life (Romans 8:14; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The Holy Spirit has many functions. Not only does He distribute spiritual gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7–11), but He also comforts us (John 14:16, KJV) teaches us (John 14:26), and remains as a seal of promise upon our hearts until the day of Jesus’ return (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). The Holy Spirit also takes on the role of Guide and Counselor, leading us in the way we should go and revealing God’s truth (Luke 12:12; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10).

But how do we recognize the Spirit’s guidance? How do we discern between our own thoughts and His leading? After all, the Holy Spirit does not speak with audible words. Rather, He guides us through an inner voice (John 16:13), our own consciences (Romans 9:1), and other quiet, subtle ways.

One of the most important ways to recognize the Holy Spirit’s guidance is to be familiar with God’s Word. The Bible is the ultimate source of wisdom about how we should live (2 Timothy 3:16), and believers are to search the Scriptures, meditate on them, and commit them to memory (Ephesians 6:17). The Word is the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), and the Spirit will use it to speak to us (John 16:12–14) to reveal God’s will for our lives; He will also bring specific Scriptures to mind at times when we need them most (John 14:26).

Knowledge of God’s Word can help us to discern whether or not our desires come from the Holy Spirit. We must test our inner voice against Scripture—the Holy Spirit will never prod us to do anything contrary to God’s Word. If it conflicts with the Bible, then it is not from the Holy Spirit and should be ignored.

It is also necessary for us to be in continual prayer with the Father (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Not only does this keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit’s leading, but it also allows the Spirit to speak on our behalf: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:26–27).

Another way to tell if we are following the Spirit’s leading is to look for signs of His fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22). If we walk in the Spirit, we will continue to see these qualities grow and mature in us, and they will become evident to others as well.

It is important to note that we have the choice whether or not to accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance. When we know the will of God but do not follow it, we are resisting the Spirit’s work in our lives (Acts 7:51; 1 Thessalonians 5:19), and a desire to follow our own way grieves Him (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit will never lead us into sin. Habitual sin can cause us to miss what the Holy Spirit wants to say to us. Being in tune with God’s will, turning from and confessing sin, and making a habit of prayer and the study of God’s Word will allow us to recognize—and follow—the Spirit’s leading.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is Glossolalia?

 

Glossolalia, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “ecstatic utterances,” is the uttering of unintelligible, language-like sounds while in a state of ecstasy. Glossolalia is sometimes confused with xenoglossia, which is the biblical “gift of tongues.” However, whereas glossolalia is babbling in a nonexistent language, xenoglossia is the ability to speak fluently a language the speaker has never learned.

Additionally, whereas xenoglossia is not an innate or natural ability, studies have shown that glossolalia is a learned behavior. Research conducted by the Lutheran Medical Center demonstrates that glossolalia is readily learned by following simple instructions. Correspondingly, it was found that students could exhibit “speaking in tongues” in the absence of any indications of trance-like stupor or behaviors. Another test conducted with sixty students showed that after listening to a one-minute sample of glossolalia, 20 percent were able to imitate it precisely. After some training, 70 percent succeeded.

In just about every part of the world, glossolalia can be observed. Pagan religions all over the world are obsessed with tongues. These include the Shamans in the Sudan, the Shango cult of the West Coast of Africa, the Zor cult of Ethiopia, the Voodoo cult in Haiti, and the Aborigines of South America and Australia. Murmuring or speaking gibberish that is construed to be deep mystical insight by holy men is an ancient practice.

There are basically two aspects to glossolalia. First is talking or murmuring in language-like sounds. Practically everyone is able to do this; even children before they ever learn to speak can mimic real language, though unintelligibly. There is nothing extraordinary about this. The other aspect of glossolalia is ecstasy or the demonstration of trance-like elation. There is nothing unusual about this either, although it is more difficult to do intentionally than to merely utter language-like sounds.

There are some Christians, especially within the Pentecostal movement, who believe there is a supernatural explanation for glossolalia similar to that described in the New Testament. They believe that the chief purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues is to manifest the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them just as on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), which was prophesied by Joel (Acts 2:17).

Among those Christian churches who do espouse the practice of glossolalia to one degree or another, there is no uniform agreement as to its workings. For example, some are adamant that it is indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit, while others minimize its importance, saying Paul taught that the gift of “speaking in tongues” wasn’t nearly as important as the other gifts of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 13). Also, there are those wishing to avoid dividing the church on such issues by not speaking of it at all or dismissing it as a simple psychological experience. Then there are those who regard glossolalia as a deception of Satan himself.

Exotic languages are heard and understood throughout the world, but existing languages are not heard or understood when spoken as “ecstatic utterances” or “tongues.” What we do hear is a profusion of hype, claims, confusion, and noise. We simply cannot declare, as at the time of the first church, that “each of us hears [understands] them in his own native language” (Acts 2:8 NIV).

Simply put, the practice of glossolalia is not the biblical gift of tongues. Paul made it clear that the chief purpose of the gift of speaking in tongues was to be a sign for those who did not believe and to spread the good news, the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:19, 22).[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Seal of the Holy Spirit?

 

The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “deposit,” “seal,” and “earnest” in the hearts of Christians (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13–14; 4:30). The Holy Spirit is God’s seal on His people, His claim on us as His very own. The Greek word translated “earnest” in these passages is arrhabōn which means “a pledge,” that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest. The gift of the Spirit to believers is a down payment on our heavenly inheritance, which Christ has promised us and secured for us at the cross. It is because the Spirit has sealed us that we are assured of our salvation. No one can break the seal of God.

The Holy Spirit is given to believers as a “first installment” to assure us that our full inheritance as children of God will be delivered. The Holy Spirit is given to us to confirm to us that we belong to God who grants to us His Spirit as a gift, just as grace and faith are gifts (Ephesians 2:8–9). Through the gift of the Spirit, God renews and sanctifies us. He produces in our hearts those feelings, hopes, and desires which are evidence that we are accepted by God, that we are regarded as His adopted children, that our hope is genuine, and that our redemption and salvation are sure in the same way that a seal guarantees a will or an agreement. God grants to us His Holy Spirit as the certain pledge that we are His forever and shall be saved in the last day. The proof of the Spirit’s presence is His operations on the heart which produce repentance, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), conformity to God’s commands and will, a passion for prayer and praise, and love for His people. These things are the evidences that the Holy Spirit has renewed the heart and that the Christian is sealed for the day of redemption.

So it is through the Holy Spirit and His teachings and guiding power that we are sealed and confirmed until the day of redemption, complete and free from the corruption of sin and the grave. Because we have the seal of the Spirit in our hearts, we can live joyfully, confident of our sure place in a future that holds unimaginable glories.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Discerning Spirits?

 

The gift of discerning spirits, or “distinguishing” spirits, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11. Like all these gifts, the gift of discerning spirits is one of the gifts believers are given by the Holy Spirit, who disperses these gifts to individuals for service in the body of Christ. Every believer has spiritual enablement and capacity for a specific service, but there is no room for self-choosing. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts according to the sovereignty of God and in accordance with His plan to edify the body of Christ.

When it comes to the gift of discerning spirits, every born again believer has a certain amount of discernment which increases as the believer matures in the Spirit. In Hebrews 5:13–14 we read that a believer who has matured beyond using the milk of the Word as a babe in Christ is able to discern both good and evil. Not only is the maturing believer empowered by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures to tell the difference between good and evil, but also between what is good and what is better. In other words, any born again believer who chooses to focus upon the Word of God may be enabled to be spiritually discerning.

There are certain individuals, however, who have the God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Scriptures and erroneous and deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. Although we are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to “spot” the forgeries in doctrine that have plagued the church since the first century. But this does not involve a mystical, extra-biblical revelation or a voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning among us are so familiar with the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The spiritually discerning are those who “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God in a thoughtful and diligent manner.

As the Apostle Paul writes, there may be diversities of equipping in the body of Christ, but those diversities are meant for the edification and building of that body as a whole. And the success of that body is dependent upon all parts of the body faithfully fulfilling their place in the body as God has enabled them. No spiritual gift should be used to “lord it over” others or claim for oneself a special anointing from God. Rather, the love of God is to be the basis of how we use our spiritual gifts to edify or build up each other in the Lord.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.