The Holy Spirit in the Believer

We in the Brothers and Sisters of Charity, Domestic, were encouraged to study clustering (living in closer proximity and more intense community), vocations (calling others to vocations, both domestic and monastic), and the renewal of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. What follows are my thoughts behind a presentation that I made to the St Clare Cell Group on 5/22/2018, or partly made, for we are not finished. Of course, it does not include the material I added in as I made the presentation, for I am always finding places where I have left something out. Given that context, here are my thoughts:

This is a brief discussion of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, which will lead into an ongong discussion of the gifts of the Spirit.

  1. In the post-exilic period of the Hebrew Scriptures we start to get descriptions of the Holy Spirit indwelling an individual, usually a king. There is in fact a fear that the Holy Spirit will be taken from the king, which would be a disaster for him and for the people. That is the original sense of Ps 51:13, while Wisd 1:5 indicates that the Spirit flees deceit. It is also in Wisdom that the Spirit is equated with Wisdom/sophia(Wisd 9:17). The Psalms were originally a royal hymn book associated with the royal shrine in Jerusalem, and of course Wisdom is attributed to Solomon the King.
  2. The last part of Isaiah also describes the Holy Spirit as being in the midst of the people as a whole, as being God’s unseen presence. This is the sense of Isa 57:15; 63:10-11. This collective sense of the Spirit also shows up in the New Testament.
  3. The New Testament views the prophets as having prophesied via the Holy Spirit, but in the Hebrew Scriptures the term “Holy Spirit” is not associated with the prophets. The “spirit of the Lord” does come upon ecstatic individuals in the pre-monarchial period, including both “prophetic” individuals and Saul, but he is not associated with the articulate prophets of the monarchial period. Even in Daniel (which is one of the Writings, not one of the Prophets), while pagans attribute Daniel’s abilities to the “spirit of the holy gods” (Dan 4:5-6, 15, 5:11), Daniel only refers to God as being the revealer, not to God’s spirit. The closest one comes the possibility of the Holy Spirit being a revealer is in Susana (Dan 13:45), when it is said that the “holy spirit of a young boy” was stirred up, but this seems to indicate that the boy’s (Daniel’s) own spirit was holy.
  4. In the New Testament it is promised that Jesus will baptize with “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11 and parallels). Notice that this promise is made in the context of John’s baptism in water.
  5. That promise, or at least part of it, is fulfilled when the Holy Spirit is given in John 20 as authority, and that authority is actualized as missional power in Acts 2. These 120 were men and women who had been part of the mission of Jesus and probably should be viewed as having been already baptized in John’s baptism, although in John 4 it indicates that Jesus’ disciples continued that practice, so it may have been Jesus’ baptism. In other words, the Spirit completes John’s baptism of repentance by adding the Spirit-reception that is part of Christian initiation. Also notice that the authority of the Spirit in John 20 is given to the Eleven, not generally to the 120 plus in Acts, as is also true in the Synoptic accounts of Jesus’ giving the Twelve/Peter the authority of binding and loosing.
  6. After Acts 2, the baptism in/ anointing with the Spirit is characteristic of Christian initiation and is associated with baptism in water. We do not know if oil was used in that period, but we do know that laying on of hands was used. When Paul finds people in Acts 19 who do not show signs of the Spirit, he inquires and finds that they had defective faith: they did not know about the fulfillment of John’s preaching in Jesus, they did not know about the Spirit at all, and so they needed baptism into Jesus as well as the laying on of hands for the reception of the Spirit. In Acts 8 baptism into Jesus takes place right after a confession of faith, but only when Peter and John later decide that the calling of Samaritans to faith is kosher do they lay on hands for the reception of the Spirit. They complete the initiation. In Acts 10 the initiation is started by the Spirit, for the Spirit falls on the new Gentile believers before there is any talk about baptism and that is the fact that persuades Peter to order their baptism without any other qualification (such as requiring them to become Jews). That is, the presence of the Spirit persuades him to accept them as true believers withouttheir becoming Jews, an issue that will be discussed in Acts 11 and Acts 15. Paul will in Rom 8 likewise describe the presence of Spirit as normative for all Christians – it is the Spirit who baptizes men and women into Christ, who makes them put on Christ. And this is associated with baptism in water in Rom 6. Likewise, in Heb 6 part of basic Christian initiation is teaching about baptisms (plural – one had to differentiate Jewish washings from Christian baptism) and then there is a reference to the Spirit (and the works he produces) as part of full Christian initiation. In other words, the New Testament views properly initiated Christians as having the Spirit from the beginning; it does not see any need for a second experience, a “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” subsequent to confession of faith/ baptism in water, unless Christian initiation was defective.
  7. While glossolalia is a common experience in the initiation narratives, there are other phenomena associated with the Holy Spirit: joy, prophecy, boldness, peace, etc. None has an exclusive right of indicating the presence of the Spirit nor is any one of them absolutely required.
  8. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s coming is to make Jesus/God present to the world. This could be looked at in two ways theologically. One would be that it could be looked at as the fulfillment of the divine command, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The one side (love the Lord your God) is the unification of the believers with the Trinity, entering into the divine love-union, and the other side (love your neighbor as yourself) is the drawing of the peoples of the world into this love-union, starting with the unification of the church and continuing to the unification of the peoples of the world, which means extending the love of the Trinity to all people and drawing them into it.
  9. The second way one could look at the Holy Spirit’s coming to make Jesus present to the world begins by noting that the Holy Spirit is the creative Spirit of God, creator spiritus, who was active in the first creation, and is now active in recreating the face of the earth. That, of course, is why in the Orthodox tradition the color of the Spirit (Pentecost) is usually green, for it is a creative color (rather than the red of fire in the Latin tradition). But to do this recreation the Spirit has to do two things: first, he has to enable human beings to overcome their passions (sanctification), which is what we see in Rom 8, building on the previous two chapters in Romans, where the Spirit brings freedom. Likewise, Gal 5 starts with freedom and indicates that there is a passions/ flesh – Spirit contrast, the passions being rooted in “the flesh,” in the uncontrolled limbic system (to use the language of Family Emotional Systems). The Spirit brings the virtues that limit the passions and block their control of the individual, which virtues open the individual to love. Second, the Spirit has to reach out in mission, a mission in which the followers of Jesus participate. Here the Spirit convicts the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. Proclamation in Acts is Spirit-driven.
  10. The tools for this reaching out in mission are gifts of the Spirit, both those Jesus used in his mission (Isa 61:1ff quoted by Jesus in Luke 4 in Nazareth) and the those listed by Paul in 1 Cor 12 and elsewhere.

The announcement of Jesus is an announcement of the gathering of God’s people, the means of which are what would later be known as the corporal works of mercy:

Luke18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,/ because he has anointed me/ to bring glad tidings to the poor./ He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives/ and recovery of sight to the blind,/ to let the oppressed go free,/ 19 and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

But the Spirit is also the Spirit of Wisdom or sanctification, for without Wisdom the corporal works of mercy are corrupted

Isa 11: The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:/ a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,/ A spirit of counsel and of strength,/ a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord,/ and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

That is why Paul in Galatians also lists some of the wisdom of the Spirit:

Gal. 5:22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires.

11. The Spirit, then, comes as part of bringing the Trinity. The Trinity brings its character as love that uses the various spiritual gifts and graces, but uses them out of virtue, out of love. Separate the two and one has corruption.

12. The more active tools given by the Spirit are listed in Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12, and in Eph 4 and 1 Peter 4

Rom 12: Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. [Notice that there is a mixture of the corporate and spiritual works of ministry and that none of the gifts are for the benefit of the individual exercising them – they are missional.]

1 Cor 12: To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledgeaccording to the same Spirit; to another faithby the same Spirit; to another gifts of healingby the one Spirit; 10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes. [Again, the gifts are for the benefit of others, but in this case Paul’s point is not that of giving a complete list, but rather of showing that (1) no one exercises all the gifts and (2) that every gift is equally and expression of the Spirit – none is better than the other.]

Eph 4: But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says: “He ascended on high and took prisoners captive;/ he gave gifts to men.” [This is taken from the Greek version, not the Hebrew] What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower [regions] of the earth? 10 The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 11 And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastorsand teachers, 12 to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ. [The point here is that people are given to the church equipped by the Spirit to function in one of these ways, not for their own status or benefit, but for the benefit of the whole of the church.]

1 Pet 4: The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10 As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 11 Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. [Notice that this is in the context of a contrast to the deeds that the pagans do, which makes it similar to Gal 5. Furthermore, a list of virtues precedes the two categories of gifts, which rhetorically stresses the virtues over the gifts.]

Each of these lists is different, for each is shaped for a different context, used for a different purpose. That makes comparing the gifts difficult, for in each case examples are given that that fit the purpose of the author, and in no case does any author try to give a full listing. Furthermore, there is no sharp distinction between gifts: the attempt to define them in contrast to one another is bound to fail, for (1) they tend to be on continua (e.g. wisdom – knowledge – prophecy – preaching) and (2) the authors never define them, since that is not their point; they are illustrating rather than defining.

13. The tools/ gifts are means to an end, not the end in themselves. The end is the building up of the body of Christ, i.e. the unity of the Church and maturity of the Church. The end is love based in prayer. Therefore the gifts are not “merit badges” to be talked about, e.g. “I move in gift a, and gift b, and gift c,” but fluid tools that may come and go, although some seem to characterize a person, probably because they fit with how God has formed their personality.

14. There are times when there is revival, when the Spirit seems to take control, when there is repentance and renewal, etc. At such times the primary mark of the Spirit is holiness of life, total dedication to Christ, a living like Jesus. There are at times experiences that accompany such revival, as Jonathan Edwards pointed out (Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, but more importantly, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections) and as John Wesley experienced in his revivals, among many others. But the reality of the revival is to be judged, not by the phenomena (or, better, perhaps epiphenomena) but by the fruit in holiness of life and deepened devotion. Thus, Edwards defends the “religious affections,” as he calls them, and accepts them, but at the same time he does not view them as a mark of whether a work is or is not of God. In this connection it is important to recognize that the Pentecostal movement (as well as the Christian and Missionary Alliance) and, derivatively, the charismatic movement, grew out of a healing-holiness revival of the late 1800’s. Holiness was at the core, with healing as a manifestation. When any manifestation becomes central or becomes the validation that a given work or experience is of God, then there is corruption, either corruption already or corruption close at hand. The gift is being sought rather than the Giver. The passions are what are desired, rather than seeing them as an epiphenomenon of what often happens when the divine and the human come into contact. And in the end pride comes into play, bringing with it all types of other vices.

15. Most of the great saints, and especially those who were the greatest miracle working saints, simply sought the Lord. The usually preferred solitude to the crowd, humiliation to adulation. They preached and acted in the power of God, because they were obedient to the call of God. But they did not call attention to the phenomena, to the miracles. They called attention to God and called others to holiness, whether by preaching or through the corporal works of mercy. Indeed, they often tried to hide their spiritual experiences or miraculous acts. This is an attitude the modern spiritual movements should emulate.

16. There is not special experience needed for using the gifts of the Spirit other than prayer, both drawing close to God and listening to God. Often a person has been being urged by God to do this or that for years or has been receiving revelations and visions from God for years, but because they were quiet and inward and were not associated with outward phenomena, they have been discounted. Once one views oneself as a person whom God might use and starts paying closer attention in listening prayer, one simply starts to act (with a humble tentativeness at first, to be sure) on what one has always had. Or, as one Christian leader I know put it, “I now keep what I used to throw away.”

17. Therefore, in exploring the gifts of the Spirit there should be two foci. The first is a focus on what defeats the passions and brings the person closer to God. These are gifts (virtues) to be ardently longed for. The second is a focus stemming from the first, what makes the mission of God in the world more possible? That mission is a mission of love, the restoring of the creation, which means the building up of the church both internally and by increasing its gathering of the nations into the kingdom. If that is the mission, then we ask God for the tools to do his work, tools that may be temporary or permanent, tools that others may or may not see. Anything else is likely to become problematic.

In conclusion, I have no desire to revive the Pentecostal, neo-Charismatic, or other revival movements of the past. Their music is not sacred but temporal, their phenomena were those of that time that fit into that context, and their weaknesses do not need to be perpetuated. I do have a desire to seek revival in the present that makes a path, through repentance and ascetic practice, for the Spirit to work. I expect to see similar phenomena to the movements of the past, but at the same time new, for they are in a new context. Furthermore, biblical studies as well as theology has come a long way since 1880’s, the early 1900’s, and the 1960’s-1980’s. We want a fresh and freshly articulated work of the Spirit rather than the warmed-over work of the Spirit in the past. Francis of Assisi was not like the movements before him (e.g. Benedict) nor would the Carmelites of the 1500’s or later spiritual movements be like Francis of Assisi. God is always doing his same-new thing, same in principle, but new in outward form.

About Peter H. Davids

I am a retired Director of Clergy Formation for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, a retired professor, and an active Catholic priest (and former Episcopal priest for 34 years, writer, and editor). My present appointment is Chaplain to the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist in Our Lady of Guadalupe Priory in Georgetown, Texas. I am also a priest available to parishes and communities in the Diocese of Austin, and the resident priest for the Austin Byzantine Catholic Community. I am married and so am a husband and also a father, and a grandfather.
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