2. JESUS' TEACHING ON THE HOLY SPIRIT
We've mentioned Jesus' teaching on the Holy Spirit, so let's go a little deeper into that. Not all the Gospels have the same teachings, and some are relatively quiet when it comes to this topic. Nevertheless, the overall picture is one of Jesus ministering by the power of the Spirit and promising to bless his followers with the same Spirit after he had died and risen. As noted in our opening conference, he even says it's better for him to go so that he can send the Spirit to us in a new and powerful outpouring; otherwise, his followers will be left to their own resources, and will lack the power and wisdom that the Spirit brings.
Let's take a few passages to get an idea of how Scripture presents Jesus speaking of the Holy Spirit. There are many very helpful resources to choose from, here, but one of the best and simplest I've found is from the Internet. You can check it out yourself: http://www.msgr.ca/msgr/BIBLE_HOLY_SPIRIT_02.htm
I'll elaborate briefly on the main points, which are from John 14-16. Due to copyright restrictions, I will not reproduce the actual texts from Scripture, so you can look them up.
1st Teaching: Jn. 14: 15-17
The Spirit is . . .
A. Another Advocate
B. She will be with us forever
C. She is knowable
D. She abides with us
E. And is in us
A. Another Advocate. An advocate is one who pleads the case of another. Jesus considered himself to be our advocate in that he interceded with the Father on our behalf. The Spirit will do the same; She is a coach and guide.
B. Forever. The gift of the Spirit will not be a one-shot affair, or a passing phenomenon. The gift to the human race is permanent. There is no less a gift of the Spirit now than there was in the early Church; this is one of the implications of Jesus teaching.
C. Knowable. Biblical knowledge is experiential. We will know the Spirit not through abstract conceptualization, but through actually participating in the life She brings. Philosophers call this connatural knowledge. The Spirit will be intimate with us, communicating Her presence in the depths of our being.
D. Abides. This is such a lovely word and refers to the Spirit's continuing presence among us. One dictionary definition even mentions "expectant waiting" and "bearing patiently" in reference to this word. Such is the attitude of the Spirit toward us. She waits for our response expectantly and patiently and is quick to assist us when we do turn Her way.
E. Dwells within. It's a tricky thing, talking about inside and outside a person. This reference to interiority means that the Spirit is not "out there" beyond our person but is more deeply present to us that we are to ourselves.
Pause awhile and reflect on these points. What part(s) are speaking to you? What is your response?
Second Teachings: Jn. 14: 22-30
The Spirit . . .
A. Is sent in Jesus' name
B. She will teach us everything
C. She will remind us of Jesus' teaching
A. Sent in Jesus' name. The usage of name here refers to "person." To be sent in someone's name means to be sent in behalf of their person, or as their representative. Jesus is saying that the Spirit will have a reference to Him. This is one of the ways to tell if something is coming from the Spirit rather than another source-the reference it has to Jesus.
B. To teach us everything. Yes, you read correctly-the Spirit will teach us about all sorts of things, not just religious and Churchy topics. That is because the Spirit, acting on Jesus' behalf, wants us to live life to the full (Jn. 10: 10) just as Jesus does. As our ever-present Coach, She guides our words and actions in all areas of life.
C. To remind us of Jesus' teachings. As the ending of John's Gospel notes, if everything about Jesus were written down, it is doubtful that all the books in the world could contain them. It is the Spirit who brings to mind what we once heard but now need to remember in order to accomplish what the present moment calls forth from us. She knows all of Jesus' teachings and can whisper them into our mind and will as needed. This doesn't mean that we need not study the Bible or theology, however, only that we can trust the Spirit to help us remember what we need.
How do you experience yourself being sent and taught by the Spirit? Take a few moments to reflect on this.
Third teachings: John 15:20
A. Jesus will send the Advocate from the Father
B. She is the Spirit of truth
C. She will testify on Jesus' behalf
The Spirit is . . .
A. Sent from the Father. This grouping of teachings is a little more theological. Jesus notes that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, just as he notes elsewhere that he was sent by the Father. This is an important point as he is establishing a parallel between his mission and that of the Spirit. The two missions are both willed by the Father for the good of the human race; both are necessary to accomplish the Father's will on earth as in heaven.
B. The Spirit of Truth. The Spirit is about Truth, not pretense. When we are willing to really get at the truth of an issue, we can be sure that calling on the Spirit will bring results. It doesn't matter if we are dealing with religious truth or searching for answers in other areas of life. The Spirit of Truth desires that Truth be extolled and will help us find our way.
C. To testify on Jesus' behalf. Here again the meaning of the words used are important. To testify is to give witness-even in a solemn manner-and to do so in Jesus' behalf means to do so in support or defense of him. Christians can be assured that when Christ's good name and teaching is being misrepresented or defiled, the Spirit will rise in the heart of the believer, prompting one to take a stand for Jesus. The Spirit will also give one the right words and approach to take.
When have you been moved to "testify on Jesus' behalf?" How does it feel to be used by the Spirit during such times?
Fourth Teachings: Jn. 16: 7-8
The Spirit will . . .
A. prove the world wrong about sin
B. prove the world wrong about righteousness
C. prove the world wrong about judgment
A. Wrong about sin. Here we see the contrast between the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of the world, which rationalizes sin and has enculturated sinful practices in many ways. The entire thrust of the Spirit is diametrically opposed to the ways of sin and exposes such whenever it comes upon them. Believers will notice this direction in their own hearts as they feel an aversion to sinful ways.
B. Wrong about righteousness. It is the Spirit who makes us righteous and transforms us into likenesses of Christ. The world, here, refers to those cultural traditions that promise happiness and success, but which turn out to be empty promises. The Spirit sees where things come from and where they go and warns us against pursuing false pathways to happiness.
C. Wrong about judgment. God does not judge as the world does, but sees the heart of an individual. Sometimes what the world sees on the outside the Spirit, viewing the inside, sees as perversion. Sometimes the opposite is true as well-what the world deems worthless, the Spirit considers priceless. This is especially true of a heart that is humble and open to the Spirit's guidance.
How do you experience the Spirit in you providing guidance about the harmful ways of the world? What aspects of the culture does the Spirit move you to value?
Fifth Teaching: Jn. 16: 12-14: summary
The Spirit . . .
A. will guide us ... into all truth
B. will speak what he hears
C. will prophesy
D. is self-effacing
E. will glorify Jesus
This is a good summary of previous teachings, reaffirming the Spirit's orientation to Jesus and Her emphasis on truth. We note the addition of the action of prophesying, which means far more than foretelling the future. The more common purpose of this gift is to speak God's word-especially words of encouragement and correction-to the community to help them live in accordance with God's ways.
So there we have the core of Jesus' teaching on the Holy Spirit, presented in John's Gospel in the context of Jesus' departing remarks to his disciples. We see that his teaching is not complicated or highly intellectualized; the Spirit is introduced in a way that Jesus' early followers could understand.
Now let's see what some of your impressions are of this teaching.
1. What images of the Holy Spirit do Jesus' teaching suggest to you?
2. How do you think you would feel if you were hearing this teaching for the first time?
3. How do you feel about the kind of "work" the Spirit wants to accomplish in us?
My thoughts so far on Conference 2:
First of all it is refreshing to hear the Holy Spirit to be spoken of as "She".
As I ponder over, and have pondered over for years, the fact that the overall picture is one of Jesus ministering by the power of the Spirit and promises to bless us with the same Spirit, I find it almost unbelievable that so FEW actually use the power to heal, and to do the same things that Jesus did, and even greater things. I understand and have learned over the years that we are to be carrying out the great commission.
If the disciples and early followers of Jesus as recorded in the book of Acts, did these things, why are so few doing it now? Shouldn't priests, and ministers be healing? That was Jesus' "main thing". I have heard it said that he had a "passion" for healing.
I also like to hear that the Holy Spirit is our "guide". I hear so much these days about people and their "guides". I don't see how one can have a better guide than the Holy Spirit. I'll stick with Her. :-)
D. She abides in us, and She waits for US; not us waiting for Her. It took me a minute to make that distinction. Why are we saying "Come Holy Spirit" in church, when She has already come. I think it is our business to RECEIVE Her.
She will teach us everything: I like that.. not just "religious" things, but whatever else we need/want to know.
In answer to the question: "How do you experience....." and "it is the Spirit who reminds us of Jesus' teachings": I like that. This manifests in my life when I am very quiet and relaxed, and I talk to God and He talks back.. I get wonderful scriptures.. they just pop into my mind! Sometimes one after the other. I love it when God speaks to me! Also I often quote the scripture: "I do hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and I follow him.... not "I will some day when I get holy enough, but when I get quiet (in my mind) enough)
When have I been moved to testify on Jesus' behalf? I go all over the place on the internet, and esp. certain message boards. I hear so much anti Christian stuff, and I sometimes feel prompted to take a stand for Jesus, regardless of what people may think of me.
And I try to testify keeping in mind the heart of the individual... where he/she is coming from.. what they can "take in" of Jesus' Truth.
The Spirit's emphasis on truth.. I never thought about that before. I like that.
There is no less a gift of the Spirit now than there was in the early Church;
Then why does it seem that there is less evidence now?
She is a coach and guide.
This sounds almost too good to be true.
To teach us everything. Yes, you read correctly-the Spirit will teach us about all sorts of things, not just religious and Churchy topics. That is because the Spirit, acting on Jesus' behalf, wants us to live life to the full
I assume you will be giving us some examples of this?
Sometimes, when I am trying to think of an idea I will jokingly say that I am waiting for the Holy Spirit to come over me. But I never really meant it!
B. The Spirit of Truth. The Spirit is about Truth, not pretense. When we are willing to really get at the truth of an issue, we can be sure that calling on the Spirit will bring results. It doesn't matter if we are dealing with religious truth or searching for answers in other areas of life.
How does "grace" fit in here? Much of what I've read so far about the Holy Spirit, I would attribute to "God's grace."
Those are my thoughts so far. Just wanted everybody to know that I am reading and taking it all in.
Hi, all. I'm here reading and meditating on the conferences and the comments everyone is making. Just have to find time to slow down enough to try to put my thoughts into words. I liked the idea of the Spirit abiding with us, and over the past couple days I've occasionally stopped for a second or two and become aware of my breath, and reminded myself (or was reminded by the Spirit?) that the Holy Spirit is as close to me as my breath, and like my breath, is always present. I also love the ideas about the Spirit teaching us ALL things and guiding us into the truth. I'm reminded of something I read years ago by Catherine Marshall, where she was knitting or crocheting or something, and was having problems with the pattern, and after praying for guidance, she discovered the answer to her problem. I've had similar situations, where I needed help with something, or got lost and needed to figure out how to get where I needed to be, and along would come someone who could help me or who was going where I was going. Kinda cool to remember we have such an "ever-present help" as scripture says. Okay, off to work!
Thanks for the comments. Feel free to interact with one another's posts -- even to reply to questions seemingly directed to me.
I enjoyed your reflections, Katy, Anne and Peggy. This really helps to break open a conference. In fact, you might think of a conference as a "first word" in an ongoing reflection and conversation, which we can all contribute to if we'd like.
Anne, when we talk later about the fruits of the Spirit, that might help to answer your question about the evidence of the Spirit in our midst. Katy, that might respond to one of your inquiries as well. I think the Spirit is alive and well these days, more evident in some places than others, however.
Re. God's grace -- the Spirit can be thought of as the "agent" of that grace, along with the other person's of the Trinity, of course.
The Spirit as �She�
The following has been posted regarding God�s gender attributes:
�She (and I use the feminine pronoun as it resonates with several Old Testament references to the Spirit)....�
�Some have suggested that the Holy Spirit could be considered a feminine principle within the Trinity.�
�First of all it is refreshing to hear the Holy Spirit to be spoken of as �She.�
Just as we have no language that can adequately describe what the early disciples experienced about Christ�s Resurrection (he was first recognized by what he said and did, not by what he looked liked) let us remember that neither do we possess a language that can adequately describe God�s attributes. Let�s also remember that exegetical scholars, without anthropomorphizing God, have long recognized a masculine and feminine quality in God partly because His entire creation is composed of masculine and feminine attributes. We might also want to consider that 4000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition must have some truth to offer regarding any gender identities that have been ascribed to God and try to avoid falling into the quagmire of political correctness that our culture seems hell-bent on pursuing.
We have come to underststand God and Jesus as masculine and Holy Spirit simply as a holy spirit. We have developed a particular reverential attitude towards this Holy Trinity. We shouldn�t cast aside too quickly what tradition has long established because we may not be able to hold the same reverential attitude in our hearts if the Trinity now becomes a Father, Son and �She.� I suggest that we let God be God. His Divinity is going to be whatever He wants to be regardless of what we conceive it to be.
RE: Establishing a personal prayer relationship with the Holy Spirit:
Thanks, johnboy. What you have had to say in your posts helped me see a possible resolution to a couple of questions that I have been wrestling with.....establishing a personal prayer relationship with the Holy Spirit and understanding what is the one unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. After I�ve sorted out the insights I�ll post some of the conclusions I will have drawn.
Peace to all,
John, regarding the Holy Spirit as She, I was thinking of the many references in the Hebrew Scriptures to the Spirit of Wisdom, or Sophia, which is referred to throughout the Old Testament as feminine presence. You'll find many references to this in Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom. I'm not much into political correctness, in general, and especially when it comes to theological issues. As you noted, however, the Spirit has more customoraily been referred to in non-gender terms--simply as "the Spirit." I am attempting to use that language as much as possible, except when resorting to personal pronouns becomes inevitable. It is then that I use "She" instead of "He."
re: let us remember that neither do we possess a language that can adequately describe God�s attributes.
On one hand, the Trinity is wholly incomprehensible. OTOH, God is not wholly unintelligible. One on hand, this mystery is not something we can fully imbibe or drink in. OTOH, we can swim in it and its buoyancy keeps us afloat. On one hand, the revealed is concealed. OTOH, the concealed is revealed. On one hand, God's attributes transcend our human categories with an unknowable nature. OTOH, our analogical imaginations can penetrate into the inexhaustible mystery, alternately expanding/extending and collapsing metaphors. On one hand, we have religious language expressed in images and metaphors. OTOH, we have theological language expressed in models and concepts.
On one hand, images, metaphors, models and concepts are merely analogical. OTOH, they have power and efficacy because we live by them, not only in philosophy, metaphysics and theology, but also in science, economics, politics, culture and religion. For instance, John B. mentioned our reverential attitude and such could be precisely affected, for better or for worse, if we fail to pay heed to long-established traditions. Our various traditions form coherent wholes and what is heterodox for one can be orthodox for another. For Catholics, responding to God with spousal love is long-established. For Catholics, on one hand, God is neither man nor woman. God is pure spirit, in which there is no place for difference between sexes. (Catechism); OTOH, both JPI and JPII have spoken of God the Mother. For many Protestants, known more for dialectical imaginations than analogical imaginations, the emphasis will be more on the Trinity as enshrouded in mystery, on God's transcendence.
It is important to remember that an analogy is not just a linguistic tool but an affirmation of relationship. What must not get lost is that we are undeniably called into relationship with God. That relationship will have the chracteristics of father, mother, sibling, friend, spouse and inexhaustibly more, sharing, as we do, common attributes with God.
Whether one's reverential attitude is enhanced or diminished by this or that metaphor will depend on which tradition one has been immersed in, a tradition that one must not causally cast aside but, rather, should fully recover prior to any reformulation or translation or other conversion (in order to avoid incoherence and disorientation).
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