Table of Contents
Ketcherside – Heaven Help us- Holy Spirit in your Life is a brief 9 Chapter work on questions about the Holy Spirit and how He relates to the believer.
Table of Contents of Heaven Help Us: The Holy Spirit in Your Life
HEAVEN HELP US: The Holy Spirit in Your Life
By W. CARL KETCHERSIDE
St. Louis, Missouri
Preface (below, this page)
1. The Holy Spirit–Who or What?
2. Is the Spirit the Word?
3. What Does the Spirit Do?
4. How Does the Spirit Work?
5. How Is the Spirit Related to God?
6. Where Is the Spirit?
7. What Is the Sin Against the Spirit?
8. What Is Life in the Spirit?
9. Slavery or Freedom?
Sample Chapter: Chapter 1 The Holy Spirit–Who or What?
1. The Holy Spirit–Who or What?
The Holy Spirit—Who or What?
Many years ago I attended a Bible-school class in a village church in the heart of the Missouri Ozarks. I was in the region on a bass fishing expedition, and, as my custom was, I attended the services on Sunday morning. I sat in the adult class taught by a local farmer who seemed to be quite knowledgeable about the Bible. His occasional quaint comments made the lesson especially interesting for me.
I surmised, from the discussion by members of the class, that the little town was in a dither because of claims being made by a “faith healer” who was holding forth nightly in the rather decrepit tent. Finally, one man asked, “Well, just what is the Holy Spirit, anyhow? I’ve heard about it all my life and no one has ever rightly told me what it is.” The teacher waited, with a slight smile on his face, until the questioner had finished. Then, holding his well-worn Bible slightly aloft, and waving it for emphasis, he replied, “This Book is the Holy Spirit, and all the Holy Spirit there is. When I have it in my overcoat pocket, the Holy Spirit is in my pocket. The Holy Spirit is the Word of God, and that’s what this Book is, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.”
He looked around the class to see if there were any challengers, but found none. Apparently they had too many burdens to bear in farming their rocky land, in trying to wrest a living from their thin soil to give much attention to the identity of the Spirit. They were content to leave such questions to the teacher whose respect for the Book caused him to read its pages each night in the soft glow cast by his Aladdin lamp. And since no further questions were forthcoming, the teacher sought to clinch his argument by saying, “Jesus himself said, `It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life’ (John 6:63; KJV). There it is, as plain as the nose on your face.”
I could not be satisfied with the quick response to the tremendous question, “What is the Holy Spirit, anyhow?” Somehow, I was convinced that the quotation drawn from the words of Jesus did not furnish an adequate answer. Although I knew little about the Spirit of God, I had a vague uneasiness at the thought that He could be captured, caught up, and confined to pages bound in black leather stamped in gold, and crammed into an overcoat pocket. After I retired to my tent, I lay awake pondering a question for which my meager knowledge had no solution. Before I dozed off I made a pledge to learn all I could about the functions assigned to the Spirit. Through the years I have learned much, not the least of which is that almost from the time Jesus promised that the Spirit would come, much confusion has existed about His nature and identity.
I recall talking far into the night with a professor of philosophy in a state university. He had been reared by parents devoted to the Word of God, but during his academic career his own faith had been eroded. This left deep furrows in his intellectual life where the rich topsoil of belief had been washed away by the constant rain of skepticism. He flattered himself that he still maintained faith, but as we conversed it became apparent that his faith was in his own righteousness and in “the wisdom of this passing age” upon which he relied.
“What do you think about the Holy Spirit?” I asked. He looked at me for a minute before he replied. “I believe in a holy spirit, I suppose,” he said, “but I do not believe in anything called the Holy Spirit.” He gave a lengthy dissertation in scholastic jargon. The gist was that men assign different values to the word “holy,” meaning only what each man makes it mean.
He finally explained he thought that the Holy Spirit was merely one’s own spirit, his inner self committed to unselfish sharing with others. It was self, devoted to relieving conditions that affected the social structure for evil, consecrated to working with and through nature for the betterment of all. Pinned down, he confessed that he was a humanist, and the expression “Holy Spirit” was merely a catchword, a handle with which to turn off religious discussion. The Holy Spirit no longer had any real relevance for him.
Then there was the wealthy manufacturer who invited me to his palatial home to talk about his idea of God and the created universe. In his voluminous library we sat down to canvass the thinking of each other. He proved to be a mystic and a student of esoteric religions. His idea of the Holy Spirit was that of a nebulous, pervasive influence, which invaded all religion and led men to a higher degree of achievement through art forms and literary productions. He regarded the Bible as inspired, but only as he thought the works of Rembrandt, Titian, or Shakespeare were inspired. The Holy Spirit was the rarefied atmosphere breathed by the gifted, the composite influence derived from heredity, training, and fellowship with others. He thought the tendency was ever upward and onward. He fully expected that this certain but subtle influence would so affect the world that someday men would become more god-like, and sorrow and suffering would be conquered and pass away. The world would be saved by its art and literature.
My affluent friend regaled me with various quotations from eminent philosophers, but the widely divergent views caused me to explore my favorite field, history, to see if the same kind of confusion existed in earlier times among those who professed to be believers in Christ. I was not too greatly surprised to find that such was the case. I should like to share with you a few highlights of this research.
If you are inclined to think that the contemporary problems of the Christian world are multitudinous, you need only to read the account of conditions in the first four centuries to realize that by comparison we are in relatively calm waters. That “the Way” has survived at all is a testimony to God’s providential care and concern. Whereas many of our debates are about peripheral matters, those of which we speak struck at the very nature of the Godhead. The real questions were related to the identity of Jesus, but these resolved into disputes about the Holy Spirit as well. Here are some of the reasons for controversies that divided and fragmented the primitive believers:
First, the gospel was taken to the Jews, and the original community of saints was composed of Jews and proselytes.
To many Jews it appeared, and still does, that disciples of Jesus were affirming the existence of three deities, and since they measured all teaching by the revelation of God in the Torah and Hafterah, the Law and the Prophets, they had to rationalize the subordination of the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The problem was intensified with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and the consequent scattering of the Jewish community of believers. Gradually the members who were dispersed drifted into a denial of the divinity of Jesus. They regarded only the Gospel according to Matthew as valid and they considered Paul an apostate. Since they proscribed all of his epistles, they could not use them as source materials with reference to the Spirit. Eventually they came to regard Jesus as a creation of God and the Spirit as a creation of Jesus. The Spirit thus became a son of Jesus as Jesus was a son of God which is the equivalent of saying that the Spirit was God’s grandson.
Second, the term for spirit originally meant “breath” or “wind.” This is true in Hebrew, Greek Latin, and even in Anglo-Saxon. In Hebrew the original is ruach, in Greek pneuma, in Latin spiritus, and in English, ghost. In every instance the original means “blow” or “breath.” For this reason, many believers in the early centuries of the faith came to think of the Spirit as merely an impersonal force, with no more consciousness than the wind or breath. Certain expressions in the divine revelation seemed to lend force to their deduction. John records an incident after the resurrection when Jesus suddenly stood among the disciples and invoked peace upon them. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). The conclusion was that the Spirit was merely the breath of God.
When the apostles were present on the Day of Pentecost, awaiting the overwhelming of the Spirit as promised, “suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting” (Acts 2:2). No wind filled the house. The sound was like the noise of a gale, and since “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” it was an easy matter to think of wind and Spirit as interchangeable.
The early disciples, however, like many of the cultists in our own day, overlooked certain facts about language. They were trapped into trying to fit every use of the word for Spirit into their own little traditional cubicles. Language is like the persons who employ it for communication. It is not static. It is constantly growing and changing. It tends always to expand and become broader in scope. One can no more force acquired usage into primitive root meanings than he can, in his maturity, force his body into the trousers he wore to kindergarten.
Thus the versatile Greeks extended the word pneuma beyond its basic meaning of a movement of air, or the breath of the nostrils, to the vital principle by which the body is animated. From that they went on, through a logical sequence, to the rational spirit, the power by which a human being thinks, feels, wills, and decides. Eventually, the spirit in man came to be recognized as that part of man which is rational, giving him the power to perceive and grasp divine things, so that the Spirit of God can exert an influence upon him.
At this point I suggest that the serious student can avail himself of what is commonly referred to in our day as Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The foregoing definition was adapted from it. Actually, this helpful volume was not produced by Joseph Thayer, but by C. L. Willibald Grimm, an Austrian who expanded and improved upon a work by C. G. Wilke. Thayer translated it into English and made some revision. This is mentioned because Dr. Grimm, in his Prospectus, announced that one of his purposes was “to exhibit the historical growth of a word’s significance and accordingly in selecting vouchers for New Testament usage to show at what time and in what class of writers a given word became current.”
My goal is not to produce a volume for advanced scholars. It is to share insights with those who love the Lord and the written Word, whose opportunity for research is limited both by lack of time and the need for making a living. I have written this because of the imposition of certain cultists who disturb the minds of the unlearned by insisting that, since the root meaning of “spirit” is wind or breath, when a man ceases to breathe the spirit ceases to exist. This conclusion I deem to be neither Scriptural nor sensible.
Again, I am indebted to the lexicographer mentioned above for pointing out Martin Luther’s statement that the pneuma is “the highest and noblest part of man, which qualifies him to lay hold of the incomprehensible, invisible, eternal things; in short, it is the house where Faith and God’s Word are at home.”
A third and fruitful source of conflict and confusion about the Spirit has been the rise of cult leaders who projected false opinions, causing millions to be misled and to follow in their wake. Some of these were sincere but self-deceived, while others were simply deceivers motivated by their own ambition. It was not always easy to distinguish the class in which each one belonged, but the damage done by the schismatic teaching was generally the same.
It is axiomatic that like causes produce like results. This is as true in the religious realm as in any other. In times of ferment and social upheaval, when “the hearts of men fail them for fear,” an element of mysticism takes over, and out of this is spawned a kind of fanaticism, which grasps at strange and bizarre doctrines for a ray of hope. An outstanding example of this occurred about the middle of the second century, perhaps in the decade following A.D. 160. In Phrygia, the worship of the goddess Cybele was predominant. This female deity was regarded as the earth-mother and the source of all life. Her priests, called Corybantes, led in the worship, which was frenzied and orgiastic, generally conducted in sylvan glades or in the depths of dark forests.
One of these priests, Montanus, became a convert to Christianity. He sought to inject into Christianity the same excitability and emotional excess that had accompanied his pagan ministrations. He imagined and announced that he was the Paraclete the “other Comforter” whom Jesus had promised to send to earth upon His return to glory. Montanus was subject to raptures during which, according to his testimony, the divine took over in his life, and used his tongue to utter enigmatic and mystic expressions, which were interpreted as messages of Heaven to the saints.
Montanus declared that the return of Christ was imminent and would occur during the lifetime of those present. His coming would usher in a thousand years’ reign, a millennium in which the Lord would personally rule over the earth and straighten out the tangled state into which sin had plunged the universe. In preparation for this, Montanus called upon the believers to exercise rigid discipline over themselves and to redouble their efforts to convert mankind. Frequent fasts were imposed; celibacy was recommended; and second marriages were unconditionally forbidden. Mortification of the body was enjoined, and the unkempt appearance with tattered garments was encouraged as a sign of humility and self-denial in preparation for the end of the existing order.
Two women, Priscilla and Maximilla, also visionaries, were proclaimed to be prophetesses. They traveled with Montanus as “companions of the Paraclete.” They also were preoccupied with the thought of the last days.
Epiphanius has preserved a statement of Maximilla to the effect that, “After me there will not again be a prophetess, but the end will come.” Priscilla claimed to have seen the Lord himself. She testified that He appeared in the form of a woman attired in shining garb, to inform her that the New Jerusalem would soon descend from Heaven and settle upon the earth at Pepuza, in Asia Minor.
I beg the kind indulgence of my readers for inserting here what may appear to be a too lengthy statement from the book, The Early Church, written by David Duff, an eminent professor of church history in Edinburgh, Scotland. The following quotation points up those conditions which seem to bring to the forefront mere human beings who imagine that they are either the Holy Spirit, or His authorized spokesmen:
“Montanism had something of the character of a revival. It was the first reaction, while the Church was still young, against a widespread lukewarmness and worldliness, and especially against the slothful, if not the scoffing spirit of the multitude of believers who no longer cherished the lively expectation of the parousia of Christ, which had been so general in the first days, but said, “The Lord delayeth His coming,” forgetting that one day with the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. It is not wonderful that, in these circumstances, many should be dissatisfied with themselves, dissatisfied with the Church, dissatisfied with the episcopal rulers, who were now consolidating their power. But here were enthusiasts, who sought not only to recall the lost ideal, but, in view of the approaching end, and under the inspiration of the Paraclete, to make Christianity holier and purer than in the days of the apostles. Their ecstasies, their zeal, their rigorism, and even their spiritual pride, were fitted to gain them adherents far and wide, and possibly the fear of those Gnostic speculations by which the objective truths of Christianity were subverted had a powerful influence with not a few, and induced them to embrace or favor a system in which the objectivity of Christianity, and particularly the doctrine of the parousia, was made to absorb the thought and energy of the individual.
The persistent student of church history will soon become aware that at intervals there is a recurrence of almost universal concern with the Holy Spirit and His activity on the contemporary scene. When the religious structures become solidified and those who maintain them become adamant, when worldliness and apathy rule the lives of the membership, those whose deep emotional needs are not being met seek a closer walk with God, and a visible manifestation of the presence of the Spirit. It is easier to walk by sight in a world of fear and trepidation than to walk by faith.
In every such period men like Montanus arise, and if they do not, as he did, claim to be the Holy Spirit personified, they do profess to be His Vicars. They produce prophecies that the uninitiated are expected to receive unquestioningly, under threat of damnation for refusal. Repeatedly there has been a reaffirmation that the last days are at hand. When the world becomes so complex and confused that men can find no solution in social experiments and political expediencies, they turn toward God.
As it is with so many other things in human life, there are both good and bad features involved in such a cyclical process. It is good that men are brought to a realization of the need of God’s influence in human affairs, and good that the power and impact of the Holy Spirit are once more affirmed. It is regrettable that the daily and constant concern of God for mankind is so soon forgotten after the excitement and agitation have died away. It is also a tragedy that many historians, aware of the predictions, which never come to pass, conclude that the whole Christian fabric has been woven from the overheated imaginations of men without real basis in fact. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Because Jesus has not returned at the time appointed by men does not mean that He will not return at the time appointed by the Father.
It will be helpful, I think, to study carefully the words of a German historian and analyst, K. R. Hagenbach, who in about 1850 wrote the following:
“Has not at all times a rigid way of life, especially when it arms itself with a prophetic, enthusiastic speech, and turns itself against the existing order of things, produced a mighty impression on the multitude? To observe with all wisdom and patience the quiet course of God in history, and to follow its traces even where the natural eye perceives only a natural succession of events, belongs only to the man who has been exercised and trained in spiritual things. The mass loves the astounding, the thoroughgoing, the uncompromising; and hence the extraordinary outpourings, the improvised prophecies, of a heated and extravagant imagination, supported by an energetic will, have ever imposed more on the rude mind than the harmonious exhibition of a calm and simple piety. Montanism is not an isolated phenomenon. Distrust of science, contempt for heathen literature, hostility to art and culture, a bold disregard of established social relations and forms, a rough exterior, a constant prominence given to repentance, coupled with predictions of fearful judgments–such marks the Montanists have in common not only with the different sects of the Middle Ages, and the Anabaptists of the age of the Reformation, but more or less, with the Puritans of England and the Camisards of France, and the many “awakened” (so-called) of more recent and most recent times.
The validity of the thesis of Hagenbach is established by the fact that it might have been written within our own generation without changing a word or sentence. It would be surprisingly easy to show the various periods to which he alludes that men have been carried away on a wave of enthusiasm, repetitious of other such occasions produced by the state of the world in previous times. This procedure, however, would be only incidental to our real purpose at present and we must postpone it until a more propitious season.
Let me then summarize what I have said. I have asserted that the present confusion about the Holy Spirit is not a unique phenomenon. Much misunderstanding about the nature, essence, and work of the Spirit has characterized every age. I have sought to show that some of the perplexity has originated in an ignorance of the Godhead, and the conjecture that an admission of the personality of the Spirit would demand an assumption that there existed a plurality of Gods.
Again, I have shown that uncertainty has arisen because of the etymology of spirit, and the failure to recognize that words, as do trees, grow from roots, and that such growth necessitates change. One can no more develop a language by insisting that root meanings must remain static than he can produce fruit by cutting off every shoot that springs above the surface of the soil from the roots below.
I have also given proof that professed teachers have deceived the multitudes through the centuries, either by alleging that they were the Spirit incarnated, or by claiming to be special functionaries of the Spirit, with new and fanciful revelations that appealed to the credulous.
It is now time to turn from this avenue of approach to study and analyze the teachings of the Scriptures with reference to the identity of the Holy Spirit. As we do this it will be necessary to avoid the dogmatic and authoritarian attitude. In a spirit of sharing let us turn to a continued investigation of the nature of the profound relationship between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit. Surely no greater theme than this can challenge the intellect.
1. C. L. Willibald Grimm, Clavis Novi Testamenti Philologica (Prospectus) (Leipzig: Arnoldische Buchhandlung, 1862).
2. Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1889), p. 520.
3. David Duff, M.A., D.D., LL.D., The Early Church (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1891), p. 206.
4. K. R. Hagenbach, Vorless u. Wesen u Gesch (Leipzig, 1851).
Ketcherside - Heaven Help us- Holy Spirit in your Life is a brief 9 Chapter work on questions about the Holy Spirit and how He relates to the believer.
|Date:||May 12, 2020|