The Holy Spirit And Context
In one of our Bible classes, we came to Acts chapter ten. Peter, after misgivings were answered by God, took the gospel to the house of a Gentile, Cornelius. It is an account loaded with historical significance and great practical benefit for us. Cornelius and his household respond to the gospel as all sinners are directed and there is rejoicing over this “break-through” event.
Here’s something that came up in our class discussion I’ll share. When you come to a passage in the New Testament that refers to the Holy Spirit, always pay good attention to the context before drawing conclusions and making applications.
That’s illustrated in Acts chapter ten. As Peter is preaching, he proclaims that Christ was the “God anointed” Messiah, with these words: “…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power,” (v.38).* Then later in chapter ten, as a sign that God approved of this conversion of Gentiles, “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word,” (v.44).
Simple question: Are these two manifestations of the Holy Spirit the same? They are not the same. Jesus was anointed by God in an exclusive and singular way nobody else was ever or will ever be anointed. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit over the Cornelius event was not the same. It was to show clearly God’s approval of the gospel being taken to the Gentiles.
This little exercise in Acts ten goes to the point of never drawing a conclusion about the Holy Spirit, apart from the context in which He is mentioned. There is – in modern religion – a tendency to read every passage about the Holy Spirit as an emotional, direct operation that should be sought today. But the Holy Spirit in Scripture manifest Himself and causes various things to happen in different circumstances, relationships or contexts.
I should not assume, therefore, that everything I read in the New Testament about the Holy Spirit is something I should seek in my life today.
“What then,” one might inquire, “should we seek?” Here’s an example.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-24
*When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Him and the voice from heaven was, “You are My beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased,” (Luke 3:21-22). Later, Jesus began His work “in the power of the Spirit,” (Luke 4:14).