During the past month, I have been involved with an extended study and meditation over the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and followers of Jesus Christ. I first started writing about these stirrings around May 17th on the blog. This begins a multi-part essay sharing an ongoing reflection I continue processing. I don’t profess this work as academically complete, so feel free to join in the conversation if you are so inclined. See Part One of The In-Dwelling Holy Spirit here and see Part Two of the series here.
Pentecost: In-Dwelling Holy Spirit [Part Three]
I left off with the last installment of this series with the question, “What is/are the commandment(s) of Jesus?” The reason, again, that I believe this particular question is so important with regard to receiving and living with the indwelling Holy Spirit is because of Jesus’ words as spoken to His disciples in the Gospel of John (John 14:15-17).
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”
Maybe I am making too much of the sentence structure and words used here, but it seems that the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit is contingent upon obedience to Jesus’ commandments. I think this idea is also supported with other teachings from the New Testament. When Peter preached to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost, he told them; “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). While the exact words, “Obey my commandments” are not in Peter’s instructions, “repent” “and turn to God” “and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” strongly infer and rightly assume obedience to Jesus’ commandments. Following these imperative statements seems conditional to receiving the indwelling Holy Spirit, not just a “down payment,” but full-on, over-flowing, in-filling, and indwelling baptism of the Holy Spirit. (“Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”) It is for this reason I believe close attention should be paid to the commandments of Jesus as we are dependent upon the infilling Holy Spirit.
When I consider what the commandments of Jesus are, I imagine them a single commandment comprised of many layers rather than considering them as a list of separate and specific commands. I imagine something like this…
The “sphere” of Jesus’ commandments is to Love God and Love People. I think this is best interpreted through the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and Jesus’ definition of the “Greatest Commandment” (Mark 12:28-31). Likewise, I believe these primary instructions are found embodied in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). While I think the commandments of God truly are as simple as Love God and Love People, I also think these commandments are much deeper than their simplicity may imply.
When I consider the commandments of Jesus, I recall a number of proclamations he made regarding himself. These proclamations shed light and provide substance to his teaching, subsequent instructions, and commandments. The following is a list of Jesus’ “self-identifiers.”
- He is the “Fulfillment” of the Law. Early in his teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaimed that he “came to fulfill the Law.” See Matthew 5:17-20 for full context.
- God the Father sends Jesus… (John 8:42) Jesus’ teaching was not his own, but teaching from God the Father (John 7:16). What he taught was gleaned in the presence of God the Father (John 8:38).
- Claimed unity with God (John 14:10-11; John 17:21), and claimed equality with God (John 14:9).
- Proclaimed that he alone was the Way of Eternal Life (John 14:6). Referred to himself as the gate and the narrow-way supporting his claim from John 14:6 (Matthew 7:13-27; John 10:1-18).
- Professed immutability or an unchanging, always existent nature (John 8:58; Rev. 1:8; Rev. 22:13)…supported also by the writer of Hebrews 13:8.
These aforementioned “self” proclamations of Jesus provide context and authority for all of his teaching. It is because of this context that my understanding of the Bible, from beginning to end, is a connected whole for Jesus’ instructions and commandments. What I mean to say by this is reflected in the image diagram above. Consequently, with this in mind, I do not believe that receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit just occurs, nor I do not believe the event takes place just by asking. I think the Holy Spirit baptism comes resultant of, or subsequent to, changes that take place in the heart. I have already presented a case for this earlier (repent, turn to God, be baptized in the Name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit), but evidence for not receiving the Spirit baptism might be agreed to from the account of Simon the Sorcerer and his request for filling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-24). In any case, I wish to further explain what I believe is meant by “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”
Love God and Love People IS the commandment Jesus has given to us; however, wrapped in that command is the fulfillment of the Law, the spiritual expression of the Law, and the practical outworking of the Law and Love (agape). Too often, we make pithy and cliché what God has intended for us to deeply express in every way of life…that is to Love God and Love People. When Jesus told the disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), he wasn’t talking about “fist bumps” and “bro hugs.” He was talking about sacrificing your life for one another (John 15:13; 1 John 3:15; Phil. 2:5-7). Wrapped up inside of Loving God and Loving People are the Ten Commandments, and Jesus’ teaching about Kingdom loving and living as found in the Sermons on the Mount and the Plain…these, I believe, are the “high ideal” for which we strive…every day. How we strive for this kingdom living is explained in practical fashion throughout the apostolic epistles from the New Testament. For instance, Paul rebutts and rebukes Romans 7 living with a Romans 8 counter argument. He teaches us about God-love (agape) in his Letter to Corinthians (chapter 13), and he teaches us about living as “children of Light” in his Ephesians discourse and Spirit Fruit in his Letter to Galatians… these are just a few examples from the Apostle Paul. James teaches about practical outworking of faith to deeds from a heart converted to Jesus Way living in his letter. Peter teaches about selfless, servant love empowered through the divine nature in his letters, and John teaches his readers about divine love embodied by true followers of Jesus. It’s all there for us; deep and abiding instructions for the sojourning member of the divine Body of Christ. We are called to “walk as Jesus walked…” (1 John 2:6) in such a way that we are uniquely distinguished from people who do not follow the Way of Jesus. We can only successfully accomplish this mandate and our mission, if we are empowered and in-filled with the Divine Presence of God’ indwelling Holy Spirit.
As I have said (to my understanding), “Love God and Love People,” is the prerequisite and contingent command for walking in the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. However, as indicated in my sphere diagram above, “Love God and Love People” is much more than a mental assent and verbal affirmation. While “Love God and Love People” is more than… it most often, is not perfection; even a quick read through the Acts of the Apostles or the Pauline Epistles will reveal many imperfect people being filled with God’s Holy Spirit. What then is the purpose of this round and round talk? I think basic misunderstanding and poor teaching about the Holy Spirit lays at the root of why so many people are attempting to live the “Jesus Life” are doing so without the indwelling Holy Spirit. I also believe that a second reason, closely related to the first, is selfish rebellion against the commands to “Love God and Love People,” but I will share more on this thought in a follow-up installment to our series.