16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16–17, NKJV)
This dramatic event at the baptism of Jesus capsulizes the identity and the nature of the Godhead. Seen by Jesus and John, the Spirit of God descended and rested upon Jesus as a heavenly attestation of approval. The presence of the Spirit of God was miraculous confirmation to John that Jesus is the “Son of God” (Jno. 1:32-34). At this seminal event, God the Father declared by word and by the presence of His Spirit the identity of Jesus and His pleasure toward Him (Isa. 42:1; Acts 10:38). Jesus is the Son of God, an expression denoting sameness or equality of nature (Jno. 5:17-18; 10:30-36). In other words, Jesus is Deity, God with us (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Matt. 1:23). Three distinct individuals (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) comprising One God. The Godhead is a united One – complete and undivided in nature, purpose, and will (Deut. 6:4; Jno. 10:30). Doctrines of God that deviate from this profound truth concerning the Godhead (and, there are many) advance false gods. (For more on the Godhead, go to http://www.bibleanswer.com/godhead.htm.)
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–3, NKJV)
This passage draws our attention to obeying the gospel and fellowship with the Spirit of God. 1) Obeying the truth of the gospel is wise. False teachers (who were binding the law of Moses on Gentiles for salvation) had charmed the Galatian Christians into foolish disobedience. Adding to the gospel continues to be foolish disobedience. 2) Gospel preaching of the crucifixion of Jesus leads to obeying His truth (Lk. 6:46). The gospel publicly displays the crucified Christ and persuades believers to obey His gospel to be saved. The Old Testament revealed the Abrahamic promise of blessing, and the law of Moses was added to identify and restrain sin, and bring souls to Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-19, 22-25). 3) We receive the Spirit by gospel obedience (Acts 2:37-38). We receive the Spirit’s blessings by hearing and obeying the faith (gospel, Gal. 1:11, 23; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 3:13-14). Fellowship with the Spirit does not come by obeying the law of Moses, by Holy Spirit baptism and present-day miracles, or by subjective experiences. Do not be bewitched by false gospels that cast aside hearing and obeying the gospel for experiences. Hear, believe, and obey the gospel to receive the Spirit’s blessings.
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NKJV)
These are final words spoken by Jesus to His apostles before He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9). He uses two “you shall” statements that distinguish the apostles from every other disciple of Jesus. Understanding them eliminates many false concepts about the Holy Spirit, the apostles, and what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. First, Jesus told His apostles “you shall receive power.” Then, He told them when it would happen – “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” This Holy Spirit baptism was a specific promise made to the apostles, not to every Christian (Acts 1:4-5; Jno. 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). It would be fulfilled “not many days from now,” and ten days later on Pentecost, it was (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4, 33). Holy Spirit baptism would equip the apostles for their assigned work, which is the second “you shall” statement. Jesus told His apostles “you shall be witnesses to Me.” Witnesses testify of what they have seen (Jno. 3:11). The apostles were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. They saw Him raised from the dead (Acts 1:22; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-42; 26:16; 1 Cor. 15:4-8). Christians do not “bear witness” of Jesus because we have not seen Him. They did, and we believe their testimony. Christ gave His church apostles “for the equipping of the saints, for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). Let us thank Christ for the apostles, not be led astray by false doctrines that would usurp their power and work.
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” (Ephesians 5:18, NKJV)
Christians are to be filled with the Spirit, not intoxicated with alcohol. But, what does that mean? Does it mean having a warm feeling in the heart, confident in feeling that we please God? No, since “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12). Since the Scriptures do not assign our feelings to the Holy Spirit, neither can we. Does it mean claiming some miracle at work in our lives? No, since the purpose of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit has been accomplished. Plus, how those gifts were received is no longer possible (1 Cor. 13:8-10; Acts 8:14-17). To “be filled with the Spirit” is a commandment, therefore, we choose whether or not the Spirit will fill us. Paul’s parallel statement in Colossians 3:16 says to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” persuading us to conclude we keep this command by imbibing of the Spirit’s word which He communicated to us by the apostles and prophets of Jesus (Jno. 16:8, 12-13; 1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:5). Instead of filling your body with spirits that rob you of soberness, sound judgment, and honorable conduct, fill your soul with the holy directives of revealed truth. In this way, by being filled with the Spirit you will dwell with Him and bear His fruit in your life (Gal. 5:22-23).
26 But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (John 15:26–27, NKJV)
Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles to be a Helper, a Comforter, after He left this world (John 14:16-18). He fulfilled His promise to them (Acts 1:4-5; 2:1-4, 33). The Holy Spirit has given powerful testimony of Jesus Christ to the world. By His miraculous revelation, inspiration and confirmation, the Spirit of truth bears witness of the gospel of Christ through the apostles He empowered (Acts 1:8). The testimony borne by the Spirit of truth is not a personal impulse, feeling or revelation uniquely given as personal experiences to each individual. His testimony is the gospel He gave the apostles which they preached to the world (Jno. 14:25-26; 16:8-13). To refuse their word for a personal testimony that contradicts the Spirit’s testimony in Scripture is spiritually destructive: “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4) The New Testament is the Spirit’s testimony to the world. What a comfort the Comforter has given us!
25 These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:25–26, NKJV)
Jesus taught His apostles the commands of God. They were to keep them because they loved Jesus, as must we (John 14:15). By doing so His abiding presence was assured, even as it is to us when we obey His word (John 14:19-24). Jesus had just promised He would not abandon the apostles as orphans, but would come to them by the Spirit of truth (“another Helper”) whom the Father would give them (John 14:15-18). Today’s passage assured the apostles that what Jesus taught them in person would continue with them through the work of the Helper (the Holy Spirit) whom the Father would send. The Spirit would reveal “all truth” to the apostles as well as give them reliable recall of all that Jesus had taught them (John 16:12-13). We are reading and keeping the word of Jesus when we read and obey what the apostles taught (John 14:23). Jesus promised the apostles that the Father would send them Spirit, and He did (Acts 1:4, 5, 8; 2:1-4). Jesus promised the Spirit would empower the apostles to know all Jesus taught them, and He did (Hebrews 2:3; Galatians 1:11-12). When we read what they wrote we can understand what they knew about God’s plan to us in His Son (Ephesians 3:3-5). Now, by keeping what the apostles taught we love Jesus and have His fellowship (John 13:20; 14:23-24).
5 But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:5–7, NKJV)
Perhaps is it hard for us to imagine a situation where it would be better that Christ was not personally with His apostles. Yet, that is what Jesus told them to assure them in their time of sorrow, just hours before He was arrested, tried, abused and crucified. Sorrow filled their hearts as Jesus told them of betrayal and denial within their own ranks, of His departure and death, and of the world’s hatred for both Him and them (John 13:18-16:4). Yet, Jesus was telling them the truth (verse 7). Sometimes truth is hard to hear, but truth is what we always need to hear. In fact, an advantage would come to them from Christ because He was leaving them. He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Helper (advocate, comforter), whose presence and work would empower them to accomplish their apostolic tasks (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). When things seem their darkest, we should remember God has blessings for us in Christ. His blessings renew our spirits and invigorate our faith, helping us accomplish the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6-7, 2:10).