Why I Believe In The Holy Spirit

Christian evidence studies usually focus on God as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and on Christ as the historical Jesus who died and rose again, as well as on the Bible as a revelation from God. The existence of the Holy Spirit is not ordinarily the subject of an apologetic study. This is not because belief in the Spirit is any less essential, but because of the nature of the evidence that affirms it.

For example, the existence of a Supreme Being is substantiated not only by biblical testimony, but also by scientific and philosophical considerations. Likewise there is historical corroboration concerning Jesus. We cannot, however, look directly to scientific, philosophic, or historical arguments to support our faith in the Holy Spirit. Obviously when we are convinced to believe in the God of the Bible and in the Christ of the Bible, we are of necessity led to believe in the Holy Spirit of the same Bible. Still, we know of no empirical evidence for the existence of the Spirit.

Simply stated, therefore, we believe in the third person of the Godhead because—and only because—the Scriptures reveal Him. This is not, however, a weak apologetic. The biblical evidence is informative, sufficient, and conclusive.

Avoid Subjective Evidence

A caution is needed regarding experimental claims some make for the Spirit. Any "proof" of the Spirit based on claims of personal experience does not constitute objective evidence. For one to argue that the Spirit is real because he "feels" Him, or because the Spirit "spoke" to him, or "nudged" him, is merely to give subjective assertions. Subjective evidence is just that—subject to the thoughts, whims, and imaginations of those who make the claims.

There is a popular song that includes the thought, "I know that God is real, because I can feel Him in my heart." One may enjoy the song, one may even have a faith that makes him "feel" the reality of God within, but such is hardly an objective argument for intelligent faith. Logically the same argument from feelings could be made by an atheist for his not believing in God. The same applies to unprovable claims regarding the Holy Spirit.

It is ironic that some religionists argue for the existence of the Holy Spirit on the basis of supposed activities of the Spirit which actually contradict the way the Spirit is presented in the Bible. For example, some credit Him with causing inordinately emotional, even convulsive and uncontrollable experiences. But this is not the way the Bible describes the working of the Spirit. The point to be made is that experimental claims for the Spirit could hardly be valid if they portray a "Holy Spirit" that is different from the Holy Spirit revealed in the Bible.

To press the point, consider how absurd it would be if the evidence submitted for the existence of God or of Christ pointed to a different "God" or a different "Christ" than is shown to us in the Scriptures. It is likewise worse than useless for people to offer their experiences as proof of the working of the Spirit when those experiences indicate actions of the Spirit which are not in harmony with the way the Spirit is described in God's word. We believe in the Holy Spirit of the Bible.

Faith Comes by Hearing

We are familiar with Romans 10:17, but we may not have fully appreciated its implications. All aspects of Christian faith must originate in revelation from God. Hearing the word of God is not a way to become a believer; it is the only way. "These are written, that ye might believe" (Jn. 20:31).

There is certainly a legitimate place for the use of logic, scientific proofs, and other extra-biblical evidence in the defense and confirmation of faith and we sincerely appreciate those who have contributed so effectively to our understanding of external proofs. Still all such evidence must be seen as secondary to the witness of God's own revelation. Extra-biblical evidences serve as supportive and defensive apologetics, but they cannot begin to be sufficient apart from revelation.

We should also remember that the fact that arguments from either internal or external evidence are conclusive does not mean that everyone will be convinced. The reception of the evidence, regardless of how cogent, will still depend on the disposition of the hearers. (See Acts 13:46, 48; Heb. 4:2.) I believe in the Holy Spirit because I am willing to receive the testimony. One who is determined not to believe will not be convinced by any kind of proof. (See John 12:37 in contrast to John 3:2.)

Bible Evidence

We have said all of this to bring us back to the Bible as the only evidence we have regarding the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Spirit exists and that the Spirit guided the writing of the Bible (2 Pet. 1:21). We are convinced that the Spirit that is revealed in the Bible is the Spirit that gave us the Bible. The Bible is right because the Spirit produced it, and the Spirit is real because the Bible says He is.

Scoffers would doubtless react that such merely begs the question, that it is circular reasoning to argue that the Bible affirms the Spirit and that the Bible must be right because the Spirit inspired it. This objection, however, overlooks one essential factor—the unique nature of the sacred volume.

It is not within the scope of this article to examine the abundant evidence for the inspiration of the Scriptures. It is sufficient here simply to remind that the existence of the Bible cannot be adequately explained without recognition of supernatural influence. The Bible does exist and any explanation of its origin must be adequate to account for its unique features. H. Leo Boles observed: "A self-evidencing light attends all the books of the Bible.... Men could not have written them, they could as well have made the sun, or moon, or stars, or earth." The only adequate answer is that the Bible came from God. If, of course, it is a revelation from God, all its testimony must be true, including what it says about the Holy Spirit.

About forty men of varied backgrounds recorded the Scriptures over some 1500 years. How were they able to produce a collection of writings which combine to form an absolutely accurate and harmonious volume? Their work required a degree of genius that is unknown in any other men. But what was the source of this genius? It cannot be explained as innate intelligence because even if we could be convinced that one man would in his own mind possess such ability, it would still be incredulous to suggest that so many men in so many different circumstances would have such superhuman mind power, and that each would choose to apply their intelligence so as to produce separate flawless portions (in a variety of literary styles) of a work that would eventually combine all of these parts to reveal one central theme (redemption through Christ). Neither can external circumstances account for their insight. Instead there was a power at work in their minds; it was an invisible power; it was a supernatural power. It was the power of the Spirit of God which entered their hearts and guided their thoughts (2 Pet. 1:20f; Matt. 10:20; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Sam. 23:2; et al.).

Testimony of Christ

Evidence of the Holy Spirit is abundant throughout the Scriptures, but most significant is the testimony of Jesus Himself. The validity of this evidence must, of course, turn on whether one is convinced that Jesus is Divine. We are not herein arguing the case for Christ. What we do want to show, however, is that it is not consistently possible to believe in the Christ of the Bible without accepting what He says about the Spirit.

Our Savior's teaching about the Spirit are not incidental. He focus attention on the Spirit in many ways, but especially as the Comforter whose presence with the apostles would replace His own fleshly presence. In the great discourse of the betrayal night He affirms the Spirit's existence, the Spirit's personality, how the Spirit would be sent to them to guide them, and the Spirit's mission to exalt Christ (John 14:16f, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; et al.). To deny the Spirit would be to deny an essential doctrine taught by Christ Himself.

Self Revelation

We are able to perceive persons and things in the material universe by observation and examination. Spirit beings, however, transcend human senses. There is a world that cannot be seen by fleshly eyes (2 Cor. 4:18) and there are beings that are invisible (Heb. 11:27; 1 Tim. 6:16). The only way, therefore, for us to know the supernatural is for some arrangement to be made for a revelation to us. This is Paul's point in 1 Corinthians 2:9ff and he explains that the arrangement God has made is for communication by the Holy Spirit.

To a limited extent God reveals Himself through nature (Psa. 19:1f; Acts 14:17). Christ revealed Himself for a time through His body of flesh and we can consider the witness of those who saw Him (Acts 10:38ff; 1 John 1:1ff). But The Holy Spirit reveals Himself only through Scripture. He reveals Himself in the Bible as fully as it is possible for man to know Him.

The testimony of men about themselves may not be acceptable. We will believe it only if we are satisfied that it is true. We will first consider whether it is reasonable and whether it is impartial. The Spirit's self revelation is believable. By this we mean that there is nothing in how He presents Himself that offends either reason or sensibilities.

First consider that it is reasonable that the Spirit personality of the Godhead would be the one who would communicate with the spirits of men (that is, the men chosen to receive God's revelation). Whether one might imagine other methods for such communication or not, there is nothing objectionable or unreasonable in the idea of Spirit communicating with spirit. The Spirit's role as the agent of revelation is certainly believable (1 Cor. 2:10ff).

Further, the way the Spirit depicts Himself does not offend our sensibilities. Too often human self-portraits involve self-aggrandizement. This is not the case with the Spirit. He has given us a Book that makes Himself known to us, but always as the third person of the Godhead. "He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak... He shall glorify me" (John 16:13f). The Spirit gives supremacy to Christ and the Father, never to Himself.

By David R. Pharr Reprinted from The Spiritual Sword

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