HOLY SPIRIT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

A BIBLICAL SCHOLAR Ronald Brownrigg in his book “Who’s Who” defines Holy Spirit saying “The Holy Spirit is the life and activity of God at work in the world of nature and also in and through people” (p. 257). Who is Holy Spirit for us? Here let us try to understand the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. The angel Gabriel speaks about the Holy Spirit to Virgin Mary in the annunciation, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God’s power will rest upon you”. (Lk 1: 35)

Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God which descended on Jesus at his baptism in river Jordan in “like a dove” (Mt 3: 16). As Jesus came out of the water, this Spirit led Jesus to go “into the desert” (Mk 1: 12). Jesus cast out devil with the help of this same Spirit (Mt 12: 28). Luke speaks about Holy Spirit as the power of God (Lk 11: 20).

John the Baptist said that, Jesus will baptize with “power and Holy Spirit” (Mt 3: 11). Jesus giving an idea of the Holy Spirit different from God the Father and the Son, gives his disciples the commandment: “Baptize … in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28: 19). Jesuit biblical scholar John L McKenzie says, “In whole New Testament this list of the three names gives personal identity of the Holy Spirit” (Dictionary of the Bible, p.842).

In the Old Testament the Spirit is not a person; the Spirit does not have individuality. McKenzie says that both in the Gospel according to Mathew and the Gospel according to Mark “The Spirit is generally the Old Testament Spirit applied to the person and the mission of Jesus” (p.843). Both in the Gospel of Mathew and of Mark the reference to the Spirit is rare. In the Gospel according to Luke the reference to the Spirit before the coming of the Holy Spirit applies to Jesus. “The Spirit of Lord is upon me. He has anointed me” (Lk 4: 18).

We get clear instruction on the Holy Spirit in the Gospel according to St John. During the Last Supper Jesus spoke to his disciples about sending an Advocate, the Holy Spirit which will always remain with the disciples (see Jn 14: 15-17).

Jesus says, “I have told you all this while I am still with you. From now on the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of all that I have told you” (Jn 14: 25-26).

As John tells us, on the Resurrection Sunday Jesus appeared to the disciples behind closed doors. “He breathed on them and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (J20; 22). Ronald Brownrigg says that according to Evangelist John the Spirit-filled life begins not on the fest of the first coming down of the Holy Spirit but on the day of the Resurrection” (Who’s Who the New Testament, p.25).

Luke has told us in the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles and other disciples had gathered together in one place and they received the Holy Spirit. “When the day of the Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak” (Acts 2: 1-4).

We see the influence or the presence of the Holy Spirit in all through the Acts of the Apostles. So in a way, we can say that the Acts of the Apostles is uniquely inspirited by the Holy Spirit. We may even call it the Acts of the Holy Spirit.

We see in the Acts of the Apostles and in his letters, St Paul’s life and mission is very much influenced and led by the Holy Spirit. About Paul’s call to mission Luke writes in the Acts, “While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul (Paul), to do the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13: 2).

Paul refers to the Holy Spirit often in his letters. He reminds the Christians more than once that the Holy Spirit dwells in each one. Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians, “Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God?” (1 Cor 6: 19).

In the whole world especially in the lives of the Apostles and disciples transforming changes take place under the influence of the Holy Spirit. They are able to speak about Jesus and his message boldly without any fear. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, with transforming changes in the lives of the Apostles and disciples the New Way is born.  Christianity was known at its birth as the New Way. The Spirit which was active in Jesus now become active in the Way, that is, in the lives of the followers of Jesus (see Acts 2: 1-6).

#

Changed on: 16-06-2019

Next Change: 01-07-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019