“You must have the Holy Spirit to understand the Bible,” is a statement I have made many times, not always with those exact words, but always making the same point. However, there has been and is now a divide over what it means to have the Holy Spirit and when does one get or come to have the Holy Spirit. There is also debate over who is baptized in, with or by the Holy Spirit, whether baptism in the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) is necessary for one to be able to hear the Holy Spirit, and who is able to receive revelations of understanding of the Word from the Holy Spirit?
If you are eager to engage in a discussion, or perhaps an argument, over these or some other issues concerning the Holy Spirit, you’re going to be disappointed with this article. I’m not interested in any of those cerebral word battles. I do believe that it is necessary for those in the body of Christ to have a solid understanding of these, as well as other, foundational doctrines. I just don’t care to become embroiled in the current debate. These matters are argued back and forth, and back and forth again, and there seems to be no end in sight to the bickering. The usual result of these “discussions” is that the parties become offended, and this leads to bitterness, resentment, condemnation and ultimately division. Continuing the dispute in this manner will only result in a deepening of the divide. My position not to engage in arguments over differences of opinion on Biblical doctrine does not stem from a lack of desire for answers. Rather, I choose not to engage in these debates until the ground rules are changed to a form that has a serious potential for a peaceful resolution, resulting in less division not more. The only way I see that happening is for everyone who truly desires sound answers to be humble enough to recognize that it is not our job to explain the Bible. That function has be expressly allocated to the Holy Spirit. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13) So it is not for us, but rather the Holy Spirit who is to explain all of the inner meanings of the Bible, and that includes all of those doctrinal issues we love to argue over. Therefore, the way all doctrinal differences are to be resolved, is for us to cease from arguing, and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to us. Of course, this requires that all who claim to be members of the body of Christ actually have the Holy Spirit abiding within them.
As far as understanding the Bible goes, while I’m not interested in a theological debate, I am very much concerned with the reality of a person having the Holy Spirit residing within them. Debates about how and when and who are filled with the Spirit can rage on for the next thousand years, but that will not change the fact that you must actually have the Holy Spirit within if you are going to understand the Bible.
Why Is This Important To You?
It is critical for you to know without a shadow of a doubt that the Holy Spirit resides within you if you want to understand the Bible, which by default is to understand the nature and ways of God, His direction and purpose for your life as well as for the congregation with which you fellowship. Can you be certain of having the Holy Spirit, and if so, how? The answers are in the Bible.
One of the ways things are hidden in the Bible is that the same thing is referred to differently in the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament has a lot to say about repentance. For example, Peter said to the crowd of Jews on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) That sounds like a pretty clear and straightforward directive. The first thing you must do to receive the Holy Spirit is repent. But what does it mean to repent? Repentance is not talked about much today as a means to being born again, being saved or coming to salvation. Repentance has been replaced with a variety of methods for becoming a member of the body of Christ. These are diverse practices ranging from infant baptism to saying a prayer with a preacher on TV. Rather than concern ourselves with these exercises, let’s focus on the word repent and what it means.
The Greek word translated as repent in Acts 2:38 is metanoeō. The short definition of this word is to change your mind and purpose. It carries with it the idea that the change is always for the better, and denotes a change of moral thought and reflection; not merely to repent of, nor to forsake sin, but to change your mind and apprehensions regarding it; hence, to repent in a moral and religious sense, with the feeling of remorse and sorrow. When you repent you are changing your mind, but from what and to what is your mind being changed? Since we are talking about a word in the Bible, we can be certain the change has to do with God. Therefore, to repent is to completely change your mind about God … from disbelief to belief … from rejection to acceptance … from self-reliance to faith. I said it was a complete change, and nothing less will do. You must come to believe with every fiber of your being.
This change of mind is actually a return to God. You were born into a fallen world and its sin, but you were not so created. God created you in His image and likeness. Thus to change your mind from disbelief and rejection of God to belief and acceptance is to return to Him … to His image and likeness as you were originally created. Hence the goal of the Christian life is to be united with Him.
The idea of unity with God is inherent in the meaning of repentance. The concept of image and likeness is related to covenant, and covenant is the means by which two become one, and this is true unity. You can find an in-depth discussion in Sections 5 through 12 under the Bible Training Center menu heading at the top of this page.
Repentance in the Old Testament
The Old Testament also speaks of repentance, but it does so with different words. Jeremiah 24:7 says, “I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.” Other verses speak of returning with all your heart and all your soul. In other words, it is a complete changing of your heart and mind … your entire frame of reference or worldview. To return to the Lord with all your heart and soul is to completely turn away from all of the desires and dependence of your own selfish beliefs to a whole new way of thinking and being … it’s a mindset in unity with the ways, the mind and the will of God. In other words, to become one with God in all of the desires of your heart, all of the thoughts of your mind, and all of your behavior. That’s covenant unity. That’s repentance. That’s being born again.
The Requirement is All
The critical ingredient of repentance is that the change is total. That means that after you repent there is nothing remaining within you that longs or yearns for the life from which you’ve turned. As a repentant person you have, like David, become a person after God’s heart. And also like David, you may occasionally do some thing from your former life, but these things are not your desire. Rather you despise the old ways and long for none of them. Paul explained it this way:
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.
16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good.
17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.
20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. (Romans 7:14-20)
Paul is not making an excuse for sin. He’s telling you that his body and the old sin nature, what he calls his flesh, sometimes causes him to do something that is not consistent with the new person he became when he repented. In fact, he says he now hates those things. And because he hates them, he knows that he would not willingly and knowingly do them, so he concludes that they do not come from him, but rather from the sin that is still a part of his flesh. He goes on to say:
21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good.
22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,
23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:21-23)
Paul is saying that as far as his spiritual being is concerned he is 100 percent united with God. But his body still has passions and desires that try to control his behavior, and sometimes the flesh succeeds.
A Total Spiritual Makeover
Therefore, repentance involves a total spiritual change in your makeup … that is your heart and soul are totally transformed. When you repent, your spiritual being is made new, and the spiritual part of you that was once the home of Satan is now the home of the Holy Spirit. In other words, when you repent, you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, as Peter said in Acts 2:38.
Therefore, it is not necessary to study theology to find out if you have repented and received the Holy Spirit. You simply search your heart and soul to see if, like Paul, you “joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man.” If you do, all of your desire will be for the ways of God, to know more and more of Him, and to grow more and more like Him every day. Your conduct will flow from that position, and the fruit of the Spirit will be your normal pattern of behavior. Then you, too, will hate the things the flesh sometimes causes you to do. If this is the case for you, then you have indeed repented, and therefore have actually received “the gift of the Holy Spirit” … not because of a theological theory, but because of the Word of God.
You should know this. Many have thought they have repented, but they’ve followed a religious practice and haven’t returned with their whole heart and soul. These individuals believe they have the Holy Spirit, and they believe they receive revelations of understanding from the Holy Spirit, but it is not the Holy Spirit guiding and teaching them.
Please be certain of your repentance.
Once you know you’ve repented, you can be assured that you have received the Holy Spirit, and that He is speaking to you … revealing the mysteries of the kingdom of God to you … and if you look and listen closely with your spiritual eyes and ears, you will learn to know His voice … and He will speak to you in a very special, personal way. He is your teacher for life.