Spirituality and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit in the Gospels

The Second Person of the Trinity had a unique relationship with the world in the Old Testament before the Incarnation. He was the Creator of all things, the transfigured Angel of the LORD, the pillar of fire and cloud that guided Israel in the wilderness, the Shekinah Glory in the Tabernacle and Temple, and the coming Messiah-King. In the fullness of time, God entered this world as the God-Man; He was fully God and fully human. Without sin, He died on the cross as the sin substitute for the world. Our relationship with the Second Person is very different now than was in the Old Testament.

Thus, it should not be surprising that in the Gospels and the early Book of Acts we see mankind’s relationship with the Third Person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, has become more intimate. The Old Testament saw the Spirit upon or with someone for as long or brief as God’s purpose required. When God’s purpose ended, the Holy Spirit ceased His work or was removed. Today, in the Age of Grace, every believer has a permanent, abiding, indwelling relationship with the Holy Spirit of God

Lewis Sperry Chafer * explains the change of relationship with the Holy Spirit that we read in the Gospels: (More change is evident in the Book of Acts. The epistles explain how the believer is to live in light of this new and permanent relationship with God.)

“The essential character of the Spirit’s relation to men during the period of the Gospels is that of transition, or progression from the age-long relationships of the Old Testament to the final and abiding relationships in this dispensation of grace.

“The early instruction of the disciples had been in the Old Testament, and the statement from Christ that the Spirit might be had by asking (Luke 11:13) was so new to them that, so far as the record goes, they never asked. This new relationship, suggested by the statement, ‘How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him,’ characterized a forwarded step in the progressive relationship of the Spirit with men during the Gospel period.

“Just before His death Jesus said, ‘And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not neither knoweth him: but ye know him for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you’  (John 14:16, 17).

“After His resurrection, and just before His ascension, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said unto them, ‘Receive ye the Holy Spirit’ (John 29:22). They possessed the indwelling Spirit from that moment; but that relationship was evidently incomplete according to the plan and purpose of God, for He soon ‘commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which saith he, ye have heard of me’ (Acts 1:4, cf. Luke 24:29). The ‘promise of the Father’ was of the Spirit, but evidently concerning that yet unexperienced ministry of the Spirit coming ‘upon’ them for power.”


* He That is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918



Spirituality and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

As this title suggests, true biblical spirituality is the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirituality means living and walking in the sphere of the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit is what distinguishes an unsaved person from a saved person. As we’ve seen, being controlled by the Holy Spirit distinguishes a spiritual believer from a carnal (unspiritual) believer.

What is the function of the Holy Spirit in making a person spiritual? Without going into a theological study of the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology §) here is an outline for the next several posts:

1. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Sovereign movements of the Spirit

2. The Holy Spirit in the Gospels and early Book of Acts

A new relationship after Christ’s ascension

The Holy Spirit’s dramatic arrival

3. The Holy Spirit in the remainder of Acts and the Epistles

Seven ministries of the Holy Spirit in the Church Age

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament *

[In the Old Testament], “as in all the Scriptures, the Spirit of God is declared to be a Person, rather than an influence. He is revealed as being equal in deity and attributes with the other Persons of the Godhead. However, though ceaselessly active in all the centuries before the cross, it was not until after that great event that He became an abiding Presence in the hearts of men (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17). He often came upon people as revealed on the events which are recorded in the Old Testament. He came upon them to accomplish certain [objectives] and left them, when the work was done, as freely as He had come. So far as the [Old Testament] record goes, no person in that whole great period had any choice, or expected to have any choice, in the sovereign movements of the Spirit.

“Elijah and David are sometimes thought to be exceptions. It is not at all clear that Elisha’s request to Elijah, ‘let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me,’ was, in the mind of the young man Elisha, a prayer for the Spirit of God (II Kings 2:9). David did pray that the Spirit should not be taken from him; but this was in connection with his great sin. His prayer was that the Spirit should not depart because of his sin (Psalm 51:11). His confession was before God and the occasion was removed.

During the period covered by the Old Testament, the Spirit was related to men in a sovereign way. In the light of subsequent revelation in the New Testament the prayer of David, ‘and take not they Holy Spirit from me,’ cannot reasonably be made now. The Spirit has come to abide.”


§ Systematic Theology–Volume VI, Pneumatology, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1947

 “John 15:26 – When the Comforter Comes,” Sermon by Pastor James Delany, Salem Bible Church, Salem, NH. https://www.sermonaudio.com/solo/salembiblenh/sermons/9521231975522/

* He That is Spiritual, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918


The Carnal Christian (Part 2)

Introduction to the Master-Slave Analogy

Romans 6:16-23

The Apostle Paul uses an analogy to illustrate the daily conflict between the sin nature and the new nature in the believer. In Romans chapter six he explains the believer will have victory over the sin nature when he “reckons” or considers himself dead to the sin nature such that the sin nature no longer has dominion over him (Romans 6:11). As we saw in Part 1 of this series, the carnal believer is the one who yields or succumbs to the impulses of his sin nature and not the leading of  his new nature in Christ. Paul’s divinely inspired analogy helps us understand how it is possible to direct our inclination from sin to our new life in Christ.

Renald Showers* introduces the analogy this way: “In Romans 6:6, 16-29, 22 he asserts that people are slaves either to sin, impurity, lawlessness or to righteousness, obedience, and God. In Romans 6:14 he refers to sin as a master.” Quoting John Murray’s commentary on the book of Romans Showers says this of Paul’s analogy: “He describes the condition of unbelievers as slavery to sin and he also describes the state of believers as bondservice to righteousness. The institution of slavery, well-known to his readers, is the medium through which he expresses the truth. In using this analogy drawn from the sphere of human relations he speaks after the manner of men.

“The key idea in the word that Paul uses for “master” is that of a legal position of authority. Thus, when Paul speaks of a master in Romans 6, he is thinking of one who holds a legal position of authority over a slave. A legal position of authority gives the master the right to dominate or control every aspect of the slave’s total being.

“In Paul’s day the key idea in the word that he uses for “slave” was this: the will of the slave is to be subject to the will of the master. Alongside the will and the commission of the master there is no place for one’s own will or initiative. Thus, when Paul speaks of a slave in Romans 6, he is thinking of one who has a position of subjection in which his will is not to be self-governing. This means that the slave is obligated to render complete obedience to the dictates of the master.”

Is the Christian obligated to do whatever his sin nature demands? Is the Christian a slave to his sin nature? Our sin nature is a demanding master who constantly pushes us to do his will. Sometimes it feels impossible to resist his relentless demands on us. What to do about this?

Romans 6-8 has the answer. Next…


The New Nature, by Renald E. Showers, 1986


The Carnal Christian (Part 1)

The New Creation, the New Nature, the New Man


The Flesh, the Sin Nature, , the Old Man


Some believers read what their Bible says about the carnal Christian and think that they can lose their salvation and revert back to who they were before they were saved. That is not what the Bible teaches. They worry about flip-flopping back and forth between saved and unsaved and grow confused and discouraged.

Other believers are excited in their new salvation but then face discouragement when they sin and it seems that they have digressed back to their old lives. They rightly confess their sins and receive God’s forgiveness (I John 1:9) only to find that they sin again! The cycle repeats itself and sometimes they slide into more discouragement and even depression.

God’s plan in the Bible is that we learn to have victory over sin in our Christian lives and grow (mature) as spiritual Christians. The Bible calls this sanctification. This is God’s plan for spiritual maturity (I Thessalonians 4:3; II Thessalonians 2:13-14; Ephesians 1:4; 2:10; Philippians 1:6; I Timothy 4:5 Hebrews 10:10). More on these verses in future posts.


The following excerpt about of the two natures of the believer is from Balancing the Christian Life, by Charles C. Ryrie.


“The moment one accepts Jesus Christ as his personal Savior he becomes a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17). The life of God within him begets a new nature which remains with him along with the old as long as he lives. Understanding the presence, position and relationship of the old and new within the life of the believer is essential to experiencing a wholesome and balanced spiritual life.

“…everyone born into this world is a sinner because of the sin nature with which he is born. We sin by nature… and this nature produces all kinds of sinful acts (Ephesians 2:3).

“Sometimes the sin nature is referred to as the flesh. Actually, the word flesh has several meanings:

  • Sometimes it simply means the material body of a person (I Corinthians 15:39);

  • Often it indicates people as a whole (Romans 3:20);

  • But frequently it is used in Scripture to indicate the sin nature (Romans 7:18).

“What does it mean when used in this [latter] way? To answer this question it is necessary to find a satisfactory definition of the word nature. Too often when people think of the sin nature and the new nature they picture two distinct people who live inside their bodies. One is a grisly, horrifying, degenerated man while the other is a handsome, young, victorious-looking man. Representations like this are not necessarily to be discarded entirely though they often lead to the idea that it is not really ‘I’ who do these things but that ‘little man’ inside me. In other words, they often lead to a false disjuncture in the individual personality.”

[Another misconception that Ryrie does not address in this passage is the idea that our sin nature is totally replaced by our new nature when we are saved. The notion that our sin nature is gone (some say eradicated) is totally refuted by chapters six through eight in the apostle’s letter to the Romans which we will explain later in this series. MFV]

“It is far better to define nature in terms of a capacity. [Note—Some theologians use the word potential.] Thus the old nature of the flesh is that capacity which all men have to serve and please self. Or one might say that it is a capacity to leave God out of one’s life. It would not be inclusive enough to define the sin nature in terms of a capacity to do evil, because it is more than that. There are many things which are not necessarily in themselves evil but which stem from the old nature. They simply are things which leave God out. The flesh, then, is that old capacity which all men have to live lives which exclude God. In the Christian the flesh is that same capacity to leave God out of his life and actions.

“The sin nature is also called the old man (Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9). This phrase seems to emphasize the source of the capacity to glorify self instead of God; that is, it takes us back to Adam from whom we all receive our sin natures.

“The new nature comes from God Himself (II Peter 1:4). Paul calls it the new man in contrast to the old man (Ephesians 4:22-25). There is a very close relationship between the new nature and the power of the Holy Spirit. ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) and there is constant conflict between the two capacities (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:15-25; 8:6).

[Speaking of this conflict between our two natures—between the old and the new—Ryrie draws a careful distinction between the capacity to sin (or to not sin) and the act of the sin itself. An immoral act, according to the Scriptures, is obviously not sourced in the new nature. Ryrie speaks here of so-called amoral actions.]

“…the same action might belong to either nature. Recreation, for instance, is not an evil thing in itself. And yet it might be engaged in as an evidence of the old capacity when it leaves God out; and it may on another occasion be a very important part of one’s spiritual life. What distinguishes the old from the new is not necessarily the action itself, but the use of it. Indeed, probably the majority of things we do in daily living could be from either capacity and therefore could appear to come from either nature. Still, it is ‘I’ in taking each action who determines from which nature is comes. And, it is ‘I’ and not half of me, who performs the action, for ‘I’ decide and take the action in my daily life. Recognizing this dual capacity in every single believer, it is also important to understand that each facet of the Christian’s personality can be involved in actions which stem from either the old nor the new natures.”


Balancing the Christian Life, by Charles C. Ryrie, 1969

[Next time we’ll look at a Biblical analogy in the book of Romans that illustrates the conflict between our two natures. MFV]


The Spiritual (Regenerated) Man

“…having been born again,

not of corruptible seed but incorruptible,

through the word of God

which lives and abides forever”

I Peter 1:23 NKJV

In the previous post we looked at who the “natural man” is according to God’s Word. There is another category of person who the Bible says is regenerated,  or born again. The Gospel of John Chapter three is one of the clearest explanations in the Bible of what the new birth is. Here is an interesting dialogue between Jesus and a learned Pharisee named Nicodemus who wanted to know more about Jesus’ teaching:

Jesus answered and said to [Nicodemus], “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”


Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”


Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  


“Nicodemus answered and said unto him, ‘How can these things be?’”


“Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?’” John 3:3-10 NKJV

Jesus expressed amazement that a learned Pharisee and teacher of the Scripture like Nicodemus did not understand the new birth. One of several Old Testament passages he would know:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Spiritual regeneration is the marked difference between the spiritual man and the natural man. The change in the natural person is an inner, spiritual transformation that can only be done by the Spirit of God. God changes the sinner’s natural, spiritually dead heart (a “heart of stone”) of the first birth into an new, spiritually alive heart (a “heart of flesh”) of the second birth.

People say, “You have to have faith!” without saying what it is we’re supposed to have faith in. The content of faith is critical. Faith is belief or trust in something or someone. The dialog between Jesus and Nicodemus continues with this explanation by the Apostle John about salvation by faith:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

Eternal life is the result of the new birth to those who, by faith, are, “…born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13).


The Natural Man

“But the natural man

receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God:

for they are foolishness unto him:

neither can he know them,

because they are spiritually discerned.”

1 Corinthians 2:14

“Paul uses the word natural to refer to someone still in his original (sinful) state. The Greek word psuchikos (“natural”) can be defined as “animal,” as opposed to “spiritual.” Natural men are those who are occupied with the things of this material world to the exclusion of the things of God. They are led by instinct rather than by the Spirit of God. They intuitively choose sin over righteousness. They are the people Jesus refers to in Matthew 6:32 who only seek after the things of this world.

“The supernatural work of God is to change the natural man into a spiritual one. When a person trusts Christ, God exchanges what is natural (received from Adam) for what is spiritual (received from Christ). ‘As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). The Christian life is, therefore, a supernatural one.” *


God’s categorical estimation of all mankind

in every time, place, civilization

“…every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5b).

“There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7: 20).

“We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6).


“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

“…dead in trespasses and sins … and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Ephesians 2:1,3).

“…without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12b).

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18).

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:3,4).

“It was this divine estimate of humanity, described by the words ‘lost,’ ‘perish,’ ‘condemned,’ ‘under the wrath of God‘, ‘blind,’ in the powers of darkness, ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ which brought the Savior from heaven to earth. It was this dark picture that impelled Him to give His life a ransom for many. His saving work was a practical accomplishment. It has provided every needed cure that could be demanded by the infinite purity and holiness of God.” **

The natural man is a person (man, woman, or child) who does not know God in a personal way even though they may be religious and know a lot about God. They have congenital spiritual blindness that prevents them from ‘seeing’ the God of the Bible. Even the suggestion that there is such a thing as spiritual life is dismissed as foolishness. They see only the physical, material world around them and are convinced that there is nothing else. That is why Jesus said: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” and “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:3, 7).


* https://www.gotquestions.org/natural-man.html

** Salvation, by Lewis Sperry Chafer


Three Groups of Humanity *

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:25

“There is an obvious difference in the character and quality of the daily life of Christians. This difference is acknowledged in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul, by the Spirit, has divided the whole human family into three groups:

  • The natural man who is unregenerate, or unchanged spiritually;

  • The carnal man who is a ‘babe in Christ’ and walks ‘as a man’;

  • The spiritual man

“These groups are classified by the Apostle according to their ability to understand and receive a certain body of Truth, which is of things revealed unto us by the [Holy] Spirit. Men are vitally different one from the other as regards the fact of the new birth and the life of power and blessing; but their classification is made evident by their attitude toward things revealed.

“Men are classified according to their ability to receivethe deep things of God’ (I Corinthians 2:10). Into these ‘deep things of God’ no unaided man can go. An unaided man may enter freely into the things of his fellow man because of ‘the spirit of man which is in him.’

“…divine revelation is transmitted to us in words which the Holy Spirit teaches, as the Apostle goes on to state: ‘Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual’ (I Corinthians 2:13). God’s Book is a Book of words and the very words which convey ‘man’s wisdom’ are used to convey things which ‘eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man’ (I Corinthians 2:9).

“Nevertheless, unaided man cannot understand these ‘deep things of God,’ though couched in words most familiar to man, except as they are revealed by the Spirit. Just so, in coming to know these revealed things, progress is made only as one spiritual thing is compared with another spiritual thing. Spiritual things must be communicated by spiritual means. Apart from the Spirit there can be no spiritual understanding.”


* He That is Spiritual, Chapter 1, by Lewis Sperry Chafer, 1918


Genuine and Balanced Spirituality*


“By the word genuine I mean biblical, for only in the Bible do we have truth that is indisputably reliable. For this reason, the Bible must be the guide and test for all or our experiences to the spiritual life, for biblical spirituality is the only genuine spirituality. The practical importance of this is simply that all experiences of the spiritual life must be tested by biblical truth, and if any experience, no matter how real it may have been, fails to pass that test, it must be discarded. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but it is the only road to genuine or biblical spirituality.

“A second key word is the word…balanced. There is nothing more devastating to the practice of spiritual living than an imbalance. One of my former teachers repeatedly reminded us that an imbalance in theology was the same as doctrinal insanity. The same applies to the realm of Christian living. Too much emphasis on the mystical may obscure the practicality of spiritual living…

In Ryrie’s introduction to the subject of spirituality, he comments on the word spiritual in the New Testament. “…(the word) has a rather wide range of uses, all of which are consistent with the basic idea pertaining to spirit.

  • Demonic hosts are called spirit beings as distinct from human beings (Ephesians 6:12);

  • The Mosaic Law is called spiritual (Romans 7:14);

  • The future resurrected body of the believer is termed a spiritual body in contrast to the natural, mortal body which he has until death (I Corinthians 15:44);

  • A rather large range of activities and relationships of the believer are called spiritual:

    1. The exercise of spiritual gifts bestowed on the believer by the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11; I Corinthians 12:1; 14:1);

    2. The unity of all Christians likened to stones of a building called a spiritual house (I Peter 2:5);

    3. The Israelites’ manna in the desert is called spiritual food and Christ is called a spiritual “Rock” in the desert (I Corinthians 10:3-4);

    4. The Christian’s vocal praise to God is called songs, hymns, and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16);

    5. The believer’s mind is to be filled with spiritual wisdom (Colossians 1:9);

    6. The believer’s position in the heavenlies is blessed with all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3);

  • The most distinctive use of the word spiritual in the New Testament is regarding the believer’s spiritual growth and maturing in his Christian life. To be truly spiritual, a person must experience the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit by giving him new life in Jesus Christ.” The Apostle Paul contrasts the spiritual man with the natural man (I Corinthians 2:14-15), who, having not the Holy Spirit, is an unregenerated individual (cf. Jude 19) lacking life—spiritual life.

The spiritual man and the natural man are worth explaining in subsequent posts.


* Balancing the Christian Life, Chapter 1, by Charles Ryrie


Biblical Spirituality in 2022

This post begins a new study of Biblical Spirituality. Please check here from time to time for short installments on what the Bible says about being “spiritual” and how to live a spiritual life—the kind of life that God wants every Christian to live.

Living a God-honoring spiritual life is not easy. I heard the story of a boy who saved up to buy very expensive ice hockey skates—the kind worn by the pros. He learned that those expensive skates didn’t make him a better skater than he’d been with his old skates. The lesson is that you can have the best skates in the world, but if you reject instruction, regular training, and practice, you’ll be a mediocre hockey player.

God has given every believer the equipment we need to live godly spiritual life. (According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: II Peter 1:3.)  Like the kid who bought expensive skates, we also need to avail ourselves of instruction, training, and practice with the spiritual tools God gave us:

  • The indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide—if we will listen to Him.
  • Jesus Christ is with us every step of the way—we need to stay close to Him.
  • The Bible has timeless, practical instruction for daily living—if we read it and obey it.

So what is needed for us to use that treasure chest of equipment that God has given us?

Answers to that and other important questions are ahead in 2022!


Recommended references:

He that is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer

Balancing the Christian Life by Charles Ryrie

The New Nature by Renald Showers

Hope for 2022!

My expectation for 2022 is that the LORD will return soon!

“Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20b

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying,

Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,

and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people,

and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;

and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,

neither shall there be any more pain:

for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:3-4