#4 - Commit to exploring the mystery and majesty of engagement with and empowerment by Ruach HaKodesh (The Holy Spirit)
When it comes to matters of our engagement with and empowerment by the Holy Spirit there are two problems that confront us, and both are in the realm of imagination, which is a tightrope we are obliged to travel in these matters, while seeking to avoid falling off to one side or the other.
On the one hand, we may fall off in the direction of too much imagination. There are those who attribute just about everything and all kinds of things to the Holy Spirit. And many of these imagined things are bizarre, solely imaginary, and raise false expectations of miracles every day, and double on week-ends. We must avoid falling off the tightrope of Holy Spirit imagination on the side of the overdeveloped imagination.
On the other hand, there are those with unstimulated, untaught, and undeveloped imaginations when it comes to the role of the Holy Spirit. These are people who expect little, who take no risks, and who rely upon pious theological constructs in their faith-sharing, without recognizing at all that it is the Spirit who does the heavy lifting and that the Spirit is richly present in the encounter. We have just been conditioned and even warned not to look for him. If so then, we fall off the tight rope on the side by succumbing to an underdeveloped imagination.
What is our solution? What we need is a repentant, informed, submissive, expectant, and hungry-thirsty Holy Spirit imagination.
There is so much that can be said about these matters, but we haven’t space to go into detail here, even though I have some extensive teaching materials on the subject.
However, for our current purposes let’s bear the following in mind. Scripture speaks of FOUR aspects of our relationship with the Spirit, all of which are central to our life with God this side of the resurrection.
1. The Spirit Prior - The Spirit was at work in our lives prior to our having any interest in the things of God. In fact, without our knowing this to be true, it was the Spirit that kindled our openness, curiosity, and even faith. See 1 Cor 12:13; John 6:44.
2. The Spirit Within – The Spirit is at work within everyone who trusts and follows Yeshua, everyone with Yeshua-faith. Some of the operations he performs are these:
3. The Spirit Upon - This is the Spirit’s equipping and empowering work. Although all Yeshua believers can equally attest to experiencing the Spirit prior and the Spirit within, the Spirit upon is an additional aspect of the Spirit’s mystery and majesty which should be constantly sought, but sadly, is missed by many. This is a category which we find repeatedly in the Older Testament, among special people, judges like Samson and Gideon, and prophets. Now that Yeshua has been raised from the dead and ascended to the Father, this kind of empowering spiritual infusion is available to all who will seek it and value it. It is the Spirit empowering us for service (see Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8, 10:38; Isaiah 61:1-2 and Lk 4:18-19).
It is here that we speak of being immersed in the Spirit, of receiving the Spirit, and of being filled with the Spirit, all terms for this infusion with power which the first disciples experienced, and which spread to others through the message that they preached.
This is why, for example, Paul can ask the Galatians “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?,” and could ask a group of disciples in Ephesus, ““Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” In each of these cases and more, receiving the Spirit was an experienced event—something to which people could answer “Yes” or “No” as to whether this had happened to them. Again, we are not speaking of a doctrine to be espoused but an empowering experience with God of which a person could say, "Yes, that happened to me," or, as in the case of the Ephesians, "I don't know what you are talking about."
4. The Spirit Among - The Spirit of God is active in a different manner whenever Yeshua’s people gather together for purposes of worship, remembrance of the Messiah, and for mutual upbuilding. Paul repeatedly uses the metaphor of a body to describe the people of God gathered in this manner. He will tell the Ephesians,
There is one body and one Spirit, just as when you were called you were called to one hope. And there is one Lord, one trust, one immersion, and one God, the Father of all, who rules over all, works through all and is in all.
This “one body” is the community gathered together, energized and gifted by the same Spirit. The one Lord is Yeshua himself, and God the Father rules over all, working through all and is in all—that is, in each of us who is part of the Body—the community gathered.
Paul explores this also in Romans 12, where he says, “For just as there are many parts that compose one body, but the parts don't all have the same function; so there are many of us, and in union with the Messiah we comprise one body, with each of us belonging to the others.”
Finally, he explores this further in 1 Cor 12-14, but especially in chapter 14. In each of these contexts he discusses what are known as “spiritual gifts,” which are divinely given capacities to contribute to the spiritual well-being of the gathered community. And in each case, it is the Spirit at work in the midst, among God’s people, that makes it all happen so that “the whole body is being fitted and held together by the support of every joint, with each part working to fulfill its function; this is how the body grows and builds itself up in love.”
The Spirit among is the communal modality of the working of the Spirit. The gifts that operate among us in this context are foretastes of the perfected well-being that will be ours in the Age to Come, of which we have been made citizens through our being joined to the Messiah and all he accomplished.
All of this is rather formidable. But if we are to deal honestly with the text of the Bible then we must commit to the need to explore, seek, and submit to these realities. We should always remember the words of Yeshua who told his disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I don't go away, the comforting Counselor will not come to you. However, if I do go, I will send him to you,” and who also said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being! (Now he said this about the Spirit, whom those who trusted in him were to receive later -- the Spirit had not yet been given, because Yeshua had not yet been glorified)”.
But now Yeshua has been glorified, that is, he has ascended to His Father after his triumphant resurrection. The Spirit has been given, has been poured out. Peter speaks of this dramatically on the Day of Shavuot when the first disciples received the Holy Spirit, saying, “God raised up this Yeshua! And we are all witnesses of it! "Moreover, he has been exalted to the right hand of God; has received from the Father what he promised, namely, the Ruach HaKodesh; and has poured out this gift, which you are both seeing and hearing . . . For the promise is for you, for your children, and for those far away - as many as ADONAI our God may call!"
Yeshua said he would send the Spirit, and indeed, with his resurrection and ascension, the Spirit has been poured out. The promise of this Spirit and all he brings is for us, for our children, for those far away (meaning even the Gentile nations) as many as ADONAI may call. This means you. This means me.
But the question remains: what are we going to do with it?
Meanwhile, be on the lookout for the following:
But just maybe you would rather learn how to swim.
(And if you want to talk about these things, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org)
___ Gal 3:2
Good job Stu. Leona and I approve. I know she is the one who really counts BUT I am the one who is from "the city." God's best!
Thank you Nick, and Leona. I know this is an area where you have deep experience and academic creds. I very much appreciate the commendation.
I'm just a tad disappointed that this fourth recommendation of yours toward maturity of discipleship under haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef offered so little guidance to Jewish disciples to understand HaShem's Spirit, which is His agency of interaction with the physical world. You offered virtually nothing from Tenach (very little info in Is.61), nothing from Torah and nothing even from Zohar where there is intricate speculation about the spiritual structure of HaShem's interaction with His creation. Whence do you suggest the apostolic writers obtained their views about the nature of HaShem's Spirit and the interactions described in the various verses you cited above? It seems to me that it is a mistake to approach this subject from the apostolic writings alone, like the proverbial tail wagging the dog. Unless you can root the apostolic verses in broader Jewish (let's suggest Pharisaic) understanding to provide a foundation for Jewish disciples, you are likely unable to provide needed guidance for gentile disciples either, and pre-positioning them to fall back on traditional Christian Charismatic misconceptions.
Now, I must apologize because I can't provide these answers either. I can only claim to have insight into questions that should lead to further study and theological development.
OBTW, for those whose perception of HaShem's Spirit is focused on His empowerment to speak in various languages or "tongues", either human or angelic ones, note that my prior comment does not ignore this aspect of His empowerment -- because I myself have been able to do so for the entirety of the past half-century, already -- but I do so rarely for the same reason as Rav Shaul emphasized in 1Cor.14:18-19 ... that in the assembly of the faithful I prefer to speak five words with my mind, so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
As it is, in my congregation in Jerusalem, I may need to offer those few words in both Hebrew and English, and they may need to be translated by others, for the benefit of others, into Russian, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, German, French or some other -- though most of these folks manage to understand at least a little Hebrew or English. Let him that thinks himself spiritually empowered come here to Jerusalem and try to keep up with that!
Thankfully, the traditional siddur we use for the bulk of our prayers is printed in both Hebrew and English (the Koren Siddur), enabling English speakers and many others to follow even "ten thousand words" in the Hebrew tongue. [:)] Thus does reduce somewhat the requirement for the "interpretation of tongues".
I found this to be a beautifully written summary of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the disciple. As I have written elsewhere, I am new to this ministry/blog and so I apologize if the following question has already been answered elsewhere and/or this the wrong place to post it, but here goes.
Just as I have come to understand the truth and centrality of the resurrection of Yeshua I have also come to the realization that the role of the Holy Spirit was not, and need not be, in opposition to Torah and observance, specifically as it is outlined in the halacha of the rabbis. (I speak here as a Jew.)
That said, I am curious as to what is meant, at the end of the day, by halacha for most Messianic Jews, including the author of this blog. For example, do you put on tallit and tefillin every morning? Do keep separate milk and meet dishes and wait 1, 3 or 6 hours (depending on Minhag) between milk and meat meals? Do you refrain from driving on Shabbos, use timers on your lights or leave them on for Shabbos/Yom tov? Do you daven three times a day with a minyan using the prescribed siddur?...I think the point is clear.
What is really meant by halacha and the authority of the rabbis in terms of the way it is actually (or should actually) be practiced in your opinion?
Shalom again, good David,
The questions you are asking are properly communal questions, not individualistic question. I am the founder of Messianic Jewish think tank, Hashivenu, which by in the kindness of God has been a productive seedbed of other initiatives due to the core principles which we sowed about through our annual theology forms. One of he initiatives that developed from these seeds is the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council. And one of the projects of that council has been and continues to be working out a responsible communal halacha to which we hold ourselves accountable.
To find our collective answer to your question, which again ought to be dealt with communally by responsible figures, as it is here, please see here (CLICK ON THE PREVIOUS WORD) and look under the "window shade" marked "Standards."
Thank you very much for your response and the link. I have looked it over thoroughly, though not exhaustively. It does help clarify your position regarding my initial question (asked elsewhere on this blog) as to what Yeshua meant by..."the Rabbi's sit in Moses' seat, therefore, whatever they bid you to do, that you should observe and do..." My position is that the rabbis (chazal and onward) have the authority to determine halacha for all Jews, including those who had come to regard Yeshua as the Messiah. - I had thought initially that this was your position as well, but after reading through the link, I guess that is not the case.
If it is ok for the messianic community to "pick and choose" so to speak which halacha of the rabbis they wish to follow, then it does not really seem to be the rabbi's who have the authority (sit in Moses' seat) if you will as much as it the MJRC.
I admit that the standards given adopt quite a few halakhos. However, how can you make rabbinic halakhos such as Mincha and Maariv optional and still claim an allegiance with the idea of rabbinic authority?
Moreover, maybe I missed it, but I saw no mention of either tefillin or mezuzos anywhere within the standards of the MJRC. Both are definitely considered mitzvos d'oraisa. If you (meaning the MJRC) interprets the references to these to be figurative, that's fine, but, again, I see know way to claim allegiance to the rabbinic authority who definitely does not.
Perhaps I need to broaden my view as to who is included under the umbrella of rabbinic authority today - conservative rabbis etc,
All this said, I want to make it clear that I have great respect for both your scholarship as well as what you are doing regarding getting the message out on a number of issues in which the Church has gotten things terribly wrong.
Thank you, David, for this comment. It seems to me that we have a difference of viewpoint here. You seem to present a view of rabbinic halacha as standardized, set in stone, a kind of take it or leave it affair. While this view is common, it is not true to the case. Halacha is a way of life, and this way of life is constantly being discussed and interpreted, and, as long as certain boundaries are respected, and as long as the discussion is respectful and informed, differences of opinion and interpretation are not only allowed: they are valued.
Not understanding this crucial reality is the main reason that most Christian interpreters err in seeing Yeshua differing with the authorities of his day and (in their wrong view) dismissing and overturning the proto-rabbis' interpretations. This is NOT what is happening. What is happening is that Yeshua having a very Jewish and rabbinic disagreement on interpretation. In disagreeing and proposing an alternative interpretation he is in fact demonstrating his high regard for Torah and halacha. He is playing by the in-culture rules.
Your assumption, as I outlined at the beginning of this comment, which I hope I represented accurately, is wrong-headed despite its long beard. Therefore your protest loses its force.
I apologize and stand corrected - I have continued to read the standards of the MJRC and spotted that you do mention laying tefillin and affixing mezzuzos.
Thank you for this word, David.