Holy Spirit at Work in Scripture

We are continuing our message series The Holy Spirit at Work and today’s message is entitled the Holy Spirit at work in Scripture.

It’s common to hear in church that God speaks to us through the Bible- well at least I hope you’re hearing that! In the most basic way we believe that God spoke to people in the past and they wrote it down and so God speaks to us through what he said to them.

And it is up to us to figure out how this helps us in our faith today. That would be the least spiritual explanation of the process. In fact, it leaves the Holy Spirit out completely.

As Brent Hudson notes

Sadly though, that is what most people think when they consider reading the Bible. Often what we leave out is that it requires the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so we actually hear what God is saying.

That is the idea I want to talk about today. In Systematic Theology, this is called the doctrine of Illumination. It’s when God turns the lights on inside our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit so that we can see things as he sees them.

Specifically, the doctrine of illumination relates to that ministry of the Holy Spirit that helps the believer understand the truth of Scripture. In relation to the Bible, the doctrine of revelation relates to the unveiling of truth in the material of the Scriptures; inspiration concerns the method by which the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture; and illumination refers to the ministry of the Spirit by which the meaning of Scripture is made clear to the believer…ultimately it is the Spirit who is the direct connection between the mind of God as revealed in the Scriptures and the mind of the believer seeking to understand the Scriptures.

Spiritually speaking what people often struggle with is that they are spiritually blind and deaf in regards to hearing God…we need to God’s Spirit at work in us so that we can see and hear from God. We need illumination!!

In the Old Testament a certain farmer-turned-prophet was called Amos.  He wrote that God was alive and well but no one was paying attention.

“…The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.” (Amos 1:2, NIV)

Have you ever heard a lion roar? If you have or haven’t we find a sound effect of a lion…take a listen? PLAY TRACK God is meant to be heard…but often it is our disobedience that causes us to be deaf…

As Brent Hudson points out 

Israel was living in disobedience to God. They did not hear God but it was not because God wasn’t speaking.  In fact, he was roaring as a lion from Zion and 130 kilometers away the grasses on the top of Mt. Carmel withered. God was speaking but God’s people were oblivious to it. 

God is speaking. Are you listening?

For Amos, God was in the Jerusalem Temple and it was in the Temple that his word — the Torah — was being read on a daily basis. There was this connection between God’s presence, his word, and the roaring voice. Peter explains this connection more fully.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19–21, NIV)

If we could take the words of Peter and put it in simpler terms, it would look like this:

This would be the inspiration part of the process.  It is why we believe the bible is important for us and why we need to read it.  It is more than just remembrances of great stories from the past — although it is partly that.  It is more than just the reflections of spiritual people from the past — although is partly that.  Partly, but more.  It is in fact much more, it is God-breathed. Just as God breathed into Adam and gave him life in Gen 2.7, God breathed into people his Spirit who carried them along as they wrote down what they heard.

Our teaching pastor, Brent Hudson, made the point that every linguist knows that words are the clunky part of communication.  Listen to his words on this:

I remember when I read a book on Greek Semantics and J.P. Louw wrote: “words do not have meanings, rather, meanings have words.”   He went on to say that’s why we can communicate the same meaning in different languages.  The human thought is the same — the meaning is the same — the expression of that meaning takes all kinds of forms.  

For example think about idiom: wise sayings that said in a figurative way that is natural to native speakers of a language

At the drop of a hat –
Meaning: without any hesitation; instantly.

Back to the drawing board
Meaning: When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.

The ball is in your court
Meaning: It is up to you to make the next decision or step

Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: Looking in the wrong place. Accusing the wrong person

You can see from those that the connection between words and meaning is arbitrary and yet the connection is real.

In the sci-fi show Star Trek there was this device called a transporter.  Basically it turned matter into energy then they would beam that energy to another place and convert it back into matter.  It is Sci-Fi fantasy — but really we do a similar thing every time we communicate to each other.  We convert our thoughts into words so we can communicate those thoughts to others.  When they hear our words, they decode the words back into meaning or thought.  This is the same process for the Bible — God’s thoughts encoded into words that human beings can understand.  That is how we understand the Bible.  

We believe this is the truth of the Scriptures — they are God breathed ideas in human words. Grasping the the meaning of God’s Words is something that Paul helps us understand 1Cor 2:

11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (1 Corinthians 2:11–13, NIV)

Paul here is describing the Spirit’s work of illumination…let me give you another theological  definition that unpacks this –

God reveals knowledge of himself through the Holy Spirit, who brings understanding of God to the hearts and minds of believers. Illumination refers to the divine enlightening of the mind to grasp the beauty of God’s being and the meaning of God’s Word. The gospel brings us to an encounter with God’s Word and God’s Spirit, and in that encounter we are not only informed but also illuminated….Think of this: if God has spoken, he needs to ensure that it is heard and understood. After all, if God speaks and if no one understands it, has there really been a revelation from God?  God’s speaking is only effective through the Holy Spirit to provide people with a transformed awareness of God.


“… it is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scripture that makes Scripture authoritative, it is the Spirit’s continuing work in bringing understanding to the reader of Scripture that makes Scripture an effective medium of divine revelation.” – M. Bird

Whereas it is the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scripture that makes Scripture authoritative, it is the Spirit’s continuing work in bringing understanding to the reader of Scripture that makes Scripture an effective medium of divine revelation.

The spiritual process of reading scriptures then would look like this:  


Hearing God speak is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible.  We want God to speak to us clearly.  We want God’s wisdom and God’s direction.  We want a connection with God.

Let me quote Brent again:

What Paul is speaking of is both profound and mysterious. God’s Spirit is at work in us communicating God’s thoughts and heart in a way that human words cannot fully encode.  The Holy Spirit creates a frame of reference for us so we can understand what the Bible is saying.  He “turns the lights on” so to speak.  He ‘illuminates’ our minds and our hearts.

As a teenager, I thought I understood the word love – but now that I am married and a parent – I realize that I really didn’t fully understand.  Experience has taught me what those words mean in a way the dictionary just cannot convey.  That’s just human experience.  The Holy Spirit does the same kind of thing helping us understand God’s message to us in human language.

That is why reading the Scriptures must start with prayer – where we place ourselves before scripture and let the Spirit of God beam into our souls hearts and mind the meaning, truth, mercy and grace of God.

Speak O Lord – for your servant is listening…


We are going to practice an ancient way of letting the Spirit Speak in God’s Word

Lectio Divinia – Divine Reading – is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.

Ephesians 2:8-10 – 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

4 times I will read it

  1. Listen – what word gets louder for you
  2. Touch – how does this word touch you
  3. Invite – what are you invited to do or be or cease
  4. Rest – in this word



The Holy Spirit at Work in Faith

This message was preached by Brent Hudson at River of Life MB Church May 7, 2017

We are beginning a new series today called The Holy Spirit at Work.  Normally Dave would come up with a really cool title for our series but we don’t often teach on the Holy Spirit and sometimes being plain brings clarity. Sure “High Impact” or “Shattered” might be more exciting and make a really cool poster — but it would be hard to know if the series was about the Spirit at work or seatbelt safety.  Or maybe Dave just wanted to remind people what they get when “Boring Brent” comes up with a title. In either case, we will be looking at the work of the Holy Spirit and we are excited about this series.

Let me start with a quote from N.T. Wright:

The Spirit is given so that we ordinary mortals can become, in a measure, what Jesus himself was: part of God’s future arriving in the present…(Tom Wright, Simply Christian (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2006), 105).

Let’s hear that again: “part of God’s future arriving in the present; a place where heaven and earth meet…”  And this in you and in me.  In everyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ, God ultimate goal is to make his future arrive in the present in us.  That is a big project. It is, in fact, the greatest feat of engineering this world has ever seen: to change men and women who are self-interested and sinful into people who are set apart for God and filled with both his goodness and his love.  You can’t take a course and that happen.  You can’t take a pill and that happen.  It takes a power beyond this world — beyond human will — to bring about that kind of change.

Today we look at the Holy Spirit at work in Faith.  What is the connection between our faith in Jesus Christ and what the Holy Spirit is doing.  It is a close connection, of course.  In Philippians 1:19, the Apostle Paul calls the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of Jesus Christ”.  This one of the great mysteries of the Trinity.  Father, Son, & Holy Spirit — three in one.  One God, three persons in perfect communion, perfect agreement, perfect unity.  What Jesus desire, the Spirit desire. What the Father desires, the Spirit desires — there is no division of intent or purpose — just unity in community . . .three in One.  And so as we look at the Holy Spirit, it might be helpful for us to think in terms of the Spirit of Jesus — that the Spirit loves us as Jesus does. That the Spirit power is Jesus’ power — the power to raise from death and bring new life.  And that is where we begin, but first let’s look at our Scripture for today, taken from Paul’s letter to Titus.

4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
(Titus 3:4-7, NLT)

When a person places their faith in Jesus Christ, Paul exclaims: “new creation”!  Certainly a decision on our part cannot make that kind of cosmic event happen. This is the Holy Spirit at work in Faith.  

1. Holy Spirit sets in motion our life with God

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is start something. I’ve dreamt up lots of things. Things that would take a hundred times more than I could ever do in a lifetime.  I even get excited about the idea of doing things. . .of making an impact. The hard part is not having an idea or dreaming a dream. . .the hard part is setting it in motion. Of converting thought into reality.  

We know that is true with our salvation as well.  It was all well and good that the Father loved us but it required him to send his Son into this world of flesh and blood.  It was well and good for the Son to want to show us a different way — to lead us in the ways of God’s Kingdom. . .but it required him to pay a debt we owed because we were unable to pay it ourselves. He had to go to the cross.  It is well and good for the Spirit of Jesus to desire transformation in our lives and to eagerly pursue the ways of God.  But the we are dead in our tresspasses and sins.  We are dead to all the realities of God that make life beautiful and wonderous.  We are captivated by a thousand things and God is not one of them. We are dead.  

The very first work of God in the life of every believer is a great awakening.  God’s Spirit turns the lights on in our hearts.  We may not think that is big deal but it is.  

When I worked at a youth centre in Albert years ago, one of the activities we did was spelunking.  We went inside a cavern and explored a bat cave, literally.  I remember bats flying around me.  I remember the tight squeeze into the cave.  I remember the incredible temperature difference between outside in inside the cave.  But what I remember more than anything else was that there was absolutely no light in that cave.  You could sit there for an hour and your eyes would not adjust. There was nothing to adjust to in fact.  I remember holding my hand to the tip of my nose and not seeing a single thing.  We brought flashlights and extra batteries. But when the other ‘smaller’ leader took the kids into the final part of the cave it turned off my light to conserve power.  I sat there and heard the flutter of wings but could see absolutely nothing.  I know there are some here who have experienced similar darkness. You know what I’m talking about.  

The bible uses lots of metaphors to describe our condition without Christ.  Death, darkness, hopelessness, lost.  It is the Holy Spirit who reaches into that condition of being separated from God and sets in motion life in Christ.  We are not in the dark when we believe in the light of the world.  

One of the main things the Spirit does in our world is to turn the lights on and help people to see Christ for who he is.  Jesus said: “The Spirit will come and show the people of this world the truth about sin…(John 16:8, CEV)  More than that, Jesus said “he will guide us into all the truth” (v.12).

There is no way a spiritual corpse can experience spiritual life — first we must become spiritually alive.  The very fact that we can experience eternal life and life in Jesus is because of the Holy Spirit at work.  

2. The Holy Spirit pulls heaven and earth together in us.

I started with a quote from N.T. Wright but I ended it early and I would like to read it again, this time the entire quote.   

The Spirit is given so that we ordinary mortals can become, in a measure, what Jesus himself was: part of God’s future arriving in the present; a place where heaven and earth meet; the means of God’s kingdom going ahead. The Spirit is given, in fact, so that the church can share in the life and continuing work of Jesus himself, now that he has gone into God’s dimension—that is, heaven. (Tom Wright, Simply Christian (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2006), 105.)

When Paul talks about this he calls it “New Creation”.  Richard Hays captures the amazing depth of Paul’s statement.  We want to say “they are a new creation” but that is not at all what Paul is talking about. Listen to Hays:

Paul is not merely talking about an individual’s subjective experience of renewal through conversion; rather, for Paul, ktisis (“creation”) refers to the whole created order (cf. Rom. 8:18–25). He is proclaiming the apocalyptic message that through the cross God has nullified the kosmos of sin and death and brought a new kosmos into being.

That might seem complicated or overly theological — but you can’t escape the fact that this is big!  God’s purpose in us is not related just to religious ideas or economic choices, career options or how to raise our children — although it definitely includes all of those things it is something profoundly bigger than all of that.  As Hays points out, there is a cosmic scale to the work that God is doing.  The Work of the Holy Spirit.  When Paul writes to Titus and says that God is …giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5b), he is describing the beginning and on-going reality of God’s work in us.  It is a new life.  New Creation. It is a foretaste of what is to come — heaven and earth coming together.  That is grand vision of John in the book of Revelation — and Paul declares that starts now when we put our faith in Jesus.  

New birth.  New life.  New creation.  “God’s future arriving in the present; a place where heaven and earth meet” (Wright)

3. The Holy Spirit allows us to experience God’s love

When we think of all that God is doing in people’s lives it demonstrates afresh the amazing grace and love of God in Christ. Just consider that rather famous passage in Galatians where Paul speaks about the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life. It kind of unfortunate that we pull that out of its context and focus on it alone because Paul is contrasting about how God’s Spirit in us produces certain character outcomes just as sin in us produces certain character qualities.  He sets up a contrast of these two realities — flesh and Spirit — because they are always struggling against each other inside of us.  We do not get to a place where the fight is not happening — it just happens in different ways.  I love the NLT translation of Galatians 5:16-17 because it captures the heart of the Greek text in compelling English:

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. (Galatians 5:16–17, NLT)

Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Church in NY City puts it this way:

Everyone has a war within themselves. We all want to live according to a high moral code, but none of us can meet the demands of our moral code. The reason for this is that inside of ourselves there is a desire for evil as well as a desire for good. Therefore, none of us can win the battle. But the battle changes when we become a Christian. The deepest parts of ourselves change so that for the first time our most inner being delights in the law of God. We move from a battle we cannot win to a battle in the Spirit of Christ we cannot lose. (Timothy Keller – Sermon THE WAR BETWEEN OURSELVES)

Yet even though we cannot lose, the fight continues.  But here is the part that changes everything.  The Spirit is not just helping us to will and to do what is righteous and good. The Spirit opens our very being to experience the love of God.  Not just as a concept but as a full-orbed human experience of God’s love and acceptance. God makes it personal to us. It is not just words and theology.  It is not just ideas and concepts.  God’s Spirit lives in us.  And because he lives in Paul says:

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Romans 8:16, NIV)

That is as personal as it gets. God communicates his acceptance and love for us internally by his Spirit communicating with our spirit. Do we understand all this that this entails? No! Of course not, but it is clear that this is intensely personal and intimate.  We are people who experience alienation in our own families and at work — people feel alone and rejected in various ways and it is a burden to bear.  But God has placed his Spirit in us not as some impersonal force for good but to speak to our spirit.  He communicates God’s love to us that words alone cannot do.  Hearing someone say: “I love you” is a beautiful experience — but embracing one another in support and love ramps it up a notch.

The world of the mind and reason becomes tangible in an embrace. God shows us his love in that he sent his Son (1Jn 3:16) but our experience of that love, the tangible embrace, is his Spirit’s work in us. By the Spirit of Jesus, our experience of God becomes profoundly personal but also it is a shared experience with all of God’s people.  

The battle of flesh and Spirit continues but we know the battle has already been won in Christ.  With all of this in mind, let’s go back to our opening Scripture passage.

4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.
(Titus 3:4-7, NLT)

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we are reminded that we are indeed God’s children. As we consider the bread and the cup, we are reminded of God’s embrace for his Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are His children.