The Spirit

 

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Exposition of The Spirit in 1 & 2 Thessalonians
   

These letters were the outcome of Paul's first expedition into European territory, in which Paul was the subject of very particular and direct guidance of the Holy Spirit.

They were "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia" (Acts 16:6). "And a vision appeared to Paul . . . a certain man . . . saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us'" (v. 9).

Paul was moved by this vision to go to Macedonia. This resulted in the gospel being preached at Thessalonica. Paul used the gift of miracles to give the people much assurance that he spoke the words of the Lord. This caused them to receive the word in much affliction. They were then given the Holy Spirit (4:8) which in turn enabled them to prophesy and to discern the spirits (5:20,21). However, it seems that some did not like the messages, which came by the gift of prophecy and wanted to "quench the Spirit" (5:19).


1 Thess. 1:5,6
"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance . . . and ye became followers . . . of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit."

PROBLEM:

It is claimed by some that:
  1. the gospel is:
        (1) the word and
        (2) the Holy Spirit
  2. a person who accepts the gospel receives (directly from God) joy, which is one of the "fruits of the Spiritl."

SOLUTION:

    1. The verse is describing how the gospel came to the Thessalonians. Paul is not describing what the gospel is. This is an important point and eliminates the problem A. above.

    2. Paul's letter to the Corinthians is clearer.
      "My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." (1 Cor. 2:4). Paul spoke and he demonstrated that he had the Spirit to prove that he was speaking the word of God.

    3. The gospel came in:     "word" - what Paul spoke.     "power"- the regenerating influence these words had on them.     "Holy Spirit" - by means of miracles the Apostles were able to demonstrate that the words they spoke were from God.     "assurance"- the confidence the missionaries manifested in their message.
    1. "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith ...1" but these are not received directly from God in the form of the Spirit. They are the products of a person who "walks in the Spirit" and are the opposite of the works of the flesh. A person walks in the Spirit by obeying the word of God, thereby conforming his character to that of the Creator.

    2. The RSV and the NASB margin translate the phrase

      "with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit".

      The idea here is that the Holy Spirit - indirectly through the gospel caused the joy. It was the gospel which caused the Thessalonians joy and that Gospel was revealed to the Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit2.

    3. Joy and suffering in the Truth are inseparable. Suffering generally produces the attitude of joy. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials" (James 1:2).

      "Sorrowing yet always rejoicing" (2 Cor. 6:10).

      "In much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy" (2 Cor. 8:2).

      "Jesus ... who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross" (Heb. 12:2).

    4. The written word of the Spirit can convey that same joy to us as did the spoken word in Paul's day.

1 Gal. 5:22.
2 By a common figure Metonymy where the cause is put for the result.

1 Thess. 4:8
"God ... hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit."

PROBLEM:

It is claimed that this verse can apply to us today.

SOLUTION:

  1. Paul was writing specifically to the Thessalonians in about AD 52 from Athens. While these letters were written for our edification not all things therein apply to us.

    i.e. We are not "ensamples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia" (1:7).
          We are not persecuted by the Jews of "Judaea" (1 Thess. 2:14,15).

  2. Paul had the Holy Spirit and no doubt some at Thessalonica did also but these manifestations of the Spirit were limited to the first century and were not in evidence since that period because they accomplished their purpose.1

  3. The emphasis is that those who ignored Paul's teaching were despising not Paul but God, because Paul spoke by the Holy Spirit. The word "us" probably refers to Paul, Silvanus and Timothy (1:1).

1 cf. Section B - "Outpouring Limited and Special".
1 Thess. 5:19
"Quench not the Spirit; despise not prophesyings."

PROBLEM:

This passage is grasped at by those who claim to have the Holy Spirit in an effort to point out that those who do not accept their claims are in fact disobeying scripture by trying to suppress such (false) claims.

SOLUTION:

  1. The power must be there before it can be quenched. It was in Paul's day but it is not now1.

  2. The "Spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets"2 and could be restrained by them3 as Jeremiah could restrain the Holy Spirit4 (but not comfortably).

    The Thessalonians proposed to extinguish the false by suppressing all manifestations of the Spirit. But this deprived them of needed ministrations of the true. Paul counselled them not to do this - but to test all teachers and to retain the good (v. 21). The punctuation of the RV shows that v. 19 - 22 are all one statement dealing with one subject.

"And may your spirit and soul and body be preserved..."
  1. It is likely that in this passage "spirit" means "mind" and "soul" means "life". The expression is, therefore, synonymous with the whole person. Consider the following:
    1. Spirit, soul and body are synonymous with the whole person since the preceding words

      "and the very God of peace sanctify you wholly"

      imply a parallelism between the two expressions.

    2. The word "spirit" is used elsewhere by the Apostle Paul as synonymous with the mind:
      1. "For I verily, as absent in body but present in spirit" (1 Cor. 5:3).
      2. "That ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind…" (Phil. 1:27).
      3. See also 1 Cor. 7:34; 2 C or. 7:1.

  2. A corpse is a body without life. An idiot is a body with a soul (life) but only with an improperly functioning spirit (mind).*

1 Where is the claimant of the Holy Spirit who can prophesy today? This is the gift that was being quenched as is evident from the second part of the verse. 2 1 Cor. 14:32. 3 "If a revelation is made to another sitting by let the first be silent". (1 Cor. 14:30, RSV). 4 "His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary of bearing" (20:9). PHI renders pneuma by "mind". * AWSA, P. 111.
2 Thess. 2:2
"neither by spirit"

This means 'neither by one coming to you claiming to be endowed with the Holy Spirit gifts of authority'. It is parallel to the idea "deceitful spirits" in 1 Tim. 4:1 and, the same thing as is mentioned in 1 John 4:1-3.

These liars claimed "that the day of Christ was at hand". Paul demonstrates that these "spirits" were false because there must be a "falling away first and a manifestation of the man of sin". The "spirits" teaching was false just as their claims to having the spirit were. Today it is the same. False claims accompany false teaching.


2 Thess. 2:8
"That Wicked… whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth" (AV).

Through the Spirit gift of miracles of judgement all that needs to be said is the word and the prophecy of Isaiah 11:4

"with the spirit* of his lips shall He slay the wicked"

will be enacted. It is interesting to see how Paul, by the Spirit, opens up that prophecy here.


See Section D - "Miracles" (of judgement)
* The word in Heb. is ruach (Y).

2 Thess. 2:13
"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth."

PROBLEM:

This verse is sometimes connected with 1 Peter 1:21 to try to demonstrate that we "possess the Spirit".

SOLUTION:

  1. We can see the obvious bias in the AV translation by comparing different translations.
    1. "of spirit" (RSV margin)
    2. "in sanctification of spirit and belief of truth" (Diaglott, ROTH)
    3. "by sanctification of spirit" (MARS)
    4. "by the consecration of your spirit and by faith in the Truth." (MOFF)
    5. "in sanctification of spirit (NASB margin)
    6. "in holiness of the spirit2"
    The Greek, "en hagiasmo pneumatos" literally translated, reads, "in sanctification of spirit".

  2. Peter and Paul penned the same phrase exactly "in sanctification of spirit3" so the context and general teaching must decide the issue.
    1. The following structure will demonstrate the meaning.
    FOLLOWERS OF THE LAWLESS ONE THE CHOSEN OF GOD
    1. Believed the lie (11)
    2. Had pleasure in unrighteousness (12)
    3. Received from God a working of error - their natural punishment (11)
    4. were doomed to perish (10)
    In belief of the truth (13)
    in sanctification of spirit (mind) (13)
    "called by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory."(14)
    "were chosen to salvation" (13)
    1. This could be restated as follows:
      1. The apostle shows how salvation is to be secured.
        1. Holiness of life - "sanctification of spirit."
        2. Christian faith -"in belief of the truth."
        In other words (but altering the order) - right faith and practice.

      2. He implies that there is the possibility of a fall from grace. He exhorts them in 2 Thess. 2:15:
        1. to "stand fast" (to hold their ground as regards their whole Christian attitude and life.)
        2. to "hold the traditions" taught by word or epistle.
        Again, faith and practice.

      3. He prays that they may "continue in the present state of salvation, (present tense) that God will 'stablish' them."
        1. "in every good word."
        2. "and work."
        Once more - Faith ("Word") and Practice ("Work")4

  3. What Paul is saying is that God has chosen them for salvation - and then Paul cites the way the choice operates:
    1. through sanctification of spirit in the development of holiness of mind, and
    2. belief of the truth by which they were cleansed from erroneous ideas5.

  4. Even non-Christadelphians accept the idea above.
    1. i.e. Moffatt says " 'of the Spirit' may be either
      1. wrought by the (holy) Spirit or
      2. of the spirit (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23, 2 Cor. 7:1) as of the heart.

      The absence of the article is not decisive against the former rendering, but the latter is more probable in view of the context; the process of belief involves a love of the truth and a belief in it (i.e. in the true gospel) which is opposed to religious delusions6"

    2. "This salvation… has its human conditions: in sanctification of spirit and faith in the truth. God chooses none to salvation apart from these qualifications7."

    3. "It seems best to take the two phrases as parallel, both expressing not the divine activity but the human response8."

  5. The Greek words translated "belief of truth" are unquestionably ... genitive of the object9. The proximity of the phrase "sanctification of spirit" is such that it ought to be understood similarly10. "Spirit" would then refer to the state or condition of the believers.

    This is demonstrated by the following

    1. "belief of the truth"
      subjective: belief the truth has for us.
      objective : belief we have towards the truth.
    2. "in sanctification of spirit"
      subjective:sanctification effected by the Spirit
      objective:sanctification of the (human) spirit or towards the spirit.

    Obviously A cannot be subjective. It is most improbable that two adjacent Grk. phrases of apparently similar construction are to be interpreted differently.


1 cf. notes on this verse.
2 Concordant Literal New Testament
3 This conclusion is strengthened in view of the suggestion that Silvanus assisted Paul to write 2 Thess. and Peter to compose 1 Peter.
4 A Hall, The Epistles to the Thessalonians 1 and 2
5 J. Carter, TCM, Vol. 92, P. 449
6 James Moffatt, EXPO, P. 50
7 Findley, CBSC (1908), P. 155.
8 Professor Beare quoted in TCM, Vol. 94, P. 5.
9 TCM, W. L. Bedwell, Vol. 94, P. 5.
10 Findley