The Spirit

 

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Exposition of The Spirit in Hebrews
   

"We can speak direct to God, and He can speak direct to us, not of necessity either through angelic ministration or by the Spirit-Word. How does He do it? How does He hear our prayers? By His Spirit, obviously. Gradually over the years, my views have mellowed."1

The implication in the above rather loosely worded statement is that God does speak directly to us today. The writer starts off by saying that God "can" and ends up with God "does". There is a world of difference between the two, and the writer to the Hebrews clearly defines this in his first two verses. Obviously God can, but He doesnít speak directly to us any more than we see angels today. Angels are "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" but they do not appear to us. They could but they donít and that is a major point. God has spoken in times past "by the prophets" and by His Son and through those who "were made partakers of the Holy Spirit", but He does not speak to us today. God has also kept silent in the past. This is seen not only in the fragmentary nature of the O.T. but also in the fact that the times during which He spoke have been followed by long periods of silence. Thankfully, during these long periods of silence, man was not left destitute, for Godís written Word was available. In the hearts of faithful men this word is "living and active"2 (RSV) and is able to create new men and women. So it matters not, therefore, if there be silence from heaven. We have the complete revelation.

"The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple" (Psalms 119:130).


1 from an "older brother", TEST, Vol. 43, P. 196.
2 Heb. 4:12, cf. John 6:63.

Hebrews 2:4
"God also bearing witness with them both by signs and wonders"

These signs were visible tokens or marks causing people to understand.

"and by various miracles"

Grk. dunamis = supernatural power. The primary purpose in the first century was not to alleviate distress and suffering, but to prove that the one performing the miracles spoke or wrote from God.

"and by gifts3 of the Holy Spirit according to His own will"

Gifts = distributions (mg) and is translated by "dividing" (4:12). God joined with the Apostles in the testimony of this great salvation by the distribution of His Spirit power among them. (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11; Acts 4:33, Gal. 3:5).


3 The ability to pass on gifts?
Hebrews 3:7
"Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says"

Paraphrased "in the very words of the Holy Spirit". The Psalm quotation (95:6-8) which follows, is the Spiritís utterance - through the prophet David - to Davidís contemporaries, (these Hebrews) and still, at a greater distance in time, to us. It is as authoritative, and as much a divine utterance as the audible voice at Sinai. That fact demonstrates the power of Paulís inspired writing; to the Hebrews and to us. (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 10:15-18).

In the Psalm, the pronoun "He" refers back to God. The source of the utterance from David and Paul was, therefore, God through the Holy Spirit.


Hebrews 4:12
"For the word1 of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit..."

The exhortation of v.11 is enforced by a reference to the power of the word of God and its effects. This word had come to them in the Gospel preached and in the oracles, which had been committed to and preserved by the Hebrews. It was completely effective to accomplish its purpose, and to condemn them for failure.

"word" is not here a title of Christ (as is wrongly assumed by some), but refers to the spoken and written gospel as is evident from the prior context and the following notes. The context is talking about the gospel:

v.2 - "good news . . . word"
v.6 - "good news . . . disobedience"
v. 11- "same . . . disobedience"
v.12- "word".

To see the word described similarly see 1 Peter 1:23, 25; Jer. 23:29; Isa. 40:8; 55:11; 59:21; Heb. 6:5; and Eph. 5:26.

"living" This has been illustrated by Paulís use of Davidís words in Psalm 95. In this Psalm God still speaks, for it is still "Today", and it will continue to be Godís message to men until "Today" reaches its close. It is "living" as a record that God has made, and kept, for our instruction to make us wise unto salvation. Paul says that Gen. 15:6 was not written for Abrahamís sake alone, but for us who believe (Rom. 4:23). If written for us, the word of God is not a dead "letter", as so many regard it, but it is a living message from God.

Stephen says that even the covenant received at Sinai were "living oracles" (Acts 7: 38). See also Matt. 24:35.

"active" - "powerful" (AV). The "word" is effective to perform that which God designed it to do. It will not return to Him void, but will accomplish its purpose. The word is both active and powerful. It is active in that it produces results and it is powerful in the amazing type of results that it produces.

"of his own will begat he us with the word of truth" (James 1:18).

". . . Ye received the word of God . . . which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thess. 2:13).

"sharper than a . . . sword" - the word of God is often likened to this instrument (Eph. 6:17; Rev. 1:16; 2:12).

"spirit" denotes that which is spiritual. cf. Jude 19, 1 Cor. 2:14. The word of God exposes the spiritual things in men. No other book lays so bare the human heart, for no author other than the author of the Scriptures knows unerringly all its hidden mazes.

"able to judge" "The word I spake is what will judge him in the last day." (John 12:48). A man may examine himself in an endeavor to know himself, but his results will be much quicker and more accurately reached if he is also a student of the word.


1 see Section F - "Word" for additional notes on this verse and a word study on "word".
Hebrews 6:4
"For in the case of those who have once been enlightened"

A person can only be enlightened once by the word of God. Those who had heard and understood the message proclaimed but rejected it could not expect to repent later and receive forgiveness.

"and have tasted of the heavenly gift"

It is difficult to know the exact meaning of this phrase. This gift (dorea) is sometimes tied to the Lord Jesus since it is claimed he 'was the "gift of God" for our salvation' (John 4:10)1. See exposition on that verse. Footnote2 below gives another viewpoint, which is consistent with the next phrase in this verse.

"and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit"

This was the possession of the power given by God through His Spirit for proclaiming the truth with signs following. This is what Peter promised in Acts 2:38 "ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Its association with dorea in the previous phrase cannot be evaded. This language indicates that the outpoural was almost universal among those of the ecclesia, since it included those who did leave the truth.


1 Hebrews Study Notes John Martin 1976, CSSS.
2 The argument on page 18 of HSABT, that because the New Testament uses the word 'gift' of other things that God has given, therefore the gift of the Holy Spirit cannot refer to the miraculous signs is a most eccentric piece of exposition. The fact remains that wherever the word 'gift' [i.e. dorea(n)] is used in connection with the Holy Spirit in the Acts and the Epistles a straightforward reading of the text will show that it always has to do with the miraculous powers (Acts 2:38; 8:20, 10:45; 11:17; Eph. 3:7; Heb. 6:4). The Holy Spirit and The Believer Today, A Reply, John Allfree, http://users.chariot.net.au/~aleck/Web_folder_AWC/HSABTareplyg3.HTML

Hebrews 6:5
"and have tasted of the good word of God"

To "taste" something is not to "eat with fulness". Perhaps this gives a clue as to the meaning of this phrase and the following. Two of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (which operated on a "tasting" basis) were the "word of wisdom" and the "word of knowledge". Perhaps to "taste of the word1 of God" means to receive and use these gifts. If one objects to that interpretation then he/she cannot escape the next phrase. This of course links contextually with the previous verse.

"and the powers of the age to come"

Those who had received Spirit gifts such as "miracles" and "healings", and who had exercised these gifts on certain occasions, but who still fell away were about as evil as a person could be. These gifts are more aptly termed "powers of the age to come", than perhaps such gifts as knowledge.


1 It should be noted that the Greek is rhema here whereas the gifts referred to is logos.

Hebrews 9:8
"The Holy Spirit is signifying this..."

Paraphrased "By this arrangement the Holy Spirit brings the fact to manís notice". We mark once more the authoritative position assigned to Mosesí writings. Paul says that God, through the Holy Spirit, arranged the structure and services of the tabernacle to have a signification. (cf. Gal. 3:8).


Hebrews 9:14
". . . Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself . . ."

Christ, though tempted like us, overcame sin. This perfect obedience is, we believe, expressed by the words "through the eternal spirit". Paul does not say "through the Holy Spirit", although he would have expected the use of those words had he meant them. Also there is no definite article in the Greek. Rotherhamís translates "through an age-abiding spirit". Several times in scripture1 the word "spirit" denotes amoral character developed in a person by their application to the principles of the word.

It is called "eternal" because it was of that perfect quality which has abiding worth and which qualifies for a permanent existence. That character was, therefore, made eternal by God.


1 see Romans 8; 1:4; Gal. 5:16 and Section F - "Spirit".
Hebrews 12:9
". . . shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?"

The word spirit contrasts with flesh, the natural body that we all possess by being born of human parents. The analogy suggests that spirit connotes that which is born of God. This is variously expressed in scripture.

"If any man be in Christ he is a new creature;"

"Of his own will begat he us with a word of truth;"

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit".

The formative agent employed by God is the word of the truth of the gospel, by which a new mental and moral being is brought into existence. This "new man" is the spirit, of which God is the Father1

The phrase Ďis applied to those only of mankind to whom God is related as a Father. Sinners have fathers of the flesh, but they have no Father of their spirits in the sense of the apostle... In order to have spirits of which God can or will acknowledge Himself to be the parent, they must be begotten of the Father according to His will by the word of truth, and then be born of water into His spiritual family. Then ... they will be recognized by the Judge of all as perfectly justified human spirits.í2 (cf. Num. 16:22; 27:16; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 22:6.)


1 J. Carter, The Letter to the Hebrews, TCM, P. 162.
2 J. Thomas, Apostasy Unveiled, P. 69.

Hebrews 12:22-24
"But you have come ...
to myriads of angels
to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and
to God, the judge of all and
to the spirits of righteous men made perfect3 and
to Jesus, the mediator ..."

This breaking of the verse into clauses enables us to see more clearly the various parties concerned. Also the "ecclesia of firstborns" is clearly a different group than "the spirits of righteous men".

The first probably refers to those in Israel who were faithful; the latter to those who had died "in Christ".

In actuality the spirits will not be made perfect until the granting of immortality at the Lordís return.

It is difficult to define precisely the meaning of "spirits" in this passage. "Lives" seems to be a fair approximation. In Heb. 12:9 the writer states: "Shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?" This verse appears to allude to Num. 16:22; 27:16. The intent of these references being that God is the giver of life, and therefore must be respected when He chastens or punishes. Therefore "spirits" refers to lives or characters of persons made perfect.

John Carterís comments are similar.
ĎThe word "spirits" carries the thought of ... v.9, and in this place can best be understood as "spirits even just men made perfect" - "of just men" being in apposition with "spirits"4.


3 see AWSA, P. 112.
4 CLTH, P. 171.