The Divinity of the Holy Spirit
(Acts 4-5, Titus 3)
Introduction: Last week we examined Bible texts revealing that the Holy Spirit takes the lead role in our relationship with God. Consider your insurance company. I think about God the Father as the CEO who is running the overall business. Jesus is in charge of reconciling the risks with the company's assets and investments. The Holy Spirit is our personal insurance agent, the one we deal with most. This is a crude comparison, and it understates the fact that the Trinity is One. But, my crude analogy places the Holy Spirit where I think He belongs, as the primary interface with us. You should have noticed that I've assumed in these lessons that the Holy Spirit is God. Let's plunge into the Bible and explore texts that place the Holy Spirit in the Trinity!
- Ananias: Ignoring the Power of the Holy Spirit
- Read Acts 4:32. This is a very unusual time in the history of God's followers. The Old Testament has much to say about private property. But, in this small window of time the new Christians did not claim their private property rights. Why do you think this happened? (The text says that "all the believers were one in heart and mind." This translated into being "one" when it came to personal property as well.)
- Would you do this kind of thing? What do you think motivated this "oneness?" (Read Acts 4:31. This is the result of a powerful in-filling of the Holy Spirit.)
- Let's explore the background of this remarkable attitude. Read Acts 4:29-30. Peter and John make this prayer. What are they requesting? (The power to heal and perform miracles in the name of Jesus.)
- Now, re-read Acts 4:31. Who provides the power to act in the name of Jesus? (The Holy Spirit.)
- What does this say about the divinity of the Holy Spirit? (He provides the power of God in the physical absence of Jesus.)
- Why was the meeting place "shaken?" (This is typical of what we see of God in the Old Testament, He gets our attention!)
- Read Acts 4:36-37. What does this tell us about the way that the new believers shared their property. Did they simply hand their money over to the first person they saw who was a believer? (This account of the gift of Barnabas suggests that the leaders of the Church distributed the money.)
- Read Acts 5:1-5. What is the sin here? Is it failing to share with others? Is it keeping a portion of the sale price? Is it is lying about the nature of his gift?
- Why do you think Ananias and Sapphira did this? (Religious pride. They wanted to appear to be as generous as Barnabas and the others who were giving their property.)
- Notice that Acts 5:1 refers to them selling "a piece of property." Like Barnabas, this does not seem to be a sale of all of their possessions. If you sell just one piece of property, and give most of it to the Church, that does not seem like such a sin. Specifically, nothing I recall in the Old Testament indicates that giving too little warrants stoning. Why is this treated as such a terrible sin?
- Let's look at this more deeply. Re-read Acts 5:3. Peter says that Ananias "lied to the Holy Spirit." Doesn't the Holy Spirit know everything, including our thoughts? If so, can we "lie" to the Holy Spirit? (We know people who lie to us even when we know the truth. The Holy Spirit is the power of God in Peter, the Church leader. Thus, Ananias is trying to mislead a Church leader about the extent of his devotion.)
- Isn't this something that we do all the time? We try to make fellow church members and leaders think we are more holy than we are? We try to appear more devoted than we are? Is that the reason why Ananais died?
- Let's look at this in a different light. The text says that "Satan ... filled your heart." Ananias represents that the Holy Spirit is filling his heart, when in fact it is Satan. Is that the reason for this action being worthy of death? (We know the opposite is worthy of death - attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. See Matthew 12:31-32.)
- Re-read Acts 5:4. What does Peter teach us about the place of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity? (Peter calls lying to the Holy Spirit ( Acts 5:3) lying to God! Peter in unambiguous about the Holy Spirit being God.)
- If Peter understood exactly what he said, that the Holy Spirit is God, why not simply say that Ananias lied to God? (It is precisely because the Holy Spirit is not taking a secondary role. He is not "behind the scenes." Instead, the Holy Spirit is front and center and Peter understands this. The Holy Spirit is now the primary interface between the Trinity and humanity.)
- What does it tell us about Ananias that he thought it was possible to lie to the Holy Spirit and the Spirit-filled Peter? (It shows that Ananias did not believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the middle of this huge display of the power of the Holy Spirit, you have Ananias and his wife who do not believe, and worse, are filled with Satan.)
- Let's pause a moment to consider a related issue. In our conversation about the Holy Spirit being God, does Satan have God's ability to be present everywhere at once - "omnipresent?" If so, this undercuts the proof that the Holy Spirit is God. Is Satan, like the Holy Spirit, omnipresent? ( Job 1:6-7 tells us that Satan goes different places, thus he is not omnipresent. Matthew 4:3 refers to Satan coming to Jesus. James 4:7 tells us that Satan will "flee" us. On the other hand, Luke 22:3-4 is like Acts 5:3 and refers to Satan entering a person. Mark 1:23-27 refers to Jesus casting out an "evil spirit." Thus, while Satan can only be in one place at one time, both he and his fallen angels can appear in the form of a spirit in one place.)
- Read Acts 5:7-11. Notice that Peter states her sin a bit differently. Instead of saying that she "lied" to the Holy Spirit, he says she "agree[d] to test the Spirit of the Lord." What test did Ananias and Sapphira give to the Holy Spirit? (Since Peter just asked her to confirm the sale price of the land, it must have been whether the Holy Spirit would know of this deceit. If the Holy Spirit does not have supernatural powers, it would not know.)
- Notice that Acts 5:9 calls the Holy Spirit "The Spirit of the Lord." What does this teach us about whether the Holy Spirit is God? (How can the "Spirit" of God be anything other than God? But, more to the point of the story, the death of this couple is directly related to their failure to believe that God would know of their deceit. The controversy is over the power of God. The point of this story is that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, knows everything we do, and if we fail to understand this we are in deep trouble.)
- The Role of the Holy Spirit
- Read 1 Corinthians 2:10-13. If you only considered this text, what level of importance would you give to the Holy Spirit? (This says that the Holy Spirit "knows the thoughts of God" just as your spirit knows your thoughts. I understand my "spirit" to be what I'm thinking, not the meat that is my brain. My thoughts are the essence of who I am. Thus, the Holy Spirit is clearly God, for this text says that He is the essence of God.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 2:16. What tremendous advantage do we have as Christians? (The Holy Spirit dwelling in us gives us the mind of God! Astonishing.)
- Read Titus 3:1-2. What does Paul want Titus to promote among the new Christians?
- Read Titus 3:3. How had these people started out? (Just the opposite.)
- Read Titus 3:4-6. How is the Holy Spirit "poured out" through Jesus? (Read John 16:7-10. Jesus came to earth, won the victory over sin, and returned to heaven. Because of that, the "Counselor" (the Holy Spirit) came to us to convict us of sin and grace and right actions.)
- What was the Holy Spirit doing before Jesus' victory? (Read Psalms 139:7-10. We must not underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit now or in the past. We see in this text that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, and He was working with King David before Jesus became a human and won the victory over sin.)
- Friend, it is a huge error to underestimate the nature and power of the Holy Spirit. As we saw in this lesson, it can get you killed! On the other hand, understanding the Holy Spirit and letting Him live in you gives you the mind of God. Will you invite the power of the Holy Spirit into your life?
- Next week: The Personality of the Holy Spirit.