From the Comments: Clarifying “Spirit” in Acts, Part 2

HolySpirit7Reader Robert asked for a more complete explanation of the Spirit’s work in Acts. Sometimes the Spirit comes at baptism, sometimes before, sometimes after, and sometimes entirely separate. Sometimes there are miraculous gifts, sometimes not. How does this all fit together?

Robert (continued),

The H. Leo Boles/J. W. McGarvey theory of “measures” of the Spirit is simply wrong — and unnecessarily complicates something that is very simple. We make it so complicated that only an “expert” trained in a preacher school can explain it — taking it out of the hands of those who just have Bibles and concordances. But it’s simple.

The “measure” theory comes from the Jewish idiom found in —

(Jn. 3:34 ESV) For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

The NET Bible translators explain,

Grk “for not by measure does he give the Spirit” (an idiom). Leviticus Rabbah 15:2 states: “The Holy Spirit rested on the prophets by measure.” Jesus is contrasted to this. The Spirit rests upon him without measure.

“Measure” refers to an amount, not a kind. Two cups and one cup measure differently. Water and flour differ, not by measure but by kind. The rabbis said that the prophets had differing amounts of the Spirit — not kinds of Spirit. This doubtlessly goes back to —

(2 Ki. 2:9 NET) When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of the prophetic spirit that energizes you.”

In some sense, some prophets have a greater measure (amount) of the Spirit. A similar concept is found in —

(Eph. 5:18-21 ESV) 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It’s more common in the NT to speak of differing degrees of being “filled” with the Spirit. Obviously, if I’m to be “filled with the Spirit” I can be not fully filled — right?

It’s the same Spirit — but the Spirit gives differing gifts. Some Christians are more influenced by the Spirit than others. Some are so influenced that their very words are God-breathed and their writings are scripture.

Some are so influenced they can see Jesus in heaven as they’re being stoned to death.

Some are so influenced that they address one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. That’s what the text says. We ignore it, but that’s it says. “Addressing” in Eph 5:19 is a participle modifying “be filled.” It says what happens if you’re truly filled with the Spirit.

And so we worry about a cappella (furthest thing from Paul’s mind when he wrote this passage) when he’s really talking about being filled (another water metaphor!) with the Spirit — so much so that we sing!! It’s not a command to sing. It’s a command to be filled with the Spirit — so that we’ll sing.

When we try singing while denying the Spirit in us, we violate this passage. It’s not the presence of guitars that concerns Paul. It’s the absence of the filling with the Spirit.


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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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4 Responses to From the Comments: Clarifying “Spirit” in Acts, Part 2

  1. Jim H says:

    The prepositional placement of the Spirit, e.g., “on/upon” vs. “in/within” are interesting to think about. In the OT, we see the Spirit primarily “on/upon”, seemingly externally moving individuals to carry out God’s will, and the Spirit can be taken away, as in Saul’s example, and David’s prayer that God not take away his Spirit from him. In the NT we see the Spirit placed “in/within” the beliver causing internal transformative movement to accomplish God’s purposes, and the Spirit is spoken of as being “qui chef or resisted” rather than taken away from the believer.

  2. ROBERT says:

    JIM H,

    I want to hear more about this prepositional placement of the Spirit. Is this scriptural (found in Scripture or based off of historical based evidence? I’m am interested! Thanks so much for posting. This sounds like it is close to what I had concluded while reading scripture. Feel free to give me more info regarding this idea.

  3. Jay Gregory says:

    Jay – I’ve noticed tgat you haven’t spoken of “the fruit” of the Spirit. (Gakatians 5:22-23 & John 15:1-9) Is that planned for a future post?

  4. Ray Downen says:

    Should we all realize that some people are not musically gifted. Some people simply cannot sing. I can’t play musical instruments. I can sing. We have differing gifts. Gifts come from God. We should use our gifts FOR God. Most people CAN sing and surely should sing about Jesus and love and especially about God’s love. Much of present “singing” in some of our churches is not singing at all. It’s not even chanting. It’s inventing new “tunes” (which all seem to sound alike, and repeating and repeating and repeating the same phrases) to words Christians shouldn’t be using at all, including one which is a prayer to the Holy Spirit.

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