Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is the Holy Spirit a person?

Many people find the Holy Spirit confusing. Is the Holy Spirit a force, a person, or something else? What does the Bible teach?

The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person. First, every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is “he” not “it.” The original Greek language of the New Testament is explicit in confirming the person of the Holy Spirit. The word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter and would naturally take neuter pronouns to have grammatical agreement. Yet, in many cases, masculine pronouns are found (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13-14). Grammatically, there is no other way to understand the pronouns of the New Testament related to the Holy Spirit—He is referred to as a “He,” as a person.

Matthew 28:19 teaches us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a collective reference to one Triune God. Also, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3). We are to obey Him (Acts 10:19–21) and honor Him (Psalm 51:11).

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.

The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.

And the personhood of the Holy Spirit is affirmed by His role as the third Person of the Godhead. Only a being who is equal to God (Matthew 28:19) and possesses the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality could be defined as God.

In Acts 5:3–4, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as God, stating, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Paul likewise referred to the Holy Spirit as God in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, stating, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is a person, as Scripture makes clear. As such, He is to be revered as God and serves in perfect unity with Father and Son to lead us in our spiritual lives.

"Does war with Syria have anything to do with the end times?

As civil war rages in Syria and other nations ponder potential involvement, some Bible teachers believe we can see biblical end-times prophecy unfolding right before our eyes. The Middle East is a religious-political powder keg and has been for years, but the Syrian Crisis seems to be making the situation that much more explosive. Because of Syria’s proximity to Israel, Egypt’s troubles, Iran’s threats, and the United States’ ultimatums, there is talk of the end times, Armageddon, and World War III.

It is true that, with every passing day, we draw closer to the Second Coming of Christ (James 5:8). And the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1 has yet to be fulfilled: “A prophecy against Damascus: ‘See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins.’” Damascus, the capital of Syria, has a longstanding reputation for being the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. It has never been without citizens or totally destroyed. But Isaiah’s prophecy still stands; there is coming a day when Damascus will be nothing but a “heap of ruins.” The current war in Syria could indeed be one of the events leading up to the capital’s destruction.

There are other verses in the Bible tethered to Isaiah 17:1, but the idea of a ruinous heap suggests that not one building is left standing in Damascus. The city will no longer be a city. Some students of prophecy believe a nuclear bomb could be the means of fulfilling this prophecy; others suggest the possibility of an earthquake. Regardless of exactly how or when it happens, two things we know for sure: God is sovereign and His Word will stand (Isaiah 40:8).

There is much unrest in the Middle East, and the war in Syria is capturing the attention of the whole world. However, this particular conflict, even if it expands to other nations, cannot be associated with Armageddon. That battle occurs near the end of the Tribulation, during the bowl judgments, as the nations of the earth gather to fight against the Lord (Revelation 16:12–16). The war in Syria, if it is indeed part of end-times prophecy, is more likely part of the “birth pains” described in Mark 13:7–8.

In 700 BC, Isaiah wrote of the demise of Damascus. Today, 2,700 years later, many believe that we are close to seeing that long-standing prophecy fulfilled. However chaotic the events on the world stage appear, we know that all things are working toward the fulfillment of God’s Word.

“The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)—are you ready for His coming?

Recommended Resource: Understanding End Times Prophecy by Paul Benware.

What is atheism

Atheism is the view that God does not exist. Atheism is not a new development. Psalm 14:1, written by David around 1000 B.C., mentions atheism: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Recent statistics show an increasing number of people claiming to be atheists, up to 10 percent of people worldwide. So why are more and more people becoming atheists? Is atheism truly the logical position atheists claim it to be?

Why does atheism even exist? Why doesn’t God simply reveal Himself to people, proving that He exists? Surely if God would just appear, the thinking goes, everyone would believe in Him! The problem here is that it is not God’s desire to just convince people that He exists. It is God’s desire for people to believe in Him by faith (2 Peter 3:9) and accept by faith His gift of salvation (John 3:16). God clearly demonstrated His existence many times in the Old Testament (Genesis 6-9; Exodus 14:21-22; 1 Kings 18:19-31). Did the people believe that God exists? Yes. Did they turn from their evil ways and obey God? No. If a person is not willing to accept God’s existence by faith, then he/she is definitely not ready to accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s desire is for people to become Christians, not just theists (those who believe God exists).

The Bible tells us that God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” The Bible reminds us that we are blessed when we believe and trust in God by faith: “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John 20:29).

The existence of God must be accepted by faith, but this does not mean belief in God is illogical. There are many good arguments for the existence of God. The Bible teaches that God’s existence is clearly seen in the universe (Psalm 19:1-4), in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). With all that said, the existence of God cannot be proven; it must be accepted by faith.

At the same time, it takes just as much faith to believe in atheism. To make the absolute statement “God does not exist” is to make a claim of knowing absolutely everything there is to know about everything and of having been everywhere in the universe and having witnessed everything there is to be seen. Of course, no atheist would make these claims. However, that is essentially what they are claiming when they state that God absolutely does not exist. Atheists cannot prove that God does not, for example, live in the center of the sun, or beneath the clouds of Jupiter, or in some distant nebula. Since those places are beyond our capacity to observe, it cannot be proven that God does not exist. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist.

Atheism cannot be proven, and God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Obviously, Christians believe strongly that God exists, and admit that God’s existence is a matter of faith. At the same time, we reject the idea that belief in God is illogical. We believe that God’s existence can be clearly seen, keenly sensed, and proven to be philosophically and scientifically necessary. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).

Recommended Resource: I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Norm Geisler and Frank Turek and The Real Face of Atheism by Ravi Zacharias.

Who is Satan?

People's beliefs concerning Satan range from the silly to the abstract—from a little red guy with horns who sits on your shoulder urging you to sin, to an expression used to describe the personification of evil. The Bible, however, gives us a clear portrait of who Satan is and how he affects our lives. Put simply, the Bible defines Satan as an angelic being who fell from his position in heaven due to sin and is now completely opposed to God, doing all in his power to thwart God's purposes.

Satan was created as a holy angel. Isaiah 14:12 possibly gives Satan’s pre-fall name as Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12-14 describes Satan as having been created a cherubim, apparently the highest created angel. He became arrogant in his beauty and status and decided he wanted to sit on a throne above that of God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15; 1 Timothy 3:6). Satan’s pride led to his fall. Notice the many “I will” statements in Isaiah 14:12-15. Because of his sin, God barred Satan from heaven.

Satan became the ruler of this world and the prince of the power of the air (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). He is an accuser (Revelation 12:10), a tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), and a deceiver (Genesis 3; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Revelation 20:3). His very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes.” Another of his titles, the devil, means “slanderer.”

Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, hoping to gain the worship of the world and encourage opposition to God's kingdom. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false cult and world religion. Satan will do anything and everything in his power to oppose God and those who follow God. However, Satan’s destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Recommended Resource: The Serpent of Paradise by Erwin Lutzer.