Editor’s Note: We wish all of our members, co-workers, readers, listeners and friends a rewarding and meaningful feast of Pentecost. Following is an especially relevant message.
I was recently asked the question, “How can I know if I have God’s Spirit?” With all the organizations in the world today that proclaim allegiance to Jesus Christ, yet follow a divergence of doctrines, how can one be sure he is following God’s Spirit as he goes about his normal activities in life? As we examine God’s Word we find a number of Scriptures that give insight relative to these questions.
First, we should examine a few key Scriptures relative to the knowledge of God’s Truth. It is certain that understanding the true knowledge of God’s Way is critical to this question.
We read in Proverbs 2:6, “For the LORD gives wisdom; out of His mouth come knowledge and understanding…” And in Proverbs 8:10-11, “Receive [My] instruction, and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.”
Proverbs 22:17, 19 tells us, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your heart to [My] knowledge….So that your trust may be in the LORD.” And, in 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Yet, there can be major problems for those who receive true knowledge, if they are not faithful with that knowledge.
In 1 Corinthians 8:1-2 we read that, “…Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.” And 1 Corinthians 13:2, “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
So we see, that the knowledge of what love is, is also critical to our understanding of this question. Paul discusses this critical subject of love under the inspiration of God’s Spirit in several places. Let us examine a few of these.
Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [which] was given to us.” And 2 John 1:6, “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” We demonstrate love in our lives as we walk in God’s Way!
Are we able to understand how all of these things come together as God reveals to us the truth of His Way? There are several key ingredients. Knowledge, obedience, love, and faithfulness; each of these has its role in this Way to which we have been called, and each pertain to the question at hand.
Thus, the fact that we have been given true knowledge does not seem to be the key factor. The fact that we have true knowledge does not ensure that we will have God’s Spirit. The important thing about knowledge is that with it comes the understanding of what God expects of us as we go forward. Understanding the truth of God’s law, for example, gives us also the understanding of what comprises sin (Romans 3:20).
We read in Hebrews 10:26, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins…” It therefore becomes critical, once we understand this, that we be diligent in observing God’s law to the best of our abilities, with the help of God’s Spirit that is within us.
When we look at the major examples of righteous men down through Biblical history whose lives were pleasing to God, we see that all of these factors we are discussing are critical. But obedience stands out as, perhaps, one of the more prominent characteristics God considers in giving His Spirit to those who ask. Let us examine a few of these examples.
The example of Jesus Christ, of course, stands out above all. Comparing the lives of the man Adam and of Jesus Christ as their lives reflected the way these two men lived under God’s law, Paul stated, in Romans 5:19, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” And Paul relates to us in Hebrews 5:8-9, “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the [Author] of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…”
Christ obeyed God in everything. You and I must come to the same point, eventually. That is our goal in this life! And when we obey God, and ask Him for more of His Spirit, He will not deny our request. Jesus made reference to a very special blessing we have in this way in Luke 11:13: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Of course, God saw early on that man in his natural state of mind could not be obedient to Him. Adam had rejected access to God’s Spirit and His law from the very beginning, having succumbed to the influence of Satan, the current prince of this universe (Ephesians 2:2).
God saw that it would require His Spirit working with the spirit in man for there to be any hope of mankind ever defeating the wiles of the devil and even man’s own human nature. Aware of man’s proclivities, God stated in Genesis 6:3, “…My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”
God understood the heart of mankind as He spoke of the situation in Genesis 6:5-7: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.'”
Yet, God saw a good heart in the man, Noah. Genesis 6:8-9: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” We see the key here in verse 9. Noah walked with God! Noah obeyed God! Noah was led by the Spirit of God!
Abraham is another prime example of one whom God blessed tremendously, including the gift of His Spirit, because of Abraham’s obedience to Him.
Speaking to Abraham in Genesis 22:18, God stated: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” In Hebrews 11:8, God revealed that, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Abraham obeyed God first – and asked questions later! We must learn to do that.
We know that Isaac and Jacob followed in their father, Abraham’s, footsteps, and were obedient to God as well. In speaking to Isaac as He passed on the blessings to him, God reminded Isaac that these blessings were coming his way “…because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5).
Of course, Joseph was a prime example of one in Pharaoh’s court who walked in God’s Way. Notice what God inspired Pharaoh to see concerning this man, Joseph. Genesis 41:38: “And Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?”‘ This was not a common occurrence in that day, just as it is not a common thing today.
And so, the Children of Israel, for the most part, failed to follow in the steps of the “Fathers” – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the people of God, Israel had agreed with God to follow in all His Ways (Exodus 24:3). But we see in our study of these people that they failed in this endeavor. Notice Isaiah 42:24: “Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, Nor were they obedient to His law.”
Again we see, it was disobedience to God and His ways that caused them to fail in their relationship with God. Thus, He gave His Spirit only to a few in Israel; those who had learned obedience – Moses, Joshua, Caleb (specifically) and a few others who learned to obey God down through time.
During the time Saul was obedient and faithful to God, God filled Saul with His Spirit. Notice, 1 Samuel 10:6-11: “Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. And let it be, when these signs come to you, that you do as the occasion demands; for God is with you. You shall go down before me to Gilgal; and, surely I will come down to you to offer burnt offerings and make sacrifices of peace offerings. Seven days you shall wait, till I come to you and show you what you should do. And so it was, when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, that God gave him another heart; and all those signs came to pass that day. When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. And it happened, when all who knew him formerly saw that he indeed prophesied among the prophets, that the people said to one another, ‘What is this that has come upon the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?'”
In like manner, David, because of His obedience to God, was given God’s Spirit. We read in 1 Samuel 16:13: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.”
Yet, God removed His Spirit from Saul when Saul ceased being obedient to Him. “Then Saul said to Samuel, ‘I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.’ But Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you, for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel'” (1 Samuel
And in 1 Samuel 16:14 we read, “But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul…”
When David sinned against God in the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah, David repented bitterly and asked God that He not remove His Spirit from him. David’s prayer of repentance is recorded in Psalm 51. God heard that prayer and did not remove His Spirit, though God did not allow the son of that union to live; and David was not allowed to build the Temple that he so desired to build as a monument to God.
We can see from these examples that God blesses those who are faithful in their obedience to Him, and He gives even more of His Spirit to those who continue in the faith.
Peter reminds us through the inspiration of God and His Spirit, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again [begotten], not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, But the word of the Lord endures forever'” (1 Peter 1:22-25).
These are the words which we have received, brethren. And as Peter tells us here in Chapter 2 of 1 Peter, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
We can see evidence of God’s Spirit in our lives as we relate to others around us, and even in the thoughts that come into our minds. The fruit of God’s Spirit is clearly shown in Galatians 5:22-23; while, in contrast, the works of the flesh are described in Galatians 5:19-21. If we are having problems in building the former and/or destroying the latter in our individual lives, we must ask God for more of His Spirit to help us in accomplishing our goals.
Yes, God has called us brethren, He has given us His Spirit, and now it is our responsibility, individually, to see to it that we remain in the good graces of our God; that we remain faithful to Him and continue in His Way through the Power of His Spirit, which is within us, so that He never removes His Holy Spirit from us!