Already, within the First Century, there were false teachers who were distorting the Word of God and leading people away from the truth, from God, and from eternal life. Yochanan (John), that great emissary that Messiah chose, and whom God sent to teach us the truth, warns us not to believe every religious leader. There is one true Spirit who speaks through men, but there are also evil and deceiving spirits that have gone out into the world, who also speak through men.
Knowing that we live in a fallen, dark world that is full of deadly and deceitful “spiritual” teachings, how can we discern a true teacher from a false one? How can we tell if we are really listening to the right people and heading in the right direction? In his first letter, Yochanan gives us some tests to help us answer these questions. I’d like to deal with one of them – the giving of God’s Spirit.
“By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:13). We can know we are spiritually alive, that we are headed for Heaven and eternal life with the Eternal One, if His Spirit lives in us. But how do we know that His Spirit lives in us? What are the evidences that God has indeed given us His Spirit? “After all,” some might argue, “Doesn’t He give everyone His Spirit?”
Louis Berkhof made the following astute observation about the indwelling of God’s Spirit: “It is true that God is present in every part of His creation, and dwells among us, but this does not mean that He is equally present in the same way, everywhere, and in all His creatures. The nature of His indwelling is in harmony with that of His creatures. He does not dwell on earth as He does in heaven. He does not dwell in animals as He does in man, in the inorganic as He does in the organic part of creation, in the wicked as He does in the pious. He does not dwell outside the Temple as He dwells inside the Temple. He does not dwell in the Messiah’s Holy Community of Jews and Gentiles as He does in Messiah Himself. There is an endless variety in the manner in which He is present in His creation and in His creatures” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Page 61, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1939).
If every living thing already is endowed with some measure of God’s Spirit, then what does Yochanan mean by “the giving of God’s Spirit?” It is the special impartation of the Spirit of God, whereby our spirits are made alive, and we are reconciled to the God from whom we have been alienated, with the result that we are made spiritually alive, so that we live forever with God.
Since the Spirit that is given is the Spirit of God Himself, those who are truly indwelt by the Spirit will find themselves more interested in God Himself – not just the external trappings of religion. Having a relationship with the living God and drawing near to Him will be the focus of this religion. They will find themselves more aware of God’s reality in the daily events of life.
Since the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Yeshua, there will come a new desire to know more about Yeshua, and to be more like Him. If the Spirit of Yeshua has been given, Yeshua will be exalted and Yeshua will be the focus.
Since the Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Truth, and if He is really indwelling a human being in this new and saving way, then there will be a new desire to know and practice the truth. The Spirit of Truth will lead him into the truth. When the Spirit of Truth reveals the truth, one who is indwelt by Him will choose the truth. And since the truth is primarily found in the Holy Scriptures, which were inspired by the Spirit of God, there should be a greater respect for, and interest in, the Holy Scriptures, and a genuine resolve to live by them.
Since the Spirit of God is also the Holy Spirit, if He is present in this new indwelling way, there will be a desire to be holy in order to accomplish God’s purposes. There will be a growing revulsion toward sin, and a hunger for holiness, “without which no one will see the Lord.”
If the Spirit of God is truly indwelling a human being, there will be positive, tangible results in their life. The good results of a life indwelt by the Spirit are known as the “Fruit of the Spirit.” A Spirit-indwelt life will produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control: a life that is characterized not by selfishness, but by love for others, especially the unlovely; a life that is characterized not by being short-tempered, but by patience under trial; a life that is characterized not by meanness, but by kindness, especially to those who don’t deserve it; a life that is characterized by doing good for others; a life that is characterized by faithfulness to God, Messiah Yeshua and the truths found in the Scriptures, faithfulness to commitments, vows, and promises; a life that is characterized not by being quarrelsome, but by a desire for gentleness and peace; a life that is characterized not by loss of control, but by the ability to control one’s actions, so that life is lived in the right way. If these positive, tangible results of the Spirit are present, then surely the Spirit of God is present, since Rabbi Yeshua taught us that we can know a tree by its fruit. If these qualities are not present in a person’s life, then that person is most likely not indwelt by the Spirit of God.
What about the gifts of the Spirit – speaking in languages that have never been learned, prophesying, doing miracles and the like? Aren’t these proof that God has given someone His Spirit? If supernatural gifts of the Spirit are present, when accompanied by these other things, then Baruch HaShem – the Lord be praised! But in and of themselves, these miraculous manifestations are not proof that one is truly saved.
First, the Son of God warned us that there will be many people who will perform miracles, make accurate predictions about the future, and cast out demons, never having had a right relationship with God. To these, Messiah will say on the Day of Judgement, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you evildoers.” It is clear that supernatural manifestations alone are not evidence of the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God that results in salvation. Second, Satan and his demons are also able to perform miracles through human beings. When Aaron threw Moses’ staff down before Pharaoh, it was miraculously transformed into a snake. But Egypt’s sorcerers and magicians were able to do the same thing with their occult arts!
Finally, if the Spirit of God has truly been given to a human soul, there will be an assurance that one belongs to God. There is an “inner witness” that God is our Father, and that we are His beloved sons and daughters. Deep within us, our spirit cries out to God, “Abba” – Father. The sons and daughters of God will know that they are born of God, and that they truly belong to Him.
Have you received the Spirit of God? Do you have that inner witness? Are you producing the good results that accompany the giving of the Spirit? Do you love God and Messiah Yeshua and the Word of God more than before? Are you striving to be holy? My prayer is that you experience life, and the fullness of blessings that come from God, Messiah Yeshua the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit!