Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Seeing The Spirit


Sunday Morning, September 13, 2009, church meeting upstairs at The Hydrant Cafe off the square in Denton:

Reed Parsons, who was giving the sermon, was talking about receiving the Holy Spirit, and the necessity and consequences of that for our Christian life. I was reading along with him when he came to this from John's Gospel:
16 "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you."

16 κἀγὼ ἐρωτήσω τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλον παράκλητον δώσει ὑμῖν ἵνα μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ᾖ, 17 τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὃ ὁ κόσμος οὐ δύναται λαβεῖν, ὅτι οὐ θεωρεῖ αὐτὸ οὐδὲ γινώσκει: ὑμεῖς γινώσκετε αὐτό, ὅτι παρ' ὑμῖν μένει καὶ ἐν ὑμῖν ἔσται. (John 14:16-17)
Reed continued talking about receiving the Holy Spirit, but I stayed stuck there on the phrase "because it does not see Him." I.e., Jesus seemed to be saying that the Spirit was apparently something or Someone that one could see.

So I wondered if this meant things like at Jesus' baptism when John saw the Spirit coming down like a dove upon Jesus, and how God told John that:
"He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit."

Ἐφ' ὃν ἂν ἴδῃς τὸ πνεῦμα καταβαῖνον καὶ μένον ἐπ' αὐτόν, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ βαπτίζων ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ. (John 1:33b)
Then John goes on to say:
34 "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God."

34 κἀγὼ ἑώρακα, καὶ μεμαρτύρηκα ὅτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ.
(I wouldn't make a big deal about Jesus using one Greek word when talking about seeing the Spirit in John 14, and John the Baptist using a different Greek word about seeing the Spirit at Jesus' baptism. John's style in his Gospel seems to include interchanging synonymous or semantically-overlapping, and he uses the gamut of words meaning "to see." In fact, it makes an interesting study to "see" how often John uses the words for "to see" in his Gospel. Another interesting study is to see how often δύναμαι (dunamai - "be able" "be capable of" "can" "have power to") is used in the Gospel of John – you'll need to use a Greek concordance to find all of them, because the word isn't consistently translated in English - but that's another subject.)

The appearance of tongues of fire on the heads of those who were filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost might also be another instance of the Holy Spirit being "seen."

In John 5:37b Jesus says to His opponents that they have neither heard the voice of Jesus' Father nor seen His form (eidos):
37...οὔτε φωνὴν αὐτοῦ πώποτε ἀκηκόατε οὔτε εἶδος αὐτοῦ ἑωράκατε
This is the same word used in Luke 3:22 where the Spirit was said to have come down in bodily form as a dove. Does that describe the manner in which the Spirit came down (i.e., fluttering like a bird), or His appearance (i.e., in the form of a dove), or both? Either way, John (and possibly the other people there) saw the Spirit coming down as or in some form, not simply in some fashion or manner.

Though I have only seen physical manifestations of people reacting to the Holy Spirit, and not the Holy Spirit Himself (whether in the form of a dove or as some light or radiant or supernatural being), some have said that they can see whether the Spirit is upon a person. Usually, though, they, too, are also just describing physical things – e.g., the person beginning to shake, their skin shining or starting to perspire, their lips moving as if speaking in tongues, etc. They'll say "The Spirit is all over that person!" but they still are not saying that they are seeing the Spirit Himself, only His effects or manifestations.

Jesus describes to Nicodemus the movements or actions of the Spirit as being like those of the wind (the same word – πνεῦμα (pneuma) – is used for both, as well as for breath, in Greek; the same is true in Hebrew, too, for ruach), which again would refer to physical effects without actually seeing the Spirit Himself.

But I wonder if there is a seeing of the Spirit Himself (either as He is, or in some form in which He chooses to manifest Himself) that is to be expected or at least to be open to?

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