I was taught in Bible College that there are two kinds of people in the world... the distinction between them is one group "has" the Holy Spirit, while the other group doesn't. The separating line between Christian and non-Christian is the Holy Spirit. That was a handy thought that was unfortunately un-examined and really causes tremendous damage to relationships and barriers to knowing God.
Religious systems are terrified of this idea because it erases the us/them distinction, and takes away the power of control and expertise of who is "in" and who is "out". But it is this distinction that is exactly what Jesus came to eradicate. Pay close attention to what Paul said in Ephesians 2:
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself ONE NEW HUMANITY out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile BOTH of them (all humanity) to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we BOTH (Jew and Gentile, ie all people) have access to the Father by one Spirit.
There is one humanity, and Jew and Gentile were ALL in Him on the cross. He says Jesus reconciled that entire humanity to God already. Believing it doesn't make it true. It was true ON the CROSS!
As long as that division exists in our minds, it affect every sphere of society from politics to religion. It creates a superior/inferior position that Jesus removed forever! Think of how others perceive the language of Christians: "We Christians have the Spirit, you other people don't. We have all the truth of God, you have to go through us to get to God. Since we have the Spirit, anything that appears good in you must originate from the devil."
One of the most controversial posts I ever created was when I asked people why non-Christians had the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? The overwhelming majority denied that any unbeliever could have any of these traits because they only belong to those with the Spirit, and the only ones with the Spirit are believers. Therefore, the love a Buddhist shows his friend, must be demonic. The kindness found in atheistic strangers must be "fleshly".
Jesus used the illustration of what we call the "good" Samaritan to illustrate what loving one's neighbor looks like. He showed that it was not the Jewish priest, nor the revered Levite that was the loving neighbor to the one beaten by thieves. It was the despised half-breed Samaritan. Jesus said, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:25-37).
So the fruit of the Spirit called love and mercy, was found in an unbelieving Samaritan as Jesus admonished this mercy to be followed by an unbelieving Jew neither of which were even "born again" yet!
In fact, John says, "Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7). EVERYONE who LOVES, says John, KNOWS God even if they don't know that they know.
I'm not the first to challenge the view that only Christians have the Holy Spirit. Would you be shocked to know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr found Christ within those of other religions? He said, "I cannot make myself believe that God did not reveal Himself in other religions. I believe that God worked through Gandhi, and the Spirit of Jesus saturated his life. It is ironic, yet inescapably true, that the greatest Christian of the modern world was a man who never embraced Christianity."
Of course Paul affirmed the same thing saying,
"One God and Father of all, who is above all, through all and IN ALL." (Eph. 4:6)
"Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and IS IN ALL. "(Col. 3:11, NIV)
A REMNANT OF THE SPIRIT OR THE REMNANT THAT WAS SEALED BY THE SPIRIT?
The Bible teaches that there was a remnant marked by the Spirit for the end of the Old Covenant age.
"In Him you also trusted, AFTER you heard the word of truth, the gospel of YOUR salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,"
Let's walk step by step through this verse since we are filled with many pre-conceived ideas. Paul starts Ephesians by saying that God chose everyone to be in Christ before the foundations of the world so that he could present everyone holy and blameless before the Father.
Now notice the sequence here. First they were in Christ. Next, they trusted this good news of already being saved, as a truth already existing. Then once they believed what was already true, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
So we were told we get the Holy Spirit when we believe and then we are saved. Paul completely turns that idea on its head saying they were spiritual saved, then they believed it, then they were sealed by the Spirit.
So the question becomes, what is it to be sealed by the Spirit. Unfortunately most teachers today are completely unaware of the historical context and biblical context of this promise. The idea of being "sealed" was not about being sealed up like an envelope and sent in the mail to heaven with the right postage stamp. The seal was a mark, like kings used their signet ring to press into wax to identify something as having the authority of the king.
There was an old covenant promise that God would save a remnant from the fall of Jerusalem in AD 66-70. This remnant was also called the first-fruits by James and John, while Paul quotes OT scriptures to declare that those remnant scriptures were being fulfilled in his day.
Isaiah 1:9, "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small REMNANT, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah."
Isaiah 37:31, "And the REMNANT that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward..."
Isaiah 37:32, "For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a REMNANT, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this."
Romans 9:27-29, "Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel:
“Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea,
THE REMNANT WILL BE SAVED.
For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness,
Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.”
And as Isaiah said before:
“Unless the LORD of Sabaoth had left us a seed [REMNANT],
We would have become like Sodom,
And we would have been made like Gomorrah.”
Romans 11:5, “Even so then, at this PRESENT TIME there is a REMNANT according to the election of grace.”
As you will see, James calls them first-fruits from the remnant of the 12 tribes being saved in his generation from the Day of the Lord in AD 70. There can only be one first-fruits therefore Revelation’s 144,000 from the 12 tribes is symbolic of the “few who find it” remnant as well.
James 1:1, 18, "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the TWELVE TRIBES tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings...Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."
Revelation 14:3, “The 144,000... These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
So the seal is the scriptural idea that God marked those who would be saved from the fall of a city to another nation. We find this in Ezekiel 9:3-4 is a description of “the mark”:
Now the glory of the God of Israel had gone up from the cherub, where it had been, to the threshold of the temple. And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer’s inkhorn at his side; 4 and the LORD said to him, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a MARK on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it.”
In Ezekiel and Revelation those who believed were marked, sealed, or identified as the ones who trusted God and would be rescued from a national judgment. So the seal of the Spirit of promise in Ephesians is that exact same seal. (For a great article on what "saved" means click here)
THE ECHO OF THE SPIRIT
Ok, but don't the apostles teach that some "have" the Spirit while the others don't? Let's see.
Romans 8:9, Berean Literal Bible, "Now you are not in flesh but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you; but if anyone does not HAVE the Spirit of Christ, he is not OF HIM." Some translations say that they are not God's, but my Greek lexicon says the same thing, "of him" literally. Of him is "not representing him".
Living in the flesh, ie, under Law is not OF HIM. If anyone (legalistic-Jewish law keepers) do not "have" the Spirit of God they are not OF HIM.
But here is where it gets interesting. The word "HAVE" the Spirit of Christ, can mean "to have, to hold, to embrace, to hold fast to". Paul is saying that if they don't hold fast to the Spirit (which assumes they possess the Spirit), then they are not followers of Christ, but identifying as sons of the Law.
We get the word "echo" from the Greek word for "have". To refuse to hold to the Spirit, or echo the Spirit, was akin to apostasy and would identify them as sons of disobedience subject to and sadly falling prey to the end of the Law system in AD 70. The Mirror Version says it like this...
The Mirror Version: 8:9 But you are not ruled by a flesh-consciousness, (law of works), but by a spirit-consciousness, (faith); God’s Spirit is at home in you. Anyone who does not see himself fully clothed and identified in the Spirit of Christ, cannot be himself.
Why do you think non-Christians have the fruit of the Spirit? They are giving an echo to the Spirit within them, even if they don't know it.
Besides... since God is everywhere, how is it that possible that he isn't "in" a non-believer?
I'LL HAVE ONE ORDER OF HOLY SPIRIT PLEASE: MANIFESTATIONS OF THE SPIRIT
The book of Acts can be very confusing because of the way that Luke speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit. One of the mistakes that people make in interpreting the Bible is that they assume that Luke, John and Paul all use the exact language to speak on similar and diverse topics. John and Paul tend to teach about the work of the Spirit in relation to salvation. Luke on the other hand, speaks of the work of the Spirit from the Jewish charismatic empowerment perspective.
For instance, on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out, Luke quotes Peter's explanation as a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy: Acts 2:
17“ ‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will PROPHESY,
your young men will see VISIONS,
your old men will dream DREAMS.
18Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19I will show wonders in the heavens above
and SIGNS on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved
They had entered into the last days of the Old Covenant ending in AD 70. The manifestation of speaking in the tongues of the languages of the nations was a sign to the unbelievers of Israel that they were in their last days of the workings of the Old Covenant.
1 Corinthians 14:21–22, "In the Law it is written: “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers."
Paul is quoting from Isaiah 28:11, which he says was a prophecy about tongues. Further in that chapter of Isaiah, it also speaks of the coming judgment on Israel (AD 70).
So Luke has a purpose in speaking of the Spirit in Acts.... it is the Spirit's empowerment to supernaturally manifest the kingdom and reveal the sign that judgment was soon coming to the Land from the Romans.
When Peter says "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved", he is quoting what all Israel knew was about the remnant who would be saved before the fall of Jerusalem. Here is Joel 2:32 “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered (saved); FOR on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, As the Lord has said, Even among the survivors [remnant] whom the Lord calls."
The work of the Spirit that Luke talks primarily about, is the manifestation of the power of the Spirit upon people, as when the Spirit came upon Saul and he prophesied, or came upon Sampson for supernatural power. That is why nearly every reference to the Spirit in Acts is associated with them having some kind of supernatural miracle experience. (Is the power of God still real today? Yes of course!)
So when Luke speaks of the gift of the Spirit and receiving the Spirit, it is about a manifestation of empowerment, not about eternal salvation.
Acts 2:36 “So be sure of this, all you people of Israel. You nailed Jesus to the cross. But God has made him both Lord and Christ.” 37 When the people heard this, their hearts were filled with shame. They said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “All of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 19:2 He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” “No,” they answered. “We haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John's baptism,” they replied.
4 Paul said, “John baptized people, calling them to turn away from their sins. He told them to believe in the one who was coming after him. Jesus is that one.”
5 After hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
6 Paul placed his hands on them. Then the Holy Spirit came on them. They spoke in languages they had not known before. They also PROPHESIED. 7 There were about 12 of them in all.
This was Jesus' point when he said, "So if you sinful people 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" (Lk 11:13). He was speaking of the empowering miraculous work of the Spirit, not "having the Spirit so I can go to heaven."
WHAT ABOUT CONVERSION?
You may say, "Ok, but I KNOW that when I believed in Jesus the Holy Spirit changed my life." Well, of course. The moment that our hearts and minds are converted to the truth that God's love for us in the gospel is all inclusive and unconditional, then it will radically change our lives. That moment that we realize God is real, and accepted me before I accepted him, is transforming!
What would be your emotional experience, if you suddenly discovered that you are a mega-millionaire, and have been for years but just now realized it? You might instantly go from depression to elation in one second!
What happens when you put on a pair of glasses with corrective lens? Suddenly you see things that have always been there, but you were unable to see before. So too, is our experience of coming to believe in Christ!
If you want to know more about being "born again" please check out this blog. It will help you greatly to see that we were ALL born again through the resurrection.
So... one would argue that there is no way that a Muslim who murders people can also have the Holy Spirit. Really? A Christian has never murdered someone? Didn't David murder someone to cover up his adulterous affair? Didn't David say afterward, "take not your Holy Spirit from me"?
Of course a Muslim and a Hindu have the Holy Spirit... they just don't know it. For that matter there are lots of streams of Christianity who think that the Trinity is the Father, Son, and Holy Bible. Many believers don't even know they have the Holy Spirit's presence in them.
God is at work in all humanity. He was the Last Adam, the end of the Adamic Race as it was. He was raised as the Christ. As the Son of Man Jesus represented the entirety of the human race within himself so that Paul could say when Christ died we ALL died with him (2 Cor. 5:14). He could say that when Jesus was made alive, raised, and seated before the Father, we were ALL raised up TOGETHER with him (Eph. 2).
That is an objective fact, that our belief simply acknowledges. Belief doesn't make it true. We believe it because it is already true.
And by the way... John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit in his mother's womb. Did you pray a prayer first? Was this even before the New Covenant? Hmmm.
If this was a blessing to you, please share... at your own risk of course, lol. :)
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I have several other blogs that go into more depth on these topics. Please check out:
The Remnant: Only a Few Will Be Saved?