October 2007 - Vol. 12
Gifts and Graces

The Holy Spirit is the life-giver 
(see 2 Corinthians 3:6). 
But he does not just give us life; 
he also works in us and through us. 

Part one of a three-part series

by Steve Clark


The “Breath” of God
We tend to think of the Spirit as being immaterial (a true statement) and therefore weaker, less substantial (a false one). Psalm 33:6-9 makes it clear that something spiritual is something powerful, something “charged with” the Spirit, who is the power of God:

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth. He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses. 

Let all the earth fear the LORD, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth.

The word Spirit is a translation of a Hebrew (and Greek) word that sometimes is translated “breath,” as in the above psalm, and at other times, “wind.” The Holy Spirit, then, is “the breath
of his [God’s] mouth.”

There is an image behind the use of word and spirit as synonyms in this psalm. We can only speak a word when we breathe out. To speak, we breathe and form our breath into a sound of a certain sort. A word then comes into existence. The breath (spirit) gives the force or energy for the word to be spoken and heard. If you project your voice or shout, you realize this more quickly, because doing so takes more breath.

The word of God creates heaven and earth. Speaking of “the heavens ... and all their host ...” as well as “the earth ... and all the inhabitants of the world,” the psalm says, “He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth.” In other words, by speaking a command, God created everything. His command contained the understanding of what he wanted to happen, which came from his wisdom or reason. His breath or spirit contained the force or power that brought it into existence. The Spirit with which he breathes his word is creative power itself.

Although seemingly insubstantial, wind can be very powerful. We can see something of this by considering a hurricane or tornado, both very strong winds. I was once staying with my mother when she lived close to Miami on Biscayne Boulevard. One evening a tornado decided to go north on Biscayne Boulevard. It touched down at three points and then headed out to sea. The next morning I went to one of the spots where it had landed and was impressed with how little it left of what once was a substantial building. The Scripture tells us that this is the kind of power that the “breath of God” has.

On the other hand, wind can have constructive effects. It can blow on a windmill and produce electricity or power a water pump. It can fill sails and move a boat across a great ocean. To get such results, we need the ability to receive the wind and apply its power to something useful.

Sometimes we use the phrase “charged with the Spirit.” Behind this is the image of an electrical wire. We can plug a cord into an appliance and nothing will happen. When, however, the other end of the cord is plugged into a socket, the cord is charged with electricity and brings electrical power into the appliance to enable it to function. Something charged with the Spirit is spiritually powerful and capable of getting spiritual results.

Spirit, then, is something forceful or powerful. The Holy Spirit, the holy breath of God or wind from God, brings with him God’s power. He enables what he enters into to operate with
spiritual or divine power. That is why Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,” and why Peter said in Acts 10:38, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.”

The Holy Spirit, however, is not naked power or brute force. He brings power accompanied by and formed by wisdom, because he is the power of God. As a consequence, he not only seeks to make our action more powerful, he also seeks to direct our action so that we know better what to do and how to do it. When the apostles wanted to choose what are sometimes described as the first deacons (servants), Peter said to the community, “Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom [or full of the Spirit of wisdom, the wisdom-bringing Spirit], whom we may appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3). They were to look for men to whom the Holy Spirit had given wisdom, spiritually wise men. It is the combination of wisdom and power that forms human action and makes it effective and not chaotic or destructive, like that of an enraged man out of control. When we receive the Holy Spirit, then, he enters into us with wisdom and power, to equip us and work through us so that we can serve the kingdom of God in a more effective way.

In Next Month's Issue: Part II - Gifts and Graces We Can Expect

[Steve Clark is President of the Sword of the Spirit. This article is adapted from his book Charismatic Spirituality: The Work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture and Practice, copyright © 2004 by Stephen B. Clark and published by Servant Books, a division of Saint Anthony Messenger Press. Used with permission.] 

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