Both Hank and Chris have asked questions about experiencing the Spirit. I will do my best to explain what “experiences” can be attributed to the Spirit. Notice that I said “can be.” As I’ve mentioned earlier, scientific certainty here does not fit my mental categories about the Spirit. So these thoughts are offered as a reflection upon the Bible’s description of the Experience of the Spirit, not necessarily as something about which I have concrete descriptive events to put forward.
Paul takes a different route in defining a Christian than I would have taken. In Romans 8:14, Paul writes that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” I would have said “sons of God are led by the Spirit.” Also, in Romans 8:9 Paul says “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” I would have said “those who belong to Christ also have the Spirit of Christ.” My definition is an epistemological one; truth therefore experience. Paul’s is an experiential one; experience therefore truth. Herein is the difference between me and Paul. For me, everything is so cerebral (and you will see that in this post), but Paul was not scared of speaking of the experience of God just as much as the fact and truth of God. This is why it is so tough for me to speak of something as an experience. Yet, through hindsight, I do believe that I can now speak of somethings as actual experiences (though not in the sense of altered states or consciousnesses). And those experiences are informed by scripture.
I see a sort of spectrum of experiences of the Spirit as outlined in the New Testament, ranging from the visible and dramatic, to the internal and subtle. I will explain them in a kind of descending order, commenting on one which I no longer believe transpires.
1 Corinthians details the charismatic gifts of the Spirit as experienced by individual Christians. This is obviously the most dramatic, visible and verifiable experience of the Spirit. Out of the 5 or so experiences I am going to list, this is the only one which I do not currently believe transpires today. This will not come as a surprise to many of you. However, what may come as a surprise is that my disbelief in such is not textually or exegetically based, but rather simply that I have never seen or experienced such. What I mean is that the typical verses used to say that people no longer speak prophetically, for example, are not necessarily appropriate. I will say more if someone requests so. I have just never seen or experieced such nor do I know any people who have. What do I make of this situation. It could be that I just don’t get out much. But I doubt that because I am surrounded by lots of Christians. It could be that I and the Christians I know are simply turned off to the idea and thus not even susceptible to such. But again I doubt that because, just speaking for myself, I would fully welcome any one of the charismatic gifts. What I’m left with is some broadly based theological rationale as to why they are no longer necessary. I must content myself with this until I have some evidence to move me in the other direction. Chris (a commenter on my blog) has spoken of such things. Maybe I should take his word for it. Maybe I should ask for a video or some medical transcripts documenting the healing. Then again, am I a sign seeker? So for Chris (and this isn’t sarcasm), if you wouldn’t mind driving to Peoria and taking care of my eight year bout with intense stomach issues, please know that I am more than open to the offer of healing.
You see, my skepticism about others performing miracles is not to be equated with a belief that God doesn’t or can’t. I am fully convinced that God can and does do wonderful things which nature cannot explain. I just question whether or not his people can still raise the dead and restore missing limbs.
Strong Emotional Experiences
Moving along the spectrum, it appears to me that there some strong emotional experiences which can be attribtued to the Spirit.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit (1 Thes. 1:6)
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16)
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[a] Father.” (Gal. 4:6)
Love, joy and the intense cry of Father all seem to be strong emotional experiences directly related to the Spirit.
because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake (1 Thes. 1:5)
12Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect[a] the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Co. 3:12-16)
Really the whole chapter should be studied for some information about the ministry of the Spirit. The point being made here is that because of the Spirit and Christ, new understandings are made possible.
17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[a] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. (Eph. 1:17)
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph. 3:14-20).
9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Co. 6:9-11)
This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but it is a good sampling of the types of experiences which can be attributed to the Spirit. Also, I have essentially let the passages stand on there own without much comment. I can say more about each if anyone desires.