Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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The Holy Spirit
“By His Spirit He adorned the heavens” (JOB 26:13)
The Holy Spirit
The Hebrew word translated “spirit” in the Old Testament strictly means “breath” or “power”; thus God’s spirit is His “breathing”, the very essence of God, reflecting His mind.  It is not a separate person from God.

It is a common Bible teaching that how a man thinks is expressed in his actions (Proverbs 23:7; Matthew 12:34).  A little reflection upon our own actions will confirm this; we think of something and then we do it.  God likewise thinks and therefore does things.


Many passages clearly identify God’s spirit with His power.  In order to create the earth, “…the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  Then God said, Let there be light; and there was light” (Genesis 1:2,3).  God’s spirit was the power by which all things, e.g. light, were made.

A comparison of Matthew 12:28 and Luke 11:20 shows that “the finger of God” and “the spirit of God” are parallel – God in action is His spirit.  “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth” (Psalm 33:6).  God’s spirit is therefore described as follows:


It is therefore His power by which He achieves all things.  The spirit given to us, and all creation, is what sustains our life.  We have “the breath of the spirit of life” within us (Genesis 7:22) given to us by God at birth (Psalm 104:30; Genesis 2:7).  God is the life force which sustains all creation.  His spirit is present everywhere (Psalm 139:2,7,9,10).

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

At various times in His dealings with men, God gave the use of His power (“Holy Spirit”) to men.  However, this was never in the form of a “blank cheque”, as it were, enabling them to do what they wished; always the use of this Holy Spirit was for a specific purpose.  When it was accomplished, the gift of the Holy Spirit was withdrawn.  We must remember that God’s spirit acts in a way which fulfils the purpose which is in His mind.  The gifts of Holy Spirit were always to achieve specific things at specific times.  Here is an example:


Reasons for the Gifts in the First Century

Remembering the basic principles which we have already learnt about the gifts of God’s spirit, we now come to the New Testament record of the spirit gifts which were possessed in the early church (i.e. the groups of believers who lived in the generation after the time of Jesus).

Christ’s last command was for the apostles to go throughout the world preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15,16).  This they did, with the theme of Christ’s death and resurrection foremost in their message.  But remember that then there was no New Testament as we know it.  As they stood in market places and synagogues speaking about this man Jesus of Nazareth, their story could have sounded bizarre – a carpenter from Israel who was perfect, who died and was then resurrected in accurate fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and who was now asking them to be baptised and follow His example. 

In our day we appeal to the New Testament records of the work and doctrine of Jesus in order to prove that our message is from God; but in those days, before it was written down and available, God allowed His preachers the use of His Holy Spirit in order to underline the truth of what they were saying.  This was the specific reason for the use of the gifts in the sight of the world; the absence of the written New Testament would have also made it difficult for the new groups of believers to grow in their faith.

As ever, these reasons for the granting of the Holy Spirit were made abundantly plain:


Concerning the use of the gifts to confirm the preaching of the Gospel, we read:


All this is summarized by the comment on the apostles’ obedience to the command to preach:


The Withdrawal of the Gifts

The miraculous gifts of God’s spirit will be used again by the believers in order to change this present world into God’s Kingdom, after the return of Christ.  The gifts are therefore called “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:4,5); and Joel 2:26-29 describes a great outpouring of the spirit gifts after the repentance of Israel.  The very fact that these gifts will be given to the believers on Christ’s return is proof enough that they are not possessed now.  To any Christian, with eyes open to both Scripture and world events, the Lord’s return must surely be soon.

From all the Biblical records of the use of spirit gifts, it is clear that they were given at particular times for particular purposes and were withdrawn by God when His purpose was accomplished:


As the Good News Bible clearly states:  the gifts “are temporary”.

Ephesians 4:8-14 helps us understand this further.  This passage explains that the gifts of the first century were to be given until the perfect, or mature, man was reached.  Making such a fuss about possessing the spirit gifts is therefore not a sign of spiritual maturity.  The progress each reader of these words should now make, is towards a deeper appreciation of the written Word of God, to rejoice in the completeness of God’s basic revelation of Himself to us through it, and to respond to it in humble obedience.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 teaches that response to “all scripture” enables the man of God to be “perfect”, complete, and mature.  So once the New Testament was completed, towards the end of the first century, the gifts were no longer needed.  They had achieved their purpose, of enabling the church to become “fully equipped” (Ephesians 4:8 Weymouth).  When the Bible was completed, the church was indeed fully equipped to preach the gospel of salvation.

Present Claims of Spirit Possession

A number of other points have to be made concerning the repeated claims of those who think they now possess the miraculous gifts.  Whatever one makes of the above arguments for the withdrawal of the gifts, the reality is that the present claims to Spirit gift possession are sadly in conflict with the nature of the gifts as recorded in the New Testament.  Whatever is being done today is different from that which happened in the early church.

Present “speaking in tongues” tends to repeat the same short syllables over and over again, e.g. “Lala, lala, lala, shama. Jesus, Jesus…..”.  This is not in the syntax associated with any language; when one hears someone speak in a foreign tongue, it is usually possible to discern that they are communicating something by the pattern of the words they use, although we may not understand those words.  Yet modern tongue-speaking does not feature this, underlining the fact that it is not building up the church, which was the purpose of the first century gifts.

Some Pentecostals claim that speaking in tongues is a sign of being “saved” and will therefore accompany every true conversion.  This claim runs into serious difficulty with the description of the early church as a body, in which those possessing different gifts were like the different parts.  Not everyone was an arm or leg, and so likewise not everyone possessed any one gift, e.g. tongues.  1 Corinthians 12:27-30 makes this clear.

Another problem for the Pentecostal argument is that Philip converted many people in Samaria – i.e. they were baptised in water after understanding the Gospel, but they did not receive the spirit gifts; because after this, Peter and John came to them:


It is possible that the passing on of the Spirit gifts was only by this laying on of hands, which is not frequently practised by modern claimants.  Thus Paul wanted to visit the Romans in order to give them the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11 cf. Ephesians 4:12).  It would therefore follow that once the generation who had this power passed away, there was no way of continuing the gifts.  If indeed they are obtainable purely by prayer, it is difficult to understand why Paul had to visit Rome to transfer the gifts to believers there.  The only answer must be that “through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given”.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||