For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure. (John 3:34)
We have an incredible gift of grace in the Holy Spirit, one which God has poured out and placed within us to empower the perfect, complete work of Christ in our lives. I marvelled as I considered this earlier today, in awe at the workings of God in every possible detail, and how He Himself ensures that His will and purposes are fulfilled by making sure every requirement is met. The Holy Spirit is the power of God living within us – the same creation power that brought our universe into being, the same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead, and He’s the same power that will ultimately tranform us all into eternal perfection in His presence.
In very simple terms,the Holy Spirit is the will of God and the Word of God in action.
As we read about Him in both Old Testament and New, we cannot find a single instance in which He wasn’t doing, effecting, acting…He is the triune God in movement. Everything He does is dynamic, energised, and entirely vital. He is constantly moving, contantly effecting, constantly working.
Consider His names and roles for a moment and what they imply. The Comforter bring or gives comfort. That’s an action. He guides, He teaches, He leads us into all truth. He imparts wisdom as the Counsellor. He empowers through the spiritual gifts. He does, comes upon, fills, emboldens, purifies… Even before the world was made, the Holy Spirit was not stationary. He brooded over the waters. Some versions say He moved over the waters. There is no record anywhere in the Bible that the Holy Spirit ceased to move, act, or do something.
This, of course, is part of the reasoning behind the well-used expression of ‘be still and know that I am God.’ While I don’t discount the obvious and important relevance of the need to be still and focus on God rather than on self, or on submission to the sovereignty of God, or even the truth of the critical need for worship and praise inherent here. But behind all these is the very simple truth that our being still opens the way for the Holy Spirit to do what He does best. The way we ‘know’ anything of God is, first and foremost through the working of the Holy Spirit bring us into all truth – revealing the will and the Word of God.
Today’s verse brings out a particular truth concerning the Spirit – God does not ‘dole out’ His Spirit by measure. The Holy Spirit is, therefore, measureless in our lives. Without restriction. Without limit. More than we could ever need. Overflowing. Abundant. Poured out. Find any adjective you can think of that implies the superlative, and you’ll find it perfectly describes the Holy Spirit. This is because The Holy Spirit is God, and there is no single word in our limited vocabulary that can define or describe the vastness of the I AM. Even if we combine every possible description together, we still would not come close to accurately defining the Holy Spirit.
We’ve noted that the Holy Spirit is the will and Word of God in action. This essentially means that He is the ‘power arm’ of the Trinity. Of course, this does not imply that God’s power is limited to the Holy Spirit. It simply means that He is the ‘arm’ of God, the part of God that does. God wills, God speaks, God does. That’s the perfect, complete relationship that is the triune God. They work together. They are one, and cannot be separated, even in understanding their roles.
This brings us to a consideration of the word ‘power’ and, sadly, to the ways we misuse, don’t use, or under use this vital and integral part of our life as a believer.
There are some who deny the Holy Spirit access. They equate the supernatural manifestation of God to the realm of weird-and-not-wonderful. They refuse to surrender, be it from fear or from arrogance. They look with suspicion on terms like ‘Spirit-filled,’ ‘Spirit-led,’ and ‘Spirit-empowered.’ The tragedy of this is that they deny themselves the fundamental power of God – His eternal purpose – to enable us to live in the righteousness that is Christ and be transformed into His likeness. There is no boldness, no joy, no real spiritual enlightenment, and no growth. Life as a believer is a life of colourless, personal struggle.
At the other extreme, we have the super-hype that characterises so many churches today. It’s a total focus on manifestations, on visible or emotionally experienced signs and wonders to the near exclusion of God’s will and His Word. The work of the Holy Spirit is exalted above the perfect balance of the Trinity. It’s a place of self-gratification, where the Holy Spirit becomes something of a spiritual tool, something we use to satisfy ourselves, our passions, and our personal agendas.
The third possibility is, perhaps, one of lack of knowledge. Because we’re not fully convicted of the measureless nature of the Holy Spirit, we don’t open ourselves fully to all He is able and willing to do. We’re partially surrendered, and so are partially empowered. Jesus Himself said ‘these things and so much more will you do.’ Not might do, will do. It’s an imperative, a statement of accomplished fact. That we don’t do doesn’t alter the veracity of His Word. Rather, it reflects on the relationship we have towards Father, Son, and Spirit. To understand this, let’s look at the first part of today’s verse. Two things are revealed here.
First, we must be sent. Who did Jesus send? His disciples. If we claim to be a disciple of Christ, we are sent. Period. Done and dusted. His words didn’t apply to the ‘chosen few,’ the apostles of that time. If it had, the church wouldn’t exist. The entire Christian structure is based on the fundamental principle of disciples making disciples making disciples. And making disciples isn’t limited to evangelism and conversion. It is about teaching, raising up, mentoring, training, equipping, and all the things that go into maturing Christians. This is the purpose for which each and every single believer – disciple – is sent. In this context, we can quite justifiably add the descriptor ‘sent one’ when defining ‘disciple.’
This brings us to the second thing. How do we accomplish what we are sent to do? We speak. We speak the Gospel. We speak the Word. We speak wisdom and truth. We speak guidance and counsel. We speak healing, life, deliverance, and every other grace and blessing of God for His people. Think, for a moment, of the saints in revelation who overcome. It is by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Of course, ‘speaking’ also involves a way of life, our example – the concept of actions speak louder than words – and we’ll get to that.
For now, though, consider this in relation to the Trinity, using creation as our example. It’s noteworthy that, right at the very beginning of the Bible, God reveals His nature and the way He works to us. First, God wills – in the context of us as disciples, He sends or commands, which is His will. Second, God said – His Word, who is Christ, and in our context of disciples it is us preaching Christ and Him crucified, the full measure of the Gospel and everything pertaining to the life of the believer. It’s very clear, then, that these two things are absolutely critical to what comes next.
The final step in creation is God does. That is God in action. That is the Holy Spirit. When God wills and God speaks, the Holy Spirit does. From the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. It is a divine, immutable, spiritual ‘law.’ God works in no other way. We are sent (His will), we speak (His Word), and the Holy Spirit is released without measure to effect His purposes.
So why, then, is the Holy Spirit so obviously ‘measured’ in our lives? Why do we see none of the ‘real’ movement of God, the overflow and abundant power that is God Himself?
The first reason is in our being sent, which implies our obedience. The release of the Holy Spirit in us will be dependent on our obedience, which works hand in hand with our surrender to the sovereignty of God. If we’re holding back, we aren’t open to the fullness. It doesn’t alter the fact that the Holy Spirit is given without measure. It simply means that our ability to receive is limited by our surrender and our obedience. It’s rather like a lake – it’s intended to be limitless, but if we throw in stuff or allow it become clogged and blocked, the quantity that it can hold is restricted. We compromise its potential by how much rubbish it contains.
The second reason is our speaking, which is also directly related to the first reason. The Bible says that it is out of the heart that a man speaks. What’s in our heart is what we speak. If we’re fully surrendered and fully obedient, we will speak God’s Word. If we’re ‘cluttered’ we will speak some of His Word. Whatever is in our hearts is what we will speak. What is in our hearts is determined by our surrender and our obedience. When we yield all, He replaces it with Himself.
This is the eternal ‘process’ by which God works. We will never see the limitless release of the Holy Spirit if we don’t first align ourselves with His will and His Word. When we obey the will of God and when we speak the Word of God, the Holy Spirit will act. It isn’t a maybe, or might be, or if God feels like it at that particular moment. It’s a spiritual fact, as unshakeable as God Himself. The Holy Spirit has to move when God is present in His full, perfect, triune, unified character. It’s not optional. It’s who He is. But, at the same time, the Holy Spirit will not move if the will and the Word of God are not there. That is as much a spiritual law as the other. He can never be manipulated – we may see ‘power,’ but it’s source will not be the Holy Spirit.
The vital message in today’s verse is that the Holy Spirit is given without measure. He is the I AM – the complete will, purpose, and Word of God – in action. What an awesome thought. The whole of God, the vast, eternal reality of God, is available to us without measure. What we receive is determined only by what we are willing to surrender. It’s up to us. Isn’t it time we evaluated and adjusted our perspective? If we are sent and we speak in obedience and surrender, the whole of God will be there with us to perform what He has willed and commanded.
Lord, thank You for Your abundant grace and Your Holy Spirit without measure. Help us to see the truth in this, to turn our hearts to You and Your will. Help us to speak, sure in the knowledge that You have placed Your nature, Your will and Your Word in our hearts, and to be fully surrendered and obedient in all things.