This post will look at the Divine Spirit, also known as the Holy Spirit or as in Dr. Stern’s translation and in common use in the Messianic Jewish movement, the Ruach Ha Kodesh, which is the Hebrew for “Holy Spirit”. You may have heard people use the old English, “Holy Ghost”. Being that the UMJC Statement of Faith is the statement affirmed and adopted by the delegates of the UMJC in 2012. The Statment was the product of the working together by Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer and Rabbi Dr. Dan Juster, respected leaders and scholars in the UMJC.
We are going to look at two sections of the UMJC Statement of Faith that mention the Holy Spirit and His work in the world and in the life of the Messianic community.
In the opening affirmation we read:
There is one God, who has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Every divine action in the world is accomplished by the Father working through the Son and in the power of the Spirit. This God has revealed Himself in creation and in the history of Israel as transmitted in Scripture. (Gen. 1:1; I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:4-6)
The most basic starting point to most if not all Statements of Faith is with the Person and Nature of God. The Bible itself begins with God creating the world, the third word in Hebrew is “Elohim”, a name of God. Most basic to Jewish belief in God is that there is only one God. This is affirmed each time we recite the Shema,
““Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one];” (Deuteronomy 6:4, CJB).
In the above opening affirmation of the UMJC Statement we see that in light of New Covenant revelation about Yeshua and the Ruach that we understand that the One God has made Himself known as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is not a simple monotheism, or strict belief in a one-person Godhead as understood in traditional Judaism, but it is the understanding made known in the New Covenant Scriptures.
Let’s look at the Scripture verses that are referenced as backing this first assertion:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water.” (Genesis 1:1–2, CJB)
This is the Bible’s first statement about God, in the act of creating the world.
We can also see in this verse the Spirit of God hovering over the waters.
In a parallel passage speaking of the creation of the world in the first chapter of the Gospel of John we read:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being.” (John 1:1–3, CJB)
We can see here that John reveals that “the Word”, Greek “logos” or Hebrew “memra”, a reference to Yeshua (Jesus) was with God at the Creation of the World and was Himself God. This affirmation Yeshua being God shows that the New Covenant writers were willing to see a broader understanding of the One God of Israel, as revealing Himself as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can see a reference to the Father and Spirit in Creation from Genesis 1 and in John 1 we are given the added revelation that Yeshua is God and was a partner in the Creation of the World.
So to summarize the first reference to the Divine Spirit in the UMJC Statement of Faith made clear that there is only One God in alignment with the Shema, yet the unity of God is a unity made up of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God revealed in three persons.
Christian scholar Wayne Grudem (2004), gives a brief summary of what the first affirmation stated when he wrote:
In one sense the doctrine of the Trinity (Compound Unity) is a mystery that we will never be able to understand fully. However, we can understand something of its truth by summarizing the teaching of Scripture in three statements:
1.God is three persons.
2.Each person is fully God.
3.There is one God (p. 231).
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
In the seventh affirmation we read:
God poured out the Divine Spirit on the community of Yeshua’s followers, so that they might be joined intimately to the Messiah as His Body and become the preliminary representation of the New Covenant fullness promised to Israel. To this early Jewish community God added partners from among the nations, who heard the news of God’s work in Yeshua and responded to the good news with faith. (Isa. 66:20-21; Acts 2:1-21; 10:44-48; 15:8-9; Eph. 1:13; 2:11-22)
This second affirmation focuses on the work of the Divine Spirit in the life of the followers of Yeshua both among the Jewish People and among the Gentiles. The role of the Spirit in the life of the Messianic community is to bring people to know Messiah better and to grow closer to Him and to one another.
Let’s look at the above verses to see more of the role of the Spirit.
“and they will bring all your kinsmen out of all the nations as an offering to Adonai—on horses, in chariots, in wagons, on mules, on camels—to my holy mountain Yerushalayim,” says Adonai, “just as the people of Isra’el themselves bring their offerings in clean vessels to the house of Adonai. I will also take cohanim and L’vi’im from them,” says Adonai.” (Isaiah 66:20–21, CJB)
This verse ties into the affirmation above of God adding partners among the nations to faith in the God of Israel as Isaiah speaks of a future day when those from the Gentile nations will come up to Jerusalem to worship God with the Jewish People.
“The festival of Shavu‘ot arrived, and the believers all gathered together in one place. Suddenly there came a sound from the sky like the roar of a violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire, which separated and came to rest on each one of them. They were all filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and began to talk in different languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak. Now there were staying in Yerushalayim religious Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd gathered; they were confused, because each one heard the believers speaking in his own language. Totally amazed, they asked, “How is this possible? Aren’t all these people who are speaking from the Galil? How is it that we hear them speaking in our native languages? We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Y’hudah, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; Jews by birth and proselytes; Jews from Crete and from Arabia!… How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?” Amazed and confused, they all went on asking each other, “What can this mean?” But others made fun of them and said, “They’ve just had too much wine!” Then Kefa stood up with the Eleven and raised his voice to address them: “You Judeans, and all of you staying here in Yerushalayim! Let me tell you what this means! Listen carefully to me! “These people aren’t drunk, as you suppose—it’s only nine in the morning. No, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yo’el: ‘Adonai says: “In the Last Days, I will pour out from my Spirit upon everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my slaves, both men and women, will I pour out from my Spirit in those days; and they will prophesy. I will perform miracles in the sky above and signs on the earth below— blood, fire and thick smoke. The sun will become dark and the moon blood before the great and fearful Day of Adonai comes. And then, whoever calls on the name of Adonai will be saved.” ’” (Acts 2:1–21, CJB)
Acts 2, is one of the more important appearances of the Spirit in the Bible and a clear demonstration of His work in the world. It was the day of Shavuot, 50 days after Passover, the day that the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai that the Holy Spirit came in a powerful way and filled the group of Yeshua believers and they began speaking in other languages, all the various languages of the Jews that were in Jerusalem for Shavuot (a pilgrimage festival). They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak about Yeshua and salvation through His death and resurrection in all the languages of the people there. Peter in his powerful speech to those in the Temple courts spoke boldly about Yeshua empowered by the Spirit and he even made his hearers aware that all that was happening was a fulfillment of the words of the Prophet Joel (chapter 2).
In this passage we see the Spirit empowering the early followers of Yeshua to share about Yeshua and empower them for service.
“Kefa was still saying these things when the Ruach HaKodesh fell on all who were hearing the message. All the believers from the Circumcision faction who had accompanied Kefa were amazed that the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh was also being poured out on the Goyim, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Kefa’s response was, “Is anyone prepared to prohibit these people from being immersed in water? After all, they have received the Ruach HaKodesh, just as we did.” And he ordered that they be immersed in the name of Yeshua the Messiah. Then they asked Kefa to stay on with them for a few days.” (Acts 10:44–48, CJB)
This passage shows the earliest Gentile followers coming to believe in Yeshua and how life the Jewish followers of Yeshua, they too had received the Holy Spirit. Not understanding that God was opening up a new way for Gentiles to come to the God of Israel, without conversion to Judaism, there was some question how to deal with this new phenomenon. Peter stepped forward and accepted that the Spirit had come to these Gentiles by faith in Yeshua and had them immersed in Yeshua’s name and accepted them into the faith community.
“And God, who knows the heart, bore them witness by giving the Ruach HaKodesh to them, just as he did to us; that is, he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their heart by trust.” (Acts 15:8–9, CJB)
This passage also affirms that the Gentiles demonstrated their faith in Yeshua by the fact of their being filled with the Spirit of God.
“Furthermore, you who heard the message of the truth, the Good News offering you deliverance, and put your trust in the Messiah were sealed by him with the promised Ruach HaKodesh,” (Ephesians 1:13, CJB)
This passage gives us a look at the work of the Holy Spirit as the one who sealed us in the reality of the promise of deliverance by trust in Yeshua. The infilling of the Holy Spirit is both a demonstration of faith in Yeshua, it is also a guarantee of that bond between Yeshua and you that is sealed and guarded by the work of the Holy Spirit.
“Therefore, remember your former state: you Gentiles by birth—called the Uncircumcised by those who, merely because of an operation on their flesh, are called the Circumcised—at that time had no Messiah. You were estranged from the national life of Israel. You were foreigners to the covenants embodying God’s promise. You were in this world without hope and without God. But now, you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of the Messiah’s blood. For he himself is our shalom—he has made us both one and has broken down the wall which divided us by destroying in his own body the enmity occasioned by the Torah, with its commands set forth in the form of ordinances. He did this in order to create in union with himself from the two groups a single new humanity and thus make shalom, and in order to reconcile to God both in a single body by being executed on a stake as a criminal and thus in himself killing that enmity. Also, when he came, he announced as Good News shalom to you far off and shalom to those nearby,news that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers. On the contrary, you are fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s family. You have been built on the foundation of the emissaries and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself. In union with him the whole building is held together, and it is growing into a holy temple in union with the Lord. Yes, in union with him, you yourselves are being built together into a spiritual dwelling-place for God!” (Ephesians 2:11–22, CJB)
In this passage Paul is reminding his Gentile readers that before they cam to trust in Yeshua they were far off from God and separated Him. It is the faith of the Gentiles in Yeshua that had brought them near to God and it is the same Spirit that guides both Jews and Gentiles that follow after Yeshua.
This passage also affirms that all have access to God the Father through the Holy Spirit.
This has been a look at what was affirmed by the UMJC about the Holy Spirit/Ruach Ha Kodesh.
We have seen that:
- The Holy Spirit is God
- The Holy Spirit was involved in the Creation of the World.
- The Holy Spirit is the Power or Action of God in the World.
- The Holy Spirit was given to believers to draw them closer to Yeshua.
- The Holy Spirit was also given to those from the Nations of the World that came to trust in Yeshua.
- The Holy Spirit is a source of empowering us to share about Yeshua to both Jews and Gentiles.
- The Holy Spirit seals us in our relationship to Yeshua.
- The Holy Spirit helps us to have access to God the Father.