For many Christians, the Spirit of God is a relative latecomer to the biblical story, not doing much until the New Testament. He doesn’t really begin to shine until after Pentecost. So if you want to learn about the Spirit, start reading in Acts.
But that clearly isn’t the case. Although the New Testament says some amazing things about the Spirit, you simply can’t understand or appreciate those statements deeply enough without the rest of the story. And it’s a story that begins in Genesis.
We’ve done a good job in recent years emphasizing that you can’t understand the story of Christ without the Old Testament, now it’s time to do the same for the Spirit.
Rather than just summarize the story of the Spirit in my own words, though, I started playing around with whether you could do it with a selective reading, letting the Bible speak for itself. The idea was to come up with something that (1) could be read in just a few minutes, (2) would make sense of the whole story of the Spirit, (3) could be read without inserting explanations (although everything in here could obviously be discussed further), (4) could be used as a public reading, and (5) doesn’t use any verse(s) inappropriately. That last point is important but tricky given that a selective reading like this necessarily uses individual passages outside their normal contexts. But let’s see what we can do.
Here’s what I came up with. Let me know if you think it’s missing anything essential to the story, but remember that we’re trying to keep this relatively brief.
The Story of the Spirit from Beginning to End
The Spirit and Creation
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen. 1:1-2)
Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Gen 2:7)
The Spirit and the Fall
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Gen. 2:16-17)
But she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Gen. 3:6)
Therefore…God drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:23-24)
and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecc. 12:7)
The Spirit and God’s Faithfulness
“Be strong, all you people of the land,” declares the Lord, “and work. For I am with you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” (Hag. 2:4-5)
You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. (Neh. 9:20)
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? (Ps. 139:7)
The Spirit and the Promise
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. (Isa 44:3-4)
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from fall your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezek 36:25-28)
The Spirit and Christ
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ (John 1:32-33)
For he whom God has sent…gives the Spirit without measure. (John 3:34)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth….You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,* Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you….As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:19-22)
The Spirit and God’s People
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4)
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Romans 8:12-16)
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal. 4:4-7)
The Spirit and the End
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place* of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Rev. 21:1-3)
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17)