Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Feeling or Hearing?

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5–8)

Here is the conclusion of the whole matter. “If,” says He, “you know not how to explain the motion nor the path of this wind which you perceive by hearing and touch, why are you over-anxious about the working of the Divine Spirit, when you understand not that of the wind, though you hear its voice?” The expression, “blows where it wishes,” is also used to establish the power of the Comforter; for if none can hold the wind, but it moves where it wishes, much less will the laws of nature, or limits of bodily generation, or anything of the like kind, be able to restrain the operations of the Spirit.

That the expression, “you hear its voice,” is used respecting the wind, is clear from this circumstance; He would not, when conversing with an unbeliever and one unacquainted with the operation of the Spirit, have said, “You hear its voice.” As then the wind is not visible, although it utters a sound, so neither is the birth of that which is spiritual visible to our bodily eyes; yet the wind is a body, although a very subtle one; for whatever is the object of sense is body. If then you do not complain because you cannot see this body, and do not on this account disbelieve, why do you, when you hear of “the Spirit,” hesitate and demand such exact accounts, although you act not so in the case of a body?

John Chrysostom, Homily on John 26.2

Jesus uses the picture of wind to teach about the Holy Spirit. (In Greek, there is one word that is translated either “wind” or “spirit”.) You cannot see the wind. You see what the wind does to the leaves or the dust and your newly washed car. You can also feel the wind. But Jesus doesn’t mention feeling or seeing. Instead, He says, “You hear its sound.” You know the wind is blowing because you hear it. Jesus, remember, is teaching about the Holy Spirit. How do you know where the Holy Spirit is? How do we know if the Holy Spirit is at work? You hear His sound. The Holy Spirit is heard, not felt. The Holy Spirit doesn’t tickle us; He talks to us.

The presence of the Holy Spirit and the evidence of His work is not detected by feeling, but by hearing. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (see Ephesians 6:17). The Bible never commands us to feel the Holy Spirit. We are commanded to listen to the Word. The Scriptures are inspired by the Spirit, not our feelings (see 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19–21).

Bryan Wolfmueller, Has American Christianity Failed?, p. 122–3

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