By Rev. Tim Sullivan


As a work of literature, the Bible is a masterpiece beyond compare. Its historic records are accurate and succinct. The dramatic narrative thrills us with unexpected twists and turns, and the poetry gives wings to our heart. In a world where justice is longed for but rarely seen, we see good triumph over evil, and love over hatred. Above all, its message of salvation brings hope to our souls. These are the things so simple and clear that even "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" (Isaiah 35:8).

But the deep things of God go "outside the box" of the logical, rational mind. The things of the Spirit of God are impossible for us to discern without his help.

1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Thankfully, the Lord is fully aware of our dilemma, and has provided a means for us to bridge the gap between natural knowledge and spiritual knowledge.


After Jesus rose from the dead, why didn’t he remain on earth to subdue the world to God? After all, that is his ultimate mission! But there was something else he needed to accomplish first, and that task required that he leave our world. Jesus departed so he could send the Comforter to us.

John 16:7
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language defines EXPEDIENT as "That which serves to promote or advance; any means which may be employed to accomplish an end." In order to fulfill his mission, Jesus needed to go away.

The Comforter is THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH that goes out from God the Father.

John 15:26
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

All three members of the Godhead are referenced in this verse. The unknowable God manifests himself in three "persons": The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father gives life, the Son brings salvation, and the Holy Spirit equips us for holy living.

John 16:13
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

During his resurrection appearance, Jesus prepared his disciples to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. He breathed on them showing them how it would come to pass:

John 20:21-22
21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

What is the difference between the Holy Spirit and the Holy Ghost?

The third member of the Godhead is the Holy SPIRIT. Like God the Father, the Holy Spirit is omnipresent. But when the Holy Spirit resides within a person, it is called the Holy GHOST. The Holy Spirit is "out there." The Holy Ghost is the Holy Spirit templed inside a tabernacle of flesh.

(Of the popular English translations, only the King James Version makes this distinction. This is just one of many reasons that this particular writer holds it to be the most accurate English Bible translation.)

Why is it called a GHOST?

The spirit of man is the natural life force that was originally breathed into Adam, and has been passed from generation to generation through childbirth ever since. The spirit of man came from God. "The breath of the Almighty," says Job 33:4, "hath given me life."  As for the animals, Genesis 1:24 says, "And God said, Let the EARTH bring forth the living creature after his kind."

When life ends for man or beast, their spirit (the spirit of man or the spirit of the beast) returns to its place of origin:

Ecclesiastes 3:21
Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward,
and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

When a person dies, the breath of life departs from him. At that moment, the Bible says he "gives up the ghost."

Genesis 25:8
Then Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people.

Luke 23:46
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Acts 12:2
And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him [Herod], because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

Whether or not a man's eternity will be spent in Paradise, his "spirit" – the life force that made him a living soul – returns to God. This is NOT speaking of him making his home in heaven. A person could try to make that argument about Abraham or Jesus, but certainly not about King Herod. This record from Acts 12 comes shortly after Herod ordered the execution of the apostle James and imprisoned Peter.

What the Bible calls the "ghost" is the natural life force that makes the human machine function. It is the spirit of man. But when the Holy Spirit dwells in a man, it is called the Holy Ghost. Anytime the Bible speaks of the Holy Ghost, it refers to the Holy Spirit dwelling within a person.

Mark 12:36 
For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord,
Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Acts 13:2
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

Anytime we read in the Bible something that "the Holy Ghost said", it is NOT speaking of a voice from heaven such as was heard on the day John baptized Jesus.

Matthew 3:17
And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The people heard the VOICE of David, but the WORDS were the words of God. They heard the VOICE of the church elders, but the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas was ordered by the Holy Spirit.

This explains why people have always been slow been to believe God’s messengers. All they see is the frailty of the vessel, the person speaking. They resist the Holy Ghost – the invisible Spirit who speaks through people. Remember Stephen’s final words before his death by stoning:

Acts 7:51-52 [emphasis added]
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

There is a great consequence for rejecting the message of the Spirit of God simply because it comes through an imperfect vessel.

Luke 12:8-10 [emphasis added]
8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

. . . . .

Jesus said he would send "the promise of the Father" to his disciples, and they would be "endued [clothed or supplied] with power from on high."

Luke 24:49
And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you:
but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

This power would equip them to bear witness to his resurrection.

Acts 1:8   
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

This next verse encapsulates the entire story of the Book of Acts.

Acts 4:33 
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.

The gift of the Holy Ghost is "that holy Spirit of promise" (that promise being the promise of the Father) that SEALS our salvation. This seal is our blessed assurance that our adoption into the family of God is irrevocable.

Ephesians 1:13-14 [emphasis added]
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Sometimes the King James translation is difficult for our modern ears. Although not as accurate, these two versions provide good insight into the meaning of verse 14.

New Living Translation
The Spirit is God's guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.

New Jerusalem Bible
who is the pledge of our inheritance, for the freedom of the people whom God has taken for his own, for the praise of his glory.

Tragic indeed is the Christian who consumes his days worrying that his eternal salvation might slip through his sweaty, sinful hands. God wants our focus to be on HIM, not our sins! Great is the cleansing power of the blood of Lamb! On top of that, God has SEALED his purchased possession with the holy Spirit of promise! As 1 Peter 1:5 says, we are "kept [guarded and preserved] by the power of God."

What glorious freedom we have been given – not the freedom to sin without consequence (there is ALWAYS a consequence to sin), but freedom from the anguish of trying to traverse a straight and narrow bridge that swings high over a fiery chasm. Instead of being consumed by the fear of failure, we are brought to our knees in thanksgiving for the wondrous grace of God. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift."

The promise of the Father was fulfilled ten days after Christ’s Ascension, on the Day of Pentecost. Pentecost itself was not a one-time experience. The feast of Pentecost came once a year, much like Christmas Day in our era. Every year, Jerusalem was flooded with devotees who came to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. But this particular Pentecost – coming just 10 days after Jesus ascended –  was a very special day, marked by three very unique occurrences. As the apostles prayed in the temple…

1) There was a sound from heaven that filled the place they were sitting.

2) They apostles saw a vision of flames of fire over their heads.

3) When the apostles spoke in tongues, there were people present who understood what they were saying.

First, let us read of the great outpouring.

Acts 2:1-4
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The fact that when the apostles spoke in tongues they spoke a real language and not gibberish was confirmed by the astonished and mostly unbelieving audience who understood what they were saying. Now, we will read the testimony of the audience.

Acts 2:5-11
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 
7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another,
Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia,
and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene,
and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.

The fact that there were people present who UNDERSTOOD the languages spoken by the apostles says as much about the AUDIENCE as it does the speaking in tongues. When were you ever in a group of people who between them spoke sixteen different languages? The website earlychurchhistory.org defines the languages and dialects referenced in Acts 2:9-11 as follows:

1. Parthia – Parthian, a proto-Aramaic language
2. Media – a northeastern Iranian language
3. Elam – a "language esolate" with no relationship to any other
4. Mesopotamia – Akkadian spoken 2800 BC-500 AD
5. Judea – Aramaic, Hebrew
6. Cappadocia – mixed Greek and local dialects
7. Pontus – Greek and Persian
8. Asia, a Roman province – Latin
9. Parthia – Parthian, a proto-Aramaic language
10. Phrygia – Phrygian until 500’s AD and Greek/Anatolian language
11. Pamphylia – mainly Greek
12. Egypt – Coptic
13. Libya – Berber, Citin and Greek
14. Rome – Latin
15. Crete – Cretan Greek
16. Arabs – Arabic

Once again, three very unique things occurred on the Day of Pentecost: 1) There was a sound from heaven that filled the place they were sitting; 2) the apostles saw a vision of flames of fire over their heads, and 3) when the apostles spoke in tongues, there were people who understood what they were saying.

NONE of these wonders are ever duplicated in the Book of Acts. That is why the events of the Day of Pentecost should NOT be considered a template for future outpourings of the Holy Ghost. Far too many Christians are waiting for a supernatural trigger to receive the Holy Ghost. They want to be validated by someone who understands them when they speak in tongues. These misguided expectations prevent them from receiving and enjoying God's gift.

Here, from the mouth of Christ himself, is a genuine template for receiving the promise of the Father:

Luke 11:9-13 [emphasis added]
9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Too many times we have quoted the ASK – SEEK – KNOCK template for prayer without realizing that the AIM of this prayer is to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit! If you are a Christian and you want to be baptized in the Holy Ghost, don't make it more difficult than God intended it to be. Ask, seek, and knock!

Of course, that asking cannot be frivolous or with doubt in your heart.

James 1:6-7
6  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

Do you need to increase your faith? "Faith cometh by hearing," says Romans 10:17, "and hearing by the word of God." The promise of the Father – the gift of the Holy Ghost – is obtainable by anyone who believes the testimony of the Word of God.

Acts 2:38-39
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

If all we had was verse 38, a person could argue that the promise of the Father was only given to certain people of a certain time. But verse 39 tells everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that this promise is for ALL of God’s people throughout this blessed dispensation of grace. Don't waste away in fear wondering if you will be able to hold on to your salvation. Ask! Seek! Knock! Be SEALED with that holy Spirit of promise, and begin your expedition into the things of the Spirit of God.



Presented 14 November 2021 in French Settlement, Louisiana