“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4,5).
I was raised in a family where my parents were both deaf-mutes (they could not speak or hear). They communicated with each other and other deaf-mutes by using their hands to indicate letters and words. This is known as American Sign Language, or ASL. Since I was the firstborn child, I naturally learned to communicate using this form of sign language before I even learned to speak.
In a sense, my vocal abilities and hearing abilities were useless in trying to communicate with my parents. In the same way, their signing abilities would have been useless in trying to communicate with a non-signing person. The problem was not a lack of communication, but an inability to discern or understand the correct mode of communication.
In the same way, we often try to use the wrong senses to communicate with God. We try to use our natural senses to communicate with God who is Spirit (John 4:24). Yet He has given us supernatural or spiritual abilities to communicate with Him.
COMMUNICATION AND FELLOWSHIP
In order to understand the operation of the Holy Spirit, it is essential to understand how communication takes place between the Holy Spirit and an individual. But before we can effectively study that topic, we need to agree that God can and does communicate with us and that we are able to communicate with God.
The Bible gives us many accounts of communication between God and mankind. In the Garden of Eden, God communed with Adam and Eve directly (Gen 2:16,17). Their communication was personal and open. Tragically, as a result of their disobedience and rebellion, that open personal communication was broken (Gen 3:8-24).
Now which of us has not experienced in our personal life a break in relationship that also produced a corresponding break in communication? Have you ever been so upset with someone that you then found it difficult to communicate with them, especially in a loving manner?
The consequence of Adam and Eve eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was death (Gen 2:16,17). The death was more than just eventually a physical death; the death was also a spiritual death, where the open communication and fellowship with God was broken.
From that time until the time of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, the Holy Spirit communicated with man through messengers. These were messengers such as angels and prophets; but also, at times, the Holy Spirit communicated directly. The Holy Spirit would be “upon” or “with” an individual for a season of time (Num 11:16-29; Judges 3:10, 6:34; 1Sam 16:13; 2Chron 24:20).
As New Testament believers, we understand that the Holy Spirit now lives within the individual. (As a side note, this may explain the infrequency of angels and the use of the office of the prophet in New Testament writings.)
It is clear, from Genesis to Revelation, that God both speaks to and guides His people, and that the communication with Him is indeed a dialogue or a two-way conversation (cf. Num 12:6-8; Isa 1:18; Acts 11:28; Rom 8:26; 1Cor 14:2).
GOD IS SPIRIT
The clearest statement of the truth that God is Spirit is found in John 4:24: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” If we accept the fact that we also are spiritual, then a logical extension of these two thoughts is that:
- spiritual communication with God is possible, and
- communication between God and man is available.
Let us take a look at how communication takes place in general. The dictionary defines communication as, “the exchange of information between individuals or the study of the different means people use to communicate with each other; for example, speech, telecommunications, writing or using a common system of signs or behavior.”
Based on our definition of communication, it is clear that communication is the transfer of information. This transfer can take place on several levels. Since we are spirit, soul and body, communication can take place on each of these three levels.
Let me repeat the foundational belief that God is spirit and He looks for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24). If we accept this truth, then two pivotal questions arise: (1) Is “spiritual communication” possible? And, if so, (2) What is “spiritual communication” like?
The answer to the first question, “Is spiritual communication possible?”, is a resounding, yes!
Now it is true that the natural (“natural” meaning our unredeemed eyes, ears and mind) cannot comprehend spiritual things. Yet God has given us an ability to “see”, “hear” and “understand” spiritual things because He has given new life to our spirit (2Cor 2).
Now, this is a spiritual fact that must be accepted and acted upon by faith. It does not have to make logical sense or “feel right” to us. If God’s Word has spoken it, then that settles it! There are reasons that so many have a hard time grasping this truth, such as: it is unfamiliar; it goes against tradition; it does not conform to conventional wisdom that is often portrayed in popular books and media.
UNDERSTANDING SPIRITUAL ISSUES
Before we can address the second question, “What is spiritual communication like?”, we need to examine thoroughly what we mean by “spiritual”.
Part of the misunderstanding of the word “spiritual” has been in the use of mysterious words such as “anointing”, “glory”, “presence” and “impartation”. There are those with spiritual maturity or experience who use these words and understand their meaning. However, they do not always instruct us how to do the same! It is like saying to someone, “You need to be more loving!” but not showing them how to be more genuinely loving.
The words in any given language paint a picture, in the mind, for the usage of that word. However, words alone are sometimes inadequate to describe and define spiritual issues fully. That is why actually seeing an example can help us to better understand instruction.
But these spiritual issues cannot always be “shown” to us completely by example; therefore, faith is often required on our part. Remember, God’s ways are higher than our ways.
We need to apply our efforts to try and understand how God intended spiritual things to operate. We do the best we can with the words, images and word-pictures that we have available. But if we rely solely upon the normal usage of language, we may miss important functional aspects of the power inherent and available to us as believers.
For instance, we use the terms to be “filled” or even “refilled” to describe the activation or re-activation of the Holy Spirit within our lives. But what do those words mean? What is really happening? The essence of what is happening is this: We make the effort to recognize afresh the work of the Holy Spirit within us; we focus our spiritual eyes, tune in our spiritual ears and renew a hunger in our hearts for Him, welcoming anew His work in our lives.
LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION
Let us now examine the various God-given levels of communication of which we are capable.
Our physical body communicates with the physical realm, or the physical world we live in. The body uses the five senses: hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling and touching. Through these senses, we communicate with the physical realm.
Our hearing responds to sound waves that fall within specific frequencies. We hear loud sounds, soft sounds, low- and high-pitched sounds. With our vision we are able to discern shapes, shades, colors and movement. Our taste buds are able to detect sweet, sour and bitter. With our nose we can distinguish odors, from the pleasant scent of flowers to the smell of rotting eggs. And finally, with our sense of touch we are able to distinguish cold, heat, pain and pleasure.
Now the body itself does not evaluate the source, danger or pleasure of the stimuli. The body simply alerts the brain, which is part of the soul, to be aware of the stimuli; then the brain reacts. Since we live in the world, God has given us the ability to detect and react to the world we live in.
Notice that the body is not responsible for interpreting or evaluating the meaning of all the stimuli. All the body knows is, “That hurts!” or “It is sweet!” or “That is loud!”
The soul is where all of the stimuli that the body experiences are put into context. That is, the soul assigns meaning to the stimuli. For instance, the soul “learns” that the sound of a gunshot means danger and reacts accordingly by telling the body to run or hide. It is this learning process in life that shapes our emotions (feelings), our will (the ability to choose) and our intellect (intelligence).
Our personality is shaped by our soul. Just as the soul interacts with the physical world through the body, the soul also interacts with other souls or people through the body as well.
To sum up so far: The body interacts or communicates with the physical world. The soul also interacts with the physical world. More importantly, the soul is able to interact with the souls of others. In other words, the soul of one person “communicates” with the soul of another person with the words and responses of each individual. Relationships are built on this type of “soul” communication.
It is worth noting that when the Bible uses the word “flesh” in reference to a person, it can refer to one of two things. It may refer to the body alone, or it may refer to the union of the body and soul. “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). The Scriptures often use the term flesh to distinguish between the carnal person and the spiritual person. A carnal person is one who is immature and/or influenced more by the things of the world than by the things of Spirit (1Cor 3:1-4).
If the body communicates with the physical world, and the soul communicates with the “soul” world, with what or with whom does the spirit communicate with? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? The spirit of man has the potential to communicate with the spiritual realm.
If we carefully study 1 Corinthians 2:9-16, it should become evident that God has given us, as believers, the ability to do what was not possible before Jesus Christ and the Cross of Calvary: to see, hear and comprehend spiritual things on an individual level. We have been given the “mind of Christ” (v.16). Verse 12 states, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.”
Let us examine more closely this passage in 1 Corinthians 2. “But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1Cor 2:9). “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard” obviously speaks about the physical senses, the domain of the body. “Nor have entered into the heart of man”: The heart in this case refers to the mind or emotions and these are in the realm of the soul.
This verse clearly states that we are limited in our own physical and intellectual ability to comprehend the things of God. But, hallelujah! God has given us His Spirit: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1Cor 2:12). God has made everything we need available to us, His children, as it pertains “to life and godliness” (2Pet 1:3).
We are reminded again in 1 Corinthians 2:13 that communication with God is not about human intellect or man’s wisdom, but His Spirit teaching our spirit: “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
The Bible then reveals that a non-spiritual (natural, unsaved) man cannot discern the things of the Spirit: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor 2:14).
Finally, we are assured that we have the mind of Christ! “But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:15,16). Hallelujah, can you understand what is being said? We – you and I as believers – have the mind of Christ!
As with any gift of God, we must learn how to exercise and use our spiritual senses. Jesus states, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). We naturally know how to communicate physically and intellectually from childhood. Learning to communicate spiritually, however, requires that we become like children (Matt 11:25; 18:1-5) and trust what God has said in His Word. If God has said it, then that settles it! He has said that those who walk by the Spirit are sons of God (Rom 8:12-17). Since we are His sons, the avenue of communication with God our Father has been opened to us.
THE SPIRITUAL MAN
When we were born again – accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – it was our spirit man that was made alive and enabled to communicate with God (Rom 6:11,13; 1Cor 15:22; Eph 2:1,5; 1Pet 3:18).
Our minds (souls) are in the process of being transformed and renewed: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2).
Our bodies will be replaced with supernatural bodies when we go to be with Jesus in Heaven: “So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (1Cor 15:42-44).
Our mind is being renewed, and our body will one day be replaced; but it is our spirit that is born again, once dead in sin but now alive in Christ (Eph 2:1-9)!
Clearly the Scriptures state that the lines of communication with God are now open. This communication is a two-way dialogue, in that we speak and He hears. More importantly, a promise is made that when He speaks, we will have the ability to hear: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1Cor 2:11-13). Be reminded that Jesus said we will be able to hear Him so that we may follow Him (John 10:27).
THE NATURAL MAN
The individual who rejects the gift of God in Christ and is not born again is referred to as a natural man: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor 2:14). The natural man can understand only with his mind (soul). Therefore, it is impossible for him to understand the spiritual things of God.
What a great joy, privilege and benefit it is to be able to communicate with our Father in Heaven, even as children communicate with their earthly fathers. All of this is available because we are born-again and now have the “mind of Christ”. Through the wisdom of God, great and precious gifts and promises are made available to every believer who would choose, by faith, to walk in the provisions He has made through His Son, Jesus Christ!