Is the Holy Spirit like “The Force” in Star Wars?

 

Acts 5

1There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception.

3Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”

5As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him.

7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

9And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this—conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too.”

10Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened. (Acts 5:1-11, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

During Covid I started running. I hated it at first but I kept at it and now I typically run about 6 miles per day. Most days I tend to run the same route that includes a 3.1 mile loop around Lake Mission Viejo, a small man-made lake in our community.

One interesting piece of trivia is that the 1984 Olympic Cycling event included a segment around this lake that I run almost every single day. In fact, the finish line for that race is memorialized, not only in the street, with a cement strip that says “Finish” but also on the sidewalk with benches and a plaque that gives tribute to the 20th anniversary of the Olympic event.

Finish Line for the 1984 Olympic Cycling Event
Memorial marking the 20th anniversary of the 1984 Olympic Cycling event, which took place in Mission Viejo, CA

Occasionally, when I run by this spot on the loop I will see some members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting on the bench with a portable kiosk filled with religious paraphernalia. Their hope, I’m sure, is that people walking the loop might stop and take some religious material or even engage in some spiritual conversation.

If you’re not familiar with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are a religious group based in New York. Their roots are in Christianity but they are NOT a Christian group.

One of the main differences between traditional, orthodox Christianity and the Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they reject the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus. I wrote about the Jehovah’s Witnesses misunderstanding of Jesus in some previous blog posts here (A Modern Day Version of an Ancient Heresy) and here (Evidence that Jesus is God).

Another main difference between Jehovah’s Witness teachings and traditional Christianity is their rejection of the doctrine of the trinity, which they believe was a pagan belief introduced to the church by Constantine early in the 4th century.

While the church teaches that God is triune – that is, the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there is only ONE God, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus is a created being and the Holy Spirit is a force, not a person.

In the book “You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth”, the Holy Spirit is described as God’s active force and is compared to an electrical power grid that provides electricity to an entire suburb from a nearby power source.

Is this an accurate depiction of the Holy Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit God’s active force, much like “The Force” in Star Wars?

According to this passage in Acts 5, the answer is clearly “NO”.

This passage tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira, a husband and wife who sold some property and gave the proceeds to the church. But they lied about how much they made and as a result, they both were struck dead. In a previous post, I wrote about why they experienced such harsh consequences for what seems like a minor offense.

While this text is often used to highlight the serious quest for righteousness and purity in the early church, there is an often overlooked theological nugget in this passage that aids in our understanding regarding the nature of the Holy Spirit.

Look at verse 3, in which Peter says, ““Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.”

First off, notice that Peter tells Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit when he kept some of the money for himself. This is clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force, because you cannot lie to something that is inanimate, such as a force or an electrical power grid. You can only lie to a person, and since Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, then clearly, the Holy Spirit must be a person.

Secondly, look at the end of verse 4, in which Peter says to Ananias, “How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.

In verse 3, Peter says that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and then in verse 4 Peter says that Ananias lied to GOD!

There’s the smoking gun right there. Clear evidence that Peter, one of the foremost apostles of the New Testament church, believed that the Holy Spirit was God.

Perhaps you’ve never given much thought to the Holy Spirit – who He is or what He is. One thing is certain – the Holy Spirit is NOT a force, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach. The Bible clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, and He is God!

Reflection

Traditional Christianity teaches that God is a triune God, or a trinity? What do you think that means? How would you explain the triune nature of God to someone else?

The author asserts that lying to the Holy Spirit is clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person? Do you agree that you can only lie to a person? What other attributes would demonstrate personhood? In other words, what are some attributes that only PEOPLE  can have and what are some actions that only PEOPLE can commit?

What has been your understanding of the Holy Spirit in the past?

Do you agree that the Holy Spirit is God? If not, why not? 

 

Photos by Dave Lowe

 

 

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