Author: Prof Kobus de Smidt

He is the head of the Department of New Testament at ATS. His biggest interest at present is research and specifically the book of Revelations. He is fond of nature and loves walking. To him it is a pleasant experience, after years of being academically involved at different universities, to enjoy theology in the friendly and spiritual environment of ATS. He always says: "ATS has substance".

A discourse on the work of the Holy Spirit

1. Who is the Holy Spirit?

I think many Christians do not know who the Holy Spirit is. Often He is described as the unknown God. But the Bible’s view of the Holy Spirit is that He is the unseen but real person, presence, power and activity of God.

In the Synoptic Gospels the Holy Spirit was active at the birth of Jesus and his anointment by God during his baptism (Mt 3:16, Mk 1:8, Lk 3:16). The Synoptics also articulate that Jesus is the source of the work of the Holy Spirit for he …baptises in the Holy Spirit and with fire… (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16). In the Gospel of John the Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete (or Comforter, Counsellor, Helper, the Spirit of truth; Jh 15:26). In Acts (2:4, 38) the baptism with the Spirit was an act of God who empowered the disciples and early Church and was accompanied by both unusual visible and audible phenomena. Paul articulates the Holy Spirit as the divine energy or dynamic of the new life whose Head is the living Christ (1 Rm 15:13; Eph 5:18; 1 Th 1:5).  Paul helped to personalise men’s thinking about the conception of the Spirit. In Revelation the Holy Spirit is called Seven Spirits or the Seven Eyes of God  (Rv 1:4, 3:1, 4:5, 5:6). The number seven is a symbolic indication of the plenitude of the Holy Spirit.  The Seven Eyes of God are symbolic of the Spirit as the eyes of God. He sees the entire cosmos. Nothing escapes him. He is the Spirit of perception (the Deus praesens). He is also identified with the eyes of every individual believer (5:6). Through the Spirit, John is able to perceive the need in the seven congregations.

“A man with an experience is not at the mercy of an argument.”

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Six keys to a successful pastorate: lessons from Paul

The demands of being a pastor can be overwhelming. Even pastors, like Paul, who faithfully pray, study the Bible and avoid moral lapses are not immune to fatigue (2 Cor 11: 23-33). In verse 28 he says: “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”. How can you minister successfully over the long haul without burning out? We can learn certain principles from the apostle Paul:

1. Know your strengths, weaknesses and limitations
Strong leaders understand how God has put them together. In 1 Corinthians  2:3 Paul says: I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. Often leaders must experience pain, failure and crisis to fully understand their limitations. The truth is that those experiences can result in humility plus a deeper understanding of strengths and weaknesses. These leaders know how much emotional input they need and the level of ministry output they are capable of sustaining over time. That is why Paul could say his ministry was not like that of Apollos and Cephas; each had their strengths and weaknesses but ultimately they were servants of Christ (1 Cor 1:12; 3:5). He didn’t always have wisdom and the gift of persuasiveness, but he had a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

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The cross, the fulfilment of the manger

Passover is the most important Christian festival of the Christian year. But Christmas itself has now outstripped Passover in popular culture as the real celebration of the year – a move contrary to the New Testament’s emphasis. Jesus’ death on the cross on Passover is the fulfilment of the manger. The shadow of the cross falls over the manger and the cross was made out of the wood of Jesus’ manger. Passover is the moment when God’s new world started growing like green grass through the thick concrete of death, evil and injustice (N.T. Wright).

All languages about the future is an effort to set up signposts pointing into a foggy future. We see through a glass darkly, says Paul, as we peer towards the future. But with the first Christmas (4 BC) God came forward in Jesus in the first person, out of the fog or mist of God’s space. Jesus stepped out of the metaphysical world of God’s space to meet us and reveal God’s blueprint for His creation.

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The battlefield extended to our children

The church – the people of Jesus Christ – now lives in the final or the eschatological age. We are living between the times. Between the first coming and return of Christ. The period between his victory in the decisive battle between God and Satan and the day of final victory. Satan is the father of all evil and opposed to God. He, our biggest enemy, is defeated but not yet eliminated. For this reason Christian parents and children live on the battlefield. Christian parents and their children must be watchful and prepared for this spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-18).

Paul (Rom. 8:20) asserts that after the Fall creation was subjected to futility (Gr. mataiotes), emptiness, frustration, sin, evil, disharmony, and apparent meaninglessness. This condition came after creation was complete. After the Fall, Adam and Eve and all their descendants lost their innocence and real freedom (Rom. 5:12). People not only commit sins but are sinners, and the nature of their children are inherently affected.

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Blocked by the Holy Spirit

Listen to the voice recording of this essay

How to make day-to-day decisions in difficult times?

How is the Christian to make day-to-day decisions in difficult times? We do live in difficult times. As Christians we are more than often confronted with situations in which we really do not have all the answers and guidelines. And Satan tries to make this world and the Church of God a stinking swamp.

Stay in an intimate relationship with God

Of course, first and foremost, the relationship between a Christian and God must be intact and fresh. Since God and his nature is our guide, we need to keep in contact with Him. There are basic moral and spiritual principles rooted in the nature of God, to which those in a right relationship with Him must conform their thoughts, words, and deeds. This provides resources for both the daily grind and the emergency situations. For these difficult situations we must try to stay prayed-up for such times.

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The worldview of the authors of the New Testament

Worldview refers to a way of looking at the universe, or in more Biblical language, how we look at creation. It has to do with what one thinks about the nature of reality, why things happen, why they are the way they are, and what the real goals and proper outlook on life is. Broad parameters of a general New Testament (hereafter NT; and OT for Old Testament) worldview emerge from an overall assessment of the NT’s documents.

Four phases of the New Testament worldview can be articulated:

 1. Creation:

The proclamation (kēryssō) or preaching of the NT asserts the existence and activity of the transcendent sovereign God even before creation. He is the supreme God above all human limitations and the totally incomprehensible God (the Mysterium tremendum). The NT stipulates that He really exists. The world came into being as a result of His will, power, and action. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him (Hebr. 11:2, 6). But God revealed Himself through His self-revelation, His activities in creation, providence and redemption.

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Preceding forces of God’s new world – 1 Thessalonians 5

The resurrection of Jesus Christ caused the new world of God to break into this world just as God planned it in Paradise.  This new world of God cracked through the thick concrete layer of death, hate, corruption – like the sprouting of new green grass.  Essentially it was the launch of the Gospel’s Genesis narrative – the story of creation.  Jesus was indeed the innovative gardener commissioned to plough in the new world of God into this old earth.  This new world is coming to full fruition with the Second Coming, but before that a few things will happen.

The grunts of the age-old earth

There is a causal relation between the sign-language of nature and the actions of God.  Nature (“weer”) and coming again (“weerkoms”) are interrelated. The grumbling howls heard from deep within, and above the earth, stipulates: The fullness of time is at hand! (e.g. hurricane Sandy in New York).

Anarchy and ungodliness

There were three epochs (periods) in history of super-ungodliness; interludes so wicked that God Himself had to intervene and still will.

The first was the times of Noah (Gen. 6:5-7; 1 Pet. 3:20). The second is the last days  (Matt 24:37-39; Luke 17:26-29; 18:18b; 2 Thess. 2:2-8).  And then there is a third era of super godlessness (Rev. 16:13-14):  And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.  These unclean spirits today disseminate their gross atrocities across the entire world.  It seems as if law and order has collapsed in many parts of the world and in South Africa.

In his book, People of the lie, Scott Peck differentiates between common human sin and evil.  There is even evil in the Church where there is obsession for power and money, and very little love.  Today evil is increasing at a staggering rate to include: child pornography, drug related crimes, poverty, prostitution and unregulated abortions – you name it.  These are signs of the end-times.

Pluralism versus true worship

The Apostle Paul maintains that there are but two ways to worship.  Either you worship God or you worship creation (Rom. 1:25).

The worship of creation presupposes that all is one and that there is no Creator / Redeemer-God outside of the creation.  The cosmos has a personality.  Earth, (with a capital E) or Mother Earth, created herself.  This is a characteristic of our time.

New Age spirituality of self-realisation or mind power is presented.  God is in all and all is in God.  We find ourselves in the zodiac age of Aquarius. Think about key phrases like constitution, gender roles, globalization, the Green Movement, environment activists, multi-cultural diversity, yoga exercises, tattoos, (a mystical association with a good or bad symbol for empowerment,) idolization of angels, Chrislam, (God of the Christian and god of Islam are identical), all is one – and so on.

As opposed to this, a Christian believes that God as Creator is separate from his creation.  God must be worshipped as Creator, Ruler and Sustainer of everything and in Christ Jesus, God the Creator becomes our Father.

These are only a few signs of the end-times.

Our prayer in consolidation with the Church through all the ages is (Rev. 22:20):  He who testifies these things says, Yes, I am coming quickly, Amen. Yes, come, Lord Jesus.

With thankfulness to the Lord!