THE HOLY SPIRIT OR HOLY DESIRES?
Did Jesus say that God will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask Him?
Lets’s look at what the Scripture says.
11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
Matthew 7:11 NLT
13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Luke 11:13 NLT
Why is there a difference between Matthew’s version and Luke’s version if they both used a common source? Are they saying the same thing? Were these translations the opinion of the translators rather than an accurate understanding of the original text?
Firstly, let’s ask the question, “Did we receive the Holy Spirit by asking or by believing? “
What did Paul say?
“You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.”
Galatians 3:2 NLT
Therefore, if Jesus said that we receive the Holy Spirit by asking God for Him, we are making the Bible contradict itself. The whole drift of Scripture, according to Paul’s teaching, is that the Spirit comes to indwell us when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So, what is the meaning of Jesus’ words according to Matthew and Luke?
Matthew speaks in general terms of “good gifts”. Luke is more specific. He said that God gives ‘pneuma hagios’ – holy spirit, to those who ask Him. Is there a difference between ‘holy spirit’ and ‘the Holy Spirit’?
The Greek term for the Holy Spirit is ‘o pneuma hagios’. There are no capital letters in ancient Greek. Therefore, the little word ‘o (transliterated ho), meaning ‘the’, indicates that the writer is referring to THE Holy Spirit. Every time the Holy Spirit is mention in Scripture, the term, ‘o pneuma hagios’ is used.
In Luke 11:13, the ‘o is omitted, hence it cannot mean ‘the Holy Spirit’. Not only do the translators assume that it means ‘the Holy Spirit’, but their translation also contradicts Scripture, since we receive the Holy Spirit by faith in Jesus as Lord, not by asking.
How, then, should we translate ‘hagios pneuma’ in Luke 11:13. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus said that God, the good Father, will give us ‘good gifts’ if we ask Him. Luke elaborates on the ‘good gifts’ by telling us that God will give us ‘holy spirit’.
‘Holy’ means separate from sin, separated to God. ‘Pneuma’ means ‘breath’ or ‘spirit’. Since the meaning is found in the context, in the context of Luke 11:13, ‘breath’ can also mean ‘disposition’ or even ‘aspiration: or ‘desire’. Would it not make sense to translate this verse like this?
13 So, if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give a disposition (or aspirations) that are set apart from sin to God, to those who ask him.”
Luke 11:13 NLT
This rendering of ‘holy spirit’ is completely in line with the drift of Scripture.
4 Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalms 37:4 NIV
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6 NIV
31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way…
1 Corinthians 12:30-31 NIV
The Bible teaches us that we have been made holy by the blood of Jesus, but it also encourages us to work out what God has worked in us.
“… Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”
Philippians 2:12-13 NLT
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3 NIV
Although we have become new creatures in Christ, with the nature of God in us, we still have the remnants of the old nature is us. Our flesh is at war with our spirit in which the Holy Spirit lives.
Our desires pull us either towards the flesh or towards the Spirit. How important it us, then, for us to have holy desires or aspirations that draw us away from our fleshly appetites towards God and an overcoming life in Jesus.
“12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
Romans 8:12-13 NIV
Why do I need to ask God for holy aspirations?
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:13-15 NIV
18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
Romans 7:18-19 NIV
Not only do we have evil desires in our flesh but our flesh is also too powerful to resist in our own strength.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:12-13 NIV
How important are our desires, good or bad?
“14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”
James 1:14-15 NLT
Our desires are the outcome of our appetites. A child who lives on junk food has no appetite for healthy, nourishing food. We, also, develop an appetite for the things we most feed on. If we live on the junk food of the world, we will have little appetite to “seek those things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
Does it not make sense, then that Jesus would teach His disciples, in the context of prayer, to ask the Father for a holy disposition with holy desires and aspirations that will feed our spirits, and draw us towards godly living? Then the Holy Spirit who is in us by faith, will lead us and keep us on track as we move towards the Father and our eternity with Him.
If we do not actively seek to live holy lives, our old, ungodly nature will pull us away from God and sink us into the cesspool of living in this world which is transient and passing away.
How important it is, therefore, both for this life and the life to come, that we ask God for the holy disposition and desires that lead us away from satisfying our fleshly appetites. If we live for the flesh we will be disconnected from God, but if we desire and seek after the Spirit, we will have the life of Jesus in us, bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus.