On Fire with the Holy Spirit
The Rev. John A.H. Tomoso†
I took my New International Version (NIV) Study Bible, and did a scriptural quote survey of what the word of God teaches us about being “on fire in the Holy Spirit.” Right off the bat, in Genesis 1:1-2, I read “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The image in my mind, when I read this scripture, is that God’s fire hovers over all, even the waters, and He has always been in control. Thus, in Ezekiel 36:27, it is written that God “will put His Spirit in us and move us to follow His decrees.” Isaiah, the great prophet who foretold the coming of the Messiah, explains that not only is God in control but His Spirit that hovers over everything enfolds us to do great things. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” (Isaiah 61:1)
I find the Letters to the Corinthians, in which the Apostle Paul instructs the Christian community he founded there, to be very instructive for us who are on fire to do great things. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) We are “temples of the Holy Spirit” and we are so to speak on fire. 2 Corinthians 3:17 reminds us that “the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom, even to be on fire in the Spirit.” I find that knowing and being with the Lord does give one a sense of freedom, to be who you are, as the Lord made you. Likewise, in the Letter to the Romans, in 15:13, one can find such hope when it seems that one’s freedom is being taken away: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” And Paul assures us that “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with us all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)
Sometimes, the fire within can wane and become lukewarm. The Gospels are full of scriptural quotes that are definitive and consoling. John 14:16 assures us; “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” Further on, in John 14:26, he gives us an understanding that we will become students of the Faith: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Further on, in John 15:26, there is an assurance that “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.” The Holy Spirit will always be with us. As the Holy Spirit was manifest, to all the people, at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)
Finally, in the annals of the early Church, the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the movements of God’s Spirit among the new communities of Christians some of whom who knew, lived and walked with Jesus. The birthday of the Church at Pentecost saw some of them together. And “they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:3-4) I know that this filling of the Holy Spirit is still happening with us, every day, so that, as in Acts, many of us receive “power when the Holy Spirit comes on us; and we will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Acts 4:31 says that “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” So, may you be filled and on fire with the Holy Spirit. “Surely no one can stand in the way of your being baptized with water. You will have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47) As all of us are filled and on fire, may we go boldly, letting nothing stand in our way. For, God is with and for us, and nothing can be against us, who are on fire.
Rev. John A. Hau’oli Tomoso† is a Social Worker and Episcopal Priest. He is a Priest Associate at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Wailuku and an on-call Chaplain at Maui Memorial Medical Center. Tomoso was graduated from St. Anthony Jr./Sr. High School, the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota (Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology) and Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa (Masters of Social Work). In 2008, he retired from the civil service as the Maui County Executive on Aging. In March 2019, Tomoso retired as the Executive Director of the non-profit Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Inc., after a social work career that spanned 43 years of practice. His wife Susan recently retired as a 7th grade Language Arts Teacher at Maui Waena Intermediate School.