This week’s theological review is on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit is much misunderstood in our Christian climate. For those from a Charismatic/Pentecostal tradition, the work of the Holy Spirit is overt and visible, manifested in such ways as the modern ‘tongues movement’ and miraculous healing. Thus the phrase ‘Spirit-filled’ is used as another way of saying ‘charismatic’ (from the Greek word ‘charisma’, meaning ‘gifts (of the Spirit)). I recently received a phone call from a person who was new in town, who asked me if our church was Spirit-filled. My response was ‘Yes, but not in the way that you are thinking.’
Unfortunately, the charismatic movement has been siezed by some charlatans and false teachers who have exploited it for their own personal gain. It is not surprising that many of the famous scandals in the past 20 years in the church have come from the charismatic movement.
A corresponding error in the charismatic movement is that the leading of the Holy Spirit has gotten divorced from the Bible. Many sincere Christians are looking for a good feeling about something and then interpret it as ‘the work of the Holy Spirit.’ Well the Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit is the Author of the Scriptures. Consider these verses:
Acts 1:16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
Acts 4:25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
Acts 28:25 And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers,
2 Peter 1:20-21 But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
1 Peter 1:10-12 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven– things into which angels long to look.
Now, let’s put these pieces together for a moment. If the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, why would He ‘lead’ people in a way that contradicts what He has already spoken? The short answer is, He won’t. If you ‘feel the Spirit leading’ you to do something that the Bible expressly forbids, it is not the work of the Holy Spirit.
With some of the excesses from the charismatic side, another error has arisen, no less damaging to the church. This error is a complete avoidance of teaching and talking about the work and the presence of the Holy Spirit, so as not to be confused with those who are charismatic. I grew up in churches where the Spirit’s presence and work in the life of the believer were not mentioned at all. This leads to an lifestyle error where we acknowledge that ‘yes, we are saved by grace, but somehow we live out our Christian life in our own strength.’
The truth is that every person who places their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation is indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This was prophesied in Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Joel, among other places.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin and to apply the truth of the word of God (the Bible) to our lives (John 16). We are called to ‘walk by the Spirit,’ which is living out by faith the commands of the Spirit (found in the Bible). We are also called to be ‘filled with the Spirit,’ (Ephesians 5) which is another way of saying that we should live obediently to the Scriptures (I could demonstrate this exegetically in Ephesians 5 & 6, if you are interested, let me know).
My desire is that at HBC, we would talk and teach about the person and work of the Holy Spirit and that we would neither deny or sensationalize His Presence in our lives and in our church.
That being said, here is our doctrinal statement on this issue. Read it, look up the verses and enjoy.
The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the Divine Person who convicts the world of sin; that He alone brings new life to those who are spiritually dead; that He baptizes (or places) all believers into the one true Church, which is the Body of Christ; that He indwells them permanently, seals them unto the Day of Redemption, bestows spiritual gifts upon them, and fills (controls) those who are yielding to Him (John 3:3-8, 16:7-11; 1 Cor. 12:13; John 14:16,17, Eph. 4:30; 1 Cor. 12:7-11; Eph.5:18).