The Holy Spirit is mysterious to many, perhaps especially to those in more intellectually inclined traditions. Most Christians probably understand that historic orthodoxy recognizes the Holy Spirit to be part of the Trinity, and therefore God, but I suspect many are somewhat less certain about what that means. Often the Holy Spirit is referred to as a depersonalized “it” despite being the third person of the Trinity. Maybe even more questions surround what exactly the Holy Spirit does.
Some time ago I ran across a satirical confession of faith, one that ostensibly reflects the functional beliefs of a typcical American evanglical. Mimicking the pattern of the Apostle’s Creed, the clause regarding the the Holy Spirit declares:
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, who did some weird stuff at Pentecost, but doesn’t do much more anymore except speak to the hearts of individual believers.
How close to the experience or belief of most, I cannot say. But I suspect, and fear, that it is discomfortingly close to the functional belief of too many.
Recently I have enjoyed a four-part series of posts by Jon Payne from Sovereign Grace Ministries blog, titled: The Role of Holy Spirit. I commend them for a thoughtful introduction and overview:
- Part 1 – Introduction
- Part 2 – The Trouble With Nicodemus
- Part 3 – Who is the Holy Spirit? and What Does He Do?
- Part 4 – Transaction at the Fountain
I believe this series provides a good Introduction and/or refresher about this one who is often referred to as “The Shy Member of the Trinity”. Hopefully it will whet your appetite to look further, and to study more deeply.
For those who are interested in digging into this subject, into this Person of the Holy Spirit, I would suggest two things:
First, stay away from some of the more bizarre claims by the likes of Benny Hinn, Perry Stone, Lester Summerall, and others from the Name-It-Claim-It camp, who refer to themselves as “Full Gospel” Christians. More often than not, there is little gospel reflected in the writings of these folks – at least not the gospel of the Bible. (See Galatians 1.6-9) These, at best, offer fascinations that lead away from the Cross.
Second, delve into a copy of one or more of the following books. This list is hardly exhaustive, but I think all of these provide substantive and sound insights about the Holy Spirit:
- Forgotten God by Francis Chan
- The Mystery of the Holy Spirit by R.C. Sproul
- Keep In Step With the Spirit by J.I. Packer
- Baptism & Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today by John Stott
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by George Smeaton
- The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson
- The Holy Spirit (Puritan Paperbacks) by John Owen