It is true that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit receives less attention than other doctrines. Historically, the institutional church looked (and still looks) upon the appeal by the masses to the Spirit as potentially subversive and in need of control. Maybe that’s partly why pneumatology is the “odd-ology” (Fabricius).
“The Spirit of God has various roles, and it is a mistake to magnify one of these over all the others.
The Spirit is active in creation, as is also the Word or Logos.
He is at work in revelation, opening our eyes to the significance of what God has accomplished for us in Jesus Christ.
He is the principal agent in our regeneration by which we are born anew into a life of service and freedom (cf. Ezekiel 36:25-27; John 3:1-15; 2 Corinthians 3:17).
He preserves the people of God and indeed all of humanity from the destroying powers of sin, death and hell.
He convicts people of sin and drives them to Christ for mercy and compassion.
He empowers the people of God to bear witness to Christ and triumph over the principalities of the world.
Together with the other members of the Trinity the Spirit is responsible for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.
In addition he plays a unique role in the inspiration or supervision of the writing that bears testimony to God’s saving act in Christ, the writing that now forms the canon of Holy Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).”
Donald G. Bloesch in his excellent ‘Christian Foundations’ series The Holy Spirit – works and gifts, p.73
A Latin hymn from the thirteenth century
Come, thou Holy Spirit, come:
And from thy celestial home send thy light and brilliancy.
Come, thou father of the poor,
Come, who givest all our store,
Come, the soul’s true radiancy.
Come, of comforters the best, of the soul the sweetest guest, sweetly and refreshingly.
Come in labour rest most sweet,
shade and coolness in the heat, comfort in adversity.
Thou who art the light most blest,
come, fulfil their inmost breast, who believe most faithfully.
For without thy Godhead’s dower,
man hath nothing in his power, save to work iniquity.
What is filthy make thou pure, what is wounded work its cure, water what is parched and dry.
Gently bend the stubborn will, warm to life the heart that’s chill, guide who goeth erringly.
Fill thy faithful who adore, and confess thee evermore, with thy seven-fold mystery.
Here thy grace and virtue send,
grant salvation in the end, and in heaven felicity. Amen.
The Holy Spirit is certainly the weak link in the chain of Evangelical theology. With the stress on Christology, we can miss so much more of the Trinity’s treasure. Maybe we want to avoid some of the silliness and excesses of Pentecostalism, but boy have we needed much of Pentecostalism to remind us what we’re missing! Yet tragically, instead of enjoying the fathomless glory of pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), we actually succumb to pneumaphobia! And that is an evangelical train-wreck waiting to happen.
Another point of note, is that the Holy Spirit is suspect because he does not pander or subscribe to our denominational or theological structures. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is a free-agent, a maverick. Jesus did say the wind blows where it will! He breaks rank, crosses over the other side, He will not be “owned” by us, by anyone; He is as free in Himself as the Son is free in the Father and the Father in the Son. Blessed Trinity!
He is impossible to outwit, outsmart, predict or predetermine, and will not be bottled and bagged by any church, Christian, denomination, nation or whatever! He does not bow to any theologian or “school of thought”, and is totally free, going wherever and whenever He wishes. Mission, evangelism, faithfulness, wisdom, wholeness, true spirituality, life itself, are all to be found in Him.
Too many churches are passionate for the Father’s glory, absolutely determined in their Christ-centered faith (and rightly so), but err big time and languish in a spiritual impoverishment of biblical, cosmic and cataclysmic proportions by neglecting the Holy Spirit. Remember, it is the role of the Holy Spirit to point us to Jesus, and it is Jesus who shows us the Father.
Read the Latin Hymn again as a prayer. Pray it. Come, thou Holy Spirit, come.
Sermons are a duty and a joy. A duty that is born out of the calling of God to preach the Gospel of Christ in the power of the Spirit, which is also a joy at the same time. This strange combination and the outworking of it always amazes me, and always motivates me, it terrifies me and weighs heavy with me. But woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.
What a joy it is to be a preacher!!
When the couple started crying half way through the sermon, I thought it was a) a bad joke gone wrong b) the realisation that the sermon was longer than 15 minutes or c) they had heard that we’d ran out of biscuits to go with the coffee after the service.
I never bargained for the glorious fact that the Holy Spirit was doing a deep work in their hearts. A deep, deep work of repentance that leads to life. They shared with me afterwards what God was doing:
After years of hardening the heart, and learning various strategies that helped them get by in church life, they were at a point in their lives where several strands of their lives came together and the walls came crashing down. The resistance they were used to putting up was utterly futile against the tidal wave of God’s exquisite love.
What I love about their story, is that it happened to both of them as they sat there together, and that they recognised what was going on. In her own words: “I cried tears of repentance for the first time – and meant it, truly, for the first time. I can’t believe how wonderful and kind God is towards me!”
Friends, if you have the honour to preach God’s Word, I urge and encourage you to press on, in season and out of season. Not being afraid of what people may think, or doubting what God is doing, but in faith, with diligence and prayer, preach the Gospel with boldness, it is the power of God for salvation.
This couple’s story reminded me of that great Puritan prayer in Arthur Bennett’s Valley of Vision:
“Melt my heart, heal my backslidings, and open an intercourse of love. When the fire of thy compassion warms my inward man, and the outpourings of thy Holy Spirit fill my soul, then I feelingly wonder at my own depravity, and deeply abhor myself; then thy grace is a powerful incentive to repentance, and an irresistible motive to inward holiness.
May I never forget that thou hast my heart in thy hands. Apply to it the merits of Christ’s atoning blood whenever I sin. Let thy mercies draw me to thyself. Wean me from all evil, mortify me to the world, and make me ready for my departure hence animated by the humiliations of penitential love.
Remember: There is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents……
“I could not have faith in God if I did not think he wanted to be favourable and kind to me. This in turn makes me feel kindly disposed toward him, and I am moved to trust him with all my heart and look to him for all good things…
Look here! This is how you must cultivate Christ in yourself, and see how in him God holds before you his mercy and offers it to you without any prior merits of your own.
It is from such a view of his grace that you must draw faith and confidence in the forgiveness of all your sins. Faith, therefore, does not originate in works; neither do works create faith, but faith must spring up and flow from the blood and wounds and death of Christ.
If you see in these that God is so kindly disposed toward you that he even gives his own Son for you, then your heart in turn must grow sweet and disposed toward God…
We never read that the Holy Spirit was given to anybody because he had performed some works, but always when men have heard the gospel of Christ and the mercy of God.”
Martin Luther ‘Treatise on Good Works’ vol. 44 p30, 38-39
“We are made, through Christ’s body and blood, God’s sanctuary, God’s holy temple, for the world. Just as bread and wine is transformed by the Holy Spirit to be for us the body and blood of Christ, our lives, our everyday sacrifices, are taken up into his oblation. Through that transformation the sacrifices, so often forced upon us, can become life giving because they have an end.
Our sacrifices can be joined to Christ’s sacrifice not because the Lord’s sacrifice is insufficient, but because the sacrifice of the cross is complete, lacking nothing, sufficient for our salvation and the salvation of the world. The Eucharist (or Communion, or Breaking of Bread) is the self-offering of Christ. Time and time again we are given the good gift to participate in this, the Father’s sacrifice of the Son, that all might know that here sacrifice has come to an end, because the cross is the end of sacrifice.
So [next time you eat the bread and drink the wine] remember the painful sacrifice of the Son, a sacrifice in which we are made participants, and rejoice and be glad.”
Stanley Hauerwas, A Cross Shattered Church, 72