Who On Earth Is The Holy Spirit?

Originally posted on 19 February, 2014

I was away for the weekend and read a handful of books so I thought I would give them an airing this week as we work on trying to update our site in the coming weeks. Hopefully, we will be coming up with an all new blog format too! Watch this space.

So, my second of four of these small book(let)s is entitled, “Who on earth is the Holy Spirit?”The book seeks to answer the question of whether the supernatural power of God, though the work of the Holy Spirit, still has much relevance to our daily lives. Of course, the answer is yes. It would be a short(er) book otherwise. The authors want to know if we would even notice if He suddenly wasn’t there? Great question. Certainly if you’re coming from a more cerebral expression of the faith. This is a book that seeks to offer reassurance to those who doubt the reality of His work in their lives but also to create a sense of expectation and bring us into more awareness of His presence in our lives. So, does it do what it says on the tin?

Well, I just don’t know. I do find the explanation boxes that pop up in this series (from time to time) extremely helpful. The book certainly explains His work in the spiritual regeneration of those dead in sin. In other words, you can’t be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. It is a theological impossibility! The authors bring scripture to bear in a very straightforward manner as they explain how the Holy Spirit brought life to creation in Genesis 1:2. They explain how He gives us a foretaste of life in the new creation in Ephesians 1:13 and how He is the mark of God’s ownership of us in Ephesians 3:14. Good stuff.

Yet, some of the answers to their own (boxed) questions seem a bit tame. Here’s an example: Should Christians look to receive the Holy Spirit after their conversion? The answer is not really given and, in fact, is a little confusing given they have already argued that we can’t be Christians without Him. On the other hand, the explanation of how to be Spirit filled is excellent! We get a nice sprinkle of Timmis/Chester/Crowded House/Porterbrook theology as we are also challenged to think of Ephesians 5:19-21 as a faith community rather than as individuals. A strong point of the book, incidentally. Another strength, often overlooked in the charismatic chaos of our day, is that the Holy Spirit sets us apart for holiness as per 1 Cor. 3:16-20.

There are some grest practical points on Pp36-37. A good reminder that when God speaks by His Spirit today He does so through the scriptures. I do wish that when they discussed the Spirit’s leading, that they had been clearer.  Terms such as ‘impressions’ or ‘words of knowledge’ do not carry the same weight as the scriptures. This is such a point of confusion in our day and I feel they could have come down stronger on those who claim biblical sufficiency but, often, leave it at the door with some of these practices. Although, to be fair, they do state clearly that the Holy Spirit will never prompt us to do anything contrary to the Bible. Their box on this topic was clear, concise and practically helpful.

The end was let down by their call for people to seek the gift of healing, prophecy and tongue speaking today. Regardless of my own views on the subject (I practice none of the above) I was left a little frustrated by their seeming disregard for the other gifts of the Spirit. A call for more discernment wouldn’t have gone amiss would it lads? I think you missed a trick there. I know these are the one’s out front and centre in many evangelical churches, but a good corrective would have been to call us back to look at all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has actually made them available to us today as well. What are they? Should we seek them? How should we seek them? How should they function in the local church? All unanswered. Nothing either on the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Still, I liked it. It certainly a good little primer though for those seeking a starting point on the topic.

Buy on Amazon.com

Posted by Mez McConnell

Mez McConnell, is the Senior Pastor of Niddrie Community Church (Edinburgh, Scotland) and the founder and Ministry Director of 20schemes. He has been involved in full time pastoral ministry, both church planting and revitalisation since 1999.

  1. My background is largely charismatic/pentecostal, but I have learned a lot in recent years from those on the Reformed side of the church.

    In my personal experience, non-Charismatic churches tend to be middle class and pentecostal churches tend to be more working class. Indeed, the worldwide pentecostal movement has been most effective amongst poorer people the world over. I believe that the reason for this is that well brought up, educated, well-integrated people can live reasonably good Christian lives without a deep experience of the Holy Spirit. In scriptural terms, they are born again, regenerated and sealed by the Holy Spirit, but not baptised/filled. On the other hand, people who have experienced family breakdown, rejection and who have numerous vices often can only really manage as Christians if they have had a deep touch from God. That is why they will veer towards more charismatic churches. All too often, however, these churches are prone to poor teaching or leadership, or being led astray by false teachers.

    The above is a generalisation, though! There are plenty of exceptions.

    For me, putting a church (albeit well led, healthy, ‘nine marks’) into our schemes without seeking the filling of the Holy Spirit and the ministry of healing and deliverance is like trying to fix something with only half a toolbox. It will annoy some people that I say that, and you will have to forgive my slanted viewpoint. I simply long to see the wisdom, common sense, discernment and discipline of our Reformed brethren combined with the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe that healing and miracles were very much a part of the early church (See Galatians 3:2-5, and James 5:13ff) and it is odd to me that many churches pointedly refuse to include these things.

    The question I ask is this:

    Can a non-Charismatic, reformed church make serious inroads into our ‘schemes’ or council estates? That is one reason why I follow your progress with great interest.

    I have read one book by Tim Chester, which I liked, but there was for me a slight lack of clarity in his style. For good, Bible-based teaching on the Holy Spirit, I recommend anything David Pawson (though he’s not from the Reformed stable), particularly ‘Word and Spirit Together’ and ‘The Normal Christian Birth’. For a great little talk on some of these issues by Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones, look up ‘Questions and Answers on Healing and Demon Possession’ on the MLJ Trust website, downloadable for free.


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