Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
Nearly 10 years ago, I began my journey to go after evidence of the Holy Spirit's work experientially and academically. I've got a masters in biblical studies and I am currently making my way towards getting a PhD in historical theology. My academic work has been focused on the historical development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and anything to do with the history of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the church. This piece, is a brief introduction to the the theology of the Holy Spirit and I’m sharing it in the hope that your life would be changed through an encounter with the persona and power of the Holy Spirit, just as mine and so many others have been through encountering the Holy Spirit across the ages.
A doctrine of the Holy Spirit can be divided into two major categories: the person of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit. These doctrines will usually cover 4 main ideas:
1. The Holy Spirit is a personal being, not an impersonal force.
2. The Holy Spirit is divine, the third person of the trinity.
3. The Holy Spirit is instrumental in Personal Salvation. (He takes what the Father and the
son have made accessible and appropriates it to the life of the believer)
4. The Holy Spirit imparts Spiritual abilities to Christians to accomplish the plans, purposes and works of God on the earth.
The person of The Holy Spirit
Although the Holy Spirit is often described throughout the Bible using symbolism, the Holy Spirit is not some sort of abstract force, fire, wind, oil or influence. The Holy Spirit is a person with personal attributes like the Father and the Son.
Wayne Grudem says,
“THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOTJUST SOME KIND OF SPIRITUAL BATTERYPACK THAT GIVES US THE POWER TO DO SOMETHING WITH OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE; RATHER, HE IS A PERSONWHO WANTS TO CONNECT WITH US ON A PERSONAL LEVEL.”
The Holy Spirit is the person of God who is physically present on the earth right now, dwelling on the earth in the lives of believers. The Holy Spirit possesses all of the attributes and qualities of God. If there was a test that you needed to take to confirm whether or not you are God the Holy Spirit would certainly pass that test. The Holy Spirit is spoken of in addition to the Father and the Son, He is not used as something that merely describes the
two but rather he is a distinct person. I love how Kevin Conner puts it when speaking of the trinity; he says, “each person of the trinity is distinguishable as three distinct persons, but together they are indivisible as one triune God. God in three persons, distinguishable but indivisible.”
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Bible makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is a person and possesses all the qualities which that imply.
His work is reminiscent of someone who is clearly a personal agent, counsellor, advocate, teacher, comforter. The fundamental elements personhood are characteristics that the Holy Spirit is in possession of. He has intelligence, will and emotions. Millard Erickson also argues that The Holy Spirit can be affected asa person which shows evidence of displaying personality passively in that He can be lied to, he can be grieved, He can be resisted. The Holy Spirit engages in moral actions and ministries which can only be performed by a person: searching, speaking and interceding.
Thus, The Holy Spirit is a person and that person is
the third person of the Godhead.
The work of The Holy Spirit
Wayne Grudem says that, “the Holy Spirit's Role is to manifest, to show, to make evident, the active presence of God In the world and especially in the church.” If we want an intimate personal relationship with God today, we must become aquatinted with the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit's role is to work spiritually upon and with humans. So what does the Holy Spirit specifically do? I love the way Wayne Grudem summarizes the Holy Spirit's work in the following categories:
THE HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERS
• Gives power for service, anointing, and consecration to God.
• “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will bemy witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8
• Gives the gifts of the Holy Spirit to empower the Church to accomplish the work of God.
THE HOLY SPIRIT PURIFIES
• Makes us Holy
• Convicts us of sin
• Regenerates us
• Sanctifies us
• Produces the fruit of the spirit in our lives so that we can become more like Jesus.
• Enables the believer to lead a Christian life particularly in relation to morality.
THE HOLY SPIRIT REVEALS
• The Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures.
• The Holy Spirit also leads and guides the believer into alltruth as He reveals, quickens, illuminates and makes known the word of Godto us.
• The bible also says The Holy Spiritteaches us, counsels us,leads and guides us.
THE HOLY SPIRIT UNIFIES
• As we are led by the Spirit we are led into deeper fellowship and love with other believers.
• The Holy Spirit pours out the love of God into our heartsso that we can both experience and show His love.
THE HOLY SPIRIT GIVES EVIDENCE OF GOD'SPRESENCE
• The Holy Spirit works through the "making real" of God in personal and corporate worship and devotion.
• The Holy Spirit plays an important role in Christian prayer, spirituality and worship by making the presence of God tangible to the believer.
• The evidence of God's presence is seen through the gifts of the Holy Spirit like prophecy, healing, miracles, words of knowledge, speaking in tongues.
• The Holy Spirit brings the love of God into our lives.
• The Holy Spirit brings the peace of God into our lives.
• The Holy Spirit brings the joy of God into our lives.
• The Holy Spirit brings the holiness of God into our lives.
• The Holy Spirit brings the justice of God into our lives.
• The Holy Spirit brings the truth of God into our lives.
Throughout history, many have contended for Christians to know that there is so much more to be experienced through the Holy Spirit that He has come to make God known not just intellectually, but experientially. One such revivalist who had his own personal life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit was John Wesley. After a failed mission trip to Georgia, Wesley returned to London, incredibly disappointed and discouraged. On his way, Wesley had met a group of Moravians who seemed to have a powerful, personal and transformational experience with God. This intrigued Wesley, and he greatly desired to have the same kind of experience in his own life. In 1738 on Aldersgate Street in London, Wesley attended a service that would change his life forever. As Luther's preface to the book of Romans was being read out, Wesley had a radical encounter with the Holy Spirit. Wesley wrote in His diary that he felt a warmth come into his heart. Wesley now knew that he was a child of God and that he was loved by God. What Wesley had known about God had now been confirmed and experienced in His heart.
Wesley's relationship with God went from being head knowledge to heart knowledge.
My greatest prayer for you today is that you would have your own Aldersgate experience just like Wesley. That you would experience God in a new and fresh way through the person, power and presence of the Holy Spirit. I pray that your relationship with the Holy Spirit and your receptivity to and partnership with His work in your life would grow deeper, richer, more intimate and that it would be a huge blessing to you and those in your world.
Holy Spirit, come and set our hearts on fire.