The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit

I. INTRO

Today we are studying the Person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.  We want to establish an ongoing theological[1] dialogue (vs. discussion).

Picture a continuum:

  • On one end of the continuum is what John MacArthur has called, “Charismatic Chaos.”
  • On the other end of the continuum is 2 Tim 3:5 – holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”

We don’t want to base our theology and practice solely on what we’re against, but what we are for – what we can embrace theologically.

My personal core values (unapologetically): As an active intentional follower of Christ, as a husband, as a father, as a grandfather, as a pastor, as a friend/mentor/coach:

  1. Theological – The study (and subsequent worship) of God is our highest calling.
  2. Relational – We are to love God, one another, and “seek the welfare of our city.”
  3. Missional – We serve a missionary God and we are called to be on mission with Him.

What will be our guidelines for theological engagement at SBF?

We want to work with what the Bible clearly and plainly teaches (today we will, eventually, consider the biblical phrase: baptism of the Holy Spirit).

First, I would like to define some terms:

Three primary (and overlapping) theological camps in U.S. Protestantism:[2] Fundamentalism (“orthodoxy in confrontation with modernity” -James Davison Hunter), Evangelicalism ( Biblicism, Christocentrism, Crucicentrism, Conversionism, Activism),[3] and Liberalism (individualism, ecumenism, empericalism, skepticism, anthropological optimism, rationalism, ethicalism, social idealism, immanencism). Within Evangelicalism there is also three main camps (think of them as state boarders vs. national boarders…):

1.  Dispensationalism  –

Sees God as structuring His relationship with humankind through several stages of revelation. Each dispensation amounts to a “test” of humankind to be faithful to the particular revelation given at the time.

Dispe1nsationalism holds to a literal meaning behind all the figurative passages.

As a result of this literal interpretation of Scripture, dispensationalism holds to a distinction between Israel (even believing Israel) and the church. On this view, the promises made to Israel in the OT were not intended as prophecies about what God would do spiritually for the church, but will literally be fulfilled by Israel itself (largely in the millennium). For example, the promise of the land…

2.  Covenant Theology

Covenant theology believes that God has structured His relationship with humanity by covenants rather than dispensations. Old Covenants (OT) and the New Covenant (NT). These covenants are not new tests, but are rather differing administrations of the single, overarching covenant of grace.

Adam sinned and broke the initial, or old, covenant, and thereby subjected himself and all his descendants to the penalty for covenant-breaking — which is condemnation.

God in His mercy instituted the “covenant of grace,” through Jesus Christ, which is the promise of redemption and eternal life to those who would believe in the (coming) redeemer.

3.  New Covenant Theology

The essential difference between New Covenant Theology (NCT) and Covenant Theology (CT) concerns the Mosaic Law. CT holds that the Mosaic Law can be divided into three groups of laws: a) civil law, b) ceremonial law, and c) moral law. According to CT the ceremonial law and civil law are no longer in force because they were fulfilled in Jesus, but the moral law continues.

NCT argues that we cannot divide the law up in that way – so, the whole Mosaic Law is canceled by the coming of Christ (Christ Event) and is no longer binding on the believer.  The Mosaic Law has been replaced by the law of Christ.  Love God and love your neighbor as your self.  Proponents of NCT might say something like, “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul – and do whatever you want…”  They may also quote 1 Cor 6:12: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.”

Do we have to choose one — Dispensational, Covenant, or New Covenant?? No, it’s just good to be aware of these distinctions as we build a theological framework.  Can we achieve doctrinal certainty?  Not completely on this side of eternity.  God and theology are much deeper and more mysterious that we could ever hope to grasp.

Having said that, the Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation that are intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. “Sola” is Latin meaning “alone” or “only” and the corresponding phrases are:

  • Sola Fide, by faith alone.
  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

These solas will hold us in good stead as we refurbish our theological base during this transition season.  Can we move toward doctrinal clarity?  Yes!

4.  Eschatology — Greek éschato: last + -logy. 

We do not need to get caught-up in the rapture debate.

Mat 24:44 – “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”

As a church we will teach people to endure tribulation – and if Jesus come early, it won’t matter.

We will encourage our congregation to read Revelation devotionally.  Encounter the risen Christ in Rev 1…

5.  Holy Spirit Empowered Gifts

Cessationism – The spiritual gifts, primarily those listed in 1 Cor 12:4-11, have ceased.  The key verse is 1 Cor 13:10 —  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”

1 Cor 14:1: “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”

James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.”

While fear of a loss of control or emotionalism my drive some cessationists, their overwhelming desire is to protect the unique authority of the Bible and to protect the closed canon and not to have anything compete with Scripture in authority in our lives.

Continuationism – All the gifts are for today.  Consider  the context: 1 Cor 11, 12, 13, & 14…

II.  BODY

The Person of the Holy Spirit

“The Trinity: God eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and each person is fully God, and there is one God.  -Wayne Grudem

“In no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.”  –Augustine, On The Trinity[4]

C.S. Lewis described the Trinity as a “dance” saying, “God is not a static thing…but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost…a kind of dance.”[5]

Tim Keller elaborates on this concept in the Reason for God in Chapter 14 – The Dance of God.[6]

The early leaders of the Greek NT church had a word for this – perichoresis.  Notice the root of our word ‘choreography’ within it. It means literally to “dance or flow around.”

The Father…Son…and Holy Spirit glorify each other…At the center of the universe, self-giving love, joy, delight – perfect fellowship is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons (not personalities) within the God-Head exalt, commune with, and defer to one another…

When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of His being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.

When Jesus died for you He was, and is, inviting you into the dance…when we discern Jesus moving toward us and encircling us with infinite, self-giving love, we are invited to put our lives on a whole new foundation…

Since the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and is true and eternal God, then we must invoke, worship, and serve the blessed Holy Spirit, even as we do God the Father and God the Son.

Jesus taught us to do this in Mat 28:19 (The Great Commission): Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Now let’s consider the phrase “baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is to be more than a doctrine.  The Holy Spirit is to be experienced.

Gordon Fee wrote, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul.  It’s 992 pages; Fee highlights, analyzes, exegetes, and summarizes every mention of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s writings. Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit).

His findings can be reduced to three words:  “God’s empowering presence.”

Fee concludes that, for Paul, the Holy Spirit was more real and evident than we can possibly imagine in our day and age, the vital and experienced presence of the Holy Spirit was an assumed reality.

How do we experience the Holy Spirit?  Gal 5 is about “walking in the Holy Spirit.”  Paul says in the first 12 verses that they have opted for legalism (or moralism).

Then in verses 13-14 Paul lays it out: “…but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  Paul takes them back to the Great Commandment: Love God with your whole heart, soul, and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And then here is the evidence of the Holy Spirit…Paul calls it “fruit.”  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit means to be immersed in the Holy Spirit.  No power, no Spirit.  (Holy Spirit power is different than will-power.)

Four Reasons Why It Is Appropriate To Expect To Experience the Holy Spirit Baptism:[7]

1.  Terminology — The very term “baptized in the Holy Spirit” implies an immersion in the life of the Spirit. (Refer to hand out…)

2.  Power, Boldness, and Confidence

Jesus says in Acts 1:5 and 8 that baptism in the Holy Spirit means, “You shall receive power…and you shall be my witnesses.”

This is an experience of holy boldness, confidence, and victory over sin.

A Christian without power is a Christian who needs a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Eph 5:18 – we are to be continually and regularly “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The verb filled has an imperative mood meaning it is a command and addresses the volition and the will.  Why?  Because we leak…

There is no reason to think that for Paul the baptism in the Holy Spirit was limited to the initial moment of conversion. And for sure in the book of Acts the baptism in the Holy Spirit is more than a subconscious divine act of regeneration—it certainly seems to be a conscious experience of power (Acts 1:8).

3.  The Testimony of Acts — In Acts the Holy Spirit is not a silent influence but an experienced power. Believers experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They didn’t just believe it happened because an apostle said so.

4.  It Is The Result of Faith

The fourth reason we should stress the experience of baptism in the Holy Spirit is that in Acts the apostles teach that it is a result of faith.

In Acts 11:15–17 Peter reports how the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius just as on the disciples at Pentecost. “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized in water, but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us, when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I should withstand God?” 

Notice that the gift of the Spirit, or baptism in the Holy Spirit, is preceded by faith. The NASB correctly says in v. 17 that God gave the Holy Spirit after they believed.

How to Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit.[8]  Peter’s instructions for how to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38–41…

1.  The Word of God Must Be Heard.  Peter has preached that in God’s plan Jesus was crucified, raised, and exalted as Lord over all the universe and that forgiveness of sin and spiritual renewal can be had from Him. God’s Word has been heard.

2.  God Must Call People To Himself.

The sovereign God must call men and women to himself, or we will never come. Verse 39: “The promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone to whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

No one comes to faith in Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44, 65). The proclaimed gospel is heard with conviction and power only when the effectual call of God lays hold on the hearers.

3.  We Must Receive the Word.

Third, we must “receive the word.” Verse 41: “So those who received his word were baptized.”

Receiving the Word means that it becomes part of us so that we trust the Christ it presents.

  • We trust His provision for your forgiveness.
  • We trust His path for your life.
  • We trust His power to help you obey.
  • And we trust His promises for your future.

Radical commitment to Christ always involves repentance—a turning away from your own self-wrought provisions, paths, powers, and promises. And when we really turn to Christ for new paths, power, we open yourself to the Holy Spirit, because it is by His Spirit that Christ guides and empowers.

4.  We Express Our Faith Through Water Baptism.

Finally, we give an open confession and expression of faith in the act of water baptism (full immersion – like with the Holy Spirit, do you want to be sprinkled or immersed?) in obedience to Jesus Christ.

Baptism was the universal experience of all Christians in the New Testament. There were no unbaptized Christians after Pentecost. Christ had commanded it (Matthew 28:18f.) and the church practiced it. So we do today.

III. CONCLUSION

Finally, let’s affirm and critique the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements:

Affirmation:

The most positive thing about the moderate Charismatic/Pentecostal teaching is that it is theologically appropriate to stress the experiential reality of receiving the Holy Spirit.

When we read the NT honestly, we can’t help but notice a BIG difference from a lot of our contemporary Christian experience.

For them the Holy Spirit was a fact and reality of experience.  For many Christians today it is only a fact of doctrine.  The Charismatic renewal has something to teach us here.

Critique:

That the unity of their fellowship is too often based around their experience – not theology.

Whether Paul sought to bring encouragement or correction to the churches in the NT, he wrote theological essays… Paul generally spends the first half of his letters laying out theology and the second half he describes how to implement, or engage, the theology.

When Paul wanted to go to the church in Rome and develop them into a missional sending church (for his intention to travel to Spain), what did he write?  Theology.  Experience is the fruit of biblical theology, not the goal.  Our impatience tends to confuse fruit for goals (e.g., love, joy, peace, etc. cannot be pursued on their own accord, they are the “fruit” of the settled presence of Christ in our hearts/lives).

This brings me to my second critique:  The gifts of the Holy Spirit were given for the purpose of mission and not personal gratification.  One good description of the kingdom of God is:  speaking the words of Jesus and doing the works of Jesus.  Words and works help to make the invisible kingdom visible.

We serve a missionary God:

The Father sent the Son, the Son sent the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit sends you.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is, basically, 4-fold: He 1) Saves, 2) Seals, 3) Sanctifies, and 4) Sends.

My prayer for us as a community of believers: “That we would experience Jesus Christ, the sovereign, risen, living, Lord of the universe; and that He would continue to become THE source and content of our real hope and joy.”

This coming Sunday:  Beatitudes.  Read Matthew 5:1-12.  See you then!!


[1] Theology means the study of God.

[2] Protestant Reformation – Martin Luther is regarded as the primary catalyst when he nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door at Wittenberg for the in 1517.  (While Pope Leo was corrupt, the upshot of Luther’s theses was that followers of Christ are saved by grace alone, through faith alone.)

[3] Triperspectivalism (cut-and-paste this word and search for it on this blog and you will find an article).

[4] Book 1.3.5.

[5] Mere Christianity: 136.

[6] Pgs 214-221.

[7] Adapted from John Piper.

[8] Also adapted from John Piper.

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