Friday, June 10, 2011

Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part 1)

This past year has been an interesting journey for me in regards to the Holy Spirit. I started out by reading Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit by Jack Deere, and I actually put a blog out on it earlier in the year. But the point of the next two posts is to discuss the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I’ve read much on the matter and done research, and I am putting some more resources at the end of this post if you are interested in diving deeper. That being said, I have to be upfront about a few things.

I. This is not a discussion/argument about the gifts of the Spirit. Like most spiritual matters, it is easy to get sidetracked and to go down rabbit holes that ultimately lead to a lot of bickering and condescending speech. This is not the place for it. We are not here to trash each other’s views on the Holy Spirit. Rather, we are here to engage one another in love about how Scripture explains the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church. The gifts of the Spirit need to be addressed, but they will not be addressed in this post. There is no talk about speaking in tongues, prophecy, did the gifts end with the deaths of the apostles, etc. This is more of a biblical overview and theology of the Holy Spirit.

II. This post has been inspired by my study of Scripture and where the Holy Spirit has led me this year. Most likely not everyone will agree with me on everything presented here. That’s fine; that is why this discussion is taking place. I don’t know everything about the Holy Spirit (shocker right?) and I’m not saying I know a lot; I’m just saying that this is an area that I have given a significant amount of time this past year, and God has really blessed my study, not to mention my prayer life, devotions, and my overall walk with Him. I’m not saying I get special revelation from God (that would make me a heretic), but I do feel like I have lined myself up in the way God says to concerning submitting myself to the Scriptures, so if you have issues with what I’m saying, I’d ask you to do two things: 1) Consider what God may be trying to teach you through this. Ask the Lord to open your eyes so you might see Him better, and draw near to Him more. 2) Please read your Bible in a way that it engages you, rather than you trying to engage it. Most of my best in-depth times with the Lord have come when I have been engaged by His Word, and these times are not always pleasant. There is discipline to be had, fear to be instilled, and holiness to be sought after. Maybe your view of the Holy Spirit changes after this because it was never fully shaped correctly. At any rate, please keep those in mind.

An Overview

The biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit begins in Scripture before the creation of the world. Genesis 1:26 says “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Obviously “our” refers to the role of the Trinity in Creation. The role of the Holy Spirit is littered all through the Old Testament, and here are some key verses that will help you see that:

  • "And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:2)
  • "Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.'" (Genesis 6:3)
  • "And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?'” (Genesis 41:38)
  • "The LORD said to Moses, 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God.'” (Exodus 31:1-3)
  • "But Moses said to him, 'Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!'” (Numbers 11:29)
  • "And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him.'” (Numbers 24:2)
  • "So the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.'” (Numbers 27:18)
  • "Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me." (Psalm 51:11)
  • "When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground."(Psalm 104:30)
  • "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." (Isaiah 61:1)

This list is by no means comprehensive. Feel free to go search the Old Testament yourself for much, much more on the Spirit’s role in the people of Israel. In the Old Testament the primary job of the Spirit was to rest on an anointed leader, like Moses, Joshua, Samson, the Prophets, King David, etc. It functions differently in the New Testament, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. The Spirit did other things too, such as give words of prophecy to the prophets, direct the king’s steps in the course of leadership, and lead a nation out of slavery, just to name a few.

The New Covenant

The paradigm begins to shift in the Old Testament, especially when you read the book of Ezekiel and read a few verses like this: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God." (Ezekiel 36:26-28). Now wait a minute; isn’t God already Israel’s God? So why does He need to clarify that He will be their God and they will be His people? Because God is setting up a new covenant; a new way of dealing with his chosen people.

We clearly see this fulfilled in the New Testament, which has also been foretold by Jesus in John 15:26. The Spirit comes like a sweeping wind into the upper room in which the apostles are in during Pentecost. If you have any church background, you know how this goes. The Spirit descends, there are tongues of fire resting on top of the apostle’s heads, and then they start speaking in other languages, languages of Jews who were not indigenous to Jerusalem or the region even. The apostles were not babbling incoherently in a prayer language. The Spirit was genuinely moving in such a way that the Gospel was about to be spread outside and inside of Jerusalem, and this day was the lift off, the launch.

Maybe the most important role of the Spirit comes in Romans 8. To be fair, you really must read Romans 8 in its proper context; so that means reading the first seven chapters to really get the thrust of chapter 8, but in chapter 8 are the sweet words “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2). But the good news does not stop here, although it very well could. What really fires me up personally about the Spirit comes a little later in the chapter. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27) Could you imagine what our lives would look like if we believed these words? How differently would our jobs and families look? How different would telling others about Jesus be? How much more faith would this add to our lives as we walk in this incredible truth? The Holy Spirit of God interceding on our behalf according to the will of the Father should blow us away. We should be humbled by this amazing reality, and yet we choose to sit in a pig pen rather than enjoy the feast our Father has prepared for us. How foolish and unwise must we be? We need the Spirit of God! As my favorite dead pastor/theologian Charles Spurgeon once said, “A sinner can no more repent and believe without the Holy Spirit's aid than he can create a world.” You can do nothing without the Spirit’s influence in your life. Let’s look at that idea for a second.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says this: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” The literal translation for the word “guarantee” is “down payment”. This makes perfect sense to us who believe. We have salvation through faith alone, and we are saved by grace alone, but the Holy Spirit is our assurance that we belong to the Father. He speaks to us, convicts us of our sin, and whispers the Father’s love to us. The Spirit is not optional. A true believer will have the Spirit in his/her life. This is always a funny thing with people, because people who call themselves Christians and have no remorse over sin or growing in holiness need to have a serious chat with themselves and someone who is growing in faith, because the evidence of the Spirit is at this point not in them, or they are living in outright sin with repentance nowhere in sight.

In a related matter of conversation, I can find nowhere in Scripture where it says that the Holy Spirit comes into our lives after salvation has occurred. Related to this teaching is the “second blessing” doctrine that is taught in more charismatic and hyper-charismatic circles, but I have found this to be unbiblical. There is not a deeper depth to which you can travel that is only offered to a few select Christians. I don’t understand this theologically or think it can be justified scripturally.

With this said comes the conversation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. I find the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be real, proven by Scripture, and to be sought after. This is actually going to be a part of the next post, so you will have to wait for it, but as I was studying for this, my mind and my heart were directed in this persuasion and I think a lot of what we as believers have experienced in terms of this teaching has been false and in some ways hijacked. But again, this is for the next post.

So in conclusion to part one, we see that the Holy Spirit is in the Godhead, is in the process of Creation, rests with God’s people Israel, promises a new covenant in which the Spirit is written on the hearts of God’s people, and ultimately is the down payment for our eternal inheritance in Christ Jesus. Part two will be coming soon!

More Resources

1) The Danger of the “Second Blessing” Doctrine by Bible Baptist Church, Morehead, Kentucky.
2) In Search Of The Spirit by Daniel Hyde.
3) The Spirit of God in the Old Testament by B.B. Warfield
4) The Personality of the Holy Ghost by Charles Haddon Spurgeon


  1. Hey Ryan, if you had a list of the Top 5 ways Pentecostalism generally gets The Holy Spirit wrong, or gets the gifts of the Holy Spirit wrong, what would those 5 things be? What about the "Prosperity Gospel?" How does that come out of an obsession with the gift of healing, and an improper view of it?

  2. I don't really know if I could sum it up in a top 5 per se, but I notice a trend among churches that are what I call hyper charismatic. You pretty much hit the nail on the head with mentioning the Prosperity Gospel, because somehow Pentecostalism has embraced this idea that you deserve to be blessed in every realm of life (finances, kids, marriage, etc.). But what happens when just one of those things don't pan out like they were promised? Odds are they'll turn on God and the Church. Why? Because they were seeking something other than the true biblical Gospel. They were seeking a "blessing", whether that be through speaking in tongues or through a feeling that God would protect them no matter what circumstance life threw at them. So there seems to be a disjoint in there.

    The other main thing that is prominent is the exaltation of speaking in tongues in the spiritual gift department. Whether you believe the gifts are for today or not, even in 1 Corinthians Paul was addressing this issue with the church at Corinth. The church was placing too much emphasis on the one gift, when in fact Paul said that prophecy is to be desired much more than speaking in tongues. So those are the big two in my opinion.

  3. Definitely a lot less tongues-speaking or prophecy going on today than in New Testament times, though. Do you think cessationism has any merit? I'm definitely a charismatic Calvinist, but I thought the question was worth asking - you seem to have looked at the issue maybe a bit more than I have.


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