It was the first church I served, I was 28 years old – wet behind the ears – when a very mature Christian woman called insisting to see me. She came to the church and shared that she had a troubling dream about me and God told her I was in some kind of trouble. I can still see the anguish in her face. Yet I had to disappoint her, insofar as I knew, everything was fine. At first she was unconvinced. So real was her “impression from God” it had to be true. I almost wanted to make up something to affirm her. She left a little bit unsure but I sat in my study quite unsettled.
Some of us are comfortable saying or hearing things like:
- The Lord told me…
- The Lord showed me…
- God spoke to me…
- The Holy Spirit told me to…
- The Lord told me to tell you…
- I had a dream last night and God said…
Now I do not mean to demean, but whether we have used this kind of language or someone has said similar things to us, well, it can be interesting.
Perhaps a good place to begin is to think about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s role in the believer’s life is at one level a great mystery. While we love stories of conversion – how the Spirit worked to bring a person to faith – we may not have the same clarity on who He is, what He does or how He ministers. Scripture has a great deal to say about the Holy Spirit’s role, but it requires careful study before we draw objective (what we can know for certain) vs. subjective (cannot be verified but has reflects a person’s perspective) conclusions.
Because we may not know much about the person and work of God’s Holy Spirit, we are open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.
1. The Holy Spirit is the “third person” of the Trinity, He is God. In recent years we have seen a growing trend to dismiss the idea of the Trinity and dispute the Holy Spirit’s eternal existence. From Genesis 1 we have straightforward language that identify Him and introduce some of His work (Gen 1:2, 26).
2. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit’s role was different in that He did not permanently indwell believers. David petitions God do not banish me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me (Ps. 51:11). David had seen the consequence of sin and the loss of God’s Spirit in Saul’s life, and David was aware of the desperate need for His Spirit (cp. 1 Sam. 10:10 and 16:14, 23).
3. God “sent” His Spirit at critical times. Hundreds of times in the Old Testament we read of the Spirit filling or empowering people for specific tasks (Ex. 31:3ff; Num. 11:17, 25; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 1 Sam 10:6; Is. 61:1). As we read these accounts carefully, we see a pattern of God empowering people for specific tasks that were impossible without His power.
4. Scripture indicates the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Is. 63:10; Eph. 4:30). To grieve means to wound, cause pain, or insult. Our sin goes against the holy nature of the Holy Spirit and it affects our relationship with Him. This also underscores His “personhood” in that it would be hard to “grieve” an “entity” of some kind.
5. The Holy Spirit, like Jesus, intercedes or “prays” for us (Rom. 8:26; Heb. 7:25). It should astonish us that the God man and the Holy Spirit are active in making intercession for us.
6. The Holy Spirit works in our regeneration (Ezek. 36:27; Jn. 3:5; 6:63; Titus 3:5). Apart from the Spirit’s work in our life, we cannot be saved. His supernatural work (Jn. 16:7-11) draws us to Him.
7. The Holy Spirit’s coming (Acts 1:5, 8; 2) to permanently indwell believers not only fulfills Christ’s promise but will also authenticate and inaugurate the beginning of the church.
These and many other passages provide us with a theological lens to understand the person and work of His Holy Spirit. It may take a little reading and study on our part to begin to appreciate what we can know objectively vs. subjectively. After all, does it make sense that we would live in such confusion about who the Holy Spirit is and precisely what He does?
Next month, we will look further into the role and work of His Holy Spirit.