This week’s study is entitled: Pneumatology: Regarding the Holy Spirit. Naturally, my first question was: what is pneumatology? This is a word that comes from the greek word “pneuma” meaning “wind” or “spirit”. In the past, my Bible study clearly and correctly taught me about “theology” (study of God) and “Christology” (study of Christ). But I remember several studies where we all struggled so hard to grasp “pneumatology” (study of the Holy Spirit).
I had such a hard time in the past with studying the Holy Spirit because 1) pneumatology was not highly regarded by my church (and even despised) and 2) we always asked the wrong question. We normally asked “What is the Holy Spirit?”. So we didn’t really get the correct answers. We should have been asking “Who is the Holy Spirit?” and “What does the Holy Spirit do?”.
The pre-reading for this lesson was John 14:15-21 and John 16:1-15, as well as chapter 1 of “The Mystery of the Holy Spirit” by R. C. Sproul. The discussions centered around the names for the Holy Spirit, the nature of the Person of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The memory verse for this lesson is John 15:26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”
This lesson 4 supplemented my own study of the Holy Spirit, which has been ongoing for several months now. I am convinced that a church body must introduce Jesus to people who don’t know him. And just as important, if not more, a church body must introduce the Holy Spirit to people who know Jesus. Yes, the Spirit is present the moment we believe, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13-14) Yet it is possible to live many years as a Christian without meeting the Spirit face to face. We can keep the Spirit in the background of our lives, resisting (Acts 7:51), quenching (1 Thessalonians 5:19), grieving (Ephesians 4:30), insulting (Hebrews 10:29) or even blaspheming (Matthew 12:31-32) the Holy Spirit.
Christians can live (but don’t have to) like wounded soldiers, dwelling in the sacrifice and suffering of our Christian life, missing the greater joy, power, peace, purpose and hope our Lord wants us to have. When we hinder the work of the Spirit in our Christian lives, we are like Apollos in Acts 18 who was well-versed in Scripture, but only knew John’s baptism. It is clear to me that Priscilla and Aquila introduced Apollos to the Holy Spirit (or at least he met the Holy Spirit through their help).
Acts 18:24-28 “24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. 27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
When a Christian realizes the Holy Spirit is present, waiting to do amazing work, he or she is able to go beyond “speaking boldly in the synagogue”. A person who submits to the Holy Spirit is able to powerfully understand the Scriptures and prove that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person becomes a “great help to those who by grace had believed”. In other words, Christians can only be effective evangelists and disciple-makers when they submit to the Holy Spirit.
R.C. Sproul’s description of his intense prayer and vow to God to win his unbelieving fiancé to Christ is a similar story. R.C. tried so hard to introduce Christ to his unbelieving girlfriend. He wrote: “I locked myself in my room and entered into a vigil of intercessory prayer. I made the pleas of the importunate widow in Jesus’ parable seem mild by comparison.” He loved this woman so much! He had already proposed to her and she was now his fiancé. He desperately tried everything he could to make her believe before they were married so that they would not be “unequally yoked”. In fact he envisioned that he would write her name in the Book of Life himself! He reminded himself of Matthew 11:12 “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Yet she did not believe. Only when this woman went to a prayer meeting and met God herself did she believe. At that prayer meeting she said, “Now I know who the Holy Spirit is.” R.C. noted that these were not the words of a trained theologian, but the observation of a fresh convert to the Christian faith.
In looking back on this event, R.C. Sproul expounded on the Holy Spirit’s person and work in light of 1 Corinthians 2:9-14:
“9 However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
The names of the Holy Spirit are fascinating. Just as Jesus has many names, so does the Holy Spirit: Names of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a person, the third Person of the Trinity (Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 9:6; Acts 5:3-4). The Spirit is not a “force” nor an “energy” (though power does come from the Spirit). In the Scripture, the Spirit is not referred to as an “it” or inanimate object, but as a person. We can lie to the Spirit (Acts 5:3) and we can grieve the Spirit by our actions (Ephesians 4:30).
The Holy Spirit indwells those who have trusted in Christ for their salvation (1 Corinthians 6:19). When people believe in Christ as Lord and Savior, they receive God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), with whom they are sealed. This is a guarantee of the hope of eternal life (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus taught his followers that the Holy Spirit would be in them (John 14:17).
Here is a summary of the work of the Holy Spirit (this is not intended to be a complete or comprehensive list):
1. To empower: The Spirit gives life, giving and sustainging human and animal life (Psalm 104:30), new life in regeneration for those who are saved (John 3:6-7), empowerment for service (Deuteronomy 34:9), power to witness (Acts 1:8) and grace distributed in gifts (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4).
2. To purify: The Spirit purifies through convicting (John 16:8-11), sanctification (1 Corinthians 6:11) and bearing fruit (Galatians 5:22-26).
3. To reveal: In the Old Testament, the prophets were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The New Testament apostles were guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The Spirit reveals and glorifies Jesus (John 16:14) and bears witness to Jesus (1 John 4:2). The Spirit guides (Galatians 5:16-26), manifests (Romans 5:5; Romans 14:17) and teaches (John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:12).
4. To unify: The Spirit does not bring about uniformity but unity in the Lord (Acts 2:44-47; Philippians 2:1-2). When we put the Spirit’s gifts into our Lord’s service, we allow this unifying work to happen (1 Corinthians 12:7) in answer to Jesus’ high priestly prayer (John 17:1-26).
5. To testify: The Holy Spirit gives stronger or weaker evidence of the presence and blessing of God, according to our response to Him. The Spirit can be grieved. We are to set our minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:4-6) and walk according to His guidance (Romans 8:12-16).
Romans 8:12-17 is a fitting conclusion. Our obligation as Christians is to live according to the Holy Spirit (the wonderful guarantee and deposit and gift God has given!). This obligation is not just to overcome impure sins, but it is also to overcome religious sins. Why do we think we need to let the Spirit purify us, but don’t need to let the Spirit do ministry work? Why do we demand so much control over religious piety, insisting on knowing exactly what will happen through our programs?
“12 Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.