I was away for the weekend and read a handful of books, so I thought I would give them an airing this week as we work on trying to update our site in the coming weeks. Hopefully, we will be coming up with an all new blog format too! Watch this space.
So, my second of four of these small book(let)s is entitled, Who on earth is the Holy Spirit? The book seeks to answer the question of whether the supernatural power of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, still has much relevance to our daily lives. Of course, the answer is yes. It would be a short(er) book otherwise. The authors want to know if we would even notice if he suddenly wasn’t there? Great question. Certainly, if you’re coming from a more cerebral expression of the faith. This is a book that seeks to offer reassurance to those who doubt the reality of his work in their lives, but also to create a sense of expectation and bring us into more awareness of his presence in our lives. So, does it do what it says on the tin?
Well, I just don’t know. I do find the explanation boxes that pop up in this series (from time to time) extremely helpful. The book certainly explains the Spirit’s work in the spiritual regeneration of those dead in sin. In other words, you can’t be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. It is a theological impossibility! The authors bring Scripture to bear in a very straightforward manner as they explain how the Holy Spirit brought life to creation in Genesis 1:2. They explain how he gives us a foretaste of life in the new creation in Ephesians 1:13, and how he is the mark of God’s ownership of us in Ephesians 3:14. Good stuff.
Yet, some of the answers to their own (boxed) questions seem a bit tame. Here’s an example: Should Christians look to receive the Holy Spirit after their conversion? The answer is not really given and, in fact, is a little confusing given they have already argued that we can’t be Christians without him. On the other hand, the explanation of how to be Spirit-filled is excellent! We get a nice sprinkle of Timmis/Chester/Crowded House/Porterbrook theology as we are also challenged to think of Ephesians 5:19–21 as a faith community rather than as individuals. A strong point of the book, incidentally. Another strength, often overlooked in the charismatic chaos of our day, is that the Holy Spirit sets us apart for holiness as per 1 Cor. 3:16–20.
There are some great practical points on pp.36–37. A good reminder that when God speaks by his Spirit today, he does so through the Scriptures. I do wish that they had been clearer when they discussed the Spirit’s leading. Terms such as ‘impressions’ or ‘words of knowledge’ do not carry the same weight as the Scriptures. This is such a point of confusion in our day, and I feel they could have come down stronger on those who claim biblical sufficiency but, often, leave it at the door with some of these practices. Although, to be fair, they do state clearly that the Holy Spirit will never prompt us to do anything contrary to the Bible. Their box on this topic was clear, concise and practically helpful.
The end was let down by their call for people to seek the gift of healing, prophecy, and tongue speaking today. Regardless of my own views on the subject (I practice none of the above) I was left a little frustrated by their seeming disregard for the other gifts of the Spirit. A call for more discernment wouldn’t have gone amiss, would it lads? I think you missed a trick there. I know these are the one’s out front and centre in many evangelical churches, but a good corrective would have been to call us back to look at all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has actually made them available to us today as well. What are they? Should we seek them? How should we seek them? How should they function in the local church? All unanswered. Nothing either on the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Still, I liked it. It certainly a good little primer though for those seeking a starting point on the topic.