November 13, 2013 in God's Prophetic Spirit
I am unaware of many Bible doctrines more impactful than the work of the Holy Spirit. In Christian thought there is much agreement about the nature of God and of Jesus. Very often that agreement disappears when our attention turns to the Spirit’s work in our lives. Nearly every topic conceivable about His nature, person, and work is a point of argument. And it is in that cloud of uncertainty that a great deal of harmful teaching flourishes.
I am proudly a member of the church of Christ. I believe we believe, teach, and support the truth in most every area. For most of recent history I would extend that thought into matters relating to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is true that we have never fully agreed with one another. The “personal-indwelling” versus “word-only-indwelling” dispute has been a constant part of our dialogue for as far back as anyone can remember. Nevertheless, we have held strong and unified on certain truths about the Holy Spirit. We have spoken with a single voice that the Bible is sufficient to explain the doctrine of the Spirit. We have not wavered into either Calvinism or charismatic extremes. Our debate, though lively, has served to further the proclamation of certain biblical teaching. I am proud to stand on the shoulders of good men in the Lord’s kingdom in this matter.
Yet, I do believe we are at great risk. Over the past generation, our attention has been focused (rightly so) on the incursion of progressive, secular thought into the church. It has impacted nearly every belief which defines us. In the confusion the secular progressive has created, our arguments over the work of the Holy Spirit have simply been one problem among countless many. But the progressive’s effect on our beliefs about the Holy Spirit have been far more impactful than what has been done in other areas. I believe the degree of decay in our commitment to clear truths about the Spirit has been missed by many. Our strong commitment to the all-sufficiency of the text to define the work of the Spirit has been lost. Even among mainstream churches of Christ, many are more certain about their perceived experience with the Spirit than they are with the revelation of word of God on the same topic.
This puts us at a greater risk than ever before. A generation ago we engaged in biblical discussion with open Bibles. The generation coming of age among us now has no such clarity in their approach. Their thinking is much more subjective and relativistic. And when they encounter a biblical, textual difficulty it is natural for them to appeal the Spirit’s leading for their authority. In their minds God cannot be limited – not even by His word.
If we lose our connection to the text as the seat of spiritual authority and guidance, our children will go places that we never envisioned. If religion is felt, not learned, the loud voices of social tolerance and progress will place such an emotional burden upon them that God’s voice from His word will never touch their hearts. If all they must do is then appeal to some leading or nudging of the Spirit to give justification to their thinking, they will simply follow the culture around them into increasing spiritual and moral decay. Sadly, they will do so still holding to their faith. In their minds, God’s will for their lives was never violated. The Holy Spirit led them to that place. God’s plan was simply at work in their lives. Once we lose the text, we lose the sure anchor to our faith and that of our children.
That is why it is so important to approach the study of the Holy Spirit from a textual basis. We must return to careful, verse-by-verse study of what the Bible actually teaches about Him and His work.
Starting Friday, November 15, Digital Bible Study will be releasing an essay series entitled, “God’s Prophetic Spirit.” This series is a call to return to the Bible’s text to learn again what it teaches about the Spirit’s work with man. At the heart of this comprehensive examination of the Spirit is a verse-by-verse exposition of every instance in the Bible when the Holy Spirit interacts with a human. This study starts in Genesis and works systematically through the entire Bible identifying the clear, certain statements found in the text which help to define our understanding of Spirit’s influence with man. The series contains 25 essays which will be released in 15 volumes. The essays will appear first as Kindle books. Bound volumes of the essays will be put into print later into 2014.
The outline of the essays as well as release dates for each volume can be found on the God’s Prophetic Spirit homepage.