Why Study The Holy Spirit?


Why study this subject?

The simple answer is because many Christians do not know a great deal about the Holy Spirit. Why is this the case? Why is there so much ignorance and confusion about the subject? Because for centuries, it was a neglected subject.

Augustine died AD 430 and wrote that there had not been ‘a discussion of the subject, full enough and careful enough, to make it possible to obtain an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s proper individuality’.

1450 years later; the German theologian Albrecht Ritschl asked the question, what is meant by the Holy Spirit?

He then went on to say that ‘the subject has been so neglected by theologians that he, could not undertake the work that would be needed to answer the question, Neglect of the subject has had the unfortunate consequence that some theologians ‘abstain from using the idea altogether.’

Coming closer to our own time, DR. Glover, 1925 ‘Paul of Tarsus’, claimed that, ‘No original work (he meant no real study) has been done on ‘the holy spirit’ since the days of the apostles.’

When was interest in the subject revived?

In 1857 by William Arthur. In his book ‘The Tongue of Fire’. This may be considered as the beginning of the so-called ‘Pentecostal Movement’ religious people ‘rediscovered’ the Holy Spirit’s existence! They began to use the many expressions found in the New Testament, ‘the gift’, ‘the gifts’, and ‘the baptism’. ‘The indwelling’, ‘the filling’, ‘the guidance’, ‘the leading of the Spirit’.

The so-call ‘charismatic movements’ sprang up. ‘Four Square Gospel’, ‘Holiness’, ‘Pentecostal’. And other religious bodies, all claiming to be ‘Led by the Spirit’, even though they disagreed among themselves!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the words and phrases they used because they are taken out of the New Testament, but the way in which they applied them was very wrong indeed! They used them to support ideas and doctrine about the Holy Spirit, which are nowhere found in the Scriptures.

And, to complicate matters even further, these people spoke about the Holy Spirit in such a superior kind of way about the ‘miraculous gifts’ they claimed to possess, that ordinary Christians were often made to feel inferior.

The so-called ‘Charismatic movement’, even invaded certain sections of the churches that are usually regarded as very ‘orthodox’, attracting emotional men and women, who found the older churches too quiet and sober in comparison with the ‘New Pentecostal’ bodies.

The Church of England, Church of Scotland, Baptist, Methodist Churches, etc., were affected by this movement. There is no doubt at all that these so-call ‘Spirit-led people’ believed that they were superior to ordinary church members!

We need to return to the Word of God, to discover what it reveals about the Holy Spirit. We should always remember that, if everything we now know about the Holy Spirit, could be blotted out of our minds, and if our Bible was taken from us, we wouldn’t even know that the Holy Spirit exists!

This is because all we can know with certainty about the Holy Spirit is found in this book. In fact, it is true to say that the Bible is the Holy Spirit’s own revelation of Himself. It is His autobiography! And if we really want to get to know the Holy Spirit, there is no better and no other way to do so, than by reading this book.

Another reason why many people know so little about the Holy Spirit. If you look up the words Holy Spirit in your dictionary, you will find that it will tell you that ‘The Holy Spirit is the third Person in the Trinity’.

And that is where the Holy Spirit ranks, in the thinking of a great many people. Number three!

First, there is God, The Father, then there is Christ, or the Word of God, Number Two! And then there is the Holy Spirit, The Spirit of God, and Number Three. And the implication is that the Holy Spirit is somehow inferior in rank to the other members of the Godhead.

There is also yet another reason why this is a neglected subject. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have a ‘Personal Name’, to which we can relate. We have no real difficulty in relating to God, whom we know as a Father, and whom we are taught to approach in prayer, as children to a Father. Sometimes we even think about Him in human terms! We are taught to believe in a God who loves us and who sent His Son to die for us!

And, as for the Son, who became Man and lived on earth and experienced the kind of trials that you and I experience, who could be hungry, who wept, and who suffered, it is easy to relate to Him! He is the one of whom it was said, ‘You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins’. Matthew 1:21

But the Holy Spirit has no ‘personal name’! In fact, in a great many religious books, hymns and prayers used in the so-called ‘Christian world’, we find the expression ‘Holy Ghost’ being used of Him, even these days.

But what sort of picture does this conjure up? Holy Ghost? When we think about a ghost what are we thinking about? Some sort of apparition that floats in the air and is able to pass through brick walls? Some sort of supernatural entity that haunts old houses? Isn’t that what people think about when the word ‘ghost’ is mentioned?

That is certainly what the word means today and it is the impression that the older versions of the Bible create. For example, the A.V. speaks about the ‘Holy Ghost’. But, in 1611, when the A.V. was published, the word ‘ghost’ didn’t mean what it means today!

Because English is a living language, not only do some words fall into disuse as new ones are created, but words also change their meaning, and the word ‘ghost’ is one of those words whose meaning has changed. In 1611, the word ‘ghost’ meant ‘guest’, therefore, when Jesus told His disciples that He was about to leave them,

He went on to say, ‘I will not leave you comfortless, (like orphans) I will pray to the Father and He will send another comforter even the Holy Guest, who shall remain with you forever’. John 14:16

Now this means that, when the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the Holy Guest came! And here is something that I find rather amusing!

When so-called ‘Pentecostal’ congregations hold their ‘tarrying meetings’, or their prayer meetings, in which they plead for the Holy Spirit to ‘descend’ upon them, they are pleading for Someone to come, who came almost 2000 years ago, and who has never gone away!

These people will wait in vain for ‘a new Pentecostal experience’ because Pentecost was a one-time event which will never be repeated.