This essay is part 2 of a series on understanding the person of the Holy Spirit. Yesterday’s post, part 1, went over the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If you have not read that essay yet, please go back and do so, as you will benefit more from today’s part having read the first essay already.
Today, I would like to examine some of the current commonly held misconceptions about the Holy Spirit and His ministry. It is not possible for me to adequately address every misconception here in one article, because they encompass false movements within Evangelicalism that have grown out of these theological errors. We see this most readily in the Charismatic signs and wonders or NAR (new apostolic reformation, formerly the Kansas City Prophets) movements. The problem is so large that a book has been written by Dr. John MacArthur titled ‘Strange Fire‘. Due to the far reaching influence of these errors, Grace Community Church pastored by Dr. MacArthur, put on a conference for pastors addressing the issues in 2013. You can access the entire conference online and watch it for free, here. I highly recommend doing so.
What the Holy Spirit’s Ministry is not
One of the characteristics of these false movements that have errors regarding the Holy Spirit, is that they are experiential. Experience-based Christianity, theologically speaking, is a perpetual downward trajectory. We are fallen human beings who are sinful and imperfect, so relying on our subjective emotions and experiences are a sure way of becoming tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14). The Bible tells us in Jeremiah 17:9 that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” We cannot rely on our ‘heart’ and its emotions, for truth. So what are we to trust? Peter, one of the apostles who was allowed to see Jesus in His glory and witnessed countless miracles during His ministry on earth, said that we have the more sure Word (2 Peter 1:19). He was an eyewitness, yet said that it was the Word that we are to rely on for truth. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not to give you godly goosebumps or a slain-in-the-spirit liver shiver. It is not about emotional highs and supposed miraculous signs like feathers or gold
glitter dust falling from the ceiling. It is to point to the Son, as was shown through scripture in yesterday’s post.
The “Don’t Put Him in a Box” Fallacy
When people do not want to stay within the God given parameters of the closed canon of scripture, they like to whip out the “don’t put Him in a box” argument. The argument goes that God is God and He can do anything, so don’t question or limit my pet mystical experience. Yes, God is God and He can do whatever He pleases. That is never up for debate among born again believers, even though people like to act as if it were. The question is not can He, but will He? God is limitless, but He is always consistent with Himself. He has chosen to bring people to Himself through the hearing of the Word (“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17) Could God, through the Holy Spirit or by any other means, bring someone to faith in a country that doesn’t have any Bibles, in an unconventional way? That is not the right question. The question is how has God said that He choses to work salvation in the lives of people? As previously stated, that answer is found in the Bible: faith comes by hearing the Word. That is how God has designed it. Since He is capable of anything, is He not capable of making sure that there is someone to preach that Word where He wants it heard? Yes, He is. This is where a correct understanding of sovereignty and providence are essential.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t need an invite
There are a lot of popular Christian radio songs right now that have come out of the Charismatic movement. One of those songs has these lyrics “Holy Spirit you are welcome here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.” I’m sure it was that song that inspired this widely circulated meme:
In part 1, we talked about the sealing and deposit ministry of the Holy Spirit. Folks, if you are a born again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit in you. All of the time. If you show up, guess what? The Holy Spirit is there. He’s everywhere you go. We do not need to invoke some special invitation and hope that He shows up to our worship service or prayer meeting. If believers are in the crowd, He is there. Being God, He is also sovereign and does not need permission or an invitation to be anywhere. The experiential theology these Charismatic movements perpetuate is evidenced in song lyrics like the one above. They reveal a longing for an emotional high. A fleshly experience.
I have merely shown the tip of the iceberg today in regards to errors involving the Holy Spirit. I hope that what I was able to cover was helpful to you. Perhaps you disagree. That is fine. I hope it drives you to the scripture to find out the truth of the matter. That is always my hope and aim. I will list some more links you can check out to further your study on this important and vast topic.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The Modern Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit sermon by John MacArthur
Questions about the Holy Spirit list of articles on GotQuestions site
Strange Fire Conference at Grace Community Chruch
Clouds Without Water seminar by Justin Peters