J.I. Packer* has the impression that the “ordinary” Christian does not have much knowledge of the Holy Spirit. He comments that many excellent books have been written about God and about His Son Jesus Christ, but few good books have been devoted to the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.** “The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the “Cinderella” of Christian doctrines. Comparatively few seem interested in it” [Packer, 68].
Let’s just say that Packer is right. Maybe this is an element of the Christian faith that is so unpopular that we can do without it. Let’s take it further. Let’s just get rid of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit altogether, imagining what the Christian faith would be without It.
Ok, if the Holy Spirit was gone…
What would we lose?
Packer lays it all out for us. There would be no Gospel. There would be no New Testament.
When Christ left this world, He made a pledge to His Disciples. He felt He had done His part to bring His Father’s teachings to this world, but His time on earth was over and He had to go to be with His Father again. He told them to make disciples of all nations; in John 15:27 He says “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” Here is what Packer says about the Disciples: “They had never been good pupils, they had consistently failed to understand Christ and missed the point of His teaching throughout His earthly ministry; how could they be expected to do better now that He was gone?” .
How could they spread a coherent message to the world? How could their witness be more than a “twisted, garbled, hopeless muddle?”
The answer is the Holy Spirit. Christ sent the Holy Spirit to save them from error, to remind them of what He had already taught them and to reveal to them the conclusions about what He intended them to learn. “The Spirit of truth comes; He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own. He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” [from the Scriptures in the book of John].
They Disciples relied on the Holy Spirit so much that they became the mouths of Christ. Packer relates “The Spirit testified to the Apostles by revealing to them all truth and inspiring them to communicate it with all truthfulness.” From their mouths, from their lives, from their writings, we have the Gospel; we have the New Testament.
Ok, we would not have the New Testament if we did not have the Holy Spirit. What else would we not have? Packer says Christians would not have any faith without the Holy Spirit. Christ told Nicodemus “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” [John 3:3].
The Gospel shines a light on the world, but it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” Is that still going on today?
You bet it is…
What happens to unbelievers to make them “see the light?” If the Gospel is not enough, what will help people see the truth as put forth in the Word of God?
It is the Holy Spirit.
The Gospel by itself will not produce results in changing people: “You do not accept our testimony” [John 3: 11]. Packer says it like this: “The Gospel produces no conviction in them; unbelief holds them fast” . What conclusion can we draw from this? Is the preaching of the Gospel a waste of time? Is evangelism a fruitless task?
The answer is no.
The Holy Spirit illuminates our blinded eyes, restores our spiritual vision and enables sinners to read God’s Word with a newfound sense of truth.
Packer writes “It is not for us to imagine that we can prove the truth of Christianity by our own arguments; nobody can prove the truth of Christianity except the Holy Spirit” . As Christians we think we have to “save” others with our clever presentation of truth, but it is beyond our ability to do this. The power behind any presentation of God’s truth comes from the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians “My speech and my message…were in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” The Spirit bears witness in this way. People do come to the Gospel when it is preached, when the Bible is read, when an individual is witnessing to an unbeliever.
Have you ever been around a “mature” Christian who says the best thing, does the best thing and gets an unbeliever to respond to Christ Jesus? I have queried them about their power and the response is always the same: “It was not me.”
That means one thing…
It was God working through me…
It was the Holy Spirit…
Let me close this post by summarizing the main points that we give up if we don’t have the Holy Spirit. We don’t have the New Testament and we don’t have faith. The Holy Spirit inspired the Disciples to spread the Gospel and write the Gospel. The Holy Spirit inspires believers and unbelievers alike to have faith in that Gospel by illuminating the meaning of the words.
In our lives, do we acknowledge the authority of the Bible? If we do, we honor the power of the Holy Spirit to get the Bible written.
In our lives do we apply the authority of the Bible and try to live our lives according to the Word? If we do, we honor the Holy Spirit which gave us the Bible.
In our lives do we witness, drawing on the power of the Holy Spirit? If we do that, our witness will sound authentic, sound powerful.
What would we lose if we did not have the Holy Spirit?
Christians, we would lose all we hold dear.
Embrace the Holy Spirit; draw upon the Holy Spirit; let the Holy Spirit grow you in your faith.
**For an extensive discussion of a book devoted to the Holy Spirit, see post starting on June 15, 2018, the posts were devoted to Billy Graham’s book The Holy Spirit