A Theology of the Holy Spirit
As we do our work for Him in His kingdom support and expansion, we have seen in the last years an increase in the number of Pentecostal/Charismatics at work for Him. We don’t deny they have a zeal for God. Some of them though point at us and say we do not have the Spirit. Some of them claim we lack the ‘full Gospel’ and of this they even accuse some of their own members making them second class Christians after those with the miraculous gifts. In one pamphlet available for you to consider the history and Scripture dealing with the Pent./Char. we read, “There is abroad in our land and others a religious movement which gives the appearance of exalted spirituality. It pretends to possess the gifts which the Holy Spirit bestowed upon the Church in the days of the Apostles.” (p.l “Baptism of the Holy Spirit)
The Five References in John 14-16
To better understand what the work of the Holy Spirit is for all time we examine our Lord’s words describing it. These words of our Lord were spoken on Maundy Thursday evening. They are the most intense section of the New Testament dealing with the Spirit’s work, defining it clearly with the promises Jesus gave. Jesus spoke these words while still at table in the upper room and upon leaving, ”Rise…” Jn.14:31
Jn. 14:15-17 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in You.” Our Lord begins by referring to His Word (“commandments”). It is through the Word that the Holy Spirit works. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. The Spirit will act as the paraclete or counselor with this Word. The word ‘paraclete’ means one who calls you to his side to speak to you and teach you. The Spirit of truth discloses the truth through the Word. “…He dwells with you, and will be in you.” These words remind us that His Spirit works with our spirit. And He is with us “forever.” This would hardly allow for a ‘full’ and partial Gospel person. Faith may be weak, but not second class. Saving faithcreated and sustained by the Spirit is saving faith. In the first of these five the center of attention is the Spirit working on the believer with the Word. There is not even a hint of miraculous gifts nor of their ongoing record.
Jn.14:26 “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” It is what Jesus said that will be taught to believers. The truth of our Lord is imparted. The Holy Spirit is not promised for us to call us alongside to impart miraculous gifts. God can do anything, but that is not in this promise. For those who believe that there is a promise of miraculous gifts in chapter 14 they point at verse 12. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…” Of course no one has ever done greater miracles than Jesus did, so this is not pointing at signs, wonders and miracles, but at the preaching of the Word. The extent to which Jesus went geographically was exceeded. The time of preaching which was three years for our Lord was exceeded by others. These are those “greater works” in the context of our Lord’s words on Maundy Thursday.
Jn. 15:26 “But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to Me.” How will the Spirit bear witness? By signs ,wonders and miracles? No. He will bear witness by having the hearer believe the testimony of the eyewitnesses to Jesus. It comes squarely back to the Word. The Word is alive and active because the Holy Spirit comes through that Word. The word paraclete is used again which reminds us of the Spirit’s work that it is to encourage, exhort, comfort. This comes from the abiding Word of God. Our comfort is not in a supposed miracle. If we are not able to perform a sign or wonder, where then is our encouragement? It is of course in the Word. Blessed are those who hear the Word and keep (treasure) it.
Jn. 16:7-11 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no more: of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” No one is won over or convinced by a miracle. It is by the Word. Faith comes from what is heard and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ. Rom.10:17 In the operation of the Holy Spirit on the unbelieving heart of stone, it is alone by the all-powerful Word that there is a melting. It is a noticeable fact that in many mission fields in the world the Pent./Char. proclaim their power in demonstrated signs, wonders, and miracles. These we at least question. And at worst it is a fraud. What does this do to the simple message of the “preaching of Christ?” Do not underestimate the power of satan to work lying wonders.
Jn. 16:13-14 “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. ”The Spirit guides into truth by declaring. It is not by supposed miracles and wonders, but by the speaking of the Word. We are His mouthpieces to speak the Word. Even if we do not speak it, it can be read and be just as effective, because it is his Word. The use of the word “speak” here reminds us yet again that the center of attention and salvation is the Word.
As we study these five references, we see the great promises are not on healing, tongues, casting out demons or miracles. The great promises are spiritual in the Word to create and sustain saving faith. At times it seems as if the Pent./Char. need miracles as if the Word is not enough. Well, is the Word enough? The Word is not only enough, but more than enough. Obviously, to state that if there is not a sign there cannot be faith is wrong. Now what about to state that if there is no sign it is second-class faith? So signs, wonders and miracles have to be present today to prove Christianity? The Christian faith is proved in the heart with the Word. Miracles, signs and wonders pointed at the Word saying it was the Word when given. In Mk. 16:20 the Spirit explains that the Lord “confirmed the message by signs…” In Heb.2:4 the Spirit says that God “bore witness” to the Word “by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.” In both of these passages it is a matter of God confirming and bearing witness to the Word when it was given. We now have the complete Bible and the signs when it was given. We now have the complete Bible and the signs are no longer needed for this purpose.
The Word of the Spirit Centers on the Word
Below we have the passages outlined with the specific words in the promises and in the context that point out it is the Word that is the center of attention.
14:15 commandments, 17 truth
14:24 My words
14:26 teach all…bring to remembrance what I said
15:10 My commandments, 12 My commandment…love, 20 word
15:26 truth…bear witness
16:8 convince of sin, righteousness, judgment
On the first Maundy Thursday evening our attention focuses on the Word that He speaks. It will sustain them, the apostles, by the power of the Spirit in the dark days, not signs. It will uplift them, and give them cheer in the face of trials, not signs .It is what they must remember and cling to by the Spirit’s power, not signs. The Word, the Word, the Word. And it is no different for us today.
Following after the teaching of Jesus recorded in John14-16 on Maundy Thursday evening, there would be the men drawing back and falling to the ground. In Jn.18:6 Malchus’ ear would be healed. Lk. 22:51 But that which has lasting power is what is with us today, His Word which the Spirit causes us to remember. As amazing as the sweat as great drops of blood falling to the ground were (Lk.22:44), even more and lastingly amazing is the Son of God’s prayer words in Gethsemane, such as “not My will…” On Good Friday the three hours of darkness (Lk. 23:44)are far surpassed in significanse by the words from the cross, seven statements in number. Temple curtain being torn(Lk. 23:45) and the earthquake and rocks splitting (Mt. 27:51) all point to the acts of the Messiah dying for us which His Word announces, “It is finished.”
The Pent./Char. are Misdirected in their Emphasis.
While we are not Pent./Char., we do believe God does give gifts (charisma- the Greek word means ‘gift’) to His church. Still today the “higher gifts” are present. These we earnestly desire. I Cor.12:31 In I Cor.12:28 Paul lists the higher gifts by number even, “first apostles, second prophets, third teachers.” These gifts all involve the Word and its proclamation. To the confused situation at Corinth Paul points out that the church above all should be “edified”. I Cor.14:5Being edified is through the preaching(prophecy –means first of all proclaiming God’s message). In v.4 Paul says ”especially that you may prophesy.” In v.5 he says “even more to prophesy” emphasizing yet again the centrality of the Word. At the outset of chapter 14 Paul had said, “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” The emphasis does not shift in that chapter. The preference evening those days when there could be tongues was for the understandable word. I Cor. 14:9 The one “who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” 14:3 This all comes through the Word.
Although we are not Pent./Char., we believe in the miracle of Pentecost. The flames of fire, mighty wind and other tongues were all mighty acts of God. Notice that the ultimate import was that people heard each in his own language the mighty works of God. Acts 2:6 The carrying of the Gospel into all the world is dependent on the people hearing in their own language the wonderful works of God for their salvation. The great work of God is not dependent on signs.
As a matter of fact, the Word warns against reliance on or seeking of signs even when Jesus walked on earth, when so many such were seen. Read Lk. 11:29-32. Which is emphasized here – miraculous signs or the almighty Word? The wisdom of Solomon and the preaching of Jonah are stressed. This is the Word. We see Jesus in His Word.
In Mt. 24:3 we have the apostles asking for a sign, “…what will be the sign of Your coming and of the close of the age?” Jesus’ answer is in verses 4-14 in which He points to unmiraculous occurrences not signs. Ultimately the “…Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” Our Lord warns about being distracted by “great wonders” in v. 24. In Mt.7:21-23 He even says that some will claim to do mighty works in His name. His answer to them is not approving v. 23.
It is interesting to note in passing that the greatest preacher of the days before Jesus was John the baptizer who did no sign. “And many came to Him; and they said, ‘John did not sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.’ And many believed in Him there.” Jn.10:41-42 Today we see the Pent./Char. preaching with signs as if to enhance their preaching. The Word does not need enhancing. The signs and wonders and miracles in the days of the apostles pointed at the Word and accompanied the giving of the Word as God’s testimony at that time that this is His Word. Now we have the Word in its totality and preach it just as John the baptizer did, though not with his skill. People believe through the Word.
If any want more explanations on what we teach in this area, we have available three pamphlets. “The Baptism of the Spirit” goes into the historical background of the Pent./Char. and refutes their wrong position. In “Wheat vs. Chaff, Why I am Not a Charismatic” the Scripture is presented with the conclusion, “We have His infallible Word in the Holy Bible. It contains ALL we need to know for our faith and life. It protects us from the false opinions of men, and shows us the clear path to heaven, through Christ’s suffering and death in our place. Let us hold firmly to this Word, and reject the CHAFF – false claims of those who boast of supposed revelations, signs and wonders.” In “Test the Spirits”, we say, “Real power is in the Word. We do not need supposed miracles to bolster our faith in the Lord. We do not need to create miraculous occurrences to gain a following. We know the power of the devil to deceive in these last days. What we need and what we know is the Word.”