3 Rules for Holy Spirit Studies

by Bryant Evans on January 19, 2014

open bible empty pewsMany people study the Holy Spirit. This divine member of the Godhead is often seen as a mysterious and unknowable Bible character. Sometimes, what people think they know about the Spirit is actually a blending of a little Bible and a whole lot of misinformation from wealth-seeking television preachers and book-selling authors who know that by carefully revealing new and fresh knowledge of the Spirit they can sell more and more books. Others have simply bought into errant teaching that is based on shallow studies and a lack of in-depth studies.

But the Holy Spirit (hagio pneumatos) can be accurately known. He is revealed in Scripture and the truth of his existence and work is found in Scripture. Although the Spirit is not as well described as the Father and the Son, he is, nonetheless, knowable. As such, the Spirit is an appropriate subject for study. As you approach your studies please consider the following 3 reminders in your work.

1. Everything we know about the Holy Spirit, we know from the Bible.

God’s word is true and has been fully delivered (John 17:17; Jude 3). Revelation is no longer occurring and that which was given was confirmed by great miracles. Inasmuch as confirming miracles no longer are seen we must depend upon the Scriptures as the only true source of information on the Holy Spirit.

The Bible student must use caution when approaching this subject as some rely upon odd and uncommon feelings of knowledge and even ecstasy for their information. As a man once told me, “I know the Spirit is real because I felt him moving during church.” In fact, feelings are probably the least reliable way to know anything. How would you feel if a doctor told you to set your affairs in order because you were soon to die? When you asked him why and how he knows he might only reply that he has no confirming tests, only a feeling of your impending death. You would ignore such nonsense.

If you want to know about the Holy Spirit, stick to what God has revealed and confirmed about him in Scripture.

2. We do not, and will not, know everything about the Spirit.

It is natural to be curious. No advance in any field as come without someone being curious. It is certainly normal and good for a Christian to have questions about the Holy Spirit and His work. Such curiosity drives the student to a deeper understanding.

But it is true that we will never know everything about the Spirit, at least, not in this life.

Paul salutes his readers in Ephesians 1:3 by telling them that God has given unto them every spiritual blessing. Just prior to his departure Jesus told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would come and guide them into “all truth” (John 16:13). Yet, we understand that we are guided into all the truth necessary for us. Many things remain hidden and belong only to God (Deuteronomy 29:29; Acts 1:7; Romans 11:33).

Sometimes, a Bible student will become frustrated when he cannot discover all that he wants to know about the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, in that frustration, the student unwittingly makes assumptions he ought not. He then shares those new “understandings” and confuses many.

Let us pursue what we can know and leave the rest behind God’s great curtain.

3. We have salvation.

While many questions will remain about the Spirit there is no lack of teaching on mankind’s sin and his desperate need for a savior. From Genesis until Revelation there is a single line of teaching on God’s great love for his Creation. All of the words of the Bible swirl around the Redeemer. Either he is needed, he is promised, he has come, he has saved or he is returning but the Scriptures abound with knowable teachings on Jesus.

It is not that we should avoid studying the Spirit. We should seek to know all we can but let us never lose sight of the reason for the Spirit’s work. He works to glorify Christ (John 15:26; John 16:14) and to show Christ to a lost Creation.

Aren’t you thankful for God’s sweet plan of redemption which was conceived by the Father, completed by the Christ and revealed by the Spirit?

 

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at bryantevans.com. You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

 

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{ 7 comments }

Colin Lambert January 25, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Well Bryant this one should stir up a bit of rigorous debate. I love it. In a theologically based website all should be fair if played fairly and in the spirit of love as Jesus would expect.

“Revelation is no longer occurring and that which was given was confirmed by great miracles. Inasmuch as confirming miracles no longer are seen we must depend upon the Scriptures as the only true source of information on the Holy Spirit.” A fair question to ask is, why don’t you think God would be interested in confirming miracles today to affirm His word? It is true that biblical revelation as far as adding to the bible is concerned is no longer occurring. However, revelation in terms of God’s revealing His truth through the word will happen every day. To say that confirming miracles no longer occur I strongly dispute. We should never limit our theology to our own experience as God may have something for us outside our experience.

I not only believe, but also my experience confirms that God loves to affirm the truth of the resurrection of His Son through signs and wonders following the preaching and teaching of His word. It is one of the main principles within the book of Acts that made the first church so effective. The book of Acts isn’t just an interesting history book, but is also a blue print for every New Testament church proceeding from the first.

If our church isn’t growing we need to look at ‘the blue print’ and ask ourselves the question: where don’t we measure up? What should we be doing that we aren’t doing? Where could we do better?

If confirming miracles no longer take place, why pray for the sick, why pray for any needs? Or is it just our small needs that God is only interested in meeting? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Eph 1:3) This verse tells us that the Father’s plan is for big blessing now due to our position in Christ.

I hope this is of interest to others in the forum. I plan to add more time willing.

Colin Lambert

Bryant Evans January 26, 2014 at 6:01 am

I have updated the article to reference a piece on miracles from a few weeks ago. I see no evidence today of the kind of miracles we speak of in the Bible. It is true that God’s word is evidenced by miracles and those miracles convince men today of the truthfulness of Scripture but that is a far cry from declaring some new truth that was supposedly given in a dream last night.

Colin Lambert January 26, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Hi Bryant,

Thanks for your reply.

You wrote: I see no evidence today of the kind of miracles we speak of in the Bible.

You don’t see them because you don’t expect to. You will only receive from God as much as your expectation allows.

This is my challenge to you. Please come with me on a missions trip and I will show you the similar miracles we see in the bible. If the U.S. wasn’t so far away I’d come and show you them where you live. Notwithstanding it might well be a possibility to do that one day God willing.

I have seen the blind healed. I have prayed for people with cancer and they have been healed. Blocked bowels where people have felt God’s hand move inside them when I used the name of Jesus. The list goes on this names but a few. And this happens with most missionaries I know prepared to believe and not doubt the ability of God and our position in Christ.

I have received the healing hand of God upon my knee after a cartiledge (spelling sorry) operation. In agony I called out to God because I couldn’t sleep and fell instantly asleep. My mother-in-law was healed from bowel cancer pre and post pictures show that she was healed when my wife prayed for her. The scheduled operation was cancelled.

You can’t base your theology solely on your experience because God might have something you don’t know about outside your experience. You have to be open to God. I realise you can only add to your base of theology on the basis of the confirmed word of God in your heart, but you can’t be closed to the fact that revelation from God’s word is an ongoing revelation. Frankly we don’t understand all that is in the word of God and God reveals His revelation knowledge to us progressively over our life. I’m not saying that the word of God is added to in the sense of anything new to add to the written word. It is true we are instructed not to add to or take away from what God has put into it.

My encouragement and prophecy to you is to arise oh valiant man of God and take that position of leadership God has called you to.

All my love to you my young brother.

Colin Lambert

Bryant Evans January 26, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Let me begin agreeing that understanding certainly continues and grows throughout the life of the Christian. Our sanctification is a process which continues. What I do deny, I think you do to, is the addition of new Scripture to be received by the church today. So on that I think we are in agreement.
Miracles may be different. I know good works great acts of healing and restoration today. There is no doubt in my mind that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James (James 5:16). Otherwise, why pray?
Miracles, at the level of the biblical miracles do not. Now, don’t miss the nuance. Great things happen at the hand of God but he doesn’t work in quite the same way as he did in the first century. For many years before preaching I worked in a critical care unit of a major hospital. Not once did we ever see or hear the kind of instant, unexplainable miracle occur which would meet the biblical standard. I recall at least two occasions over the years when families intensely prayed that their family member be raised. In fact I know of no confirmed restoration from the dead anywhere.
When God heals today, and he does, he works within his natural laws to bring about recovery.
A miracle happens, and is seen, without regard to what one may want to see or be open to seeing. The wicked men of the Sanhedrin certainly did not want to admit to the great works done by the apostles but were faced with overwhelming evidence. In Acts 4:7 the question was not whether a miracle happened, but by what authority it was done. Acts 4:16 notes that a notable sign was done (c.f. Acts 3:1-10) and that all the people of Jerusalem knew of it.
I thank you for your encouragements and return the same to you. God’s word is mighty and confirmed. Let us stand there alone.

Colin Lambert January 26, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Hi Bryant,

Looking forward to you joining me on a mission trip and one day me coming to pray for the sick in your community so that you can taste and see that God is good.

I hope to talk to you one day on the phone. All my love as always.

PS I hope I don’t get the maths wrong on the submit questions. Would be very embarrassing.

Blessings Colin

Bryant Evans January 27, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Oh I have no doubt of the goodness and love of God. I see it up close everyday. Perhaps one day we can meet. I leave Saturday for a lecture program and then in late February for Guyana.

Don’t worry about the math. it’s necessary to keep the spam bots and hackers away. I even have to do the math!

Colin Lambert January 27, 2014 at 10:47 pm

Hi Bryant,

Before I turn up my toes we will do some ministry together. Blessings for Guyana. Be sure to take absorbable clothing. Praying for you. You never know God might just do one of those book of Acts miracles when you’re not looking (wink), but you would have to pray for it first (wink again).

Colin

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