Pneumatolgy (The Study of the Holy Spirit)

Posted: March 31, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Pneumatolgy is the study of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity, which means that He is a Divine person. There are many different opinions on the Holy Spirit and how He functions and His roles. It is crucial to remember that the Holy Spirit is 100% God, yet distinct from the other persons of God in the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit is a person. While the Holy Spirit is a spirit, He is not some cosmic force, but obtains a personality. “God alone has perfect personality, so any definition of true personality must start from a study of God’s characteristics (Ryrie 18).” While the Spirit is a person (Acts 15:28), it is very clear that the Spirit is distinct from Jesus, the Son (John 16:14). The Spirit’s role is to make Jesus known and to glorify Jesus. Essentially, the Spirit points to the Christ. In the book of Matthew, chapter 28 and verse 19 clearly states all 3 members of the Trinity. The significance of this is that it signifies that all 3 members of the Trinity are equally God but function differently. No one can escape the presence of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 137:7-12). The Holy Spirit is a person who possess a personality and has desires. Wayne Grudem correctly defines the work of the Spirit as, “The Work of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, and especially in the Church (Grudem 634).” God the Father and Jesus are both distict from the Holy Spirit, which is why in Luke 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. This shows that each part of the Trinity are separate in persons, but are one!

How did the Holy Spirit function in the Old Testament times? One of the clearest things He did was to restrain sin (Genesis 6:3) (Ryrie 55). The Spirit would indwell select individuals (Numbers 27:18), but not all. The Spirit enabled select chosen people for God’s service (Judges 3:10; Judges 14:6). While the Holy Spirit chose to enable and come upon certain men, this was not a universal work of the Spirit in the Old Testament (Isaiah 59:21). While the Holy Spirit was limited in His effect and duration during the Old Testament time, Jesus says in the book of John that He will ask the Father, and He will give another helper who will be with you forever (John 14:16-17). First, John 14 signifies the Trinity again and secondly it shows a start of a new stage in the life of the Church. The Holy Spirit is now with believers forever, not temporarily as it once was (Ryrie 56).

How is the Holy Spirit different in the New Testament than He was in the Old Testament? First, the Holy Spirit is similar in some ways, like empowering for certain tasks or ministries (Acts 1:8) (Grudem 638). In the early Church, the Holy Spirit worked through some to work miracles as they proclaimed the gospel (Acts 6:5, 8) and as Christians preach the gospel by being filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:8). The Holy Spirit now gives gifts to believers. Note, the Holy Spirit gives, they are gifts from God to believers (1 Corinthians 12:11). The Holy Spirit intercedes on the believers behalf as often times believers do not know how to pray (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit purifies or sanctifies. There is no need for a sacrifice to take place to seek forgiveness since Jesus paid for it, but the Holy Spirit now does the cleaning and cleansing by making believers more like Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:11). The Holy Spirit did reveal certain things to certain people both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. An example would be the prophets in the Old Testament (Numbers 24:2) and in the New Testament, the Apostles (2 Peter 1:21). The Holy Spirit now guides and directs believers of Jesus Christ (Grudem 640) (Matthew 4:1). Believers should be led and walking in the Spirit so the believer will not sin and lose the spiritual battle daily (Galatians 5:16-26). It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and believers should strive not to since He sealed us until Christ returns to bring us to His kingdom!

What is the Holy Spirit’s ministry in relation to Christ’s earthly ministry? The first absolutely important aspect of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to Jesus would be the birth of Jesus. Jesus was born to a virgin (Ryrie 59) (Luke 1:35) and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Essentially, the Holy Spirit made it happen despite the fact that Mary, the mother of Jesus, never had intercourse until after Jesus was born. A true miracle of the Holy Spirit! This miracle allowed the incarnation to take place, which allowed a human nature to exists, “not a person” for Jesus always existed with the Trinity (Ryrie 60).

The Holy Spirit marked Jesus as the messiah which was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy (Acts 4:27; Hebrews 1:9). He also empowered Him for preaching (Ryrie 61) or public ministry (Luke 4:18). The Spirit is the agent that connected Jesus to be able to heal and to do good (Acts 10:38). Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 4:21; Luke 4:1). The Father sent the Spirit to seal the Son as a symbol of approval (Ryrie 61) (John 6:27). The Holy Spirit led Jesus in the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:1). Jesus was walking and being led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus also rejoiced in the Holy Spirit which is a fruit of the Spirit (Ryrie 62) (Luke 10:21). The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to do miracles and certain tasks, this was the Spirit’s doing in Jesus (Matthew 12:28). It should be noted that not all the miracles of Jesus were performed with the Spirit (Mark 5:30), Jesus did some in His own divine power. However, it is clear also that the Spirit led Him and empowered Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s ministry to Jesus included the “anointing, filling, empowering and leading were related to the development of Christ’s human nature (Ryrie 62).”

What is the Holy Spirit’s role in conversion to the elect? First, the elect should be defined as believers who Christ has saved. God has chosen many to be saved (Ephesians 1:4). What is the Holy Spirit’s role in the process of salvation? Regeneration can be defined as a new life or to be born again (Ryrie 89). Grudem defines regeneration as “A secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us (Grudem 1253)…”

Essentially regeneration is spiritual resurrection (Ryrie 90). This act of God in particular is the Holy Spirit at work (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:5). What does this work accomplish or do? It brings new spiritual life to the individual. The new nature is the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). The old self prior to regeneration or conversion can only serve sin (Romans 6:20). Now, since the Holy Spirit is at work in the person, they can now serve righteousness (Romans 6:18).

This new nature will now breathe new life (Ryrie 92). The results of being regenerated are doing righteousness, so putting on a new life and knocking down sin in one’s life (John 2:29). The new nature will cause a new life to form spiritually. Regeneration will not make one perfect, it does lead one to be more and more like Jesus. The only way someone can come to Jesus is to be regenerated by the Spirit.

What about the sealing of the Holy Spirit? This is the doctrine of the Spirit where He seals us to the day of redemption. Essentially, this doctrine proves that once a person is saved he will be kept eternally secure in God. This person cannot lose his or her salvation. God is the one who regenerates, God is the one who saves, and God is the one who keeps the person in Him. It is foolish to say it is all God’s doing except a finite human can now reject God. It is illogical. Scripture affirms this in Ephesians 1:13. The Holy Spirit promises this sealing. If one could deny God after being saved and lost his salvation, this would make the Holy Spirit a liar and would mean He is not God. The sealing of the Holy Spirit is only found in the New Testament (Ryrie 117). What a blessing of this new church age to have such a gift from God! God does guarantee our sealing (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). This sealing of the Spirit happens at the moment when one first believes (Ephesians 1:13). The sealing does last until Christ returns (Ephesians 4:30). “…no believer can become unsealed on his or her way to heaven (Ryrie 120).” Ryrie explains the security of the believer as God giving us security that we are possessed by God. Secondly, God promises His children salvation, “for there is no power greater than God who could break the seal, and God Himself promised never to break it.” Thirdly, God’s “purpose is to keep us until the day of redemption (Ryrie 120).”

Ephesians 4:30 explains to believer that we were sealed so we may not grieve the Holy Spirit. Out of the heart, the mouth speaks. The Holy Spirit should guard our lips so we will not grieve Him (Ryrie 121).

What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Baptism of the Holy Spirit happens at conversion. This should not be confused with regeneration where the Spirit enables and gives a new life to the believer; this baptism is the experience or event that happens when the individual accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Acts 11:15-17). Baptism is a one time event that happens at conversion, while the filling of the Spirit happens throughout a believer’s life. The baptism of the Spirit is not an experience where they experience the Spirit over and over again, because again, it happens once in a person’s life, and then they are sealed!

The filling of the Spirit is the empowerment of the Spirit to accomplish a certain task or ministry (Acts 2:4; Acts 4:31). The Apostle Paul also commands believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This particular phrase essentially means Christian maturity. Pastor John Piper says, “… basically, it means radiant joy, because the Spirit who fills us is the Spirit of joy that flows between God the Father and God the Son because of the delight they have in each other. Therefore, to be filled with the Spirit means to be caught into the joy that flows among the Holy Trinity and to love God the Father and God the Son with the very love with which they love each other. And then, in answer to the second question, the way to be filled with the Spirit is by trusting that the God of hope really reigns—that not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from his will (Matthew 10:29)—and that he runs the world for you and for all who trust his word. In believing that, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy (Piper).” According to Piper, this filling of the Spirit brings radical joy to the believer and is maturity in Christ! This is the command of Paul, to be mature in Jesus!

Lastly, what is the purpose and intent of the gifts of the Spirit? 1 Corinthians 12 gives a detailed list of the gifts of the Spirit. Again, these are gifts. Someone may have the gift of encouragement, because one person has been given that gift and you have not, does not mean that we should be jealous or rivaling against that person. The Holy Spirit bestows upon each person particular gifts to them. The gifts of the Spirit started at the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles (Acts 2). These gifts are not a place of service, nor are they an office, not a select ministry, they are not a special technique as one could learn it, and these are not a set skill one can just learn (Ryrie 124-25). It is a gift! Spiritual gifts are given by the Spirit independent from parents (Ryrie 125). Every believer in Jesus has at least one gift (1 Peter 4:10). “…no one believer has all of them (Ryrie 126).” “The foundation gifts of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) belonged to the founding era of the church and now appear in the periods of building the superstructure of the church (Ryrie 126).” Some gifts do not appear in every era of life. For example, gifts of the Apostles, this has ceased. However, believers today are still affected by the Apostles ministry (Ryrie 127).

What spiritual gifts are still in effect today? It would be much better to say it in the negative sense, what gifts are not in effect today? The gift of the Apostles have ceased. This gift was given for a select time to start the foundation of the churches. Prophecy has ceased in a certain sense. The Bible is complete and Christians have all that they need (2 Timothy 3:16). It is perfect! Prophecy still exists in the sense of preaching. Preaching is prophecy because you warn people about sin and proclaim a message by God. If someone declares they have a message from God, it would be wise to listen to them but test what they are saying with the Word of God since the Word of God is complete in every sense of the word.

The gifts of miracles and healing are not in effect today. To clarify, these gifts are not given to a particular individual as a gift, but God still does miracles and miraculous healings, just not given to a particular person to perform for God’s glory. Tongues and interpretation are two gifts that Christians debate over. It would be wise to be open about the miraculous gifts but cautious. If there is not an interpreter present, then this is not the gift of tongues. Along with healing and miracles, this sounds more like an empowerment of the Spirit in today’s age than an actual gift given to a believer. Gifts such as serving (Romans 12:7), exhortation (Romans 12:8), giving (Romans 12:8), teaching (Romans 12:7), showing mercy (Romans 12:8), faith (1 Corinthians 12:9), evangelism (Ephesians 4:11), knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8), and wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8) are gifts that are still at work today. These gifts have been given to serve the local church and the universal church. These gifts have been given from one Spirit just as we have been baptized in one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

The Holy Spirit does a lot and is distinct from the roles of the Father and of the Son, but is 100% God. Believers are in need of the Spirit! Without the Spirit’s work in our lives, we would be on the pathway to hell.

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Comments
  1. Sources include Charles Ryrie’s book titled, “The Holy Spirit” and Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” There is also an article from Desiring God’s website also…

    Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. Print.

    Piper, John. “Be Filled with the Spirit.” Desiring God. Desiring God, 08 Mar. 1981. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. .

    Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Holy Spirit. Chicago: Moody, 1997. Print.

  2. Angela T says:

    Wow, this was really good! A concise, clear, comprehensive overview. Thanks so much for sharing, I really enjoyed it!

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