We charismatics celebrate the Holy Spirit, yet our
theology of the Spirit is often off balance.
Two popular charismatic speakers stood on a stage two years ago
and decided they should demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit. One guy
pretended to throw an imaginary “fireball” at his friend, who promptly fell
over as if he had been zapped by the divine power. Then, feeling equally
playful, the guy on the floor stood to his feet and threw the “fireball” back
at his friend—who fell after the “blob” of God hit him.
Everybody laughed and had a hilarious time at this outrageous
party. There was just one problem. The Holy Spirit is not a blob, a fireball or
any other form of divine energy that can be thrown, manipulated, maneuvered or
incredibly sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label have
the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity.”
This scenario happened in a charismatic church—a
place where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is presumably honored and
understood. It’s incredibly sad that many of us who wear the charismatic label
have forgotten what the Scriptures teach about the third person of the Trinity.
At the risk of sounding way too elementary, I’d like to offer this basic
layman’s guide to pneumatology—the study of the Holy Spirit and how He works:
1. He is the Spirit of the Lord. He is not a force (as in Star Wars), a magical
power or an “it.” The Holy Spirit is God, and we should revere Him as God. The
concept of the Trinity doesn’t make sense to the human mind. Yet Scripture
reveals God as a triune being. As theologian Norman Geisler writes: “God is one
what (nature) with three whos (persons). This is a mystery but
not a contradiction.”
2. He is our Regenerator. Jesus told Nicodemus that we are born again by the Holy Spirit
(John 3:5). True conversion is the most supernatural thing we will ever
experience! When a person puts his faith in Christ for salvation, it is the
Spirit who opens the heart and quickens divine life. He then indwells us. While
this is an invisible process, it is no less miraculous. When we are converted
our hearts cry out, “Abba! Father” because the Holy Spirit is “the
Spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15); He gives us confidence that we are now
children of God.
3. He is our Empowerer. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we are “clothed with
power from on high” (Luke 24:49, NASB). The Spirit who already indwells us fills us
to the point of overflowing. Jesus said the Holy Spirit’s power would flow out
of us like “rivers of living water” from our innermost being (John 7:38). This
overflow releases supernatural boldness (Acts 4:31) as well as the anointing
for various gifts of the Spirit including prophecy, speaking in tongues and
4. He is the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit has access to all the wisdom and knowledge of
God. When we abide in Him, He leads us continually into truth—causing us to
grow and mature spiritually. He wants to fill us with the treasures of heavenly
revelation. We can fully trust Him because He never does anything to violate
the Word of God. As our teacher (1 John 2:27), He knows the difference between
truth and error, and those who depend on Him will walk in discernment and avoid
deception, pride and carnality.
5. He is our Counselor. This word is also translated “Advocate,” “Comforter” or “Helper.”
The Greek word, parakletos, means “one called alongside to help.” It
implies that the Spirit comes to our legal defense when we are accused or
troubled; it also means He is a close friend who offers encouragement,
consolation and direction when we face any difficulty. He is truly a friend who
“sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
6. He is our Intercessor. This is probably one of the greatest miracles of grace. The
Spirit who lives inside of us “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for
words” (Rom. 8:26). Even when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit prays the
perfect will of God. No matter what kind of dark difficulty we face, the Spirit
travails for us until we emerge on the other side.
7. He is our Unifier. Like the master conductor of an orchestra, the Holy Spirit pulls
together each individual Christian—with all of our diverse gifts—and causes us
to flow in synchronization as one body. The Spirit distributes His gifts to
individuals (1 Cor. 12:11) and He brings about the “fellowship of the Spirit”
(2 Cor. 13:14)—a supernatural, loving harmony among believers that overcomes
jealousy, envy, strife and bitterness.
8. He is our Refiner. The Spirit took the form of a dove at Christ’s baptism, but He is
often portrayed in Scripture as a fire. He is the “refiner’s fire” (Mal. 3:2-3)
who purifies us of selfishness, pride and wrong motives. The Holy Spirit is
indeed the fire of blazing holiness, and He can be both grieved (Eph. 4:30) and
quenched (1 Thess. 5:19) when we disobey His promptings.
As we prepare to celebrate the day of Pentecost in less than a
month (it’s on May 23), let’s meditate on all aspects of the Spirit’s work in
our lives—and invite Him to fill us in a fresh way.
J. Lee Grady served as editor of Charisma for 11 years and is now contributing editor. You can find
him on Twitter at leegrady. His newest book is The
Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale.