Today, there’s a lot of confusion about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In broadly conservative Christian circles, it’s common to have an “open, but cautious” view towards the miraculous sign gifts the apostles had, in the years after Jesus’ resurrection. This means many Christians are cautiously open to the idea that these miraculous gifts are available today, and some even seek after them.
This is a mistake.
It’s not fashionable these days to be dogmatic about much, except the Gospel. It isn’t trendy to have firm beliefs about something. I love my brothers and sisters in Christ who disagree with me about the work of the Spirit today. I have no problem with them. I just think they’re wrong. Really, really wrong.
Sometime in the near future, I’ll be teaching about the Holy Spirit. Who He is. What He did during the apostolic era. What He does now. What 1 Corinthians 12-14 says about Him.
To that end, I’ll be giving away a copy of the excellent book The Charismatic Phenomenon, by Peter Masters. It’s short (about 120 pages). It’s understandable. It covers the major issues. It will help you, if you’re concerned about this topic. And, it’s only about $3.00. Here’s a quick excerpt:
Of course, the answer is “no.”
What the Spirit doesn’t do
Definitions and terms are important for this topic. I’ll start with the negative emphasis first; that is, what the Spirit doesn’t do today:
- The Spirit doesn’t give prophesies. The Bible only shows us an infallible prophetic communication from Him to a particular man. In fact, the test for a “true prophet” in the Old Covenant scriptures is whether he’s ever wrong. Some Christians believe God gives fallible prophesy today. This is incorrect.
- The apostolic gift of “speaking in “tongues” was never about unintelligible, mumbled nonsense. Instead, God gave the apostles the ability to speak actual, real, identifiable foreign languages. The word translated “tongues” just means “languages.” That’s it, and the context supports that understanding.
- God doesn’t give the supernatural gift of languages today. Most people, when they speak about “tongues,” are actually referring to the modern perversion of unintelligible, babbled nonsense. God never did that, and it isn’t what the Bible shows. It shows us “tongues” as foreign language ability. God doesn’t give that ability today.
- God doesn’t give people the ability to miraculously heal others. Jesus had this power, and He gave it to only a select few people. The New Testament shows us barely over 10 people who had this gift. Christians today don’t have it.
What the Spirit does today
I could say quite a bit, but I’ll restrict myself to explaining what the SKRBC doctrinal statement says about Him. Basically, as Jesus said, the Spirit is a comforter and helper for the believer, and for those who will be believers:
- The Spirit restrains Satan and our own evil impulses. If it weren’t for Him, evil would abound so much that we would surely destroy ourselves. Sometimes, God withdraws His protection and unspeakable evil erupts on the earth in local, regional and worldwide events. Among other things, these tragic events showcase our innate brutality and wickedness. It tells us we;re not good people, and we ought to be glad the Spirit restricts evil as much as He does.
- The Spirit convicts people of their own sin. He brings the reality of sin home to certain people, at certain times. He does this for both unbelievers and believers.
- The Spirit convicts people of righteousness. He tells unbelievers about their own unrighteousness, and Christs perfect righteousness. He applies the truth of the Gospel to hearts and minds. Not all hearts and minds, but to everyone who eventually believes. This is why we pray to God to save people; because we know it can only come from God. He has to send the Spirit to convict people in order for them to be saved!
- The Spirit convicts people of judgment. He brings the terrible truth of eternal judgment home to unbelievers. He makes them afraid. He makes them finally realize, once and for all, that they deserve judgment and they’ll have it – unless they repent and believe.
- The Spirit bears witness to the Gospel. This sums up the previous three; as the Gospel is preached or explained, He applies it to certain hearts and minds.
- The Spirit is the agent in the new birth. He’s the one who immerses people with Himself, bathing them in the Spirit and truth of the Gospel, changing their hearts and minds, giving spiritual birth, so they can repent and believe.
- The Spirit seals believers. He marks them as God’s people, and fills them as a down payment of future glorification.
- The Spirit guides, teaches and helps the believer. He applies the truth of the Bible and the sermon. He convicts, pokes, prods and cajoles the Christian on a daily basis. He’s the Helper Jesus gave us to be with us, in His place. He’s the ever-present teacher and comforter. He guides us to produce fruit for Him.
There are lots of good resources out there. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information, too. Here are some suggestions:
- The Charismatic Phenomenon. This is the book I’ll be giving away this coming Sunday. There will be a slip in the bulletin, so you can enter the drawing. Or, if you want to be sure to have it, just click on the link and spend $3.00 …
- Strange Fire. This is a very good book by John MacArthur.
- Spiritual Gifts: What They Are and Why They Matter. This is a wonderful book, written with a kind spirit.
- Strange Fire: Conference Videos. In 2013, John MacArthur hosted the “Strange Fire Conference” at his church, and invited many scholars and theologians to give presentations on the dangers of seeking after things the Spirit doesn’t do, today. The videos are good, and you’ll appreciate them.
This is an important topic. It’s not the most important topic. But, it’s still important. Hopefully, you’ll pick up the book (and, perhaps, some of the others, too) and be helped.