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Should Christians Trust the Holy Spirit

On the surface the obvious answer to this question should be, “yes”. The Holy Spirit is just as much a part of the Trinity as the Father and the Son. Together, they make up the Godhead of our worldview. Further, Jesus, as He was completing His earthly ministry, told His disciples to expect the Holy Spirit to come and advise them. The Bible, and particularly the New Testament, is full of verses that define the role and importance of the Holy Spirit in the daily life of Christians. A small sample follows :

  • Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
  • John 14:26 But the Helper, 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.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.
  • Isaiah 11:2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
  • Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

So What’s the Problem

The problem is, in a sin cursed world, with a human sin nature, how does a Christian discern when the Holy Spirit is speaking to them? The Sunday School answer goes something like, “as we draw closer and closer to God, as we study His Word and fellowship with other believers, we will know, in our hearts, when we hear that ‘still small voice’ of God”. Well, perhaps God spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 18 and 19 in a whisper but, for most of us, in a world full of shades of gray, things are often not so clear. In my view there are three broad groups of Christians who are susceptible to an out of balance reliance on the Holy Spirit.

– Carnal Christians –

Carnal Christians are best defined by Scripture. 

  • 1 Cor. 3:1-3 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?

There are much deeper issues associated with Christians who remain, “infants in Christ”, but that is beyond the bounds of this article. The point here is that when one is not well versed in their Christian theology they can easily rely on their personal feelings (often heavily influenced by the surrounding culture), rather than on the more controversial teachings of God. When there seems to be conflict between the Bible and the individual, there can be a sense that “my closeness with God through the Holy Spirit is what is important”, allowing for a rejection of Biblical truth and an affirming of what they perceive to be the Holy Spirit’s direction in their life. 

– Deconstructionists –

Similar to Carnal Christians, but having a grounding in traditional Christian theology, the fundamental premise of deconstruction is an increasing reliance on “feelings” rather than Scriptural facts. Again, when the Bible begins to run counter to what is now believed to be true, many either reject or reinterpret Scripture to fit their evolving morality. Though typically not articulated, if pressed, many who are walking away from their traditional Biblical Christian faith do so by reliance on what they consider the “Holy Spirit” is telling them concerning ultimate truth. Their revisionist theology settles comfortably on the love of Jesus for all people, ignoring the rest of God’s Scriptural mandates.

– Charismatics –

As a cursory overview of the theology put forth by many of my charismatic brothers and sisters, there is a belief in post-salvation anointing by the Holy Spirit. This article is not intended to adequately define, defend, or challenge these views. It is one of the many points of my personal theology that I look forward to better understanding on the other side of the grave. This view involves terms such as “Slain in the Spirit”, “Second Blessing”, and “Baptism of the Holy Spirit”. Each of these phrases carries its own nuance of theology but, for the purposes of this post, the underlying view is that the Holy Spirit takes on an increased role in the life of the believer as the process of drawing closer to God (sanctification) continues. Clearly, on the surface, this would seem a wonderful blessing and drawing closer to God is what every believer should do as a sign of our love and devotion to the Lord.  However, I believe there can be a tipping point where this Holy Spirit “anointing” can become detrimental. 

First, there are some in the Pentecostal faith tradition who believe that the signs or gifts which flow from this secondary blessing MUST be demonstrated in order to “be saved”. I would respectfully disagree strongly with this view, as part of my personal Statement of Faith hinges on God’s grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, as the basis for salvation. Practices or demonstrations of specific gifting (ex. speaking in tongues) or ordnances (ex. baptism) are “works-based” in my view and not to be taken as an exclusionary requirement for the believer’s salvation (Eph. 2:8-9). 

Second, an undue focus on the Holy Spirit as “helper” in our lives, in the midst of our own sin nature and Satan’s influence, opens the door to justifying behaviors and beliefs that are contrary to the Bible, and consequently, God’s will. Of course, those who strongly hold to a “second blessing” will reject this notion as totally contrary to their “perfect unity” with the Lord. However, the fact remains that we are all sinners and the inerrant Bible is the rock we all ultimately stand on, rather than impressions of God speaking through the Holy Spirit in situations where viewpoints seem to run contrary.

Summary Example

Below is a quote from one who commented on a past article that speaks to what I would respectfully say is an imbalance between the written Word (the Bible) and the impressions which MAY be coming from the Holy Spirit.

“Finally, it is both the study of the Bible, and the presence/power of the Holy Spirit that I employ to properly understand what my faith is grounded in. And together, they inform me as to what the Will of my adorable Trinity is today.”

On the surface this is Biblically sound. However, it is when there is a subtle, or increasingly significant difference (frog in the pot) between Scripture and the Christian’s sense of the Holy Spirit’s influence, where rationalizations enter into the gray areas of our daily decisions and beliefs, causing us to stray from our foundational Biblical Christian worldview.

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Jeff Hilles | BCWorldveiw.org, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit


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