Introduction to the Holy Spirit - Fear of the Holy Spirit
The understanding of certain subjects is imperative to being a Christian – who God is, the nature of sin and death, the sacrifice of Christ, repentance, baptism, heaven, hell, and many more. Most of the time we feel comfortable with our level of knowledge concerning these topics; especially our concepts of God the Father and Jesus the Son. But what about the Holy Spirit? Do we need to understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit just as we understand the person and work of Jesus Christ? Or is our understanding and study of the Holy Spirit purely academic? That is, does it matter in terms of our daily walk with Christ?
A couple of years ago we went through a study of the Holy Spirit on Sunday nights for a few months and I would like to revisit that study through the medium of this bulletin. I want to do this for a few reasons. 1. I am convinced that we need to understand who and what the Holy Spirit is and does if we want to understand God (as much as humanly possible). 2. We have a number of families who have joined our congregation since then. 3. I wanted to transform my sermon material into written material. Before we dig into scripture, I want to ask…
Why are we so afraid to talk about the Holy Spirit? Why do preachers rarely preach on the Holy Spirit? Why is the Holy Spirit treated as a “step-God” in the Godhead? I think there are a number of answers to these questions and that is the subject of the remainder of this article.
One of the main reasons for our lack of knowledge of the Holy Spirit is due to a lack of preaching and teaching on the subject. We need to study, teach, and preach the whole counsel of God, not just that which is easier to understand. But I think one of the reasons preachers hesitate to preach on the subject is because one lesson begets another. It’s hard to preach on one aspect of the Holy Spirit without it raising questions about another aspect. But if we (that is, preachers) would preach more on the subject then we wouldn’t feel compelled to preach long series dealing with every imaginable issue.
A second reason for our timidity with this subject has to do with the negative associations surrounding it. I am referring to all the false doctrines that abound concerning the Holy Spirit. The religious world is full of them and they can easily creep into our vocabulary and assumptions if we are not careful. Related to this is the fact that when some do teach on the Holy Spirit they do so from a negative standpoint – “Others teach this about the Holy Spirit. They are wrong. The Bible says…” Not that there is anything wrong with such an approach, but when we begin with the negative, I’m afraid it is difficult to view the positive as easily.
A third reason for our fear of the Holy Spirit may have to do with how we reference Him – “the Holy Ghost.” To most of us, this is not an issue. We grew up with the KJV and we know what is being discussed. But some, especially younger Christians hear the word “ghost” and think of Casper, bed sheets, and Halloween. Numerous things come to mind by the simple word “ghost” that may obscure our thoughts concerning the Holy Spirit.
Our fourth reason for misunderstanding the Holy Spirit is partly the fault of those who edit the various versions of the Bible. Some versions regularly capitalize the “S” in spirit to indicate that it is a reference to the Holy Spirit. If it is a lower case “s” then it is usually a reference to man’s spirit. But some references to “spirit” are debatable. We would all be better Bible students if we would dig in and allow the context to decide whether it is a reference to the Holy Spirit or to man’s spirit.
The fifth reason for our trouble with the Holy Spirit comes from our attempts to treat Him differently than God and Jesus. We mention the word “ghost” or “spirit” and we begin to think of mystical things, but we don’t do that in our discussions of God, the Father and God, the son. Why should we treat them in such different manners?
I am looking forward to this series. I hope you will and I hope if you have any questions or comments you will let me know.