What Has Happened to the Spirit?
There are many teachers out there who either completely ignore the Holy Spirit and then there are others who solely teach on the Holy Spirit. Oftentimes these are called evangelicals and charismatics. I personally don't identify with either. As a BIBLE believing Christian who doesn't follow specific pastors, teachers, leaders, etc., I rely solely on what Scripture tells us about the Holy Spirit and what He brings to us/what comes with Him.
Now, there are churches like Bethel in Redding, California that seem to get into some weird things when it comes to the Spirit and spiritual gifts (including grave sucking/soaking aka necromancy... Read more on that one HERE), and whether or not these things are true about Bethel, if they are then they're not only going against what Scripture says, but they're also in sin while doing so! Here is what Bill Johnson has said regarding this subject,
"There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have lain unclaimed, literally where they were left because the generation that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it's possible for us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God that have been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim them and perpetuate them for future generations." - Bill JohnsonNow, I believe in anointings sure, I believe that the Spirit anoints certain people for certain tasks, but grave sucking or taking someone else's anointing is not at all biblical. But I do want to be fair here, the brother of one of our fellow brothers in Christ goes to Bethel in order to be taught how to use spiritual gifts and one of my best friends is considering it as well, I don't think Bethel is evil but I also am personally very weary of them as they are dangerously close to being on the extremest side of the charismatic movement.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have people like John MacArthur who are convinced, and have convinced others who seem to follow him blind, that spiritual gifts aren't really a thing and that things like tongues, healings, and raising the dead are of the Devil (Read more on that one HERE)! Here's a quote from a sermon MacArthur did about how he really feels about the use of the Spirit,
"...visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental means, dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out of body experiences, trips to heaven, anointings, miracles. All false, all lies, all deceptions attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit..." - John MacArthurNow, not only does he not use any specific Scripture to back this statement up, but he also seems to be missing the point of the Holy Spirit and what SCRIPTURE actually says the Spirit will do in the Last Days (which most believe is the time between Jesus' return to Heaven and His Second Coming here on Earth). But before we get into that let me leave you with a question here, how is MacArthur, based on what we read here, any different than a Pharisee? They all believed in Scripture, they all believed the head-knowledge, they understood prophecy, miracles, etc., but they called Christ a devil simply because He did those things. Now, we know MacArthur believes in Christ, but if he's going to persecute his people for doing what Christ did then how is he any different than those who did it to Christ? Like most of the Church, MacArthur seems to have a religious spirit, the only "strange fire" that seems to be around him is his.
But that all being said, I don't want to pick on either Bethel OR MacArthur (I own a MacArthur study Bible for goodness sakes & the church I go to loves him) or anyone else on either side of the church spectrum, I think (and pray) they all have a heart for the Lord but I believe both are slightly misguided on the role of the Holy Spirit and how He relates to the Church. So let's talk about, based on Scripture, what the role of the Holy Ghost is in the Church and what we are to do with Him...
1. Teaching us about Jesus Christ: The Holy Spirit was sent to us because Jesus was to go back to Heaven to prepare for His Second Coming, to prepare for His final battle. But before He left He told His disciples that the Spirit would be who teaches to us about Christ. John 16:12-14 tells us that the Spirit WILL glorify Christ as Lord and that He would also take what is Christ's and declare it to us. This means all that is Jesus', all that He could do, we are given authority to do! John 14:26 also talks about this. We'll talk more on that later...
2. He is here to comfort us: As I said above, John 14:26 talks about the Spirit being sent to teach us, but it's also called the Comforter in this passage! Comfort us from what? Well, that's simple, persecution. You see, Matthew 10:22 and John 15:18 both specifically tell us that the world will HATE us because of Jesus. Not every single person, but the world as a whole. Think about being at a school where everyone hated you no matter what and there was nothing you could do to convince them otherwise! You would need someone to be with you, comfort you, and be a friend in your time of need. This is what the Spirit does, He helps us to press on no matter our circumstances.
3. He convicts us of our sin: Whether or not you want it, when we give our lives to the service or Christ, the Spirit is given full authority to convict us of sin, hidden or open, and He continues to until either we repent or numb Him away. John 16:8 is where we find this is Scripture.
4. Special gifts: Here is where some people begin to freak out but quite frankly if Scripture doesn't freak you out on some level then there's something wrong with you (go read Matthew 7, that'll make you faint...). But here's the deal, the Holy Spirit is also here to allow us believers to have spiritual gifts! I don't care if you believe in them or not, but this is what the Bible itself says! Any information I'm going to be giving now comes from direct Scripture, so watch out! According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, every believer has at least ONE gift from the Spirit. Earlier in the chapter, Paul tells us that it is only by the Spirit of God that someone can say "Jesus is Lord" and if someone is blaspheming Christ they don't have the Spirit. Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 both tell us that spiritual gifts ARE given by the Spirit in order to allow the Church to work together, meet needs, and glorify God, specifically Jesus Christ!
This all being said, there are various different spiritual gifts! Speaking in tongues is one (Acts 2:1-4, and don't give me that "Acts is transitional" thing please, it is still applicable in terms of gifts as well), prophecy is one (look at the Apostle John's Revelation as well as Acts 2:17 which specifically tells us that DURING the Last Days people would have visions, dreams, and prophesy, and don't forget Romans 12:6), healings and miracles (1 Corinthians 12:29-31 tells us that not everyone has these gifts but that we are to desire more as we grow in Christ implying that they can be given to us), and of course interpreting tongues is also included in 1 Corinthians 12:30. There seem to be a lot of people in the Church today who believe that prophets are dead, apostles are dead (all apostle means is "one who is sent out" by the way, and if an apostle is someone who has seen Christ as some say than there are definitely still apostles today because He still reveals Himself to some in order that they believe), and that gifts aren't around anymore, that we can't apply what happened in Acts to our lives today because it's "transitional". No, those are lies from the pit of Hell, in fact Jesus said that we who believe will do greater things than He did (John 14:12)! If we can do greater miracles than Jesus and we're not then what are we doing Church?
5. Helps us achieve the Fruits of the Spirit: The final big point that the Holy Spirit is here to help us accomplish is that of the Fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that included in the Spirits character/fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (or in the KJV it reads, "...love, joy peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance..."). "Against such things there is no law." the verse goes on to say. You see, with the Spirit we are able to conform to the image of Christ, the image of God, imago dei, but without it we are simply in the image of Adam, the image of sin, we have no life or power without that of the Spirit!
Conclusion: I know at the beginning of this article I was a bit harsh on both Bethel and MacArthur and I only use those two specific examples because I know people who love both and even seem to be blinded by that love for both, but here's the deal the Spirit is real and powerful and knows wolves from sheep. Something we forget as believes is that we worship God the Father (as we should), we worship Jesus Christ, the source of our salvation, our Lord (as we should), but we either forget or ignore the Holy Spirit and what He can do through us if we actually believe He can! We forget that the Holy Spirit is as much God as the Father and Son! Matthew 12:32, Hebrews 9:14, and Psalm 139:7-8 each talk about the power, importance, and holiness of the Spirit, only things that are or can be attributed to God. We need to remember that the Spirit is just as important as the other two-thirds of the Holy Trinity, but we must also remember that we should not use His work as an excuse to cause division in the Church! We should remember that Jesus Christ is LORD, that He is the source of our salvation, and that He is who we believe in and put our faith and trust in to be SAVED! The Holy Spirit is who comes after, who arrives due to prayer (it took ten days for the Apostles in Acts 1-2...), and not only teaches and comforts us, but pushes us into the image of Christ and allows us to do the impossible through faith, if only we believe.
Michael J. Petty
P.S. For those wondering the image above is a picture of the Holy Spirit as drawn in the Archangels: The Saga comic book series (a Christian series obviously) that ran nine issues. It's a fantastic series and would highly recommend it for anyone interested.