Category Archives: Holy Spirit

The Spirit Adds Nothing; The Spirit Adds Everything

In Doctrine of the Knowledge of God John Frame explains an important biblical concept he calls “seeing as.” “Seeing as” is more than merely seeing, it’s seeing or perceiving something in a particular light or in light of a particular perspective. Often we sin, knowing full well what Scripture says about our actions. But our protective rationalizations shield us from guilt. Only the Holy Spirit can transform seeing to “seeing as.”

The Spirit’s work also helps us to use and to apply the word. Obviously, the Spirit cannot assure us of the truth of Scripture unless He also teaches us its meaning. And meaning, as we have seen, includes the applications. We can see this in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 for David sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and by sending her husband, Uriah, to his death. Here, David, the “man after God’s own heart,” seemed trapped in a particular spiritual blindness. What happened to David? In one sense, he knew Scripture perfectly well; he meditated on God’s law day and night. And he was not ignorant about the facts of the case. Yet he was not convicted of sin. But Nathan the prophet came to him and spoke God’s word. He did not immediately rebuke David directly; he told a parable – a story that made David angry at someone else. Then Nathan told David, “you are the man.” At that point, David repented of his sin.

What had David learned from that point? He already knew God’s law, and, in a sense, he already knew the facts. What he learned was an application – what the law said about him. Previously, he may have rationalized something like this: “Kings of the earth have a right to take whatever women they want; and the commander-in-chief has the right to decide who fights on the front line. Therefore my relation with Bathsheba was not really adultery, and my order to Uriah was not really murder.” We all know how that works; we’ve done it ourselves. But what the Spirit did, through Nathan, was to take that rationalization away.

Thus David came to call his actions by the right names: sin, adultery, murder. He came to read his own life in terms of the biblical concepts. He came to see his “relationship” as adultery and his “executive order” as murder...

Much of the Spirit’s work in our lives as of this nature – assuring us that Scripture applies to our lives in particular ways. The Spirit does not add to the canon, but His work is really a work of teaching, of revelation. Without that revelation, we could make no use of Scripture at all; it would be a dead letter to us.

Thus in one sense, the Spirit adds nothing; in another sense, He adds everything.

-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 157, 158.

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Better Bumper Sticker Theology

I’m with Michael Bird on this one:

I’m not a big fan of bumper sticker theology: that is, sticking pithy theological slogans onto the bumper of the car. I particularly dislike the one ‘Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.’ While true at one level, it overlooks the crucial ingredient in the Christian life being the renewing power of God working in us through the Spirit. It might be better to write, Christians are not perfect, but God is at work in them through the vitalizing power of the Holy Spirit to transform these cracked jars of clay into glorious vessels of holiness, righteousness and goodness – if only bumper stickers word that big! In Paul’s writings, renewal is the process of transformation into the image of God that is realized through the operation of God’s glory and via the agency of the Spirit. The Spirit is continually at work in believers to make them less like themselves and more like God’s son.

Michael F. Bird, Introducing Paul: The Man, His Mission and His Message

Does the Doctrine of Biblical Inspiration Suppress the Importance of Scripture’s Human Authors?

Here is the single greatest explanation of the divine-human partnership in the creation of Holy Scripture I’ve ever read. Here Scott Swain, in Trinity, Revelation, and Reading, clears away misunderstandings of biblical inspiration. The book is a tad bit pricey, but analyses as good as this make it worth every penny. I quote at length:

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Some worry that such an emphasis on the Spirit’s power in the production of Holy Scripture overrides or ignores it’s human authorship. The more the Spirit’s responsibility for this book is stressed, the more the intelligence, freedom, and personal activity of the Bibles human authors are suppressed – or so it is argued.

But this worry is unfounded, because the One who is “the Spirit of the Father and the Son” is also “the Lord and Giver of Life” (the Nicene Creed). The presence and operation of the Spirit’s sovereign lordship in the production of Holy Scripture does not lead to the suppression or overruling of God’s human emissaries in their exercise of authorial rationality and freedom. Rather, his sovereign lordship leads to their enlightening and sanctified enablement. The Spirit who created the human mind and personality does not destroy the human mind and personality when he summons them to his service. Far from it. The Spirit sets that mind and personality free from its blindness and slavery to sin so that it may become a truly free, thoughtful, and self-conscious witness to all that God is for us in Christ. He bears his lively witness and therefore prophets and apostles also bear their lively witness (Jn. 15.26-27). The Spirit creates a divine-and-human fellowship – a common possession and partnership – in communicating the truth of the gospel (Jn. 16.13-15).

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Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit: Then and Now

Ever wondered about the “unpardonable sin”? Many believe this particular sin is so heinous once committed a person is forever cut off from the possibility of redemption.

This is enough to strike fear into the heart of any Christian.

Is this sin that big of a deal? Yes. But the real question is whether the sin in question is a one-time action.  After all, sin isn’t merely an act, but also a condition.

The passage in which Christ mentions the sin is unique in one way, and not unique in another. The unique sense is found when we think through the historical circumstance which triggered Christ’s mention of this sin. Here’s the passage:

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:22-30, with parallels in Matt. 12:31-32, and Lk. 12:10)

The act in question that draws Christ’s strong language is unique. Jesus, the  Messianic King had appeared on the scene and was inaugurating the promised kingdom of God through the power of the promised end-time endowment of the Spirit. The Jewish leaders were watching the climactic moment of redemptive history and attributed it to the power of Satan. It was the equivalent of equating the work of the Holy Spirit, through the actions of God’s royal son, with witchcraft.  This specific sin is unique because the King isn’t on the earth any longer. We couldn’t commit it if we wanted to.

But the underlying condition that lead the Jewish leaders to make such a rash and damming judgment persists to our day as well. The problem wasn’t a single act, it was a spiritual condition that they (culpably) suffered from. They were witnessing the signs of the in-breaking of the “age to come” in front of their faces and suppressed it, choosing instead to blind themselves to the truth rather than “see.” This is a persistent hardness of heart that is hostile to the Holy Spirit’s convicting ministry to the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn. 16:8). They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. This kind of condition is irredeemable and unforgivable because it puts the person outside of the sphere in which forgiveness can he obtained. As N. T. Wright has put it,

To say such a thing [‘This is the work of the devil.’] was to paint oneself into a corner from which there was no escape. Once define the battle for your liberation as the work of the enemy, and you will never be free. (N.T. Wright, Jesus And The Victory Of God, 454)

Where there is no repentance, and only hostility to God’s singular provision for redemption (“blasphemy”) there is no forgiveness. And there is no do-over, there is neither forgiveness now nor in the eternal statement, “they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

The Holy Spirit: The Divine Strategist for Holy War

Jesus was the perfect human being. But he was also the messianic King, fighting the battle against the Great Dragon on our behalf.  How did he do it? What was his secret? What was the Power that enabled the Messiah to take dominion over all his enemies? According to Sinclair Ferguson it was the Holy Spirit. I provide the following quote at length because it’s just that good:

It has been commonplace to interpret Jesus’s temptations as analogous to, almost a model for, attempting of the Christian: Christ was tempted as we are, but resisted; therefore we should resist in similar ways. But this leads to a partial and negative interpretation of his experiences. His temptations constitute an epochal event. They are not merely personal, but cosmic. They constitute the tempting of the last Adam. True, there is a common bond between his temptations and ours: he is really and personally confronted by dark powers. But the significance of the event does not lie in the ways in which our temptations are like his, but in the particularity and uniqueness of his experiences. He was driven into the wilderness has an assault force. His testing was set in the context of a holy war in which he entered the enemies domain, absorbed his attacks and sends him into retreat (Mt. 4:11, and especially Lk. 4:13). In the power of the Spirit, Jesus advanced as the divine the warrior, the god of battles who fights on behalf of his people and for their salvation (cf. Ex. 15:3; Ps. 98:1). His triumph demonstrated that ‘the kingdom of God is near’ and that the messianic conflict had begun.

The Lukan narrative bridges the gap between the baptism in Jordan and the temptations in the wilderness with a genealogical table tracing Jesus’ lineage back to Adam (Lk. 3:23-38). Hear the inclusio of the whole of human history between Adam and Jesus suggests that the temptation in victory of the latter are to be interpreted in the light of the testing and defeat of the former with all its baneful entail. The second man-Son thus undid what was done by the first man–son; he obeyed and overcame as the last Adam and now no further representative figure is needed.

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The Holy Spirit and the Age to Come

What does the Holy Spirit do for the Christian? The short answer is “a lot!” In his work The Bible and The Future (one of my personal favorites) Anthony Hoekema highlights one of the things the Spirit does in the life of the believer: He brings God’s future into the present their present life experience.

Another way of putting this is to say that, for Paul, the Spirit means that breaking in of the future into the present, so that the powers, privileges, and blessings of the future age are already available to us through the Spirit…”… In other words, on the basis of the work of Christ, the power of the redeemed the future has been released to act in the present in the person of the Holy Spirit.”

For Paul, therefore the reception of the Spirit means that one has become a participant in the new mode of existence associated with the future age, and now partakes of the “powers of the age to come.” Yet Paul would insist that what the Spirit gives is only a foretaste a far greater blessings to come. It is for this reason that he calls of the Spirit the “firstfruits” and the “guarantee” of future blessings which shall far surpass those of the present life. (Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, 58)

For more, see: