What is the mark of a Spirit-filled church? What does it mean to be baptized in the Spirit? How ought we to think about the Holy Spirit – third Person of the Trinity?
Many churches claim to be “Spirit-led” or “Spirit-filled” churches because they have apparent manifestations of the Spirit in their services.
What is the role of the Spirit?
Recently I attended a post-graduate course at George Whitefield College with Peter Jensen and David Höhne, entitled, “The Lord who is the Spirit: speaking of the Spirit in the Reformed tradition”.
It was good to be reminded that the doctrine of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit has a rich tradition of historical development that we will do well to learn from (including Tertullian, Irenaeus, Basil of Caesarea etc.) There are several things that stood out for me:
The Holy Spirit is God
People may tend to think the Spirit is somewhat “less” God than the Father or the Son. Yet the Spirit does all that the work the Father and the Son do. He is the Third Person of the Trinity. He is to be worshipped and obeyed as God.
The Holy Spirit is distinct
The Spirit is not the Father or the Son. In the Biblical Revelation, we do see a distinction of roles within the Godhead. The Spirit reveals, illumines, unites and convicts. Most of the prayers in the New Testament are addressed to the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is never prayed to.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
The Holy Spirit is not a force or an influence, he is a Person that can be grieved. Dale Bruner writes in his Theology of the Holy Spirit,
The gift of the Spirit is the filling of the Spirit. This is the testimony from the book of Acts from its beginning. Wherever the Holy Spirit comes to a man he comes, to use the familiar language, to fill, not only to effect; to dwell, not simply to visit…the Holy Spirit is a person, and therefore where he is, he is fully, and not two thirds or three quarters….
You cannot be a Christian without the Holy Spirit
The Spirit gives us new life when we put our faith in Jesus; the Spirit unites us with Christ; the Spirit is our seal of salvation; the Spirit makes us more like the Lord Jesus; the Spirit enables us to call God Father; the Spirit guides, fills and empowers us (to be more like Jesus); the Spirit produces his fruit in us; the Spirit help us understand Scripture; and the Spirit enables us to love other Christians (as Jesus said we should).
The Holy Spirit and percentages
We may ask: In sanctification, how much work is mine and how much work is the Spirit’s?
We were pointed to two texts:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (100% your effort), for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (100% God’s effort).
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit (100% God’s effort) you put to death the deeds of the body (100% your effort), you will live.
The Spirit works as you work. You work as the Spirit works in you.
The Holy Spirit has a floodlight ministry
The Holy Spirit never draws attention to himself, but points people to Jesus – much like a floodlight that draws your attention, not to the light, but to that which it illumines. After the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 at Pentecost, the 120 disciples speak about Jesus. Peter afterwards gets up and he too speaks about Jesus.
A Spirit-filled church is a church that exalts Jesus and points people to Jesus. People in that church make much of Jesus, not the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, the marks of a Spirit-filled person are not spiritual ecstasy, speaking in tongues or religious enthusiasm, but a love for Jesus, evangelism, holiness and a love for other Christians.
We should be calling people to repentance and faith in Jesus, not to baptism in the Holy Spirit. When we repent, and put our trust in Jesus, we receive forgiveness of sin and the gift (baptism) of the Spirit. (cf. Acts 2:38)
Where Jesus is highly regarded, there the Spirit is at work.