There are few theological truths in the history of the Church that have sparked as much controversy, disagreement, and schism as the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. From ancient disagreements about Trinity and “procession” to modern disagreements about the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit, there is much that might cause us to approach this module with caution; but, I sincerely hope that this is not the case. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit lies at the very heart of the way that we understand who God is and how we experience his living presence in our midst. The Spirit is sent to empower and lead the Church of God and to give new life to all those who respond in faith to its message about Jesus. Our hope is that the truths you learn about the Holy Spirit will not only be “formal theology” which helps you to understand God better, but will be also “practical theology” which allows you to depend on the Holy Spirit in ever increasing measure as you minister in God’s Church and witness in the world.
The first lesson, The Person of the Holy Spirit, focuses upon God the Spirit as the third person of the one Trinitarian God. We will explore the biblical portrayal of the Spirit as a divine person who both is God and who consciously acts as God. We will also discuss the relationship of the Spirit to the Father and the Son as the one who is the “bond of love” between them and their “gift of love to the world.” We will talk about the Spirit as the “Life-giver” and show how the names, titles, and symbols of the Spirit in the Scriptures portray him as the source and sustainer of physical and spiritual life and as the one who is at work to renew all things.
In our second lesson, The Prophetic Work of the Holy Spirit, we will explore the nature of prophetic revelation and come to understand the Spirit as the one who both inspires and illuminates the Word of God. We will also see that the prophetic role of the Spirit includes his ministry of conviction. He is the one who overcomes the deception caused by sin and leads us to true repentance. The prophetic work of the Holy Spirit is both the means by which God reveals himself and the means by which he enables us to believe that revelation.
Lessons three and four deal with The Powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit (Part One) and The Powerful Presence of the Holy Spirit (Part Two), respectively. Here the focus is on what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of those who repent and believe. We will speak about the role of the Spirit in regeneration, adoption, baptism, gifting, indwelling, sealing, and sanctification. We will come to understand that the powerful work of the Spirit enables the Church to fulfill its mission in the world. The person of the Holy Spirit is as real and vital as God the Father and God the Son. The Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son into the world so that we can experience loving fellowship with them and so that we can be empowered to obey God’s commands and accomplish his mission. Our prayer is that your dependence on the Spirit will grow as you study the Scriptures together.
Required Reading Texts:
- Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine
- Keener, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today, (and the Appendix, “What Can Bible Stories Teach Us?”)
- Pritchard, Names of the Holy Spirit