Rediscovering the Holy Spirit

In Michael Horton’s book Rediscovering the Holy Spirit quotes Abraham Kuyper in his work on the Holy Spirit

“Even though we honor the Father and believe on the Son, how little do we live in the Holy Spirit! It seems to us sometimes that for our sanctification only the Holy Spirit is added accidentally to the great redemptive work.” (16)

I notice that this tendency is still a reality. There is something about us that makes us either undervalue, or demote the Holy Spirt. While the charismatic group is characterized sometimes for their emphasis of the Holy Spirit, they can mischaracterize the Holy Spirit so that he is the “extra” or additional part of the Christian life we need to experience. This can lead to an understanding that the Holy Spirit is separated from God’s Word or we have to wait for the Holy Spirit to “show up”.

One of the many contributions of the Reformation was a “rediscovery” of the Holy Spirit. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin, argued against the medieval church, who seemed to replace the Holy Spirit with grace, that it was the Holy Spirit who called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with his gifts, sanctified us and preserved us. (Luther’s Small Catechism) But what happened to the church at large and to Reformed churches particularly? Horton offers four reasons why we tend to “depersonalize or marginalize the Holy Spirit”. (25)

First, God is an incomprehensible mystery. It is not difficult for us to recognize that God is mysterious. God as the eternal Trinity is beyond our finite comprehension. We are even hesitant and take extra care when speaking out loud about him and articulating God’s identity. It’s a built-in hesitation that checks the boldness of our speech to stay in the bounds of Scripture.

Secondly, even embracing the revelation of God as Trinity, it is not easy to connect the Holy Spirit to our experience. We try to fit our idea of a family with the revelation of God the Father and Son. And the Holy Spirit ends up in the odd position as Mother and some in the broader church have put Mary in that place and removed the Spirit. At the end of the day, while we have a better understanding of the Spirit’s role in redemption and creation, we simply don’t have much biblical information on the Spirit’s role in the trinity apart from being a bond of love between the Father and Son.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is so actively involved in our lives, subjectively, that we can take his presence for granted or identify him with our own inner self. We can turn the Spirit’s voice to our inner most voice creating an individualistic mysticism. Yes, the Holy Spirit indwells us, and is at work within us, but the Holy Spirit is not our spirit. He is a “divine person within us, not a divine part of us.” (26)

Fourthly, from a proper focus on Christ we may improperly infer that the Holy Spirit has a minor part in the biblical drama. This error is not a contradiction but a distortion. The Spirit is the light by which we are able to see Christ and therefore it easy to understand how and why we overlook him.

Perhaps we are guilty, individually or corporately of forgetting the Holy Spirit. Let us rediscover the Holy Spirit remembering through his work, the triune God draws us near and gives us sweet communion with him.