Thursday, July 15, 2010

What to say about the Holy Spirit?

In September I'll be teaching at UCCF's national student leaders conference, with a colleague, on the subject of Transformed by the Gracious God. Sessions 1 and 2 focus on the Father and the Son, and so on the third day we'll focus on The Holy Spirit. What to cover? The track is meant to give a gospel-centred, Trinitarian take on discipleship and change in the Christian life.

I'm finding David Watson to be helpful. He was a charismatic Anglican evangelist who died of cancer in 1984, aged 50. Converted under the Bash camps of E.J.H. Nash he was encouraged to pursue baptism of the Spirit by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. His 1973 book One in the Spirit is based on talks done at a UCCF conference in 1972, and 38 years on the material is still fresh and helpful, thoughtful, engaging widely and persuasively.

So far, I'm thinking we'll talk about

1. The Spirit and the gospel - regeneration, conviction, being sealed, and in relation to our relationship with the Father which is expressed in the Son by the Spirit). We'll have covered some of this in the previous sessions so this will be a brief treatment in the introduction.

2. Being filled with the Spirit - on which Watson is particularly helpful. This remains controversial but I tend to find it more fruitful to consider than ignore things. I'd like to consider varying positions, how to be filled with the Spirit and what the evidences of that would be.

Watson argues that all Christians agree that all Christians have the Holy Spirit (Rom 8v9), and all Christians agree, from Ephesians 5, that we're not all filled with the Spirit but need to go on being filled. We don't need something different to what we started with - but we all want more. Rooted and built up and filled. All by grace.

He agrees that not all Christian agree about the term baptism in the Spirit but goes on to argue that baptism is linked with Christian initiation, is a plunging word, implies being initiated and overwhelmed, and that love and power are more important that which terminology we use (whether receiving/baptism/filing with the Spirit)

Leaning then on Watson to some extent... there seem to be a variety of different ways and evidences in what follows. The Bible is a bit messy on this. It's evident I'm drawing doctrine here from narrative, but if we can argue from Acts for persuasive preaching I think we can ask what Acts teaches us about the ministry of the Spirit in our lives too.

How do we get filled with the Spirit?
Repenting in response to hearing the gospel (Acts 2v38),
Or, Ask in the Father in the name of the Son (Luke 11v1-13),
Or, Hear the word of the gospel (Acts 10v44, 11v15),
Or, Thirst/desire after the righteousness of Christ (Matt 5v6),
Or, By the laying on of hands (Acts 8v7, 9v17, 19v6)
Or, Hearing the gospel with faith (Galatians 3v2)

How do you know if you have been?
Others can tell (Acts 10v45)
Or, Speaking the gift of tongues and praise to God for his gospel (Acts 10v46)
Or, Comfort and encouragement in the gospel. (Acts 9v31)
Or, Power to speak the gospel (Acts 1v8)
Or, Ability to speak in other languages to people about Jesus (Acts 2v4)
Or, Speaking in tongues, prophesying (Acts 19v6)

3. The fruit of the Spirit - being transformed to love the church. The whole track is largely rooted in Galatians and this will consider Galatians 5. As Galatians 3 says we start by the Spirit, and we go on by the Spirit. Saved by grace, live by grace. And that's not a work but the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts. True freedom.

4. The gifts of the Spirit - to serve the church, from 1 Cor 12-14. Grace gifts from the Spirit to build the church up as the body of Christ to the glory of Christ.

We'll be speaking to a broad evangelical constituency which means I want to honour a range of positions but doesn't mean I have to hide my own convictions. If you were me, what would you want to include?