Who’s afraid of the Holy Spirit?
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about a comment that Jon Mark Ruthven made that in all 4 gospels Jesus is introduced to us as “He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit”. If this is how scripture first presents the mission of Jesus, why is this topic in large part ignored by a the Western church and its theology? The focus has been on salvation. But it seems like getting to heaven after death is the main and only goal. According to scripture one of the main reasons Jesus came and then left again was so that he can give us the Holy Spirit. This is clear in the Old Testament promises about the New Covenant. This gift of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is what empowers us to actually live the Christian life. Receiving forgiveness deals with our past and our sinfulness but the Holy Spirit is the person of the trinity who applies redemption to us. And salvation (sozo) involves a lot more than making a reservation in the mansions of heaven. There is much, much more!
Some Westerners are afraid of the Holy Spirit. But I think the main reason for neglect is simply because of a lack of teaching. Pastors and teachers who are not walking in a relationship with the Holy Spirit or functional in the gifts of the Spirit are just not likely to talk much about those things. If they do, they are more likely to spread caution and cynicism than a real hunger for more of the Holy Spirit. And as Ruthven points out, protestant theology is still stuck in the main issues of the reformation which was about the dispensing of salvation. In theological schools we learn about “the order of salvation” which presents the work of the Holy Spirit in the context of the great themes like justification, redemption, sanctification, etc. But the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the early Christians from the book of Acts is largely ignored. Then the explanation is offered, “Well those things don’t happen anymore”, or “Those things must NOT happen anymore”. Too bad.
But people still read their Bibles and the masses are not believing this line of explanation any longer. Many are finding out that the experts have sold them a bill of goods. Now its time for another reformation, a revolution! A restoration of the mighty Acts of the Holy Spirit.