The gift and presence of the Holy Spirit constitute the greatest and most wonderful reality that we—the human community, all living beings, and the entire earth—can experience…In the presence of the Holy Spirit, one experiences the beginning of the end of the history of guilt, suffering, and death. In the presence of the Holy Spirit, the fulfilment of creation’s movement toward the kingdom of God begins. [Jürgen Moltmann]
Such a statement by an influential contemporary theologian highlights the importance of gaining a fuller appreciation for the third member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. Even so, Jesus is by far much more important and authoritative on such matters, and just before he leaves earth he says to his followers in Acts 1:
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Pneumatology, or the study of the Holy Spirit has long been the bridesmaid to Christology (the study of Christ) in the scholarly endeavour of the Christian Church—even being termed the “Cinderella of Western theology.” This is especially evident in the first few centuries of doctrinal formation and controversy within the Church. Historian Jaroslav Pelikan, for instance, has contended that no singular document dealing exclusively with the Holy Spirit can be found before mid fourth century.
When the subject has come to the fore, it has more than likely been contentious and divisive. A cursory glance of Christian history reveals such Holy Spirit ‘hot-spots’ as the Corinthian congregations, the 2nd century Montanist controversy, the East/West ecclesial split of 1154 concerning the Nicene Creed, and Martin Luther’s opposition to the ‘enthusiasm’ of the radical reformers. The twentieth century has certainly manifested debate and controversy concerning the birth of Holy Spirit movements such as Pentecostalism and the transdenominational Charismatic movement.
Whatever the historic controversies and whatever misconceptions we may have about the Holy Spirit, there is nothing to fear:
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:37–39
As we begin our new teaching series “Stories of the Spirit” in the Book of Acts, let’s pray together to be filled, led, empowered for mission and service and made holy by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, “Come Holy Spirit, Come!”