The Holy Spirit movement has many virtues for which we can give God thanks. The first of them is its very God-centeredness, something that is easy to get away from even while mouthing such coined cliches as “sovereignty”. Closely related is its emphasis upon praising God in everything, as the Scripture enjoins, rather than practicing mere patience in adversity. Attempts at real worship, especially via Bible quotations in song and prayer, is another. We are tempted to identify worship with theological orations or even week-day work. The Holy Spirit movement stresses the importance of Body life, in contrast to the rugged individualism that tends to intrigue us Calvinists.
Many long-neglected doctrines of Scripture are currently coming into their own. One of them is our identification with Christ. We are usually satisfied to limit atonement to the idea of substitution. Similarly, we have been prone to think of salvation primarily in terms of justification: “Christ died to pay for my sins; that I might be forgiven,” forgetting that Christ is a “double cure” who also makes me a new person and keeps me from sinning. This “new” idea also has been the subject of repeated articles in [Christian magazines], plus the reminder that Christ is our sanctification as well as our justification (I Cor. 1:30), rather than the regenerate man showing his gratitude to God for being saved. Another example of our innate tendency to autonomism. The hardest thing for all of us to “lick” is not sin or Satan, but sheer self.
But basic to all these is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit Himself, which has never come into its own the way that it should have. Abraham Kuyper, writing 1900 years after Pentecost, lamented that fact as the rationale for his monumental book on the subject. And the brilliant Princeton Professor B. B. Warfield, in that same book, says that Kuyper has by no means said the last word. The Apostles’ Creed confesses nothing about the Holy Spirit except the bare fact of His existence. (On this count as well as others we ought to make more use of the Nicene Creed in divine worship; like other heirlooms in the back of the Psalter Hymnal, it gathers honored dust.) The more used Heidelberg Catechism devotes only one question out of one hundred and twenty-nine to the person and work of the Holy Spirit per se, and says nothing about His role in Creation, in my personal conception, nor his inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures. Even more amazing is the common ignorance as to His very Being. Many otherwise orthodox minsters are practical tri-theists, thinking of God today in essentially Old Testament concepts. This is evident in the criticism against current Holy Spirit “over-emphasis” on the score that it neglects the first two persons of the trinity. But Christ Himself said that He reveals only what the Father first gave to Him (John 16:13) — to say nothing of the fact that the three are more inseparable and indivisible in the New Testament than ever before (John 14:9). What is more, the New Testament Holy Spirit is not the “same” Person that He was in the Old (John 7:39). Every Christian child knows that the Second Person of the Trinity is not identical with the Son of God as we know Him in the New. In very related fashion, the Third Person of the Trinity has become “incarnate” in the New, has become the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the two have become wonderfully one. (II For. 3:17) Illustrations of this union may be found in the “change” that is made in a beam of light when it passes through a colored glass, assuming inseparably the tint. Or compare the “difference” in a girl who, upon wedlock, is no longer Miss Jones, but has become Mrs. Smith.
Take it on the personal testimony of this garden-variety missionary and run-of-the-mill Christian, when this concept of Christ’s indwelling via His very own Spirit takes possession of a person’s thinking, feeling, and believing — believe me, then for the first time you really begin to realize what the Bible is talking about when it says that we actually died with Christ long ago, and now we are a brand new person in Him. Gone is all the struggle, the self-effort, the “confession/obsession” (except to confess Christ constantly as Lord), the resolutions to “witness” more instead of letting the Light shine through and letting the Spirit take over the tongue, in understandable English.
Without it, it is perfectly possible to be living chronologically long after Pentecost (as Acts 19:1-7 sadly demonstrates) and still be operating spiritually way back in the Old Testament, wandering around in the wilderness of the world after the fashion of the Israelites, getting nowhere, when Canaan and its “rest” are so near at hand, attainable in this present life. These things all happened, says Paul, for an admonition to us upon whom the end of the ages has come. Let us take heed, then, that we do not deny Christ’s Spirit. He Himself said that every sin is forgivable except that. (Matt. 12:32))