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The Holy Spirit (2)

Continuing from where we left off yesterday, J. I. Packer laments the general ignorance of the person and work of the Holy Spirit among Christians.


It is startling to see how differently the biblical teaching about the second and third persons of the Trinity respectively is treated. The person and work of Christ have been, and remain, subjects of constant debate within the church; yet the person and work of the Holy spirit are largely ignored. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the Cinderella of Christian Doctrines. Comparatively few seem to be interested in it.

Many excellent books have been written on the person and work of Christ, but the number of books worth reading on the person and work of the Holy Spirit, even in this charismatic era is small. Christian people are not in doubt as to the work that Christ did; they know that he redeemed us by his atoning death even if they differ among themselves as to what exactly this involved. But the average Christian, deep down, is in a complete fog as to what work the Holy Spirit does.

Some talk of the Spirit of Christ in the way that one would talk of the spirit of Christmas—as a vague cultural pressure for making bonhomie and religiosity. Some think of the Spirit as inspiring the moral convictions of unbelievers like Ghandi or the theosophical mysticism of a Rudolf Steiner. But most, perhaps, do not think of the Holy Spirit at all, and have no positive ideas of any sort about what he does. They are for practical purposes in the same position as the disciples whom Paul met at Ephesus—“We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2).

It is an extraordinary thing that those who profess to care so much about Christ would know and care so little about the Holy Spirit. Christians are aware of the difference it would make if, after all, it transpired that there had never been an incarnation or atonement. They know that then they would be lost, for they would have no savior. But many Christians have really no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in the world. Whether in that case they, or the church, would suffer in any way they just do not know.

Surely something is amiss here. How can we justify neglecting the ministry of Christ’s appointed agent in this way? Is it not a hollow fraud to say that we honor Christ when we ignore, and by ignoring dishonor, the One whom Christ has sent us as his deputy, to take his place and care for us on his behalf? Ought we not to concern ourselves more about the Holy Spirit than we do?

—J. I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 68–69.

Posted 2008·11·12 by David Kjos
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Posted in: J I Packer · Knowing God · Pneumatology · The Trinity
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#1 || 08·11·12··16:12 || Betsy Markman

Oh, this is so true! It's tragically clear in the man-centered perverted "gospel" of decisionism. This has been very much on my heart lately, too. Could it be that revival is coming...that the true Gospel will sweep this land once more, even as wickedness descends like a curtain?

I pray that it is so!

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