Acts Part One Deep Dive
THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – PNEUMATOLOGY | KATIE HALDANE
I remember teaching a class on Angels and Demons and one of the students asked me how the Old Testament people lived without the Holy Spirit. It is a common misconception that the Holy Spirit only turns up in our Bible in the New Testament. I have heard some Christians that won’t read the Old Testament because they are ‘New Testament, Holy Spirit believers’. The work of the Holy Spirit starts at Genesis and weaves beautifully throughout the whole Bible, guiding, coming on key figures and empowering them.
Let’s start in the beginning, we read in Genesis 1:2, ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’. The Holy Spirit anointed and empowered Joshua for leadership Numbers 27:18, on Othniel in Judges 3:10, Gideon in Judges 6:34, Jephthah in Judges 11:29, and Samson in Judges 13:25. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Saul in 1 Samuel 11:6 and David in 1 Samuel 16:13. Actually, my all-time favourite Holy Spirit moment is found in 1 Samuel 19:20-23. The title of the chapter is ‘Saul tries to kill David’, but what I absolutely love is on their travels to kill David, the Spirit of the Lord comes on them and they end up stuck in the Holy Spirit prophesying. Saul actually ends up stripping off his garments and prophesying all day and night!
The study of Pneumatology, which is the study of the Holy Spirit (Pneuma), is a really great study. When I did my degree, I absolutely I loved learning about the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible and I realised how little I knew about the third person of the Trinity. If I told you to explain Jesus and the Father, most of us could write a couple of paragraphs, but the Holy Spirit some of us know very little about.
I love Alister McGrath’s observation of the study of the Holy Spirit in Christian Theology. He says, ‘The doctrine of the Holy Spirit really deserves a full chapter in its own right. The Holy Spirit has long been the Cinderella of the Trinity. The other two sisters may have gone to the theological ball; the Holy Spirit got left behind every time. But not now. The rise of the charismatic movement within virtually every mainstream church has ensured that the Holy Spirit figures prominently on the theological agenda’.
One of the greatest and most mind-bending books I have read on the power of the Holy Spirit is The Church in the Power of the Spirit by Jürgen Moltmann, let me share a small section with you:
‘The new people of God see themselves in their existence and form as being “the creation of the Spirit”, and therefore as the initial fulfillment of the new creation of all things and glorification of God. The Spirit calls them into life; the Spirit gives the community the authority for its mission; the Spirit makes its living powers and ministries that spring from them effective; the Spirit unites, orders and preserves it’.
Lastly, I was given a copy of a great book on the study of the Holy Spirit, Pneumatology by Veli-Matti Karkkainen. This is a great introductory text that covers the different thoughts, understandings and teachings on the study of the Holy Spirit. In his chapter on ‘Contextual Pneumatologies’ Karkkainen states, ‘The one Spirit of God is not a numinous power hovering above the cosmos but a person living in and permeating people in various life situations and contexts. Even though the purpose of the work of the Spirit always remains the same – to glorify the Son and to bring to fulfillment the new creation of the Father – the Spirit relates to each person and people group in a very specific way’.
The final book in the Bible, Revelation, tells us time and time again ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches’. Perhaps the study of the Holy Spirit might encourage us in ensuring our lives are empowered by Him, our ears open to Him, and our churches moving in His presence and power.