Adult Bible Class Myths: The Holy Spirit doesn’t matter

HSRG TeacherMyth # 6. The Holy Spirit doesn’t matter. Quite a few years ago, our now-former minister preached a sermon that seemed to me to be clearly about the Holy Spirit, but he never once mentioned him. He just carefully alluded to the Spirit’s work … ever so carefully.

Afterwards, I asked him, “I think you were talking about the Spirit, weren’t you? Why don’t you come out and say what you believe?” I knew from previous conversations that we held similar views.

He looked devilishly at me. “I just wanted to get come of the ideas across without threatening anyone. I just don’t think the congregation’s ready for explicit lessons on the Spirit yet.”

I was beside myself. “I’ve taught an entire quarter on the Holy Spirit in every adult Bible class! The church is anxious, hurting, pleading for answers and guidance! They are as ready as they’ll ever be!”

“No. We’re getting close, but we’re just not there yet,” he responded.

“If we’re not ready yet, then what can we do to get ready? If you won’t preach what you believe and I’ve already covered the material in class, what’s left to do? When will they ever be ready?”

He patted me on the shoulder with a knowing look and left to greet someone else.

Our next preacher spoke on the Spirit in his very first sermon and the congregation was thrilled to hear his views and have the topic–finally!–on the table for discussion.

I truly do understand the reluctance of many within the preaching profession to take on controversial topics. After all, preachers have been fired for less. And I understand why a volunteer Sunday school teacher might be reluctant to take on a difficult topic. No one wants that dreaded call into the elders conference room! I understand these feelings, but I’m persuaded they are just as wrong as can be.

First, sometimes the elders are as anxious for instruction as is the rest of the church. And it’s cowardly to assume that the elders won’t allow this instruction.

Second, if the elders really are opposed, then invite them to study the topic with you. Don’t just give up.

Finally, and most importantly, anyone who presumes to teach or preach is obligated to teach the truth. A partial truth is not the truth. It’s right and wise to take the time to get the leadership on board first. It’s wrong to never actually get to the point where you can teach the truth. At least try!

Here are four worthy books on the subject I’d recommend–

  • Harvey Floyd, Is the Holy Spirit for Me? a 21st Century Christian 13-lesson book.
  • Jay Guin, The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace. This is posted for free on this web site. It’s deeper than Dr. Floyd’s book but very suitable for Sunday school class. The book is carried by some stores online.
  • D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit. All books by Dr. Carson are excellent. This is an explanation of 1 Cor. 11-14. Serious theology.
  • F. D. Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit. This is perhaps the most comprehensive study out there. Bruner writes from a Calvinist perspective, so you’ll have to overlook that element of the book.

Now, to finally get to the point. Failing to teach the Spirit is a colossal, monumental mistake. Many of our members have been fed on a dessicated version of Christianity that’s devoid of Living Water. The H. Leo Boles (the Spirit indwells but doesn’t really do much) and Guy N. Woods (the Spirit hasn’t done anything since the Apostle John died) views are destroying the church.

If the Spirit is inactive, then we’ve been left orphans. We have to try to live as God has called us strictly on our own. We have no confidence in prayer. Our relationship with God is mediated by a book, not a person of the Godhead. God is no closer to us than heaven.

But with a living Spirit, alive and dwelling in all Christians, we feel loved because God has made his home in our hearts; we are encouraged by the knowledge that God himself is working in us to make us evermore Christlike; we know the Spirit searches our hearts to intercede for us, to make up the deficiencies in our prayers–indeed, the Spirit confesses our sins before we even realize we committed them!

The Spirit tells us why grace works. It’s because of the Spirit that we can be freed from a works salvation and still long to serve God. It’s because of the Spirit that we can love and understand and know more than is humanly possible!

Please, please don’t deny your students this precious gift. Blasphemy of the Spirit is a serious sin. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it seems to be something like a failure to give the Spirit credit for his works. That bears serious reflection.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Adult Bible Class Myths: The Holy Spirit doesn’t matter

  1. BurntRibs says:

    Were you an elder when you had your conversation with your congregation’s preacher?

    Josh

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Deacon over education.

  3. Doug says:

    I am amazed when I read stories like Jay just told and I wonder what else there is in the Church of Christ or in Church of Christ history about which I am atill unaware. Raised in the Independent Christian Church, Little by little I am hearing these stories like this for the first time. All those many years while in the Independent Christian Church I thought that the only basic difference between the Church of Christ and the Independent Christian Church was Instumental Music. I was very, very wrong. Last summer I learned that some in the Church of Christ refuse to say the words “thy kingdom come” when praying the Lord’s Prayer. I just have to ask you life long CofCer’s, where does all of this stuff originate? Is it all related to the Regulative Principle of Worship some way? Is it possible that in trying so hard to do Church things perfectly according to the RPW, the Church of Christ lost much of the joy of Christianity? I mean, I really do wonder what I’ll hear about next?

  4. JMF says:

    Doug–

    We could fill many posts with interesting COC views and interesting COC stories. Here are a few:

    *We had a very dry, dour preacher in the church of my youth. One time, a couple of the men suggested he smile a bit more, as his frowning was off-putting. Response: “Show me a single place in scripture where is says that Jesus smiled and I’ll begin smiling.”

    **Prior to my leaving for college, I recall this preacher getting ready to embark on an 18 lesson journey titled, “The age of Alhezia.” (spelling unknown…i recall it had something to do with inerrancy).

    Doug, did your ICC even have debates?! I recall our preacher debating an ICC guy when I was in high school. I was the chart boy. I remember our preacher screaming (literally) that the ICC must think it is okay to have steak and eggs on the Lord’s Table. This was the culmination of his argument. A guy in the audience stood up and started yelling that nobody in the ICC had EVER suggested using steak and eggs on the Lord’s Table! This went on for a couple minutes until many of the people started leaving. We had won, obviously.

  5. Jay Guin says:

    Doug,

    I am among those who were taught not to pray the Lord's Prayer because the Kingdom had already come. The teaching goes back to Foy E. Wallace Jr and his war on premillennialism. It's not really a Regulative Principle thing. But it was driven by the theory that any doctrinal error will damn, even — as Wallace insisted — believing that Jesus will return and reign for 1,000 years.

    This extremely narrow view of who is saved goes back to the instrumental music controversy. We needed a doctrine that damned those with the instrument, and so we invented the idea that all doctrinal error damns — thereby becoming the very thing the Restoration Movement was founded to oppose.

  6. Doug says:

    No, I’ve never been to a debate. Since the information age began, I have read a few debate transcriptions though and I must admit that I see little benefit in debates. It’s kind of like Republicans and Democrats. I doubt many minds were changed as a result of the words spoken and both sides probably went home satisfied that they “had won”. I would say both sides lost as Christian love wasn’t displayed… the devil must have smiled at debates, i.e. Screwtape Letters.

    Keep the stories coming guys and girls, because I’d like to know more history. It might help me from stepping across that invisible line like I did last year. It seems to me, based on my own experience, that even “Progressive” CofC have this invisible line beyond which you get people riled up by what you say. The problem for someone like me is I don’t have any idea where that line is located until I’ve stepped over it and make an Elder upset. That’s not to say that I’ll avoid stepping over it on ocassion. If the CofC is to get out of their self made doctrinal hole, somebody has to step over that line from time to time.

  7. JMF says:

    Doug–

    We are certainly in agreement as to the results debates (and, the results of repubs and dems!). Debates are disastrous. Now, I even restrain myself from any type of point/counter-point discussion in a class. I think little, if any, good comes from that. If it is exploratory, maybe; but disagreement is simply ineffective IMO.

    I’d be interested in what lines you crossed that caused you grief.

    I go to a very progressive COC, and I’ve only crossed a line once or twice. In fact, I expect to cross one tomorrow. My class is doing Romans, and tomorrow is Romans 9. And at some point I have no doubt that I’ll share my belief that Paul was a Calvinist! To me, one can’t read Romans 9 and not have some serious questions about free will, predestination, etc.

    The other line I crossed was whenever I mentioned (reflectively) that I’m not sure prayer matters all that much (relationally, of course, but I’m not sure it effects outcomes beyond God doing exactly what He is going to do). That ruffled some feathers. But, I tend to explore when I think and I’m not afraid of uncomfortable challenges. Some are — and I need to be respectful of that.

  8. Laymond says:

    Jhn 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

    Is anyone here doubtful that the “spirit of truth” which is spoken of here is the same spirit referred to as “the Holy Spirit” in other places. If so please explain. (for my benefit)
    If you believe this spirit was meant to indwell all Christians, I am waiting for your testimony as to things that are revealed to you. except through the written word, of those who I do believe was given the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the apostles.
    Although the scriptures said “all truth” I will be satisfied with just a few things, you know that are not in scripture.

  9. JMF says:

    1) If this is referencing Jesus, I still don't see how that would eliminate the HS. That is, if you hold my same view of the trinity (which I know you do not).

    2) Even if this is a difficult passage to rectify, you've got a far larger onus on you show how all of the other "Spirit" passages mean the bible. Especially, you know, since the bible as we see it didn't even exist until about 400 A.D.

    3) Reveal: Here is a story from Martyr Magazine: Two Christian missionaries are driving around a Muslim country (can't remember which). They drive up to an old store, and there is a single, mean-looking guy standing out front holding an A.K.47. Of course, there is no telling what he is on the lookout for. The missionary wife says to her husband: "Go give that man a bible. I insist on it." The man argues…but relents. Before giving him the bible, he gets cold feet and runs back to the car. Wife INSISTS that he go give him the bible.

    Husband goes again and says to the armed man: "I would like to give you this bible." The armed man falls to the ground crying and says, "I was visited in a dream last night and told to come to this spot, because someone would meet me here and introduce me the path to salvation."

    Obviously, it is easy to write this off as bologna.

  10. Doug says:

    Laymond, I think you are saying that the lack of proof that the Spirit is enabling us to do the same thing sort of things (tongues, miricales, etc.) that the Apostles did is proof of the absence of an indwelling Holy Spirit? Is that correct? I would reply based on Galations 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." For me, this is proof of the indwelling Holy Spirit because I know that my flesh doesn't yeild itself to these fruits. For me, it is just as much a miracle that I can display these fruits in my life as it was for Paul to speak in tongues.

    JMF, I am unable to talk about the lines that I feel were crossed. I committed myself to silence because that was what I thought was needed and I certainly don't want it to get back to certain people that I am out writing about it on the internet.

    I will say this though, I haven't really changed my belief system since leaving the Independent Christian Church (ICC) and joining the CofC. Some in my CofC would never consider worshipping with the ICC but they worship with me every Sunday. What does placing my membership with a CofC have to do with making me acceptable? I'd say nothing, nothing at all. These CofCer's would never consider worshipping together with ICCer's even if it were agreed to sing non-IM and yet they worship with me every Sunday. I find that very curious.

  11. JMF says:

    That’s interesting. I’ve never heard that distinction before.

    Hey Laymond — in the spirit (small “s” 🙂 ) of a season of being thankful, I want you to know that I appreciate your posts. You stand in disagreement with many on here (namely due to your views on the HS and trinity), but you seem thick-skinned in your posting and generally keep on point. You disagree like a gentleman, which I appreciate.

  12. Laymond says:

    JMF said "Even if this is a difficult passage to rectify, you've got a far larger onus on you show how all of the other "Spirit" passages mean the bible. Especially, you know, since the bible as we see it didn't even exist until about 400 A.D.'
    No, I am not saying the "Spirit of truth" is the bible, or any other reference to the spirit is the bible. What I am saying is the "Spirits of God" were passed from Jesus to the apostles, who then wrote the word of God down for all to read. God not only spoke through Jesus he spoke also through Jesus' apostles.

  13. Laymond says:

    Doug saked, "Laymond, I think you are saying that the lack of proof that the Spirit is enabling us to do the same thing sort of things (tongues, miricales, etc.) that the Apostles did is proof of the absence of an indwelling Holy Spirit? Is that correct?"

    No Doug, what I am saying is, it is proof that we are not indwelled by
    (THE HOLY SPIRIT) I believe true Christians are indwelled by "a holy spirit"
    there is a difference.

  14. Laymond says:

    1Jo 4:6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

    Merry Christmas

  15. Doug says:

    Laymond, what is it that allows a Christian to obtain “a holy spirit”? Because, when I try to do anything by myself, I mess it up. If I try to get “a holy spirit” by myself, I assure you that I’ll fail. I need help. Based on a lifetime of trying to get this “a holy spirit’ on my own, I’m a failure. I might fake “a holy spirit” for awhile but I’m a imposter without THE HOLY SPIRIT.

  16. Laymond says:

    Doug, do you believe it is impossible for us to repent, to become like God, if so why do you think we are asked to do just that many times.?

    Mat 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
    Mat 7:14 Because strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    I can't point to even one place in scripture which says, come on brother, this is a piece of cake, can you?
    When you (truly) do away with intentional, bad things, and conform to doing the very best you can, (choose good over evil) you become a holy spirit.
    Why do you think it is said "repent and be baptized) rather than be baptized and repent.?

  17. Laymond says:

    "Laymond, what is it that allows a Christian to obtain "a holy spirit"? "

    I'm sorry I didn't answer your question. What allows us to become a holy spirit is our obedience of God's holy word.

  18. Laymond says:

    Just one more word of advice, if we don't intend to live by the word of God, we shouldn't mock the blood of Jesus, by being baptized.

    Mat 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

    Not everyone is prepared to be baptized.

  19. Doug says:

    Laymond, I am sorry… I'm fairly new to this board and didn't realize that we were headed toward another "works" discussion. I see no merit in going into such a discussion as it would just become another "debate".

    I would only say that I find myself in total agreement with the words of Paul in the 7th and 8th chapters of Romans. I DO believe that people can repent and live holy lives but not by their own force of will. My experience and the experience of many that I know confirms that belief. I need help and that help comes from the Holy Spirit that lives in and through me.

    The most unhappy people that I have ever met are people who are determined to be holy through their own will. Why? Because they realize that despite their best effort, they fail everyday in that pursuit. They must realize in their hearts and minds that they are not what they claim to be… holy people. Living a fake life surely makes a person dour.

  20. Roger says:

    No matter how many books you’ve read or how many ttimes you have read the bible, Religion is a lie. It was created at a time when most people had very little to no education by the wealthy to control the weak minded, uneducated & ignorant, just because we have a lot of knowledge about so much, it’s hard to believe in 2012 that there are so many ignorant people throughout the world.

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