This study of the work of the Spirit in the church and the world today originated in a series of lectures delivered at several schools and churches and in a series of articles in Bibliotheca Sacra in which an attempt was made to summarize the work of the Holy Spirit in the peculiar context of our modern world. The goal of the presentation was to state biblical teaching rather than to survey modern literature, and to correct misunderstandings and misguided emphases in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
For the most part the twentieth century has focused on human experience rather than theology. The rise of existentialism, with its emphasis on present experience and present values, has tended to downgrade history and biblical revelation of the past as well as to ignore prophecy and the future. The tendency has been to exalt present experience as the main source of truth. This has given rise to neoorthodoxy with its dependence on present revelation, to the charismatic movement with its emphasis on speaking in tongues and divine healing, and more recently to the growing interest in mystical experience and experimentation in the occult, which is part of the increasing influence of demonism in contemporary experience. All of these trends and movements have tended to ignore and obscure the timeless truths that relate to the doctrine of the Spirit as revealed in the Scripture.
Contemporary literature has tended to confuse rather than clarify the issues. Most of the books dealing with the Holy Spirit have assumed that the Scriptures are not the final authority and that our only hope of determining truth in relation to the Holy Spirit is contemporary experience. Accordingly, while there have been many new books, there has been little new light. A study of contemporary literature on the Holy Spirit is singularly unproductive in helping one to arrive at the real truth concerning the work of the Holy Spirit.
This present study is a restatement of biblical truth concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. In one sense it is not new, but the doctrine of the Spirit is presented in its modern context. It is intended to serve laymen, pastors, and missionaries seeking clarification in their understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit today. This study does not include consideration of the person of the Holy Spirit or many of the formal theological problems related to technical theology; and it is not intended to replace the author’s earlier work on The Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), which is a theological textbook dealing with the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Because there is such widespread confusion on the work of the Holy Spirit, this presentation of the five major areas of the work of the Spirit today is intended to define the major issues in the truth relating to the Holy Spirit.