Why There is Confusion about the Role of the Holy Spirit

Wes  —  May 22, 2014
  • Sumo

This will be far from an exhaustive and in-depth study of the Holy Spirit. Instead, I simply want to give readers a quick thought that might help to dispel some of the misunderstanding about the Spirit’s role in the life of the believer today. That thought might be summed up by saying: be careful not to claim a promise that doesn’t belong to you.

Holy Spirit

As a parent, I sometimes make a promise to one son and the other son tries to claim that promise. “I’ll take you to get donuts in the morning for breakfast,” I say to one of my boys. Then I hear the other son exclaim, “Yay!” I then have to gently explain to him, “I was actually just talking to your brother. I will take you some other time.”

As adults, we should already understand we must be careful to only claim promises that belong to us. In order to do that, we must examine the context in which the promise was made. For instance, if you hear your boss make a promise about giving a raise, you have to ask, “Was he talking about me or was he talking about someone else?”

The same is true with Scripture. Christians today often try to claim promises for themselves – about the working of the Holy Spirit – that were specifically given to the apostles. For instance, Jesus said in Matthew 10:19-20,

“When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

When Jesus made that promise, He was not talking to you and me, but to the apostles. When we try to claim that promise, we ignore the fact that the Bible says in order for us to know what to speak, we must prepare how to give a defense (1 Peter 3:15).

I have heard many Christians say, “Jesus promised that the Sprit would guide us into all truth.” Well, that’s true to an extent. Jesus did promise that the Sprit would guide into all truth (John 16:13), but He was talking about the Spirit guiding the apostles in all truth. If you want that truth, you must “devote” yourself “to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Jesus never once promised you or me that the Spirit would directly guide us into all truth.

All of this isn’t to say the Spirit doesn’t indwell the Christian, because I believe the New Testament is very clear that the Spirit of God is given to every Christian at baptism (Acts 2:38) in order to seal us for salvation (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). But just because the Spirit of God lives in us, does not mean He guides us miraculously as He did the apostles.

Just be very careful to examine the context of Jesus’ promises about the working of the Spirit, so you don’t accidentally claim a promise that doesn’t belong to you.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams