Churches like ours—theologically conservative, cessationist, Baptist churches—are not widely thought of as having a deep appreciation or passion for the Holy Spirit. Whether or not this impression is entirely fair, it is certainly there: in contrast to Pentecostal or charismatic churches, we generally are not considered to be the Holy Spirit’s biggest fans. (This characterization is reflected, for example, in the arresting title of Daniel Wallace’s and M. James Sawyer’s book Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit?)
But if this year’s GARBC conference has emphasized anything, it is that all true churches—including Regular Baptist churches—are totally dependent on the Holy Spirit for our vitality and empowerment, and indeed for our very existence. As George Gunn noted, “If there is anything that is characteristic of this present dispensation, it is the Holy Spirit. We need to deal with that and present it in its fullness and richness.” In other words, the person and work of the Holy Spirit is not some extra, miscellaneous doctrine that has merely been tacked onto the architecture of Christian theology; rather, it lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His” (Rom. 8:9).
It is the Spirit Who empowers us to overcome the sinful nature’s magnetic pull. It is He Who quiets our fears and banishes our consternation in the midst of turmoil, difficulties, sorrow, and conflict. He glorifies Christ among us, and He sanctifies, keeps, and unifies us. He comes alongside us to be our guide through all life’s peaks and valleys. He is our direct connection to the Lord Jesus Christ, the means by which we abide in Him. He convicts us of our sin, driving us back again and again to our need for Jesus and our reliance on His cross-work to secure our standing with God, and He gives us a love for one another that is so fundamentally at odds with our fallen human natures that it can only come from a divine source.
And that is only the tip of the iceberg: the Holy Spirit is also the one Who regenerates, adopts, baptizes, indwells, fills, and seals us. He secures our inheritance, intercedes on our behalf, alters our perception of spiritual things, creates unity among us, and equips us to grow gradually yet inexorably into greater and greater conformity to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. How very impoverished would we be without the Blessed Holy Spirit!
Perhaps we have at times underemphasized the Holy Spirit and his vitally important work on our behalf. If so, then we have erred. May God give us a deep appreciation and love for the Holy Spirit and ever increase our trust in and reliance on Him.
“We believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, equal with God the Father and God the Son and of the same nature; that He was active in the creation; that in His relation to the unbelieving world He restrains the evil one until God’s purpose is fulfilled; that He convicts of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; that He bears witness to the truth of the gospel in preaching and testimony; that He is the agent in the new birth; that He seals, endues, guides, teaches, witnesses, sanctifies, and helps the believer. We believe that the sign/revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit have fulfilled their purpose and are not applicable to the work of the Holy Spirit today.” –Article III, GARBC Articles of Faith