Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 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. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. (John 16:7-15)
In today’s churches, we witness believers maintaining their own views and understandings of the Holy Spirit. Some would refer to Him as a “dove” or “fire”. However, the greatest misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit can be found in the choruses we sing on a Sunday. The most notorious is, “Come, Holy Spirit”. It is an implicit recognition or failure to recognise the most fundamental fact of the Holy Spirit—that He has already come. These songs we sing speak of the Holy Spirit as if He is absent.
As Christians, by pleading and through prayer, we may force Him to coming into our lives. If we, Christians, do not understand that the Holy Spirit has come and that we possess the Holy Spirit, then we have not realised the most fundamental thing within the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. We all know that some of our Pentecostal brothers tend to go to extremes regarding the Holy Spirit; some of them are humorous, some are not. I believe there are two movements that have most contributed to our ignorance of the Holy Spirit: Rationalism and Emotionalism.
Rationalism in religion means one thing and in philosophy it means another. However, when we refer to the term “rationalism”, we are speaking of a viewpoint that content of faith is true; this appeals to reason. In other words, it must appeal to our reason that, within the Christian faith, we have a great deal of rationalism. However, one should have some rationalism because God has given us reason; we have the ability to think and we should use that, which we have under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But reason is never a final guide for us. Rationalism is responsible for a great deal of the ignorance of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. In its most extreme form, it leads to the view that the Holy Spirit is really not a person at all, but simply a divine influence. Often, in Christian circles, one is able to find those doubting the existence of the Holy Spirit; this is particularly true of some groups that are not really true to the Word of God.
This movement tends to make the standard of doctrine become experience-guided. When speaking to someone affected by emotionalism, it is not so much what the Bible says that appeals to them as it is their experiences. There is no true Christian experience that is not rooted within the words of the Bible. If we have an experience that we cannot associate with a text or passage from the Word of God, then we should doubt that experience is a Biblical experience.
Emotionalism tends to mislead us. Satan’s two methods in combating truth are that he loves to see the truth hidden, and if he cannot see it hidden, he likes to see it over-emphasised. This was illustrated in the Great Reformation, which was produced by the Reformers under the Spirit’s direction—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, amongst others. In the Reformation, the great truth that justification is by faith was recovered. By proclaiming that it was not necessary to keep the Law, that meant that it was not necessary to do good, join the church, be baptised, or to sit at the Lord’s table in order to become a Christian—men were justified by faith. However, there were some, who taught in such a way that others thought all they must do is believe in Jesus Christ, living as they pleased. This is when antinomianism, or a teaching of opposition into the Law of God and the truth of God came into existence.
It was an excess; it was an over-emphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith. We are justified by faith, and when we are justified by faith some tremendous transformations take place in us, making it impossible for us to live as we please. In fact, if we live as we please or continue in sin, we have the best kind of evidence that we have never really been justified by faith—we have never really been born again. We must never base a doctrine on experience. It must always be based on the Word of God; for experiences are subjective, but the Word of God is our touchstone—our foundation. When we turn to the New Testament, there are many references to the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is mentioned in every book of the New Testament, apart from three instances. The three instances are in single-chapter books: the book of Philemon, and the books of Second and Third John. To understand what the Spirit says is to understand two things: The New Testament and the Christian Church. Understanding these concepts enable us to understand the experiences of it through the teachings of the New Testament.