The Holy Spirit

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
6th February 2009

Tagged: holy spirit

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“Umbrage” is a great word. It has an onomatopoeic feel to it. It means “offence, resentment or annoyance”. It is something you “take”—so you “take umbrage” at an offending remark or an insult.

I raise this issue because I think I took umbrage last year at a comment made from our pulpit. Mark Driscoll spoke at our Ministry Intensive Conference and accused us of believing in the trinity of “Father, Son and Holy Bible”.

It was an intended insult that was meant to offend. Sometimes preachers have to use hyperbole, shock and even insult to gain the congregation's awareness of their spiritual lethargy in addressing their errors.

His comment succeeded in arousing me to the point of “umbrage”. But as I wrote to you last September, it is important not to move into reactionary defensiveness. And taking umbrage can be the first step in that direction.

What we need to do is to weigh what is said against the Scriptures—not in order to defend ourselves and maintain our position, but in order to follow the example of the noble Bereans who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

So I have listened to some more of Mark Driscoll's teaching on the Holy Spirit, and Spiritual Warfare. He calls himself “a charismatic with a seat belt on”. Like John Wimber, who challenged us in the 1980's, he does not teach a “second” experience Pentecostal blessing. His concern is that we embrace all the working of the Spirit of God in our lives now. He rejects the Cessationism which teaches that the work of the Spirit described in New Testament ceased with the end of the Apostles and the finishing of the New Testament.

It is not his fault that in his short visit to Sydney he did not learn that Cessationism has never had much of a foothold here. It is much more common in the USA. The barb of his “Father, Son and Holy Bible” is much sharper when aimed at the Cessationist target.

But there is no ducking an insult by saying it was aimed at somebody else not me. It is still worth asking, are we ignoring the work of the Spirit of God? Are we replacing God's Spirit with his Word? Are we de facto Cessationists—believing in theory that the Holy Spirit continues His New Testament works today, but, in fact, avoiding His ministry to and through us?

So this year I am planning to revisit the Bible's teaching on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There are several sermon series in the pipeline that will search out what the Bible does teach us to expect about how the Holy Spirit is at work in the world today.

On Sunday mornings starting next week we will be looking at Jesus' predictions and teaching about the Spirit. Five times in his upper room discourse in John 13-17 Jesus predicted the coming of the Spirit. So as we head towards Easter we will look at each of these predictions and what they taught the disciples to expect.

Last Sunday night at The Bible Talks, I started a series on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. This series tracks some of the key Biblical terms that people use when talking of the Spirit. It tries to secure the meaning of the terms in the Bible and compare them with our usage today. So far we have looked at ‘Born by the Spirit’ and ‘Baptised with the Spirit’. In the coming sermons we will be looking at how we are sanctified, sealed, led and filled by the Spirit as well as the meaning of the gifts and fruit of the Spirit.

Later in the year at FIX, Asian Bible Church and The Bible Talks I plan to expound 1 Corinthians 12-14. This passage has so long stood as central to the New Testament's teaching on our loving service of each other, but it has also been central to the division between Christians over the use of Spiritual gifts today.

The topic for the Queen's Birthday Convention on the public holiday of June 8th is “Spiritual Warfare”. The details are still to be worked out but this convention will probably be of six half hour talks based in Ephesians.

For those unable to attend, all these various series will be recorded and made available through the Cathedral website in the week following the sermon.

The person and work of the Holy Spirit is far too important a topic to take umbrage and be defensive. We must search the scriptures like the noble Bereans. There is much at stake here, so let us explore together what God is saying to us.