I understand why we disagree on a lot of issues. Often times, the Scriptures are just not clear or decisive on issues. There’s simply a lot of gray on some specific issues. However, the nature and work of the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to be one of them. It seems that those who oppose the work of the Holy Spirit are putting the cart before the horse. In other words, they have their mind made up and go looking for scriptures to fit their conclusions. To be fair, that’s a generalization and it’s only my observation. Just for a point of reference, I’ve included an excerpt of a blog from a self-ascribed conservative. In my estimation, his views are a fair representation of those who believe that the Holy Spirit exists today in word only.
I don’t believe the Holy Spirit works directly in the Christian today like He did in the first century. We must be very careful not to confuse specific events for the first century church for the church of all ages. What I mean by this is that the Holy Spirit works through the revealed word of God. John chapters 14, 15, 16 were spoken by Jesus for His apostles and His apostles only. The Comforter (more accurately advocate) was to reveal all truth to the apostles (John 14:26) and they were to reveal all truth that was revealed to them to the His disciples that they baptized (Matthew 28:18-20). Later, in Acts 2 we notice the Holy Spirit filled the Apostles of Jesus on this day and that all 12 of them spoke in tongues (languages…not jibberish) and that Peter’s sermon was recorded by Luke. This is a fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 which was a prophecy of the New Covenant which would be for all peoples not just for the Jews (Jeremiah 31:31-32). The Holy Spirit is promised to all people or at least what He revealed was promised to all people as the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. The gift in Acts 2:38 is not the Holy Spirit Himself, but is a promise of the revealed Word of God which is promised in Joel 2:28-32. Therefore, today we receive no new knowledge about God and His will other than what we have received by the Word of God (the Bible). The Holy Spirit was an Advocate for the apostles for the revealing of Jesus’ words, not for us today. Jesus Christ is our mediator of the New Covenant (Hebrews 12:24).
Here are some general responses to his comments.
– He said that the comments in John were for the Apostles only. The implication is that they don’t apply for us today. Well, yes and no. Were those comments directed specifically at the Apostles? Yes, of course. Just like the rest of the New Testament was directed at a specific audience. By using that logic, we would conclude that none of the comments apply to us today (since they were all directed to specific audiences in the first century and not to us some 2,000 years later). So that means that when Paul wrote that “therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” he wasn’t talking to us. That’s depressing.
Here’s another take on it. Instead of saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t serve as a Helper (or Advocate as he suggests) for us, wouldn’t it be just as reasonable to conclude that the Holy Spirit doesn’t help us today in the same manner? Since our ministry has changed, our needs have changed. So the response of the Spirit will change. In John 16:13 Jesus said that “He (the Helper) would guide them into all truth.” Since the truth has been revealed then we are no longer in need of that specific guidance. But we definitely need His help in other areas—such interceding in my prayers (Romans 8:26).
– The writer said that “the Holy Spirit is promised to all people or at least what He revealed was promised to all people as the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism. The gift in Acts 2:38 is not the Holy Spirit Himself, but is a promise of the revealed Word of God which is promised in Joel 2:28-32.” What?! This is ridiculous on many levels. He has blatantly changed the Word of God for his benefit. First, the “gift of the Holy Spirit” means that the Holy Spirit is the gift. This is consistent with several other passages. For example, in Acts 8:20, Luke refers to the Holy Spirit as the “gift of God.”
Second, that’s not what Joel 2:28-32 is talking about. That’s just poor scholarship or a lack of integrity. This passage tells of a time when Yahweh will “pour out his spirit upon all flesh,” which most likely is referring to Judah. There are at least two OT passages that are thought to serve as background to this text: (1) Num 11:29, in which Moses wishes that all of Yahweh‟s people would prophesy; and (2) Ezekiel‟s prediction that Yahweh will pour out his spirit on his people (Ezek 36:26-27; 37:14; 39:29). Yahweh will be with his people in the same manner that he was with them upon their return from exile (cf. Hag 2:5). At some future point, Moses‟ desire and plea will be fulfilled. It will no longer be reserved for the religious elite; it will be available to the common person as well. This text is predicting the return of prophecy to the nation of Israel (that had been removed as a punishment for their sins). As with all the other New Testament writers, this text was applied loosely in order to make their inspired point.
Here’s the logical problem with this argument: there’s no logic to it! If Peter was referring to the Word of God when he old that crowd of people that they would be given the gift of the Holy Spirit then he sold that audience a bag of goods. The full and complete Word of God wouldn’t be available for another 150 years, at least. That means they were never going to actually receive the gift! Even the prophecy that they would hear in their life-time wouldn’t be the full revelation. That’s still not much of a gift from God.
It doesn’t take very long to pick apart the “Word only” argument. There are just too many holes to start with. And we haven’t even looked at what the Bible actually does say yet. It’s interesting that, in making the “Word only” argument, the dozens of other references to the Holy Spirit are conspicuously absent.