Disrespecting the Holy Spirit — A Tendency for Calvinists and Arminians Alike
by Joseph Franks
The prophet Ezekiel received divine revelation. He was overcome by the Holy Spirit, and given another fresh word from the Lord:
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army … I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. (Ezekiel 36)
In his vision, Ezekiel was encouraged to focus on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the one who brought dead bones back to life. He was the one who resurrected dead individuals. Additionally, it was the Holy Spirit who took impure idol worshipers and transformed them into washed keepers of the Law. Clearly, Ezekiel was to see the Holy Spirit as the Ultimate Reformer. He was the member of the Godhead responsible for regenerating and sanctifying the totally deprave and totally dead rebel. He was the one responsible for doing what man could not do for himself.
Jesus Christ understood the importance of the Holy Spirit. He performed no known miracles apart from being filled with the Spirit. He proclaimed that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was the unforgivable sin. Acceptable worship must be performed in truth and Spirit. And Jesus declared that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was better for his churchmen than his own continued earthly presence?
His inspired Apostles then continued his emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit was responsible for opening blind eyes and convicting dull hearts. He was the giver of faith and the granter of repentance. Then, following conversion, the Holy Spirit was the one who fruited God’s people with holiness and granted victory over the flesh. Spiritual gifts were also granted to those who found themselves part of Christ’s church. Additionally, it was the Spirit who mystically knitted the souls of believers together so they might enjoy brotherly love. Therefore, the apostles continually impressed upon their readers the importance of walking in the Spirit, living by the Spirit, keeping step with the Spirit, and grieving not the Holy Spirit of God.
However friends, there are two groups who have a sad tendency to disrespect the Holy Spirit.
Non-Reformed Arminians can be guilty of disrespecting the Holy Spirit. In denying the doctrines of Total Depravity and Effectual Calling, they go against Scripture. They give too much credit to man and not enough credit to the Holy Spirit. Wrongly, they assume man is not so sinful, not so dead, and good enough to choose God on his own. Wrongly, they assume the Holy Spirit is not powerful enough to convince the free will of man. When all is said and done, man is glorified in his salvation and the work of the Spirit is minimized. Those who place justification before regeneration are ignorant of Ezekiel’s message and guilty of disrespecting the Holy Spirit. However, they are not alone in this sin.
Reformed Calvinists can be guilty of disrespecting the Holy Spirit. Consider the quote from the late A.W. Tozer, “If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference.” Add to this a more recent thought from a work entitled, Whose Afraid of the Holy Ghost? In this work, one author noted how the average believer worshiped one God in three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible. His intention was not to diminish or belittle the Scripture, but to highlight the lack of emphasis placed by some on the Third Person of the Godhead. And perhaps he is correct. Some of us in the Reformed tradition are guilty of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, or throwing out the Holy Spirit with the Charismaniacs. We give ourselves too much credit for our growth in the Christian life and success in ministry, and in doing so we disrespect the Holy Spirit. Reformed Cessationist friends, we would do well not to downplay the vital necssity of the Holy Spirit in interpreting the Scripture, applying a sermon, giving godly and timely counsel, making daily decisions, growing in holiness, saying “No” to sin, and seeking to win the lost. If we walked more in the Spirit, and grieved him less, our devotions would be sharper, our prayers more effective, our sermons more impactful, our worship more acceptable, and our testimonies more beautiful. Friends, the Holy Spirit is our guide, teacher, counselor and comforter. We would do well to consistently sing and pray, “Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on us.” Would we continue to disrespect the God who dwells within?
May we all give the Holy Spirit the honor, praise, and worship he is due. The Father chooses those who will receive justice and those who will receive mercy. The Son lives and dies for his flock; all those who call upon the name of the Lord. And it is the Spirit who applies the choice of the Father, and the work of the Son, to the free-willing and totally deprave soul of the individual. Yes, it is the Spirit who is responsible for our conviction, regeneration, union, sanctification, perseverance, preservation, assurance, and ministerial effectiveness. May we not be found amongst those who disrespect the Holy Spirit in regards to their one-time regeneration or their on-going sanctification. May we give glory, laud and honor to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.