We have been studying the Holy Spirit in our Wednesday night Bible study and I have come upon one of the most ironic things. Many people are scared of the Holy Spirit. I do not mean that they fear the work of the Holy Spirit, but many people do fear studying the Holy Spirit. The reason that this is ironic is because of what Jesus called the Holy Spirit – “the comforter” (John 14:26, KJV). The NIV refers to the Holy Spirit as “the counselor”, while the NASB, ESV, and NKJV call Him “the Helper.” Compare these names with our timidity in studying this subject and note this great irony. I believe that there are four main reasons for our timidity when it comes to discussing and studying the Holy Spirit.
The first reason we shy away from this subject is because of what the King James Version has done to our subconscious thinking related to the Holy Spirit – “Holy Ghost”. Now you may scoff at this idea, but I want you to think about our modern idea of ghosts. Think about all the shows on television that are about ghost hunting and haunted houses; imagine all the little kids dressed up as ghosts at Halloween. Whether we want it to or not, the phrase “Holy Ghost” often conjures up images of mystical, floating beings that move about in mysterious ways. Sometimes this gives way to a “Star Wars” mentality, thinking of the Holy Spirit as nothing more than God’s force. While I will be the first to admit that there are some difficult things when it comes to studying the Holy Spirit, the Bible does not try to hide or shade its teaching about the Holy Spirit. Knowledge of the Holy Spirit is there for us to pick up if we are willing to dig in.
However, we must be willing. Sometimes we shy away from the difficult subjects and preachers are no different. Every Sunday lessons are preached about the love of God and the teachings of Jesus, but rarely is the work of the Spirit a subject for a Sunday morning lesson. We understand faith and baptism because of the amount of teaching to which we are subjected. There needs to be more teaching on this subject. One may ask, “Is the Holy Spirit THAT important?” Then I must ask, where would we be without the work of the Holy Spirit? Specifically His work with sciprutre? Furthermore, the Spirit is mentioned in Genesis 1:2 and Revelation 22:17 – two verses into scripture and five from the end – do not tell me that the Spirit is not important.
So we should all agree that we need more teaching on this subject, but what kind of teaching? Too often we approach subjects from the false doctrine side of things. We start with “this is why they are wrong.” Therefore, we start the discussion in a negative light. I understand the need to refute false doctrines. However, the subject comes across in a more positive light when you start with what the Bible says as opposed to what it does not say (or how what it says has been distorted).
We need more teaching, from a positive stand point, without the word “ghost” messing up our picture of things – what else? One must always stay in the context! Too often we have allowed Thomas Nelson and gang (publishers of Bibles) to tell us whether we are reading about Spirit or spirit. When you read the term “spirit”, make sure you know the context. Sometimes this takes only a couple of lines, sometimes the whole chapter, sometimes three chapters (i.e. spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14).
There may be more reasons that we do not study the Holy Spirit (feel free to comment) but no reason is good enough to overlook an aspect/person/manifestation of deity. Before our congregation began this study, I was terrified. As soon as I jumped in, I lost my timidity and it has been one of the greatest things I have done in my Bible study as an adult. I have learned, grown, been challenged, been wrong, been corrected, and because of all of this I understand God better. I encourage you to open up the word and learn more about God’s Holy Spirit!