I believe in the Holy Spirit.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

Isaiah 11:2–5, ESV

The Creed has presented the Father and the Son, who are the first two members of the Trinity. Now it moves to the third person, the Holy Spirit. There have been plenty of heresies regarding Father and Son, which can also be said of the Spirit. Some people deny personhood to the Spirit and suggest that it is a principle of power or energy. Their idea is that the Spirit is much like the “Force” in the Star War Movies. However, there is an abundance of Scriptural evidence that the Spirit is a person equal to the Father and the Son.

Another prevalent interpretation of the Spirit arose in the early 20th century and developed into the Pentecostal movement. Known more commonly today as Charismatics, their focus is upon the ecstatic gifts of the Spirit in the life of the believer. There is no end to the various Charismatic movements. Still, in general, the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” is an experience that often comes after an individual’s new birth and conversion. Passages in the book of Acts show that there were occasions when a group of believers were asked if they had received the Spirit yet.

As a teenager, I was involved with a group of Charismatic believers, and to this day, I still have books in my library that purport to teach one how to speak in tongues. It took a few years of development as a Christian before I saw the fallacy in such an attempt. There is no place in the Bible that even hints that anyone “learned” to speak in tongues. Instead, the act was spontaneous and a sign that the Spirit had now come upon them. So why are tongues even mentioned in the New Testament? I believe that any occasion mentioning tongues must be placed in two contexts.

The first is the Day of Pentecost, where “tongues of fire” were seen to come upon the disciples of Jesus who had gathered to wait for that event. Rather than speaking in tongues, Luke writes that they spoke in different languages. How do we know? Because those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast on that day heard these people speak in their own language.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

Acts 2:5–13, ESV

The word for tongues is glōssa. It refers to the physical organ we use to taste and speak. Additionally, glōssa is used for the actual language that is spoken. I am not convinced that the term is ever used for some kind of ecstatic or angelic language. (I mention angelic because Paul speaks of the “tongues of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13. That Paul is speaking in a hypothetical does not imply that he believes in angelic tongues. Every communication in Scripture between angels and humans is spoken in the language of the listener.

The second context is the transitional nature of the book of Acts and the entire period covered by the New Testament. If Kenneth Gentry, among others, is correct in writing that the book of Revelation was completed before the destruction of Jerusalem, then the entire New Testament was completed before 70 A.D. (see Before Jerusalem Fell here and here). Likewise, if the judgment on Jerusalem was the end of the Old Covenant with the beginning of the New Covenant, it would also mark the end of the transition from the Apostolic Age and the initiation of the Church age. By 70 A.D., the gospel had been preached in all of the known world, and the church had been established. We are now the Body of Christ on earth, and receiving the Holy Spirit at the time of our New Birth, there is no longer a need for apostles to manage the church.

Why is any of this significant? First, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements focus on human experience. The American Evangelical has become more fascinated with how Christianity feels than with what Christianity is all about. Remember the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him together.” Be assured that there is no enjoyment of God if he is not glorified above all else. We are not the focus of salvation. How we feel about things is irrelevant. The only relevance is how God is glorified and his Kingdom established.

Second, seeking the miraculous experience like speaking in the tongues of angels denies the actual work of the Holy Spirit today.

See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.

Exodus 31:2–5, ESV

Rousas Rushdoony notes concerning this passage from Exodus, “We are not here dealing with mystical ecstasy, but with hard work, sweat, and perseverance, all guided and governed by God the Spirit. God’s law is practical, and its goal is the Kingdom of God. The Spirit is also practical, and His goal is the Kingdom, because the Trinity works in unity. God is not interested in our ecstatic experiences, however much we may be; He is interested in His Kingdom and our service thereto.” [1]

Paul’s mention that all things in the Church be done “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14) seems to speak against the chaos found in many churches today. During my career as a pastor, I often heard from parishioners how much they disliked prewritten prayers as against spontaneous praying. The orderliness of the former was considered stiff, and the freedom of the latter was supposedly more “spiritual.” Things that are planned out in advance are not yielding to a Spirit that blows wherever it will. It makes me wonder why so many weddings are planned out to the minutest detail. Certainly, the Spirit cannot be present in such orderliness.

Why was God so specific in the way the tabernacle was to be built? Why was he so detailed when describing the worship that pleased him? Why didn’t he allow for more spontaneity in the Spirit? Why is the law of God so stiff? Because the God of all creation with the Son and the Spirit planned everything in the beginning. God did not one day say, “You know, I feel like creating something that has never been before. Once I get it all done, I will sit back in amazement watching all things working themselves out.”

I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Spirit. I believe they do all things in concert and harmony and that this was only accomplished by planning all things, preparing all things, creating all things, sustaining all things, and bringing all things to their appointed ends and purposes.

[1] Rousas John Rushdoony, Systematic Theology in Two Volumes, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1994), 1:204.

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