THE HOLY SPIRIT (CONTOURS OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY), by Sinclair Ferguson

Published on October 19, 2017 by Joshua R Monroe

IVP Academic, 1997 | 288 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Benjamin Montoya

 

About the Author

Sinclair B. Ferguson is a Ligonier teaching fellow and distinguished visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., and he has written more than two dozen books, including The Whole Christ, The Holy Spirit, In Christ Alone, and, with Dr. Derek Thomas, Ichthus: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Saviour.

 

Introduction

Many people want to talk about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And rightly so; he is central in the NT and should be in our lives. But, few people wish to focus on the Holy Spirit. What should we think about him? How does He work? In this book, Sinclair Ferguson explains the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Ferguson introduces the person and work of the Holy Spirit; Ferguson also considers the personal implications of this larger doctrine for lives of believers and the church.

 

In This Book, You Will Learn:

  • How to think of the person of the Holy Spirit and his roles
  • How the Holy Spirit relates to this world
  • How the Holy Spirit works in our lives
  • Different perspectives about the Holy Spirit throughout Church History

 

The Larger Contribution of This Book:

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology) is one that few people consider well. Sinclair Ferguson does just that; he ties his entire discussion to Scripture, considers different perspectives, ties his doctrinal formulation to Church History, considers how the doctrine of the Holy Spirit relates to other doctrines, and much more. Although this book is now dated, it remains one of the best introductions to the Holy Spirit.

 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1  The Holy Spirit & His Story
Chapter 2  The Spirit of Christ
Chapter 3  The Gift of the Spirit
Chapter 4  Pentecost Today?
Chapter 5  The Spirit of Order
Chapter 6  Spiritus Recreator
Chapter 7  The Spirit of Holiness
Chapter 8  The Communion of the Spirit
Chapter 9  The Spirit & the Body
Chapter 10  Gifts for Ministry
Chapter 11  The Cosmic Spirit

 

Summary

Chapter 1: The Holy Spirit & His Story

What, or who, is the Holy Spirit? Although many Christians will gladly hear about the person of Christ as the Son of God, many Christians grow fearsome when discussing the person of the Holy Spirit. Some people become afraid that they will misunderstand him or become too “experiential.” What, then, should we think of the Holy Spirit?

First, the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as holy and a Spirit. Isaiah describes God’s holiness in Isaiah 6. “Isaiah shrinks back into a corner” when faced with the holiness of God. In the Bible, God’s holiness is something that is high and majestic compared to our lowliness and sinfulness. The Bible also describes the Holy Spirit as a Spirit, not as some sort of force of God. If we consider Micah 3:8, “but as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord.” When the term “Spirit” is used here, it is clear that it is not simply God’s power or energy.

Second, the Holy Spirit is the mode of God’s power and presence among his people. The results of the activity of the Holy Spirit are in keeping with the nature of the Lord. The activity of the Holy Spirit is also tied closely to the activities of the Father. For example, the Holy Spirit was involved in the creation.

Third, the Holy Spirit is the re-creator of God’s people. He works in the moral and redemptive aspects of people to change their morals and ethics to become more like Christ. We see this in several different ways. First, the Spirit is associated with the activity of Moses and working miracles. Second, the Spirit leads and guides the people into the benediction of covenant for filament: “like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the Lord” (Isa 63:14). Third, the Spirit is the executive of the Exodus-redemption accomplished by God the Savior (Isa 63:8). Fourth, the Holy Spirit also works closely with the Word of God. In the NT, Paul explains that God’s written Word is “breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16). We are not told exactly how this happens; rather the New Testament authors explain it as the Holy Spirit carrying the people along (2 Pet 1:20–21).

When it comes to thinking about the person of the Spirit of God how are we supposed to think of his person? When we discuss the person of Christ, we discuss the hypostatic union of the person of Christ. What about the person of the Holy Spirit? The wisest approach to take to this larger question is to break it down into its fundamental parts.

First, is the activity of the Spirit divine activity? The answer is yes. Second, is the activity of the Spirit personal activity? Again, the answer is yes. Third, is the activity of the Spirit hypostatically distinct? The action of the spirit is both personal and divine, but the Spirit is not a mode of God being. Rather, the Holy Spirit is God himself and one of the persons of the Trinity. Just as with the Father, we know the Spirit most clearly in the person of Jesus Christ. So, we need to look to Jesus to understand who the Spirit is and what he is like.

The rest of this book will now turn its attention to explaining these truths in more detail.

 

Chapter 2: The Spirit of Christ

What we know about the Holy Spirit comes from Jesus himself. Jesus told his disciples in John 15:26–27, “when the counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” There are several aspects of these verses that require further explanation for our understanding.

First, the Spirit is referred to as the Paraclete, or Comforter. Second, the Spirit is also at work in the work of Christ. There are three stages where where the Holy Spirit was involved. Stage one includes the conception, birth, and growth of the person of Jesus. If we recall the birth accounts of Jesus in the Gospel, the Gospel writers explain the Holy Spirit involvement in the very conception of Christ, Luke 1:35. Stage two refers to the baptism, temptation, and ministry of the person of Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, he was anointed by the Spirit. The heavens opened up signifying a divine revelation and the Holy Spirit descended like a dove in bodily form and sat visibly on Jesus (Matt 1:10–11). Matthew also tells us that Jesus was “led by the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1). This means that the Holy Spirit was influencing the very ministry of the person of Jesus as he was tempted. The third stage is the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. As Christ died and was raised and ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit was involved at each step. Although there is an ontological distinction and there is also an economic or functional equivalence, the spirit can be referred to as “the Spirit of Christ” because. . .

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The Holy Spirit (Contours of Christian Theology)

IVP Academic, 1997 | 288 pages