Every Woman a Theologian has launched! Order your copy here!
Hi friends. You might be surprised to see an episode coming through that’s not on a regular schedule of a Wednesday release. That’s because we have the privilege of sharing excerpts from the audiobook of Every Woman a Theologian leading up to the launch on February 28th. So, in this brief episode, I hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt and get excited for the full book release at the end of this month.
Chapter Six, Pneumatology: Like Flames and Doves: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I stacked them high on the little secretary desk, books on the desk, the floor, in baskets. I wanted to know all I could. I had to move the stacks off the desk to have room for writing, where my elbow hung off and the cursive drooped. Slips of paper, old letters, ribbons, pens jammed in every small pocket of the desk spilled onto the books as I took notes.
At 16, I was new to Jesus and eager to learn everything. I’d hung beads in my bedroom doorway. I liked how they looked. They reminded me of hippies, though I wasn’t supposed to be one. I was at my desk, staring at the beads, chewing on an eraser when dad came in. He leaned a calloused against the doorway and parted the beads with a tolerant smile. “Like the 70s, eh?” He chuckled. I smiled, turned my journal over. He glanced down. “What’s this?” He turned over the top book. The Perfect Christian. “I found it on the shelf probably from grandma’s stuff,” I said hastily. Dad was kind, but I felt foolish. I wanted to know it all, to do it right.
You know dad said, setting the book back down, “You don’t have to try that hard.” I rolled my eyes. “We can’t all be perfect like you, dad.” “I’m not perfect. You know that. I’m saying these books aren’t what helps you be a Christian. They aren’t what makes you a follower of God.” I crossed my arms. “Then what does?” A simple version of the answer to that question is just three words, the Holy Spirit. When we go deeper into the expanded version of that answer, it’s called pneumatology or theology of the Holy Spirit.
Pneumatology comes from the Greek pneuma, which means spirit or wind. This ology sums up everything the Bible says about the Spirit’s helping, advocating, empowering, purifying nature. I will send you a helper. After Jesus arose from the dead, the gospels in the Book of Acts tell us he spent 40 days with his disciples before ascending to the Father. In those days, he proved his bodily resurrection, but he also continued teaching the disciples and told them what to do when he was gone. “After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of 40 days and spoke about the Kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem,’ but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’” Acts 1:3-5.
This was not the first time Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit. He prophesied the Spirit’s coming earlier in the gospels, “If you love me, keep my commands, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever, the spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” John 14:15-18.
Other translations say helper instead of advocate. This helper, the very Spirit of Christ remaining with the disciples would equip them for the task ahead, building the Church. The disciples were understandably concerned about Jesus’ departure. Acts 1 describes them looking up to the sky and bewilderment when Jesus ascended. I can imagine them wondering, what now. And then they remembered Jesus’ command, ‘Wait for the gift.’ The Holy Spirit was not new to the disciples. They were familiar with him from the Old Testament accounts.
But in Torah, He takes a slightly different role. Under the old covenant, God gave to Israel through the law, the Holy Spirit came upon prophets, priests, judges, and kings to equip them for specific tasks. The Holy Spirit equipped for leadership, Numbers 27:18. Wisdom, 1 Samuel 16:12-13, and Artistry, Exodus 31: 2-5. In addition, the presence of the Spirit could be lost by repeated sin such as in the case of Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14.
The spirit Jesus promised was no different from the spirit of the old covenant. He provided the same equipping and presence. The difference after Jesus is his permanence. The Holy Spirit is our helper, not just for one task or temporary calling, but for all of life in Christ. Jesus knew he could not live the new life on personal power. He wanted his disciples to make full use of his presence and he wants us to do the same.
The Holy Spirit in scripture, dad picked up the book on my desk and flipped idly through the pages ignoring my crossed arms. “Your desire to do the right things is good, Phy,” he said. But being a Christian is not about white knuckling, good deeds, or being the perfect Christian as this book promises. Well, what else am I supposed to do? How else am I supposed to do what’s godly? It certainly doesn’t feel easy if you say it isn’t so hard. I didn’t even try to hide my irritation. Honestly, the Christian life didn’t feel easy or light to me. It felt like one long haul of trying to obey.
“It is hard,” dad replied. I’m not denying that. But the difficulty isn’t in doing good things. That’s not where your energy is to be directed. You are to focus on letting the Spirit guide you. Follow His voice, rely on his leading, which will never contradict the Bible. It’s not about memorizing lists of what to do or not do. He will tell you what to do.” He turned and parted my hippie bead doorway, the pink cascade of beads a wild irony against his builder’s plaid shirt. “You have a helper,” he said. “Let him help.”
You might relate to my teenage struggle. Perhaps faith does feel heavy to you. Perhaps you are memorizing the fruit of the Spirit and trying to do them on your own strength. Maybe you’re like 16-year-old Phylicia, sitting in the parking lot of my summer job at the greenhouse, pink Bible in one hand and sandwich in the other. I had memorized the passages about Christian behavior, love, joy, peace, purity, honor, respect. I would rehearse them, hop out of my cheap red convertible and muscle my way through the workday on willpower morality.
I suppose this is what dad foresaw that day by my desk the force of white-knuckle Christianity driving hard, giving it all right before the crash and burn. “Let him help. Don’t do it alone.” That’s always been the Spirit’s role to help, to advocate, to empower from creation. When he hovered over the waters in union with Father and Son, three persons and one Holy God, the Spirit’s presence poured out goodness. He empowered beauty, order and peace. He still does, in the world and in us. He helps us become like Christ. Without him, sanctification isn’t possible. But when forming a theology of the spirit, we must look to scripture as our guide. It gives us some clear patterns by which we can understand the spirit. Here are a few.
He is one with God at creation, Genesis 1:1-2. He is the giver of life, Job 33:4. He gives wisdom and understanding, Isaiah 11:2. He is grieved by sin, Isaiah 63:10. He instructs in righteousness, Nehemiah 9:20. He gives us a new heart, Ezekiel 36:26-27. He is the spirit of truth and conviction, John 14:15-17. He dwells with believers after repentance and baptism, Acts 2:38. He gives power, Romans 15:13. He dwells in believers, 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. He reveals God’s love to us, Romans 5:5. He bears the fruit of good works, Galatians 5:22-23.
If it seems like the whole Christian life is dependent upon the spirit’s work that’s because it is. In the Old Testament, God dwell among his people in temples made by hands. Today, he dwells in human bodies. The idols of God on earth are little sanctuaries of his grace. And as the Holy Spirit lives in us, he is at work empowering us to live in the light, guiding us into good works and bringing fruit into the world through us.
The person of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians forget the power of being Spirit-holding image bearers, temples of the most high God. When we don’t learn a biblical pneumatology, we lack motivation to be holy. It’s completely out of reach. If we don’t know the power of the Holy Spirit, we won’t walk by his leading. And if we don’t walk by his leading, our lives won’t bear fruit. To walk with someone, you must trust them. We usually don’t hold hands with strangers. Likewise, to Walk by the Spirit, to listen to Him and let Him lead us, we must know his voice and trust it. We must be willing to unite ourselves to his purpose. We must know Him for the person He is.
The rise of New Age spirituality makes the personhood of the spirit very important. The New Age movement uses terms that sound like biblical spirituality but mean something very different. The New Age does not require one specific set of beliefs, but teaches that truth is individual, encouraging followers to seek deeper wisdom, connect with spirits, and commune with nature. Because the New Age is rising in popularity, we must be clear on who the Spirit is and what He is not.
The Spirit of Christ is a real person, not a force, not a vague entity, not a spirit in the sky uniting us to the universe. He is the expression of Christ on earth through God’s people, the church. We know the Holy Spirit is a person by his relationship with the Father and Son. John 16:14-15, 2 Corinthians 13:14. Jesus attested to his coming, promised his presence, and told his disciples to wait for him, Matthew 28:19; The spirit also portrays personal characteristics such as emotion, Ephesians 4:30; Wisdom, Isaiah 11:2; and Intercession, Acts 20-23.
The character he cultivates in people reflects his nature. The Spirit’s work is opposed to the world’s patterns. The acts of the flesh are obvious, sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law, Galatians 5:19-23.
We can know something is of the Spirit if it bears his fruit because he is love, he cultivates love. Because he is joy, he brings about joy. Because he is peace, he brings us peace. Like any person, the Holy Spirit has a name, actually more than one. The names of the Spirit give us hints regarding his role in our lives and in the world. He is the dove at Jesus baptism descending from the Father, Matthew 3:16. He is the advocate sent to teach us the things of God, John 14:26. He is the Spirit of Jesus, continuing Christ’s presence with us after his ascension, Act 16:6-7. He is the intercessor praying for us when we have no words, Romans 8:26. He is the Lord, 2 Corinthians 3:17.
Thanks to your preorders of Every Woman a Theologian’s audiobook on Amazon’s Audible. We have hit number one in women’s Christian living, number one in systematic theology, number three in Christian apologetics, and number nine in Christian theology, as well as number 50 in all Audible Christianity new releases. Thank you so much for preordering Every Woman a Theologian. It helps to get the word out about this book both in the Audible format and in the hardcover. I hope you enjoy listening to the full book.