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Book Review: The Mystery of the Holy Spirit by R. C. Sproul

08 Nov

 How To Know The Holy Spirit Personally and Intimately

 Many times as a pastor I have heard Christians refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it,” or a “power/force,” or the like. I have also heard many times that the most abstract member of the trinity to many Christians is the Holy Spirit. It has been my own experience that I have had to work harder to understand and know the Holy Spirit more than any other Person in the Trinity. In this book Dr. Sproul writes with profound insight, biblical acumen, and exegetical precision and gradually peels away the mysteries surrounding the third Person in the Trinity.

There are ten good reasons to read this book and its because each chapter handles a distinct important aspect of the character or attributes of the Holy Spirit and Sproul then cogently and articulately explains the ramifications for us theologically and then practically.

In chapter one Dr. Sproul asks and answers the question “Who is the Holy Spirit?” by using various Scriptures demonstrating that the Holy Spirit is a “person;” that we are called to a have a “personal relationship with him;” and that he performs “personal tasks.”

In chapter two the author gives a plethora of Scriptures and some very good logical arguments like this one: “Were the Holy Spirit not God, it is extremely unlikely that blasphemy against Him would be regarded as unpardonable,” to show very clearly that the Bible teaches the deity of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments.

In chapter three Dr. Sproul tackles and dismantles the most common objections raised against the Trinity and deals with them historically, biblically, and philosophically. He answers the following objections with great erudition, concise simplicity, and with immense sagacity:

Objection #1: The Word “Trinity” is not a biblical word and represents the invasion of foreign philosophy into biblical revelation.

Objection #2: The doctrine of the Trinity is contradictory and therefore irrational.

He demonstrates clearly in this chapter that the Trinitarian formula is neither contradictory nor irrational—rather it is biblical and logical.

Chapter four is vintage Sproul. Dr. Sproul is known for his outstanding vocabulary and for making things clear by explaining the meaning of words with reference to his subject of discussion. Dr. Sproul takes the time in this chapter to define the meanings and distinctions of the Holy Spirit as “essence” and “person.” He explains this by elaborating on three concepts: contradiction, paradox, and mystery with reference to our understanding of the Holy Spirit’s character and attributes.

Chapter five is a wonderful explanation of God the Holy Spirit’s work in physical and spiritual creation. He summarizes the chapter in this manner: “It is the Holy Spirit who supplies the dynamic for the created world. By His power the universe has life and motion…there is a parallel between the Spirit’s work in creation and redemption. As He is the generating power of biological life, so is He the source and generating power of spiritual life. His work in redemption mirrors and supplements His work in creation. He works both in creation and re-creation of a fallen world.”

In Chapter six Dr. Sproul gives a masterful presentation on what it means to be “born-again” or “regenerated” by the Holy Spirit. He demonstrates from John 3 and Ephesians 2 how we are “dead” spiritually and must be “made alive” by the Holy Spirit in order to be saved. He gives an outstanding presentation of why regeneration must precede faith and obliterates the much believed idea that faith + rebirth = justification.

Chapter seven is a wonderful articulation of the eternal security of those who are indeed regenerate. Sproul gives a very good presentation on the biblical distinctions of justification (monergistically – God alone working to save us); and sanctification (synergistically – the cooperation between the Holy Spirit and us).

I think chapter 8 on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is perhaps the best in the book. The baptism of the Spirit may be one of the least understood issues in theology today. Dr. Sproul brings great clarity and synthesis to a better understanding of this doctrine and its immense importance. The thesis he defends is summed up at the end of the chapter in this manner:

“I am not saying that everyone who is a member of a Christian church has the Holy Spirit. Membership in the visible church no more guarantees the baptism of the Holy Spirit than it guarantees salvation. We know that there are unbelievers who are church members. No unbeliever has the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but every believer, every regenerate person, does have the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian from Pentecost to the present is both regenerate of the Spirit and baptized in the Spirit. That is the essence of the meaning of Pentecost. Anything less casts a shadow over the sacred importance of Pentecost in the history of redemption. Any person who is regenerate is also sealed by the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, and has the earnest of the Spirit.”

In chapter nine we have a great exposition of Galatians 5 contrasting the works of the flesh and the work of the Spirit, and lastly in chapter ten Dr. Sproul shows how the Holy Spirit is Christ’s Vicar on earth to empower, comfort, and use us for the glory of Christ.

Honestly, I’m surprised this book has not been a BIG seller. As far as I’m concerned it is the best book bridging great scholarship in laymen’s terms on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in the English language. I have read over twenty books on the Holy Spirit – and this is my third time through Sproul’s work, and it is still the one I would recommend most if you are going to read one book on the Holy Spirit.

*Dr. R.C. Sproul is the founder, chairman and president of Ligonier Ministries, an international Christian education ministry located near Orlando, Florida. His teaching can be heard on the program Renewing Your Mind, which is broadcast on hundreds of radio outlets in the United States and in 40 countries worldwide. He is the executive editor of Tabletalk magazine and general editor of The Reformation Study Bible, and the author of more than seventy books and scores of articles for national evangelical publications. Dr. Sproul also serves as president of Ligonier Academy of Biblical and Theological Studies and Reformation Bible College. He currently serves as senior minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew’s in Sanford, FL.

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