Christians have often either overemphasize or deemphasize on the Holy Spirit. Those in the reformed camp generally deemphasize it (yes, I know that Calvin was a theologian of the Holy Spirit) , while those who are on the more charismatic or pentecostal camp generally overemphasize it. It is rare to see someone teach this topic with a delicate balance. Furthermore, most who talk about it generally focus on the spiritual gifts that the Spirit gives (Sinclair Ferguson is a good exception to this). J. D. Greear however has written a balanced book that aims to talk much more about the Holy Spirit than the spiritual gifts.
The main idea Greear wants to bring across to help the readers understand why Jesus wants to go away, so He can send the Holy Spirit to His disciples and to us. In the first section, he explores the “who” the Holy Spirit and “what” the Holy Spirit does.
Greear first tackles a common notion that christians often think about, the “If only I was around when Jesus was on the earth”. Greear then explains to us that, that was not what Jesus thought when He wants to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus thought that it was precisely better for the Holy Spirit to be with us than for Him to be around, that was why He sent the Holy Spirit!
Following which, Greear emphasises in the fifth chapter an extremely important point: God doesn’t need us (you). This, I thought, was a great inclusion within this book, as opposed to the majority of the books which puffs people up, this book does the direct opposite, it truly humbles the readers to know that God is the one who’s really doing all the work, we are but instruments which He uses. Greear lets the readers understand that though God may have put many burdens on the hearts of some christians, God does not call us to be the “messiahs” of this world, we are to do what we can, and trust in God for the rest.
In the next section, Greear talks about how the christians experiences the Holy Spirit. I find this section a mixed-bag. On some of the chapters i find myself agreeing completely with what he raised, but on others I find myself disagree with what he has raised, and sometimes evening questioning what he has raised.
On the one hand, I find the first two chapters in this section very helpful, yet at the same time cannot help to differ on some things he raises. Let me give an example to show both sides. Greear first sows the readers the necessity for the Holy Spirit to be in us for us to long for and to desire for God, this then moves to how we need to have a good gasp of the bible. These two chapters were excellent.
Next, he moves on to the spiritual gifts where he mentions “In three primary passages (1 Cor. 12–14, Rom. 12, and Eph. 4) Paul lists out various spiritual gifts. None of the lists are identical, and each contains a few the others leave out. This shows us that spiritual gifts are not so much a defined set of functions as much as they are various manifestations of God using us in the lives of others. We are not to list out these gifts on a spreadsheet and assume these comprise the full scope of all that God empowers his people to do. Each list simply gives examples of how God works through his people. There are likely a few others not mentioned in any of Paul’s lists.” (p.120). This is a rather bewildering statement as I did not find any support for such an assumption. Next, he moves on to propose a model that the readers can use to find their spiritual gifts.
Similarly, in the next chapter he talks about prophecy, he says “God, of course, can never be wrong, and when he revealed himself in the Scriptures he guaranteed that the writers would get his revelation exactly right. But evidently, when he speaks through his church in the gift of prophecy, he does not guarantee that we will get all his movements, impressions, and instructions exactly right. So we have to use wise judgment.” (p. 141). This is troubling, it seems that the same Spirit can give us the inerrant word, but not ensure that we have an inerrant prophecy.
In the third section, Greear finished on a high by giving the readers very well written and helpful chapters to end off the book. For example, he talks about how Christians always find it hardest to deal with the “white spaces” in their lives. These are times where God is apparently not working or missing, like how Joseph was first sold, then imprisoned before he finally is made to be Pharoah’s right hand man. Greear handles this very pastorally, helping the readers to see that even if we do not know why things are happening this way, God knows, and we can walk by faith in God’s promises even when we cannot feel it.
He also adds a chapter on revival, something you don’t find in books nowadays. This chapter is a good reminder that one of the work of the Spirit is that he sometimes miraculously causes spiritual new-birth to happen on a massive scale! Lastly, Greear writes about the importance of praying in the christian life. This chapter is also very well written, highlighting to the readers that Jesus himself wants us to implore to God with our prayers constantly.
I find this book helpful and practical on many topics, about some of the things raised in the 2nd section does raise some concern. This book is good for those who wants to have a light introduction to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, yet cessationists might want to supplement their diet with books that follow their tradition. I have no qualms about recommending the first and last section to anyone.
Rating: 3.75 / 5
Disclaimer: I was given this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.