Do you know any Christians who talk incessantly about the Holy Spirit? Every time you talk to them, it’s the Spirit this, and the Spirit that… Why is this, do you think? It certainly does not seem to be the way the Scriptures approach the Holy Spirit. He, it seems, tends not to prefer the spotlight, but to stay hidden in the wings.
Take Luke 3:21-22 as an example. This is one of those passages in Scripture where it’s easy to go off the deep end in speculations about the Holy Spirit.
Much ink has been spilled about what Luke means when he writes that the Spirit descended in bodily form, and whether or not He came he came in the appearance of a dove, or just in the same manner as a dove. I read one person who wrote that the Spirit descended as light in the form of a man, and floated down from heaven in the manner of a dove, and when He reached Jesus, it appeared that Jesus absorbed this man of light into His own body.
My first thought was, “Oookaaay….I suppose it could be, but how does he know, and why does it matter?”
Then there are all the arguments about whether the Spirit came into Jesus, or just onto Jesus, and whether Jesus was filled with the Spirit before this event or not.
And somewhere along the way, tempers start to rise, blood begins to boil, and in the process, the Spirit is grieved. It’s ironic that passages about the Spirit (Who is supposed to encourage unity) are some of the most divisive passages in Scripture. And in reality, most of these passages are not really about the Spirit! Oh sure, He is mentioned, but He is not the focus.
Again, take Luke 3:21-22. Are these verses really about the Spirit? I don’t think so. The passage is about Jesus. Luke’s point is not to describe a supernatural event involving a strange manifestation of the Spirit, but simply to show that Jesus was empowered by the Spirit.
All this raises the questions: Why are we so enamored by the Spirit? Why do we treat him like a magical power? Why do we want to place Him so much in the spotlight, and give him so much glory, when really, His goal is to glorify Jesus? (John 16:14)
I’m not saying we should ignore Him. I’m not saying we should treat Him like the estranged uncle that nobody talks about during holidays. In the Seminary I graduated from, this is the way He was often treated. In my class on “Trinitarianism” which was supposed to cover God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, over the sixteen weeks of the course (3 hours in class per week), we spent 12 weeks (36 hours) on God the Father, and of the final 4 weeks (12 hours), we spent 11 hours on God the Son, and only 1 hour on God the Holy Spirit. This clearly is not giving enough attention to the Holy Spirit.
But we must not go the other way either, and spend all our time talking about the Spirit, speculating about the Spirit, preaching about the Spirit, singing about the Spirit, and praying to the Spirit. Such behavior grieves Him, because His job is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). Balance is the key.