Question: Why Is The Subject Of The Holy Spirit Neglected?
Answer: One of the unfortunate things that has happened in the history of the church is the neglect of the study of the Holy Spirit. Unhappily, this is still true today. There are a number of reasons for this. They include the following.
1. There Are Other Teachings That Are Seemingly More Important
One of the reasons why a study of the Holy Spirit has been neglected is because of the perceived importance. While no one doubts the importance of making an in-depth study about the nature of God the Father or the Person of Jesus Christ, God the Son, the idea of studying about the Holy Spirit has not had the same motivation. His importance is not as obvious as that of God the Father or the Lord Jesus. Consequently He is often neglected.
2. The Father And The Son Are Often Linked Without The Spirit
We find God the Father and God the Son often linked in Scripture without any mention of the Holy Spirit. Because these two are often associated together there is the tendency to assume their importance and forget about the importance of the Holy Spirit. This is another cause for His neglect.
3. It Is Often Neglected From The Pulpit
If teaching concerning the Holy Spirit has not been emphasized from the pulpit, then the great mass of Christians can hardly be blamed for the neglect of the subject. If the leadership puts little or no emphasis on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, then it is understandable why most Christians would assume the unimportance of the subject. The experience of many believers would be the same as those disciples that Paul ran into in Ephesus.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them. “No,” they replied, “we don't know what you mean. We haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2 NLT).
The teaching of the Holy Spirit needs to be proclaimed from the pulpit to remove so much of the ignorance that remains.
4. There Is A Tendency For Majoring On The Minors
There is also a tendency for believers to “major on the minors.” For example, many people are more interested in studying the minute details of Bible prophecy rather than what the Scripture has to say about the Holy Spirit. The desire to know what may, or may not, happen in the future receives more attention than the study of God Himself.
5. There Is A Fear Of Fanaticism
The subject of the Holy Spirit is often neglected due to a fear of fanaticism. Because the fanatical behavior of some individuals has been attributed to the Holy Spirit, there is the overreaction of neglecting the Holy Spirit altogether. The fact that the ministry of the Holy Spirit has been the cause for abuse by many well-meaning Christians has caused others to neglect, or ignore, His ministry - lest they be categorized with the “fanatics.”
6. The Holy Spirit Is Invisible
The invisibility of the Holy Spirit is another reason for His neglect. Since the Holy Spirit has no body or shape He is often thought of in an impersonal or unimportant way. This leads people to ignore or neglect His ministry.
7. He Works Inwardly Not Outwardly
The fact that the Holy Spirit works within believers, instead of with some outward display also causes neglect. There are no great outward signs of His ordinary work. Jesus Christ the Savior did something outward for believers while the Holy Spirit does things inside believers. This is another cause of neglect.
8. The Holy Spirit Is Hard To Conceive Of
While it is easy to conceive of God the Father and God the Son, it is difficult to conceive of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus was a Person who lived in history. The New Testament gives us many details about His life and ministry. Thus we are able to relate to Him. Likewise, it is easy to understand God as an all-wise, all-powerful Father. However it is not the same with the Holy Spirit. There is nothing concrete that we can relate to the Spirit as we can with the Father and the Son.
9. The Holy Spirit Does Not Speak Of Himself
Furthermore, the Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself – He is always representing others. He was sent to testify of Jesus. Jesus said.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come”(John 16:12,13 NKJV).
The fact that He usually works unnoticed contributes to the lack of concern for studying about Him.
10. We Do Not Have A Personal Relationship With The Holy Spirit
While believers have a relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, there is no such relationship with the Holy Spirit. He is the means through which we know the Father and the Son. We do not have a unique relationship with Him alone. This is often misunderstood. People often speak of their relationship with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes they pray directly to Him. However, this shows a misunderstanding of the role of the Holy Spirit. He speaks of Jesus Christ – never of Himself. While He may speak to us, we never speak directly to Him.
11. The Result Of Neglect Is Spiritual Deadness
Unhappily, spiritual deadness has resulted from a neglect of study of the Holy Spirit. This is tragic since the work of Jesus Christ through believers can only come about through the work of the Holy Spirit. Yet there is much opposition to understanding His Person and work from believers for the reasons we just referred to. Consequently we should take the time to understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, this is one subject which should not be neglected.
Summary To Question 3 Why Is The Subject Of The Holy Spirit Neglected?
Unfortunately, the subject of the Holy Spirit has been neglected by Bible-believing Christians. There are a number of reasons for this. We can make the following observations.
For one thing, other teachings have been perceived to be more important than the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. God the Father and Jesus Christ have been assumed to be more crucial for understanding Christian theology. Therefore, we do not study about the Holy Spirit with the same intensity.
Indeed God the Father and God the Son are often linked together in Scripture without any mention of the Holy Spirit. This is a further reason for the neglect of the study of the Spirit of God.
There has been a general neglect from the pulpit, which, in turn, has caused neglect by the people. Christians also tend to major on the minors spending more time on non-essentials than on this doctrine.
Add to this, there is also the fear of being classed as a fanatic. Since there is often much sensationalism concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit from some segments of Christianity, others neglect to study about Him for fear of being linked with these people.
In addition, the Holy Spirit works inwardly and invisibly, which also makes Him harder to identify with than the Father figure of God or the historical person of Jesus. His mission is to speak of others rather than Himself.
Finally, there is the fact that believers do not have a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit as we do with God the Father and God the Son. His ministry is to testify of Jesus – never Himself.
Each of these factors has lead to a general neglect of the subject.
This question is from my forthcoming book “The Identity Of The Holy Spirit”