Theology of Joy
3/7/10 at 10:59 PM 0 Comments

The "Missing Link" in Modern Ministry: The Authority of the Holy Spirit

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D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked a poignant question in the 1960s in his short book entitled Authority: "How much do we hear about the Holy Spirit and His authority?"1 His main point in his final chapter is that the authority of Christ and the authority of Scripture, as critical as they are, do not provide a complete development or conception of divine authority in themselves. Without the authority of the Holy Spirit these other authorities cannot be "felt" on a practical level. Lloyd-Jones provides examples in church history--specifically those periods marked by tendencies toward intellectualism or formalism--to illustrate the resulting deficiencies that followed the church's neglect of the Spirit. The final effect is that the church's "authority"--that is, her display of Christ's authority and Scripture's authority in the world--often goes unnoticed in the surrounding culture. Lloyd-Jones sums up his argument with a surprising declaration: "Here, I truly believe, we are dealing with the main source of weakness in modern Evangelicalism."2

My claim is that a "missing link" exists in our contemporary understanding of divine "authority".  That "authority" is actually the Holy Spirit.  I understand if that doesn't make sense to you at first.  Many of us think of the "Holy Spirit" as a loose, invisible, perhaps even "soft" sort of being, certainly not an "authority" in the church.  However, in the following series of articles, I hope to not only convince you that such an authority is very much real and of critical importance, but also that an encounter with such an authority will change your life and thinking forever.

First, we will search Scripture and historical theology in order to develop an biblical model of "the authority of the Holy Spirit."  In doing so, we'll discover that God's authority is expressed in according to amazing pattern within Christianity.  The New Testament presents a radical focusing of this essential pattern on the person and work of Jesus Christ. "Christ is the supreme object of the witness of the Spirit, and Christ is the supreme content of the Scriptures."4 The essential pattern of divine authority in Christianity thus incorporates Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures.

Our model of the Spirit's authority must be developed within the context of this essential pattern.  We will see this pattern emerge as we investigate four stages of historical theology.  In our next article, we will examine four critical debates that forced the church to develop clarity regarding the Spirit's nature and work. These debates include: (1) patristic theology: Athanasius vs. Arius; (2) medieval theology: Augustine vs. John of Damascus; (3) protestant theology: Martin Luther vs. Counter-Reformation pneumatology; and (4) postmodern theology: evangelical vs. communitarian approaches.  As we look at each debate, we will begin to learn what sort of "authority" the Holy Spirit actually has, and what how each of these can begin to shape our lives as well.

(For footnotes and additional material, please visit the full article on our web site:

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