Sometime ago I was invited to a joint Sunday evening worship service of several area churches. In the first few songs, we were encouraged to sing phrases that indicated the Holy Spirit wasn’t present. The Third Person of the Triune God was assured He would be welcome. He was told to come and be a fire among us. He was also told to rain on us and flood us. For twenty minutes our ‘worship’ consisted of repeatedly begging for a deity to come and be present. For the record, I never saw fire nor rain that night.
That evening stuck with me for several reasons – some of which are mentioned below. Recently I saw some comments online about the practice of begging for the Holy Spirit’s presence. They were made by Pastor Anthony Wood of Mission Bible Church in Tustin, CA. His points prompted me to write the following and I’ve included some of Pastor Wood’s points and added my own.
- The Holy Spirit comes to indwell believers at the time of their conversion (1 Cor. 6:19-20). He’s already with us
- The Holy Spirit permanently indwells every individual believer (Jn. 14:17; I Cor. 6:19). He’s not going to leave us
- The local church body (not the building) is the temple of God in which the Spirit of God already dwells (I Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:19-22)
- Every believer is already baptized in the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). While we learn and grow in our understanding of what that entails, He is fully present and enables us to live our new life in Christ from the moment of conversion
- The individual believer as well as Christ’s local church have been given everything they need in the knowledge of Christ revealed in the Scriptures for eternal salvation and temporal sanctification (II Peter 1:3-11; II Timothy 3:1-4:5; Hebrews 1:1-4; Eph. 4:11-16)
- To beg the Holy Spirit to come suggests those leading the service don’t consider Him present in some manner. It suggests either He is not actually present, or He is not doing something or making His presence known according to their perception of what it would look like if He were present. Which assumes those leading the congregation to beg for the Spirit’s presence would also be the ones determining if He arrived or not, and how exactly He showed up if indeed He did. I say this gently but firmly: Leading others in this way is dangerously manipulative and reveals either an ignorance of the Scriptures or an ignoring of God’s Word; either way they should not be leading (Titus 1:9; II Tim. 2:14-16)
- To beg Him to come implies Christ isn’t presently providing what His people need. Never mind that the Lord is our shepherd and we have everything we need; that He’s the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep to whom He gives eternal life and they will never perish (Psalm 23, John 10). Teaching people to beg for the coming of the Spirit contradicts what Christ promised His disciples the Helper would do — teach and provide all things necessary for their ministry and the care of Christ’s own (John 14:26; 17:20). The New Testament writers repeatedly warn of those who would add to the Apostles’ Christ-ordained, Christ-honoring message and instruction that would be sufficient until His return. The apostles go so far as to damn those who would teach or practice anything additional to what is provided in Christ and knowable through their word (Gal. 1:6-10; 5:2-4; Col. 2:8-19; Heb. 2:1-4; II Peter 1:16-22; II John, Jude; Rev. 22:18,19). Intended or not, begging for the Spirit’s presence suggests a deficiency in our God. Repetitively begging Him to show up is far more akin to the prophets of Baal than saints living according to the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints (Jude 3)
- The Spirit’s presence is seen in an orderly service, faithful and accurate preaching and teaching of the Scriptures, and edifying music that exalt the finished work of Christ, His present place of authority and righteous return (I Cor. 14:26-38; Eph. 4:11-16, 5:15-21; Col. 1:15-29; II Tim 4:1-4; John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13,14)
Conclusion: It is true we can grieve the Holy Spirit through unwholesome words coming from our lips (Eph. 4:25-32). We can also suppress the authority and help of the Spirit by ignoring or treating with contempt what has been authoritatively revealed (I Thess. 5:18, 19). Today that would be the rejection of the right proclamation of the Scriptures. In both the grieving and ignoring, the right response is repentance. But neither grieving or quenching the Spirit cause His departure from us and we must get Him back. Begging His return is unnecessary (if not offensive). Rather it is our returning — in obedience to what He has revealed in Scripture and the Christ-honoring knowledge of His presence in our lives and local church.
Sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13),
Pastor Tedd Mathis
Pueblo West Baptist Church