What Holy Ghost?
by Preston Foster
It is clear to me that a major problem within Adventism is our (individual) unfamiliarity with the Holy Spirit. It is not because the Holy Spirit is not yet available to us. It is that, far too often, we systematically resist Him.
As our knowledge, education, exposures, and access to information increase, we demand more empirical proof of everything, including God. Accepting (spiritual) things by faith has become a last, rather than a first resort (1 Corinthians 2:14). Explaining the inexplicable as requiring faith is seen as both an intellectual cop-out and as evidence of a vapid theology.
At least some claimed to have seen Jesus. The thought of being led by an unseen Spirit is, for many, asking too much.
This makes the idea of “walking in the Spirit” very hard to embrace.
It is not only the intellectual progressives who resist the notion of depending on an amorphous Spirit for guidance. Many traditionalists, who define their religion by the law (first), embrace the law as their guide — and as a substitute for being led by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Some substitute the writings of EGW as the “lesser light” that will reveal what the “greater light” (the Bible) is saying to us. The point, mind you, is not to bash Mrs. White. I have no problem with her writings. I have a problem with the way her writings are used and abused by others. The problem is that too many depend, first, on Mrs. White to interpret the Bible, and not on the Holy Spirit — as Christ intended.
So, when we, of either tribe, are admonished to walk in the Spirit, it sounds vague, unpredictable, and unstructured — a good thought that needs an anchor. In some respects, we mirror the disciples of Ephesus, who, when asked of Paul if they had received the Holy Ghost answered, in essence, “What Holy Ghost?” (Acts 19:2).
An active relationship with the Holy Spirit is not a luxury. Being led by the Spirit is how we are to live and discern the will of God (John 16:13). Being led by the Spirit is the way of the new covenant, replacing the law as our guide (Galatians 5:15-18). It is, also, what infuses our influence with power to lead others to Christ (Acts 2:38-41).
Our need to win a debate or our desire to protect “our position” may drown out the voice of the Holy Spirit, whispering to each of us. To receive the Spirit, we must let go of our pride (the strong side of insecurity). That pride may manifest itself in an intellectual resistance to intangible proof, an over-dependence on the law, or in the substitution of a latter-day prophet for the voice of the Spirit. If we are willing to humble ourselves, we can receive power — from the most powerful force in the earth today (Acts 1:8).