How does the modern church often misunderstand the Holy Spirit?

1 Min Read

The chief way the church has stumbled in understanding the Holy Spirit is that it has focused on the gifts of the Spirit and the Spirit as the giver of power. I have quite often said that when I was a teenager, every single minister, teacher, or preacher who stood up to talk about the Holy Spirit started as though he had read the same book as everybody else, saying, “The Holy Spirit is the forgotten person of the Godhead.” The truth, however, is that they focused on the spiritual gifts—speaking in tongues, prophesying, and miracles—and power. But they did not focus on the person of the Holy Spirit.

That misplaced focus might be the biggest distortion of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and the result has been that the biblical focus on the fruit of the Spirit has been minimized and the role of the gifts of the Spirit has been maximized. But when we look at the New Testament, there are only a few places where the special gifts of the Holy Spirit are even mentioned. The dominant focus of the New Testament is on the fruit of the Spirit transforming us into the likeness of the character of Christ. That is really where our focus should lie, though it is a much slower and less dramatic business than speaking in tongues, prophesying, and all the other things that go with it. But we could talk the hind legs off a donkey on this theme, I’m sure.

This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with Sinclair Ferguson and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email or message us on Facebook or Twitter.