What changes us as we read the Bible? Is it Scripture or the Holy Spirit?

Steven Lawson & 2 others
2 Min Read

LAWSON: What changes us is the Holy Spirit working through Scripture.

The Holy Spirit is the Author, and Scripture is the instrument of our sanctification. It’s not an either-or; it’s a both-and. The Spirit is working through the Book that He authored and inspired. R.C. used to say, “A theologian has to make careful distinctions.” You have to slice things very thinly and separate them. The Holy Spirit is the Author of our sanctification, and Scripture is the instrument that the Spirit uses to bring about our sanctification. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The Spirit is using Scripture in our lives.

NICHOLS: Calvin’s favorite title of the Holy Spirit was Magister Veritatis, “the teacher of truth,” and he got that from John 14–17. It’s the Spirit, the Great Teacher, who works through the Word. That is important because charismatics often emphasize the Spirit in an extremely dynamic way apart from the Word. As Reformed people, we must not only emphasize the Word but the Spirit with the Word. That is a very important emphasis, and it’s part of our heritage.

LAWSON: No one will ever be saved apart from the Spirit working through the Word, and no one will ever be sanctified apart from the Spirit working through the Word. Wherever God is at work in the world in a saving and sanctifying way, it is the Spirit of God working through the written Word of God.

PARSONS: I think too many Presbyterian, Reformed, and Reformed Baptist churches have forgotten the Holy Spirit.

LAWSON: He is the forgotten member of the Trinity.

PARSONS: I have sat through worship services where I’ve barely heard, if at all, any mention of the Holy Spirit in the prayer or the sermon.

LAWSON: R.C. used to say, “We’ve become unitarian in our preaching and unitarian in our worship service at times.” We often forget the tri-unity of God.

PARSONS: We should be talking correctly about the Holy Spirit in our churches more than they ever dream of talking about Him in the Pentecostal and charismatic churches. The Holy Spirit should be in our message about the gospel, our prayers, and our singing. One of the reasons I love singing the doxology every Sunday is that we are singing about the Holy Spirit. We also regularly sing the Sanctus at our church.

We are people of the Spirit. As Reformed believers, we understand the role of the Holy Spirit better than most other traditions. We are to be a people that recapture and reclaim the person and work of the Holy Spirit in all aspects of what we believe.

LAWSON: I think it was Thomas Watson who said that the Holy Spirit is like the spectacles that we put on in order to read the Word of God with understanding. Without those spectacles, without the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, Scripture would not be clear to us. The Spirit makes it clear by working through the mind of Christ in us.

This is a transcript of Steven Lawson’s, Stephen Nichols’, and Burk Parsons’ answers given during our A Continuing Reformation: Pittsburgh 2021 Conference and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.