What Is the Church Without the Holy Spirit?


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At Together for the Gospel this past week, David Platt shook every soul in the KFC Yum! Center in his sermon entitled, “Relentless Wrath: The Role of Desperate Prayer in the Mystery of Divine Providence.” It was a chilling message that stirred every heart to conviction over the degree of prayer in their lives, churches, and ministries. The point Platt drove home convincingly from Exodus 32 was this: “Right doctrine of providence results in relentless prayer. Platt emphasized the truth that God’s eternal plan unfolds through our prayers, so in a real sense, the prayers of the saints can change the world. I was personally broken under the conviction of God on my own prayer life.

I gladly affirm God’s providence over all things, but this is not evident in the way I pray and how often I pray. I am so guilty of emphasizing God’s sovereignty in my writing, preaching, and teaching, but I do not practice what I proclaim. My lack of prayer has demonstrated not only a deficient love for people, but a poor understanding of God’s absolute sovereignty. Some would say that because I hold to such a high view of God’s sovereignty, it only makes sense that I would not pray, since desperate prayer cannot coincide with divine sovereignty. This would be correct if Scripture did not so overwhelmingly disagree with that notion. Prime example: Moses’ prayer in Exodus 32. Moses greatly realized the sovereignty of God and it was the basis of his desperate prayers for God’s mercy on and presence among his people. My prayers have already since become much more desperate and relentless. I pray that they would continue.

In the course of his sermon, Platt challenged every pastor in attendance by asserting that many churches could carry on business as usual without the Holy Spirit. This was an alarming claim. But a true claim, nonetheless. So many of our ministries depend solely on us. When that is the case, we have a real problem. When the ministries of the church, from feeding souls to feeding mouths, become dependent on human agents outside of the power of the Holy Spirit, the church becomes a simple gathering place of self-glorifying sinners. This is usually the result of churches and ministries that are not soaking in the Scripture and supplication. Dependency on the Spirit is realized when their is saturation in the Word and prayer. Oh, and when the church captures this glimpse and vision of dependence on the Spirit of God to empower all ministries and save whom the Father wills, the gathering becomes that of men and women sold out to Christ and his cause for the glory of God in peoples from every tribe and nation. May all of our ministries be products of the work of the Spirit in us. Without the Spirit, there would be no people of God. Without him, salvation is not accomplished, and neither is gospel-centered, God-honoring ministry. For this to be, for the Spirit to be infused in all of our ministries, let us run to our Bibles and fall to our knees in prayer. May we be such a people.

Charles Spurgeon in his work The Greatest Fight in the World: The Final Manifesto writes, “In the pulpit do we really and truly rest upon the aid of the Spirit?” (107). What a challenging question! He further carries this concern for the lack of dependency of ministers and churches on the Holy Spirit in the question, “What is the Church of God without the Holy Ghost?” (109). The short answer is, “nothing.” If you are in the place where you feel your church could continue without the Holy Spirit, I want to point you to what Spurgeon believes the church of God is like without the Spirit. I pray his comparisons lead you to consider just how dependent your church, ministry, and life are on the Holy Spirit:

What is the Church of God without the Holy Ghost? Ask what would the Hermon be without its dew, or Egypt without its Nile? Behold the land of Canaan when the curse of Elias feel upon it, and for three years it felt neither dew nor rain: such would Christendom become without the Spirit. What the valleys would be without their brooks, or the cities without their wells; what the corn-fields would be without the sun, or the vintage without the summer–that would our churches be without the Spirit. As well think of day without light, or life without breath, or heaven without God, as of Christian service without the Holy Spirit. Nothing can supply His place if He be absent: the pastures are a desert, the fruitful fields are a wilderness, Sharon languishes, and Carmel is burned with fire (109-110).

I leave you with this prayer from Spurgeon on the matter and I hope you make it yours:

Blessed Spirit of the Lord, forgive us that we have done Thee such despite, by our forgetfulness of Thee, by our proud self-sufficiency, by resisting Thine influences, and quenching Thy fire! Henceforth work in us according to Thine own excellence. Make our hearts tenderly impressible, and then turn us as wax to the seal, and stamp upon us the image of the Son of God (110).

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