Bishop Michael Nazir Ali on the Holy Spirit

Jun 17, 2006 by

At a eucharist this evening held by the American Anglican Council, Anglican Communion Network and Forward in Faith, attended by 200 people including a number of bishops, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali preached on the Holy Spirit in the context of the convention where biblical texts and Christian teaching were being discarded in order to discern what new thing the Holy Spirit is doing.

For example, Dr Peter Toon on Virtueonline, records that Presiding Bishop Griswold on CNN’s Larry King Live used the reported words of Jesus in St John’s Gospel (“When He, the Spirit of Truth is come, he will teach you all things, and guide you into all truth”) to declare that since the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Church at the Feast of Pentecost (immediately following the death and resurrection of Jesus), the Church has been continually receiving new truth from God to the present day.

Everyone accepts, he suggested, that there have been great advancements in human knowledge in such areas as medicine. That is, God has been revealing the truths within nature and the cosmos to human investigators. Likewise he said, the same God of nature, who is the God of salvation, has been revealing to human investigators within the Church truths concerning the identity, character, will and purposes of Deity for humankind.

Who is the Holy Spirit? Bishop Michael Nazir Ali

Acts 2 John 16

By breath of God’s mouth creation comes into existence, He is the creator.

He is the inspirer. By the Spirit, God brings his word to his people from time to time and place to place.

Sanctifier – the one who makes us as God’s people holy.

What does he do, given his people?

He leads God’s people as they journey along on this pilgrimage. It is the church also that should be led by God’s Spirit. This leading is not wild or unpredictable. Not a leading about which we know nothing. The work of the Holy Spirit is firmly grounded in the person and work of Christ himself. The Holy Spirit bears witness to Jesus. He takes the things of Jesus and makes them plain to us, so that we understand in our hearts and our minds the significance of them. Without the work of the Holy Spirit we could not understand the word and the works of Jesus. The Spirit makes things plain to us and glorifies Jesus. The Spirit is doing things again and again in our lives. If the Spirit is not doing these things it is not the Holy Spirit.

Where is the Spirit working? St John gives us some hints about that. It is true that the Holy Spirit cannot be domesticated by Christians. The Spirit is convincing the world of sin, of righteousness and judgement. I prefer the translation convincing because the word that is used is also the word that is used of the relationship of the teacher to the pupil. The old teacher Socrates elicits the truth through question and answer through his pupils. The true meaning of the term education. The Spirit is continually interrogating people’s minds hearts and consciences so that the truth will emerge and become clear.

The truth about sin; all is not right with the world, with you and with me, with our desires, our dispositions, our wants. The Spirit convinces the world that something is deeply wrong. No Christian anthropology can be complete without taking this wrongness into account. The Spirit convinces the world of rightness. This has to do with the restoration of God’s will for us. It brings us back to a personal integrity. This has rich resonances in the older testament. This makes us right in ourselves and right with our neighbours.

The second meaning of the term is related to justice. When we are right with God and ourselves we can be just in relation to God and our neighbours,

Judgement, is what we have done or are or will do to ourselves. If we have not lived according to God’s will for us we will be judged for it. In terms of their lifestyle.

No one could come to repentance and to faith in Christ without the prior work of the spirit in their lives. It is the Holy Spirit who leads us to faith in Christ and makes it possible to have faith at all. In whom is the Spirit working. In all of the people who respond to the Spirit’s work. How do we know the Spirit is working. There are two reliable signs of the Spirit’s work. There is the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience. If we ask about the Spirit’s work we must ask about its fruit.

The gifts of the Spirit supernatural. The Spirit gives freely of his gifts today. The Spirit gives us gifts which may be dramatic and maybe not – of generosity, welcome, hospitality. Fruit and gifts. How is the Spirit building up the church. Who is the Spirit, what does he do, how is he building up the people of God.

Three things to note.

1. Heralds. Helping God’s people to be heralds of the good news. Helping us to bring the good news of Jesus to others. No barriers of language, culture, place, inclination. The breaking down of barriers in the story of the Acts: class, race and gender. Galatians 3 is Paul’s testimony to the work of the Spirit in the breaking down of the barriers. Not just evangelism. Faithfulness to the apostolic preaching that is building up God’s people in every place and every time. Without the apostolic teaching, the church has nothing,
2. Helpers In 1 Corinthians 12, the spirit produces helpers in the church. Without the helps where would the church be. Much recent thinking about the role of the deacon. The deacon is also a herald. The ministry of the deacon is to gather up our service into the worship of the church. Helps is such a helpful word, because it includes all those who minister in the church in so many ways. We have pastoral assistants, take the Holy Communion, visit. Unsung, unseen work.
3. Healers. The work of the Spirit is to take the work of the cross and apply it to healing in our lives. Isaiah 53 links the healing to the suffering and pain. By his stripes we are healed. It is the work of the Spirit that helps us to be wounded healers. By the Spirit’s power we can bring the healing of the cross to the people. Goes on in the pastor’s study, among friends as they minister to one another. We should not ignore the healing work of the sacraments. Baptism is a form of exorcism, driving out the evil of the world from us. As much as from the sacraments the healing that flows from the cross comes to us.

Who is the Spirit, where is he working, in whom, and how building up the Church of God. When people claim something as coming from the Spirit we have to test it by the clear teaching we have received from the Bible and the Church has confessed throughout the ages.

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