Study and the Holy Spirit

It is a very foolish thing to attempt to study theology without the help of the Holy Spirit. Theologically, this makes sense because it is only through the Spirit that you may know the Son, even as it is only through the Son that you may know the Father. For how is it that we know that the scriptures are true? Not from facts and figures and undeniable proofs. Such things may be encouraging, but they aren’t enough to really convince. No, it is by the Holy Spirit’s witness to each individual that causes them to be able to say, “I believe.” Just as it is only the Holy Spirit who can open a person’s mind and heart, so that they can witness that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God, and that his sacrifice was sufficient to accomplish all that he intended, it is only the Holy Spirit who can make us to believe, and therefore understand the scriptures. Who is it who is said to search the mind of God and reveal his secrets to us? In what real way may God be known at all, except by means of the Holy Spirit?

But more practically, it is foolish to attempt to study God without the aid of the God who wishes to be studied. What is there to be learned? Dry aphorisms of what God ought to be like, brought to you by the assured logic of our earthly minds? Even with the infallible witness of scripture, which speaks truly of God in all things, what prohibits even the most educated scholar, or even the most acclaimed possessor of religious position, from invariably misunderstanding everything in order to make God out to be a thing fitted to convenience? What is there that is so sufficient in us that, unaided, the creature might hope to understand its creator?

I don’t mean to say that before you sit down to study, you should simply invoke the Holy Spirit, like some mage whispering an incantation. What kind of blasphemy is that? The Spirit of God is a real person, and cannot simply be mentioned and then assumed. But rather, the same witness that he brings when he confirms to each individual the truth of the gospel and the assurance of salvation must be present just as much when we read the Bible, or when we study or think about God. Otherwise, the effort is hopeless, even dangerous. And it is very possible for the revealing work of the Spirit *not* to be there, even for a Christian.

At the other end, I don’t mean that there is some hidden special knowledge about God that can only be acquired by a personal revelation. The truths that God may reveal about himself are reasonable, clear, and plain as day in the face of scripture. Yet we are sinners, and it is the mind as well as the body that is constantly at war with the Spirit. So it’s easy to misunderstand God, because there’s a part of us that wants to.

For some people, this is simply a reminder. For others, it’s a real struggle. They want sin to be in the body only, and their minds to be free and clear to discover all kinds of Truth by themselves. But then, if that were true, we surely would see with our eyes, hear with our ears, and turn and be healed. No: if the Holy Spirit is necessary for that first repentance, how much more is he necessary for every step of repentance afterward? Oh the troubles we endure, just to find one place where we may be free of our need for God!

The good news, oh Theophiloi, is that we are lovers of a God who *wants* to be known. Oh the efforts he has gone through to be known by us! I said above that it would be a silly and blasphemous thing to mindlessly invoke him, and then unfeelingingly assume that he is there. But a heartfelt request for his presence he will never deny, for he delights in us. Be asking, be seeking, be knocking, for surely he will give his Holy Spirit. Only, really ask, really seek, really knock, for he knows the thoughts and intents of the heart. Anticipate with expectation the real presence of the one who wishes greatly to lead you into all truth.

Then: by all means, study.

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