Some books are a chore to read – because of content and/or style and/or the author’s competence as an author. Some books are a joy to read – the content is excellent, the style is engaging and the book is well written and organized. This book is such a book – joy unspeakable! Yet about this book, I will speak.
I received this book from a friend who manages a library at a Christian Seminary and wanted someone to read and review it. He got first peek at the review, ya’ll get it as a close “second”.
The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology
edited by Joel Beeke and Derek Thomas
One area many reformed theologians tend to ignore is the person and work of the Holy Spirit. There is a legitimate concern by most preachers about exalting the Lord Jesus and being faithful to His gospel, but no preaching or evangelism or Bible study would be worthwhile if the Spirit of the living God did not faithfully attend each of these. This book – a compilation of articles on various works of the Holy Spirit, written by 9 Baptists and 9 Paedobaptists – is a wonderful examination of the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It was written in tribute to the work He has done in the life Geoff Thomas, a faithful gospel minister who has served half a century in the local church our Lord called him to. I have personally benefited greatly from Geoff Thomas’ commentary on Daniel and was most eager to read this book.
The Holy Spirit and Reformed Theology is divided into four sections – Geoff Thomas: Faithful Instrument of the Spirit in part I; Salvation and the Spirit of Christ in part II; Growth and the Spirit of Holiness in part III; and Ministry and the Spirit of Counsel and Might in part IV. As you can see from the section titles, the authors recognize and highlight myriad functions and characteristics of the Holy Spirit. The reader will come away from this book with a heightened sense of the power and majesty of the third person of the Holy Trinity.
I will highlight one chapter to give you a taste of the quality and penetrating theology the authors provide. Fred Malone’s chapter, #6, is titled The Holy Spirit and Human Responsibility – a topic I think many Christians fail to properly comprehend. Malone opens with an observation from Geoff Thomas’ book, The Holy Spirit: Man is fully responsible for his behavior and God is fully sovereign in His work to conform man to the image of His dear Son. In stark contrast to the “higher life” movements which advocate a theology of “let go and let God” and the self-improvement psychology, a biblical view of sanctification acknowledges the tension Thomas proclaimed.
Infamously promoted by the Roman Catholic Church is the conflation of justification and sanctification, leading to confusion about both doctrines. Justification is completely monergistic – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Sanctification involves man’s effort, so it is not the monergistic work of God alone – yet neither is it rightly called synergistic. This term conveys a process which depends on both elements – in the case of sanctification those are God and man. The truth of biblical sanctification is this: man cannot sanctify himself apart from the indwelling work and power of the Spirit of God; but the Holy Spirit can and does sanctify man without the man’s cooperation, though this should not be our aim. Our responsibility before God is to work with the Holy Spirit, not grieve Him.
In outlining this concept, Malone tells us, “Man does not regenerate himself; God does not repent and believe for man.” Sinners are made able and willing to repent and believe by the Spirit’s work of regeneration. Our nature is changed and we then “choose Christ” – because He first chose us. Our author points to Philippians 2:12-13, saying it “presents the earthly pursuit of Christlikeness as one hundred percent a sovereign work of God the Holy Spirit who works with us and also one hundred percent the work of man with his new God-given ability. If this two hundred percent sum sounds illogical, then we must bow to God’s Word, not man’s logic.” Let all the saints say, Amen!
Malone gives the reader a couple of wonderful paragraphs on the individual’s role in sanctification, with many Scripture passages (pages 76 and 77) and follows up with a short warning: “We cannot blame God for our lack of conformity to Christ.” He explains, “Every step we take forward in Christlikeness brings one hundred percent glory to God alone. However, if we are lacking in that conformity, we must take one hundred percent of the responsibility for that failure and press on by faith.” If this exhortation does not convict as it encourages us to trust all the more in the Lord, then “let a man examine himself to see if he be in the faith.”
This chapter ends by proclaiming the critical nature God’s Word plays in the justification and sanctification of God’s saints. As is pointed out elsewhere in this book, the Holy Spirit inspired the Scripture, equipped the men who put the Word into print, accompanies the reading and preaching of the Word to do His unique work in each predestined child who awaits (unknowingly) his redemption. “So Christians must give full attention to learning the Word of God to grow thereby (1 Peter 2:1-2).” Christian, do you value the Word of God? By this, I ask, do you read it with a humble heart seeking to meet with your maker and judge and Savior? I leave you with one more quote from Malone – “to the degree we live believing the indicatives of grace revealed in the Word – the love of God for us in Christ’s salvation, the unfailing faithfulness of God to His promises to work in us – so we grow in obeying the imperatives of the Word unto further sanctification and Christlikeness.”
Dear reader, the Holy Spirit is God and He works in and through His Word, to raise spiritually dead men to new life, to give them a new nature that loves rather than hates God, to cause us to want what is good and hate what is evil. This book provides a most valuable look at the depth and breadth of His work, highlighting what He does mostly in secret because His role is to bring honor and glory to the Father and the Son. Praise Him!