Many Christians are confused and uninformed about the Holy Spirit, despite the availability of many works of literature addressing this subject. The implication is, people, do not know the role and essence that He plays in the redemption of humankind. The bible indicates that when Jesus was about to be crucified, he comforted the disciples by saying he must ascend back to the father so that they can receive a helper, comforter, and reminder of everything. To date, some followers of Christ have not accepted this gift due to ignorance. Evangelist Billy Graham provides insights from the bible that illuminate the identity, functions, and powers of Trinity’s Third Person. The objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review of Graham’s book The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s power in your life, and after that, a brief analysis.
The author starts by providing an analogy of a boy who admits to having known electricity the previous night but cannot remember. Most believers are like the lad in regards to the knowledge of the Holy Ghost. They understand that He makes up the trinity, but he cannot explain him. Graham (2011) refers to the gospel of John 14, 15, and 16, where the pronoun “He” is used in connection to the Holy Spirit, denoting that he is a person. Some of his attributes with this respect include speaking, interceding, leading, commanding, and appointing.
In addition, the scriptures also state that some people can insult, blaspheme, and grieve him. The bible also indicates that the Holy Spirit is God and his divine nature, such as being eternal, all-powerful, omnipresent, and creator of the universe. The mystery rests in the biblical fact that the Elohim is a plural word that can be understood in light of the trinity. Thus, the teachings connotate the Holy Spirit as one of the three persons in the Godhead.
The next section intends to describe how the Holy Spirit comes. Graham (2011) states that in the old testament, the Holy Ghost is compared to the wind, which is so powerful in its works, yet invisible and intangible. His first work is recorded in Genesis 1, where the Spirit of God was hovering on water. Throughout the creation, he was actively involved in forming man and the entire universe, as recorded in Psalms 140 (Graham, 2011). Among the priests, judges, and kings of the old testament, he remained a deliverer and provider who also inspired the prophecy about the coming of Christ. The four gospels portray how God the son was born after the Holy Ghost came upon the virgin Mary. After his birth, Jesus grew and performed miraculous signs and wonders until the point of death and resurrection. Such works in his ministry were possible by the power of the Spirit of God.
After the ascension of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured on the disciples during the Day of Pentecost. The book of Acts records how these followers demonstrated power, which drew many people to be converted to Christianity. In the world today, the Holy Ghost continues to work by convincing them of sin, judgment, and righteousness. In the church, he unifies the body of Christ, lives in it, and provides fruit and gifts to the saints. The Holy Spirit also works in the lives of believers to enable them to remain faithful. Thus, in the Old Testament, he was upon people; in the gospels, he was with them; and now he works in people.
The discussion focuses on the role of the Holy Spirit in the bible. Apostle Paul wrote an epistle to Timothy, declaring that all scripture is from God because, as stated by Graham (2011), it was inspired by the Holy Ghost. Each book in the bible intended to address humanity within a defined context in the past or distant future. Some authors also gave prophecies that continue to be fulfilled. It is God that breathed into every scripture, implying that he spoke life into it.
Furthermore, the bible is an authoritative book as it was illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Notably, the word is always in unity with God’s Spirit and must be the focus of every effective preaching. In the contemporary world, the Holy Ghost continues to sustain people through the scriptures, as was the case for Hanoi Hilton (Graham, 2011). The bible was thus inspired and illuminated by the Spirit, who is in unity with the word for the benefit of humankind.
The salvation of man is only possible by the Grace of the Holy Spirit, who causes regeneration so that a sinner becomes born again. Importantly, the conviction of the fallen state of man occurs by a measure of the Holy Ghost inviting people to repentance and separation. After a person has accepted the call, the Holy Spirit renews them to become a new creation, and he also helps establish a strong relationship with God. Amidst temptations, falling into sin, and depression due to failure, the Christians receive the assurance of the Holy Spirit. The steps to be born-again include an admission of sin, acknowledgment of God’s love, repentance, and acceptance of the gift of salvation by faith.
Starting with a brief narrative, Graham concludes that the baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ, which was initiated in Pentecost, takes place at the point of conversion. The subject remains contentious among believers. However, from the calvary through the Pentecost to living a regenerated life, it is apparent that being born again is true at different levels. Concerning the past, all Christians are justified, presently they are being sanctified, and in the future, they will be glorified. In addition, all followers of Jesus Christ concede that their ultimate goal is to live a holy life. However, there are differences concerning speaking tongues, consecutive Spirit baptism, and infilling.
The other events that occur, through the enablement of the Holy Spirit, after salvation are described in this section. First, Christians receive a seal, which is a confirmation that they are now born again, as was the case for Jesus in John 6:27, and assurance for believers in Ephesians 1:13 (Graham, 2011). This is a necessary step as it connotes security and ownership by God. The Holy Spirit is also given as a pledge, which denotes that the relationship with God is established. There is a covenant with an obligation to live righteously and an assurance of the final inheritance. The Third Person of the Trinity is a witness for the sufficiency of the blood of Jesus as attornment for sin, Christians as children of God by faith, and witness of all that is promised in the bible.
After conversion, a Christian will always have an inner struggle between fleshly desires and the demands for righteousness. If a person feeds their Spirit nature, then they will always overcome the temptation; but if they nurture carnal desires, they will diminish. The old man is always waging war against the new person, but Christians have victory in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. After salvation, an individual is continually set apart in what the bible refers to as the sanctification of the saint. Although the person continues to battle with their flesh, which is characterized by self-centeredness and being gullible to the deception of Satan. The works of the flesh include immorality, impurity, sensuality, hatred, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, an outburst of anger, dissensions, disputes, drunkenness, envy, factions, and carousing.
God’s desire for every Christian is that they be filled and guided by the Holy Spirit at all times, failure to which they miss some supply for their life. There are two almost similar but distinct terminologies used to this effect. Full of the Holy Spirit means a continuous state of an adequate supply of his enablement while being filled is occasion infilling to accomplish the task at hand. The power of the Holy Spirit enables saints to live a life that glorifies God by loving, trusting, and obeying him. He also gives the wisdom and good reputation needed for practical and spiritual service. Thus, for a Christian, the filling of the Holy Spirit is a necessity, not an option.
Knowing that all Christians must be filled with the Holy Spirit to successfully please God, then the next concern is how this occurs. Graham (2011) provides three primary processes, including understanding, submitting, and walking by faith. Believers must know that God has availed His Spirit to be accepted by faith and that he commands the infilling to deal with the presence of sin. God intends that the lives of saints should be controlled by him. Hence submission to the will of God is necessary following confession and repentance. In some cases, the Holy Spirit tries the Christian to establish if they yield entirely to him. The individual must always remember that the filling of the Spirit of God is not a feeling but faith that occurs continually.
The author describes some of the actions and thoughts that are considered a sin against the Holy Spirit. The worst of all is blaspheming him, and for this iniquity, there is no forgiveness. Graham makes a strong point that what is described as the unpardonable sin in the bible occurs only in unbelievers who resist the Spirit of God to death. Christians can also sin against the Holy Ghost by grieving or quenching him when they disobey, even if it is only a single command. Those who have been sealed into the body of Christ can never lose the Holy Spirit, although He may remain silent if there is unrepented sin.
Gifts of the Spirit are discussed exhaustively, focusing on the similarities and uniqueness, the relevance to the body of Christ, origin, talents, recognizing one’s gifts, and the five-fold. All Christians have at least one spiritual gift, which is given to them by the Holy Spirit. There are about twenty gifts mentioned in the scriptures, which are distributed to people. In addition, God has also given humans natural talents such as handcrafting and music. The book of Ephesians 4:12 states that these gifts are necessary for equipping the saints in services that build up the body of Christ.
Many people wonder how they can know their area of gifting, so the author makes some suggestions. People should understand that God has accorded them at least one gift. Through prayers, reflection, biblical intelligence, and knowledge of individual abilities, a person can identify talent. It is important to accept, remain grateful, and humble after realizing what God is in one’s life. This chapter ends by describing the five-fold gifts, which include apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers who are leaders of the church.
More about the gifts such as faith, wisdom, helps, governing and administrations, knowledge, and discernment of the Spirit are discussed. In life, there are often challenges that confront people and have no human answers. In his mercies, God uses people gifted in specific areas to provide solutions. Like in the parable of the talents, one day, every person will be asked to give an account of the skills that they were given. Those who were faithful will be congratulated and awarded, while the rest will face judgment.
The central focus is on the sign gifts, which are apparent and include miracles, healing, and tongues. Regarding the gift of healing, there are many famous ministers such as Kathlyn Kuhlmann who were used to restore health to those with infirmities. The author’s position is that the bible does not promise physical healing; hence people should prayerfully determine whether to see a physician, seek gifted men, or believe God for their restoration. In addition, some infirmities, like that of Apostle Paul, are not intended to be cured but to demonstrate the power of God.
Miracles are demonstrations of supernatural powers, as was the case for Elijah on Mt. Camel, where fire fell from heaven and consumed everything. Even in the New testaments, several apostles and even Jesus performed wonders, but there are equally great men whose works were not followed by signs. Satan also can do extraordinary things; hence people must always be cautious. Last in this category is speaking in tongues. There are many illustrations of people speaking in unknown languages from the time of Pentecost to the contemporary church. What Christians must understand is that these gifts were not meant to divide rather unite the body of Christ.
One of the core roles of the Holy Spirit is to impact the lives of Christians, the character of Jesus evident through the fruit of the Spirit. God expects that all believers will manifest this fruit in its fulness. For the fruit to grow, it requires meditating on the word of God, according to Psalms 1, abiding in Christ in John 15. Hearing from God cleanses and corrects so that a concrete relationship with Jesu is established.
The biblical passage that best captures the character of Jesus Christ is Galatian 5:22-23. The first focus of Graham (2011) in this part is love, peace, and Joy. Agape is the most distinctive mark of Christianity, which was first demonstrated by Jesus on the cross and is now the evidence for all who follow him. The epistle of 1 Corinthians 13 explains what it means to love and its greatness over other acts. Peace is a fruit that connotes unity, “completeness, rest, ease, and security” (Graham, 2011, p. 240). Joy comes from God and is ever-present to lighten the heart even in adversity; thus, can be contrasted with happiness, which is elusive.
The second cluster of the fruit includes kindness, patience, and goodness concerns how Christians relate with others. Longsuffering is the nature of a person to remain steadfast under provocation so that they do not depict resentment, irritability, or vengeance. Patience is portrayed more in trials and testing as the person will draw more to God for strength to endure and overcome. Gentleness is an enduring love that is not harsh, even when dealing with people who have failed. Goodness emanates out of the purity of heart that drives a person to be like God in action and character. It is righteousness which Graham (2011) describes as “love in action.” (p. 255). Goodness cannot stand alone but is manifest in a person that is patient and kind.
This cluster deals with the inward manner since, in Christianity, the order of priorities should be God, others, and then self. Faithfulness refers to fidelity in both few and many things, which is manifest in spiritually mature people. Gentleness or meekness connotes having a mild attitude towards others. It is a quiet strength as opposed to the presumption of lack of strength and is, thus, achieved when a person looks up to God. For all the nine fruits to grow, there must be displacement of human effort by replacing them with God.
The last part of this pressure book addresses the need of the hour, which is spiritual revival. Awakening is not something that can be postponed; hence Christians must decide at the moment. Upon revival, the vision of the majesty of God. Next, people will realize the filthiness of sin and emphasize repentance, faith, and new birth in Christ Jesus. People will then have the joy of salvation and realize their role in the redemption of sinners. The Christians will have an intense social concern, evidence of the Spirit’s fruit and gifts by depending on the Holy Spirit. Three steps should be followed in awakening, including admission of spiritual poverty, the renewal and acceptance, and thirdly renewed commitment to pursue God’s will.
Analysis and Reflection
Graham provides comprehensive information about the Holy Spirit, starting with his identity as God and man, his functions, gifts, fruit, and the urgent need for people to accept the Holy Spirit and submit to His will. The book is backed by scriptural revelation, which makes it have spiritual objectivity. The other interesting thing is that the author has used real-life situations and stories when establishing a theme. For example, using the analogy of the white and black dogs; and how the one who is fed always win, helps understand struggles between the flesh and Spirit. The other good thing is the organization of the book in chapters and sub-topics, which make studying easy.
There are, however, a few themes that are either not clear or are contentious among believers. Graham’s stance is that the Holy Spirit cannot depart from a person after salvation. However, this can be disputed because the Psalmist asked that God should not take away the Spirit from him. His perspective also affirms the doctrine that once a person is saved, they are forever saved even if they die in an unrepentant state. The other concern is on the gift of healing, where the book says that the bible does not promise physical but only Spiritual healing. This notion can be disputed since God’s will is that Christians will have good health.
Graham, B. (2011). The Holy Spirit: Activating God’s power in your life. Thomas Nelson.