by Dr Christopher Peppler
The Foundational Principle concerning the Holy Spirit is stated in the SATS Conspectus as; ‘The ministry of the Holy Spirit – We believe that we are to trust and obey God the Holy Spirit and that we are to embrace all that the Scriptures reveal of Him and His ministry.’ This then distils into the third clause of the seminary’s by-line, ‘Spirit-led’.
When I first laid out the three Foundational Principles, I referred to the need to be ‘dependant on the Holy Spirit’. Dependence includes trusting, obeying, being led by Him, and embracing His ministry. However, it also, more specifically, includes the idea of being empowered by the Holy Spirit for life and ministry.
To depend on the Holy Spirit is to look to Him to reveal Jesus to us in and through the medium of inspired scripture. It also includes an expectation that He will communicate with us ‘prophetically’, within the bounds of biblical truth. We expect Him to guide and instruct us specifically, when He chooses to do so, where scripture provides only general principle or precedent.
If we truly depend on the Holy Spirit then we will accept our inability, apart from His anointing, and be willing to seek and receive His empowerment.
This empowerment is, firstly, to enable us to live Jesus-manifesting lives in terms of our witness, values, priorities and general life-styles. Galatians chapter 5 describes these attributes as the Fruit of the Spirit. However, the Holy Spirit’s empowerment is also to enable us to minister to others, in the power of the Holy Spirit, in a Jesus-manifesting way. Paul describes these supernatural endowments as Gifts of the Spirit.
Our dependence on The Spirit is not either for daily life or for spiritual ministry, but for both – fruit and Gifts.
Historically, conservative Protestants have tended to major on the Fruit while Pentecostals and Charismatics have majored on the Gifts. Both of these positions display only a partial dependence on the Holy Spirit, while full dependence demands reliance on His empowerment for both life and ministry.
To end where I started, I want to point out that we should not attempt to separate the three parts of the SATS by-line from one another. We need to understand and practice ‘Spirit-led’ within the context of ‘Bible-based’ and ‘Christ-centred’. The Holy Spirit’s work is not prescribed by the Bible, but our understanding and application of His ministry certainly should be. We have a limited ability to comprehend and an inbuilt bias towards self-serving manipulation. Therefore, we need to be prescribed by the scriptural revelation. It is not that we do not trust the Holy Spirit, but rather that we should have a healthy awareness of our own limitations.
Similarly, the Holy Spirit constantly points us to Jesus and a focus on His life and ministry will surely keep us both Bible-based and Spirit-led. The Bible reveals Jesus to us and we encounter and come to know Him primarily in and through the scriptures. Yet, the Holy Spirit illuminates and reveals the Living Word to us through the Written Word.
Bible-based, Christ-centred, and Spirit-led form a concise condensation of the foundational principles on which the seminary and our individual lives stand.