What is the Purpose of the Book?
The Holy Spirit seems to be almost completely ignored or perhaps the center of all worship for some Christians and churches. In Christopher Wright’s book “Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament” he not only helps readers better understand the Holy Spirit, but he does it mainly from looking at the Old Testament.
This book has a similar conviction to his previous book “Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament.” Both books state that the only way we can make sense of Jesus or the Holy Spirit is in light of both the Old and the New Testament. If we want to have a fully biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit, as well as a biblically informed and biblically evaluated experience of the Spirit’s presence and power in our lives, then we need more than just the day of Pentecost and the New Testament.
Thus, the purpose of Wright’s book is to help readers better understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the Old Testament. Or as Wright provocatively puts it, maybe before we pray so glibly for the anointing Spirit for ourselves and others, perhaps it would be good to remind ourselves what the Bible says that will mean (120).
Outline and Summary of the Book
The book is divided into five chapters and each chapter takes a major theme that is connected with the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Each theme is supported by numerous supporting passages primarily from the Old Testament with some New Testament passages sprinkled in to shed more light on the particular topic. Wright does not claim that his treatment is by any means an exhaustive treatment on the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but an attempt to explain some of the important aspects of the Holy Spirit that are taught in the Old Testament.
The first chapter begins where the Bible begins “in the beginning.” The Spirit of God does not first show up in the scriptures in Acts 2 at the day of Pentecost. Instead, we see the Spirit of God hovering over the unformed earth in Genesis 1:2. Wright explains that the Spirit of God was present and active in the work of creation because God is a creator. Consequently, the Spirit of God is a creating Spirit. The Spirit is the one through whom the living God spoke the universe into existence and brought light, order and fullness to the world we now inhabit (19). Additionally, the Spirit of God sustains and renews the creation. He also is the giver of life and breathes life into Adam in Genesis 2. Lastly, the Spirit is eagerly groaning for the new creation as we see taught in Romans 8. Wright argues it is incredibly important for us to understand the Spirit of God as a creator because this is how God has revealed Him in the Old Testament.
The next three chapters focus on the Spirit’s work in people’s lives and ministries. In chapter 2, the Spirit of God is described as the empowering Spirit who empowers his people for a lot of positive things that enrich their lives, give them skills and abilities, others receive competence and power, and leaders receive power and courage. The Spirit can also be unpredictable, sudden and surprising. The Spirit can also be abused by those who run wild and willful, indulging in excess, out of control and the Spirit can be withdrawn from those who persist in disobedience or folly (43).
The next chapter shows how the Spirit reveals God’s word and describes the Spirit as the agent of communication through the prophets to God’s people. Unlike the false prophets who have no authority, the prophets of God have been given a message from God through the Holy Spirit and with boldness and courage they are to proclaim the message as they stand up for truth and justice.
In Chapter 4, Wright begins a long discussion on the importance of the mission of God, the mission of Israel, the mission of Christ, and the mission of the Church. He argues that in order to understand the anointing Spirit then one must understand the mission that the Spirit is sent to carry out. This mission of God is only going to be accomplished by the anointing power of the Spirit of God as He brings justice and compassion to Israel, Christ and the church so that they are a witness to the nations. Included in this mission also is the reality of embracing the way of the cross and suffering just as Christ took on the anointed Spirit and by his wounds we are healed.
The final chapter describes the prophetic words of Joel and how the Spirit of God is going to be poured out on all people. The coming Spirit will be marked by effects that are universal, cosmic and saving (150). The whole creation will be affected. In Acts 2 we have already begun to see some of the fulfillment of the promise of the coming Spirit, but there is an “already…but not yet” relationship with what we have seen in the coming Spirit. Already now, the Spirit of God has been poured out on everyone who puts their faith in Christ. However, “not yet” has all of the creation been redeemed and restored to its former glory. The coming Spirit has more to come and it will be glorious.