The church has what you could call an elephant in the room, and unfortunately that elephant is one of the three persons of the Godhead. We simply don’t talk about the Holy Spirit a fraction as often as we ought to. I remember looking for resources that discussed the Holy Spirit’s role in the Trinity as I was preparing a sermon series a couple of years ago and it was quite the challenge. One Trinity-focused audio lesson I pulled up didn’t even mention the Spirit. But He’s just as much God as the Father and the Son, and yet we spend nearly all of our time as Christians teaching, preaching, writing, and discussing those two. (And they deserve a great deal of our attention, of course.)
On the other hand, though, you can’t go very far in the Bible without seeing the Holy Spirit at work. I think we believe in the Holy Spirit more than we sometimes indicate. We just call His work “providence” or refer to our “conscience” in areas where the Bible gives the Spirit the credit. But He deserves that credit, and we have to stop trying to get out of discussing Him.
Of course, it’s no mystery why the topic of the Holy Spirit is avoided to the degree that it is. There’s always that pendulum effect that we have to watch out for wherever false doctrines arise. We can be so worried about succumbing to false teachings that we go just as far off the path in the opposite direction. With all of the charismatic beliefs about the Holy Spirit that are present in some denominations today, we are understandably cautious to avoid those teachings. But to go to the point where we rarely discuss the Spirit and diminish His role to virtually nothing is not the proper response. Consider a few things the Scriptures tell us about the Holy Spirit:

  • We as the church are the “temple” of the Holy Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 6:19.
  • The Holy Spirit is the seal and pledge given to us by the Father to assure our salvation (Ephesians 1:14-15).
  • The Holy Spirit helps us in our battle to put sin to death (Romans 8, specifically verse 13) and is what sets us apart as sons of God (8:14).
  • The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

There’s nothing wrong with saying that the Holy Spirit is an integral part of our salvation and daily walk. This isn’t to say that we receive special messages, or perform miracles, or that we’ll hear God talking to us. It is to say, however, that the Spirit is an active worker in conforming us to the image of Christ and bringing us toward heaven. God the Father sent God the Son into the world to suffer and die to purchase our salvation, and God the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world to strengthen and assure His disciples (including us). We need to ground ourselves and our fellow Christians in the knowledge that we are being shaped by God’s Spirit. The implications of avoiding the topic are greatly damaging.
Here’s why it matters that we emphasize the work of the Spirit: when we diminish the work of the Spirit, we exalt ourselves. 
If we avoid talking about the Holy Spirit – or worse; talk about Him in a way that eliminates His current work altogether – we’re pointing ourselves and our fellow Christians down one of two paths. Either we live with constant doubt or an unhealthy, self-reliant pride. Either way we’re exalting ourselves by leaving the entire issue up to our own strength.
Without the Spirit we can either have no confidence of our salvation, because it is dependent solely on our trying hard and we aren’t ever convinced that we’ve tried hard enough, OR we are fully assured of our salvation because like the rich young ruler we’ve kept all the right commands. On the other hand, when we allow for the work of the Spirit in our lives and remember that He is the seal and pledge of our salvation, we can be 100% assured of our salvation (as 1 John 5:13 promises).
To give a couple of practical examples of the pride vs. uncertainty issue:
If we downplay the Holy Spirit or say that we don’t have Him in our lives, we say that the early church had an unfair advantage over us. If they had God living within them helping them fight sin (as Romans 8 describes) and we’re left to do it on our own, they had a divine kind of help that we don’t. And, conversely, if we think we can accomplish through our own works what they accomplished while having God Himself within them, we may have a bit of a pride problem.
Or, if the Fruit of the Spirit is just the result of me trying my hardest to obey, what (externally) separates the child of God from the non-believer who decides to try to add those characteristics? We’re saying they could be just as righteous if they really put their minds to it. But if we see fruit as what fruit is and always has been, the natural external growth that shows what lies within, the burden is taken off of us. It is God who does the sanctifies (sets apart, makes holy) through the work of the Spirit (1 Peter 1:2). We are simply called to sow to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8). This way the credit for our growth goes to God alone, which is exactly how it should be.
I encourage you to do a study of the Holy Spirit. You may be shocked by just how big of a role the Spirit plays as that third, under-appreciated member of the Godhead. But you’ll also see just how much assurance He brings to our lives. We don’t have to have that tightrope walk feeling about our salvation that so many do. We only have to focus on sowing to the Spirit through activities like study, prayer, fellowship, and worship and He’ll sanctify us from within and seal us for our heavenly homes.
For all of these reasons, I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit. And I’m not going to stop talking about the work He’s doing in my life.
By Jack Wilkie