What does the Holy Spirit do?

I am an avid reader of the Pyromaniacs blog, it’s filled with carefully thought through and Biblically sound writing about a plethora of different issues. I find myself almost always in full agreement with them, except on the issue of the Holy Spirit.

The writers are firmly grounded cessationists, and one of their favourite topics of conversation is what is so terribly wrong with the charismatic movements. Now, I actually still find most of their writing on this topic completely sensible and reasonable, because most of the time they are tearing down the hopeless mess that is prosperity gospel and “signs and wonders” movements in the US. Thankfully not something that is a huge thing here in the UK, because on the whole that stuff is a mess of epic proportions.

A post has gone up today on the issue again and Frank has written up a very helpful list of affirmations of the work of the Spirit, along with his perspective on what the Spirit does not do. These are well worth pondering… (full post here: An Interview with Frank Turk)

I affirm that Reformation theology requires the personal action of God the Holy Spirit for the life of the Church.

I deny that this work necessarily includes speaking in tongues (as in Acts 2 as well as in so-called “private prayer languages”), healing the sick or raising the dead by explicit command, prophecy in the sense that Isaiah and John the Baptist were prophets, or any other “sign-and-wonder”-like exhibition. That is: I deny that these actions are necessary for the post-apostolic church to function as God intended.


I affirm that miracles happen today. No sense in prayer and believing in a sovereign God if he’s not going to ever be sovereign, right?

I deny that there is any man alive today who is gifted to perform miracles as Christ and the Apostles where gifted to perform miracles.


I affirm that God is utterly capable of, and completely willing, to demonstrate “signs and wonders” at any time, in any place, according to his good pleasure and for his great purpose.

I deny that this activity is common, normative, necessary, nor is it in the best interest of God’s people to been seen as common, normative and/or necessary. God in fact warns us against seeking signs rather than the thing signified repeatedly in the OT and NT.

I affirm the real presence of the Holy Spirit in the church of Jesus Christ as Jesus said He would be present in John 13-15.

I deny that this means that all believers or even all local churches will be equipped with apostles called and equipped as the 12 and Paul were called and equipped. A telling example is the role of apostles in delivering Scripture to the church.


I affirm that the normative working of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church begins with conviction of sin and regeneration, and continues through sanctification, and through the outworking of personal gifts (e.g. – Gal 5:22-23, 1 Cor 13:4-7) for the edification of the (local) church.

I deny that explicitly-supernatural outworkings, or events the Bible calls “signs and wonders” (e.g. – Acts 2:1-11, Acts 3:3-7, Acts 5:1-11, Acts 9:32-35, etc.) are either normative or necessary for the on-going life of the church.


I affirm the uniqueness of the office of apostle in the founding of the church.

I deny the necessity of apostles for the on-going life of the church.


I affirm that leadership in the church is a task wholly-empowered by the Holy Spirit to men meeting the scriptural qualifications, and that the objectives of this leadership are wholly-defined by the Holy Spirit explicitly through Scripture and implicitly as the gifts of leaders are applied to a real people in a local church.

I deny that church leadership is like business leadership — that is, a system of techniques that have outcomes measurable by secular metrics of success — and further deny that merely-competent management processes yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit

If in that you can find me somehow relegating the Holy Spirit to something other than what the Bible says He does to us and through us and for us, then you can lay on with the side-eye regarding whether or not I think God the Spirit is necessary for the church.

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