Leon Morris and the Holy Spirit

It is not uncommon for great books to fall out of print. After all, who could possibly keep absolutely everything in print that deserves to be read? This is simply an unfortunate reality. Despite this, from time to time, I have the opportunity to look through second-hand book shops or get given some solid books, many of which have been forgotten. One such book that I have received over the years is Spirit of the Living God by Leon Morris.

Morris was a renowned scholar in his day and, despite many of his works being out of print today, continues to be a useful and blessed source of information for researchers today. Taking his typical deep yet straightforward style, Morris wrote a short book on the Holy Spirit that is simply amazing.

There is certainly no lack of great books on the Holy Spirit on the market today (including; Sinclair Ferguson, Charles Ryrie, and Geoffry Thomas), but Morris’ mostly forgotten work is also a contender amongst the greatest. His smooth and straightforward writing makes profound statements that leave the reader wondering about Morris’ great argumentative methods. Two things are of special importance in Morris’ book, which we will examine in this article: Pentecost and the Holy Spirit’s role.

Morris and The Holy Spirit at Pentecost
In a day where Pentecostal second blessing and generally bad teaching on the Holy Spirit is ripping through the Church, it is great to see a well-informed scholar write against this bad teaching. Reformed teachers know that Pentecost was a one-time event. There is no repeating this event. Despite this, we can still hear people praying for a second Pentecost or asking for the Spirit to “fall anew.” We must question if this is biblical. Morris says that it is not:

“Pentecost represents God’s decisive gift. Sometimes people sigh for or pray for ‘another Pentecost.’ They might as well pray for ‘another crucifixion.’ Each represents a divine action which brooks no repetition. At Pentecost God gave the Spirit to the Church in full measure. The gift has never been withdrawn.”[i]

Reading through the Scriptures will show that all Morris states here are true. The Spirit acts as a seal on the believer at regeneration (Eph. 1:13). This means that once we have the Spirit, we cannot lose His indwelling grace (Phil. 1:6). Through the book of Acts, there appears to be various manifestations of the Holy Spirit coming like on the day of Pentecost, but these are not to be treated as normative. First of all, those who heard the Gospel from Peter did not have the same experience as the Apostles on Pentecost. Secondly, the other groups which had a manifest experience of the Holy Spirit were in specific contexts. Visible evidence needed to be given to affirm that they were also included in the covenant of grace. Today, we know that the covenant of grace is open to all people and nations, so we do not need such manifest proof through a supernatural occurrence. Instead, the Apostle Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is how we analyze ourselves and others to see if they are regenerated (Gal. 6:16-25).

Unfortunately, we do not have many men willing to stand up and show the truth of these matters today. The evangelical Church is thankful for men such as John McArthur and Peter Masters who have been willing to take the heat against this false teaching. But we need more faithful men (and women). We need men to stand up like Leon Morris and lovingly bring correction to those who are caught in such false teaching.

Morris and the Role of the Holy Spirit
An opening understanding of Morris’ view of the role of the Holy Spirit is to know that “The Spirit is commonly used to express the thought of God in action.”[ii] This is a great foundational beginning as it reinforces what Morris taught about Pentecost. The thought of God was to bring “another Comforter/Advocate” (John 14:16) to aid believers through the difficult walk of life. In Creation, we see God, through His Spirit, create the Universe. We see Him guide and lead believers, convict the world of sin, and seal believers for salvation. All of this is the very plan and thought of God, brought into realization through the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was the application of truth to the crucifixion of Christ. The full force brought about that application, unrestrained arrival of the Holy Spirit to bless the whole Church. While the Holy Spirit already regenerated and worked in Old Testament believers, now all could see the power of His work at Pentecost. God’s thought was translated into action, and this was undeniable.

Adding to this, Morris stated: “It is only as the Spirit of God brings life that there can be life.”[iii] You and I only partake in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ by the Holy Spirit’s work in us (John 3:5). Pentecost is meaningless to us unless the Holy Spirit works in us today as well. Without Him, we are lost, misguided, and broken by our fallen flesh. God, however, works in us through His Spirit to help us, lead us, and bring us to our final day when we step out of this life and into glory.

There is no life in false teaching. There is no life aside from where the Holy Spirit gives it biblically. I hope that we can all begin to understand. There is yet more to the biblical truth of the Holy Spirit than we may know. Morris has provided a fantastic treatment on the Holy Spirit to the Church. We may feast on the larger and more in-depth works of John Owen or Thomas Goodwin, but smaller books like Morris’ work are also beneficial to us. In a day that is obsessed with Pentecostalism and lacking a proper systematic understanding of the person and work of the Holy Spirit, it is more essential than ever to revive works such as Morris’.

[i] Morris. L. Spirit of the Living God: The Bible’s Teaching on the Holy Spirit. Inter-Varsity Press. London:
UK. (1972). 55.

[ii] IBID. 19.

[iii] IBID. 20.

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