Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament
Christopher J. H. Wright. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006. 159 pages.
Readers familiar with John Stott and who know that Christopher J. H. Wright is director of John Stott Ministries will expect good things from this book. Wright approaches his task with a Ph. D. from Cambridge University.
Over the years Wright has repeatedly turned his attention to the Old Testament. His Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (2004) is his previous work on an Old Testament theme. His Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (1992), established the pattern for the book under review here.
In a series of five chapters, Wright sketches and explores what we might wish to call the Bible’s “grand narrative” about the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, the first chapter deals with the Holy Spirit in relation to creation. Wright makes some excellent points in this context about environmental stewardship. He calls on us to “recognize that willful or careless destruction of any part of the good earth God has given us grieves the Holy Spirit who is its Creator and sustainer” (26). We ought to be hearing more of this kind of theology from our pulpits.
The second chapter indicates some ways in which this same Spirit empowers human beings. While I hoped for more than a cursory treatment of the Spirit in the book of Judges, Wright does a good job discussing the empowering Spirit as seen in the life of Moses. He finds in Moses an excellent foundation for sketching what a servant-leader should look like. The third chapter examines the work of the Spirit in the ministry of the prophets. The author identifies the compulsion to speak the truth and the courage to stand for justice as the essential marks of Old Testament prophets.
In “The Anointing Spirit” (chapter four), Wright deals with Israel’s kings. The continuing failure of the kings of Israel and Judah led to increasing hopes of a coming anointed one who would be the Anointed One par excellence. Identified at times by the prophets as God’s servant, the Anointed One will accomplish God’s mission to Israel and the world though the power of the Holy Spirit. The final chapter anticipates Pentecost and what Wright, provocatively, calls the democratization of the Spirit (Joel 2). The blessing of Abraham will at last come upon the world as Jesus’ followers are empowered for mission by the Holy Spirit.
Theologians have tended to write about the Holy Spirit in the context of larger works of systematic theology. Wright is to be commended for approaching the subject from the point of view of biblical theology. While intended for pastors, seminary professors, and students, most adult Bible readers should find the book instructive.