Recently I have had several friends tell me about their visits to other churches (other than the church of their membership, that is). One of the recurring themes and statements has been, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about the Holy Spirit." On its face, that is a very problematic statement.
The purpose of this post is not to get into the specific doctrines regarding the Holy Spirit. Those issues are numerous and include questions like:
1. Do all believers have the Holy Spirit? If so, when does He indwell them? If not, how do believers receive Him?
2. What are the outward signs (if any) of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
3. Is there a difference in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit?
4. Does the Holy Spirit speak revelation today in addition to the Holy Scriptures?
5. Have revelation gifts or sign gifts ceased or are they all operational today? (tongues, prophecy, etc.)
6. Can the Holy Spirit give new revelation so long as it does not contradict the Holy Scriptures?
Please do not post a response to these questions. That is not the point of this post. The point of this post is simple and singular.
When well-intentioned believers say, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about the Holy Spirit" it reveals a profound theological and doctrinal deficiency.
The Holy Spirit is God...the so-called "3rd person of the Godhead." Therefore to say, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about the Holy Spirit" is synonymous with saying, "They believe exactly what we believe...other than some different beliefs about God."
There is certainly room for honest open debate and even some disagreement among believers. Some issues of the Holy Spirit should not be points of fellowship. I am merely saying that these are issues about the very nature and person of God. These questions should not dismissed as lightly as questions about worship style or organizational structures.
Regardless of your denominational label (including the definitive label of "non-denominational") when you are discussing the doctrines of the Holy Spirit you are talking about God.
Bottom line: If two congregations do not believe the same thing about the Holy Spirit, then on some level they do not believe the same thing about God. Why not? Because the Holy Spirit is God.