3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On the Holy Spirit

Books are some of the best friends a pastor can have. How to know which friends to have is quite difficult, for as the inspired Preacher said, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Every so often I recommend three books for pastors on a given topic, hoping the suggestions might inform your book budget.

It’s time I rounded out the Trinitarian scope of book suggestions. Having already recommended some faithful friends on the Trinity, God, and Jesus Christ, it seems quite necessary to think about valuable works on the Holy Spirit.

0830815368mThe Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson. Many people in our time refer to the Holy Spirit as the “Forgotten God”, but Ferguson isn’t so sure. He doesn’t doubt the Spirit tends to be neglected, he just thinks a rephrasing of that neglect is in order: “While his work has been recognized, the Spirit himself remains to many Christians an anonymous, faceless aspect of the divine being.” The great man from Scotland give us a portrait of the Spirit’s person and work that is, in a word, “stunning.” He tackles all the pertinent issues with the skill and pastoral wisdom that are now “Fergusonian” hallmarks. If you get only one book on the Spirit, make it this one.

1857924754mHoly Spirit: His Gifts and Power by John Owen. I often smirk when I hear people accuse Reformed theology of minimizing the Spirit. I mean, which volumes on the Spirit have been reprinted for centuries? Those written by Reformed authors. You’d be right to employ the adjective of “timeless” to Owen’s work; it’s just that good. Reading the Prince’s original treatise had been a pricy endeavor because you had to buy volume three of his collected works. But Christian Focus did everyone in 2007 a favor by publishing an unabridged, stand alone edition. John Newton called this book, “An epitome, if not the masterpiece of [Owen’s] writings.” Amen. If you want an abridged version you could always pick up the Puritan Paperback from Banner of Truth.

HSThe Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by George Smeaton. What serves as the textbook in Sinclair Ferguson’s “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit” class? Not his own book listed above, nor the work he so loves by Owen. It’s this volume from an outstanding, and forgotten, 19th century Scottish theologian. Originally published in 1899 and brought back by Banner of Truth in 1958, Smeaton’s work is a perfect textbook on the Spirit. He handles his subject under three divisions- he treats first the testimony to the Holy Spirit, as it is progressively revealed in Scripture. Secondly, he gives detailed attention to six subjects: the personality and procession of the Holy Spirit; the work of the Spirit in the anointing of Christ; the work of the Spirit in connection with revelation and inspiration; the Spirit’s regenerating work on the individual; on the Spirit of holiness; and the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Finally, there is an historical survey of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit from the Apostolic age. If you’re into e-reading, you can get Smeaton’s work free on Google Books.


Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God by JI Packer. A brilliant study with an unforgettable controlling metaphor: the Spirit’s ministry as a “Floodlight Ministry.” Read on to find out what the metaphor is all about.

Baptism and Fullness by John Stott. It’s amazing how Stott can so powerfully communicate important doctrines in so few pages. This work on Spirit is as good an introduction as you can find.

Check out my past suggestions in the “3 Books Every Pastor Should Read” series here.