I am grateful to Andrew Gabriel for the opportunity to review Simply Spirit Filled: Experiencing God in the Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2019).
Andrew K. Gabriel (PhD, McMaster Divinity College) serves as Associate Professor of Theology and Vice President of Academics at Horizon College and Seminary in Saskatoon, SK. He is a member of the Theological Study Commission of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (with which he is also an Ordained Minister) and the author of three books, including The Lord Is the Spirit: The Holy and the Divine Attributes.
Gabriel’s desire for his readers regarding the life of the Spirit in “Simply Spirit-Filled” is that they be: “Open, but not gullible. Discerning, but not cynical. Engaging, but not fanatical. My hope is that you would be simply Spirit-filled” (10). His style of writing is approachable and engaging offering an intelligent, but readily accessible read for persons from teenagers to adult with any concern for the Spirit (whether wrestling with basic questions, or just seeking a deepened engagement). Personal anecdotes, testimonials, and reflections permeate the chapters and offer pastoral insight in leading others alongside for living as those who keep in step with the Spirit.
After sharing briefly about his personal spiritual journey in chapter 1, he opens in chapter 2 discussing two experiences typical in many Pentecostal and charismatic settings: shaking and being “slain in the Spirit” (he refers to these two as “shake and bake”). Sifting through multiple Biblical texts which have been used for supporting such experiences, Gabriel helps the readers to discern ways of hearing Scripture more properly with regard to experience, but also to remain critically humble in enjoying what the Spirit may in fact be doing.
Chapter 3 engages issues of hearing God speak to us. The interweaving of personal story and Biblical/theological reflection calls for readers to reflect more carefully along with Gabriel on the ways in which the Spirit is in fact already speaking. To become better listeners. To attune ourselves to hearing well. (This chapter bears many similarities to the ways I continually seek to counsel church-goers and students toward hearing what the Spirit is saying…an issue which often creates tremendous anxiety especially for young college students).
Chapter 4 broaches the subject of tongues. Here he specifically provides responses to three common challenges to speaking in tongues (tongues are only a sign of Spirit baptism, tongues are just for a few people, and it’s “magical” or it’s “just me”). In the end, he clarifies the spiritual gains of speaking in tongues and along the way offers some brief comments toward interpreting Paul in 1 Corinthians well with regard to Paul’s understanding of the place and function of tongues within the life of the Church.
Chapter 5 engages the health-and-wealth/prosperity gospel and “Word of Faith” theology in light of God’s plans to heal and bless. Here he even names numerous such preachers/teachers in order to at least highlight some specifics of what he is addressing before addressing a healthy (pun intended) approach to healing and wholeness. Gabriel’s discussion of “faith” and the many ways it gets abused (usually with regard to someone else’s “faith”) turns to pointing toward a trust in God when we do not understand or do not clearly see an answer as we might desire. Regarding praying for healing, he comments, “If you think you must use a specific technique or formula when praying for healing, you may have a hangover from prosperity teaching” (118). His response, ask for healing and trust God. It remains God’s gift to give.
Chapter 7 concludes this book with a portrait of what it might look like to be Spirit-filled. To be Spirit-filled is to be captured by the love of God…a love which answers in love for God and others. This is to be “spiritual” in the language of Paul…to be ones guided and in step with the Spirit as those who are yielded to the life of the Spirit among us making us to be more like Jesus.
As a tool for reflective devotional purposes, Gabriel provides a prayer in relation to the contents of the chapter along with numerous helpful pointed questions regarding the chapter’s contents. These provide a direct resource for making use of this book for a personal devotional reading, group study, Sunday School, or discipleship, thus adding to the overall value of the book for continued deeper consideration and application. Gabriel is to be commended as a scholar for producing such a work that may prove to bear much fruit for the wider Church should it gain its needed wide reading. Pastors and church leaders would benefit greatly from reading this volume and finding ways to either lead congregations through its contents or to preach and teach upon the topics laid out with specific attention to the Biblical texts discussed.
One notable curiosity from my reading, Gabriel does not discuss the Spirit at all in chapter 5 (on faith and healing) all the while the gifts of “faith” and “healings” belong as gifts of the Spirit given to the body of Christ. His discussion of the topic is pastorally careful and reflective, but seems to lack the integration of the role or function of the Spirit specifically in the processes of faith and wholeness here (though he takes up the gifts of the Spirit in chapter 6). While one will find him offering multiple engagements toward perceiving the life of the Spirit in the other chapters, this chapter could have used a clarification throughout toward faith as the work of the Spirit in us (as gift even) along with the life-giving enjoyment of the Spirit who purposes to make a world fit for our God and Father and His glorious Son, King Jesus.
I was provided a complimentary pre-publication copy by Andrew K. Gabriel for review purposes only for this review and am offering my review freely.