I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day He rose from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
There is never a Sunday that I don’t recite the Apostolic Creed in worship in my Church.* Note the focus on not only the Father and the Son but also the Holy Spirit. This is not unusual; Packer says “Christians worship the triune Jehovah…Christianity rests on the doctrine of trinitas, the Threeness, the tripersonality of God.”
But Packer’s comments on church practice and layman knowledge point to a lack of focus on the third element of the Trinity, The Holy Spirit, The Holy Ghost, “The Comforter”. “The average non-liturgical, minister who does not observe Trinity Sunday; never preaches on it.” “Liturgical ministers devote one Sunday to the Holy Ghost, Trinity Sunday.” “The average Christian, deep down is in a complete fog as to what work the Holy Spirit does….most, perhaps, do not think of the Holy Spirit at all, and have no positive ideas of any sort about what He does.”
John makes it clear in the first lines of his Gospel that “In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That one line of scripture sets the tone for two Divinities at the head of his Gospel. Follow-up Scriptures make it clear that Jesus is on par with God, but what about The Holy Spirit?
The New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit numerous times. Jesus (in His last talk to his Disciples) says that He is going to prepare a place for them in God’s house, but there would be a gift of The Comforter [John 14: 16] that would come and help them in their work on earth [He knew He would be gone soon]. This Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth,” “The Holy Spirit.” John’s Gospel further relates that the Spirit is coming in Jesus’ name, that is as Christ’s deputy. Just as Jesus came in the name of God, The Holy Spirit comes in the name of God. Later in John’s Gospel we learn that as the Father sent the Son into this world, the Son is also sending the Spirit into this world.
Packer says the information that is shared in the Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit is extremely important and the following relationships are established. First, the Son is subject to the Father, for the Son is sent by the Father in His (the Father’s) name. Secondly, the Spirit is subject to the Father, for the Spirit is sent by the Father in the Son’s name. Thirdly, the Spirit is subject to the Son as well as to the father for the Spirit is sent by the Son as well as by the Father “He breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
All this is a “setup”.
It is a prelude to saying that all Christians should know how important the Holy Spirit is for their life. Many of us “profess” trying to lead righteous lives. Indeed, when we are born again, we are made “right” with Christ; we learn that our sins of the past are forgiven; our present and future sins are covered by Christ’s atonement on the cross. We are ready to forge ahead in a new life in Christ.
The problem is our efforts to forge ahead can be likened to getting into a boat and trying to make our journey over water toward God. We should not anticipate an easy trip. There will horrible moments [storms if you will] and wonderful moments [smooth sailing]. That is just life. But on this trip, we need a rudder in that boat, some guiding spiritual principle to help us progress toward our goal. That rudder is the Holy Spirit, nudging us in a better direction as we move forward. The Holy Spirit helps us avoid temptation. The Holy Spirit inspires us to share what we own with those less fortunate. The Holy Spirit gives us the words we need to speak in those times when we are in the company of seekers and we need to explain our faith. The Holy Spirit encourages us to take chances with our lives, as we step out by doing God’s work.
If only we would listen.
Sadly the message of the Holy Spirit can be drowned out by the din of the pressures of everyday life. Sometimes it is our own selfish nature that keeps us from hearing His message. Maybe our social group is the most important part of our life so we are more intent to “fit in” than we are to follow the guidance of The Holy Spirit.
In this post, I hope I have expressed the idea that The Holy Spirit is an aspect of Christian faith that all Christians should know about. Maybe we are sorely lacking in our knowledge of this element of the Triune God. Once we learn the role of The Holy Spirit in our lives, what Packer says about it will be more meaningful:
“If…the ministry of Christ the Comforter was important, the ministry of the Holy Spirit the Comforter can scarcely be less important. If the work that Christ did matters to the church, the work that the Spirit does must matter also.”
Much of that work is done through us as the Holy Spirit leads, guides and inspires us every day that we are alive on this earth.
That is our work…
Your work and my work…
And our work matters…
*This post and the next will deal with Chapter 6 of J.I. Packer’s book Knowing God. They will deal with the third element of the Triune Jehovah, the Holy Spirit.