The Holy Spirit
Preach at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on October 4, 2015
Today we begin a four week series on the Holy Spirit. As we begin, I want to express to everyone how difficult it was to create a framework for this series. It is hard to box into four part sermon series the Sovereign God, for that is who the Holy Spirit is. He is in full measure of the infinite God.
Having said that, what I have chosen to do is to break down the sermon series in this manner: today I will be giving a general introduction of the Holy Spirit. Next week we will look at the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. In three weeks we will examine the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration. And finally we will examine the Holy Spirit in the work of sanctification. For those who are squirming in your seat because you don’t know what those words mean, do not worry, we will unpack them when we get to them. But for today, let us orient ourselves with the third person of the trinity.
Oswald Chambers said this about the Holy Spirit, “The Spirit is the first power we practically experience, but the last power we come to understand.” In my opinion this is just another way of saying what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” There is something divinely mysterious about the Holy Spirit. I think this mystery causes many people, perhaps some of you here, to shy away from pursuing a knowledge of the Holy Spirit. You find the Spirit too unpredictable, to wild, therefore you treat him like the third wheel in your relationship with God.
Why Should We Care about the Holy Spirit?
So before we get too far into the mystery of the Holy Spirit, let us start with a question: Why should we care? Why do we need to have a sermon series on the Holy Spirit? As I was preparing, I wondered how many of you are more excited about next month’s sermon series on marriage then you are on a sermon series on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you can’t wait until this series is over so we can get to the stuff that really matters, stuff that will make your life more comfortable. If that is you, then perhaps we have discovered why your marriage is struggling. It appears that you may be self-centered and not God centered.
The first reason we should study the Holy Spirit, as I said before, is that a study of the Holy Spirit is a study of God himself. We will unpack some of this today. Pursuing the knowledge of the Spirit is pursuing the the knowledge of God. Ignoring the person of the Spirit is willfully refusing to see the beauty of God as He is manifested, or displayed, by the person-hood of the Holy Spirit.
Second, to study the Bible is to study the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the Spirit of God is mentioned 88 times. 23 books in the Old Testament have passages that include the Spirit. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is mentioned 264 times, and there are only 3 books in the New Testament that make no mention of the Holy Spirit: Philemon, 2 John, and 3 John. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The revelation of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God belongs to us. They are a gift from God. To set the gift of God aside is to dishonor the Giver and cheats us out of His Grace. We should treasure every moment when God gives us a glimpse of himself. We should be like Moses on Mt. Sinai begging to see the glory of God, of which the Spirit is.
Third, the Holy Spirit, as we will see in the weeks to come, is the person of the Trinity that you and I as Christians are the most intimate with. Now I say this with a qualification. God is one and God is three persons, and we will unpack this some today. Therefore in one sense, we cannot have more of a relationship with one person over the other, for to have a relationship with one is to have a relationship with them all, and to have a relationship with them all is to have a relationship with one. However, as the roles of the Trinity are dispensed, or put forth in creation, the Holy Spirit's role comes into contact with us more readily. We will see this in week three and for when we discuss regeneration and sanctification in the Christians life.
Fourth, many of you in this room are struggling in your life. Day in and day out Satan is pummeling you with his fiery darts: anxiety, stress, sex, anger, pride, money, you name it. From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed you feel like you are in a war. Do you know what? YOU ARE! Existence is best described as a Spiritual War. How do we find victory in the battles of day to day life? The Spirit. The Spirit of God is a warrior. He is the one who helps us in our weakness. He is the one who counsels us in our confusion. He is the one who anchors us in God's truth. Without the Spirit of God we do not persevere. We lose.
I am sure there are infinitely more reason that we should pursue the knowledge of the Holy Spirit, but those are four that God laid on my heart.
The Holy Spirit is God
The first item I want to address is that the Holy Spirit is God. Some of you may think this is elementary. Perhaps you have spent your whole life singing songs like we sang today about the Trinity. You can't recall one moment in your life that you ever questioned the Godness of the Holy Spirit. Having said that, I am guessing that very few of you could point to scripture that would support this position.
First, let us start with this statement that most of you are familiar with. The word trinity is not in the Bible. Trinity is a theological word, meaning that it is a word that summarizes the Bibles teaching that God is one in three person. As Wayne Grudem says, “the doctrine of the Trinity is progressively revealed in Scripture.” Having said that there are a couple text that expressly state the reality of the trinity. Perhaps the most famous one is Matthew 28:19.
This text just won't work if the Holy Spirit isn't God. As God says in Isaiah 42:8, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other.” God is not going to share the limelight in the salvation of men with an entity that is not God. Once again, I like how Wayne Grudem puts it when he says that it would not make sense for verse 19 to read, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of Michael the Angel.” Adding in a non-God figure in the lineup undermines the point of verse 19. Another text we see the Holy Spirit as God is 2 Corinthians 13:14.
Once again, logically it would not make sense to say that the Holy Spirit is not God. Paul is placing the trinity on even footing and recognizing their distinct Godly roles as it relates to us. We see the same thing in the opening lines of 1 Peter.
Now before some of you start to wander down the path of polytheism, which is the belief in multiple gods. The Bible, in addition to these text says, also makes it abundantly clear that God is one.
So is there one God, yes. Is the Father, Son, and Spirit God? Yes. The Holy Spirit is fully God in essence, yet distinct in his person-hood. Can we fully understand this? No, God's ways are above our ways. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. As David says in Psalm 139:6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”
The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person
The next thing I would like to discuss is that the Holy Spirit is God, but he is also distinct in his role. They way we describe the distinction is person-hood. Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is a creature? No, we have already discussed this, He is God. Having said that he takes on certain characteristics that are unique to Him. Just like Jesus takes on the characteristic of flesh, and son-ship, the Spirit takes on a unique characteristic as the Spirit. The way, once again, theologically we define this is person-hood.
Once again, many of you may be thinking why should we care about the person-hood of the Holy Spirit. Let me ask, how many of you have heard of Jehovah Witnesses? My guess is that all of you have. Why? Because they are extremely aggressive in sharing their false religion with everyone. Most likely, some have knocked on your door. Did you know that they do not believe in the Trinity. They do not believe that Jesus is God and they believe the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal force. The question is are you ready to defend the honor of the Holy Spirit? My guess is that they are more than ready to defend their position.
As we have already seen from some of the text that I have mentioned, Matthew 28:19, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Jude 1:20-21, these passages just don't make sense if the Holy Spirit is not distinct. If the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal force, then you don't list him with two other persons. However in addition to this, there are many scriptures that speak to the personality of the Holy Spirit. Probably the most definitive are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
In addition, the scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit as one who searches (1 Corinthians 2:10), makes determinations and gives gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11), has a mind (Romans 8:27), loves (Romans 15:30), teaches (John 14:16), grieves (Ephesians 4:30), speaks (Acts 13:2, Hebrews 3:7, Revelation 2:7), cries out (Galatians 4:6), commands (Acts 16:7), appoints (Acts 20:28), becomes an enemy against the rebellious (Isaiah 63:10), creates (Job 33:4), can be outraged (Hebrews 10:29), and can be uniquely blasphemed against (Matthew 12:31).
These descriptions of the Holy Spirit are not descriptions given to an impersonal force, but to a personal and relational being. One that engages in a personal way with humanity. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not only God, but he is a personal God
So where does this leave us at the end of the first week of this sermon series? First, I hope that after today you will approach the Holy Spirit differently. Not as a side show, but as a main attraction. Second, I hope that today has equipped you to not only sing songs like we did this morning, but to recognize that these songs are built upon the firm foundation that is God's word. Our confession is not one that is man made, it is rooted in scripture. Third, I hope it causes you to marvel at the complexity and depth of who our God is. I hope that this sermon, which is just the tip of the tip of the tip of an infinite iceberg has produced in your a sense of awe as you think of how OTHER our God is. He is not at all like the creature, he is the Divine Creator. The nature of his being is too great for us to even begin to grasp. Which I hope produces in you worship. Not just worship to worship, but worship that is based upon truth and compelled by the Spirit.