Each month here on The SCC Standard we are going to be looking at the individual statements found in the Shuswap Community Church Statement of Faith. This statement as a whole can be found on our website at aplacetobelong.ca and either downloaded, read or printed from there. Each month an assortment of pastors, elders, staff and lay people will share their answer to the simple question, “Why does this matter to me?”. We hope that this will be a helpful and learning experience as we all look a little closer and dig a little deeper into our commonly held theological belief standards.
This month we are looking at the fourth statement which reads as follows:
IV. OF THE SPIRIT
We believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, equal with God the Father and God the Son and of the same nature; that He was active in creation; that He convicts of sin, of righteousness and of judgment; that he bears witness to the truth of the Gospel in preaching and in testimony; that He is the agent of regeneration; that He dwells in every believer from the moment of his conversion; that every believer is baptized in the Spirit by Christ; that He fills the believer as control is yielded to Christ; that the evidence of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the life.
In the Book of Romans, the Apostle Paul tell us, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” The kingdom of God is all about the rule and reign of God and as Paul tells us, that kingdom is all about “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). This is a good picture of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in the world and in the life of the believer – He brings joy. This passage alludes to what Isaiah, speaking of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, prophesied in Isaiah 32:17, “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”
Earlier in chapter 8 of Paul’s letter to the Romans we read, “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (v. 6). Nearing the end of the letter in chapter 15 we read, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (v. 13). Lastly, in a passage familiar to many believers Paul again writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...” (Gal. 5:22-23a). Joy, life, peace, hope and the fruit of the Spirit just mentioned are just some of the things the Holy Spirit brings.
As we look at the Holy Spirit, two simple questions come to mind: Who is He and what does He do? As we dig into God’s Word, we see that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity and that among other things He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment, He guides us into truth, and glorifies Jesus.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
Throughout the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is at work in both the Old and New Testaments and yet we can still be fuzzy about who He is at times. That should not be the case. Sometimes in the church we don’t even realize that He is a person! But, He is not an IT, He isn’t some mystical/mysterious force like in Star Wars. Again, the Holy Spirit is God and His deity “may be established from Scripture by a line of proof quite similar to that employed in connection with the Son: (1) Divine names are given to Him, Ex. 17:7 (comp. Heb. 3:7–9); Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Tim. 3:16 (comp. 2 Pet. 1:21). (2) Divine perfections are ascribed to Him, such as omnipresence, Ps. 139:7–10, omniscience, Isa. 40:13, 14 (comp. Rom. 11:34); 1 Cor. 2:10, 11, omnipotence, 1 Cor. 12:11; Rom. 15:19, and eternity, Heb. 9:14 (?). (3) Divine works are performed by Him, such as creation, Gen. 1:2; Job. 26:13; 33:4, providential renovation, Ps. 104:30, regeneration, John 3:5, 6; Tit. 3:5, and the resurrection of the dead, Rom. 8:11. (4) Divine honour is also paid to Him, Matt. 28:19; Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 13:13.”1 This is who He is. A person. And not just any person, but the third person of the Trinity in whom we worship and are equipped and empowered by in the Christian life.
What does the Holy Spirit do?
The Holy Spirit indwells all believers and was promised to us by Jesus Himself. We see this specifically in John 16 where He encourages His disciples with news of the Holy Spirit. Here is Jesus. He has preached to crowds, He has healed many, He has ruffled some feathers, and now He is here with just a small group of followers. In our view of success, we would think Jesus has not gotten very far. When it is all said and done the only people at His side are those He started out with. But, what Jesus is talking about here is the beginning of a time where His influence will break loose and not just be among this group, but will go to the very ends of the earth. He is talking about what is to come. And in this passage in particular, one statement really stands out and its found in verse 7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
This is where Jesus gives us a glimpse of who the Holy Spirit is. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will: convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment, He will guide you into all truth (John 16:12, 13), and will glorify Jesus (John 16:14). He will convict us – we will see our error and sin and He will reveal to us the way of righteousness. He will guide us in truth. He won’t operate on His own authority but on the authority of Jesus in doing what Jesus declared. The Spirit is called the Helper, because He is the Helper. “He frees us from trying to live the Christian life in our own power. The gospel is not ‘do more and try harder’; rather, it is ‘see Jesus and surrender to the Spirit.’”2
I love verse 13 of John 16, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
We make disciples because of Jesus’ authority as He calls us to make disciples in Matthew 28. And well, it is the Spirit who reminds the apostles of Jesus’ words and teachings.3 The disciples would recognize the Holy Spirit because they knew Jesus.
The last piece Jesus gives us is that ultimately He, the Spirit, will glorify Jesus. He will draw people to Jesus, He will point people to Jesus, His work will be for the sake of the gospel. And the Holy Spirit will do this as He convicts, and guides us and does His work. “The Holy Spirit constantly draws attention to Jesus— nestling the gospel into our hearts and applying the finished work of Jesus to our lives. Romans 8:16 says, ‘The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.’ To see and enjoy grace is the supreme work of the Spirit, as he bears witness to the truth and comfort of God’s Word in our hearts.”4
It is because of the Spirit that we can know Jesus. He points to Jesus, He applies Jesus’ work to our lives and if the Holy Spirit is working, Jesus is being glorified. This is why we must cling to Jesus’ words in Matthew 28: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). He is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us.
- Kevin Hardy
- Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 423-431.
- ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible, 1437.
The Holy Spirit plays a number of roles in the Christian’s life. Present in creation from the start (Genesis 1:2) the Spirit is eternal and an equal part of the Trinity. It is through the Spirit that we begin to understand God’s will in our lives, that we bear fruit (Galatians 5:22-25) these fruit of the Spirit are what marks that as transformed followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in the life of believers teaching, comforting, interceding, and identifying (or guaranteeing) us to God as one of His. How? Let’s look at these four ways, not all the ways, that the Holy Spirit is at work in the life of believers.
Before Jesus left His disciples, He made a promise to give them a teacher who would guide them and help them to understand everything that He had told and shown them. Who was the teacher? The Holy Spirit! John 16:13 the Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of truth. Why? The Spirit came to help us to learn that truth can only come from God.
J.I. Packer once said: “I must ask the Lord to direct the Holy Spirit within me to drain the life out of sin and in prayer.” Packer knew that as the Spirit would flood us with truth, that flood would drive sin out of our lives as we fixate our hearts onto the higher and greater things of God.
“We take what we think are the tools of spiritual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens. But spiritual transformation is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the Master Sculptor.” Jerry Bridges was a master at understanding the process of spiritual growth and transformation, and understanding that to really grow we have to submit ourselves to the teaching of truth that comes to us from the Spirit.
Jesus, when He left, did not leave us to fend for ourselves alone in a world that had turned away from God’s truth. The Spirit was sent to walk with us, to guide us, to comfort us, to advocate on our behalf and to lead us to truth.
Jonathan Edwards understood this reality to comforting by the Spirit when he said: “The true spirit of prayer is no other than God's own Spirit dwelling in the hearts of the saints. And as this spirit comes from God, so doth it naturally tend to God in holy breathings and pantings. It naturally leads to God, to converse with him by prayer.” It is the process of submitting to the Spirit’s leading in prayer that we end up drawing closer to God, and having our minds and hearts bend to His will.
“We are 100 percent responsible for the pursuit of holiness, but at the same time we are 100 percent dependent upon the Holy Spirit to enable us in that pursuit. The pursuit of holiness is not a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps approach to the Christian life.” Jerry Bridges understood that the Christian life is a process of moving toward holiness as the Spirit works in us. This is that bending of the mind and heart under the comforting of the Spirit that is ultimately moving us toward holiness.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11 shows us the Holy Spirit as always interceding on our behalf. The Spirit is working to reveal to us the thoughts of God and searches our own thoughts. In those times when we lack the words, the Spirit will even offer up prayers on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27). When we don’t know what to do, the Spirit intercedes and leads us in the direction of God’s will. The Spirit intercedes to God on our behalf, and to us on God’s behalf.
John Bunyan was a man driven to his knees in prayer due to circumstances in his life. His life of prayer led him to say; “Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Spirit, for such things as God has promised.” From a prison cell he understood in those moments when words failed in his ability to pray, the Spirit can and will work to deliver prayer from the core of our souls.
Ephesians 1:13-14 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
“When we pray for the Spirit's help ... we will simply fall down at the Lord's feet in our weakness. There we will find the victory and power that comes from His love.” Andrew Murray understood the power for Christian life came from a surrendering to the work of the Spirit in our lives on a daily basis.
The process of walking marked as followers of Christ, and therefore inheritors of the kingdom involved a process called sanctification. Jerry Bridges once wrote that “Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us whereby our inner being is progressively changed, freeing us more and more from sinful traits and developing within us over time the virtues of Christlike character.” The work of sanctification is helped through the guidance of the Spirit while the presence of the Spirit, thanks to the redeeming work of Christ, labels us as justified.
As followers of Jesus, we have been given a wonderfully, powerful gift. There is real power for the believer in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is powerful, equipped with all truth and advocating on our behalf, and that is a wonderful truth for the Christian to hold on to.
- Steve McLean
I didn’t know he had it in him? Have you ever heard that phrase before? You hear it sometimes when someone does something unexpected or extraordinary, or both. A few years ago my brother did something both unexpected and extraordinary and to be frank, I didn’t think he had it in him. Which is not a reflection of my view of him, I love him, he is a great guy. I just don’t think many people have the calm and composure needed to deliver their newborn baby daughter, breach, on the side of the highway, in the back seat of a VW Jetta on the way to the hospital. When I head about it my first response was, wow, I never knew? That’s amazing, I didn’t know he had it in him! Sometimes what we find inside ourselves can surprise us. Sometimes its good. Sometimes ... less so. Whether its the strength we find to overcome some great challenge or the fear that leaves us paralysed when we should act or speak up we can sometimes be caught off guard when something unknown inside us, comes out. In those moments we are left saying, wow, where did that come from? I didn’t know I had it in me.
What if I told you though that, as a Christian, we all have something supremely amazing, positively extraordinary yet often forgotten in each of us? Something that is almost impossible to really wrap our heads around. What if I told you that you, little old you, had GOD, THAT’S RIGHT GOD! living inside you? Would you respond,”well obviously,:” or would you say, “no, I didn’t know I had it in me?” Here is another question. What would others say? How might others in your life, people who know you, respond if I told them? What would they say if I told them that you had God living inside you?
Would they say, “well obviously,” or would they respond, “no, I didn’t know he had it in him?” We believe that at the moment we are touched and transformed by the loving grace of God we receive the Holy Spirit who comes and lives inside us, convicting us of sin, softening our hearts and empowering us to live the lives God has laid before us. If you have been saved by grace you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. He lives inside you now and forever. Does knowing that change how you view yourself? Does knowing that the Holy Spirit dwells in others change how you view them?
If we are honest with ourselves I think we give little thought in the day to day life to this divine reality. We go to work or are run off our feet taking care of the kids and at the end of the day we fall exhausted into our pillows to try and get the proper amount of sleep to get up the next day and do it all over again.
We get distracted from this divine reality because life is just hard or busy or both. But what if at every moment and in every decision we stopped to remember that God is here with me, inside me at this very moment in time.
How would that help us make wise choices with our time, give us strength in the hard times, help us to lift our eyes off of the obstacle in front of us and onto the glories of heaven that await us. We wouldn’t be afraid to take that leap of faith to talk to a stranger about our faith or worry about what to say because we know that God is with us and will speak through us. If we live with this divine reality constantly in view it will change our lives. So do it, remember today that you have the Holy Spirit living inside and listen to His voice as you go about your day, who knows He might use you to do something amazing and leave people looking and saying, wow, that was amazing, I didn’t know he had it in him.
- Spencer Coers