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TEXT: II Corinthians 13:14

SUBJECT: The Apostles' Creed #7: The Holy Spirit

This afternoon, with God's blessing, we'll move on in our study of the Apostles' Creed. For centuries, most Christians thought the Creed was written by the Apostles and equal to the Bible in its authority. They were wrong on both counts. The Bible alone is the Word of God and only it has the final say on all things pertaining to life and godliness.

But to say the Creed is uninspired is not to say it has no authority. Because it does. Its authority is under the Bible's, but it is over your opinion and mine. Why? Because the Church of God knows the voice of her Savior. And for nearly 2,000 years, worldwide, she has heard His voice in the Apostles' Creed and happily submitted to it.

Most of the Creed is about the Lord Jesus. This is because the Early Church was Christ-centered, and also because the first heretics falsified His Person and work. They were wicked men, of course, but they weren't stupid: if the doctrine of Christ is polluted, the Church is polluted; if it's destroyed, there is no Church. For we live on Christ-or not at all!

To say the Creed is Christ-centered, however, is not to say it's only about the Lord. It isn't. The first two lines confess,

God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth.

Then, near the end, it says,

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, we do. Of the three persons of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is mentioned far less often than the Father and the Son, but the Church believes in Him every bit as firmly as we believe in God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Someone has called the Holy Spirit, the shy member of the Trinity, but he's wrong, for shyness is a character flaw. What He is, in fact, is modest, willing to let the Lord Jesus Christ have all the glory. Thinking of Him in this way increases your admiration and love for the Holy Spirit.

So let's get to it: I believe in the Holy Spirit.

PERSONAL OR IMPERSONAL?

Is the Holy Spirit personal or impersonal? Is the Spirit a He or an It? Arguments can be made on both sides. The Hebrew word for 'spirit' often means 'breath' or 'wind'. Nobody says a man's breath is the man himself, and only a pagan would personalize the wind. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is also compared to the wind, which blows wherever it wants to, to water that can be poured out, and to a candle or a lamp than shouldn't be quenched.

Other verses attribute personal traits to the Spirit. Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit. You don't lie to a bowl of water, you lie to a person. Paul says, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Whoever heard of grieving a candle?

If the Bible seems to make the Spirit personal in one place and impersonal somewhere else, how do we decide what the Spirit is?

We put our thinking caps on. Fire, Water, Wind, and Breath are images. Images of what? Of what the Holy Spirit does! The Spirit is Breath because without breath you're dead. The Spirit is wind because it is powerful and uncontrollable. The Spirit is Water because it washes the dirty. The Spirit is Fire because it gives light and heat. These are Images of the Spirit, colorful and varied ways of thinking about Him.

But the Spirit Himself is a Person. We know that because He can take the place of Jesus Christ. In John 16, the Lord says He's going away, but His friends will not miss Him. What? Not miss your best friend in the world who is also God? How could you not miss Him? Because Someone is coming to take His place,

It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away the Comforter will not come to you. But if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Useful functions do not replace loved persons. If your wife died, you couldn't replace her with a dishwasher, an insurance policy, and a photograph. She means more to you than what she does for you. If the Holy Spirit is only a power, an influence, an intuition, and so on, He could never take the place of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But He does. Because He is a Person.

WHAT KIND OF PERSON IS HE?

The Personality of the Spirit says something about Him, but not nearly enough. There's more than one kind of person. What kind of Person is He?

The Bible says a great many things about Him, but two, in particular stand out.

First, the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person. He is not an archangel, an angel, a cherub, a seraph, or any other created spirit. He is the Spirit Uncreated! In other words, He is God. He shares in the Divine nature and in all the works of God. He is the Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9), and the Omnipresent Spirit (Psalm 139). He worked alongside Father and Son (you might say) in creating the world, sustaining it, and saving it. He is a Divine Person.

He is also a Holy Person. Once in a while, the Bible will call Him wise or mighty or merciful, but most of the time it underlines His holiness. Not because He is more holy than He is wise, but for more practical reasons.

For one thing, the Spirit is the source of our holiness. If we are holy at all, it is because the Spirit is in us making us holy. Where do we get love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, faithfulness, and self-control? We get them from the Holy Spirit, for they are His fruit and not ours!

The other reason is this: The Apostles want us to be holy, and what better way to do that than to remind us that the Spirit who lives in our bodies is the Holy Spirit!

I believe in the Holy Spirit means you believe He is God, that He is holy, and that you want to be holy because He is holy.

TRINITARIAN DISTINCTIONS

How is the Holy Spirit related to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? The old heretic, Sabellius, said Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just different names for the same person. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself as Father; for thirty years or so, He revealed Himself as Son, and since the Day of Pentecost, He has shown Himself as the Holy Spirit.

Sabelleus-like most heretics-was a terrible simplifier! The doctrine of the Trinity was too big for him, so he replaced it with a doctrine he could get his puny mind around!

Though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God, they are not different names for the same person! Without wading into mysteries way too deep for me, I can only say: The Holy Spirit is that Divine Person who was not begotten by the Father and who did not come in the flesh.

RELATIONSHIPS WITH FATHER AND SON

In terms of what He is, the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and to the Son in every way. If the Father should be worshiped, the Spirit should be worshiped; if the Son should be obeyed, the Spirit should be obeyed. I agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith,

There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are One God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.

But, even though the Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son, for our salvation, He willingly submitted Himself to them. He became-you might say-the Third Person of the Trinity.

Couriers don't send kings to carry their messages. Kings send couriers. This is not because the king is natively better than the courier, but because he has a higher place in the order of things. It's fitting that kings send the message and couriers carry them.

In the same way, the Father was not sent by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit didn't pour out the Son on the Day of Pentecost. It was the Father who sent the Spirit; it was the Son who poured out the Spirit. Not because the Father or Son is better than the Spirit, but because the Spirit chose to play this role. For our salvation.

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD

Because He is God, the Holy Spirit is deeply involved in the world. He is not way off in heaven and He is not only in the Church or in the believer's heart.

What does He do for the world? In a word, He gives it life-all life--vegetable, animal, and human-comes from the Holy Spirit, Psalm 104:30,

You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; You renew the face of the earth.

The 'they' in the verse refers to all earthly life-from the grass to the Sea Serpent-all life depends on the Holy Spirit.

Especially man's life. When God made Adam, he was something like a mud statue-magnificent in terms of art and science, but that's all he was-a statue. Until something happened. God breathed the breath of life into him, and man became a living soul. God's breath is the Holy Spirit.

Mental life is given by the Holy Spirit. The men who built the Tabernacle did it by the wisdom God's Spirit gave them (cf. Exodus 31).

Moral life is given by the Holy Spirit. If men know right from wrong-and ever choose good over bad, it is by the Spirit who-in the days before the Flood, and still-Strives with men.

If the Spirit withdrew Himself from the world-for even a second-the warm, green planet would be as dead and frozen as Pluto.

RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHURCH

If the Spirit gives other lives to the world, He gives spiritual life to the Church. We are saved by the work of the Holy Spirit-It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing.

He does this by bringing us to the end of ourselves, and then showing us Christ, and enabling us to put our faith in Him.

If the Spirit gives life to the Church, He also gives holiness. The fruit of the Spirit is, well, just that, the fruit of the Spirit.

If the Spirit makes us holy, He also makes us wise and useful, by providing gifts. Pastors to teach us the Word of God, and others to help us on our way to heaven.

The New Testament word for gift is, charis. Using it this way, all Christians are charismatic because we all have gifts: some are used in public, others are used in private, but whatever they are, the gifts are equally valuable, and ought to be used in the church.

This means, positively, that you ought to use your Spiritual gifts. And, negatively, it means you ought to help others use their Spiritual gifts and not hinder them by nitpicking the things they do wrongly.

TO DO

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? If you do, you ought to think about Him with reverence and love. You ought to obey Him as He tells you what to do in the Bible and as He leads you through life. And, most of all, you ought to praise Him!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. You praise the Lord.

And remember, the Holy Spirit is Lord!

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