Section 4: God the Holy Spirit
4.1 Who is God the Holy Spirit?
- The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity, eternally proceeding from the Father through the Son.
- The Holy Spirit is the comforter promised by Jesus Christ, who unites us with the Father and the Son, and transforms us into the image of Christ.
- (Matt. 28:19; John 14:16; 15:26; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:1-4)
4.2 How are Jesus and the Holy Spirit related?
- Jesus’ whole life was lived in intimate communion with the Holy Spirit. He was …
- conceived by the Spirit in the womb of Mary …
- baptized with the Spirit, and …
- on the cross, fulfilled his sacrificial ministry to the Father in the Spirit.
- Jesus now ministers in the world by sending the Spirit (who ministers in accordance with the finished work of Christ).
- (Matt. 28:19; John 14:16; 15:26; Acts 2:38; John 14:17, 26)
4.3 Was the Holy Spirit at work in the world before the incarnation of the Son of God?
- Yes, the Spirit was at work at creation and in the history of the world, with a focus on the people of Israel, the particular people God called to be a blessing to all peoples — blessings given ultimately in and through Jesus.
- The Spirit’s ongoing ministry will eventually bring all creation to full maturity, harmony and perfection.
- He is the Lord and the giver of life.
- (Gen. 1:1-2; Joel 2:28; Ezek. 11:19; Luke 24:49; Acts 2:1-21; Rom 1:4; 8:22-24; 1Pet. 1:2)
4.4 What do Christians believe in confessing their faith in the Holy Spirit?
- Apart from the Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ can neither be known, loved or served.
- The Holy Spirit is the personal bond by which Jesus Christ unites us to himself.
- He is the teacher who opens our hearts to Christ, and the comforter who leads us to repentance.
- He is the liberator who frees our enslaved wills, empowering us to live joyfully and freely in Christ’s service.
- By the working of the Spirit, our love, knowledge and service of Christ are inseparably related.
- (John 14:26; 1 Cor. 12:3; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 6:17, 19; 3:16; John 4:24)
4.5 How do Christians receive the Holy Spirit and what is the result?
- We receive the Spirit by receiving the Word of God.
- As the midwife of the new creation, the Spirit arrives with the Word, frees us to hear, accept and trust in it as the Word of God, brings us to rebirth and assures us of eternal life.
- The Spirit nurtures, corrects and strengthens us with the pure spiritual milk of the Word.
- By the Spirit, we are conformed to the character of Christ, growing in faith, hope and love in personal and responsive relationship with the Father through the Spirit.
- (Eph. 6:17; John 14:16-17; John 3:5-6; Luke 11:13; 1 Thess. 1:5; John 16:8; Rom. 8:15-16; 1 Pet. 2:2)
4.6 Why do we not, by the Spirit, experience here and now all that Christ has done for us?
- We live in the time between Christ’s resurrection and return, which the Bible calls “the present evil age.”
- During this “time between the times,” we do not experience all that Christ has for us, though we are assured that we will when he returns.
- In the meantime, we are given the Spirit as a “down payment” — the “first fruits” and “sealing” of the fullness yet to come.
- (Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30; Col. 1:12; 1 Pet. 1:4; Gal. 1:4; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:23)
4.7 What is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers?
- Sent by Jesus, the Holy Spirit ministers to all people on the basis of Christ’s finished work.
- The Spirit then ministers to believers in a particular way, helping them share in all that Jesus has accomplished on their behalf. (John 7:39; 16:7; Gal. 3:13-14)
- The Holy Spirit’s particular ministry to believers includes many things:
- Renewing believers by sharing with them Christ’s resurrected, glorified human nature. (Rom. 8:2, 10-11; Titus 3:4-6)
- Opening their hearts and minds to Jesus and his teachings. (Acts 26:8; John 14:26; 15:26)
- Granting them repentance by which they see their need for forgiveness and confess their sin. (John 16:8-11; 1 Thess. 4:1-6)
- Granting them faith by which they affirm from the heart that Jesus is Lord. (1 Cor. 12:3)
- Indwelling them, thus uniting them to Christ in a spiritual union. (John 14:17; 17:23; 1 Cor. 6:19; Rom. 8:11)
- Granting them freedom and comfort, enabling them to pray when they are at a loss for words. (2 Cor. 3:17; Acts 9:31; John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Rom. 8:26-27)
- Joining them to other believers as brothers and sisters within the one body of Jesus Christ, the Church, where they experience a unity and harmony that embraces the diversity of the Church’s many members. (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:22; 4:4; Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27)
- Granting them the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is Christ’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)
- Granting them gifts for ministry in and through the Church, by which they participate with Christ in his ministry to fulfill the Father’s mission to the world. (1 Cor. 12:4, 11; Matt. 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 13:4; 15:28; 16:6; 21:4)
- Leading them to use these gifts in ways that express the fruit of the Spirit, thus avoiding the self-centeredness that leads to division within the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13)
4.8 What is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to unbelievers?
- The Spirit is at work in the world, continuing the earthly ministry of Jesus, reaching out with God’s
compassion and wisdom to all people, because Christ died for all.
- The Holy Spirit is present in many ways to the world, including ministering to unbelievers, often in ways unseen to us, though often involving the Spirit-led ministry of the Church.
- (John 3:8; Acts 8:26-39; John 12:32; Heb. 7:25).
- The ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of unbelievers includes many things:
- Seeking to bring all to repentance and faith. (2 Pet. 3:9; 2 Tim. 2:25)
- Preparing and freeing unbelievers to receive God’s forgiveness, to accept God’s freely-given grace, to die to pride and any hope of justifying oneself, and to experience the benefits of what Christ has already done for them, including sending the Holy Spirit to draw them to Christ. (John 16:8-11; 1 Thess. 4:1-6, Acts 10:43)
- Resisting the resistance of those who seek to avoid or reject the grace of God. (Acts 26:8; John 14:26; 15:26)
4.9 What happens to unbelievers who resist the Holy Spirit’s ministry?
- The Spirit does not indwell people who, in resisting him, do not receive Christ through repentance and faith.
- Because the Spirit does not unite unbelievers to Christ in a spiritual union, they are not incorporated into the body of Christ (the Church) in the way believers are.
- People who continually refuse to repent, die to self and receive God’s grace are not able to enjoy the benefits of the completed work of Christ done on their behalf.
- The Bible gives strict warnings concerning the consequences of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, thus rejecting his ministry on their behalf.
- (John 14:17; Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 2:14; 1 John 4:6; Heb. 4:2; Mark 3:29; Acts 26:18)
Teaching Notes: God the Holy Spirit
Concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit …
- While some doctrinal formulations (including some forms of the Nicene Creed) say that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son,” The GCI Statement of Beliefs states that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father through the Son.”
- GCI accepts both formulations as valid representations of the biblical teaching concerning the Spirit, when properly understood.
- These statements should not be taken in such a way as to either call into question the unity of the being of the one triune God, or the full divinity of the Son, nor regard the Holy Spirit as a second Son.
Here are GCI articles that address the topic of the Holy Spirit:
From The GCI Statement of Beliefs:
- The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the triune God, eternally proceeding from the Father through the Son.
- He is the Comforter promised by Jesus Christ, who unites us with the Father and the Son, and transforms us into the image of Christ.
- The Spirit works out in us the regeneration Christ accomplished for us, and by continual renewal empowers us to share in the Son’s glorious and eternal communion with the Father as his children.
- The Holy Spirit is the Source of inspiration and prophecy throughout the Scriptures, and the Source of unity and communion in the Church.
- He provides spiritual gifts for the work of the gospel, and is the Christian’s constant Guide into all truth.