Travis introduced this sermon series to us – the elder team – a few months ago. I agreed to speak on the deity of the Holy Spirit. What first came to my mind was that there never has been a challenge to the deity of the Holy Spirit – at least not directly.
The real challenges doctrinally come from those who refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit is a person, the same way that the Father and Jesus are real persons. They tend to describe the Holy Spirit as a kind of energy or influence from God. They think of the Holy Spirit as an “it” rather than a “him” — something like the force in Star Wars.
Christian churches debated this subject a long, long time ago, and they determined that according to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is more than that. He is a person, just like the other two members of the trinity. They found that the Bible describes the Christian God as three persons in one God.
It does not make sense really, but that should not surprise us. After all, we are talking about the nature of our creator. I don’t know why people think that they should be able to understand his nature. I studied the trinity for my theology book, and wrote an entire chapter on the issue, but it just scratched the surface. Anyway, if you want to know more about the trinity, we will be posting some resources for you to read and study on the Relevant Church website.
The problem with denying that the Holy Spirit is a person is that it steals from him all the aspects of deity that are essential to what the Bible teaches that he does. That’s what I want to talk to you about. You see, just saying “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” may be a true confession, but it is just about useless. It is a profession without a purpose, which runs the risk of being irrelevant.
When we say, “I believe in the Father” – there is a lot of implied purpose in that statement. It is saying, “I believe that there is a being who purposefully brought the universe into existence by his own will, he loves the world, and has determined to purposefully rescue the universe from the evil that happened as a result of rebellion and sin.”
When we say, “I believe in the Son” — implied in that statement is the fact that Jesus Christ pre-existed his birth as God the Son, and purposefully came to this earth to fulfill the Father’s will by becoming the sacrifice for our sins. That is why he was born one of us, and that is why he died on a cross.
What is the implied purpose to our statement “I believe in the Holy Spirit”? I wrote six chapters about that! This morning I want to focus on just one thing that Jesus taught about what the Holy Spirit does.
“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.” (John 14:15-17 NLT).
This is one of several passages in Scripture which shows all three members of the trinity at the same time. Jesus, the Son, promises his disciples that he will pray to the Father, and that the Father will give the disciples another Advocate. Jesus affirms the existence of all three members of the trinity here. But what I want to focus on is what Jesus affirms about the Holy Spirit.
First, let me tell you that Pentecost was the answer to Jesus’ prayer. That means that from that time on, the Holy Spirit is more than just God with us. He is God in us!
You see, the Holy Spirit was present with the disciples and empowered them for ministry. They performed miracles and led people to Christ and his kingdom by that empowerment. This was before Pentecost. After Pentecost, they had the same power, but it never left them because the source of the power was now inside them. That source is not a thing. He is a person: The Holy Spirit. What makes this doctrine even more relevant is the fact that when the Holy Spirit came to the disciples at Pentecost, he stayed – not only in them, but in everyone they led to Christ. That includes you and me.
A major purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to continue the discipling ministry of Jesus Christ.
Look carefully at that word “another” in verse 14. The Greeks had two words for the English “another.” The word heteros meant another of a different kind. Our word heterosexual contains the idea behind heteros. A heterosexual chooses a partner of a different gender, as opposed to a homosexual who chooses a partner of the same gender.
But the word for “another” in verse 14 is not heteros. It is allos. This word means another of the same kind. So, Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit would be another person just like Jesus is a person. The Holy Spirit would also be deity just like Jesus is deity. Whatever Jesus was for those disciples, the Holy Spirit would also be. Whatever Jesus did for those disciples, the Holy Spirit would also do.
The title that Jesus used to describe his ministry that the Holy Spirit would take over is – in this translation — Advocate. The translators have struggled trying to come up with a suitable English word to translate this Greek word. The Greek word means someone who is called alongside. Some translate it Comforter, others, Helper; others, Counselor. I think the word that best captures Jesus’ meaning here is Discipler. A major purpose of the Holy Spirit in our lives is to continue the discipling ministry of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus came alongside his disciples to disciple them, so the Holy Spirit will disciple us.
We experience this in four ways.
1.Guidance into all truth by illumination.
2.Gifting with spiritual gifts for edification.
3.Going where he wants us to go for evangelization.
4.Glorifying Christ through sanctification.
The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the Bible to give us a faithful and accurate revelation directly from God. But that is only part of what Jesus promised. He said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth. So, he not only gave us the Bible, he also helps us to interpret it correctly. He gives spiritual gifts to teachers and writers and preachers and worship leaders. He is in us, so he uses us to disciple us.
He also gives other spiritual gifts to each member of the body – the church. The gifts he gives us allow us to back up what we teach and what we believe. His power is at work within us to confirm what he is teaching us. He is in us, so he uses us to disciple us.
He also empowers us to back up what we believe and teach by means of authentic Christian living. I think one of the most important truths taught in verse 17 is not clear in English, because English does not have a separate 2nd person plural. To really understand it, you have to translate it to Southernese: “But y’all know him, because he lives with y’all now and later will be in y’all.” The truth about the Holy Spirit is not that he is God in me, but that he is God in us – all of us.
Incredible diversity in churches is God’s idea. The Holy Spirit speaks through a diverse lot of different people.
He comes into our lives and speaks to us from within our unique experiences. He is then free to use us in our uniqueness and diversity. That’s why it is a sin and a crime when churches set up false standards of commonness. When we all look alike and sound alike, we are telling people that if they want Jesus, they have to become like us. No way! Jesus didn’t die for you so that he could make you into someone else. He loved you, and he still does.
The Holy Spirit wants to be in us to use us to disciple us. By saying yes, we affirm the deity of the Holy Spirit. It is a theological statement, but it is also very practical. It frees me to be me, and you to be you, but insists that we both are loved by the same Father, and were saved by the same Son, and are empowered by the same Holy Spirit.
LORD, your Holy Spirit came into our lives the moment we put our faith in Christ. But, we confess, we have all failed to give him free reign in our lives to disciple us. We confess that we have been suspicious of the differences of some other believers, so we have kept them at a comfortable distance. Forgive us. Make us people who affirm the deity of the Holy Spirit by accepting his ministry within us, and through all of us. In Jesus name, Amen
This sermon was preached at Relevant Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, USA on Sunday, February 16th.
Jeff serves at Relevant as an elder.