Who is the Holy Spirit and why was he sent?
This post is a chapter from Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, 30 Questions: A Short Catechism on the Christian Faith available for purchase from our store. This resource makes for a great teaching tool in local churches, especially for catechesis purposes. We’re featuring a chapter each week in hopes of encouraging you to pick up the book and share it with others as well.
As noted earlier, the Trinity is the way the church has come to best understand God’s self-revelation of who he is. God is One. Yet, the one God has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a full and eternal person of the Trinity, fully co-equal with the Father and the Son. A church which only focuses on Jesus Christ will not, in the long run, be a healthy, mature church. When we think of the Holy Spirit we should see him fulfilling three major roles in the work of salvation.
First, the Holy Spirit is the empowering presence of the living God. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Holy Spirit is God himself acting in his world and in our lives. He draws us by his grace to the Father. He intercedes with us and within us, helping us to pray. The Holy Spirit teaches and admonishes us when we read Scripture. He applies and nurtures the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control). The Holy Spirit assures us of our forgiveness and our adoption as the children of God. In short, the Holy Spirit mediates the presence of God in our lives and in the church.
Second, the Holy Spirit empowers the church for effective service, witness, and global mission. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised to send us the Holy Spirit who would empower us to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It is the Holy Spirit who enables the church to serve sacrificially and to be an effective witness unto Christ and the gospel. There are thousands of people-groups who still have not received the good news about Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who makes sure that the gospel is proclaimed to the ends of the earth through the empowered witness of the church.
Finally, the Holy Spirit is the One who continues to manifest redemptive signs of God’s kingdom breaking into the world. The good news of God’s powerful work in this world did not stop at the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is too small to think that we are called to simply proclaim something that happened in history thousands of years ago. While the cross and resurrection form the central proclamation of the church, we also acknowledge that the good news of God’s reign continues to unfold. All the future realities of heaven (healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, deliverance from evil, etc.) continue to break into the world through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Men and women are healed by the power of the Holy Spirit. They experience forgiveness and reconciliation with one another. The poor and downcast receive hope. The Holy Spirit applies all the future realities of the New Creation into the present. This process will not be fully complete until Jesus returns, but if we look around we can see that God is still at work by his Spirit, reconciling the world to himself.