3 June 2020
Much has been written about the gift and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the history of the church – it fills volumes of books by well known christian authors and theologians.
I embark on my feeble attempt in a series of reflections on this subject with the view of sharing what the Lord has impressed upon me thus far and with the hope that it would encourage fellow believers in as much as it has encouraged and blessed me.
In this first sharing, we shall begin with some preliminary understanding and possible insights.
All true believers believe in the Holy Spirit, the gracious and glorious third person of the Trinity. He is God and worthy of worship; He was involved in creation (Gen. 12) and He is active in sustaining and renewing all things (Ps.104:30). Even in the Old Testament He was both regenerating the people of God (Ps.119:97,103; Romans 7:22; 8:7) and equipping certain individuals for special tasks (eg. Exod 35:30; 2 Pet.1:21).
The first thing which Christ does after His exaltation to the right hand of the Father was to send out the Holy Spirit and this took place on the day of Pentecost. Just as Christ in His incarnation assumed the human nature, never again to lay it aside, so the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost chose the church as HIs dwelling place and temple, never again to be separated from her.
Jesus Christ was not only conceived by the Holy Spirit, not only anointed at His baptism without measure by the Spirit, but He also continuously lived and worked through that Spirit, even while He was on earth.
However, at HIs ascension, He fully received the Holy Spirit and all His powers. Ascending on high, He took captivity captive, gave gifts to men, and was exalted above all heavens, in order that He should fulfil all things (Eph. 4:8-10). This taking possession of the Holy Spirit by Christ is so absolute that Paul can say of it in 2 Corinthians 3:17 that the Lord (exalted Christ) is the Spirit. Paul obviously is not obliterating the distinction between Christ and the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit has become entirely the ‘property’ of Christ and was, so to speak, absorbed into Christ or assimilated by HIm. By His resurrection and ascension Christ has become the quickening Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).
On the basis of His perfect obedience Christ obtained the full and free ‘command’ over the Holy Spirit and over all the gifts and powers of the Spirit. He can now share it with whom He will, and He poured forth the Spirit on HIs disciples and HIs Church. Here is the foundation of the Christian Church. All that are needful for building the Church and propagating the gospel are supplied by the Holy Spirit on whose assistance the whole success of the ministry depended. The Holy Spirit who prepared, sanctified, and glorified the human nature of the head of the Church, has undertaken to prepare, sanctify, and glorify His body the Church.Just as the Spirit first sanctified Christ through suffering, perfected Him, and led Him to the highest pinnacle, so He is now committed in the same way to forming the body of Christ until it achieves its full maturity and constitutes the fulfilment of Him who fulfils all in all.
The work of the Holy Spirit is a perfecting work – the love, grace and eternal purpose of the Father and the whole mediation of Jesus Christ are made effectual to the souls of those born again to the praise of the glory of the grace of God (Eph 1:3-6). And in this work is the Holy Spirit glorified, that He, together with the Father and the Son, may be known, adored and worshipped. In other words, if there is no Holy Spirit, there is no salvation and no Church. If we utterly separate the Holy Spirit from the word (the Bible), the bare letter of the New Testament will no more produce faith and obedience in the souls of men, than the letter of the Old Testament does among the Jews.
Christ’s stay on earth was temporary, but the Spirit whom He will send will never leave them, but will remain with them into eternity. Indeed, Christ Himself will come to them again in that Spirit. He does not leave them as orphans, but He returns to them and joins Himself to them in the Spirit in a way which had before been impossible. Then they will see Him again.Then they will acknowledge that Christ is in the Father, and they in Him, and He in them. And in Christ, the Father comes to them; through the Spirit both come (John14:23). Father and Son both come to the believers and make their dwelling in them in the Spirit. Hence the Holy Spirit first accomplish a communion between the Father and the Son, on the one hand, and between the believers on the other. It is a fellowship and unity such as never existed before. The believers not only have fellowship among them and between them; they also have fellowship with Christ and the Father – all these effected and made possible through the Holy Spirit. This would fulfil what was spoken by Christ in John 17:21: “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.
Consider these truths: Christ shares Himself with the believer through the Spirit. The Spirit of God has become the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Son, the Spirit of the Lord.To have received that Spirit is to say that one has received Christ , for whoever has not the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8: 9-10). Just as God gives Christ to the world, Christ gives Himself to the Church through the Spirit. The believers are one Spirit with Hm (1 Cor. 6:17). The unity which exists between Christ and His Church, designated our union with Christ, is so wonderful that it transcends our thought and understanding.
By the Spirit, the believers have access to the Father. The Father Himself dwells in Christ as the Mediator and so gives Himself and His blessings to the Church. Close and inseparable as the relationship between the Father and the Mediator is, that between Christ and the believers is equally so. In inner power, it surpasses every union that can be found among creatures and even that which exists between God and His world. We see the firm trinitarian base for our faith – the Holy Trinity is completely involved.
The triune God dwells within us through the Spirit – the Father is with us; Christ is with us and the Holy Spirit dwells within us and He makes all these possible. Our union with Christ, sometimes termed a mystical union, is an awesome truth and reality. Our access to the Father is so intimate through the Holy Spirit. God Himself dwells in us believers – what a tremendous privilege – we are spiritual beings, understanding and judging the things of the Spirit (Rom.8:2 and 1 Cor. 2: 14), we are continuously led by the Spirit and are accompanied by Him up to the day of the redemption. By the Spirit, we all have access to the heavenly Father and are built up together on the foundation of the apostles and prophets for a habitation to God (Eph. 2:18 and 22). What a high calling; what a wondrous salvation; O the wonders and unsearchable wisdom of God!
God willing, we will go on to further reflection on the gift of the Holy Spirit in subsequent sharings.