Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 20 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 53.
This week, we have one question and it has to do with the Holy Spirit. Now, personally I think this is far too little time spent on the Spirit of God, but that is how the Catechism is laid out. Why do I think this isn’t enough time? You can probably answer that for me, I mean, after all this is the third person of the Trinity we are talking about.
Let me answer with a question, If you only had 3 hours to spend with the people you cared about most, what would you do? Would you talk about how much they mean to you? Would you reminisce about the time you spent together? Would you say all the things that you couldn’t bear to leave unsaid? You would probably do all those things and more, but One thing is certain, if you knew you only had 3 more hours to spend with the people you loved most, you wouldn’t waste your time. You would do all that you could to make that time count.
As we read through the gospel of John and come to the 14th chapter, we understand that Jesus has about 15 hours to live, but He will only spend about 3 of those hours with the 12. So, what does Jesus talk about in these final hours? For starters, He wants to comfort them. He wants them to know that God’s plan is right on track. They don’t need to abandon the gospel; they don’t need to seek salvation in any other way. They have put their hope in Him and nothing needs to change that.
But there is something else that dominates his final hours with the 12. He wants them to know that He is going to be leaving them but this is actually a good thing because when He leaves Someone else is going to come.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 16:7 I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
For the disciples, the coming of the Holy Spirit was good news, but for many of us it is still a pretty unclear subject. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the Cinderella Story of Christian Doctrine. He is the person of the Trinity that we seem to talk about the least. but this week we are going to focus our attention on Him exclusively. I don’t have 3 hours like Jesus, but in the next 15 minutes or so I want us to consider what we believe concerning the Holy Spirit.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Question 53: What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?
Answer: First, that He is co-eternal with the Father and the Son. Secondly, that He has been given to me personally, so that, by true faith, He makes me share in Christ and all His blessings, comforts me, and remains with me forever.
The word for “spirit” in the OT is the Hebrew term “ruahk.” In the NT the word for spirit is “pnuema.” Both of these terms are used in other places to refer to wind or breath, as well as life, motion and activity. This has caused some, like the Jews, to think of the Holy Spirit as the impersonal force or power of God. Muslims teach that the Spirit of God is an angel sent to do God’s bidding. But the Bible is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, nor an angel; but rather He is the third person of our Triune God.
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person by drawing our attention to the personal attributes that are ascribed to Him. The Holy Spirit grieves (Eph 4:30), He intercedes for us (Rom 8:26-27), He speaks (Mk 13:11), He creates (Gen 1:2) and He can be blasphemed (Mk 3:28-29). The Holy Spirit possesses wisdom and understanding (1 Cor 2:10-12, Isa 40:8, Psa 139:23), He acts according to His own will (1 Cor 12:11), and He is the One who sets apart men to special tasks of ministry (Acts 13:2, 4).
In the passage we read earlier from John 14:16, we see Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as a HE.
V. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
The Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal force; He is a personal being. But He is also more than just a person, He is a divine person. In Hebrews 9:14, He is called the eternal Spirit. In Acts 5, when Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit they are said to have lied to God. He shares in the immensity of God, the omnipotence of God, the foreknowledge of God, the omniscience of God and the Sovereignty of God.
The Spirit is God, like the Father and the Son. He stands alongside them as an object of worship. He is called the Holy Spirit because by His very nature He possesses the attribute of divine holiness. The Holy Spirit is God, but He is not the Father nor the Son. He is His own divine person equal in glory and majesty to the Father and the Son.
The first part of the Catechism answer addresses the person of the Holy Spirit but the second part addresses His work. One of the reasons that we focus more on the Father and Jesus, than the Spirit, is that this is the Spirit’s work.
John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Whether we realize it or not, the Holy Spirit draws our attention away from Himself and He directs our focus to Christ, He magnifies the Work and Word of Jesus. His task is not to highlight our subjective spiritual experiences, but to amplify our love for Jesus.
But, make no mistake, the Holy Spirit has been given to all who possess true faith in Jesus. The Spirit lives within us (1 Cor 6:19) and He makes His dwelling place in our hearts.
Gal 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
By faith, the Spirit makes us partakers or He helps us to share in the blessings of Christ. When I read this I can’t help but think of Ephesians 1 where Paul talks to us about the fact that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Then he goes on to outline for us what those blessings are.
We have been blessed by God in Christ because He chose us before the foundation of the world. He predestined us to adoption according to the purpose of His will. He redeemed us by forgiving our sins on account of Jesus. He has lavished us with grace, revealed to us mysterious things about God’s will for the world, and He has given us an eternal inheritance.
All of these blessings have been given to those who believe in Christ, but how did that happen? How did we become recipients of the blessings of Christ?
Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
The Spirit sealed us with His presence. We heard the gospel, we believed in Christ, we received the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee that we will receive every blessing that God has prepared for us.
There is so much more that I could say about the work of the Spirit in us. But let me just list out a few things that He does in the lives of believers.
1. The Spirit convicts us and we read about this a few minutes ago from John 16:7-11. The Holy Spirit brings: conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment. For believers, we understand that the Holy Spirit has worked in us to convince us of our sins before God, of the righteousness of Christ that we need, and of the certainty that judgment will come.
This progression is the way we understand how God works in our heart and mind to draw us to saving faith in Christ. But there is more to this text. The Holy Spirit also brings this conviction of sin to the unbelieving world. The Spirit exposes sin. He puts a giant spotlight on it and causes the world to see the ugliness that they want to deny.
2. The Spirit converts us
John 3:3 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
In this conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus is talking about the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that causes us to be born again. This is the Holy Spirit’s work. He removes our blindness so that we can see our need of Christ. He breathes life into our souls and brings us out of our deadness to sin. He removes our heart of stone and gives us a living heart of flesh.
The Holy Spirit does this work in every believer and there is no genuine saving faith in Christ apart from this converting work of the Holy Spirit.
3. The Spirit comforts us. He bears witness in our hearts that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16-17), He groans within us and causes us to long for the day when Christ will return to set all of creation free from the curse of sin and death (Rom 8:23), He helps us in our weaknesses and intercedes/prays for us with groanings too deep for words, and He will sustain us in the faith making us more than conquerors until the day our Lord appears.
4. The Spirit teaches us
John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
This instruction had special significance for the Apostles but it is important for us as well. The Spirit of God reveals to us the things of God, the things that pertain to salvation and the Christian life.
1 Cor 2:11…No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.
5. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us
This should be no surprise to us, after all He is called the Holy Spirit and he works in us so that we will bear the fruits and become more like Jesus.
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
6. The Spirit equips us
He fills us with courage, not fear. He fills us with wisdom, faith and joy. He grants us gifts that we are to use for the building up of the body of Christ. He empowers our service to God and to one another.
7. (And finally) The Spirit seals us for the eternal inheritance that we will receive when Christ returns in glory (Eph 1:13-14). Like those overpriced embossing seals that we buy so that we can stamp an impression on our books, the Holy Spirit has placed His seal upon us declaring that we belong to God and our place in His kingdom secure.
The whole of our Christian life is initiated, empowered, and sustained by the Spirit of God working with the Word of God to bring us into the presence of God. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible (2 Tim 3:16). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Gospel Witness, the Spirit works in us to accomplish the great commission. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no believers because our dead hearts would never come to life on their own. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Church.
The whole of our Christian life is dependent upon the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity.
Let’s ask God to give us more of the Spirit’s presence and power in our lives. Let’s ask the Spirit to shift our sanctification into overdrive. Let’s ask the Spirit to pour out His power in our church and in our lives. Let’s ask the Spirit to convert our loved ones. Let’s ask the Spirit to make the church more loving, more faithful, more compassionate, more like Jesus.
Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 21 together and discuss question 54, 55, and 56.
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Thanks for listening.