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Heidelberg Catechism LD 20: The Holy Spirit and His Work – Part 1 (Ezekiel 36:25-27 and John 3:5-8)

  • In worshiping our Triune God, the very Person working within us is often the Person we almost forget and know little about. That is the Holy Spirit.
  • In Pentecostal churches, many are obsessed with the “gifts of the Spirit,” but know little about who the Spirit is.
  • Of course, salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, but the more we grow in the faith, the more God will reveal himself to us. Hence, we must know who the Holy Spirit is. And such knowledge helps us know deeper how grow God’s saving work is.
  • Term “Holy Spirit” (ruah qados), 3 times only in the OT, while 90 times in the NT hagios pneuma). Although the “Spirit of God” or the “Spirit of the Lord” refers to the Holy Spirit as well. In the OT, he is also identified with the “wind” or the “breath” of God (ruah), that is, he is the “life giving Spirit of God.”
  • As we shall see, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit is not active in the Old Testament. And what is obscure in the OT is clearer in the NT.

A. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD

  • Third Person of the Trinity
    • Wrong notion that the Holy Spirit is just a power, energy, or attribute of God.
    • How he is spoken of separately with the Father and the Son (Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 1:2). He is another Person subsisting with the Father and the Son.
    • How he is spoken of as being equal with God (Acts 5:3-4b)
    • In terms of divine essence, he is co-equal with the Father and Son. In terms economic trinity, he proceeds from the Father and the Son (John 14:16; 16:7)
    • HE IS THE THIRD PERSON OF THE TRINITY
  • What else do we know about the Holy Spirit? What is his work?
  • Broadly speaking, the Word of God represents the Spirit of God as the manifestation of God’s presence and activity. It is the Holy Spirit who demonstrates the power of God in creation and new creation, and He carries out the work of salvation which was ordained by the Father and fulfilled by the Son until its completion/perfection.
    • Creation (Genesis 1:6; Psalm 33:6 [ruah])
    • Enablement for people (Exodus 35:30-31; 1 Samuel 10:9-10, 11:6; 14:14 → compare with Psalm 51:11; 1 Peter 4:14; 1 John 4:13)
  • Both in creation and the sustenance of creation, the Holy Spirit is involved in carrying out the purpose and activity of God.
    • Prophecy (Numbers 11:25) *What is to prophesy? Simply put, to declare the God’s Word  He is then identified as the “Spirit of prophecy.”
      • In the New Testament (2 Timothy 3:16, but more explicit in 2 Peter 1:21)
      • The Holy Spirit acts as the channel of communication between God and the human person (prophet), and he himself inspired the biblical authors so that as they wrote those words based to what they witnessed, their gifts, personalities, etc., they wrote the very words of God.
    • Salvation (Not only in creation, but in new creation [i.e., redemption])
      • Heidelberg Catechism: “… he (Holy Spirit) makes me share in Christ and all his blessings (spiritual benefits)”
      • Romans 8:9
      • In contrast to the past, when Spirit-endowment appeared to be limited mostly to leaders and prophets, a future was awaited wherein all of true Israel will share in the Spirit of prophecy (Joel 2:28-29; fulfillment in Acts 2:16-18). That is, the hope-for future will be a universal and immediate knowledge of God (Jeremiah 31:34). (Not only Jews, but only Gentiles. Personal knowledge of God)
      • But this self-manifesting presence of God will be a transforming presence among his people, in which the Spirit of God will accomplish a deep renewal that recreates the very heart of the people (Ezekiel 36:25-27). *Heart of stone into a heart of flesh. God’s people will not only know God but also obey and please God
      • How will these things happen? By the indwelling of the Spirit. By the regenerating and illuminating work of the Spirit. Christ has already ascended into heaven, but the work of redemption continues through the work of his Spirit inside the believers.

B. THE HOLY SPIRIT AND OUR REGENERATION

  • John 3:5-8
    • “Water” – Often connected with the water of baptism. But this external rite signifies spiritual washing than merely physical. The overall point of Christ focuses on the Spirit. More explicit in Titus 3:5.
    • v. 7 – “You must be born again.” (R.C. Sproul’s story of someone who wants to be a Christian but not to be “born-again.”) There is no true Christian who is not born again. We need the Holy Spirit in order to be turned from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive.
    • v. 8. We may not see exactly how the Spirit works, but believers can be sure that he indeed works in them. We can see the evidence of his work when he calls us with the gospel, regenerates our hearts and minds, and leads us to conversion (faith and repentance).
  • Acts 16:6 – It is through the providence of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit, that we are able to hear the gospel
  • John 16:8, 13a 
  • 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, 10-14 – Yet no one can truly understand the gospel preached without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. (Not because of our wisdom)
  • We will continue looking at how the Holy Spirit applies to his people the redemptive work of God which Christ accomplished. But let us look us some implications based on what we discussed this afternoon…

Implications

  1. So if I want to become a born-again Christian, should I ask the Holy Spirit to come to indwell me?
    1. Of course, we cannot command God. God is the one who initiates the work of redemption in us. In fact, we wouldn’t even long for God until his Spirit works in us.
    2. But though we cannot dictate or determine exactly the work of the Spirit (John 3:8), those in whom he chooses to work can nevertheless know if the Spirit is working in them.
    3. So if you have not yet repented of your sins and come to faith in Christ, but you nevertheless hear the Word of God preached to you—do not harden your heart. When the Word is faithfully preached, what we hear are not words of men, but of God. 
    4. And if you are not yet sure of your regenerate state, pray that God will mercifully grant you a clearer manifestation of the Spirit’s work of renewal in you.
  2. For us believers, by the indwelling of the Spirit in us, Christ is in us including all his benefits for us
    1. Heidelberg Catechism LD. 18, Q. 47: “Isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?”
      1. “Christ is true man and true God,
        In his human nature Christ is not now on earth;
        But in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit
        He is not absent from us for a moment.”
    2. Christ didn’t leave us to ourselves. Shouldn’t this make us grateful?
  3. The illuminating and regenerating work of the Holy Spirit means that the gospel ministry does not depend on us
    1. People are brought to faith and repentance ultimately not because of our efforts and strategies. We shouldn’t trust in ourselves.
    2. Nevertheless, we can be confident. Because it is the Holy Spirit (God) who works, we can expect his power and success in the ministry (i.e., many people would understand the Word, but there it has no power in them).
    3. And he does that through the ordinary means of grace that he appointed (Word, Sacraments, prayer). No need for entertainment.
    4. The power of the Word of God unto salvation rests not in the preacher, but in His Spirit who works mightily in the hearts and minds of his people. (E.g., Though God uses not so gifted men, it is the Spirit who creates in people the hunger for his Word)
    5. Praying for the ministry of the Word, that God through his Spirit will bless his Word and build and sustain his people.

Conclusion in the end: We worship God in Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And by his Spirit, God dwells among his people and works mightily his salvation in us. May it lead us to give all thanksgiving and worship to our God and Savior.

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