Summary: First in a series on the Holy Spirit it, looking at the Spirit’s place in the Trinity. God invites us through the Spirit to participate in the intimacy of the trinity. Join the dance! Ends with a parable I wrote.
The Holy Who? Spirit and Trinity
May 3/4, 2003
Being a Christian is about knowing God. It is about being in relationship with God. Faith is not mentally agreeing with a prescribed set of abstract principles, faith is about living in obedience to a God you know and love and worship and interact with. That is what Christianity is about.
Who am I in a relationship with?
This morning we are going to begin a series of sermons leading up to summer – six weeks talking about who God is. We talk quite a bit about God the Son – and so we should. And we talk about God the Father quite a bit also – and so we should. But there is a third member of the Trinity which we don’t talk as much about, God the Holy Spirit. That is what I want to spend the next 6 weeks talking about together. Who is the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit do? What is the Holy Spirit’s role in creation, in salvation, in the world, in the church, in our lives?
For the record, my primary source (after Scripture) is a book by Clark Pinnock called Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. While there are a number of things in the book which I don’t agree with, there is also some good teaching that I want to pass along. Right away, in the introduction, Pinnock reminds us that we need to combine analysis and contemplation – that the true essence of knowing God the Holy Spirit is not a matter for study alone but rather experience. All good theology is about head and heart – mind and spirit. And so in this series I want to seek both. Pinnock writes, “As well as studying the Scriptures on the Spirit, we must be prayerful and open, longing to fall in love with the One who frees and surprises, delights and searches, energizes and purifies us.”
You see, if Christianity really is about knowing God, then we need to know the Holy Spirit, who is God. And not just know about Him, like stats on a famous hockey player, but know Him like a friend. Know Him like an intimate member of the family who is with you always, in recognizable ways. To that end, let us pray.
The place to start in understanding God the Holy Spirit is with the nature of God, specifically with the concept of the Trinity.
Now the minute I say that word, some of you throw up your hands and think, “I’ve never been able to figure that out, so I’m just going to mentally check out of this sermon and play games on my palm pilot or catch a few zzzs. Please don’t!! Let’s wade through this together, and come to a deeper understanding of who God is.
1. God the Father. We begin with God the Father. This one is easy – it is the picture we have of God from the beginning of the Bible and consistent all through the OT. In the NT, we recognize God the Father specifically in relationship to Jesus.
2. God the Son. And then along comes Jesus, claiming to be God and backing up His claim with miraculous signs culminating with His bodily resurrection from the dead. He taught and demonstrated a distinct personhood from God the Father. As Christians, we understand Jesus to be fully God and affirm His divinity. And suddenly our concept of God gets a little messier – we believe that God is one, we affirm that we are monotheists like Jews and Muslims, but now we recognize God the Father and God the Son.
3. now, stay with me. It gets a little messier still, before we begin to make sense of it. Jesus taught that He was leaving, but that He would send Someone else – the Holy Spirit. This is in Jn 14 and 16, just before His death and resurrection. The gospels and the writings of the apostles in the rest of the NT affirm that the Holy Spirit is also God. One example is 2 Cor 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
So we now have three Persons – God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. But we believe in one God. That is the teaching we have from Scripture. It is most clearly expressed by Jesus Himself just before His ascension into heaven, when He commands us to baptize “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). It is also very clear in Ephesians 1:3-14, where in one long unbroken sentence Paul praises the Father, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit.