Summary: The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity.
This We Believe—
I Believe in the Holy Spirit
Acts 1: 1-11
Walking through the bookstore one day, I turn the corner and the title of a book captures my attention. If you want to know what is on the minds of people, go to the bookstore and see what books are displayed in the best-seller section. There, prominently displayed was a book entitled Victorious Christian Living. I come home and turn the television on a Christian channel, and what is the name of the program? Victorious Christian Living. Evidently, there is some great concern about living the victorious Christian life, and I suppose there is because one of the questions most asked of me as a pastor, and I know other pastor friends who say the same thing, is “How can I live a victorious Christian life?” Stated another way, “How can I live with Christ-like character?” or “How can I do what I know God wants me to do?” I have had church members ask me these same questions many times, and it did not matter what church I happened to be serving at the time. I think that is because the Christian experience is common among us. We try to do our best but find ourselves often coming up short. We try and we fail, and we live with guilt at our failings until finally frustration sets in and we wonder, “Why can’t I live the way God wants me too?”
The answer to that question lies in the statement we make in the Apostle’s Creed—“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” The answer lies there because it does make a difference what we believe about the Holy Spirit. Our confession that we believe in the Holy Spirit says we confess He is the third person of the Godhead, on a level equal with our confession that we believe in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, the Son. We confess that the Spirit is something more than an abstract, impersonal force. Some have ventured to make him just that as they have reduced him to some logic of history, or to some category of being existing unto itself. Theologians have called him God’s energy while others have made him the element of some political practice, but each one of those attempts denies the personal nature of the Holy Spirit. Our confession is in a personal Spirit who is intimately with us.
How do we know he is a person? The Bible, of course. Throughout scripture, the Holy Spirit is seen acting as a person acts. He guides, he convicts, he intercedes, he calls, an he commissions. The Spirit, like a person, is resisted (Acts 7:51), avoided, or answered (Acts 10: 19-21). The Bible says the Spirit can be grieved ((Ep. 4:30), and in one compelling event in Acts 5: 3-9, we see the consequences when someone lies to the Holy Spirit. There, Aninias and his wife Saphirra sold land and brought the proceeds to the church at Jerusalem. They lied about the amount, and both dropped dead before the Apostles. The charge was that Aninias and Saphirra lied to the Holy Spirit. We can’t lie to an impersonal force, or an energy, or a political practice. We can only lie to a person. All the functions ascribed to the Spirit by the biblical writers imply intelligence, will, feeling, and purpose, which are all characteristics of personhood.
The Holy Spirit is called by many names in both the Old and New Testaments. He is called the “Spirit,” the “Spirit of God,” the “Spirit of Christ,” the “Spirit of the Lord,” the “Spirit of the Living God,” the “Spirit of our God,” the “Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and power, of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Regard-less of the name, the work and the character of the Holy Spirit are, in essence, one with the Father. Don’t ask me explain it beyond that, for theologians much greater than I have attempted to do just that, and have failed. It is hard to imagine how God can be three in one, but our confession in the Creed says this is what we believe. We say that the Father is God over us, the Son is God beside us, and the Spirit is God within us.
God within us. There, perhaps, lies the answer to the question of living the kind of life God wants. When we understand the purpose and work of the Holy Spirit, then we can begin to understand how we can live the kind of life God desires for us. But we don’t spend much time talking about, or thinking about the Holy Spirit. There may be many reasons for that. Perhaps we simply don’t understand the Spirit so we shy away from discussions concerning him, or rather we don’t want to be connected with or confused for what some have labeled fanatics who speak in tongues, dance in aisles, and attempt acts of healing, and all in the name of the Holy Spirit. But our misunderstanding, or our reluctance to be labeled fanatics does not diminish the fact that the Holy Spirit is real, and can make a difference in our lives. Let’s look at this morning’s Scripture, and see if we can find out what difference the Spirit can make in our lives.