Who is the Holy Spirit?
February 16, 2014
It seems that we live in a time when theological error is particularly thriving. There have always been false teachers. They just seem to abound today:
- There is confusion about the church and unity — should we embrace every entity that calls itself a church or should we be “divisive?”
- There is confusion about the gospel — what does it mean to be a Christian? Does praying a prayer save you? Does going to church? Can one intentionally engage in ongoing, unrepentant sin and still be a follower of Christ?
- Who is Jesus? (Easter is coming, get ready for another attack on His historicity or person.)
- Are there errors in the Bible? If there are errors, can it still be trusted?
- Did God create the earth in six literal 24-hour days? Does it matter? (Yes!)
- What does God know? Does God know everything we will do before we do it? Or does He adjust His plans very quickly to what we do?
- Is man inherently good or inherently bad? If he is inherently good (and most say he is), from where do all the bad things he does come?
- When does life begin and end? Does anyone have the right to determine when others should live or die?
- Is marriage restricted to one man and one woman? Does it matter? Who decides?
- How will the world end? Are things getting better (as the evolutionary model suggests)? If so, why are there so many murders and mass killings and greed…?
It’s hard to pick a theological debate that is worse than the rest. Certainly the questions of the gospel and Christ are the questions with the greatest eternal impact. Yet there is one more that stands out as significant. It is the question of the operation of the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit, what does He do, and what are legitimate manifestations of His work?
It seems that the things that are getting attributed to the Holy Spirit’s work are just more and more bizarre: not only speaking in tongues and prophecies, and being slain in the Spirit, but people barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, roaring like lions and worse. I refuse (for the sake of keeping your consciences clean) to recount some of the sexual escapades that are happening not only here but in other continents in the name of the “Spirit.” It’s perverse and sickening and is wholly unhonorable.
What are we to think about these things?
One thing we are to recognize is that these things are not new. They have always existed. And a benefit of that is that the Scriptures recognize them and give us instruction.
For example, in 1 John 3:24, John writes,
The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
We can be sure of our salvation when we recognize the work of the Spirit in our lives.
That statement triggered in John the obvious question — “how do you tell the work of the genuine Spirit from false spirits?” So in 4:1-6 he answers that question. One of the statements he makes is “test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” (4:1). To conduct this test, however, we are going to have to know what the genuine Spirit looks like and what He does. So for the next few weeks I want to take a small detour that I’ve wanted to do for several years and consider with you the biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit. We’ll begin today by thinking about the topic, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” and then move to the questions, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” and “The Fruit and Gifting of the Holy Spirit.” We’ll address some common questions like, “What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?” and “What about tongues and prophecy?”
Today we want to lay a foundation and answer the question, “who is the Holy Spirit?” and what is the uniqueness about this gift that John says in 3:24 has been given to us?
The Holy Spirit is not just any gift to believers (1 Jn. 3:24);
when God gives the Holy Spirit, He gives Himself.
(We will be referring to many passages this morning, so be aware that the sermon notes will be online by the time you get home this afternoon and you can get all the references there.)
1. The Deity of the Holy Spirit: He is God
- We know the Holy Spirit is God because of His names
- We know the Holy Spirit is God because of His attributes
- We know the Holy Spirit is God because of what He does
2. The Personality of the Holy Spirit: He is not a Bird
- The Holy Spirit is a person because of His mind
- The Holy Spirit is a person because of His functions
- The Holy Spirit is a person because of His relationships
- The Holy Spirit is more than just a “power”
3. The Holy Spirit and the Old Testament
- While the Holy Spirit operated in different ways in the Old Testament, He was not a different Holy Spirit
- So how was the Holy Spirit’s work different in the Old Testament?