Wednesday, September 29, 2010

This is Who We Are: What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Spirit

Perhaps the Person most neglected in the Trinity is God the Holy Spirit.  There are many reasons for this, and time prohibits much depth here.  One should note, however, the hesitancy of many Christians, including Southern Baptist, on saying much about the Spirit is partially due to the continued rise of the Charismatic movement.  Pentecostals like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, and Todd Bentley have given Christianity a bad name and unbiblical practices like uninterpretted and ecstatic tongues, being slain in the Spirit, and holy laughter are so prevalent by those who abuse the doctrine of the Holy Spirit have led many Christians to the other extreme of ignoring Him.

Let us then offer a brief, yet biblical understanding of the third member of the Divine Trinity.  The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 says:

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. He inspired holy men of old to write the Scriptures. Through illumination He enables men to understand truth. He exalts Christ. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. He calls men to the Saviour, and effects regeneration. At the moment of regeneration He baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ. He cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church. He seals the believer unto the day of final redemption. His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ. He enlightens and empowers the believer and the church in worship, evangelism, and service. [1]

The BF&M 2000 is right to begin by pointing out the full deity of the Spirit.  Just as God the Father and God the Son are fully Divine, separate yet unified, so too the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and Son yet separate from the Father and the Son.  Those who deny this doctrine are walking on dangerous heresy.

Perhaps what the Spirit is most known for is His work in inspiring Scripture.  The Spirit, via the will of God, has granted us a text that points us to Christ which utilizes the personalities of various writers throughout a vast time of human history (from the days of Moses to the Apostle John) to reveal the will and words of God.  But that is not all that the Spirit has done or continues to do. 

Perhaps most central to the Spirit’s work is His work in salvation.  Only the Spirit can soften the hard hearts of men leading them to the cross and repentance.  Only the Spirit can regenerate the believer to be more like Christ.  And only the Spirit is present within the believer offering guidance and assurance.  The Son saves, the Spirit sanctifies.  In the realm of salvation, perhaps we can sum up the work of the Trinity as follows: The Father initiates.  The Son propitiates.  The Spirit regenerates.

The Holy Spirit is central to all that we are.  Each member of the Trinity was involved in Creation (including our creation) and each member of the Trinity has worked to bring about our salvation.  But it is the Spirit, under the authority of the Father and the work of Christ, that guides us towards holiness.  Therefore, we are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), to walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), to produce the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), pray in the Spirit (Jude 20), be poor in the Spirit (Matthew 5:3), be in the Spirit (Romans 8:9), serve in the Spirit (Romans 12:11), be joyful in the Spirit (Romans 14:17), love by the Spirit (Romans 15:30), and be unified in the Spirit.

In all of this the Spirit is pointing us to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.  In an act of humility and submission, the Spirit submits to the will of the Father pointing us to the Son.  The Spirit seeks the glory of the Father through the praise of His creation.  The Spirit is always pointing us to Christ and the Father.  Let us, then, look to Christ, guided by the Spirit, being conformed to the image of Christ in our daily lives.  The Spirit is not someone that leads us into utter nonsense so commonly portrayed on TV, but is a working Person of the Trinity actively involved in our lives pointing us to our Savior.  God is Spirit (John 4:24) and let us worship Him, as Jesus said, in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

[1]  The BF&M 2000 offers the following references:  Gen 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Ps 51:11; 139:7ff.; Is 61:1-3; Joel 2:28-32; Matt 1:18; 3:16; 4:1; 12:28-32; 28:19; Mark 1:10,12; Luke 1:35; 4:1,18-19; 11:13; 12:12; 24:49; John 4:24; 14:16-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-14; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4,38; 4:31; 5:3; 6:3; 7:55; 8:17,39; 10:44; 13:2; 15:28; 16:6; 19:1-6; Rom 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Cor 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thess 5:19; 1 Tim 3:16; 4:1; 2 Tim 1:14; 3:16; Heb 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Rev 1:10; 22:17.

For more:
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Introduction
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - Scripture
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God
This is Who We Are  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Father
This is Who We Are:  What a Baptist Is and Believes - God the Son 

*  Regarding the above picture.  The Holy Spirit is often portrayed in the image of a dove.  This is common even in Scripture.  When Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended like a dove (see Matthew 4).

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