Keeping in Step with the Spirit

When my wife and I first married, we would often take walks around a beautiful water reservoir near our apartment in Louisville, KY. When we’d begin walking we wouldn’t always be in step with each other, so I’d do a little foot shuffle until my steps mimicked hers so we could walk hand in hand. If I didn’t do this, either I’d eventually outpace her or she would me and it would lead to some awkward walking. 

In the Christian life, it is imperative that we strive to keep in step with the Spirit of God, so that we are not running up ahead in self-righteous independence or falling behind in selfish laziness. But what exactly does it look like to, “keep in step with the Spirit” and how does one go about doing this? For this we turn to Galatians 5:16-26.
The Problem with Legalism and How to Combat it

The church at Galatia had a problem running up ahead of the Spirit, so Paul wrote a letter to both warn and remind them. They had begun well and gave evidence that the Spirit was working in their midst, but eventually they veered off track. False teachers, possibly a group known as the Judaizers, came in and informed these believers that they must also keep in step with Jewish rituals and ceremonial laws to be true Christians. By adding requirements to the gospel of grace, Paul told this church they were in effect, “turning to a different gospel.” He warned them that such false teachers aimed to, “distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul could have combated this legalistic false teaching by giving the church at Galatia a list of Christian virtues to perform, but this would have just been another form of legalism. Instead, Paul explained to them that the Spirit within them would produce such characteristics in line with God’s law and that they need only to yield to His leading. He didn’t say, “Come on guys! Salvation doesn’t come keeping Jewish rituals, but through maintaining love, joy, peace, patience in your life. Stop trying to earn your salvation by works and start being good people for goodness’ sake.” Rather, Paul taught them to, “keep in step with the Spirit.” This is why Paul referred to, “the fruit of the Spirit” and said these things were simply evidences of a heart saved by grace.

Since these Galatians were believers, they needed to be reminded that righteousness isn’t really ours to produce. Whatever we could produce that would look like righteousness isn’t really righteous. Righteousness comes by the indwelling and empowering of the Spirit in our lives. Paul David Tripp shares the analogy of an apple tree planted in his yard that won’t produce good apples. He says to imagine what his neighbors would think if they saw him taking delicious store-bought apples and stapling them onto his bad apple tree. Good fruit doesn’t come by our own self-effort at being good, but flows out of us as we submit to the Spirit in our lives.

Shortly after conversion, I worked for a summer as a youth pastor’s intern. In one conversation, I referred to the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit and this youth pastor corrected me, saying it was the actually the fruit of the Spirit, singular. At the time, I thought this was a needless correction and it didn’t make any difference, but this reveals how I misunderstood this doctrine. The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible clarifies the importance of this distinction in language: “Notice that Paul speaks of “fruit,” not “fruits,” of the Spirit—the fruit of the Spirit is not a checklist to work through but the unified blossoming of a heart liberated by the gospel of grace.”

Therefore, the antidote to running up ahead of the Spirit in self-wrought ritual-keeping is not another self-wrought formula of character development, but rather yielding of oneself to God’s Spirit.

Yielding to the Spirit

In Galatians 5:16-26, Paul teaches us that there are two very different ways to live. Either we can be empowered by the flesh or empowered by God’s Spirit. Those who follow the lead of their flesh and fall behind produce the rotten fruit of sin. Those who follow the lead of the Spirit and keep in step with Him produce the beautiful, abundant, and delicious fruit of righteousness. When the world tastes this fruit from a Christian’s life, they know it didn’t grow from man’s planting but was put there by God. But the way we keep the tree of our lives from producing so much rotten fruit is through yielding to the Spirit. 

When you approach a yield sign on the highway and notice another vehicle coming, there are consequences for failing to yield. Accidents that could lead to tickets, fines, insurance problems, or even death. In the same way, the Spirit of God is directly opposed to your flesh and when He is calling you to obey and your flesh is saying to ignore him, there are dire consequences for failing to yield to Him. Such as: being deceived by sin, then hardened by it, then ultimately proving to have never been converted in the first place. Paul warns that those whose lives are marked by the rotten fruit of jealousy, envy, immorality, and all other manner of sin, will not inherit the kingdom of God. We cannot forget that he is writing to regenerate church members. If we wish to inherit the kingdom of God, we must live lives marked by submission to the Spirit, not resistance to Him. 

How we go about this is through the means of grace: reading, meditating on, praying through the Word of God, quick confession of sin, continual prayerful dependence on God, submitting to one another in the body of Christ, killing sin by the Spirit. We must remember that there is a war within our hearts and that we will not win this war in our own self-effort, but only as we depend on and lean upon the Spirit for strength. Only the yielded heart is capable of producing a righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees and that fulfills the whole law. May we endeavor to remove from our lives any barriers or hindrances to the Spirit’s way and strive to die to self in the power of the Spirit until we see Jesus. 

Are you in step with the Spirit today?

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Illumination: the Spirit’s Lifelong Ministry

Last Friday I blogged about the role of the Holy Spirit among the Trinity, today I want to continue on the Spirit but in terms of something too often neglected – the doctrine of illumination.

But before we get into what illumination is see the connecting point between illumination and revelation. The Spirit’s inspired revelation is the grounds for the Spirit’s illumination. Without revelation illumination wouldn’t happen. We can’t have illumination apart from revelation. John Owen says it like this, “Scripture is the only external means of divine supernatural illumination because it is the only repository of all divine supernatural revelation.” So what makes the Spirit’s illumination possible? The Spirit’s revelation. Thus we have the external Word of God and in the internal testimony of the Spirit that His inspired Word is true. So what is the illumination of the Spirit? It is “when the Holy Spirit externally assures believers that the Scriptures are the Word of God, at the same time the Spirit enables them to understand the mind of God through the illumination provided the His internal testimony” (Joel Beeke). It is an internal testimony, or awakening, a giving of light to the soul that was once in the dark, that results in, not super spirituality as Eastern religions speak of, but in an understanding of the revelation of God.

To show you this truth I want to describe to you the three Biblical aspects of faith.

Notitia

‘Notitia’ refers to the ‘facts’ of Christianity or the content of our faith. When someone believes in something, it is because they know the basics or the facts of that particular something and they agree with them. For example when I say I believe Peyton Manning is an exciting football player to watch I say that because I know certain facts about him. His stats show that he’s undoubtedly one of the best quarterbacks of all time. Of course you may disagree with this statement because the excitement of watching a football player is largely a subjective experience rather than an objective fact. But when it comes to Christianity we move away from subjective experience and move toward objective fact. When someone comes to believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ it is because they first of all know Jesus’ teachings. But be careful. To know is not the same as believing in. Notitia is not saving faith, many people know the teachings of Jesus and reject Him as Lord. Notitia is a knowledge of the facts.

Assensus

Whereas ‘notitia’ refers to the basic facts or content of Jesus’ teachings ‘assensus’ refers to the conviction that the notitia of our faith is true. It’s when someone looks at the Person and Work of Jesus and believes Him to speak the truth after examining His teaching. Think of it this way: if I were to make the claim that chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream, you would immediately begin to examine my statement and think through the qualities and characteristics of other ice cream flavors in relation to chocolate. If, after seeing the facts, you decided that I was correct and chocolate really was the best ice cream flavor of all time it means that you not only knew the facts, but that you believed those facts to be true. Or to say it another way, you mentally assented to the truthfulness of my statement. This is assensus, and yet again I must say, even this is not saving faith. Many people not only know but agree with the teaching of Jesus while remaining spiritually lost and in the dark. Recall James 2:19? Even the demons know many things to be true about Jesus yet refuse to bow the knee to Him.

Fiducia

Lastly we come to ‘fiducia.’ If notitia are the basic facts, and assensus is seeing those facts as true, fiducia goes further. Fiducia refers to a trust in or reliance on those facts. Fiducia is not only knowing the teachings of Jesus, not only agreeing that those teachings are true, but banking our lives on those teachings, relying on them, and trusting in them for salvation. Many men can gain a knowledge of the notitia of faith, many men can also see that knowledge as true, but no man can of His own power and will come to trust in these facts. Only the Spirit of God can do this inside the heart and soul of man.

This brings us back to our central focus here. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Notice it says that the natural man does not accept the things of God, not because he simply rejects them, but because he is not able to understand them. Recall what Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3? “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unless we are born again natural man is not able to ‘see’ the glories of the God’s kingdom. He is blind to them. Only the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to see the kingdom and understand the things of God.

The work of the Holy Spirit in opening our eyes to see God’s kingdom and understand God’s ways is called illumination. Illumination is not the Spirit giving man a new revelation of God, but an inward work deep within our hearts that enables us to see glory and beauty in the revelation of God in His Word that has always been before us. So in inspiration the Holy Spirit gave us the gift of Scripture, so too in illumination the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of understanding Scripture. Paul speaks of this illuminating moment in 2 Corinthians 4:6 when he states that God, just as He did back in Genesis 1, says within our hearts ‘Let there be light!’ and from this we gain “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Just as God’s spoke His Word into the dark void and created the heavens and the earth, so too God spoke His Word into the dark void of our hearts and resurrected us from death to life. J.I. Packer states, “Illumination is thus the applying of God’s revealed truth to our hearts, so that we grasp as reality for ourselves what the sacred text sets forth.”

Illumination begins before conversion with a growing grasp of the truth of God’s Word and His demands of us. The Spirit convinces us of our sin and convicts us of the same, warning us that judgment is to come if we do not repent and believe in the gospel. After conversion the illuminating process continues in our sanctification as the Spirit continues to do the work of opening our eyes and hearts to comprehend what is beyond all comprehension, the love of Christ. By doing this throughout our lives the Spirit fills us with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). Therefore, this work of illumination begun before conversion and continuing in our sanctification until our glorification, is a lifelong ministry of the Spirit toward Christians. Knowing that this is how the Holy Spirit operates within us to grow us in grace should prompt and move and lead and cause us to labor in the Scripture privately and publicly. While praying that the Spirit would incline our hearts to His testimonies (Psalm 119:36), open our eyes to behold wondrous things in His Law (119:18), unite our hearts with His to fear Him properly (Psalm 86:11), and satisfy us with Himself so that we would be glad and sing for joy all our days (Psalm 90:14).

To bring back our earlier terms of faith, allow me to end our discussion with two Puritan thoughts.

First, John Flavel makes a very valid point, in his book Method of Grace, when he wrote that the notitia and assensus is God’s preparatory or convicting illumination where man’s conscience and intellect are touched by grace while fiducia is God’s saving illumination where man’s will is transformed by grace to enjoy and taste God’s beauty and sweetness. Second, hear Jonathan Edwards, “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.”

The Holy Spirit: Delighted Among the Trinity

In the modern Church it is easy to see that confusion abounds regarding the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. This confusion is most easily seen in the three groups most of us fit into.

First, we have the Christians who seem consumed with the Holy Spirit. They interpret all of life through communing with the Holy Spirit, they make bold and confident assertions about what Spirit is leading them to do with their lives, and in their worship services it is commonplace to see various displays of the Spirit, such as being slain in the Spirit or speaking in tongues.

Second, we have the Christians who seem devoid of all Spirit-filled activity. They are exceedingly academic and logical in their Christian experience, their worship services seem rigid or heavily structured, and in any discussion of the Spirit’s work is looked on with suspicion rather than a deep affection or gratefulness.

Third, we have a group that has largely been a reaction to both of previous two positions. This is a sort of middle ground position which affirms the continuing presence of charismatic gifts today while at the same time denying their relevance or usefulness in public use. This position is sometimes referred to as ‘cautious continuationism.’

All three of these groups usually claim to believe in the Trinity, but in practice the first group appears to view the Spirit as supreme, the second group appears to ignore the Spirit entirely, while the third group appears to be afraid of the Spirit causing some type of public embarrassment or spectacle. Of course a question rises to the surface after seeing such a separation within the Church: ‘Who is right?’ Or maybe I should ask it like this: ‘Which group has a more Biblical Christianity?’ ‘Who has a sounder theological understanding of the Spirit?’ These are great questions indeed. Questions that must be not only asked, but answered as well. The only frustrating thing about answering such questions is that each group claims to be correct. Though this may be the case we must try to remove ourselves from our current cultural relativism which believes that it doesn’t really matter what you believe, it only matters that you’re sincere in those beliefs. To which I say, ‘Really?’ We’re fools to believe such things. Truth by definition is exclusive and cannot contradict itself. Two people cannot give different answers and both be correct at the same time. Either one of them is right or both of them are wrong.

So what then is the answer? To be fair, let me lay my cards on the table.

The historic Reformed faith, of which I am a part, has largely been perceived as academic, cold, heady, or overly intellectual in regard to the things of God. Some have described our church services as too liturgical or structured. Someone once told me there is so much order in our worship that the Spirit of God is prohibited from doing what He wants to do. Is that true? I certainly don’t think so, but clearly the person who told me this does. I hear comments like these frequently, and I often wonder at them because it is the exact opposite of what I see in Scripture and what I’ve encountered in my own Christian experience. You see, I believe the modern Church has an unhealthy desire for the extraordinary. We desire power, we desire signs, we desire wonders and miracles and mountain top experiences with God. Now, don’t misunderstand me. The extraordinary is not bad at all. But it’s not where we spend 98% of our Christian experience. Most of our experience will overwhelmingly be ordinary, and you know what? I think that’s how God intends it to be.

This desire for the extraordinary is not new with our generation, it was fully present with the disciples too. Philip said to Jesus in John 14:8, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ After all that Jesus had done and taught, Philip thought it just wasn’t enough and sought after something extraordinary so he asked Jesus to show them the Father and said that if Jesus did this that it would be enough for them. Then (and only then!) they would truly know that Jesus was God. How did Jesus respond to him? In John 14:9-11 He said, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.’ Jesus points out that Philip doesn’t properly understand the incarnation, and that Philip can find the extraordinary God he’s looking for in the ordinary looking Person of Jesus Christ.

This is what I see today. The modern Church has embraced a Philip type mindset in the Christian life and we need to be called back to the ordinary. Even as I type out those words it sounds wrong doesn’t it? I mean, when did being elected before the foundation of the world by the Father, saved by the penal substitutionary atonement of the Son, and indwelt by the Spirit become something that we see as ordinary? Are these things not the epitome of extraordinary?! Shame on us for looking for something greater.

So what do we do about this? With all these things and more seemingly up for grabs in the modern Church when it comes to the Holy Spirit, the only thing we can do is return to Scripture. With God’s help we must examine the teachings of the Word of God. While I’ll do this in this tonight let me go ahead and disappoint some of you. If you are here tonight and are looking for a solution to the charismatic gifts in the church today, you’ll be unfulfilled and I’m afraid you’ll find this a rather ordinary message (remember what I said 2 paragraphs ago?). There are much more pressing matters I want to cover. I want delve deeply into the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, trace how it develops throughout Scripture with an aim to see what the work, the goal, and the priorities of the Holy Spirit are. Once we see the big picture redemptive work of the Spirit, it is my view that these side matters (which we have wrongly made central matters) will fade in their significance.

DELIGHTED: The Spirit Among the Trinity

As theologians wrote on the Trinity throughout Church history the centrality of the Trinity has become clearer and clearer. One such model, called the psychological model came to the surface. Joe Rigney does a wonderful job of explaining this view of the Trinity stating that “in the Godhead, there is God in His direct existence (Father), God’s self reflection or contemplation of Himself (Son), and God’s love and delight for Himself (Holy Spirit)…there is God, God’s idea of God, and God’s love for His idea of Himself.” Before you write this view of the Trinity off as crazy, too perplexing, or even a kind of teaching taken from the psychologist Freud (which it’s not!), take note of the following passages. Colossians 1:15 says Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’ and Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the exact imprint (or representation) of God’s nature. This is why Jesus says when you’ve seen Him you really have seen the Father (John 14:7-11). Taking these passages together we understand that for all eternity God has had an image of Himself. This image is the exact imprint or representation of His nature. Because this image of God is the exact imprint of God it has pleased God to make known the glories and beauty of His own character to the world through this image, which is His Son.

What then do we make of the Holy Spirit in this description of the Trinity? The Spirit, in the above paragraph is described as ‘God’s love for His idea of Himself.’ Or to say it another way the Spirit is the very love and delight which the Father and the Son have in each other. This love that flows between the Father and the Son is deep and infinite and wonderful and exuberant. Jesus Himself speaks of this love when He mentions the ‘glory’ the Father gave Him because He loved Him before the foundation of the world in John 17:24. This love, flowing back and forth between Father and Son, is so substantial that it stands out on its own as the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. That love then bursts out of the fellowship of the Father and Son and pours over onto us at the moment of conversion. We see this in Romans 5:5 when it says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is the Spirit who is the very love of God which, from being poured into us, brings all of God’s delight in God into the soul of man.

Many theologians through history have described the Spirit like this.

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis expressed it like this, “The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and the Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God. This Third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the ‘spirit’ of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a reason that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him. He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as something ‘out there’, in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you…God is love, and that love works through men-especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and the Son.”

Jonathan Edwards said it like this years before Lewis did in his own Puritan manner. “The Godhead being thus begotten by God’s loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, Proverbs 8:30 – “I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is, as it were, breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz. the deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will.” Edwards went on to conclude the following about the Trinity as a whole, “The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence. The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are distinct persons.”

Since the Holy Spirit is the love which flows out from and breathes forth between the Father and the Son, see the beauty in Jesus’ words in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In context ‘these things’ refers to all Jesus taught in 15:1-10, but the substance of Edwards and Lewis and all we’ve mentioned before fits within this statement as well. The reason our joy is full is because the joy Jesus gives to and places within us, is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself.

So be encouraged, and behold our God. Look at the Father: infinite in His wisdom, wondrous in His majesty, and perfect in His purpose. Look at the Son: humble in His incarnation and death, exalted in His resurrection and ascension, and ever faithful in His intercession for us. And look at the Spirit enlightening in His illumination, consoling in His comfort, strengthening in His sanctifying support.

The Spirit Provides what God Commands

In Exodus 31:1-11 we have a stunning scene.  This is the one of the first instances in Scripture where we explicitly see the enabling work of the Holy Spirit, providing all things needed to obey what God commands.  It says this:

“The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

See it?  The Spirit equipped Bezalel and Oholiab to build all that God commanded.  Without this filling of the Spirit, God’s people would not be able to partake in worship, they wouldn’t be able to do what God commanded them to do.  But the Spirit provided what God commanded – and thus the people of God are built up.  This happens in the New Testament too.  Read Ephesians 4:10-16:

“He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

Just as the Holy Spirit provided what God commanded in the Old Covenant, so too He does the same thing in the New Covenant for the people of God.  Whereas before He equipped two men with gifts, abilities, knowledge, and skills to build the temple and all it contained, now the Spirit is equipping men with gifts, abilities, knowledge, and skills to build the Church, preach God’s Word, shepherd the people, and lead them in worship.

The same Spirit who acted for God’s people in Exodus is still at work today among us, enabling, equipping, and empowering the Church to be the Church.  Praise Him indeed!

What Happens When the Holy Spirit Falls in Power?

I often find it both curious and funny when we as Christians would answer questions differently than the Bible answers questions. Let me show you what I mean by asking you a question.

What happens when the Holy Spirit comes in power?

What do you think most Christians would say? “Lots of stuff that we normally don’t see?” “Miracles, healing, wonders?” “Gold dust falling from the ceiling?” Perhaps. But notice how John describes this in his gospel.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-15)

He does not say tongues, prophecy, healing, falling out, oil, etc? Why doesn’t he say this when most people today believe that is what the Holy Spirit causes and brings about? Perhaps John doesn’t say these things or mention any of them, because it’s not what the Holy Spirit is about. Now notice what John does say. In John’s view when the Spirit falls, Jesus is glorified, not the Spirit or His gifts. Therefore the Church that is concerned about the Holy Spirit coming in power will be mostly concerned with Jesus being glorified and exalted in their midst. I want to be a part of that Church.

Jonathan Edwards & C.S. Lewis on the Holy Spirit

As theologians wrote on the Trinity throughout Church history the centrality of the Trinity has become clearer and clearer. One such trinitarian model, the psychological model, came to the surface.[1] Joe Rigney does a wonderful job of explaining this view of the Trinity stating that “in the Godhead, there is God in His direct existence (Father), God’s self reflection or contemplation of Himself (Son), and God’s love and delight for Himself (Holy Spirit)…there is God, God’s idea of God, and God’s love for His idea of Himself.”[2] Before you write this view of the Trinity off as crazy, too perplexing, or even a kind of teaching taken from the psychologist Freud (which it’s not!), take note of the following passages. Colossians 1:15 says Jesus is the ‘image of the invisible God’ and Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is the exact imprint (or representation) of God’s nature. This is why Jesus says when you’ve seen Him you really have seen the Father (John 14:7-11). Taking these passages together we understand that for all eternity God has had an image of Himself. This image is the exact imprint or representation of His nature. Because this image of God is the exact imprint of God it has pleased God to make known the glories and beauty of His own character to the world through this image, which is His Son.

What then do we make of the Holy Spirit in this description of the Trinity? The Spirit, in the above paragraph is described as ‘God’s love for His idea of Himself.’ Or to say it another way the Spirit is the very love and delight which the Father and the Son have in each other. This love that flows between the Father and the Son is deep and infinite and wonderful and exuberant. Jesus Himself speaks of this love when He mentions the ‘glory’ the Father gave Him because He loved Him before the foundation of the world in John 17:24. This love, flowing back and forth between Father and Son, is so substantial that it stands out on its own as the third Person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. That love then bursts out of the fellowship of the Father and Son and pours over onto us at the moment of conversion. We see this in Romans 5:5 when it says “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” It is the Spirit who is the very love of God which, from being poured into us, brings all of God’s delight in God into the soul of man.

Many theologians through history have described the Spirit like this. In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis expressed it like this, “The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and the Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God. This Third Person is called, in technical language, the Holy Ghost or the ‘spirit’ of God. Do not be worried or surprised if you find it (or Him) rather vaguer or more shadowy in your mind than the other two. I think there is a reason why that must be so. In the Christian life you are not usually looking at Him. He is always acting through you. If you think of the Father as something ‘out there’, in front of you, and of the Son as someone standing at your side, helping you to pray, trying to turn you into another son, then you have to think of the third Person as something inside you, or behind you…God is love, and that love works through men-especially through the whole community of Christians. But this spirit of love is, from all eternity, a love going on between the Father and the Son.”[3]

Jonathan Edwards said it like this years before Lewis did in his own Puritan manner. “The Godhead being thus begotten by God’s loving an idea of Himself and shewing forth in a distinct subsistence or person in that idea, there proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual, Proverbs 8:30 – “I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.” This is the eternal and most perfect and essential act of the divine nature, wherein the Godhead acts to an infinite degree and in the most perfect manner possible. The Deity becomes all act, the Divine essence itself flows out and is, as it were, breathed forth in love and joy. So that the Godhead therein stands forth in yet another manner of subsistence, and there proceeds the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, viz. the deity in act, for there is no other act but the act of the will.”[4]

Edwards went on to conclude the following about the Trinity as a whole, “The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in its direct existence. The Son is the deity generated by God’s understanding, or having an idea of Himself and subsisting in that idea. The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to and delight in Himself. And I believe the whole Divine essence does truly and distinctly subsist both in the Divine idea and Divine love, and that each of them are distinct persons.”[5]

Since the Holy Spirit is the love which flows out from and breathes forth between the Father and the Son, see the beauty in Jesus’ words in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” In context ‘these things’ refers to all Jesus taught in 15:1-10, but the substance of Edwards and Lewis and all we’ve mentioned before fits within this statement as well. The reason our joy is full is because the joy Jesus gives to and places within us, is none other than the Holy Spirit Himself. So be encouraged, and behold our God. Look at the Father: infinite in His wisdom, wondrous in His majesty, and perfect in His purpose. Look at the Son: humble in His incarnation and death, exalted in His resurrection and ascension, and ever faithful in His intercession for us. And look at the Spirit enlightening in His illumination, consoling in His comfort, strengthening in His sanctifying support.

[1] This model is described in the writings of Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, and even shows up in C.S. Lewis on a few occasions, I first read of it in Joe Rigney’s book The Things of Earth, page 37-39.

[2] Joe Rigney, The Things of Earth, page 37

[3] Lewis, Mere Christianity, page 175-176.

[4] Edwards, An Essay on the Trinity, page 108.

[5] Edwards, An Essay on the Trinity, page 118.