04 May So What Does The Holy Spirit Do?
Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’ Genesis 1:26a (NASB)
Theologians have debated the grammar and identity of this Us for years. Many believe this refers to the fact that the Trinity – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – has existed for all eternity. K.A. Matthews writes, “The plural indicates an intradivine conversation, a plurality in the Godhead, between God and his Spirit.”1 In other words, Us means there is a relationship – in some sense a “conversation” – between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s a mind bender.
The Holy Spirit Affirms Jesus
At one level, trying to understand the person and work of God’s Holy Spirit is impossible. He is a supernatural Being; He is God and yet different from God the Father and God the Son. Our poor minds have enough trouble with the idea of “Three in One.”
One passage that helps me begin to understand the Holy Spirit is the baptism of Jesus.
and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” Luke 3:22 (NASB)
When we read this passage, we can get lost in the imagery of the dove. Artists and some denominations depict the dove in ways that suggest the form and function of the dove and miss the greater point: Jesus is praying, God the Father is speaking, the Holy Spirit is descending: Jesus has been identified as the Son of God.
It is a very helpful passage seeing the Trinity expressed. Dr. Luke, under the Spirit’s inspiration, records the moment Jesus is publicly identified as the God-Man. The icing on the cake: the Father and the Spirit are part of attesting Jesus’ identity. In my sanctified imagination, I do not see a bird landing on Jesus’ head but the indescribable Spirit – perhaps “looking” like Jesus – coming down from heaving descending like a dove (not as a dove). So whatever the Spirit looked like, the way He descended was like the way a dove would descend.
One key work the Holy Spirit accomplished was to identify and authenticate that Jesus is the very Son of God, fully God and fully man.
The Holy Spirit Affirms Believers
We remember prior to Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers permanently. As noted last month,we read in numerous Old Testament accounts that God’s Spirit may come upon or leave someone. But in the John’s “Upper Room Discourse” (John 14-16) we hear Jesus clearly explain the Holy Spirit’s coming and permanent indwelling.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; John 14:16 (NASB)
Jesus is instructing His eleven disciples that He must leave and when He does, He will send His Spirit to be with them permanently. So when you or I place our trust in Christ and Christ alone, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells us. He becomes what some have called “our permanent roommate.” As such, He is also referred to as a gift given to all believers (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 1 John 4:13). He is in the business of sanctifying us, making us more and more into the image of Christ and less like our sinful selves.
The Holy Spirit Affirms God’s Word
for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:21 (NASB)
Peter’s explanation of revelation – how we got the Scripture – is that these prophecies were not simply the result of an author writing something, but God’s Holy Spirit moved men to write the very word of God (Lk. 1:70; Acts 1:16). While not pressing the point too far, many have observed that the word moved is also used of a ship that is moved or driven by the wind (Acts 27:15, 17). The idea is compelling as the boat does not move on its own; it is moved by the wind.
Practically, this has enormous implication. How often believers claim the Holy Spirit told them something? How can many good and godly Christians come away with vastly different views of a passage? Moreover, if the impression is so strong, so emotional, so convincing, a person claims the Holy Spirit told me?
While believers will always debate meaning and interpretation, is it a fair conclusion that if we worked to understand God’s word in the context in which it was written and then how we apply it, might we find more agreement in His word that His Spirit superintended?
The goal is not to make God’s word say what we want nor say something it does not say. I doubt any of us want to intentionally misrepresent God’s word. The goal is to align ourselves to what He said. The beauty and power is that God spoke through His prophets at different times and different ways but clearly He has spoken though His Spirit and by His Son (Heb. 1:1-3). So as we read the very word of God, we have the added confidence that His Spirit inspired and oversaw the record of “thus saith the Lord.” He has spoken clearly, precisely, and without error.
Next month, we will look specifically into how the Holy Spirit works in our lives.
1 K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 163.