Baptist, What Do You Believe? #6

Article II, Section C: God the Holy Spirit

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 Savior, 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.

Genesis 1:2; Judges 14:6; Job 26:13; Psalms 51:11; 139:7ff.; Isaiah 61:1-3; Joel 2:28- 32; Matthew 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; Romans 8:9-11,14-16,26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14; 3:16; 12:3-11,13; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 Timothy 3:16; 4:1; 2 Timothy 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 9:8,14; 2 Peter 1:21; 1 John 4:13; 5:6-7; Revelation 1:10; 22:17.

We Baptists know very little about the Holy Spirit, and yet it is not because of the lack of Scriputral material. The Scriptural references listed with this section on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit alone are witness to this fact. A quick word search of Holy Spirit turned up ninety-three passages, ninety of them from the New Testament. Add to that references to the Holy Sprit, like Spirit (Gen. 1:3; 6:12; Judges 14:19) and helper (John 14-16), and the references to the third person of the Trinity more than triples.

So, why do we Baptists know so little about the Holy Spirit?
I believe there are at least three possible reasons:

  • With so much ostentatious hoopla that surrounds so much of what we call the Charismatic movement, I believe that Baptists want to stay as far away as possible from the so-called Spirit-filled stuff. Pastor Harris put it so well in a recent Wednesday-evening message on this subject when he said “Afraid of going out on a limb we refuse to get in the tree!”
  • Another reason has to do with the nature of the Holy Spirit’s work. What He does is not all that visible. When we talk of God the Father, we talk about His acts of creation. We can look all around us and see physically all that He has done. Throughout the pages of the Old testament we see the wrestling match between God and His chosen people, Israel (Gen. 32:28). We see His hand in the raising up and tearing down of empires. God the Son takes on flesh and blood and dwells among us. Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine teaching, preaching, and praying. He heals, drives out, and overturns. Most of all, we see the passion of our Savior, and we see Him raised again the third day. The work of the Holy Spirit is so different from that of the Father and the Son. He works in the Spiritual realm, largely unseen. He is much like the wind (John 3:8) You can’t see the wind, but you can see its effects, if you pay attention. Look at the paragraph before us in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and note the work He does: inspires, illumines, exalts, convicts, calls, regenerates, cultivates, comforts, bestows, seals, enlightens, and empowers. These are all things that cannot be directly seen, although, like the wind, you can see the effects of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those whom He indwells.
  • And finally, one big reason little is known about the Holy Spirit is because of the nature of His role. His job is not to proclaim or put forth Himself, but to show forth Jesus Christ. Jesus said in John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” Paul echoes the same idea in 1 Corinthians 12:3, when he says that “no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” John also states that the Spirit of God will “confess that jesus Christ has come in the flesh.” The third person of the Trinity takes a subordinate role in redemption. His job in this gospel age is to promote Jesus Christ.

Who is the Holy Spirit?
Section C gives us just one brief sentence concerning who the Holy Spirit is: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, fully divine. We can fall back on the main paragraph that deals with the doctrine of God as a whole and get a few more details. The last sentence there says that He is one with the Father and the Son, and with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

If God is spirit (John 4:24), don’t we mean the same person when speaking about the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2)? That might be a possibility to consider except if it were not for the numerous times when the Father and Holy Spirit are mentioned together as distinct persons. In Genesis 1 verse one speaks of God in the beginning, and in verse two it is the Spirit of God that is hovering over the face of the waters. At Jesus’ baptism God speaks from heaven, while at the same time the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. At the great commission, Jesus commands His disciples to baptize disciples in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Even though God is a spirit, and does not have a body like men, the Scriptures makes a distinction between the Father and the Holy Spirit. Here again is one of those mysteries that should make us marvel and worship rather than doubt.

The Holy Spirit, just like the Father and the Son, is personal. He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), He can be blasphemed (Mark 3:29), and He can be lied to (Acts 5:3). If you drop down two verses to Acts 5:5, you notice that Peter, after first asking why Ananias had lied to the Holy Spirit, goes on to state that he has not lied to man, but to God. Here we have a firm affirmation to the deity of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of God, fully divine.

Why is the Holy Spirit called the Holy Spirit?
Why don’t we call the Father and the Son holy? Why is there this adjectival addition to the third person of the Trinity? Is it because the Holy Spirit is more holy than the Father and the Son? By no means. This would violate the orthodox formula of the Trinity: one in essence, three in person. The three persons exist in one essential Godhead, all sharing the same attributes, no one person being more or less of anything than the other two.

The main reason the Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit, is because of the work He performs. Look again at the list of verbs above drawn from Section C: inspires, illumines, exalts, convicts, calls, regenerates, cultivates, comforts, bestows, seals, enlightens, and empowers. The Holy Spirit’s primary work, at least in this gospel age, is to draw out lost sinners out of the world through regeneration. Once justified, the Holy Spirit moves on to work in us sanctification through things like illumination, bestowal, enlightenment, and empowerment. Both of these acts are separating us out of the world, making us fit for special use, making us servants of the King.

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
Well, we have answered much of what the Holy Spirit does in the previous paragraph dealing with the whole concept of holiness. Before we conclude this brief look at the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, lets look at the Holy Spirit’s part in the saving of lost souls.

  • Conviction of sin: Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:7-11). The gospel has no appeal to the lost sinner until he is aware of the desperate plight that he is in. Thanks be to God that He has sent His Spirit into the world to attend to His preached word, and convict men of sin and righteousness and judgment.
  • Regeneration: Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8) Born again? That is what regeneration is all about: being re- generated, born again, made all over again. (In the Greek and the Hebrew language there is just one word for the English words breath, wind, and spirit. The English rendering is determined by the context.) Again, all praise and glory be to God for this essential initial gift from the Holy Spirit to us poor retched sinners who were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13, Romans 8:7,8)

After the Holy Spirit convicts, calls, and regenerates us, He comes to dwell in us and provides all of the other things listed above, fitting us for service in the King’s army. If you try to work your mind through all of this you won’t really have time to ponder things like baptism in the Holy Spirit, or second blessings. There is already enough here to stand in amazed silence for the rest of our days. May we do so.

Previous Lessons:
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #1 (An Introduction)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #2 (On the Doctrine of Scripture)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #3 (On the Doctrine of God)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #4 (On God the Father)
Baptist, What Do You Believe? #5 (On God the Holy Spirit)

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