And in the Spirit

I believe in the Holy Spirit

Working through the Apostles’ Creed, the next topic is a one-liner, or perhaps a two-liner if we consider the reference to the Holy Spirit in the incarnation (Jesus was “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit”). Yet the Holy Spirit is an important part of Christian belief – traditionally represented as a dove as in the image of the baptism of Jesus shown to the right (image credit). Although the understanding of the original audience was somewhat different that Christian understanding, there is a long history of the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God in Scripture. We can start with Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Derek Vreeland (primal credo), J.I. Packer (Affirming the Apostles’ Creed), Ben Myers (The Apostles’ Creed) and Michael Bird (What Christians ought to Believe) all include this passage in the discussion of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament references don’t stop here, however.

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

Ps 104:30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.

Ps 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

Num 11:25-29 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again. However, two men, … were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. … Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!” But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!”

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.

Joel 2:28-29 “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Many other references in the Old Testament could be brought forward for discussion. Within the pages of the Old Testament the Spirit is active in creation, in the governance of the world, and in prophetic voice.

In the New Testament the two most obvious examples are at the Baptism of Jesus. The image to the right is from an illuminated manuscript of liturgies dated to ca. 1315 AD (image credit).

Matthew 3:16-17 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Acts 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Other references in the New Testament are to numerous to list. We can look at only a few. The Holy Spirit is sent as a helper and teacher.

John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

The Spirit bears witness to Christ.

1 John 5:6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

The Spirit produces growth in the people of God. 2 Cor. 3 and Gal. 5 are important examples here.

2 Cor. 3:3,18 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. … And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Gal. 5: 5, 22-23,25 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope…. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. … Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Romans 8 is another important passage. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (v. 14) Paul makes reference to the Spirit repeatedly in his letters.

The Spirit gives gifts.

1 Cor. 12:1, 3, 4, 7 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. … Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. … Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

To affirm belief in the Holy Spirit is to acknowledge the presence and role of the Spirit in the church and in our lives. This is not a small, inconsequential part of Christian belief. It permeates the New Testament writings including Acts (I haven’t touched on this) and the epistles of Paul and John. It is affirmed in the rule of faith as described by Irenaeus, (e.g. Against Heresies 1:10:1-2) and Tertullian (Against Praxeus 2). (Image credit)

J.I. Packer summarizes:

So when I say, as a Christian, “l believe in the Holy Spirit,” my meaning should be, first, that I believe personal fellowship, across space and time, with the living Christ of the New Testament to be a reality, which through the Spirit I have found; second, that I am open to being led by the Spirit, who now indwells me, into Christian knowledge, obedience, and service, and I expect to be so led each day; and, third, that I bless him as the author of my assurance that I am a son and heir of God. Truly, it is a glorious thing to believe in the Holy Spirit! (p. 117)

The Holy Spirit is at work in the church today. May the Spirit work in all of us as we seek to follow.

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