This study is based upon the New City Catechism.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
God the Father and God the Son are those divine Persons Who receive the utmost attention. We are familiar with the Son, the incarnate God Who purchased our pardon. We also know the Father, the Patriarch of the Godhead Who guides the divine economy. That relational and doctrinal knowledge is good, but our God is a Trinity, not a duality. The third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, is deserving of study and investigation with the rest.
His obscurity is owing to no inner deficiency, but rather an outer emphasis. It is true that men have, in various contexts and by divers means, woefully neglected the Spirit, in both theology and practice. However, most complaints regarding a “neglect” of the Spirit are founded only on ignorance. It is by the design of God Himself that the Spirit is not set-forth in glory as the Father and Son are. The Father glorifies the Son, the Son glorifies the Father, but the Spirit glorifies the Father and Son. In the Trinitarian economy, His is the role of supporter and minister. Therefore, it is only fitting that God’s people reflect the same disposition He sets forth, that attention should be given primarily to the Father and Son, that in salvation we come to the Father in the name of the Son by the secret, invisible aid of the Spirit.
We first must understand that the Holy Spirit is truly God, the third member of the Trinity. In John 14:16-17, Christ distinguished between Himself, the Father, and the Spirit: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper… even the Spirit of truth.” “Another” distinguishes the aid of the Spirit from that of Christ incarnate. This correlates well with other Scriptures that differentiate the Spirit from the Father and Son, yet ascribe to Him divine status. “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). “Name” (onoma) is singular, but each person is referenced separately. This denotes the identical substance and various subsistences which make up the Godhead. Elsewhere in John the Spirit is clearly referred to in personable terms (15:26; 16:13), disqualifying Him from being merely a type of force.
Second, we must understand our relationship to the Spirit. The Spirit is given to be with us forever (14:16), Who dwells with and in us (v.17). Though this passage may refer explicitly to the Disciples, Paul applied the same principle to all Christians:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 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.1 Corinthians 2:12-14
The Spirit is given, and that results in a glorious knowledge of God, in every sense. By Him, the Holy Spirit, “we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15), and are confirmed in our adoption into the household of God: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (v.16). Indeed, it is the Spirit Himself Who applies the benefits of redemption to us and births us into the kingdom (John 3:8; Titus 3:5). He is also a divine down payment on our final salvation, a seal and “guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it” (Ephesians 1:13-14). This doubly joins God’s character to our final salvation, for not only has God promised us salvation, but He has deposited the Spirit in us as an “advance payment.” If the promise proves nil, then the Spirit could justly be seized as collateral. Therefore, it would not be a stretch to claim that the eternal bond of the Godhead hangs in the balance of our salvation. Because God cannot fail, this is simply a declaration of the assurance of our ultimate deliverance from sin and death.
The Holy Spirit is truly God. He leads us into a knowledge of God, adopts us into the household of God, assures us of that adoption, applies to us the benefits of salvation, and seals us for everlasting joy. Though He is a “behind-the-scenes” subsistence in the Trinitarian economy, this by no means communicates a trivial or unnecessary quality to His work. Without the Spirit, we are lost. As it was always God’s intention to send Christ the Redeemer, so it was always God’s intention to send the Holy Spirit to help His people. The promise of Abraham was the promise of the Holy Spirit: “So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14; cf. Acts 2:38-39).
Question: What do we believe about the Holy Spirit?
Answer: That he is God, coeternal with the Father and the Son, and that God grants him irrevocably to all who believe.