This study is based upon the New City Catechism.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:17-18)
The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity – truly and wholly God. This is confessed often enough, but how many of us know how He helps us? What aid does the Holy Spirit give to God’s church? This concerns, not only our relation to the Spirit, but His relevance to us. As with any doctrine, Christians may skew their pneumatology (i.e. doctrine of the Holy Spirit) in at least two ways. First, they may consider the Holy Spirit uninvolved in their life. We may call this deistic trinitarianism, which attributes to one or more members of the Trinity a stagnant, alien relationship to creation. Second, they may consider the Holy Spirit centrally involved in their life We may call this demessianic trinitarianism, which diminishes Christ’s person and work below one or more members of the Trinity. Both of these errors are examples of poor pneumatology, and we must seek to avoid them when answering the question, “How does the Holy Spirit help us?”
First, the Holy Spirit teaches us obedience. In John 14:15-16:15, Jesus promised and taught His disciples about the Holy Spirit. This pericope revolves around Christ’s departure and return (e.g. 16:5), the giving of the Spirit (e.g. 15:26), obedience (e.g. 14:15), and unity between the Father and Son (e.g. 16:15). The Spirit is called “another Helper” (14:16), a title given in the context of obedience: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (vv.15-16). This implies that obedience is at least part of the help received from the Spirit. This idea is further supported by how pneumatology and good works weave together in the passage. Christ is leaving, but obedience will be possible by way of the Spirit.
Some of the Spirit’s work detailed by Christ concerned only the Apostles. For example, The Spirit was to “teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (14:26). The explicit promise is that what Christ taught the disciples would not be forgotten, but would be preserved by the Spirit through the Apostles. In this way, the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). However, basic obedience, those good works which God foreordained for us (2:10), come from the Spirit, as fruit grows upon a vine (John 15:1-17). This is why they are called “fruits of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26). Obedience begins with a conviction of truth, that God is holy and we are sinners. Christ said that when the Spirit “comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). The Spirit guides us “into all the truth” (v.13) and glorifies Christ (v.14). So, the Spirit assists us in all matters pertaining to obedience.
Second, the Holy Spirit equips us to pray. “We do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). As sons of God (vv.12-25), we have the privilege of coming before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) with praise and supplication. The Father delights in giving us what we ask for (John 16:23), but our fallen, finite selves neglect to ask for everything we need. We have many problems of which we are ignorant, and therefore many needs for which we know not to ask. In these matters, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26). The Spirit also assists us in what we ourselves say to God. Christ commented, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41), and again, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all (John 6:63). The Holy Spirit, through a secret, inward work (Philippians 2:12-13), gives us the volitional and spiritual ability to pray, which Christ said is another avenue towards obedience.
Third, the Holy Spirit equips us to understand Scripture. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:17-18). Scripture is a sword “of the Spirit,” which here denotes possession and origin. It is the Spirit’s Word, as the verse explicitly states: “the word of God” (v.17). It is the Spirit’s work, as Peter explained, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Who is a better teacher of Scripture than the author and possessor of it? Christ prayed, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:16). The work of salvation which God is presently working in us, that of sanctification, comes about by the ministry of the word, which is the truth. We have already established that it is the Holy Spirit Who is doing this persistent, effectual work of equipping the saints for obedience. Therefore, we may say with confidence that if the Holy Spirit does not equip God’s church to understand Scripture, then His principle ministry would be nullified.
Question: How does the Holy Spirit help us?
Answer: The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, and he enables us to pray and to understand God’s Word.