ByCraig van Echten
January 17, 2021
Brothers and sisters,
As most of us know, life can be tough, even brutal at times. In a whole variety of ways we can suffer and go through trials. In this world we face, sickness, death, relationship issues, challenges at work, loss of work, mental health issues, challenges at Church and so much more.
And in these very difficult times, it can seem as though God is absent. Our prayers can seem to bounce off the ceiling. Our corporate worship can seem like a hamster wheel, going through the motions. And people can wonder: where are you God? Maybe you’ve wondered that of late?
This morning we are looking at the person and work of the Holy Spirit. And, we are going to particularly see that God the Spirit has come to strengthen us each and every day. God never leaves us as orphans! He never leaves us to fend for ourselves! No, He is right there by our side, so to speak, to strengthen us. He’s like the running coach, who runs next to the runner, spurring him on. He’s like a military ally who’s come to strengthen your position. He’s like the piles on a house, to stop you sinking in the mud of trials.
And so the main point this morning is that God has come to strengthen His people
The first thing we see this morning is that God meets us personally through His Holy Spirit.
In this point we are talking about the person of the Holy Spirit. This means we are looking at who He is? Who is the Holy Spirit?
J.I Packer says, “For most people nowadays Spirit is a vague and colorless word. The thought it is most likely to bring to mind is of a human mood or attitude (high or low spirits, good spirits, that’s the spirit.” But, that is not how the Bible describes the Holy Spirit.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
a. One important part of the answer is of course that He is God. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. And so just as the Father is fully God, and the Son is fully God, so also the Holy Spirit is fully God.
He is often mentioned in the many Trinitarian passages of Scripture (2Cor. 13:14; Matt. 28:19; 1Pe. 1:2). In these passages all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned. And it wouldn’t make sense for the Holy Spirit to be mentioned if He wasn’t equal with the Father and the Son. In one passage, Revelation 1:4-5, the Holy Spirit is mentioned before the Son. Did you notice in the lyrics to ‘How great is our God’ it says, ‘The Godhead three in one, Father, Spirit, Son.’ This is the order of Revelation 1:4,5. Why is that significant? If the Holy Spirit was less than God, why would He be mentioned between the Father and the Son?
Further evidence for the divinity of the Spirit is found in Acts 6. Ananias and Sapphira have clearly lied to the Church. The Church which is united by the Holy Spirit. The implication then is that they have lied to the Holy Spirit which ultimately means they have lied to God! Acts 5:3 “But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?....Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man, but to God.”
So, who is the Holy Spirit? And like God the Father and God the Son, He is all knowing(1Cor. 2:11), everywhere present (Ps. 139), all powerful (1Cor. 12:4-6), eternal (Hebrews 9:14), Creator God (Job 33:4).
b. Now, another important part of the answer is that He is personal. The Jehovah Witnesses not only deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit. They reduce Him to a force. For the Jehovah witnesses, the Holy Spirit is an ‘it.’ And maybe you’ve fallen into that trap too? However, the Bible is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is a ‘He.’ He is a person, not a gas or a force.
He thinks as a person, acts as a person and wills as a person. He searches the deep things of God, and knows them (1Cor. 2:13). In addition, only a person can teach (Jn. 16:13), command (Rom. 8:29), intercede (Rom. 8:26), speak (Acts 13:2), be lied to (Ac. 6:3), and be grieved (Eph. 4:30). Thus, the Holy Spirit is not a force, principle or mode of existence. He is a person.
So when we speak of the Holy Spirit we are speaking about the Third person of the Trinity.
Now, why do I labour the point?
If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in your heart. Have you considered how amazing that is? When we think of the incarnation we are amazed. We are amazed that God the Son would be born in a manger. What humility! But, isn’t also amazing that God the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in a sinful heart? What humility! What a condescension!
As 1Cor. 6:19 says, “…do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”
Secondly, God the Spirit does the work of a floodlight. Now that we’ve looked at ‘who’ the Holy Spirit is. Now we move on to what He does. And, in this point we are looking at His work in a general way.
The Heidelberg Catechism describes His Work generally in this way. “He makes me share in Christ and all His blessings…” That’s a good summary statement.
John 16:14 brings this out when it says,, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
As a result, the Holy Spirit’s work is frequently summerized as being a floodlight ministry.
Sometimes you see a building that’s nicely lit up at night. And when the lighting is done well you don’t see the floodlights. In fact, you are not supposed to see them. Your attention is supposed to be drawn to the building. (Unless of course you are an electrician and can’t help looking at the lights!)
Now, the Holy Spirit performs the humble work of a floodlight. He doesn’t want the attention on Himself. His role is to shine light on Christ’s person and work. The Spirit’s message is never ‘look at me,’ ‘come to me,’ ‘get to know me.’ It is always, ‘look at Him,’ see His glory,’ ‘listen to Him,’ ‘know Him,’ etc. etc.
You can see evidence of this floodlight ministry everywhere.
a. The Holy Spirit is said to bring to remembrance the teaching of Jesus (Jn. 14:26)
b. The Holy Spirit is said to be Christ’s representative (Jn. 14:26)
c. The Holy Spirit is not the focal point on the day of Pentecost, but Christ is. Notice how Peter’s sermon is all about Christ. It’s a truly Christ-centred sermon. He doesn’t explain who the Holy Spirit is, but who Jesus is.
e. And the Holy Spirit is sometimes called the “Spirit of Christ.”
Can you see then, how the role of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Christ? As J.I Packer puts it, “The Spirit, we might say, is the matchmaker, the celestial marriage broker, whose role it is to bring us and Christ together and ensure that we stay together.”
If this is the general work of the Holy Spirit, then there are some very important implications.
What is the test of true Spirituality? There’s a lot of weird and wonderful stuff out there. Outside and inside the Church! The test then of true Spirituality is not the feelings, not the emotive aspect (although we should be engage emotionally), not the healings, not the tongue speaking, rather the true test of Spirituality is whether Christ is being exalted. To put it differently, the test of any so called Spiritual movement is also whether people are directed to faith, hope, love, obedience and adoration of Christ.
Take the church in Corinth for example. They thought they were super Spiritual. But Paul says, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly.” What was missing? Christ.
Finally, God the Spirit comes to strengthen us. Now we are moving from the general to the specific. And as we move to the specific we see the multifaceted work of the Spirit. There are many aspects to the Holy Spirit’s work. The Holy Spirit regenerates the heart. The Holy Spirit produces faith and repentance. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer and is called the “Holy” Spirit. The Holy Spirit leads us in the truth of Christ.
But, there’s another aspect that I want to focus in on today. That is the Holy Spirit as our Paracletos. There are what is called five Paraclete passages in John’s gospel (John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11, 12-15).
What does parakletos mean?
In the first century a family would often have their own Paraclete to help them in court whether as an advocate, a witness, or a representative. The idea is that this person comes alongside to help or strengthen.
How do you translate parakletos into modern day English?
The KJV refers to the Holy Spirit as comforter. That made sense in Old English because comfort used to mean “with strength.” However, today, as Carson says, ‘comfort’ might sound like a quilt or a do gooder at a funeral wake.
The ESV refers to the Holy Spirit as Helper. The only issue with ‘Helper’ is that it has overtones of being subordinate. But, the Holy Spirit is some sort of junior assistant.
Other Bibles refer to the Holy Spirit as Advocate. But, this sounds too much like a court context. The Holy Spirit ‘s work is not just for a court room!
You can see how translating from one language to another is sometimes difficult! So what’s the point? The point is the Holy Spirit has come to be our strengthener, or our ally. He has come to fortify us. This is part of His new covenant ministry.
Interestingly, John 14:16 says, He has come to be “another Helper” John 14:16 says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another (parakeletos) Helper to be with you forever.” Who then is the first Paracletos? Jesus is. 1Jn. 2:1 refers to Jesus as the Paracletos. And in the context of John 14 Jesus is performing the role of a strengthener, encourager, and ally. In context, Jesus is telling them about His departure. Soon He will be no longer with them. In response the disciples, who spent every moment of the last three years with Him, are in shock. They are devastated. And not only will they be left alone. They are going to face persecution. So Jesus brings them comfort. He strengthens them.
But, He also tells them that this strengthening ministry will continue through the Holy Spirit.
So, on the day of Pentecost, Christ resumes this ministry of strengthening. He continues to be the Helper of His people.
What a great encouragement for us! . In Christ, the Holy Spirit is our constant Helper. Our constant Strengthener. God never leaves us alone. He will never leave us as Spiritual orphans. Sometimes we may feel like our prayers have hit the ceiling. And sometimes we might even question God’s presence. In those times know that God is with you in the person of His Spirit. Know that God will strengthen you and fortify you. He will bring Christ to your attention. He will impress upon you all the promises of Christ. He will lead you in the truth of Christ.
And what a great encouragement for witnessing! The disciples would have to face the wrath of the authorities. They would all face persecution in due time. But when they did, God the Spirit would be right there to strengthen. To bring to mind the words of Jesus. As we face difficulties in witnessing to others, the Holy Spirit is with us, to strengthen and to fortify.
So, in conclusion, God has come to strengthen His people. The Holy Spirit is fully God. And He has come to dwell in us. And part of His new covenant ministry is to strengthen us.
The point is that we do not fight the Christian life alone. And so we do not fight our trials alone, we do not fight persecution alone, we do not fight satan alone. In the words of Ephesians 6:10 we are called to “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”
Jesus never left the disciple to be orphans. He doesn’t leave us to be orphans. And no matter the circumstance the promise of Hebrews 13:5 is ours: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what man [or anything else for that matter] can do to me.”