(notes for a class designed for people who are new to Christianity)
There’s a lot about the Holy Spirit that’s difficult to understand, even for people who’ve been Christians for many years, so don’t worry if you find this morning confusing. I’m going to try to answer two questions about the Holy Spirit: Who is he? What does he do?
Who is the Holy Spirit?
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 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? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.””
Peter says Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and then said he’d lied to God. So the Holy Spirit is God.
Christians talk about God as the Trinity. There is one God, but three persons.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.
Disciple = follower. Jesus told his followers to go and make more followers. And he said that those who become followers (Christians) should be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Baptism = initiation into Christianity. So when we become Christians – when we join God’s kingdom – these three persons are all involved: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. To join God’s kingdom is to join the kingdom of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus the Son – lived on Earth as a human, The Father – the head of the family (responsible for planning what the family is going to do), and The Holy Spirit; together they are the God that we worship.
I wish I could give a simple explanation of how these three persons are all one God, but I’m afraid I can’t. Christians have been trying to get their heads around it for 2000 years, but it’s difficult.
For now we’ll just settle for the fact that the Holy Spirit is God, along with the Father and the Son.
What does the Holy Spirit do?
He has done, and continues to do, lots of things, and we can’t cover them all this morning, but hopefully this will be a helpful overview of some of his main roles.
2 Peter 1v20-21:
“no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 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.”
This explains how the Bible was written. The Bible (Scripture) wasn’t just men writing down their own ideas. It was the Holy Spirit causing men to speak God’s message.
That’s one very important thing the Holy Spirit has done; he caused the Bible to be written. When we read this book, we’re reading God’s word.
“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Regeneration means to bring back to life. We were spiritually dead (we were physically alive, but we didn’t have a living relationship with God), but the Holy Spirit makes us alive (with a restored relationship with God).
Renewal – in our old lives we were disobedient to God, but the Holy Spirit gives us a new life where we’re now able to obey God (not perfectly, but we begin to make progress).
He saved us. Because we’ve disobeyed God, we don’t deserve eternal life; we deserve death, but he saves us from that death that we deserve. Now we have hope of eternal life.
We’re justified by his grace. For us to have eternal life in heaven with God, we need to meet God’s standards. God won’t allow anything evil into heaven, so we need to be completely pure. To be justified means God says we have met that standard, that he sees us as perfectly pure. Of course, we have all done bad things that mean we haven’t met that standard of perfection, but God says we can be justified by his grace. Grace means it’s a gift. It’s not because of works done by us. God gives us that perfect standard as a free gift.
That’s another very important thing the Holy Spirit does: he gives us spiritual life.
In John 15v26 Jesus said:
“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.”
The context is Jesus is talking to his disciples about people who will hate them, and he says the Holy Spirit will come to help them. The Holy Spirit helps Christians in lots of ways. I think one of the most important ways is mentioned in Romans 8v16: “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. To “bear witness” is to testify, like a witness in court, someone who saw the crime can tell the truth about what happened. The Holy Spirit testifies that we are children of God. So even if the rest of the world hates us, the Holy Spirit will encourage us by reminding us that we are God’s children.
But also, John 15v26 says the Spirit will bear witness about Jesus. The Holy Spirit doesn’t draw attention to himself. Instead he points us to Jesus. Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross is the centre of the Christian faith. The Holy Spirit does lots of amazing things, but everything he does is meant to point us to Jesus, to make us believe in Jesus, to trust that he died for us to save us from the punishment we deserve, and appreciate that love that he’s shown us, and help us to tell others about him.