Q 53. What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?
A 53. First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.
Second, that the Spirit is given also to me, so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits through true faith, comforts me, and will remain with me forever.
*disclaimer: this post uses the masculine pronoun “he” to refer to the Holy Spirit. I chose to use this word following the traditional translations of Scripture, specifically found in John 15 and 16, where Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, as “He.” In doing so, I am not making the claim that the Holy Spirit is masculine, but rather seeking to honor Scripture’s traditional interpretation understanding that the Greek words used here as pronouns carry the interpretations of both masculine and feminine pronouns (He & She) as well as the gender neutral pronoun (it).
The Holy Spirit is by and large the most forgotten person of the Triune Godhead. Even with the renewed awareness of His work in the lives of Christians throughout the world, the focus that the Church has taken throughout most of Christian history is a focus on Christ.
Interestingly, if we were to ask the Holy Spirit what He thought about that, He’d probably respond by saying “that’s great!” And while the Holy Spirit is an important part of the Trinity, certainly co-equal with the Father and the Son and therefore worthy of our worship, the Spirit’s job and purpose is largely described in Scripture as testifying to Jesus in the hearts and minds of people.
As Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit being sent, recorded in John 14-16, He says multiple times that the “Advocate” or the “Spirit of Truth” will come. His coming will herald a new and better understanding of Jesus; the Holy Spirit will complete the work that Christ has done in the world by revealing Christ and His love to all believers. The Spirit does not seek glory for Himself but instead, comes to glorify the Father through the testimony of the Son.
This posture, taken by the Holy Spirit, may also serve to inform our own posture when it comes to how we interact around faith, church, and a number of other things that have to do with Christianity. Both Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have experienced and demonstrated the sort of self-giving love and other-focused activity that Scripture calls for. If the Spirit were selfish, we’d probably be getting a lot more prompting to worship the Holy Spirit and our focus would shift away from the central act of our salvation, found only in Jesus Christ.
But, it seems, at times we have shifted that focus in our churches and in our personal life. When we want something different in our church, we often rally behind the cry of a more “spirit-driven” worship. We want the Spirit to be “more active,” or suggest that we “leave room for the Spirit.” All of this seems well and good; certainly not a request that would be heretical or out of bounds for Christians. What we don’t realize, however, is that if the Spirit’s primary function is testify about Jesus, and if our worship is focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our worship is indeed Spirit-driven.
“Spirit-driven” worship does not depend on emotional highs and lows, or the manipulation of those emotions by music, lighting, well-crafted speeches, or technology. Its focus is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Spirit-led” worship is not about spontinaity, using a lack of planning as a reasoning or excuse for the “Spirit to do what it wants.” God is a God of order and gives us the ability to plan and prepare, but also to not be rigid, allowing for the movements of the Spirit as they come. Perhaps “Spirit-led” worship is more about being open to listening to that still small voice, and less about a chaotic worship service in which no on knows what will happen.
The Heidelberg Catechism points us to another benefit of the Holy Spirit, that being “comfort.” This too is rooted in the Gospel message of hope in Jesus Christ, to which the Spirit testifies because our comfort comes from the fact that our salvation and hope are for things beyond this world and this life. No matter what we are going through, no matter where life takes us, we are not alone. The spirit dwells within our hearts and therefore God is always with us. Scripture says that He never leaves us or forsakes us.