Breathe on Me, Breath of God: Meditations on the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
A Person We Need to Know
This week we continue our discussion on the Holy Spirit. You may recall that last week we addressed the Spirit as a person who says “me” and “I.” He speaks, sets apart, and he calls. The Spirit of God is spoken of as possessing all the attributes of both full and distinct personhood, and complete and absolute identity with the Godhead.
All that to say, in the words of the Nicene Creed, the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, “together is to be worshipped and glorified” as God Almighty. The Spirit is not an “it” but a “he.” He can be known and his work and leading is personal and real. We need to be careful in all our thinking and praying to give due respect to the personhood of the Spirit, lest we grieve him and quench his work in our hearts. Moreover, and this is important in preventing a collapse into a kind of Holy Spirit-obsessed quest for experiences of the mystical, the Spirit can be known only in union with Jesus Christ. His role is, as Packer puts it, a “floodlight ministry:”
When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that
you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the
light is coming from; what you are meant to see is just the building
on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make
it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and
to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that
you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant
role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floodlight shining on the Savior.1
That is the force of John 16:13-15, Ephesians 2:18, and many other passages. The Spirit’s authentic work can be known when he shines his light on Christ. Christians turned towards and delighting in Jesus are Spirit filled Christians, who know and hear and glorify the Spirit as they submit to and worship Christ as Lord.
So there is a careful line we must walk. On the one hand, it is not wrong to worship, pray to, and adore the Spirit of Christ, though we should insist always that any such direct ascriptions of prayer and praise take place in worship contexts that are explicitly Trinitarian in language and focus. Asking the Spirit of God to speak by His Word, for example, is fitting and good. Asking the Spirit to show us more of Christ to the glory of the Father, to subdue our sin and produce good fruit in our lives, is right and appropriate and godly. On the other hand, however, the Spirit seeks always to focus our gaze most upon Christ, who in turn directs us to the Father. A church impatient with the proclamation of the person and work of Christ, that wants to move past Calvary to the “supernatural” and the “miraculous,” to experiences that are considered the main evidences of the Spirit’s presence and power, is in fact a disordered and unhealthy church.
The true mark of a church awakened to the power and work of the Spirit is one that never tires of Christ, whose members say to the preacher every Lord’s Day, “Sir, we would see Jesus” (Jn. 12:21), who join saints and angels in glory in singing with joy, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12). Jesus said of the Spirit, “He will glorify me” (Jn. 16:14). That is his great work. May He perform it among us all with ever deepening effect.
1 J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 66