Article of Faith #3 – The Holy Spirit
Date: Sunday, June 20, 2004
Author: Rev. Jonathan K. Twitchell
Today, we continue our study on the Articles of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene, helping us to more fully understand the teachings of the Bible in matters of faith and doctrine. It is my hope that these lessons will help us explore and internalize those beliefs that are essential to Christianity. In so doing, we may better be able to explain the primary doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene to those who are seeking God.
We began this series two weeks ago, first with a look at the Triune God. We discussed how God has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead eternally existing in “Community-in-Love.” Since God is Holy Love, He is revealed in a Triune relationship where each member pours itself out in love for the other two. Each person is distinct yet united, showing us how we too can live in perfect love with one another.
Last week we looked at the doctrine relating to Jesus the Christ. We spoke of the incarnation (or enfleshment), which is the perfect union of God and man. Jesus, the God-man, was fully divine yet fully human. Because He lived without sin, He was able to take upon Himself the sins of the world upon the cross. Jesus, the anointed One, took on flesh and blood, so that his body could be broken and His blood could be shed, in order that you and I might have forgiveness of sins. He was buried, rose again on the third day, and ascended into heaven. Because of the person and work of Jesus the Christ, we have hope of salvation and eternal life in relationship with God.
Today, we turn our attention to the third article of faith, which focuses on the Holy Spirit. In many ways, the Holy Spirit is the most neglected person of the Blessed Trinity. We often speak of the Father and the Son, but rarely speak about the Spirit. We pray to the Father, and we pray in Jesus’ Name, but often forget the role that the Spirit plays in our prayer life. Outside of Pentecost and revival services, one could go weeks without mention of the Holy Spirit. This is an unfortunate occurrence in our churches today, for the Holy Spirit is the primary empowering and moving agent in the Church today. It was the Holy Spirit which was given on Pentecost to fill the early Christians and the Church, and it is the Holy Spirit upon which we must rely today in order to see God’s Kingdom come to pass.
Fundamental to the picture of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is the imagery of God’s breath, or the wind. When the Spirit is present, we often see a “mighty rushing wind” or God’s Breath. Indeed, the very life which is given to humanity is due to God breathing the “Breath of Life” into Adam. This “Breath of Life” is likely one of the earliest understandings of the Holy Spirit at work. God’s Spirit is always at work around us, living and active in this world.
I invite you to turn in your bulletin where you will find the Article of Faith which speaks of the Holy Spirit. You will see the article written out, and under it are several passages of scripture which have revealed to us the Person of the Holy Spirit. We won’t have time today to look at each of those scriptures, but I hope you’ll take time this week to look them up, so that the Holy Spirit may reveal Himself to you through The Word. Here is how we have come to understand the Holy Spirit and how he works in our world:
3. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Triune Godhead, that He is ever present and efficiently active in and with the Church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers, and guiding into all truth as it is in Jesus.
Before we look at some scripture passages, I’d like to highlight a couple of points from the Article of Faith. First, we see that the Holy Spirit is everywhere-present. One of the earliest characteristics of God that we learned what that He is omnipresent, and so we affirm that about the person of the Holy Spirit as well. Not only is the Holy Spirit omnipresent, but He is active in the Church. The Spirit does not sit on the sidelines and observe, but He is active—doing things—in the church and through the church. It is the Holy Spirit from which we derive our love and power. It is the Holy Spirit that fills and empowers us to do the work of the Kingdom.
We affirm that the Holy Spirit is active, doing these four things: 1) convincing the world of sin, 2) regenerating those who repent and believe, 3) sanctifying believers, and 4) guiding into all truth as it is in Jesus.
Let’s look at some scriptures which have revealed these tasks of the Holy Spirit to us. John 16 speaks of the convicting role that the Holy Spirit plays, showing us our sin and convincing us of our need for a savior. Hear these words from the Gospel according to John, chapter 16, beginning in verse 7:
John 16:7But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of its sin. What some may call “conscience” is probably more accurately called the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to all people, showing them of their sin, and their unbelief. In evangelism, one of our most exciting tools is knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work in every person’s life. Even without belief in God, a person is under the convicting influence of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, as they harden their hearts to the Spirit, they become more and more unable to hear Him. Like Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, it is possible to tune out the Holy Spirit in your life, hardening your heart to His voice. And yet, even though they may try to tune Him out, He is active, convicting them of sin, and showing them the path toward righteousness. They have only to respond to His call.
And so, we have seen how the Spirit convicts the world of sin. He uses that thing we call a “conscience,” and He uses you and I to set examples for others, that they might be made aware of righteousness.
The second role of the Spirit outlined in our article of faith is that He is “regenerating those who repent and believe.” The word “regeneration” is a word that simply means “receiving new life.” And so, the work of the Holy Spirit is to give new life to those who repent and believe. Repentance means to turn around—in this case, to turn away from sin and to turn toward God. Belief is faith in action, casting ourselves upon the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, believing that God will forgive us of our sins. This role of the Spirit may be best illustrated through the Scripture found in Romans 8. I invite you to turn with me to Romans 8 and hear God’s Word for His children:
Romans 8:1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
5Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
9You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Keep your Bibles open to Romans 8 for a moment while I highlight a couple of points here. In verses 1 and 2, we see that there is a new law at work, the law of the Spirit. I suppose that if we were writing an old Western movie, we might say that there is a “New Sheriff in town.” No longer are we subject to the old law which brings death, but are now subject to the Spirit, which brings life.
Verse 6 tells us that “6The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;” Indeed, one member of this congregation told me just yesterday how much his life has changed since coming back to God. While once he was focused on negative thoughts and fear and pain, he is now able to sleep better at night, aware of the Peace of God at work within His life. This is truly the regenerative work of the Spirit evidenced in our lives. When we accept the Spirit of God within us, our entire perspective changes, as we are now controlled by life and peace.
We see the regenerative work of the Spirit explained most clearly in verse 11, which states: “11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” There seems to be an intimate link between the resurrection and the work of the Holy Spirit. God, who raised Christ from the dead, will also give you new life through His Spirit. What an incredible promise that is. Indeed, we lay claim to the New Life in Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Old things are passing away, all things are becoming new. In Christ, you are a new creation, with new life! Thanks be to God!
But the work of the Holy Spirit doesn’t end with the new life which is given at the moment of salvation. Let’s read a portion of this passage again, looking to the work of the Spirit in regards to life after salvation. Hear again portions of Romans 8, beginning in verse 9
Romans 8:9You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Romans 8:12Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. 13For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
In other words, we are to live according to the Spirit. We are to have the Mind of the Spirit. We are to be set apart for His purposes. We are to live in sin no longer but to live according to the Spirit. This is not a suggestion, for verse 12 clearly indicates that it is our obligation. Because of the new life within us, we are to live according to the Spirit. Our new life, begun at salvation, is to express itself. We are to be different, because the Spirit is in charge. His Holy Spirit changes us, cleansing and filling us. It is this work of the Spirit that we call Sanctification, and it is to be the experience of the Believer as we mature in our Christian walk.
We will get more specific about the doctrine of Entire Sanctification during the tenth week of our series. But for now, let’s say that the basic definition of sanctification is “to be made holy.” Indeed, you might say “holified” instead of “sanctified.” Now, the most basic definition of holiness is “separate” or “set apart.” In this case, we are set apart for God’s use and His purposes. It is important to always remember that we are “sanctified” for a purpose. It is never a cause for pride or arrogance. We do not claim to be “holier-than-thou,” instead seeking to be consistently filled by the Spirit so that we can be set apart for God’s purposes in this world.
The fourth role of the Holy Spirit which we have identified is that He will “guide into all truth as it is in Jesus.” We affirm that all truth is God’s truth, and so it is the role of the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us, which points us to the redemptive work of Jesus. John 14:15-17 shows us how the Holy Spirit shows us truth:
John 14:15“If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will bein you.
And again, John speaks of the Spirit as a guide in John 16:12-15:
John 16:12“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
Note that the Holy Spirit always points people to the Father and to the Son. Perhaps that is why we don’t speak of Him as often as we do the other two persons of the Triune Godhead. And yet, it is only through the work of the Spirit that we come to be aware of the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross. It is the Spirit which convicted you. It is the Spirit which led you to the cross. It is the Spirit which has comforted and guided you. It is the Spirit which began the work of regeneration in the life of the believer, and it is the Spirit which cleanses and fills that we might experience His work of sanctification. It is the Spirit which will continue to sustain and guide in all truth, that you might pursue and fulfill the will of God.
And so, you may ask, “Pastor, why is this important? What difference does it make?” Our understanding of the Holy Spirit is important for it is the Spirit which guides us and sanctifies us. It is the Spirit—the Holy Breath of God—which empowers the church. Without the Holy Spirit in our midst, we are ineffective and powerless. Our knowledge of the Spirit enables us to be more sensitive to His work, being made aware of the Spirit working among us and in our lives.
As we think of the Spirit, we are reminded that “While we may not see the wind, we see the effects of the wind,” and that “the wind of the Spirit blows where it will.” While we can’t control the Spirit, we are to be responsive to its subtle blowing in our lives. We must attune our senses to every movement of the Spirit, that we might be empowered and able to move where He would have us move. We must be cleansed by the Spirit, in order that we might be filled by the Spirit. We must be filled with the Spirit in order that we, like a hot-air balloon, may move about—accomplishing the work of the Kingdom. The Spirit is to convict you, give you new life, sanctify you, and guide you in paths of righteousness. He is your comforter and intercessor. God reveals Himself to us through His Spirit, sustaining us for every good work.
And so, my encouragement to you this week is that you would seek the Holy Spirit where He may be found. Be sensitive to His leading. Allow yourself to be blown about where the Wind of the Spirit might take you. Minister to others in Jesus’ Name. Allow the Holy Spirit to use your life in order to convince others of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Listen for that small still voice motivating you for every good work for His Name’s sake. Allow His Divine Love to fill your life so that others may sense His presence and be drawn to Him.
Benediction: Ephesians 3
14For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.