The Holy Spirit. There is “something wonderfully mysterious” about him, says pastor and theologian Sinclair Ferguson.
He is the third person of the Trinity, the “self-effacing” member. He works ever in tandem with God’s word — incarnate, spoken, and written. He is one of the Christian’s greatest sources of comfort. And too often he is one of the church’s greatest sources of controversy.
No Other Friend Like This
But before getting bogged down in the secondary and tertiary matters related to his miraculous gifts and mysterious works in the church today, take a step back and see who he is, and who he has been, beyond the firestorms about prophecy, tongues, and healing.
“The best way to think about the Holy Spirit,” says Ferguson, “is to think of him as the closest companion of the Lord Jesus.”
Not only has he been the Son’s eternal partner in the uncreated fellowship of the Trinity, but the Spirit was there with the Father and Son at creation (Genesis 1:2). He was there overshadowing Jesus’s conception (Luke 1:35), and there at his baptism (Luke 3:22) and temptation (Luke 4:1–2). Jesus performed his miracles through the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14–19).
When Jesus’s closest earthly companions betrayed him, denied him, and scattered, the Spirit walked with him all the way into the jaws of death, empowering him to offer himself freely (Hebrews 9:14). And the Spirit was there on Easter Sunday to raise him in power (Romans 1:4). Indeed, what a companion he is.
Should We Give Attention to the Spirit?
When asked about the Holy Spirit, Ferguson says his mind first goes to Jesus’s “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John, chapters 14–17. As Calvin says, if the other Gospels show us Jesus’s body, it is John’s Gospel that shows us his soul.
Here we learn about the Spirit’s “self-effacing” nature, as Jesus says the Spirit “will bear witness about me” (John 15:26) and “will glorify me” (John 16:14). But there is more to say that just this. Even as riddled as we are about so many questions concerning the Spirit, God has not left us without significant revelation about his person and work.
Says Ferguson, we should give attention, and glory, to the Spirit. “Just because he draws attention to Jesus, doesn’t mean we should ignore him.”
He Adds the Finishing Touches
Some have summarized the partnership of the Trinitarian persons as the Father plans, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies. The persons of the Godhead are indivisible in their working, but there is a sense in which one person leaves fingerprints on particular actions. Ferguson’s summary of the Spirit’s part is this: “He’s the one who puts the finishing touches to things.”
When the seeming crazies come out of the woodwork, fascinated with all things bizarre in the name of the Holy Spirit, Ferguson counsels that we take them to Jesus’s own words about the Spirit. “The Lord’s sheep hear the Lord’s voice,” he reminds us. Look at Jesus’s words together. Most Christians have the least hang-ups about Jesus. Let him speak to us about his closest companion.
The Spirit and the Word
And one important item to draw attention to is that the Spirit’s work accompanies the Word incarnate and the work spoken. We should not think about the work of the word without the work of the Spirit, and vice versa. “The Spirit will use the word, and the word will be used by the Spirit.”
In this new episode of Theology Refresh, Sinclair Ferguson — author of a significant book-length treatment of the Holy Spirit — draws our attention to this person about whom there surely is “something wonderfully mysterious.”
To listen, subscribe to Theology Refresh in iTunes, or download or stream the interview above.