The Doctrine of the Trinity (part 6)

February 03, 2008     Time: 00:43:21

I met a professor of ancient history who attended the lecture. They just loved it. This professor of ancient history said to me, “This is a model of what we are doing as ancient historians. I am so glad that I had many of my students here to hear your lecture. Your use of the apocryphal gospels was especially illuminating.” He was very, very encouraged to hear a professional colleague react in this way to this exploration of the historical evidence for the resurrection.

The students were terrific. Lots of unbelievers there as you could tell from the questions. At one point in the Q&A, one of the students said to me, “Well, you’ve shared all this academic material but what does this really mean to you personally?” And I said, “Well, I’m glad you asked!” And that gave me a chance to share my testimony and how Christ changed my life as a teenager as a non-Christian looking for meaning and purpose in life and encountering the risen Lord. After I shared this, one of the students in the audience raised his hand and said, “Well, now, that is a very powerful personal testimony you’ve given. But of course many people in different religions can give similar testimonies of how their lives have been changed. That doesn’t constitute any sort of powerful proof that what you are saying is true.” I said, “Well, I didn’t present it as powerful proof that what I was saying is true. I presented it in answer to the question, ‘What does this mean to you personally?’ I said in my lecture I’ve already presented what I consider to be the strong evidence that this is the truth.” You could see people nodding their heads. They clearly saw the distinction that having given the academic presentation of the evidence for the resurrection I was now free to share the subjective and personal elements of what it meant to me. So that was really just a very nice dove-tailing of the objective and the evidential with the personal and the existential.

That night I had a debate. There were hundreds of people there. I was told they had overflow rooms as well that were full where people can watch it on closed circuit television. It was a debate with Austin Dacey, the same fellow that I debated at Purdue University last year. I had decided that since Austin comes to these debates very well prepared, very rehearsed, that I would throw him a bit of a curve by presenting a different affirmative case for Christian theism rather than the one I used at Purdue, figuring that that way his canned objections wouldn’t apply. Well, sure enough he wasn’t ready for that. Although he did a very credible job of replying to certain points, for at least two of my arguments he didn’t even respond. He had no response at all to give because he just wasn’t ready for them.

On his side of the ledger, I got the PowerPoint from his Purdue debate last year. I got all the premises of his arguments and then prepared briefs in response to these arguments so that if he were to repeat them, for each of his five arguments I would have a full response laying out the premises, showing where the false premises lay, and where some of his arguments were in fact self-defeating and logically invalid. I thought he is too smart to give the same arguments. He will probably do the same thing as I did and change his arguments, but at least I will be ready. Well, to my surprise, he got up and gave the same identical speech that he gave at Purdue. So I just whipped out my briefs and his arguments just got clobbered because I was just loaded for bear on these. So I showed where all of the premises were wrong. I basically concluded the speech by saying his arguments don’t stand up to philosophical scrutiny. All of them are based upon premises which are at least unproven if not obviously false, two of them are self-refuting, and one is logically invalid. So it was a very nice refutation.

Moreover, and here thanks to George, last year at Purdue Dacey quoted from Brian Greene’s book The Fabric of the Cosmos to try to show that the Big Bang doesn’t in fact provide a theory of the origin of the universe. As I was reading this book that George had given me I came across this quotation. As I read the remainder of the chapter, I thought, “He has completely misunderstood this. He has taken it out of context.”[1] What Greene is talking about is the need to have a brief inflationary era early on in the history of the universe to explain how the universe exponentially blew up. But it doesn’t say anything about what happened prior to inflation. It doesn’t say anything about the origin of the universe. Really, these discoveries are old hat. They were made back in the 1980s. Even though the book is recent, the chapter that Dacey was quoting was about stuff from the 80s. So I thought if he is going to bring this up again, I am going to bring along Greene’s book with me. I had the page referenced right in front of me. Sure enough, he got up, quoted the same passage again, so I was able to get up and say, “I’ve got the book right here. His quotation is on page 272. And this is what Greene goes on to say.” And then quoted the context so that the students could see that it was just a complete misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what he was saying.

So it was much more one-sided, I think, than the Purdue debate last year because of the preparations. He did a good job. I don’t mean to denigrate that in any way. He did a good job, and always carries himself very well. He is friendly. He comes across well. But I felt that in terms of the rematch, it very much achieved what I wanted to achieve, and that was to demolish his arguments even more effectively than in the debate at Purdue.

We had some great time, again, in the Q&A to follow with the students. The Christian students that were there were especially encouraged. These debates are always such a shot in the arm for them. To be bold witnesses for Christ on their campus, to be proud of being a Christian in their community, and to testify to Christ. So thanks for your prayers. It was a very exciting time. I really enjoyed it very much.

This week we are not going to be here for the global missions conference because I am taking off again on Monday to Biola University where I will be teaching for Craig Hazen in his M. A. Program in Apologetics. I will be doing a short, condensed course on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus with the Biola students, as well as doing some other speaking on the side while Jan and I are in Southern California. That is our next engagement.

I do want to alert you, however, to a very exciting opportunity that is coming up that will be here locally, and that is on March 20 which is, as I recall, Palm Sunday. On the evening on Palm Sunday, I am going to be having a debate in South Bend, Indiana with Bishop John Shelby Spong. Spong is a radical, liberal Episcopalian bishop who says Christianity must reform or die because it is now outmoded. We’ve got to get rid of things like the literal incarnation, the virgin birth, the resurrection, and so forth. So on the evening of Palm Sunday, Bishop Spong and I will be debating the subject of the meaning of the resurrection. I will be defending the resurrection as a historical event against his revisionist views.

Why is that interesting for you? Well, because the Christian Cable Network is going to be broadcasting this debate live via satellite, and probably around 200,000 potential people will be able to view this debate in churches around the country who have satellite downlinks and subscriptions to the CCN broadcast. John Herring has just informed me that JFBC is going to subscribe to this network and will be hosting here at JFBC a viewing of the debate live. So on the evening of Palm Sunday, I would encourage you to come here to the church for viewing this debate with this prominent, radical Episcopalian bishop and looking at the evidence for the resurrection. I would appreciate very much your prayers for this event. As a televised event, it is really potentially huge in its impact. One doesn’t want to lose this sort of debate, if you know what I mean. I would appreciate very much your prayers for that, but also hope that some of you would be interested enough to come and actually watch it.

I might also mention that some of you have been aware that ABC television is doing a documentary on the resurrection of Jesus with Elizabeth Vargas. This has been in the works for over a year.[2] They had called me about being interviewed for this. In fact, they said that they were actually going to use my chapter in the book Jesus Under Fire on the resurrection as more or less the outline on which this documentary would be constructed: looking at the evidence for the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Christ, and the origin of the Christian faith. So they were very, very earnest about getting me in for an interview. It just never seemed to materialize. This program was shunted back and forth from the front burner to the back burner several times. But I am very pleased to say we now have a firm studio date. This is going to happen on March 4. On March 3, Jan and I will be flown up to New York for the interview with Elizabeth Vargas personally on the 4th. They wanted to not do it through a subsidiary, but have her and me actually together for this. Again, I would appreciate your prayers for that because this is extremely important in its impact. Lee Strobel was also interviewed for this same program. Lee said – I got an email from him – his interview went very well. He said Elizabeth Vargas is very sympathetic and very friendly. He didn’t sense any sort of hostility. He said he sensed that they were very glad to be getting some biblical believers for these programs rather than the typical Jesus Seminar suspects that are usually trotted out on these documentaries. So let’s hope that the editing will be fair and sympathetic and that my interview with her will go very well. So I would appreciate your prayers for that.

Those are some of the things that are happening in our lives. I just, again, appreciate all the prayer and the support that this class gives to us. I said to Maryanne some time ago that the class doesn’t really have a sort of missionary that we are intimately involved with. She said, “Sure we do! It’s you!” I thought, wow, that is really true. We do appreciate so much the support and prayers that you folks lend to Jan and me in our ministry.

Today we want to continue our discussion of the doctrine of God. We’ve been on the doctrine of God for months upon end, but no wonder! The doctrine of God lies at the very heart of the Christian faith. If you get your doctrine of God correct then the rest is going to fall into place. But if your doctrine of God is skewed then everything else will be off kilter. So we’ve been spending months studying the nature and the persons of the Godhead.

We talked about arguments for the existence of God. We discussed arguments against the existence of God and tried to show how those were not compelling or sound arguments. We had a lengthy discussion of the attributes of God. Then we turned to a discussion of the Trinity and explored how God can be three-in-one. Now at last we come to a discussion of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve characterized the Holy Spirit as being the forgotten person of the Trinity. In the early apostolic church fathers, the debates over the deity of Christ were so important that the person of Christ took pride of place in those debates. So in the early Christian creeds, like the Apostles’ Creed, all it says about the Holy Spirit is “I believe in the Holy Spirit” and that is it. In the Nicene Creed, it is even less. In the Nicene Creed it says, “I believe in the God the Father Almighty,” etc. “And in his Son, Jesus Christ” and then a long section on who Christ is. And then tagged on at the end it says, “And in the Holy Spirit.” And that is all. So the Holy Spirit did not receive the sort of attention he rightly deserves in the early church fathers’ debates over the Trinity because the person of Christ was so central.

Even today we find that the Holy Spirit is often ignored or shunted aside. For example, I used to teach at a seminary in which they had a sequence of courses in systematic theology. One of the titles of one of the courses that students were required to take was called “God, Man, and Christ.” Almost like a new Trinity. You wonder what happened to the Holy Spirit in this enumeration![3]

What we want to do is to begin to address the person of the Holy Spirit, try to see what the Scriptures teach about him because today there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, you have some persons involved in the Pentecostal or Charismatic movement who are so overboard on the Holy Spirit that one sometimes thinks that there is some imbalance there. On the other hand, you have people who are so afraid of being thought Charismatic or Pentecostal that they err in the other direction and become just dead letter biblicists when you sense no power of the Holy Spirit energizing them. What we want to achieve is a proper balanced doctrine of the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We will begin to do that today by opening our Bibles and looking at what the Scriptures have to say about the Holy Spirit.

Let’s start with a word of prayer to ask for the Holy Spirit’s illumination, because (as we will see) that is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit.

[Breaks for prayer]

First we want to talk about who the Holy Spirit is. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity co-equal with God the Father and God the Son.

By way of review, the Holy Spirit is first of all God himself. The Holy Spirit is divine. Look at Acts 5:3-4:

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back 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? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

So the Holy Spirit is God himself. The Holy Spirit is not the ghost of Jesus of Nazareth. The term “Holy Ghost” is a misleading term; rather, something of a misnomer. Rather, the Holy Spirit is God and as such is eternal and has always existed. He is not someone that just came on the scene after the death of Jesus Christ as a sort of ghost of Jesus that now lives in his absence.

The Holy Spirit is therefore a person, the second person of the Trinity. He is not a force but a person. He is not an “it” but a “he.” He is a “who” not a “which.” The Holy Spirit is God himself as a personal being. Look, for example, at Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” Notice here the Holy Spirit uses personal pronouns. He speaks. He says “set apart for me these men for the work to which I have called them.” This is not some sort of a force; this is a person who uses the first person pronoun in self-reference to himself.

John 14:15-17, Jesus says,

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

Here Jesus promises a comforter or a helper or an advocate who will come and be with us. Again you have the use of these personal pronouns – he will be with you, he will abide in you, he will be with you, and you will know him.

Finally, in Romans 8:26-27:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Notice there that the Holy Spirit is referred to as a person with a mind – the Father knows the mind of the Spirit, and the Spirit is involved in interceding for the saints which again shows personal quality of the Spirit.[4]

So the Holy Spirit isn’t some kind of impersonal force or it; the Holy Spirit is a person – the third person of the Trinity who does the work of God in our hearts.

Finally, the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. This is evidence in a number of passages. For example, in Matthew 28:19 where we have the three persons listed together, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There you see the three persons listed – baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That is not a redundancy; that’s not a duality. Those are three different persons referred to.

Also 2 Corinthians 13:14 contains a similar list: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” There you have the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God (that is, the Father – remember God usually refers to the Father in the New Testament) and then the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. So you have the three persons of the Trinity listed again.

So the Holy Spirit is defined as the third person of the Trinity, personally distinct from the Father and the Son, yet fully divine, co-equal with God himself. As such, the Holy Spirit possesses all the attributes of God. We can just look at a few of these attributes.

For example, he is referred to as the eternal Spirit. Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” There it says that it is through the eternal Spirit that Christ offered himself. An eternity – one of the principle attributes that is unique to God is ascribed to the Holy Spirit.

Also, omnipresence is ascribed to the Spirit. Psalm 139:7: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” The answer is, of course, nowhere. He goes on to describe if I go to heaven, you are there. If I go to Sheol, you are there. No matter where I go I cannot escape your presence. So the presence of the Spirit is everywhere. He is omnipresent, which is again one of the unique attributes of God.

The Holy Spirit is also omniscient. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11:

God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

Here the Holy Spirit is said to know even the depths of God. Just as your spirit knows what is in your mind, so he says no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. So the Holy Spirit is omniscient; understanding even the depths of God and God’s knowledge.

The Holy Spirit is also ascribed the attribute of holiness, of course. Romans 1:4 would be an example: “. . . and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” There the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of holiness. And of course the title “Holy” Spirit is self-evidently ascribing holiness to him.

Finally, love is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 says, “. . . God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” How is the love of God shed in our hearts? It is through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who pours out God’s love in the hearts of those who believe in him.

So you can see, again, the Holy Spirit possesses all of the attributes of God that are unique to him: eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, holiness, love, and one could list others as well.

What we want to look at next would be some of the prominent ministries of the Holy Spirit. I think this is surprising when you see the number of prominent ministries that the Holy Spirit carries out. One wonders how the Holy Spirit could have ever been so eclipsed as he tends to be both in church history and the contemporary scene when you see how vital the person of the Holy Spirit is to the Christian walk and witness.[5]

1. The Holy Spirit is involved in the work of creation. Genesis 1:2-3:

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.

There we find the Spirit of God referred to right in the second verse of the Bible as being present over the uninhabitable Earth. As God prepares the world for man the Holy Spirit is present and hovering over the face of the waters. He is at work already.

2. The Holy Spirit is involved in providing divine revelation. He reveals God to us. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, 12-13:

But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,”

God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

Notice there that that passage that is quoted from Isaiah about “that which the eye has not seen, the ear has not heard” isn’t referring to things to come in heaven after we die that we don’t know about now. Rather, he says these things that eye has not seen and ear has not heard God has revealed to us through the Spirit. In verse 10 it is the Spirit who has revealed these things to us. Then he goes on in 12 and 13 to explain how it is the Holy Spirit who reveals to us the things about God and about his nature:

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

So the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in revealing to us the person and work of God.

3. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is the one who inspires the writing of the Scriptures. 2 Peter 1:20-21: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” They were born along or carried along by the Holy Spirit as they spoke these prophetic words that then became incorporated in Scripture. So the Holy Spirit is involved in producing prophecy and thereby the Word of God which becomes inscripturated as it is written down.

4. The Holy Spirit is involved in the virginal conception of Christ. Luke 1:30-31, 34-35:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus”. . . . And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

He says it will be through the power of the Holy Spirit that she will virginally conceive of Jesus of Nazareth. So the Holy Spirit is involved in the conception of Christ.

5. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings about regeneration. John 3:5-7:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

There Jesus is talking about the spiritual rebirth or regeneration without which no one will see the Kingdom of God. He says this spiritual rebirth that takes place is something that is through the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that regenerates a person and thereby brings new life and equips him for citizenship in the Kingdom of God. So it is through the Holy Spirit that one is born again.[6]

6. The Holy Spirit indwells and baptizes the believer. Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” This is a very trinitarian passage, like some of the others that we’ve read. Notice the progression in how the Spirit is referred to. Paul moves from talking of the Spirit to the Spirit of God to the Spirit of Christ to simply Christ. He is using them all synonymously. In other words, it is through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that one is brought to new life and one is equipped to live the Christian life. But because the Holy Spirit is acting in the place of Jesus who is now ascended to the right hand of the Father, the Holy Spirit becomes so intimately associated with Christ that he is spoken of as the Spirit of Christ or simply Christ. So when people talk about receiving Christ, that is really an elliptical way of saying receiving the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit simply becomes identified with Christ in virtue of the fact that he now fills the shoes of Christ as Christ is ascended to the Father. But it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and then dwells within us. While it is true that we can say Christ lives in my heart or Christ indwells me, in a more technical sense this is really the Holy Spirit who is doing this. But he is referred to as Christ because he is so intimately associated with Christ as he is that helper that fills the place of Christ in Christ’s absence until his return at the Second Coming.

Also, 1 Corinthians 12:13 speaks of the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” There Paul says that anyone who is a member of the body of Christ is so because he has been baptized into this body by the Holy Spirit. So there is a kind of baptism of the Holy Spirit whereby one is incorporated into the body of Christ as a member of his body.

So the Holy Spirit is involved in our regeneration, our rebirth that places us in the Kingdom, he indwells us, and he baptizes us to incorporate us into the body of Christ.

7. The Holy Spirit is the source of our assurance of salvation. Romans 8:14-17 says the Holy Spirit is the source of assurance of salvation:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Here Paul says that those who are led by the Spirit of God are his sons. So we cry out to God, “Abba! Father!” This Jewish term of endearment like “papa.” He says when we cry out “Abba! Father!” the Spirit himself is bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. So the fundamental source of your assurance of salvation is this inner witness of the Holy Spirit to your heart or to your spirit that you are his child – that you are redeemed and that you are a son (or daughter) of God.

8. The Holy Spirit gives enablement for spiritual living. Galatians 5:16-18, 25, Paul says,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Here he is encouraging us to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit because this will give us victory over that old sin nature that drags us down and produces the various works of the flesh in us which he enumerates in verses 20 and 21. The way to victorious Christian living isn’t through gutting it out through legalistic ritual adoption of disciplines and so forth. It will be ultimately through walking in the Spirit, logging time in the Holy Spirit.[7]

9. The Holy Spirit equips us with spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifting comes from the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4, 11: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit . . . All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” Here Paul talks about the variety of gifts that are given to the body of Christ. He says these come from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit distributes to each individual Christian a spiritual gift or gifts as the Holy Spirit wills. So the Holy Spirit has equipped you personally with at least one spiritual gift that is yours to be used in building up the body of Christ – that local church of which you are a member. So if you don’t know what your spiritual gift is you need to inquire of the Lord and ask the Lord, “What spiritual gift have you given me?” What is it that the Holy Spirit has given me to use or to carry out as a member of this body?

10. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is produced in our lives through the Spirit’s work. Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” Here the fruit of the Spirit is listed. Look at all of those wonderful virtues that the Holy Spirit produces in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Who wouldn’t want to be like that? Who wouldn’t want to have a life characterized by those kinds of virtues. Those are ours as we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and he produces the fruit of his indwelling presence in our lives. So the fruit of the Holy Spirit comes through the work of the Holy Spirit.

There is one other thing that I think that I have to mention in light of the marvelous sermon that we heard this morning. That is that it is the Holy Spirit who equips the church for Christian witness. Look at Acts 1:7-8. These are the last words of Jesus prior to his ascension:

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”

Anyone who heard Bryant’s sermon this morning and is a Christian I think must feel inspired to bear witness for Christ – to be involved in that global mission that he has called us to which is the fulfillment of his Great Commission to preach the Gospel to every creature in every nation. But you will never be able to do it on your own power. Trying to do it on one’s own power will lead inevitably to burnout. But here Christ has promised, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses.” So it is through the Holy Spirit that we are given the power to be witnesses.

Notice what Jesus says in Mark 13:11 about what will happen when times of persecution come. What gives a person to be a Graham Staines or a Chinese church leader who is imprisoned for years for his faith or tortured for his faith or a Christian in a Muslim country who is faced with job loss and ostracism and perhaps even death? What gives a person the power to bear witness under those kinds of terrible persecution? Mark 13:11 says, “And when they bring you to trial and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say; but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that these martyrs can do these extraordinary feats and bear witness to Christ in these times of terrible duress and torture. I am sure we often have asked ourselves, “How would I act under such conditions? Could I bear witness to Christ in such conditions?” I think Jesus encourages us, Don’t think about that; don’t worry about that. You couldn’t do it in your own strength anyway. It is the Holy Spirit who will give you what you need to say in that hour.[8]

The sermon today, I think, which was so inspiring highlights just one more ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are equipped to bear witness to Christ in a dark and sometimes hostile world.

That completes a review of some of the prominent ministries of the Holy Spirit. I think you can see from this how extraordinarily important the Holy Spirit is in the Christian life. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are born again. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are baptized into the body of Christ and made a member of the family of God. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are indwelt and empowered for Christian living. It is through the Holy Spirit that we have spiritual gifts for building up the body of Christ. It is through the Holy Spirit that we have assurance of salvation. It is through the Holy Spirit that we will have a changed life that bears fruit worthy of Christ. It is through the Holy Spirit that we can bear witness for Christ. How extraordinary it is then that the Holy Spirit should be so forgotten and so overlooked by most Christians today. It is no wonder that Christians lead defeated and carnal lives when they don’t know anything about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Without him, we are doomed to failure.

What we will talk about next time is the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the contrast to the New Testament, and how we need to appropriate the filling and baptism of the Holy Spirit in our own lives in order to truly live the kind of lives that Christ would have us to live today.

[Closing prayer][9]



[1] 4:58

[2] 10:03

[3] 14:56

[4] 20:16

[5] 25:02

[6] 29:55

[7] 35:12

[8] 40:14

[9] Total Running Time: 43:21 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)