The Holy Spirit gets a lot of one-sided press these days.
When the Holy Spirit makes headlines, it usually has to do with things likes tongues, miracles, or wild prophecies. These are often attached to fringe Christian groups and visiting Evangelists promising miraculous healings and personal prosperity. Consequently, many Christians want to distance themselves from the controversy behind these headlines, but in doing so may also distance themselves from studying the Person and work of the Spirit. This is unfortunate because not only is the Holy Spirit an essential person of the Triune God, but the Spirit is central to God’s work in the world and studying these is greatly enriching.
On Sunday, March 4, we will begin a four-part class on the Holy Spirit following the Helsinki service. In these classes, we will study the more popular outworkings of the Holy Spirit – tongues, prophecy, miracles – but I would also like to give deserved attention to many of the other amazing aspects of the Spirit’s work.
Let’s look at just one example: the Spirit’s work in the creation of the universe. Genesis 1:1-2 says:
Here we are given the picture of God creating the heavens and earth. How is he creating? By his Spirit, who is hovering over the face of the waters and bringing beauty out of chaos, light out of darkness, form out of formlessness.
But the Spirit did not act alone, for creation is a Trinitarian act. Peter writes that the “the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God” (2 Peter 3:5). And the writer of Hebrews writes “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (1:2). The Bible gives us a harmonious picture of how the Spirit cooperates with the Word of God, the Father, and the mediation of the Son to bring about his creating work.
Christopher Wright points out another important aspect of the role of the Holy Spirit in creation:
The Spirit not only has a role in the creation of the universe, but in sustaining the creation!
The word "Spirit" comes from the Hebrew word ruach meaning breath or wind, as you read in Job’s affirmation of this truth: “If he should set his heart to it and gather to himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.” (Job 34:14-15) Without the Spirit’s constant activity in creation, all people and the entire universe would be entirely reduced to dust. This has tremendous implications, especially as we think about the Spirit's role in making us—believers—new creations! But I am afraid you will have to come to the class to hear more.
No matter if you are able to make it to the class or not, I hope some of these observations will stir you to study and appreciate more the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, as revealed to us in Scripture.