10 Lessons on the Lutheran Faith

Lesson 7:  The Holy Spirit

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Getting Started
 
  
 
Describe your picture of the Holy Spirit.

Is the Holy Spirit God?

What does the Holy Spirit do?
 


The Bible Teaches

he Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity of God. He is truly God along with the Father and the Son, Jesus. He is referred in the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, The Comforter, and the Spirit of God. The Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit is indeed God.

  • NAB Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
  • NAB Acts 5:3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."
  • NAB Genesis 1:2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.
  • NAB Job 33:4 "The Spirit of God has made me, And the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

So we see the Holy Spirit is God.

  • He is called God.
     
  • He was present in the beginning at creation and was actively participating in creation.
     
  • He is equal to the Father and to the Son.

     

The Holy Spiritís Work

We have discussed that we are saved by the mercy of God through faith in Jesus Christ. In the third article of the creed we confess, I believe &ldots;in the Holy Ghost. In Lutherís explanation on the third article of the creed he writes, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord or come to Him."

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 2:14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

 
In our unconverted state, we cannot accept the things of the Spirit, they seem like foolishness, and we cannot understand them. Why? St. Paul tells us:

  • NAB Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

When we are dead we are incapable of doing anything to change our situation. Because of innate sin, all human beings are born spiritually dead unable to approach or to bring themselves to faith in God.

  • NAB Romans 8:7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,

And yet we confess "I believe in God&ldots;" How is it possible for human beings to believe in God? Because the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Jesus Christ.

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

This work of the Holy Spirit, creating faith, is called by many different names:

        • Enlightenment
           
        • Rebirth
           
        • Regeneration
           
        • Conversion

           

To be enlightened is to once have been blind but now to see and understand. It is the voice that cries "eureka" I see and understand it now.

  • NAB 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Often we hear the term "born again". Children born of sinful parents are also born sinful. But through the grace of God there is a rebirth. ĎThis is Godís gift to us. Like our physical birth, we do not bring it about, but are being carried along by Godís grace. We were once dead in our sins. Now we are being brought to life through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. We are reborn or regenerated.

  • NAB John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

A very common term heard to describe this today is "conversion". It refers to being turned around. We were on the way to hell, eternal separation from God because of our sins. But through Christ, our destiny has been completely turned around. We are placed on the path to heaven through spirit wrought faith in Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can turn an unbeliever doomed to eternal separation from God into a believer in Godís grace so that he is His adopted child.

  • NAB Jeremiah 31:18 "&ldots; Bring me back that I may be restored, For You are the LORD my God."
  • NAB Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

A common mistake is to assume that the work of our salvation is a cooperative work between God and ourselves. God does His part and we do our part by following, by exhibiting obedience, or by giving our hearts to Jesus. But Ephesians above shows that it is not in any way a part of our work. Rather it is 100% Godís gift and Godís work.

Sometimes too people have the opinion that conversion must be accompanied by a powerful emotional experience. But there is no basis for this in Godís Word. We are truly converted if we repent of our sins and have faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior, whether we feel carried on a current of emotion or not.

You could think of the Holy Spirit as the gift giver. He takes all the gifts and promises that God has provided for us through Jesus Christ and makes sure they are delivered to us through the means of grace, whether the gift be forgiveness, faith, hope, love, joy, etc&ldots;

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 12:3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

The Holy Spiritís Tools

The Holy Spirit works to create faith and help our faith grow through the means of grace, the Word, baptism, and Holy Communion.

Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession expresses it this way:

      "God. . . provided the Gospel and the sacraments. 2 Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases, in those who hear the Gospel"
       
       

Scripture gives many examples of this.

  • NAB 2 Thessalonians 2:14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • NAB 1 Peter 1:23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
  • NAB Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

People come to faith only through hearing the message of Christ, being ministered to through Godís sacraments, all by the work of the Holy Spirit.

  • NAB Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation&ldots;. 13 for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!"&ldots; 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

The Holy Spirit not only works to create faith in each person, but He works to sustain that faith, to prosper that faith, and defend it from all attack. He uses the same means to sustain our faith as He did to create our faith.

  • NAB 1 Peter 1:5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
  • NAB Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
  • NAB 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

The Holy Spiritís Fruits

The work of the Holy Spirit does bear positive fruit in our lives. We are new and different people because of His work in us. Not only do we trust in God, but our trust exhibits itself in concrete ways of love toward God and our fellow human beings. This does not mean that we are perfect and without sin, for sin continues in us as long as mortal life continues. But through the work of the Holy Spirit, Christians may bring forth fruits that we call good works. Have given us rebirth by grace, the Holy Spirit helps us to live our new lives well.

  • NAB Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
  • NAB Ephesians 5:9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),
     
  • NAB Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

     

  • NAB 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

One question comes up sometimes. What if someone does good works and tries to love their neighbor, but does not believe in God. Is God pleased by these good works?

  • NAB Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

The Problem of Unbelief

God wants to save all people. His salvation is not for a select few. The Holy Spirit does work through his Word to bring all people to knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ.

  • NAB 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
  • NAB 1 Timothy 2:4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

But some people do not believe. We may not be able to save ourselves or to seek out God, but when God comes seeking us out, we can say no. We can resist Godís grace.

  • NAB Matthew 23:37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
  • NAB Acts 7:51 "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

The Unforgivable Sin

Jesus described the unforgivable sin.

  • NAB Matthew 12:31 "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

When we blaspheme, we dismiss and belittle sacred teachings and God. The unpardonable sin is to take this attitude when the Holy Spirit speaks to us the promises of grace and mercy. This sin is persistent and stubborn refusal to trust the promises given to us through Jesus Christ. This sin is unforgivable, because it rejects the very gift of forgiveness. It is not that God does not desire to forgive, but that the person refuses to receive, and by so doing has cut himself off from the source of forgiveness.

A wise person once said, if you are concerned if you have committed the unforgivable sin, then you have not, for the unforgivable sin is to stop caring about God.

 
  copyright Rev. David D. Reedy, 1999-2005