What He Does

Last week I spoke to you about the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Triune God, and we saw that He, together with the Father and the Son is true and eternal God. Alt-hough we may not know so much concerning His Person, we do know Him for His work: in the world, in the church, and yes, even in ourselves. Indeed, the Holy Spirit was there in the beginning of the history of the world when the Father created all things. He was there when God said, “Let there be light,” for then the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters; the Spirit stirred up the waters, thus working in God’s creation. It denotes that right from the beginning the Holy Spirit acted as the life-giving power in all of creation. God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus man became a living being! That may not seem much in knowing what He did, yet that’s typical for the Spirit, because He always works in the background. Today as well, the Spirit works in creation, as Psalm 104 tells us, as He keeps renew-ing the face of the earth. That’s His work, and what a marvellous work it is! Every year again we see it through the weeks of spring in which we witness the awakening of creation, the power of the Spirit in creation: in the flowers, the shrubs, the blossoms, the trees with the leaves, etc. Thus we now see the whole creation radiant, exuberant, joyous in all its glorious evidence! Praise the Holy Spirit for it! Yes, when we are on holidays and we pay special attention to the scenery, the panoramas, we see the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit Himself, in fact, opens our eyes for all the beauty in creation, that we may praise and confess God the Father and our creation! Last week we also saw that the Holy Spirit is God in power. This He shows especially in His works. This, too, He manifests when you see the millions of flowers coming up from the ground: just think of the weight of soil that needs to be lifted to let them break through! You can say the same of every seed that’s sowed and every plant and shrub or tree growing from it! It’s by the power of the Almighty God, the Holy Spirit! You won’t see it, even realize it perhaps; neither will you hear it break through; still, the Spirit does it all, slowly but surely! Now the same way the Holy Spirit works in creation and its creatures, so He works in people. He works faith in the work of the Father and the Son in the same invisible way. He works in them the knowledge about the Lord Jesus Christ so they believe and confess Him in His birth, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension! He uses the same power for that, the power of the Almighty God! Of course, when we think about the power of the Holy Spirit, we could also think of other sources of power. God’s Word also compares the Holy Spirit with the power of the wind. As we read in 2 Peter 1:21, the prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, which can be illustrated with the moving of a sailboat by the wind: you see the boat move but you don’t see the wind – in the same way the authors of the Bible were moved by the Spirit, inspiring them to write the Word of God. The Lord Jesus, in His nightly conversation with Nicodemus (Jn. 3) also compares the work of the Spirit with the way of the wind, which you don’t see come or go. Yet, in these comparisons there is a difference: the power of the Holy Spirit in the work of inspiration and regeneration shows that He does this work as a Person! As we saw last week, the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, who works in people and with people: he teaches, reminds, testifies, convinces, guides, speaks, everything a Person does! When we think of what the Holy Spirit does, we are inclined to think of Pentecost right away, i.e. of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the gathering of the disciples of the Lord Jesus in Jerusalem (Acts 2). We should be aware, however, how already in the OT the Holy Spirit was working mightily. As we learn from Exodus 36, the Holy Spirit inspires artists; He gives gifts to men and does miracles. The Spirit of God filled Bezaleel with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stone for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every craft. He appointed with him Oholiab whom He gave craftsmanship and artistic talents. Likewise we see the Holy Spirit move Balaam to bless the people of Israel against his own will. It’s by the Holy Spirit that Samson could do his powerful deeds, that Saul could reign, and that David could prophesy. The expectation in the OT, however, was for the powerful appearance of the Holy Spirit on the Messiah (Is. 11:2) and for the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all sorts of people (Joel 2), which is what He fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down to dwell among His church, the church of Christ. As the Lord Jesus had said already, the Holy Spirit will glorify the Son, for He will take everything from Him and declare it to us. In this way He will lay the connection be-tween Christ and us, a connection which can only be established by a true faith. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and He has been working since Pentecost to lay that connection, to work that faith, also in you and me. Indeed, He comes to us in the most wondrous ways, via our ancestors and parents but also via incidental contacts such as a neighbour, a colleague, or a radio message like this. However, then this initial contact is not the end of it but only the beginning of a process of working faith, strengthening this faith by the preaching of the gospel in church from week to week, and by the use of the sacraments. With His Word He penetrates our heart and soul and reaches the innermost recesses of our heart and mind. He does so powerfully with the Word, which is living, effective! In that way the Holy Spirit awakens our attention, enlightens our understand-ing, revives, heals, corrects, and powerfully bends our will. That’s how the Spirit of God works in the church, which is the workshop of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the church, dear listeners, by the preaching of the gospel, the Holy Spirit makes known the hidden wisdom of God. That is the great love of God, and the unique way of salvation in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, revealing this love! By the Spirit of the Word all the merits and benefits of Christ are imparted to us. He takes these out of Christ and declares them to us. This way He is the contact Person between Christ and us. For our life and salvation, this work of the Spirit is indispensible. Without Him all these precious treasures earned by Christ would remain inaccessible to us. Just like precious food packages which may be lying ready at an airport, but which are not sent to a starving people. They won’t benefit from it that way. So, without the ‘air bridge’ of the Spirit (i.e. without the preaching!) the treasures of Christ will never reach us. Now, however, the Holy Spirit is making us a new people, a living people, a different people, working in us by the preaching! Next week, the Lord willing, dear listeners, we will hear more about how He works, the Holy Spirit. Today, I hope, you have heard many of the things He does!

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