The Forgotten Third: Developing a Relationship with God the Holy Spirit — Introduction

18 Jun

For many, God the Holy Spirit is the Forgotten Third, the Cinderella of the Trinity, the Shy Member of the Godhead. But biblical Christianity presents God the Holy Spirit as a critical personality who is intimately involved in the life of the follower of Christ.

How are we to respond to the Spirit of God? Do we “receive” Him by faith as we did the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we to understand the Holy Spirit as always in the background? If His primary duty is directing our (and the world’s) attention to the Son, does that mean no attention is to be given to Him at all? Does our quest to know more about Him detract from the Lord Jesus?

It seems that many Christians commit one of two errors about the Spirit of God: they either overemphasize Him or they overlook Him. For those who overemphasize Him, we would encourage them to get more biblical in seeing His role as the substitute teacher for the Lord Jesus and the One who was sent to glorify the Son. For those who overlook Him, we would encourage them to get more biblical in seeing that He is far more than the power of God (as our Jehovah’s Witness friends say). He is a Person and we can — and should — have a relationship with Him.

I’ve been reading through Galatians 3 with my long-distance friend Frank. There we read the following:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? 4 Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Just a couple of points from this text as we begin our study:
1. Paul is contrasting “faith” versus “the works of the law.” Interesting question that he asks: “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” (v. 2). It seems to me that while Jesus is received by invitation, the Spirit of God is received by conversion. That is, when one repents and believes (conversion involves both repentance for one’s sins and belief in the gospel), the Spirit automatically takes up residence in the new believer. We don’t invite Him in. He comes with the package. Therefore, every believer already has the Spirit of God indwelling in him — by faith in the Son of God.
2. We are to begin and pursue the Christian life “by means of the Spirit” (v. 3). “The flesh” refers to our human nature, our ability, our strength and energy. It is “by means of the Spirit” that we begin and continue the process of becoming more like the Lord Jesus.
3. The Spirit is given as a gift to the believer (v. 5). He is not somehow earned or acquired only by super-saints. All believers have been given the Spirit of God. And for some that involves the working of miracles (especially during the critical and foundational apostolic period). And the key to receiving the Spirit as a gift is “by believing what you heard” (v. 5). Faith in Christ provides the believer with the gift of God the Holy Spirit.

So in these posts we want to ask how we “open” that gift. We want to become much more aware of the Spirit’s presence and power and mission in and through us. Join me in this journey?

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Posted by on June 18, 2019 in The Holy Spirit


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