Archive for April, 2013

The purpose of the Holy Spirit

April 30, 2013

     I heard a sermon a couple weeks ago about the Holy Spirit. The pastor said, “The Holy Spirit is for you”. In other words, the purpose of the Holy Spirit is for your benefit.

     I struggled with that at first. In fact, I wanted to disagree but I needed to think about it more first before I disagreed. After much thought, there wasn’t enough evidence to disagree except that “you” are not the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit but the secondary purpose.

     The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ. This is contrary to some charismatic ideas. Some charismatic people would say that the purpose of Christ is to give us the Holy Spirit. The purpose of Jesus is, in that case, to give us the infilling of the Holy Spirit as if it were the only reason Jesus died. The justification that Jesus provided on the cross does not matter much so long as you have the Holy Spirit. We are sanctified by the good works that we do from having the Holy Spirit and then at the end reaching total sanctification, as though that should be attained over and above or absent of justification.

     We know from the creeds that the primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ. In the Nicene Creed, [we believe] in the Holy Spirit. Granted, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. The Holy Spirit is not the Cinderella or the silent partner because he is together worshipped and glorified with the Father and the Son. But at the same time, he is not the end goal. The Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit whose primary goal is to point to Christ. This is as the Son’s goal is to point to the Father, by reconciling us to the Father through the blood that He shed on the cross.

     In what ways does the Holy Spirit point to Jesus? First, he spoke by the Prophets. He points to Christ through the church, his participation in the sacraments[1] which also includes the forgiveness of sins, giving of life[2], resurrection and life everlasting in the world to come.[3]

     The secondary purpose of the Holy Spirit is not independent of the primary purpose. The primary purpose is also not independent of the secondary purpose.

     The secondary purpose is for the church. The church’s function in the primary purpose would not be a function at all if not for the secondary function.

     The secondary purpose of the Holy Spirit is wrapped up in active righteousness, or righteousness before the world.[4] It is the duty of the church to bring the beliefs of the third article to the lost and dying world. For it is the churches function to be tools of the Holy Spirit, point to Christ who reconciles us to the Father.

     The Lord and Giver of Life empowers the church in taking care of the sick, providing for the poor, fighting for the weak, caring for all of the needs of our neighbors[5]. If you need to know who the church’s neighbor is, read Luke 10 before continuing[6]. This is as much an in reaching function as much as it is out reaching. Both in reach and outreach function on behalf of the Holy Spirit to point to Christ. He has spoken by the prophet Micah. Yahweh has told us what is good and what Yahweh requires of the church. Do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. That is life giving. That is the sum of active righteousness.

     The Holy Spirit has spoken by the prophets. The prophets pointed forward to Christ and the cross for their contemporaries and up until the point of the act of the cross itself. The Holy Spirit still speaks by the prophets to us today and points back the Christ and his work on the cross. The Holy Spirit has spoken by the prophets as much real and for their present time of Israel as he speaks by the prophets now to our present time. It is the function of the church to bring words of the Holy Spirit by means of the prophets for us today. This is to minister and uplift current believers, pointing to the cross as an Ebenezer. This is to minister to the lost and dying world to point to the hope of the cross.

     There is one holy and apostolic church that not only use the words of the Holy Spirit by means of the prophets but also brings to life: baptism, the forgiveness of sins and the communion of the saints. The statement of one holy, catholic, and apostolic church is the melding point between the Old Testament and New Testament.

     This is what will open up what we believe in the Holy Spirit to be equal to or greater than what anyone else believes about the Holy Spirit. To go more at this point would be a spoiler alert for that which is to come.

     The Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life gives us physical life. He gives us spiritual life through baptism, the forgiveness of sins and communion of saints. But those things give us eternal life through resurrection and the life of the world to come. Therefore, the proclamation is that the Holy Spirit is for you!

 

We care for others by going to work, providing shelter and food for our families, caring for the needy, providing emotional support for our loved ones, and looking after the environment. We care for the spiritual welfare of our neighbor through prayer, catechesis, and bringing the gospel to bear upon their lives.—Charles Arand


[1] The communion of saints.

[2] Not only did he participate in life giving to us but Jesus was incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed or conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Apostle’s Creed.

[3] Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord. Fortress Press, Minneapolis. Pps. 19-24, 2000

[4] Coram Mundo.

[5] Arand, Charles: Called to Be Human: The Two Kinds of Righteousness Part 1. http://seminary.csl.edu/facultypubs/TheologyandPractice/tabid/87/ctl/Details/mid/513/ItemID/28/Default.aspx St. Louis, 2007

[6]  Luke 10: 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” ESV

Trinity and the Government. Not Coequeal

April 24, 2013

Whosoever will be American, before all things it is necessary that he hold the American way. Which way except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the American way is this, that we elect one Government in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Branches, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Branch of the Executive, another of the Legislative, and another of the Judicial. But the Government branch of the Executive, of the Legislative, and of the Judicial is all one… Such as the Executive is, such is the Legislative, and such is the Judicial. The Executive of the people, the Legislative of the people, and the Judicial of the people. The Executive comprehensible, the Legislative comprehensible, and the Judicial comprehensible. The Executive elected, the Legislative elected, and the Judicial of the elected. And yet they are not three governments, but one government. As there are not three of the people nor three comprehensibles, but one of the people and one comprehensible. So likewise the Executive is too big, the Legislative too big, and the Judicial too big. And yet they are not three too bigs, but one too big. So the Executive is Government, the Legislative is Government, and the Judicial is Government. And yet they are not three Governments, but one Government. So likewise the Executive is Federal, the Legislative Federal, and the Judicial Federal. And yet not three Federals, but one Federal. For like as we are compelled by the American verity to acknowledge every Branch by Himself to be Government and Federal, so are we forbidden by the American way to say, there be three Governments, or three Federals.

The Executive is made, of the people and elected. The Legislative is of the Executive alone; made of the people and elected. The Judicial is of the Executive and of the Legislative: made, of the people, not elected, but proceeding. So there is one Executive, not three Executives; one Legislative, not three Legislatives; one Judicial, not three Judicials. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Branches are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be term limited. He, therefore, that will be American must thus think of the Trinity.

 No description of the Trinity is ever perfect but I like this. Yes I came up with this myself, leave me alone.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit too; Athanasian Creed excerpt

April 17, 2013

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three Eternals, but one Eternal. As there are not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before or after other; none is greater or less than another; But the whole three Persons are coeternal together, and coequal: so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped. He, therefore, that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

There has been plenty of writings on the Trinity. My goal is to write only on the Holy Spirit. But because the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity it is necessary to at least include a statement on the Trinity. There is no simpler of an explanation than what is given in the Athanasian Creed.

We Believe in the Holy Spirit too; a creedal look at the Third Article

April 16, 2013

We believe in the Holy Spirit

Too

except nobody knows it yet:

a creedal look at Pneumatology

 

 “Everyone believes in god,

But it seems like no one does in You

But I do

And I’m not ashamed…

 Beautiful Spirit!

Talk to me!

Holy Spirit!

Walk with me!”

 Nerve  —  Blindside

 

        I did my undergraduate studies at a Pentecostal university in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A century old and steeped in the tradition of studying the Holy Spirit, the school’s curriculum surrounded pneumatology in every subject area. The classes ranged from studies in the book of Acts and Systematic classes focusing on pneumatology.

     With all of the classes centered around and interwoven with studies on the Holy Spirit, many of my classmates varied in backgrounds from unchurched to Lutheran to those who grew up in the Pentecostal church. From many of my classmates from the varying backgrounds, I heard scores of comments about the idea that only the Pentecostal church is the only group of people that believes in the Holy Spirit.

     We were taught that the Holy Spirit was the Cinderella of theology. While the other two Persons of the Trinity are thrust to the forefront of discussion and entire systematic classes are taught on them, but little is ever said about the Holy Spirit.[1] But this was not the case at my Alma Mater.

     When I heard arguments that other Christians did not believe in the Holy Spirit, I thought to myself, “we do”. And then I thought a little further on it and I calculated that we possibly believe in the Holy Spirit more than they do. It’s a bigger part of our beliefs that go into more areas than just spiritual gifts.

     I pondered this for some time. I thought about how I could prove that we believed in the Holy Spirit and to what extent. I went into a lot of thought about this.

     As I pondered, I realized how much we believe in the Holy Spirit and really excited about putting down in words, my thoughts and studies about this. But the more I pondered, the more I realized that we believe in the Holy Spirit, we just don’t know it yet.

     One third, of our creeds, deal with the Holy Spirit. I have heard some people say the third article of the creed is a lump sum of everything else that the first two articles do not cover. Without thinking about it, they recite the deep richness of the first two articles and then say oh by the way we also believe in the Holy Spirit and all these other things.

     If the third article is the sum of everything else not covered and we say, we believe in the Holy Spirit but then that’s it. The Lutheran mantra is “what does this mean?”

     Some say this means the Holy Spirit is the silent partner and it is enough to say that we believe in him. But what if the lump sum is not a lump sum? What if it is the summation of all things that are attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit just as are the words of the first two articles.

     The Creeds are our statements of faith; our statements of faith about God and the Trinity, in detail. It has been said that the Creeds are dead.

     If the Creeds are dead, then we killed them. Yet their shadow looms.

     My attempt is to at least bring to life the third article of the creed; to put flesh and bone to the shadow; a voice to the silent partner; to put the glass slipper on the third article and have a ball.

 


[1] Karkkainen, Veli-Matti Pneumatology: Baker Academics; Grand Rapids pps. 18-19, 2002