How can I better understand the Holy Spirit? Dr. Sinclair Ferguson explains how the person and work of the Holy Spirit point believers back to the Father and the Son.
I think, during my lifetime, one of the great topics and sometimes one of the really hot topics is the work of the Holy Spirit. The first thing I think I would say to somebody who wanted to think more about that would be: remember that he’s a person and he’s not just a power or an “it.” Because we’re in an evangelical subculture where the power of the Holy Spirit has had a lot more prominence than the person of the Holy Spirit. And so I would say two things.
The Person of the Holy Spirit
The first is the first place to look to reflect on the Holy Spirit is in the Lord Jesus.The first is the first place to look to reflect on the Holy Spirit is in the Lord Jesus. And I say that for two reasons. One is that the spirit the Christian believer receives is the Spirit of Christ—the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. And the more fundamental one is this: that the Spirit who is given to us is actually one and the same Spirit who was on the Lord Jesus throughout the whole course of his life. There are not a million holy spirits for a million Christians, and there’s not even two holy spirits, one for Jesus and one for me. The Spirit Christ has given to me is the Spirit that the Father gave to him. And so one thing I would recommend is just go through the Gospels and follow through the relationship between the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit, because it’s there that you will come to understand who the Holy Spirit is. So that’s one sweep that we might find and just by reading through a Gospel.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
Second thing I would encourage people to do is to focus on John’s Gospel, chapters 14, 15 and 16. Because there, I think, at a really heightened point in Jesus’ ministry, a crisis point for the life of the apostles, he is actually giving them more teaching about the person and work of the Holy Spirit than anywhere else in the Gospels and, in a sense, anywhere else in the New Testament. And so I would say look there. See, for example, one way I have found helpful to put it is this: in John 14, about verse 15 till the end, Jesus picks up three truths about himself and applies them to the Holy Spirit. The first is that He has been their counselor, and he says, “I’m going to send the Holy Spirit to you, and He is going to be everything to you that I have been to you.” The second thing is that the Holy Spirit has been—the Holy Spirit is your teacher. “I have been your teacher, but now the Holy Spirit is going to give you apostles the revelation that you will write down in the New Testament.” So I follow that through and I answer the question, “How do I get to know the Holy Spirit?”
There are not a million holy spirits for a million Christians, and there’s not even two holy spirits, one for Jesus and one for me. The Spirit Christ has given to me is the Spirit that the Father gave to him.First of all, by reading about him in terms of Jesus’ ministry, reading about him in the New Testament. And then the third way I have put it is in John 14, Jesus says to the disciples, “I’m going to the Father to make a home for you, so I’m going to heaven to be your homemaker.” And what happens when he sends the Holy Spirit to us is he sends the Holy Spirit back to us as the homemaker in our lives for the presence of the Father and the Son. And he says, “When the Holy Spirit is sent to you, then I will come with my Father and we will dwell with you.”
And to me over the decades now, that thought—that the Holy Spirit is a homemaker—very much reminded me of my wife and of other wives who nowadays are a bit diminished in society if they fill in the form “I’m a homemaker.” But actually, within the world of the family, they’re the person who makes everything happen. And I think that’s a wonderful way to think about the Holy Spirit. That he is—that yes, the third person of the Trinity, from one point of view, he seems more anonymous than the Father and the Son, but he is the one who comes to us to bring the Lord Jesus to us. He’s the one who makes things happen and who works in our hearts, if I can put it this way, to make our lives the kind of life that the Father and the Son would be comfortable living in. And when that begins to happen, I think, in a Christian’s life, you can really tell the difference. So these are, I think, a couple of fairly simple and basic ways that a Christian can begin to catch the flavor of the biblical teaching on the Holy Spirit.