you’ve been paying close attention to the first three lessons, you will note
that we seem to have more than one person who is God. That’s not a misprint.
The Bible clearly reveals three persons in one Godhead:
God the Father—unseen, a spirit,
God the Son—visible in a human
body—but also, somehow, eternal.
The Holy Spirit—unseen and (so
far) very mysterious.
Bible also tells us that God is one. Jesus tells us that he and the Father are
one; if you’ve seen him, you’ve seen the Father. How can God who is one be
question has not escaped the notice of the best minds of Christendom. Indeed,
for at least 1500 years the Trinity has been a subject of lively debate. The
concept is made all the worse by the fact that God is so far beyond human
comprehension (remember who made the universe?) that we can only draw word
pictures to illustrate a solution. So, remembering that great minds before us
had a lot of trouble with this too, we’ll see if we can make this clear. But
if this illustration doesn’t work for you, try finding others that do. There
are many out there to be found.
story is told about the night on which Harriet Beecher Stowe met Abraham
Lincoln. It was a formal reception. As her name was called out, Lincoln said,
“Oho—so you’re the little lady who caused all this fuss.” He was referring, of
course, to her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It had a tremendous impact on
the common people of her time, inflaming a great hatred of slavery. In a sense
one could say, “The novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin started the Civil War.”
take that a step further: what do we mean when we say, “The novel Uncle
We could (possibly) mean the idea
for the novel in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s head. Writers will tell you that they
often have a detailed conception of the work before putting the first mark on
paper. We’d use that meaning if we said, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin preoccupied
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s mind for years before she wrote it.”
We could also mean the physical
copy of that book. We might use that as, “I have a signed, first edition copy
of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”
Or we could use it in the sense
Lincoln meant it. Not the idea, nor the physical book, but the effect it had
can take this trio of meanings—which should be familiar enough—and describe
something in parallel as God.
There is God the Father. No one
has seen him at any time; He is spirit. That’s like our novel in the mind—you
can never see inside the mind.
There is Jesus, God the Son. His
coming in the flesh is said to be his “Incarnation.” That means being made in
the flesh. We can see, feel and touch him (or at least, the people back then
There is the Holy Spirit—who is
the Spirit of God living in us.
we as mortals can understand something as commonplace as a novel to be “three,
yet one” then we can surely accept that as fact concerning God.
of the Holy Spirit
in our book example, the Holy Spirit is God living in me. Indeed, we are told
that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, the Bible
also tells us that Christ lives in us. You can see from that how difficult it
is to pry the oneness of God apart. We’ll learn more about this in a later
lesson when we discuss the church. But there are some things that we should
know about the Holy Spirit:
He is our counselor—the one who
brings God’s wisdom to us.
He is the one who guides the
church into all truth. (For example, he is said to have inspired the writers
of the Bible).
He is also the one who convicts
the world of sin and judgment.
role of the Holy Spirit seems (from the Old Testament) to be rather
mysterious—usually involving creativity. For example, certain Old Testament
artisans were said to have been given the Holy Spirit for the purpose of
creating the original Tabernacle. But what does that mean to us today?
Christians, when you ask them what the Holy Spirit does, will reply with one
word: “Comforter.” The troubles of life happen to us all. All of us will die
(unless our Lord returns first), and those left behind will be asking the same
questions and feeling the same feelings that human beings have had for
thousands of years. The Spirit is our comforter.
Spirit is also our interpreter—to God. Have you ever had that feeling that you
knew what to say but not how to say it? When speaking to God, you have a
powerful interpreter working with you.
close is our relationship? The Bible teaches us that Christ lives in us—in the
person of the Holy Spirit. This is the reason that Christians are forbidden to
abuse their bodies: your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
alone, however, is not the reason for the Holy Spirit living in us. You have
already encountered one of the teachings which the world finds so incredible:
the resurrection of the dead. How do you know that there is going to be such a
resurrection? The one man who has done it tells you so.
how do I know it applies to me? God says that the Holy Spirit is a “deposit”
on this. It has the same meaning in spiritual terms as in human terms. If you
plan to buy a house, you might be required to put down a deposit. This is
money you would lose if you backed out of the deal. That’s us; we seek
assurance in every transaction we think important. What could be more
important than salvation? God, understanding our needs, has provided the Holy
Spirit as just such a deposit.
in a while you will hear about the “unforgivable sin.” It sometimes seems to
Christians that such a thing could not happen—after all, God is love and should
always be willing to forgive, right? We can see why some things would be
unforgivable to us; we’re just sinful human beings, after all.
did this “unforgivable sin” come from? Right from the mouth of our Lord Jesus:
The Holy Bible, New
31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but
the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven,
but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in
this age or in the age to come.
we know that there is such a thing, how can we avoid it? One quick answer is
this: if you think you’ve committed the unforgivable sin, you haven’t. Why?
take three aspects of the Holy Spirit, and see what might be the opposite that
would seem so sinful:
The Holy Spirit is our counselor.
If we refuse to listen to him, can you not see that you are ignoring God?
In the form of the Spirit, Christ
lives in me. If I reject the Holy Spirit, then I am rejecting Christ—after
I have taken him as savior.
Finally, the function of the Holy
Spirit is to convict the world of sin and judgment. If you refuse to be so
convicted, why would you ever repent? If you refuse to repent, why would God
you can see that this sin is fatal because it rejects the counsel, comfort and
conviction of the Spirit—who is God living in you.
up, then. The forgiving God is still there. Most of us will see the Spirit as
Comforter, because all of us need comfort now and then. Even Jesus himself
needed comfort and strength in the Garden of Gethsemane. God knows what you
need—and has provided. But as the Spirit indwells the church, we should expect
our visible comfort in time of distress to come from the church. Therefore we,
the church, need to care for one another, as Christ cares for us.