Sunday, February 03, 2008

Matt's Messages - Who Is the Holy Spirit?

“Who Is the Holy Spirit?”
The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
February 3, 2008
Matthew 3:13-17

Last week, I told you of my Trinitarian prayer for you based upon 2 Corinthians 13:14. In 2008, I am praying that you would experience the fullest blessing of the Trinity–the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

It’s that last phrase, “The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit,” that describes the theme of our Sunday morning teachings together for the next few months. The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Communion with God the Spirit. Relationship with God because of and through and with the Holy Spirit of God.

For the next few months, we’re going to study the ministries of the Holy Spirit and find out what He does in and through our lives.

But before we get too far into that, we need to ask a very basic question: “Who Is the Holy Spirit?”

Who is this person that I am praying that you experience fellowship with in 2008?

For some of us, that’s a very basic question. We’ve known about the Spirit for most of our lives. But perhaps it would be good to be reminded.

For others of us, we may never have received much teaching on the Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit. This might be really new to you. If so, I’m glad you’re here. I’m hoping this series of messages will really bless you.

The Holy Spirit shows up at the baptism of Jesus. We mentioned it last week. Let’s read about it today in Matthew chapter 3. Starting in verse 13.

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

Who Is the Holy Spirit?


Jesus knew where John the Baptist was baptizing by the Jordan River. He came to see John and asked to be baptized himself.

John, realizing who Jesus is, God’s Son, the Messiah[!] doesn’t want to do it.

John thought that Jesus should baptize him. John knew that Jesus was greater than Him. And John probably knew that Jesus didn’t need a baptism of repentance.

But Jesus insists. He says that he should be baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness.”

I’m not sure all of what that means, but I know that it at least means that Jesus was identifying with us in His righteousness.

Baptism is identifying. It is putting yourself into someone or something–identifying with that. When we get baptized, we are publically putting ourselves into Christ by repentance and faith.

When Jesus was baptized, it was going the other way. He was identifying with us.

It was right; it was righteous, for Him to get baptized, too.

And so, John took Him down in the Jordan River and baptized Jesus. And when Jesus came up out of the water, something amazing happened! V.16 again:

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”

Here is the Trinity again.

I mentioned this passage last week when talking about the love of the Father. God the Father speaks from heaven and declares that Jesus is His own Son, beloved and pleasing to Him.

But there is someone else here, too. “The Spirit of God.”

The Spirit of God, also called the Holy Spirit, descends from heaven and lands on Jesus, in some way like a dove.

All three are present in one place, in one event, at one time. Father, Son, and Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

He is God.

Notice that verse 16 calls Him the “Spirit of God.” Now, that could just mean that He belongs to God in some way.

But other passages of Scripture clearly teach us that the Holy Spirit is fully God Himself.

For example, with Ananias and Sapphira lied about how much money they had made on the sale of their property in Acts chapter 5, the Apostle Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to LIE TO THE HOLY SPIRIT and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? ... You have not lied to men but to God.”

Lying to the Spirit is lying to God.

Or 1 Corinthians 2:11 says that the Spirit comprehends the thoughts of God. And only God Himself can fully know what God thinks!

The passages go on and on equating the Spirit of God with God Himself.

When Jesus gave the great commission, He told His disciples to baptize in the Name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We might think of that as three names. But Jesus saw them as co-eternal, co-equal, fully divine.

The Holy Spirit is God.

Now, you might think that this is just a settled fact. And it is, as far as I’m concerned, and as far a church history is concerned.

But there are still people who call themselves Christ-followers who do not believe that the Holy Spirit is God.

This last week, after I posted my sermon on the Internet, on my weblog, a man named Adam Pastor posted this comment to it:
Hi Matt!

The reason why maybe believers don’t talk enough about the Trinity ...
is because the trinity doctrine of a God existing in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three in One. One in Three. ...
is simply not scriptural!

The Scriptures simply teach that
there is solely ONE GOD, the Father.
Jesus the Messiah is the ONE GOD's human Son;
and the holy spirit is now the operational presence and power of both the Father and the Son.

Besides, Jesus was not a trinitarian!

And since you're recommending books, may I recommend a book by the same title ...
Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor
Yesterday I responded to Mr. Pastor with this quick note:

Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your passion for what you think is true. [And I really do! Not everyone is willing to speak out passionately for what they believe!]

However, I think you are terribly wrong. What you are saying is heresy and dishonors the Lord Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.

The Bible does teach the Trinitarian reality of God.

Adam, I know that this teaching is mysterious and difficult to understand at first, but I believe that it is the truth and will continue to teach it and live out its implications.

My prayer for you is that you come to enjoy the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

-Matt Mitchell
Friends, this Spirit of God who descended upon Jesus at His baptism was God the Spirit.


We Should Worship Him.

We don’t just worship God the Father. We also worship God the Son. And our worship should embrace God the Spirit because they are Three in One.

When was the last time that you specific remembered in worship that the Holy Spirit is God?

I’m thankful for songs like Holy, Holy, Holy that bring out that truth!

We should worship God the Spirit.

Now, we’re going to see in just a few moments that the Spirit is self-effacing and loves to be in the background.

So, it’s not that strange that He isn’t at center stage in our worship all of the time.

But it is right and proper to worship Him, because He is God!


Notice that I’ve said, “He” and “Him” and “His” instead of “It” or “Its.”

We don’t get that from this passage but when Jesus promises for Him to come in John 14, that’s how Jesus refers to Him.

In John 14, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit as not an IT, but a Person.

As the series unfolds, we’ll see again and again that the Spirit has emotions (you can grieve Him) and intellect (He knows things), and will (He decides things).

He is a Person.

And that’s important because that means that we can have a relationship with Him.

We Can Fellowship With Him.

Our fellowship will center on Jesus, we’ll see that again and again. But it will be fellowship with the Spirit.

He is not just an impersonal force.

Some people, I think, conceive of the Spirit as being like “the Force” in the Star Wars movies. [Did you know that there are 390,000 people in England who consider Jedi to be their personal religion?!]

But, the Force, is impersonal and can be controlled by Jedi’s.

"Use the Force, Luke!"

God the Spirit is will not be "used!"

He is free to do as He pleases.

He is a Person.

So we can fellowship with Him.

My prayer is that this series of messages will bring you a clearer, deeper understanding of His presence and power at work in us.


Why a dove?

I’m really not sure. From this point on, doves are a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

In the 2nd verse of the Bible, the Spirit is pictured as “hovering” bird-like over the waters. But that’s mysterious, too.

In fact, almost everything about the Holy Spirit is mysterious!

For example, He’s a Spirit!

The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ru-ach which means Breath.

The Greek word is Pneuma.

It’s supposed to conjure up the idea of wind blowing, the breath of God, the exhale of God huffing and puffing and working His power in the world.

Our word “spirit” doesn’t really cut it, but there are no good words.

He’s too mysterious.

When Jesus met with Nicodemus that one night, He said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

He is mysterious!

Wind is not the only picture. Hardly!

Water. Flames of Fire. Powerful Clothes.

These and more are all pictures of the Holy Spirit.

He’s too mysterious to capture with just a few words.

And I think that means that we need to wonder at Him.

We Should Wonder at Him.

Thinking about the Spirit should lead us in marveling at His amazing work.

He is not a hum-drum subject worthy of scant attention.

No, He is the mysterious, personal, God the Spirit worthy of our wonder and amazement.

Over the next few weeks and months, I hope that we wonder more and more at His presence and activity in our lives!


I picked this passage to preach on the Holy Spirit, not because it is about the Holy Spirit, but because it shows the Holy Spirit in His dove-like-descending highlighting the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Even as He operates amazingly and supernaturally and mysteriously and miraculously, He is always pointing people to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered.

Jesus said that’s what would happen. In John 16, He said, “[The Spirit] will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.”

The Spirit is all about Jesus!

J.I. Packer calls this His Floodlight Ministry. He says, “I remember walking into a church one winter evening to preach on the words ‘he shall glorify me,’ seeing the building floodlit as I turned a corner, and realizing that this was exactly the illustration my message needed. When floodlighting is well done, the floodlights are so placed that you do not see them; you are not in fact supposed to see where the light is comign from; what you are meant to see is just the building on which the floodlights are trained. The intended effect is to make it visible when otherwise it would not be seen for the darkness, and to maximize its dignity by throwing all its details into relief so that you see it properly. This perfectly illustrates the Spirit’s new covenant role. He is, so to speak, the hidden floolight shining on the Savior...[His message is] ‘Look at him, and see his glory; listen to him, and hear his word, go to him, and have life, get to know him and taste his gift of joy and peace” [Keep in Step with the Spirit, pg. 66].

Some Christians have made the mistake of ignoring the Spirit.

Other Christians have made the mistake of focusing too much on the Spirit.

But He want us to be Christians, not Pneumians.

Not Holy Spiritists, but Christ-Followers.

The Holy Spirit is Christ-Centered, and So Should We Be.

The Spirit of God will be eternally happy if we are eternally focused on Jesus Christ!

It was right for Jesus to be baptized, to identify with you and me.

When He went to the Cross, He was identifying with us yet again.

He was taking our un-righteousness, and in the greatest exchange ever, He was giving us His perfect righteousness!

And to all who put their trust in Him and what He did on the Cross, they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

And the Holy Spirit then continually shines His light on Christ in our lives so that He gets the glory forever.