Server Outage Notice: is transfering to a new Server on Tuesday April 13th

2379 sermons as of July 19, 2024.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
 send email...
Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Making Much of the Holy Spirit
Text:LD 20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 139:1,4,13                                                                                

Hy 1

Reading – Ezekiel 36:16-38; John 15:26-16:15; Canons of Dort 3/4:12

Ps 51:4,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 20

Hy 47:2,4,5

Ps 25:2,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation, it’s probably been said many times that the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten” person of the Trinity. For we hear so much about God the Father: it’s He who created all things, who hears and answers prayer, and who declares believers righteous by faith. We also hear a lot about God the Son. For it’s He who became man and died for our salvation, who arose, ascended, and now reigns over all. Our prayers are sent up in the name of Christ, and every spiritual blessing is given for his sake.

With so much to adore about God the Father and God the Son, the Holy Spirit gets overlooked. Some say that it’s by God’s own design that this happens. For the Spirit’s main task is to point us not to himself, but to the Father, through the Son. “The Spirit doesn’t speak on his own authority,” says Jesus in John 16:13, but the Spirit speaks only what He hears from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit doesn’t want to be at the centre of our faith!

Even so, do we give enough attention to the third person of the Trinity? For we confess that “He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God” (Q&A 53). He too, is God and Lord! The Spirit too, desires our praise, our thanksgiving, and our worship. As God He too, is worthy of our honour and trust and adoration.

So why do we find it hard to speak of the Holy Spirit’s work? Or why do we often neglect to pray for the Spirit? Why is He called the forgotten person of the Trinity? It’s certainly not Scripture’s fault. The Holy Spirit is revealed throughout both the Old and New Testament. And the Bible tells us that apart from the Spirit, we’d all be in the dark and hopeless. If we read Scripture carefully, we’ll see just how much the Spirit does for us and in us. Today let’s consider that the Holy Spirit too, is our God. He is Almighty and eternal, and daily He reveals his glory. I preach God’s Word summarized in LD 20, under this theme,

We believe that the Holy Spirit is true and eternal God:

  1. the indisputable evidence from Scripture
  2. the encouraging evidence from our lives


1) the indisputable evidence from the Word: I think there are times when we wish that the Bible said things a little more directly. Say you’ve decided to talk to the Jehovah’s Witnesses at your door, and you’re looking for a good Bible verse on the divinity of Jesus. We just wish that the Bible said very plainly somewhere that Jesus is God—for then we could take that text and drop it in front of our disagreeable visitors: end of discussion! There are passages, of course, that we can turn to—the belief in the divinity of Christ doesn’t come out of nowhere.

The same is true of our belief in the Holy Spirit. Now, there’s no Bible verse that says in the plainest possible language that the Holy Spirit is God. That’s kind of understandable—the Lord never intended his Word to be a collection of proof texts, lists of convenient verses that we can use for hammering home our point in theological debates.

For the Word is God’s self-revelation. From beginning to end, God is busy telling us about himself. He’s making statements about who He is, and He’s recounting stories about what He’s done, and He’s giving promises about what He’s still going to do. And it’s in midst of this breath-taking revelation of the LORD, that we learn this God is Triune. Yes, that the Son is God. And the Spirit is God too. 

The Lord pulls back the veil on himself in more than a few places, where we get to see all three persons of the Trinity working together, blessing together, saving together. There’s one that we hear every Sunday, in the closing benediction, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor 13:14). For Paul, this was a most natural way to sign off his letter to the Corinthians, with a prayer that the Triune God would bless his congregation.

There are other places too, where the Spirit is placed on an equal level with the Father and Son, where it’d be unthinkable for any other person or being to be named. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” Jesus said, “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of…” the angel Gabriel? the apostle Peter? No, in the name of “the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). Only the Spirit can stand alongside the Father and the Son as the Forgiver of sins, the Bringer of salvation, and the Cleanser of hearts.

But while we try to remember these (and other) verses, let’s not overlook the marvel of what this teaching about the Holy Spirit means. It means we’re not helpless in this life. It means the living God isn’t far from each one of us. It means that God himself is with us—and He is in us! Writes Paul, “Do you not know that you are temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor 3:16).

It’s incredible to ponder that truth, even more when we see how highly Scripture speaks of this Spirit and his power and glory. For instance, consider Psalm 104, which is a Psalm of praise to God the Creator. In it the Psalmist says, “You send forth your Spirit and all things are created; you renew the face of the earth” (v 30). The Spirit has an awesome creating and renewing power, for the Spirit gives life to the plants and animals of the Father’s world. He is glorious in strength!

Or as David asks in another Psalm, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (139:7). For where God is, the Spirit is—and where the Spirit is, God is. That’s a fearful thought if we’re trying to run away from the Lord, or if you’re trying to keep things from his searching eyes: you can’t get away from him. But it’s a blessed thought if we’re striving to walk with God. If the Spirit fills us, then we’re never apart from the nearness of the Lord, not even if we descend into the depths or go to the far side of the world.

And if we’re asking the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance, then we also know we’ve come to the right place. For, it says in 1 Corinthians, “the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God… No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (2:10-11). The Spirit knows the mind of God because He is God himself, so the Spirit perceives exactly what is best for us—He knows precisely the track we need to take. So when you ask the Spirit to give you wisdom, you can be sure his way is going to be reliable and true.

Summarizing how the Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit, we could say He has divine attributes: the Spirit is said to be all-present, all-knowing, and all powerful. The Spirit is also given divine names, for the Spirit is called “Lord” and “Glory” and “the Almighty.” And divine works are ascribed to the Spirit, marvelous works like creating, and renewing, and resurrecting. If you take all that evidence together, you see that the Catechism is right to teach the full divinity of the Holy Spirit: “He is together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God” (Q&A 53).

Already long before the Catechism, the Nicene Creed affirmed that the Spirit ought to be known as “the Lord and Giver of life… who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified.” He is God—just as eternal, just as almighty, just as gracious and glorious as the other two persons of the Trinity.

So why is all this important? There’s probably no one here who questions whether the Holy Spirit is God, or who needs convincing with a long list of Bible passages. So is the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is God only useful for those doorstep discussions with your local Jehovah’s Witness or a wandering Mormon? Do we really need to spend much time on this?

In response, we can say two things. First, our God is always concerned for the truth—in a general way, but especially as truth relates to who He is. That is, God wants us to know him, and know him rightly. How has He revealed himself in the Word? What do we know about God’s glory and majesty and being?

Even if these exalted things had nothing to do with how we live—even if there wasn’t any “application” for the daily Christian life—it’d still be important for us to know and believe this. It’s important because it’s the knowledge of God. If we don’t get the knowledge of God right, we don’t get anything right. And if you don’t know the God you love, then it’s not much of a love. For this reason the Athanasian Creed makes such a big deal of believing in the divinity of the Son and Spirit: “He who desires to be saved should think in this way of the Trinity.”

Knowing that the Holy Spirit is God is important for a second reason as well. Because it shows just how much the Spirit is capable of accomplishing! The fact of his divinity underlines the Spirit’s amazing power—a power which He brings to operation in our little lives. It inspires a real hope about how the Spirit can enter us, and change us, and renew us. For only one who is God himself can do the things that the Spirit does.

Who but God himself can bring new life out of nothing? Psalm 104 said that the Holy Spirit renews the face of creation; after the cold of winter perhaps, or after a forest fire, or after a drought, the Spirit brings things to life in the green shoots and fresh growth. In the same amazing way the Spirit has an ability to renew and refresh our hearts, as hardened and calcified and corrupted as they might be. This is what God promises his sinful people through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you… I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes” (36:26-27). Only God the Spirit can do this, restoring life to human hearts by his divine power.

And who but God can cause light to shine out of darkness? God did this at the beginning of time when He spoke, “Let there be light.” It’s what God the Spirit still does within us by his divine ability. Writes Paul about the miracle of regeneration, “It is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, [and] who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6). You’re in the dark until the Spirit shines his light.

And who but God can make the dead rise? This is what the Spirit does. As one who is God himself, He has an awesome resurrecting power. He calls out to those who are spiritually dead, “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5:14). If you’re a believer, you have been resurrected already by the working of God the Spirit! 

From the evidence of the Word, there’s no question that the Holy Spirit is God. This plain fact should move us to worship and adore him. And it should make us pause and reflect. For we probably don’t hesitate to believe in God the Holy Spirit. But what really is the place of the Holy Spirit in our lives? It’s easy to criticize the Pentecostals for making too much of the Spirit, but do we make too little of him? Are you really conscious of the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart on a daily basis? Do you ask to receive the Spirit’s gifts? In your thoughts and prayers, do you treat him as God? Do you seek to cultivate and nurture his presence with you?

The Holy Spirit is not some impersonal power that you can turn on and off—plug into or disconnect from, depending on how you feel. For He is always there, dwelling inside you as in a temple. And the Spirit wants to be honoured and worshiped for the work that He’s doing.


2) the encouraging evidence from our lives: God’s Word stands alone, unaided. His truth doesn’t need propping up by science, or archeology, or by clever debating. Those things can be useful, of course, but we accept that God’s Word is true simply because it’s from God. Yet Scripture is also—here’s a fancy word—self-authenticating. That means the Bible always shows itself to be true. Scripture makes big claims and bold prophecies, and in normal and ordinary life God gives the evidence that all these things are real and valid.

Just one example of this: according to Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24, one of the signs of the last days will be the increase of wickedness. Jesus says, “Lawlessness will abound, and the love of many will grow cold” (v 12). And isn’t that exactly what we see in our time? Scripture’s voice is being shown to be true and reliable.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit too, the evidence from the Word gets confirmed by the evidence in our lives. You can be sure that when Almighty God enters a person and “remains with [him] forever” (Q&A 53), great things are going to happen. You’re going to see the sure evidence of his effective power.

It begins with that marvelous moment of spiritual resurrection. Before, we were dead. By nature, we didn’t believe in God. And we couldn’t do good, even if we wanted to. Dead! But, as Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life” (John 6:63). And He does give life. You can see that life in you, in your growing awareness of God’s glory, and your blossoming love for God’s people, and your increasing trust in his Word. It’s a resurrection. It’s a fresh start. You can see the proof of it, each and every day that you strive to walk as God’s child.

The Canons of Dort speak of this in Article 12 of Chapter 3/4. “This conversion is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, the making alive… which God works in us without us.” Notice that phrase: God works in us, without us! You don’t stand by a grave, expecting a dead man to dig himself out. You’d be waiting a long time. But God does it, without any help from us; He makes us alive and brings us out.

The Canons continue, “It is… clearly a supernatural, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, marvelous, mysterious, and inexpressible work. According to Scripture… regeneration is not inferior in power to creation or the raising of the dead.” The Spirit’s work is that kind of miraculous! Like creation, or the raising of the dead.

Compare it to those thirteen young men who were trapped in the cave in Thailand some time ago. Entombed in rock, they should’ve been dead, several times over: starved, suffocated, or drowned. But by God’s mercy they survived; they were raised up and brought back into the light. Lifted from the depths and restored from the dead! We can compare that to the work of the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit’s work, He brings up God’s elect from death and darkness and fear, and into the marvelous light.

And being brought up from the darkness changes a person. Those young boys have been changed by their experience of rescue. Having been regenerated, born again, converted, we too will never be the same. For the Spirit now helps us leave aside that old way of life. This was the promise of God through Ezekiel, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols” (36:25).

Through the power of the Spirit, we don’t want to return to the darkness. We want to go on to better things. Out here in the light, we have a new job to do, because the Spirit gives us power for holy service. As Christ promised his disciples: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). You have received divine strength—strength to serve! So the Spirit uses us for showing kindness to our neighbours. For being a leader in the home. For raising a family. For exhorting a friend who is sinning. For doing good to the needy. For sharing the gospel in our community. The Spirit can do great things in us, even in spite of us. He is able, because He is God.

Sometimes a Christian will doubt if he does enough for the Lord. A person will even wonder sometimes if they’re truly one of God’s children, one of the elect—a person wonders, because their faith can feel so weak, they can be so plagued by doubts. Or when you see how often you still surrender to temptation, and how hard is the struggle to do what’s right and to love other people. If we’re really saved and truly sanctified, shouldn’t it be easier by now?

But then we need to remember what we used to be. We used to be dead in our transgressions and sins, entombed in the darkness, but the Spirit raised us up and He gave saving faith. That’s the Spirit’s special task according to Jesus in John 15: “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of me” (v 26). The Spirit testifies about Christ. He tells you that there’s a Saviour, great and glorious, despite all your sin and failing. The Spirit shines the spotlight on Christ and reveals his glory, so that you confess him and trust him.

This is what Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 12, “I tell you that… no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (v 3). Without the Spirit, we’d never make that confession. But when the Spirit opens our eyes and opens our mouths, we can say it: “Jesus is Lord. He doesn’t need me to be strong. He doesn’t save me because I’m worthy, but because He is Lord and because I trust in him.”

And then by his power, we can actually serve, and believe, and encourage, and persevere. Now we want to worship, and we want to pray. Now the image of God the Son is seen in us, a glimpse here, a glimmer there: the image of God is seen in your faithfulness, your kindness, your joy, your prayers, your self-control. It’s all because of God the Spirit—it’s the plain evidence of him who lives within us. Like John writes, “By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of his Spirit” (1 John 4:13). See the Spirit’s work in your life, understanding that nobody but God could ever do this!

When we grow in faith, Peter says, we can make “our calling and election sure:” more sure, that is, in our minds, and in the minds of others. Remember that you’d never see these things in someone apart from God. This is also why Paul says in 1 Timothy 3, “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus” (v 13). If you are carrying out your task and service, see that it’s God who is helping you. See the fingerprints of God the Spirit all over your life.

This is what Jesus once said, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13). He will give the Spirit, for whatever you need to do: the Spirit is a gift God delights to give, because there’s nothing we need more than the Spirit. But we need to ask. And we need to ask, again and again.

Ask for the Spirit, holding onto God’s steadfast promises. The promise that He who called you is faithful, and He will do it. The promise that when you’re tempted, He will also provide a way out. The promise that it is He who works in you, both to will and to act according to his good purpose. The Spirit will help you.

You can resist the allure of sin. You can make this difficult change. You can follow through on the good that you know that you need to do—it’s possible, because the Holy Spirit is God, and because God is with you. As God said to those hopeless, sinful Israelites of so long ago, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statues, and you will keep my judgments and do them” (Ezek 36:27).

Beloved, is the Holy Spirit filling you? Has He opened your eyes to the good things from his Word? Is He renewing and refreshing you? Are you praying for the Spirit every day? We cannot move forward on our own, but we can move forward—with the Spirit we can. As Zechariah tells us in 4:6, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster

bottom corner