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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:The promise of the gospel concerning the Holy Spirit
Text:LD 20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 84:1-3
Hymn 1A
Psalm 139:1,4,5
Hymn 37
Psalm 84:4-6

Readings: Isaiah 63:7-14, 1 Corinthians 6
Text: Lord's Day 20
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,


The Holy Spirit is sometimes called the “shy person” of the Trinity.  He does his work in the background, working quietly but effectively to draw people to Christ and keep them united to him.  His background role makes it easy to neglect him.  In fact, a recent popular book about the Holy Spirit is entitled, “Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.”  Neglecting him is not good, because it dishonours one person of the Godhead.  As God, the Holy Spirit’s glory is equal with that of the Father and the Son.  As God, the majesty of the Holy Spirit is co-eternal with that of the Father and the Son.  As we confess in the Athanasian Creed, “in this trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less.”  Thus, the Holy Spirit is to be worshipped and adored, just as we worship the Father and the Son. 


If we could find a time machine and travel back nearly 450 years, and if we would land in the Germany city of Heidelberg, we would have found a Reformed church that understood this.  In fact, one of the Reformed churches in Heidelberg was called “The Holy Spirit Church.”  If you saw a church by that name today, you might think it was Pentecostal.  But there in Heidelberg there was a Holy Spirit Church and it was Reformed.  One of its pastors was Caspar Olevianus, who’s often thought to be one of the authors of our Catechism.


The Catechism is permeated with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  That reflects his place and function in Scripture.  He already appears in Lord’s Day 1 as the one who assures us of eternal life and makes us willing and ready to live for God.  Over the last months we’ve been dealing with the Apostles’ Creed and he’s made several appearances there too.  As our King, Christ governs us by his Spirit.  Christ was conceived in Mary through the working of the Holy Spirit.  With the presence of his Holy Spirit, Christ is never absent from us.  He has given us his Spirit as a counter-pledge and with his power we seek heavenly and spiritual things.  Finally, in Lord’s Day 19, we confess that Christ pours out heavenly gifts on us his members through the Holy Spirit.  No one can reasonably claim that the Holy Spirit is neglected or forgotten by the Heidelberg Catechism.  Here too we can credibly say that the Catechism faithfully reflects the teaching of Scripture, giving the rightful honour due to the Holy Spirit.


And then we come to Lord’s Day 20 and its explanation of the eighth article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.”  Here again, we need to remember that this article is part of “all that is promised us in the gospel.”  The gospel includes the Holy Spirit.  Typically, we speak about the gospel as being the good news about Jesus Christ.  And it’s true, the epicentre or the focus of the gospel is in the person and the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus.  But that goes on to include the person and work of the Holy Spirit.  A gospel that does not include the Holy Spirit is either a truncated gospel or a false gospel.  Of course, we don’t want either a truncated, half or three quarters gospel or a false gospel.  We want the full package, the truth.  So, this afternoon, let’s consider what the gospel promises with regards to the Holy Spirit.  We’ll consider two things:


1.      He is true and eternal God

2.      He is also given to me (to you, to us!)


Let’s start with reminding ourselves of a basic truth about the Holy Spirit.  When we speak about the Holy Spirit, we have to be careful to remember that he is a person.  By that we don’t mean that he is a human being, but rather an entity to whom you can relate.  He is not an inanimate object or a force; not a something but a someone.  In history, some have described the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force, like say, magnetism.  But you can’t communicate with magnetism, nor can magnetism communicate with you.  You might love magnetism in a nerdy sort of way, but magnetism will never love you.  It’s incapable of feeling emotions.  Not so with the Holy Spirit.  He is a person. 


And so in Isaiah 63, we read about how the people of Israel rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit.  You can’t grieve magnetism, or electricity, or gravity, or any other force in creation.  But it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit, because he is a someone.


Practically speaking, that means that we should always take care to honour him by speaking about him with care and precision.  Richard Rogers was a Puritan pastor at the turn of the sixteenth century.  He was horseback riding one day with one of the local nobility and was being ribbed for being so precise about everything.  He was asked why he would do this.  Why did he value precision so much when it came to the Christian faith?  Rogers stopped his horse, looked the nobleman in the eye, and simply replied, “O sir, I serve a precise God.”  God has made a precise revelation of who he is in the Bible and he expects his servants to likewise be precise in what they believe.  And in how they speak of him.  When it comes to the Holy Spirit, sloppy speaking is rampant.  Many people refer to him as “it.”  Loved ones, this deeply dishonours and grieves the Holy Spirit.  For his honour, I plead with you:  always speak carefully of the Holy Spirit as “he, him, his,” and so forth.  Honour him as one person of the Holy Trinity, as someone who is worthy of our praise and adoration.


So, he.  “He is true and eternal God.”  Looking again to Isaiah 63, we see clear evidence of his divinity.  Isaiah 63 speaks of how God delivered his people from Egypt.  The Holy Spirit is said in verse 12 to be the one who gave the people rest.  Yet, if you turn to Exodus and the other books of the Pentateuch, you don’t find him mentioned in that way.  You find instead that all of this is attributed to Yahweh, to the LORD.  What this tells us is that the Holy Spirit is identified with God.  He is God.  Divine power and attributes are ascribed to him.


In Isaiah 63, he is mentioned as being a key agent in the main redemptive event of the Old Testament, the exodus from Egypt and the entry into the Promised Land.  That points us ahead to his work as God in the redemption that we have through Jesus Christ.  Isaiah says that the Spirit of Yahweh gave the people rest.  In the New Testament, the Spirit is the one who again brings rest to the people of God, this time in glorious fulfillment of all the shadows and types.  His divine power and attributes are revealed in connection with the gospel.  Let me explain two ways in which that works. 


The first has to do with the earthly life and ministry of our Lord Jesus.  The Holy Spirit was busy in his life right from his conception.  Through the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit he came into our world as one of us, yet without sin.  Then when he was baptized, he was anointed with the Holy Spirit, announced by God to be our prophet, priest and king.  The Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted and to conquer Satan’s schemes.  Through his divine power, the Holy Spirit directed him to the places he needed to be, so that he could do this vital work in our place.  Sinclair Ferguson has an excellent book simply entitled The Holy Spirit.  He says it well.  He says that the Spirit “serves as the heavenly cartographer and divine strategist who maps out the battle terrain and directs the Warrior-King to the strategic point of conflict.  He is Christ’s adjutant-general in the holy war which is waged throughout the incarnation” (50).  Then Hebrews 9:14 teaches that Christ offered himself to God through the Holy Spirit.  In other words, when Christ suffered and died, the Spirit was with him.  Exactly how that happened, we can’t really say.  There’s mystery in that.  When it comes to the resurrection, here too we find the Holy Spirit and his mighty divine power.  According to 1 Peter 3:18, the Lord Jesus was “put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit.”  Because he is God he could bring Christ back to life. 


The second way in which the Holy Spirit’s divinity connects to the gospel is in direct relation to his work in us.  We could go several different directions with that, but for this afternoon, I want you to reflect with me on one of the doctrines of grace.  The doctrines of grace, of course, are explained from the Scriptures in the Canons of Dort.  These doctrines or teachings are there to direct our hearts upward in praise for God and his undeserved mercy for sinners.  One of those doctrines is what we call “irresistible grace” or “invincible grace” as it’s sometimes called.  It’s the “I” in the well-known TULIP acronym.  This doctrine teaches that God never fails to bring to salvation those whom he intends to save.  The Holy Spirit has a central role in this doctrine.  Because he is God, he has the power to effectively save all those upon whom God has set his love from before the foundation of the world. 


Scripture teaches that the Spirit saves us.  2 Corinthians 3:6, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” According to what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3, we are born again through the Spirit.  He has the power to raise us up from spiritual death.  He can do that because he is God.  He also helps us to know the secrets of God concerning our salvation.  Think here of what we read in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.”  The Spirit knows the deep things of God, because he is God.  And then he unfailingly reveals them to his people.  And when he does, they believe because he works faith in their hearts.   


The Canons of Dort beautifully summarize the biblical teaching on this point in article 11 of chapter 3-4.  Please turn there with me for a moment.  {read article 11}  As true and eternal God, the Holy Spirit does all this sovereign work, work that is at the heart of the gospel.  The gospel says that we are helpless and God is powerful to save.  In his work of conversion or regeneration, the Spirit shows himself to be the God of grace and glory.


And he is so, not only with regards to an initial work of conversion or regeneration, but also when it comes to everything afterwards.  The Spirit is given to me and he remains with me.  This too is part of the gospel.  One of the clearest places in the Bible where this is revealed is in 1 Corinthians 6.  The city of Corinth was a rough place.  Pagan religion was rampant and often involved prostitution.  You could go to pagan temples like that of Aphrodite and there would be prostitutes and your worship of the pagan gods would include activities with these prostitutes.  Besides the “religious” prostitutes, there were others too, secular prostitutes if you want to call them that.  From what Paul writes, obviously some of the Corinthians were still attracted to this sexual immorality.


Paul tried to pull them away from that by pointing out that they have the Holy Spirit living in them.  In fact, he says, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, it is a holy and consecrated place.  Notice that he speaks here about the body.  The presence of the Holy Spirit is not only with regards to our souls or spirits, but also with our bodies, our physical flesh and blood.  He dwells in our material bodies.  Therefore, what we do with these bodies has to reflect that reality.  We can’t profane this temple through sexual immorality.  And of course that can be and should be extended to all sorts of other sins that involve the body.  We are temples of the Holy Spirit.  He is given to all believers. 


There are three gospel facts related to that truth.  The first is that he works faith in our hearts so that we share in Christ and all his benefits.  If we didn’t have the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t belong to Christ.  We have union with Christ, a deep personal attachment and intimacy with him, and that union is through the Holy Spirit and through the faith that he creates and sustains.  Because we are united to Christ, part of his body, we also get all his benefits.  Now hold it right there.  What are those benefits? 


Well, that could be a whole sermon in itself!  But let’s just take three.  Three benefits of Christ that we share through the Spirit.  To begin with, there’s righteousness.  Through our bond with Christ, we are right with God.  We don’t just get a clean slate, we get a slate filled with all the righteous deeds and merits of our Saviour.  It’s all ours.  Second, there’s sanctification, the ongoing transformation of our lives.  Sanctification is how God makes us look and more like Christ.  Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is working his redemption out even further in our lives.  Our remaining sin is under siege by Christ and his Spirit and it will eventually be brought to total defeat and ruin.  We share in that wonderful, encouraging benefit.  Last of all, we share in the benefit of eternal life.  Already now we have the joy of knowing God, we have the beginnings of eternal life.  Believers know that for them, the joys we have here are just a foretaste of what’s waiting for us in the hereafter.  All because of Christ and all because his Spirit is given to us. 


The other gospel fact related to the truth that the Spirit lives in us is that he comforts us.  You’ll remember that he is the Paraklete, the Comforter, the Counselor.  He is the one who comes alongside us with the Word and speaks to our hearts the encouragement and strength that we need as we journey through this world.  It’s important to realize that the Holy Spirit doesn’t do this work independently.  He uses a tool, an instrument.  He uses the Word of God to comfort us.  Again, that’s why it’s so critically important for us to be people of the Word, people who are busy with it every day, people who sit under its proclamation every Sunday.                      


The last gospel fact is that he will remain with us forever.  Jesus said it in John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Paraklete, that he may remain with you forever.”  The Holy Spirit will never abandon us.  In daily life, we can count on that.  We can be sure that he will go with us everywhere.  We have the promise of the Lord Jesus that he will also give us the words to say when we are asked to give a reason for our hope.  And after we take our last breath we can be sure that the Spirit will bring us into God’s presence in eternal glory, and he will continue to remain with us.  He’ll bring us into a fellowship and communion with God that we can’t at this moment comprehend.  But we can be sure that it will be excellent, it’s something to look forward to.


Loved ones, the Holy Spirit brings home the riches of Christ to all God’s people.  We are blessed to have him with us.  And so, we ought to love him and thank him.  We praise him for his grace towards us and plead him for more grace.  Moreover, we make it our goal to please him, rather than to grieve him.   Living in habitual sins without repentance, without turning from those sins in sincerity, that’s a sure-fire way to grieve the Spirit of God.  However, when we hate our sins, are sorry for them, humble ourselves and ask God for his forgiveness, and fight these sins, the Spirit is delighted.  May he find much delight in us, in you.  AMEN. 




O Holy Spirit,

We exalt you as true and eternal God.  We worship you for what you did with our Lord Jesus, for equipping him and leading him in his redemptive work.  We give you glory for what you have done in our lives, bringing the redemption of Christ home to us.  O Holy Spirit, please continue to dwell in our lives.  Continue to bind us to Christ and make us share in his benefit  We pray that you comfort us with the Word in all our sorrows, afflictions and struggles.  We pray that you would remain with us forever.  Together with the Father and the Son, we want to make much of you in this world.  Please give us more of your grace so that we may do so.


LORD God, we also bring before you the intercessions and supplications you delight to hear...   








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

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