The Fourth Sunday after Trinity, 2017

For The Epistle – Romans 8:18-23

The Gospel – Luke 6:36-42

Article 5 – Of the Holy Ghost

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Article 5 today is Of the Holy Ghost.  The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

 

This article is important and says a lot of important things regarding the Holy Spirit and more so to the Holy Trinity in particular.

 

We are all pretty well aware of the great controversy that was going on in the early Church regarding Jesus. 

Who was He?  Or maybe better, what was (or is) He? Is He God? Is He a man?  Is He some sort of third kind of being …half man and half God? 

 

And moreover, the great majority of the Church (even what we know as Eastern Orthodoxy) was in error regarding the person and nature of Jesus Christ.

 

St. Athanasius was sort of the hero of the story in that he argued and argued persuasively for the full deity and full humanity of Christ.

 

 

His arguments were persuasive enough for the Church to eventually come down on the right side of this disagreement between Athanasius and those who were correct on the one hand….. and Arius and his views….who was wrong about Christ on the other.

 

We know well the Nicene Creed and should know that this Creed was in part drafted to set right what the Church and the Bible taught concerning the person of Christ.

 

Arius and his view that Jesus was a created being….created by the Father long before the world was created was determined to be heretical and he was subsequently condemned as a heretic.

 

 

The Nicene Creed was not finished or did not take its final form at Nicaea in the year 325.  More work had to be done at the next council in Constantinople in 381 to secure the understanding of the person and nature of the Holy Spirit.

 

So the Creed we confess each time we gather on a Sunday is really known as the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed.

 

That is when it took its more complete form.  But it’s easier to call it the Nicene Creed.

 

But it was at this time in the late 4th century that another group emerged or became prominent that denied the full personality and deity of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

This group, called the Macedonians believed that the Holy Spirit was created by the Son (Jesus Christ) and was thus subordinate to the Father and the Son. 

 

The Trinity depends on the co-equal divinity of the three persons.

 

Make one of them subordinate or in some way lesser than another and the delicate balance of the Trinity is shattered and we in fact don't have a Trinity any more.

 

If the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son, then the Church had to defend why this was so…. and why it was important.

 

And though the heresy is condemned as such, this does not guarantee that it wont surface at times again in the future.

We can think of many cults who not only have a deficient view of Christ, but of the Holy Spirit as well.

 

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force…not a person.

 

The Mormons believe that the Holy Spirit is a spirit man…a spirit son of God the Father.

 

And there are others.

 

Suffice it to say that the Church had ruled definitively on this long before the cults and their founders come on the scene.

 

As the Article says, The Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) proceeds from the Father and the Son.

 

He is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son.

 

The Holy Spirit is very and eternal God.

 

We confess similar words in our Creed.  “I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life…who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.  Who spake by the prophets.

 

So this Article clarifies where Anglicans stand on the person of the Holy Spirit.  And we stand of course with the early Church on this.

 

Biblical support for the person of the Holy Spirit is plenty.

 

The word for spirit in Greek is Pneuma.  This word is neuter.  Neither male nor female.

 

However when spoken of by Jesus and others, the Spirit is spoken of in male, personal terms. The masculine pronoune HE is used.

 

For example, Jesus says

John 14:26-27

 

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (ESV)

 

Or…

 

 

John 15:26

 

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” (ESV)

 

Or…

 

John 16:12-15

 

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (ESV)

 

Finally but certainly not the last….

 

Acts 5:1-5

 

Ananias and Sapphira

 

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, [2] and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. [3] But 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? [4] While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?

Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.’ [5] When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. (ESV)

 

So the Holy Spirit is equated with God here. If you lie to the Holy Spirit, (and you can only lie to a person….not a thing) then you lie to God.

 

As we moved through the Easter season...in the 3rd and 4th weeks in particular, we heard many lessons from the Gospels where Jesus mentions sending the Spirit to be with them to comfort them.

 

The Holy Spirit plays an important role in the life of the Christian.  He is our comforter.

As Jesus says, He it is, who guides us into truth.

 

He is the strengthener.

He is the Author of Scripture.

He is the One who convicts us of sin.

He is the seal of God.

He is the intercessor.

He is the revealer of truth.

 

So much of what happens in the life of the Christian is tied to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

 

All that Christ has done for us is applied to us through the Spirit.

 

He was present at Creation in Genesis 1 and He is present in the creation of the new man as we are baptized and born from above.

 

In our lesson today we have a fine example of just how the Holy Spirit works in the life of the Christian.

 

Paul writing in Romans 8 says that he considers the sufferings of this present time to be nothing when compared with the glory that will be revealed to us.

 

Why can he say this?  He can say this because the Holy Spirit is what Paul is relying on.

 

In this present age, we suffer, we are anxious, we are restless…and yet it is the Holy Spirit who carries us through all of it.

 

Another one of His attributes or works is to point us to Christ.

 

He does not draw any attention to Himself.

Even on the Day of Pentecost, though the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Disciples of Jesus, what do they do at that time?

 

They do not begin to sing the praises of the Holy Spirit.  They tell those standing around about the wonderful works of God.

 

What are those wonderful works of God?  The Gospel of Jesus Christ….the work that Christ came to do in saving His people.

 

They tell those around who spoke different languages about Jesus…in their own language….what He did in coming to live among us…die for us…and rise again for our eternal redemption.

 

The Holy Spirit loves to point us to Christ…not to Himself.

 

This is a problem in more charismatic Churches.  There is an unhealthy balance of Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not portrayed in the Bible as the central figure….even now that Christ has ascended.

 

He still works very much to lead us to the Father through the Son. He works in the hearts of His people…the people for whom Christ died and the people for whom the Father loves and sent the Son to save.

 

Paul goes on today telling us that the entire creation groans as it awaits the Day of the Lord…the day of redemption….when it is set free from its bondage to corruption. 

 

He says that we even when groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons…the redemption of our bodies.

 

Though adoption (another work of the Spirit) is something that we possess now.  We are adopted into the family of God now through faith in Christ.

 

There is another sense in which our adoption is incomplete.  The Holy Spirit is the seal that God places on us when He makes us His own, but as Paul says here, we await adoption ….and then he says… “the redemption of our bodies.”

 

So the two are synonymous here.  Our adoption is complete when Christ comes again and He redeems us. 

 

In the mean time, Paul says…we groan.

 

So we should keep this also in mind.

 

As we groan, and find life difficult at times, and prayer to God seems even difficult….finding the right words….

 

We should know this: Even as we struggle with sin and doubt and sadness in this world, (Paul calls it groaning)… the Holy Spirit knows our frailties.

 

He knows our weaknesses and here is one last work we will talk about today.

 

Back once again to Romans 8… Paul says,

Romans 8:26-27

 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

[27] And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (ESV)

 

The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness…whatever weakness by interceding for us. 

 

He knows we, at times, don't even know how to pray or what to pray for.

 

It is at those times that He helps us.  He intercedes for us in a special way.  Since He knows the Father and He and the Father speak to one another face to face and love one another, He speaks the broken language of the broken sinner to the Father (not that the Father doesn't know what we are saying) but ..

 

Even when only inward groaning and soundless expression is all we can bring forth…the Holy Spirit knows what we mean …what we want…better…what we need and that is what He formulates and relays to the Father for us.

 

Calvin says, that this “means that the Spirit takes on himself a part of the burden, by which our weakness is oppressed; so that he not only helps and succours us, but lifts us up; as though he went under the burden with us.[1]

 

So the intimacy between the Father and us remains close and strong because the Spirit carries our cares to the Father…makes them known to the Father but He indeed bears them with us as well.

 

The person and work of the Holy Spirit, though mysterious and not always easy to understand or discern, is nevertheless active in the world and in us… help to us….and to bring us to the Father through the redeeming work of Christ.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (p. 311). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.