Holy spirit

Does the Holy Spirit want more attention?

When Christians recite the Apostles’ Creed, we pay special attention to the Almighty Father, Creator of heaven and earth, and to Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord. But of the third member of the Trinity, we only say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” Certainly later creeds and confessions have more to say about the Spirit, but most of them still tend to say much more about the Father and the Son.

Although some Christian traditions today focus more on the person and work of the Holy Spirit (for example, Pentecostalism and its developments), most Christians pay much more attention to the Father and the Son. In the 1980s, two theologians even wrote a book called The Holy Spirit: Timid Member of the Trinity. Is the Holy Spirit really the “timid member of the Trinity”? How much attention should we give him in our prayers, worship, and devotion? Does the Spirit even want our attention?

One with Father and Son

To begin to answer these questions, we must admit that the Holy Spirit is often misunderstood. In fact, in a 2014 Ligonier survey, 50% of self-identified evangelicals said they thought the Holy Spirit was more like a force than a person. I suspect those numbers haven’t improved in the years since. The Holy Spirit isn’t some kind of mystical power that mysteriously binds the universe and helps Luke Skywalker move objects with his mind. Throughout the Bible we see that the Holy Spirit is an active divine person, fully engaged in God’s mission in the world.

“The Holy Spirit is an active divine person, fully engaged in God’s mission in the world.”

As one of the three persons of the one God, the Spirit shares one divine will with the Father and the Son. More than that, in a real sense, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit also share the same actions. When the Father acts, the Son and the Spirit also act. This does not mean that the Father or the Spirit incarnated, but it means that the three members of the Trinity operated in the incarnation. As Adonis Vidu says, they “share the same agency, and therefore the same operations”. When we pray to the Father and he acts, the Son and the Spirit act with him.

Therefore, there is a sense in which we cannot separate worship and prayer to the Father and the Son from worship and prayer to the Spirit. Even still, the Gospel of John speaks clearly of the Son glorifying the Father (John 13:31; 17:1), and of the Father and the Spirit glorifying the Son (John 13:31; 16:14; 17:1 ) . But who glorifies the Spirit? How much attention does he want?

God’s New Covenant Gift

The Spirit’s mission in the plan of redemption is to point to Jesus. But this mission does not minimize the Spirit; on the contrary, it again demonstrates the profound unity of Divinity. Consider Jesus’ words about the Spirit in John 16:14: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Jesus is probably referring here to the inspiration of the New Testament, which would largely be written by his apostles. In other words, the New Testament tells us that the Spirit is the active agent that gives shape to the New Testament. Peter says something similar happened in the Old Testament: “No prophecy was ever wrought by the will of man, but men spoke from God, carried away by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The point in both texts is that the Holy Spirit is the primary agent and author of Scripture. This alone makes him worthy of our attention and adoration.

Not only do we need to pay attention to the Spirit because he is a member of the Trinity and the primary author of Scripture, but in our daily lives God calls us to consciously depend on the Holy Spirit. If we are united by faith with Jesus, then we have received the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38). This is one of the reasons why the new covenant is so amazing: all of God’s people receive the gift of the Spirit so that all of God’s people will be equipped for God’s call upon us.

If you are one of his people, you too will receive and manifest the work of the Spirit as he empowers you to accomplish his mission. To walk in daily obedience to our King Jesus, to love and come together as churches seeking to reach our neighbors and the nations is a miraculous work of the Spirit. Every Christian can rely on these truths — because we believe in the Holy Spirit, and we believe that under the new covenant, all of God’s people have received the Spirit.

Seek the strength of the spirit

We can see the transforming power of the Spirit most clearly in a text like Romans 8. In the first part of Romans 8, Paul writes, “God did what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). Through this work, we walk in the Spirit and are not obligated to the flesh (Romans 8:12-15). We have the Spirit, so we are no longer slaves to sin.

Paul continues, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). The next verse describes the killing of the actions of the body as being “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14). We follow the Spirit where he leads us, and he leads us into conformity to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29).

John Calvin said, “The advancement of every man in godliness is the secret work of the Spirit” (Institutes 3.24.13). But the secret work of the Spirit does not make us passive. Romans 8, and other similar texts, indicate that we can actively seek the help of the Holy Spirit as he sustains us and conforms us to the image of Jesus. We cannot be transformed into the image of Jesus unless we are consciously dependent on the Spirit. So it is right and good to ask the Holy Spirit to fill us and give us strength to fight sin. We can ask him to transform us into the image of Jesus.

Appropriate Attention

Should we pray to the Holy Spirit? Absoutely. When we confess our belief in the Holy Spirit, we affirm his divine personality and his equality with the Father and the Son. We also confess that he empowers every follower of Jesus to grow into the image of Christ, and so we can lean on him for daily help, even at every moment.

“We can pray to the Spirit, glorify it, and seek to be strengthened by it.”

Even if we pay attention to the Spirit, we must not forget John 16:14: the Spirit glorifies Jesus. Let’s also not forget that Jesus teaches us to address “our Father” in prayer (Matthew 6:9). So if we prayed exclusively to the Holy Spirit or spoke only of glorifying the Spirit, it would not fit with the New Testament emphasis on the roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the plan of redemption. We must often pray to the Father to transform us into the image of his Son. But even if we do, we recognize that this prayer will not be answered without the work of the Spirit.

So, let’s give proper attention to the Holy Spirit. In this glorious new covenant age, the Holy Spirit Himself empowers us for Christ’s mission and transforms us into the image of Christ. We can pray to him, glorify him, and seek to be strengthened by him.