Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Holy Spirit is the God of Love

In the Bible, three persons are revealed to be God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. There is no difference whatsoever in the divine attributes, in the divine will, and in the divine working, as well as in the divine worship due to each person, for the three are the one God. Each person is fully God, yet the three persons remain distinct from one another.

The Father is the person from whom the Son of God is eternally begotten, begotten not in a flat carnal way, but in an analogically beautiful way from the very being of the Father. The Son always has been “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18). The Son of God possesses all the Father possesses (John 16:14-15), does whatever the Father does (John 14:10), and speaks whatever the Father speaks (John 12:49-50). The persons of the Father and the Son are united not only in act but in being. The two may thus be described, according to Jesus, as “in” one another (John 14:11). The Son is one with God (John 10:30).

And both the Father and the Son in turn send the Holy Spirit from eternity into the world to work the will of God declared by the eternal Word. “Sending” speaks to the economy or work of the Spirit, while “proceeding” speaks to the ontology or essence of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from God eternally. The language used to describe the eternal procession from the Father in John 15:26 is both fascinating and instructive. The Greek term is ἐκπορεύομαι, which the Bauer lexicon says can be used in two closely related ways. It can either mean “to be in motion from” or “to come forth from.” Bauer classifies John 15:26 under the first to mean the Spirit “proceeds from someone.” And this someone is God.

Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit does not proceed from a creature. He is not like you and me or any other creature. Nor is the Holy Spirit sent by any mere creature. The Holy Spirit proceeds, like the Son, directly from God. The Son and the Spirit are uniquely related to the Father in that both participate by nature in the Godhead. The Son is the eternally begotten God. The Holy Spirit is the eternally proceeding God.

The Spirit’s deity is why, throughout Scripture, we find the Holy Spirit described with divine attributes, working with the divine will, doing things only God can do. Over the next several weeks we must speak of the Holy Spirit in his person and his work. And the first thing we must consider about the Holy Spirit is that He is Love.

I. Love

One of the divine perfections, alongside the attributes of sovereignty, knowledge, holiness, and so on, understood simply, is love. But be careful about your definition of love. When we run up against the Bible’s definition of love, we soon discover God the Trinity’s love is totally beyond our love. God’s love is perfect love.

John writes that “God is love,” not once but twice (1 John 4:8, 16). God the Father is ontologically love and practically love. From the internal perfection of the dynamic, eternal, and unitary love of the Three, the Father sends His Son into the world (1 John 4:9; John 3:16).

And from the internal perfection of the dynamic, eternal, and unitary love of the Three, God the Son demonstrates perfect love in the supreme loving act of becoming the God-Man. He is the One who was crucified for his unworthy friends. “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The Son showed his love toward us by giving his life for us, even while we were yet sinners.

So, the Father is love, the Son is love, and the Holy Spirit, too, is love. Another apostle, Paul, wrote, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). The Spirit as God brings the love of the Trinity to us, working with the dynamic Word to encounter us from without (Romans 10:9-10, 17) and within, engaging our minds, convicting our hearts, and loosening our tongues (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit wants to unite you with Himself and with the Son, so that you become indwelt by the Son and the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11).

Did you catch that? The Father loves us by sending his Son as a propitiation for our sins. The Son loves us by dying so we might be reconciled to God and by arising from death so we will be justified before the eternal throne of judgment (Romans 4:25). The Triune God works from the perfection of his love so that we may be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And the Spirit presents to our hearts that perfect love, pulling us majestically and gently into the very heart of God.

And God’s love is perfect, pure, for: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:4-8a).

Why is the Holy Spirit so humble, so focused upon glorifying the other persons of the Godhead, especially the Son? Why does the Holy Spirit appear at first to recede into the background in our mind as He makes sure we clearly see Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was crucified and died for our sin, and who arose for our justification?

The Holy Spirit is humble, because humility is the perfect expression of pure love. The Holy Spirit is love. He humbly loves both the Son and the Father, and He humbly loves you. He is gently knocking on the door of your heart. As your pastor preaches the Word, will you let the Holy Spirit into your heart and confess the truth of the Gospel with your tongue?

(This is the first part in a four-part short series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For part two, concerning the Spirit as Intimate, click hereFor part three, concerning the Spirit as the Giver of Life, click here.)

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Holy, Holy, Holy: A Song for the Eternal Throne

The final year of Judah’s king Uzziah heralded a tumult in politics. The rising pagan storm of Assyria was blowing away the small nations of the Middle East. Even the great states of Egypt and Babylon would not be able to withstand her mighty onslaught. The national-economic winds were shifting radically to the north. 

The people of Judah and Israel feared that the security of their future was slipping away, no matter what they tried. Uzziah assembled a military like few others could imagine. Personally flawed, even profane, he proved a surprisingly astute ruler. But the kings who came immediately after him repeatedly demonstrated that no mere human ruler could handle the dangers of Assyrian martial conquest, much less the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires which would follow. 

A court prophet fretted as he worshiped in the Temple. Then, with social and political turmoil threatening to engulf the people of God, Isaiah was granted a vision of that one royal court which really mattered. He saw formidable angels, seraphim, literally “burning ones.” They humbled themselves before the divine throne, covering their feet, hiding their faces, careful not to detract from the glorious One on the eternal throne. They flew hither and thither, calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts!” These messengers did not praise any mere human ruler. They would not dread even the most powerful emperor. They did fear God.

The word “holy” indicates a mysteriously present, tremendously powerful otherness wherein there resides no hint whatsoever of that which is common, profane, evil. “Holy” indicates a sacred place, a sacred time, even a sacred presence, the awful presence of a person beyond the observer’s normal capacity for discourse. In Hebrew, to say “holy” is to say, “this is other.” And to say “holy” twice is to say, “this is superior to others.” But to say “holy” three times is to say, “the most holy, the Holy One.” The Lord, He is God, and He has shown Himself. Comprehensive holiness truthfully engenders absolute alarm.

The existential impact of this heavenly vision upon Isaiah was personally and communally devastating. When the prophet glimpsed the government of God, his perspectival grasp of contemporary reality experienced a revolutionary shift. The veil of eternity was peeled back. The nations paled into insignificance. Isaiah gazed upon the heavenly throne, and he could only tremble. The nations have pretentious petty potentates, but the Lord God outshines every nation, indeed the sum of all together, with his matchless purity, his resplendent presence, his crushing power. The whole earth shudders beneath the weight of Yahweh’s glory.

And the only proper response before the One who rules the universe itself is to repent. Isaiah cried out from the depth of his terrified soul, “Woe is me! I am undone!” “I am a man who has spoken evil.” “And I live in the midst of a nation which speaks evil!” Perhaps he thought of how the court scribes fawned over their rulers; of how his people paraded their perverted sexuality; of how his nation’s parents sacrificed their children to a false god of prosperity; of how the strong oppressed the weak and abused the defenseless. Whatever the particular cause, Isaiah knew every single person was wicked, deserving of damnation.

By all appearances, there was no hope. Alas, there is no hope for any of us, for we have all gone our own way. We are all sinners. We are, therefore, hopeless, unless God himself makes an atonement, provides a sacrifice, creates a way for the unholy person to become holy. True hope will not be found with any name offered on a ballot during a national election day. Hope will be found only in the electing grace of the thrice-holy God. 

The Father freely offers us the sacrifice of his own Son’s life as the atonement for our sins. This is why our only hope is to cry out, under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, “Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will come again!” Confess your sins, whatever they are, to Him. He wants to forgive you. You can be holy, even as the One on the heavenly throne is holy. He offers, by his Holy Spirit, to make you holy through faith, repentance, regeneration. Come and drink freely from his water of life. Only then may you enter God’s presence, only then, as you place your hope, your faith, your trust in Christ alone, the forever King.

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-5)

[Delivered to the Lakeside Baptist Church on November 1, 2020, the third day before the American National Election.]