A Puritan once prayed, “O Holy Spirit, as the sun is full of light, the ocean full of water, Heaven full of glory, so may my heart be full of thee. Vain are all divine purposes of love and the redemption wrought by Jesus except thou work within, regenerating by the power, giving me eyes to see Jesus, showing me the realities of the unseen world. Give me thyself without measure, as an unimpaired fountain, as inexhaustible riches.”
This prayer relates a humble longing for the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit. It comes from a heart raptured by the love of God; a heart that treasures his salvific work. This devotion recognizes redemption applied to the believer by the regenerating work of the Spirit. It is a prayer which proclaims the full assurance of God’s trinitarian work of salvation. It is also a person praying to another person.
Justin Taylor recently posted some thoughts on the person of the Holy Spirit. He states,
One potential argument that the Holy Spirit is a person is to look at the Greek words inJohn 14:26, 15:26, and 16:13-14. There we see that the antecedent of the masculine ἐκεῖνος (a masculine word for “that person”) is πνεῦμα (a neuter word for “Spirit”). Hence, so the argument goes, the Spirit is a person. Unfortunately, that argument likely doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. A more fruitful approach is first to ask a question almost no one asks: how do we know that the Father is a person? How about the Son? The answer is that the Bible presents a person as a substance that can do personal and relational things (such as speaking, thinking, feeling, acting). Something that does these personal things in relationship—like God, angels, and human beings—is a person.
Taylor goes on to demonstrate specific language within the New Testament that depicts the Holy Spirit as a person. The Spirit performs relational tasks just like any other person. Second century Roman philosopher Celsus mocked the Christian concept of the Spirit. The spirit is nothing but the “containing substance” of life according to Celsus. The spirit is the beinding power of material life, nothing more. This concept adopted from Stoicism was old hat to the Greek philosopher, therefore he accused Christians of equivocation. Defending the Christian doctrine of the Spirit, Origen of Alexandria conveyed the personal nature of the Spirit over against any Greek philosophical conception. The Spirit was indeed a power of life, but a power that exists and acts outside of the world. He was more than a force, he was a person.
Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and the church is ever more vital today. If the spirit is conceived simply as a power or force, then anyone can claim its faculty. Some may imagine the Spirit working through all religions. Since the Spirit “blows where it may” then other faiths can be seen as sincere spirit-driven encounters with God. Others may deny the Spirit’s work in other faiths, but significantly diminish the work of the Spirit in the life of the church. The Spirit is the “feel goodness” of worship or perhaps the one who gives us that spiritual pat on the back after spending time in the word. While the Spirit is described as the comforter, his personhood is often neglected in the life of the church. Scripture speaks another tale. He is the one who can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4). He instructs and imparts (1 Cor. 2:13). He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30). He helps believers and intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27).
There is one body and one Spirit (Eph. 4:4). Therefore a Spirit-like force pulsating through multiple faiths simply contradicts the Biblical testimony regarding the Holy Spirit. The Spirit confirms the ministry of Christ and convicts people regarding the veracity of the gospel (John 16:8-11). In the salvation design of God, the Spirit’s role is key. It would do well for us to remember the personhood of the Spirit and his ministry to believers. May the Spirit empower the bride of Christ to be a witness in a lost and dark world for God’s glory and the building of his kingdom. May we pray to the Spirit like our Puritan brother and exclaim, “Give me thyself without measure, as an unimpaired fountain, as inexhaustible riches.”
(HT: Between Two Worlds)