What's the point of the Holy Spirit?

When we observe Pentecost on the Christian calendar we’re really giving thanks for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, which brought the Christian church into existence. More than that, we’re given the chance to reflect on the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.

The birth of the church (Acts 2:1-4) is actually the fulfillment of God’s promises made in the Old Testament. The prophet Joel exclaimed: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I [God] will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28). This pouring out of the Holy Spirit would allow God’s people to live faithfully (Ezek. 36:27).

How? Because the Holy Spirit would do what in theology is called the work of “regeneration”—that is, the act of breathing life into those who are spiritually dead (Eph 2:1-10). This promise is also foreshadowed in the Old Testament where Jeremiah expresses God’s promise of a new covenant, one that will “write God’s law on our hearts”—that is, enable us to live in joyful obedience rather than dutiful compliance.

If you are a Christian, all of this is happening in your own life. The coming of Christ—his birth, life, death, and resurrection—brought about the forgiveness of sin for God’s people. It wasn’t, however, until the coming of the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost) that communion with Christ was made possible.

The Holy Spirit, you see, is the person of the Trinity whose function is to unite us to Christ so that we are, as the New Testament puts it (more than two hundred times), “in Christ.” Because of this union with Christ—this “in-Christness”—we are by adoption what Jesus is by nature: sons of God (Rom. 8:17, Gal. 4:4-5). As a result, “…God regards us in the identical way he does Christ. The Father treats us in exactly the same way he does his eternal and beloved Son.”[1] Stop for a moment. Reread that sentence.

How are you experiencing the fatherhood of God? Jesus reminds us, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt 6:26). Jesus is pointing out the tender loving kindness of our God. Again, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” Instead Jesus reminds his listeners that God is favorably disposed toward his children, those who are in Christ. Remember, God’s love for you is identical to his love for his beloved son Jesus. If you’re not experiencing the joy of adoption, ask God to deepen your experience of his love. Perhaps God will use you to help someone experience his love for them more fully.

[1] Robert Letham, Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2011), 53.

About the Author

Jeff Gissing is a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and serves as Director of Discipleship at First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, PA. He blogs regularly at jeffgissing.com.