Where is the third Person?

I’ve realized recently that there is a big shortage of good teaching on the Holy Spirit.  It’s quite strange that the third Person of the Trinity, one of the main characters throughout Scripture, is either ignored by many cessationists (those who believe that the work of the Spirit was confined to the time of the apostles, based on a poor interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13), or sensationalized through unbiblical teaching by some pentecostals (not all pentecostal teaching is bad, but I’ve read some that has no basis in the Bible).  This is a generalization, but the more that I read from various traditions, I believe that the source of both the neglect and the sensationalism of the Holy Spirit are rooted in a lack of strong biblical teaching through the course of church history.

I took a theology course recently which was structured around the Nicene Creed.  This is a very important creed in Christian history, and it speaks significantly about God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  But when speaking of the Holy Spirit, the creed is limited to:

“And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.”

All we know of the Holy Spirit here is that He gives life (thus being involved in the work of creation), He is worshiped as a Person of the Trinity, and He spoke (in the past) through the prophets.  When reading the Bible, especially the New Testament, this seems like a ridiculously small scope of the Holy Spirit’s work.  I’m in no position to write a theology textbook, but here are a few obvious roles of the Holy Spirit taught in the Bible:

  1. Creator (Genesis 1:2, Job 33:4) – The Holy Spirit is involved in the work of creation.
  2. Prophetic Voice (1 Samuel 10:10, Acts 13:2, 2 Peter 1:21) – He speaks through people with prophetic words (even today!).
  3. Visions (Ezekiel 11:24, Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, Acts 10:9-23) – The Holy Spirit gives people supernatural visions (even today!).
  4. Seal of Salvation (Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13, 1 Corinthians 6:19) – He dwells within believers and marks them as belonging to Christ.
  5. Incarnation (Matthew 1:18) – He caused the virgin conception of Jesus Christ in Mary.
  6. Baptism (Mark 1:8, Acts 1:5, Acts 10:47) – He completes the internal spiritual work of baptism.
  7. Counselor & Teacher (John 14:26) – The Holy Spirit counsels and teaches us as we follow Christ.
  8. Empowering (Acts 1:8, Acts 4:31) – He gives us spiritual power, enabling us to boldly live for God.
  9. Guide (Acts 16:6) – The Holy Spirit gives us practical guidance and direction.
  10. Unity (Ephesians 4:13) – He unites us in fellowship with one another.
  11. Gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14, Exodus 31:3, Ephesians 4:11-13) – The Holy Spirit gifts us for ministry.
  12. Sanctifies (2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2) – The Holy Spirit purifies us and empowers us to live holy lives.

This isn’t even an exhaustive list.  The point is, I rarely see good writing or teaching on the role of the Holy Spirit in the everyday lives of Christians.  It’s as if we should be content to simply know that He exists, that He made some people prophecy in the past, and that’s it.  It’s not surprising the He is often referred to as “the forgotten third Person of the Trinity”.  I think this not only dishonors God and grieves the Holy Spirit, but also hinders believers from fully living out their faith.  We can do nothing without God, and it is our communion with, reliance upon, and connection to the Holy Spirit that enables us to be obedient to God’s will and build His kingdom.