The title of Frederick Dale Bruner’s book on the Holy Spirit carries the subtitle, The Shy Member of the Trinity. Maybe a better title is Francis Chan’s The Forgotten God. Both titles suggest how little attention we give to the Holy Spirit. To a degree, the Holy Spirit comes not to make a big deal about himself but to point us back to the Son and the Father. Rather than being the shy member of the Trinity, we might think of the Spirit rightly as the one who is more “behind the scenes” and yet ever-present and always working. From the moment God awakens our hearts by the Spirit our entire Christian life is lived by the influence and help of the Spirit. We are nothing without him and we have nothing without him.
Even the work of Christ for us isn’t applied until the Spirit unites us to Christ, mediates the blessings of salvation to us, and brings about communion with Christ. Similarly, the Spirit of adoption is given so we might see and come to God as our Father, not fearing him as slaves but loving him as sons and daughters. Because of his “hidden role,” we often forget about who the Holy Spirit is or what he does in us, to us, and for us. Pentecost provides a day to stop to pause and to be reawakened to just how much we receive through the Spirit.
Unpacking a full theology of the Spirit and all the blessings poured out on us by the Spirit would require much more to be said. The intimidating task in saying anything is that we can’t say everything, and all of the Spirit’s activity as God and for us deserves to be mentioned. Knowing this sampling is only a few trees among the vast forest, I want to at least list some of the reasons why we do in fact celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
• The coming of the Spirit in a new way was an Old Testament promise to the people of God. Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, and 2:33 all refer to the coming of the Spirit as the promise of the Father. This promise can be seen in verses like Is. 32:15, 44:3; Joel 2:28-32; Ez. 11:19-20, and 36:25-27. Furthermore, Gal. 3:14 calls the promised Spirit the blessing of Abraham, which the Church receives in Christ. God’s intention that he began with Abraham and Israel is carried through in the coming of Christ and the Spirit. God always fulfills his promises and at Pentecost we receive in a greater degree what all of the OT had been alluding too.
• Central to the promised New Covenant we now are part of is that God will put His Spirit within His people and give them new hearts so they can know and follow Him (Ez: 11:26-27; 2 Cor. 3:3-6). The reason Christians are enabled to walk in God’s law is because we are made new and filled with the Holy Spirit. Without him, the Christian walk would be impossible as we would be guilt-driven slaves failing in our own limited power. The Spirit takes what was written on stone and writes it on our hearts, giving us new affections that can and do embrace God’s righteous ways.
• In the pre-Pentecost passages of Luke 24 and Acts 1, Jesus tells his followers that when the Spirit comes they will be clothed in power. Christ’s mission to his disciples was to be his witnesses to the world who go forth teaching, baptizing, and making disciples. Christ does not leave them helpless but sends the Holy Spirit to be the one who galvanizes and enables the Church to fulfill this mission. Today, the Holy Spirit is still the same power we must rely upon for any fruit in ministry. The gospel-mission launched at Pentecost remains the same mission of Christians today.
• In John 16 Jesus tells the disciples some of what the Holy Spirit will do: be a Helper, convict of sin, lead us into truth, and glorify Christ. The Spirit convicts us of sin so that we turn from it and find forgiveness. This conviction assures us of God’s good care in wanting what’s best for us and not letting us continually walk into destruction. The Spirit of wisdom leads us into truth and gives understanding of the Scriptures. The Word needs the breath of the Spirit to be alive in our hearts and to guide our minds into how to live. The Spirit comforts us in the midst of our pain, sorrows, loneliness, and suffering. God helps and comforts us by drawing near through the presence of the Spirit.
• When Ephesians 1:3 tells us we have every spiritual blessing in Christ, spiritual does not mean non-physical or some vague religious blessing. He means every blessing in Christ is imparted to us through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is both the one who unites us to Jesus Christ by faith and the one who pours the blessings in Christ onto us. The same is true of “spiritual” gifts. They are spiritual in the sense they are all imparted to us by the Holy Spirit.
• I Peter opens like many of the NT letters, praising God for the Christians who are sanctified in the Spirit. Sanctification here designates both the initial act whereby God sets us apart as His own people who He makes holy (definitive sanctification) as well as the continuation in holiness the believer experiences throughout their life (progressive sanctification). Sanctification in the Spirit, which is for every Christian, involves both gifts.
These are just a few of the untold number of ways the Spirit is a wonderful blessing worth celebrating. He is a person who we as the Church should love, worship, enjoy, and seek. The Holy Spirit was the promise of the Father given to us by Christ and He is the power behind the life of the Church as well as our individual Christian lives. We are helpless without Him and we must continually seek to be a Spirit-filled people bearing fruit. It’s not that we’re given a free-pass to neglect the Spirit the other 364 days of the year, but Pentecost provides at least an annual reminder that the Spirit has come in mighty ways so that we could enter into the new-covenant and new-creation age. God is present, He is near, He is active, and He is working…by the Spirit.
[The graphic above was from Tucker Fitzgerald’s website: http://tuckerlfitzgerald.blogspot.com/2009/05/pentecost.html%5D%5D