The phrase of the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” decisively places the Trinity at the heart of Christian proclamation. The Creed begins, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty,” and then asserts, “And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” Now, the Creed affirms, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” This is the crowning glory of the Christian proclamation. The Trinity is not some kind of speculative doctrine that only theologians discuss. The Trinity lies at the heart of our faith and worship. Without the Trinity all of the core doctrines of Christianity become incoherent.
In order to appreciate the role of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, we must see how it finally reconciles two twin truths about God. On the one hand, God is high and holy. He dwells in unapproachable light. On the other hand, this very God of majestic, unspeakable power and holiness has also revealed Himself to us in tenderness and compassion. The same God who revealed His holiness also declares, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Isa. 49:15, 16). God Himself sums up these twin truths when He speaks through the prophet Isaiah and declares, “I dwell in a high and holy place, and also with him who is humble and lowly in spirit” (Isa. 57:15). God dwells in two places: in the high and holy place, and also in the place of humbleness and humility.
The Trinity as the Highest Conception of God
Only the doctrine of the Trinity has the capacity to embrace the full range of these great twin mysteries. Through the Trinity, the Father reigns in majesty from His throne, even while His Son, in lowliness, suffers and dies upon the cross. I am convinced that a church that does not preach the Triune God, even if they speak of Jesus regularly, will eventually lose a proper view of God’s true holiness. Indeed, to most people today, a sense of awe comes only with the greatest difficulty. For many Christians, God has become domesticated and put in a box so that we can pull Him out when we need Him. As Philip Yancey observed, we have domesticated angels into stuffed toys and Christmas ornaments. We have made jokes about Peter at the pearly gates, and even Easter has been tamed into plastic green grass and bunny rabbits. The awe of the shepherds and the reverence of the wise men have been traded for a jolly Santa Claus, tiny reindeer and elves. Even Almighty God is referred to as “The Man Upstairs.” Worship has become synonymous with music. We need to catch a renewed glimpse of the glory and majesty of the Triune God.
The Trinity is also important because it reveals that God’s very nature is relational. God has eternal relationships within Himself. The Puritans used to say that “God in Himself is a sweet society.” Islam teaches that God is solitary and has no interest in revealing Himself to us. Hinduism believes that the highest conception of God is abstract and impersonal. Buddhism does not believe in an ultimate God, only lesser enlightened beings. The Trinity is unique to the Christian proclamation. Trinity is just a shorthand version of Tri-unity, i.e. three in one. The Church believes that God has revealed Himself in three eternal distinctions, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but that these three are One. One God in three persons, blessed Trinity.
What does it mean for the Church to confess faith in the Holy Spirit?
1. First, the Holy Spirit endues the Church with God’s authority.
The Holy Spirit is not merely an impersonal force. Rather, the Holy Spirit is the authoritative, empowering presence of the living God. The gospel doesn’t stop at the cross, resurrection and ascension of Christ. The gospel continues to unfold in the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is the ongoing reminder that God does not just exercise authority over the world, but He has authority to act in the world.
The Spirit empowers us and sanctifies us for effective service and witness (Acts 2). The Spirit intercedes with us and within us, teaching us effective prayer (Rom. 8). The Holy Spirit teaches, instructs and admonishes us as we read the Scriptures (John 16:13). The Spirit applies and nurtures the fruits of the Spirit (which is the character of Christ) in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. The Spirit gives us direction and guidance in life (Acts 13:2, 16:6 and Rom. 8:14). Indeed, our lives, our vocations, our every breath becomes a radiant reflection of God’s work in and through His Spirit.
Even before we become Christians, the Spirit convicts the world regarding sin. You would have no consciousness of sin apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one who knocks at the door of our hearts and bathes us in God’s prevenient grace, reminding us that we need a savior. If you are a Christian, you had no power to open the door of your heart to Jesus Christ without the prompting and enablement of the Holy Spirit. Paul says, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” (Eph. 2:1). Sin is not merely a ball and chain that impedes our progress. We are dead and have no power to save ourselves unless the Holy Spirit intervenes with God’s prevenient grace in our lives, enabling us to hear the gospel and put our faith in Jesus Christ.
2. Second, the Holy Spirit empowers the Church for global mission.
Just prior to His ascension, Jesus tells His disciples to wait until they have been “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). Jesus goes on to say that we will receive power and we will be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Through the Holy Spirit the people of the Church are empowered to be effective witnesses unto Christ. We have a responsibility to bring the gospel to every remaining people-group in the entire world. Studies estimate that there are approximately 24,000 distinct ethnic groups in the world. Thousands of those groups do not yet have a credible witness of the gospel. Almost one billion people in the world have never heard the good news of Jesus Christ.
3. Third, the Holy Spirit extends the in-breaking of the New Creation through powerful manifestations of signs and wonders and holiness of life.
The ministry of the Church is to reflect the ministry of Jesus. The Spirit delivers the not yet into the already. That means that the future realities that we normally associate only with Heaven (healing, reconciliation, deliverance, etc.) are already breaking into the world through the Spirit. Men and women are healed by the power of God. They experience reconciliation with one another. The poor and downtrodden receive hope. Sin is brought under conviction. Redemption is wrought.
Is it any wonder that the Apostle Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:18, “Don’t get drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit!”
When you become a Christian, the first two things you should do is get baptized in water and then pray to receive the full indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
I believe the Triune God is Father, Holy Spirit, Son;
I believe the Holy Spirit is with them forever one.