Share This Episode
Renewing Your Mind R.C. Sproul Logo

The Face of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 11, 2023 12:01 am

The Face of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1342 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

January 11, 2023 12:01 am

Can we find the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament? Today, Sinclair Ferguson shows how the Spirit has intimately revealed the heart of God throughout history, culminating in the fullness of God's revelation in Jesus Christ.

Get the 'Who Is the Holy Spirit?' DVD + Study Guide for a Gift of Any Amount:

Don't forget to make your home for daily in-depth Bible study and Christian resources.


Today on Renewing Your Mind, who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the intimate companion of the heavenly Father who has the privilege of unveiling the Father's face so that we can see what the Father and the Spirit want to do for the children of God. Did the Father and God the Holy Spirit have the same purpose, the same agenda? But some view the God of the Old Testament as being cruel and mean while seeing the Holy Spirit in the New Testament as gentle and kind.

Is that an accurate betrayal? Today on Renewing Your Mind, Sinclair Ferguson shows us that our triune God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He also points out that the Holy Spirit is portrayed in the Old Testament, and He pointed us forward to Jesus Christ. Now in our introductory study, we were thinking about the beginnings of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and especially His work in creation, how He brings fullness into the emptiness of creation and then brings fullness and wonderful joy into the emptiness of our lives, and how He brings order into creation and in the same way all the way through Scripture we are taught about the way in which He orders and reorders our lives for the glory of God. I want us in this study to think particularly about His ministry in what we call the Old Covenant. That is, especially in the days of the Old Testament as He works in men and women and prepares His people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because, of course, somebody's biography in many ways is a clue to their identity. If you want to know who I am today, you need to understand as it were how I got here, what my history is. And in the same way, if we are going to be able to understand who the Holy Spirit is and remember this principle that He is the Spirit, He reveals Himself to be, then clearly one of the things we need to do is to trace the biography of the Holy Spirit that the whole Scripture gives to us. When we come to the fullness of His revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, then we are able to understand who He is who works so wonderfully. I said in our first study that the Spirit is the expression of the power of God, the personal expression of the character of God as God expresses Himself, Father and Son to Holy Spirit, Son to Father and Spirit and so on, and in the same way as God expresses Himself to us. We might say then that the Spirit of God is the person in the Godhead who comes to make us conscious of God's presence. Think for example of what the psalmist says in Psalm 139, in a very beautiful statement in a psalm that's probably familiar to all of us. The psalmist speaks about not being able to go anywhere in creation and to run from the presence of God. Where shall I go from Your Spirit or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me and Your right hand shall hold me, the Spirit of God and the presence of God. But there is a very fascinating and actually very attractive detail in the presence of God that the Scriptures of the Old Testament also take up. If you turn a few pages back to the 104th Psalm, you'll find this marvelously expressed in verses 29 and 30. When you, God, hide your face, they are dismayed. When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. Now clearly that's an echo of Genesis chapter 1 and Genesis chapter 2.

When you hide your face, they return to the dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created and you renew the face of the ground. Now, I wonder if you notice there's a kind of parallelism here.

It's a parallelism of opposites. When God hides His face, there is dismay and death, but when God sends forth His Spirit, there is life and renewal and joy. And the picture that's being painted for us here is that the Spirit of God is not only the expression of the presence of God and therefore brings to us all of God's glorious character, but the Spirit of God is the one who unveils the face of God for us.

Not just the attributes of God, but the very person of God. And that picture is used on more than one occasion in the Old Testament Scriptures. It's used again in Ezekiel chapter 39 and verse 29, where God speaks about coming to His people and in a marvelous way He says, I will not hide my face anymore from them when I pour out my Spirit upon them, declares the Lord.

Do you see that picture? The hiding of God's face and then the unveiling of God's face in and through the person of the Holy Spirit. It's this that David also speaks about in his great psalm, Psalm 51 and in verses 9 through 12. When he's asking for forgiveness, he prays, hide your face from my sins, create in me a clean heart, cast me not away from your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

You see what he's doing? He is saying, hide your face from my sins, but Lord don't hide your face from me, send your Holy Spirit. And quite often as you know in our own language and in the language of Scripture when we really come to know God, when we approach His presence, we speak about seeing the face of God. The Spirit is the one who unveils the face of God. And here the Old Testament Scriptures are feeling after something that I think we all understand. We can speak about the attributes of God, holiness and righteousness and faithfulness and truthfulness and power and wisdom and knowledge and holiness, but all of those things can seem abstract.

The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to unveil the face of God so that we see all of these characteristics, all of these attributes are actually personal. This is who God really is. I suspect in almost every culture young children like to play the same game with their parents in Scotland. It's called peekaboo. You know when an adult hides his face and then takes away his or her hands, and the child just delights in this. You probably did at one time and you now can't remember exactly what it was that made you delight in this and made you giggle. You watch young children do this and they're constantly laughing as it happens.

Why? It's because the face of someone who loves them, who wants to be with them has been revealed to them. So all the way through the Scriptures, not only in the New Testament when ultimately the Holy Spirit reveals to us the face of God in Jesus Christ, and we're able to say with the Apostle John in John chapter 1, we have seen His glory. But all the way through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is working in different ways in men and women among His people in order that the face of God might be revealed and that His people might love Him, rejoice in Him, find security and grace in Him. So the Father through the Spirit teaches us wisdom. Second, the Father through the Spirit reveals Himself in His Word. I wonder if you're familiar with what David calls his last words in 2 Samuel 23. They're not actually the last words he spoke, but they're the last words he spoke as a prophet of God. And here's what he said, the Spirit of the Lord, this is 2 Samuel 23 verse 2, the Spirit of the Lord speaks by me, His Word is on my tongue.

Now what does a father do when he's bringing up his children? He teaches them by His Word. He instructs them through His Word, and this is what the Holy Spirit does all the way through the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures. This is what the prophets mean when they speak about the hand of the Lord being upon them.

They mean that the Spirit of God has come upon them. Do you remember how Peter reflects on this, both in 1 Peter chapter 1 and again in 2 Peter chapter 1 and verse 21, when he speaks about the Spirit carrying men moved by God to give us the Scriptures of the Old Testament. So God through the Spirit unveils His face and teaches us wisdom. God instructs His people through His Word.

God gives gifts through the Spirit. We notice this in our first study, that among the early references to the ministry of the Holy Spirit are Exodus 31, 1 through 11, and 35, 30 through 35, in which God gives gifts to men for craftsmanship in order that they may beautify the worship center for the glory of God so that God may meet there with His people. And then perhaps the most significant thing that we find in the Old Testament Scriptures, and one of the least noticed, is that the Exodus actually took place through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever reflected on how Isaiah reflects on that at the end of his prophecy in Isaiah chapter 63, when he speaks about the way in which the people were brought up out of the affliction of Egypt, the angel of God's presence saved them? That's Isaiah 63, 9. But then Isaiah says, as he's interpreting the Exodus story and the rebellion of the people, this is how he puts it in Isaiah 63, 10, they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. Now you remember how in Ephesians 4, verse 30, Paul says, don't grieve the Holy Spirit through whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

It's one of the great proof texts for the personhood of the Spirit. You grieve a person. You don't grieve an it or a thing.

You grieve a person. Paul didn't pluck that idea out of thin air. He got that language from Isaiah chapter 63. And here Isaiah is saying, the presence of God that led his people, the glory cloud that they followed, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night that led them through the wilderness, that actually was the person of the Holy Spirit leading them, giving them a prospect of entry into a new land, becoming a new people. So all of this is an indication to us, if we can put it this way, the Holy Spirit is the intimate companion of the Heavenly Father who has the privilege of unveiling the Father's face so that we can see what the Father and the Spirit want to do for the children of God, to give them wisdom, to teach them the Word, to equip them, to serve the Lord, to lead them into freedom and into such a personal relationship with the Lord that they don't grieve the Lord. You know what it's like in really intimate relationships? I wonder if you find this in intimate relationships.

You know, you can hurt other people and scarcely notice it, but you can't hurt people you really love without both of you noticing it, can you? And so this marvelous expression, negative though it is, is a wonderful indication of the intimacy that God is seeking with His people. He wants to walk through the wilderness with them as a Father walking through the wilderness of the world with His child. So certain things become progressively clearer for us in the Old Testament Scriptures about the Holy Spirit. First, that He is personal. Second, that under the Old Covenant what He does is point forwards to the New Covenant and to bring to God's people an aspiration for a greater fullness.

You know, when you come to know and love somebody, to fall in love with somebody as we tend to say, one thing you want to do is you want to get to know them better, you want to spend more time with them, you want constantly to be with them. And it's interesting that in the days of the Old Covenant, there was a special blessing of the Spirit given to some, but not to all. We'll take this idea up later on in our studies, but for the moment let's just concentrate on this, that the Holy Spirit is revealing the face of God, but actually for some people there's a kind of second-handedness to that. They don't all experience that illumination and revelation with equal directness or with equal clarity. One of the best illustrations of that, and I think perhaps one of the most important is found in Numbers chapter 11. Do you remember in Numbers chapter 11, Moses appoints elders to help him.

His father-in-law gives him good counsel. You can't do this on your own. There's a million people here. You can't lead them all on your own. You'll need helpers, and he appoints 70 elders. And interestingly, this takes place when the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Numbers 11 verse 25, and took some of the Spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. And then there's this fascinating little incident.

Do you remember there are two guys outside the camp who start prophesying? You know they're not in the denomination. They shouldn't be doing these things. In my denomination, Licentiates, people who have been licensed for the ministry of the gospel but not yet ordained, one of the things they're not supposed to do is pronounce the benediction. Sometimes if somebody does that without thinking about it, everybody gets really upset. You shouldn't have been pronouncing the benediction and not been ordained yet. That kind of thing.

The same kind of thing happens here. I wonder if you remember what Moses says. Moses says, just let them alone because I wish that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them all. Now I don't think Moses means that the people in general had no experience of the Holy Spirit. But prophecy in the Old Testament, remember how Amos puts it, the Lord does nothing without revealing His secrets to His servants, the prophets. Prophets were brought into the secret place of the Most High, given special revelation and illumination that they were called to pass on by word of mouth.

They stood, remember Elijah, as the Lord lives before whom I stand. And Moses is saying, I wish. I sometimes say, I wish everybody in my congregation could stand in this pulpit and preach a sermon.

I don't really wish it, but I say it and preach a sermon just to experience the many deaths that you sometimes die as a preacher. And Moses is saying, there is such a privilege here. I wish all the Lord's people were prophets.

But of course, that was something that wasn't part of the Old Testament economy. In the New Testament, all become prophets in this sense that we all share in exactly the same way an immediacy of access to the face of God in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then the third thing I want you to notice is this, that the ultimate goal of God's Spirit's work is to bring His people rest, to bring His people rest. One of the things that happens because of the fall is that people become restless, don't they? East of Eden, that very expression conveys the restlessness of men and women without God.

And there's a restlessness even in the wilderness. And it's fascinating to me that when Isaiah looks back upon the rebellion of the people in the wilderness, he makes it clear that what the Spirit was seeking to do was to bring them into the Promised Land and give them a sense of rest. Now actually, that's a theme that goes way back almost to the beginning of the Bible. Do you remember why Noah was given the name Noah? It was because the name Noah sounded like the word rest, and his parents said, perhaps this is the child, the person who's going to bring us rest. Perhaps this is the promised son of Genesis 3.15, who will bring us redemption and restore order and give us fullness of life and give us rest. But it wasn't Noah. And when the Holy Spirit worked in the Exodus days, it was to bring the people into the land flowing with milk and honey so that they might get a taste of rest. But that wasn't the Spirit's final work, was it? We only find rest.

You know the answer to this question. Who speaks about finding rest? Our Lord Jesus.

Come, you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. So that we begin to see in this way that the Holy Spirit's ultimate purpose is to bring us rest, and that ultimate rest will only be found when we see the face of God in our Savior, Jesus Christ. So that all the way through the old covenant the Holy Spirit is pointing us forward to Jesus Christ in whom alone He gives us rest. It's as though the Spirit's sermon all the way through the Bible is this.

I want to take you to Jesus to find rest for yourselves. Sadly throughout history there have been people to claim that the God of the Old Testament is not consistent with the God revealed in the New Testament. Sinclair Ferguson set the record straight in today's message. This is one of 12 lessons in his series, Who is the Holy Spirit? There is great confusion in the church regarding the third person of the Trinity.

In a recent State of Theology survey that Ligonier Ministries conducted, 59 percent of evangelical Christians said that the Holy Spirit is a force but not a personal being. We hope you'll join us in helping the church understand the Holy Spirit correctly. One way to do that is by using these messages from Dr. Ferguson to lead a Sunday school class at your church or a small group in your home. When you give a donation of any amount today, we will send you the two DVDs. You can find us online at, or you can call us with your gift.

Our number is 800-435-4343. And we'll also give you access to the digital study guide for the series, which will be a great help to you as you prepare to use this series in a Sunday school setting. Once you have viewed the series, let me encourage you to donate it to your church library. That way, many people can benefit from Dr. Ferguson's teaching.

Again, the series is titled, Who is the Holy Spirit? And it's yours for your gift of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. Our number again is 800-435-4343. Our online address is You can also appoint friends and family to this series by sharing this message on Facebook or Twitter or by email.

Just look for the share button in the middle of the page at And with a preview of tomorrow's lesson, here's Dr. Ferguson again. When you think about the last century in the Christian church, the aspect of the Spirit that people have been most interested in are the things the Holy Spirit does in and through me. He's not just a power that does powerful things.

He is a person. That's Thursday, here on Renewing Your Mind. God bless you. God bless you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-11 03:12:31 / 2023-01-11 03:20:32 / 8

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime