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Order from Chaos

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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January 10, 2023 12:01 am

Order from Chaos

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 10, 2023 12:01 am

The Holy Spirit is often the most misunderstood person of the Trinity. Who is this Spirit, and how do we relate to Him? Today, Sinclair Ferguson considers the identity, character, and work of the Spirit of God.

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Coming up next on Renewing Your Mind… Thank you for joining us.

I'm Lee Webb. Sinclair Ferguson taught this series precisely because there is a level of confusion about the Holy Spirit. In some circles, he is the forgotten person of the Trinity.

In other circles, his work is overemphasized in a vain search for signs and wonders. So let's discover who is the Holy Spirit. I want you to imagine that you're in an upper room around about the year 33 AD. You're one of twelve disciples, and one of them leaves the room. And you're listening to and engaging in conversation with the Lord Jesus.

You're conscious that something dramatic is going to happen. And so you have a sense of weightiness upon your heart, and you see that when Judas, one of your fellow disciples, left the room, something seemed to lift in Jesus' spirit, and the room seemed to be filled again with light. And then you hear Jesus say to you, it is to your advantage that I'm going away. And you blink and turn to one of your fellow disciples and whisper to him, did Jesus really say that it's to our advantage that He goes away? And the disciple who's listened more carefully than you have says to you, you should have heard his next sentence, because if I don't go away from you, the Holy Spirit will not come to you. Now, I want you to imagine yourself in that situation, and I want to encourage you to make a decision right here, right now.

Which would you rather have? Jesus as He was in the upper room so that you could see His eyes, that you could tell what height He was, that you could sense His accent on the understanding that you spoke Aramaic and you could follow what He was saying, that you could see His hand movements, that you could sense the power and weight of His personality, or would you rather have the Holy Spirit? For most of us, that's a dumb question, isn't it really? Our instinct would be to say, I would rather have Jesus the way He was then than have this Holy Spirit. Or if you're still using the King James Version of the Bible, Holy Ghost, what does that mean? Jesus, we understand in His incarnate grace. We can understand the character and nature of the Heavenly Father. But when we speak about Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, it's very hard to understand how it is that Jesus going from the disciples could ever be an advantage to them. We would far rather have Jesus with us than have this Holy Spirit. It's partly because of that that the focus of our studies in the Holy Spirit is going to be not so much on the miracles that the Holy Spirit effects or even what we sometimes call the gifts or graces of the Holy Spirit, but the identity of the Holy Spirit, the Person of the Holy Spirit. When I was a young Christian and a teenager, every time I heard someone speak on the theme of the Holy Spirit, they always began in the same way. I don't know whether there was only one book on the Holy Spirit and they'd all been reading it, but they all began by saying, the Holy Spirit is the forgotten Person of the Trinity. Now, actually that betrayed a good deal of ignorance of the history of the Christian church, and it was never really the problem. The real problem then and now is not that the Holy Spirit has been forgotten, but that we don't really know who the Holy Spirit is. We know who the Father is.

We know who the Son is. But very challenging for us when every time the benediction is pronounced that comes from 2 Corinthians 13 verse 14, very hard for us to understand what does Paul mean when he speaks about the fellowship or the communion or the communication we have with the Holy Spirit. And so I want us to try and explore together this question of who is the Holy Spirit? What person is He?

What kind of character does He have? How can we come to know Him and to have fellowship with Him? And how is it that it's to our advantage that the Lord Jesus has gone away and that the Holy Spirit has come to the church? Who is the Holy Spirit? Actually, to begin with, the word spirit in English helps us, and the word spirit in Hebrew and in Greek help us even more. All of these words actually are onomatopoeic.

Remember onomatopoeia from high school English, a word that by its very sound conveys the sense of its meaning. Spirit, the Hebrew word is ruach, and the Greek word is pnuma. And each of these words, spirit, ruach, pnuma, they all have this sense of driving energy, of driving force coming from us in order to communicate with somebody else. And that of course is exactly what these words mean in the Old Testament in Hebrew and in the New Testament in Greek.

Pnuma, ruach are words that describe the wind, sometimes even a gale, an expression of power and energy in motion, an expression of great effectiveness. Sometimes we use the word spirit in exactly that way. You go and visit somebody in hospital who's been sick, and you come home and they say, well, what kind of spirit was he in today? And you might say, he was in great form. His spirit had really been lifted. Or you might say, his spirits were very depressed. Or you might say, he was in a very crotchety spirit.

He was out of sorts. And what we mean by that is the driving energy, the characteristics of an individual as that individual expresses himself or herself to us in personal contact and personal communication. And the same is true, we might say, in God. God's spirit is the way in which God personally expresses Himself and His power and His character to us in a personal form. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Father who plans, the Son who brings salvation to pass, and then the Holy Spirit who expresses the inner drive and desire of God in creation and in redemption and communicates God to us in this particular kind of way. It's one of the basic axioms of our Christian theology that God is in Himself as He reveals Himself to be.

Or to put it the other way around, He reveals Himself to be exactly what He is in Himself. Now we understand that as John Calvin said, when God reveals Himself to us, we are human beings, we are creatures, we are finite, He accommodates His revelation to our ability to take it in and to understand. And the same is true of the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.

God in Himself is infinite, the Spirit is infinite. We cannot possibly fully comprehend who the Holy Spirit is. One of the marvelous things that we find in the Scriptures is that in this revelation God has given to us of Himself, God makes Himself known as the Holy Spirit in ways we can understand in order that through His revelation we may have fellowship with, we may enjoy the communion or the communication of the Holy Spirit. And so this is what we're going to explore together from the beginning of the Bible to the end of the Bible. Who is the Holy Spirit?

What is His character? How do we come to know Him? And what difference does that actually make to the Christian lives that we lead? So let's begin right at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis chapter 1. You know these verses very well, at least you know the first verse.

I wonder if you've ever stopped and meditated on the second verse. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep, and the Ruach, the Spirit of God, was hovering over the face of the waters. Now the word Ruach means either wind or spirit, and there are some scholars who think that this is simply a description of a mighty wind blowing across the face of the waters. But actually the rest of the Old Testament when it looks back to this statement always seems to assume that this is not just some kind of natural created wind that is blowing across creation, but the power of the person of God hovering over the face of the waters.

When the earth was without form and void. Now why does Genesis 1 verse 2 speak about the Holy Spirit hovering across the face of the waters? You may use different verbs in your Christian life when you describe the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hovering is probably one you very rarely use. You rarely speak about the Spirit of God hovering. But it's actually a very significant verb that's being used here because first of all it's encouraging to help us understand what it is that the Spirit is doing as He hovers over the waters. And then as God speaks from His throne in heaven, the Spirit of God through the Word of God begins to do something. And without going into the details in Genesis chapter 1, you'll notice that there are two things that the Spirit does.

The world is formless and empty. And what the Spirit does as He hovers over the waters in this ministry is to bring form and order out of the shapelessness and formlessness of the original created mass and then to bring fullness into the emptiness of that original created mass. You know that Augustine believed that God had created everything instantaneously and the days of creation were simply pictures to help us to understand all the different bits, but that's not what the Scriptures teach, is it? The Scriptures teach this very remarkable thing that when God created the cosmos right at the beginning, it didn't have the form and fullness that it was to have during the days of creation. And that it was this that was the ministry of the Holy Spirit to effect, to take formlessness and create form and to take emptiness and to give that emptiness fullness. And as you know, the rest of the first chapter of the book of Genesis describes how the form begins to take place, and then marvelously as the Spirit of God continues to effect the speech of the Word of God, that emptiness is more and more filled with fullness.

Actually, I think right at the beginning of the Bible, God is teaching us the two things that the Holy Spirit characteristically does every time He works. Think about your own life, especially if you're a Christian who has a non-Christian past, how easy it is to think about that non-Christian past as formless. It didn't have any purpose. It had no rationale to it. You weren't going anywhere. Life was, in the end of the day, formless, and life was also empty. And that may have been the very thing that first of all drew you to Jesus Christ. My life is formless.

It doesn't seem to be going anywhere. My life is really empty, although I've tried to fill it with all kinds of things. And when the Spirit of God brings us to faith in Jesus Christ, He brings order and purpose and form into our lives, and then marvelously, remember how Jesus puts it? He says, I've come that you might have fullness of life, and He does this through the power and ministry of the Holy Spirit. So that's the first thing the Spirit is doing. He hovers over the waters because He's going to bring form and fullness. It helps us to understand who He is, the kind of ministry that He has.

But there's something else to notice here that I think is really very fascinating and actually very thrilling. The Spirit is not only hovering in order to bring form and fullness, but what the Spirit is actually doing in creation, and this becomes typical of everything He does in the pages of Scripture, is that He is creating a temple, a meeting place for God to meet with and of fellowship with His creation and especially with man, and in which man can also happily meet with God, have communion with Him, fellowship with Him. Remember how Adam walks with God, and in order that in this temple that God is creating through His Holy Spirit, man might be brought, as you remember the Shorter Catechism says in its answer to its first question, man might be brought to know God, to love God, to trust God, to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. So here are two ways right at the beginning that we can think about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and especially about His ministry in our lives. He comes to bring form to our formlessness, to bring fullness to our emptiness, and He comes because He wants to restore us to that kind of fellowship with God in which we worship God in His Holy Temple. Let me just indicate a few ways in which we see this taking place in the pages of Scripture. The Spirit does this first of all in creation.

I don't think we often think about that, but the whole creation is actually a temple created for the worship of God by His image, man. Let's turn for a moment, if you will, to the book of Psalms and to the 19th Psalm. I probably should say Psalm, but when I say Psalm, I mean Psalm. A very famous statement at the beginning of Psalm 19 verse 1, the heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims His handiwork, day to day pours out speech, night to night reveals knowledge.

Now, if you think about it, what does that remind you of? A church service, doesn't it? In a church service in worship, there is the declaration of the glory of God, there is the proclamation of His handiwork, there is an outpouring of speech, and those of us who are preachers sometimes outpour that speech too long, don't we? There is an outpouring of speech, and there is a revelation of knowledge. And you see, this is why God through the Spirit has brought order and fullness into the creation, in order that in that creation we might come to worship Him. And so the whole of creation becomes to us a pointer to the glory of God, and an arena in which we come to praise Him and adore Him. Then again in Genesis chapter 1 in verse 26, those famous words where God says, let us make man as our image. Now theologians have often asked the question, who is this us? Let us make man as our image.

Actually, the only possible references are to the Word that God has spoken, and to the Spirit whom God has sent to hover across the face of the waters. So, let us make man as our image is really an expression of what God means to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember how in Genesis 2.7 God breathes life into man. God gives man ruach. God, as it were, by His Spirit brings man into being.

Now why does He do that? Because He not only wants the whole of creation to proclaim His glory, He wants man himself to be a kind of worship leader in that temple, to lead the whole creation in praise and adoration to God. And then when you fast forward to the days of the Exodus, you remember how among the very first references in the Old Testament to the work of the Spirit, the ways in which the Spirit of God enables men to make the tabernacle beautiful. And God gives His Spirit to certain individuals, and they create within their limited resources wandering through the wilderness this thing of beauty in the middle of a desert. And God gives His Spirit in order that they might have a place in which they can approach Him and meet with Him.

And then, of course, in a marvelous way this takes place in the Lord Jesus, doesn't it? The Spirit comes, and in the womb of the Virgin Mary forms the humanity of the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus becomes the temple of God in whom we can meet with God. And then the Holy Spirit comes to us, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6, 6, 19 to 20, the Holy Spirit dwells in individual believers. Don't you know that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit? And then the Holy Spirit dwells in the whole church. And then the Holy Spirit dwells, as we are told at the end of the book of Revelation, in the new world and makes all things new. So this is why the Holy Spirit is given to us, to bring fullness into our emptiness, order into our chaos, to bring us to the place where we worship and glorify the Lord. We are thankful for Sinclair Ferguson's message today from his series, Who is the Holy Spirit? We'll feature more lessons from this series throughout the rest of this week, and perhaps as you listen today, it brought to mind a question you may have about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

I'd like to recommend this full series to you. In 12 messages, Dr. Ferguson explains the identity of the Holy Spirit, the nature of His character, and how we as Christians can have fellowship with Him. We'll send you the two DVD set for your donation of any amount today to Ligonier Ministries. You can make your request at, or if you prefer, you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343.

R.C. Sproul said, The Holy Spirit is not an abstract force. He is a person who empowers the people of God for the Christian life.

And Dr. Ferguson reinforces that fact in every session of this series. So we do invite you to request this series. It is titled, Who is the Holy Spirit? Our number again is 800-435-4343, and our online address is And once you've completed your request, we'll add the digital study guide to your online learning library. And let me express our gratitude for your generosity to Ligonier Ministries. We are listener supported, and every one of your gifts make it possible for us to continue producing teaching series like this one. Tomorrow, Dr. Ferguson returns with a message titled, The Face of God. Here's a preview. 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. I hope you'll join us Wednesday for Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-10 23:59:29 / 2023-01-11 00:07:22 / 8

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