53 Q. What do you believe
concerning “the Holy Spirit”?
A. First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son,
is eternal God.^1
Second, that the Spirit is given also to me,^2
so that, through true faith,
he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits,^3
and will remain with me forever.^5
^1 Gen. 1:2; Isa. 48:16; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Acts 5:3-4
^2 Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 1:21-22
^3 Gal. 3:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:17
^4 Acts 9:31
^5 John 14:16; 1 Pet. 4:14
LORD’S DAY 20 (Q/A 53)
“Hinge, Pivot, Fulcrum – On the Holy Spirit”
October 31 is Halloween, but, more importantly, it’s Reformation Day. Even as that day recalls the divisions that resulted within the medieval Church, it also points to division among the various Protestant factions as they, too, splintered into Lutheran, Reformed, Zwinglian strands, and even within those segments, there were further divisions along particular theological foci. Reformation Day helps us to recall the formal cause of the continental Reformation was the doctrine of justification (salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ’s righteousness alone); the material cause was the doctrine of Scripture, resulting in an articulation that Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) is the unique and distinctive authoritative Word of God written. I’ll reflect upon these doctrines in future sections of the Heidelberg Catechism and their applicability to the contemporary witness of the Gospel.
Martin Luther supposedly remarked that the doctrine of justification is “the article upon which the Church stands or falls.” Anglican evangelical theologian James I. Packer described justification as the “hinge upon which everything turns.”
I think John Calvin and Karl Barth would describe the person and work of the Holy Spirit as the hinge, pivot, and fulcrum upon which all else balances. Calvin and Barth gave great emphasis to the person and work of the Holy Spirit as the person of the Godhead who unites believers to the ascended Lord and the heavenly Father, and to all of God’s people in all times and in all places. For instance, in Calvin’s own reformation of the medieval liturgy, he saw that in the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving of the Lord’s Supper, the portion called the Sursum Corda (“Lift up your hearts”) in the dialogue:
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts
We lift them up to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give God thanks and praise.
This is the portion where the Holy Spirit lifts the heart/life/faith of the gathered assembly, thereby connecting the Church, the body of Christ, to the ascended and glorified Christ.
The Reformed prayers at the Lord’s Table depends upon the Holy Spirit to bless the gathered assembly and to make the bread and cup be the communion of the body and blood of Christ.
The Holy Spirit applies the benefits of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension to believers. The Holy Spirit enables, empowers, comforts, and teaches what Jesus taught. The Holy Spirit breathed life into Christ in the deathly tomb. St. Augustine, in attempting to describe the metaphorically the internal life of the triune God, called the Holy Spirit the love which the lover (the Father) and the beloved (the Son) share.
Recall the Heidelberg Catechism is concerned about giving comfort and confidence in our life and in our death, in body and in soul, and the basis of such comfort and confidence. Q/A 53 is concerned with how the benefits of the redemption effected by Jesus Christ is received, lived out, sealed in our lives.
The first section of the answer to Q. 53 drives home the point that the Holy Spirit’s unity is with the heavenly Father and with Jesus Christ. The work and witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the world are integrally related to that of the Father and the Son; theirs is a complete unity, uniformity, and unanimity…a perfect love.
The second section of the answer to Q. 53 emphasizes the gift of the Holy Spirit. The triune God gives the Holy Spirit, who is God. And as gift, the Holy Spirit works in our lives for our benefit, comforting us, and abiding with us forever. As gift, the Holy Spirit, as with the entirety of the Godhead, cannot be managed, cannot be controlled…only received. But even here, nothing of our will can negate or vitiate the determined work of the graciousness of God. The Spirit will come whether we want the Spirit to come or not; the Spirit will prompt us, will prod us. It’s in the interaction of the Holy Spirit with us that the dynamic and authentic relationship that God desires with us and for us happens…in the messiness and beauty of life.
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on us.
Melt us, mold us, fill us.
Spirit of the living God
Fall afresh on us.