We started with our belief in God. The One God, immanent (revealed) and transcendent (hidden). We find evidence for God everywhere around us, not least in the natural world, and we meet him personally through His Son Jesus Christ.
We progressed to our belief in Jesus. Stressing the sufficiency and simplicity of Scripture, we confess Him to be our Lord (name above all others), our Master (guide in life) and our Saviour (the one who bring us to God). He is all that the Bible claims Him be: Messiah (Chosen One), Son of Man (new ‘Adam’) and Son of God (the one in whom Humanity and Divinity meet); the sole King and Head of our church.
So now we move to the Holy Spirit. We believe in the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is crucial, for any understanding of Christian faith. The LORD God is Spirit. It is His Spirit which moves across the waters in the story of creation. It is His Spirit – the Holy Spirit – which descends on Jesus at His Baptism in the Jordan. It is the means by which God embraces His creation.
The Holy Spirit is at work all the time. You may think of it as the ‘second person’ of the Trinity if you will, or simply as the power of God at work in the world (remembering that ‘person’ comes from ‘persona’ which means ‘mask’) but however it is understood; without it there is no connection between Man and God; without it, Christ is stripped of His Divinity, reduced down becoming the ‘good man’ and no more worth following that a Socrates or a Buddha.
It really is that important. With the Holy Spirit, there is creation and Christ. With the Holy Spirit there is redemption and renewal. Without it, the connections are broken, and we truly stand alone in the universe. Think of our first reading.
This was from Matthew 3:13-16 & 28:16-20 (NLT):
‘Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptised by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who need to be baptised by you, “he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry our all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.’
Let’s be clear here. Baptism should be done. That was always the position of the church; and we baptise children and yes, adults (when they have not been previously baptised) after the example of Christ. But let’s never forget that the water is symbolic (the Seal on the Sacrament), just like the bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper (Communion) it has no magical properties; for change is brought by the Spirit:
‘After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.’
Note again, it is the Holy Spirit which transforms. And this transformation, this anointing, takes place after Christ comes up from the water. Thereafter Christ’s ministry begins with the Spirit (again) first leading Him into the wilderness. So when we baptise a child we are calling on that same Holy Spirit to transform, to bring them ever closer to Christ.
The Holy Spirit, you see, seeks us all out. God through the same, through Christ, would bring all people into His Kingdom (not just some, the few the Elect, but all) and that requires and evangelical approach to baptism (that is, sharing that good news, that all souls who turn to God are saved):
‘Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountains where Jesus had told them to go, when they saw him, they worshipped him – but some doubted! Jesus came and told them his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ‘
These words institute the Sacrament of Baptism. Why do we do it? We baptise because Christ, the Son of God, commands us to, turning none away, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’ (Matthew 19:14 KJV); knowing that this is but the first step (for Jesus said teach these new disciples), trusting in the prevenient grace which brings children for baptism, and in the Holy Spirit to transform us all into the likeness of Christ.
For the Holy Spirit would change us all. It would change old and young alike. Jesus promised it to His disciples in John 14:16 and as we heard it arrives in Acts 2:1-4 & 17,21 (NLT):
‘On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a mighty sound from heaven like a roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them that ability.’
I love the idea of people understanding each other. That is surely a sign of the Holy Spirit at work; when division melts away, when reconciliation breaks out, when people learn to truly love God and neighbour as our Lord, Jesus Christ taught and showed, and everyone there was given that ability. And that is what is really exciting, God want no-one left behind, Christ was sent, Spirit-filled, to bring everyone home.
All that is required is act of faith. An act of commitment, an opening to the Holy Spirit, to burn away Sin, pride, to change the world:
‘In the last days’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams… But everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.’
So yes, non-subscribers do believe in the Holy Spirit. And we seek that same Holy Spirit, the Christ-Spirit, each and every day of our lives; knowing that only that can bring us to God, and only that can save us all.
What do non-subscribers believe?
We believe in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This is the third in a series of addresses by The Rt. Reverend Christopher Wilson, MA
Click here for the first address, We believe in God
Click here for the second address, We believe in Jesus