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Are we a church that has mislaid the Holy Spirit?

Within our denomination there seems to be considerable confusion about the Holy Spirit. In fact, at the CRC’s first-ever Prayer Summit held last April, I heard a church leader stand at the podium and make a disturbing claim: “The Christian Reformed Church has historically not made much room for the work of the Holy Spirit.” Or has not been known for the Holy Spirit. Or something to that effect.

Come again? Are we a church that has mislaid the Holy Spirit? Have we neglected the Holy Spirit? Is the CRC somehow remiss and in need of redirecting? No. Without the Spirit of Christ actively working in our midst, there would be no church to complain about!

No room for the Holy Spirit? Then there would be no gospel to proclaim. There would be no preacher to preach it. No ear to hear. There would be no Reformation because there’d be no “holy catholic and apostolic church.” Christ would not have been raised. There would be no incarnation. No God-breathed Scripture. No calling of Moses. No beautiful tabernacle in the wilderness. No law of God. No calling of Abraham. No Eve. No Adam.

Without the Spirit brooding over the deep, there wouldn’t even be a lifeless corpse in the garden waiting for God’s breath.

In fact, everything we do in church depends on the Holy Spirit. In the Nicene Creed, we testify that the Spirit is “the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets.” Obviously we need to consider these words more often.

But when we do we must be cautious. Because when the Spirit is active, then Christ—not the Spirit—is exalted. Theologian Dale Bruner calls the Spirit “the shy member of the Trinity.” The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ. He teaches us the words and works and desires and goals of Jesus. The Spirit applies the redemption Christ accomplished. Whenever there is a focus on the Holy Spirit, we must question whether the Holy Spirit is truly active. Jesus was clear about the Christocentric ministry of the Spirit: “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (John 16:14).

So yes, Virginia, there is a Holy Spirit. The Spirit is here . . . and has been all along.

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