Yes, Virginia, There Is a Holy Spirit

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.

About the Author

Jay Knochenhauer is pastor of Third Christian Reformed Church, Zeeland, Mich.

See comments (6)


Yes, the Holy Spirit is working in the CRC, because God is a generous and loving God... but the confusion comes from to what extent He is working, to what extent are we aware of His leading and guiding us, how well do we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit...  if someone tends toward cessationism, then one might be content with the level of the Spirit working amongst us, however, if one believes that per I Cor. 14:1, the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy (an entire discussion on its own), is to be eagerly pursued as gifts for today, then the statement that was made at the summit is disturbing because we are/have been guilty of quenching the Spirit (this is possible per I Thess. 5:19) and His gifts to us... and we should find that very disturbing...

The fact is, our denomination does have a tradition of cessationism for centuries...  cessationism was refuted by the CRC synod in 1973...    the question is, how far have we/crc come on intentionally, purposely pursuing the gifts of the Spirit (as scripture exhorts us to do) in the last 40 years?

and yes, Jesus will get the glory when we are in step with His Holy Spirit..

Amen to this article.

Jay's article is good, and so are Bev's comments.   It is true that the Spirit points to Christ.  But Christ was sent by his Father, and so is the instrument of God, which is also true for the Spirit.  Christ gives us access to the Spirit of God, and so in a way, Christ points to the Spirit, who is also God.   And God will glorify Himself in all His aspects, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   I think Bev's point is that since Jesus sent the "comforter", we need to have more than an intellectual idea of the Spirit.  The Spirit living in our hearts is more than just an idea.  When Jesus said at the Lord's Supper that He would become part of us, part of our body and our blood, part of our essence, this would be through his spirit, and through our consuming and absorbing Himself, sacrifice and redemption permitting sanctification, renewal, blessing, and Christ working in us and thru us, by his Spirit.   

But I agree with what I think Jay is also pointing at, that is "testing of the spirits", understanding that the Spirit of God will not lead us in ways that contradict what Christ has told us or done for us. 

"But I agree with what I think Jay is also pointing at, that is "testing of the spirits", understanding that the Spirit of God will not lead us in ways that contradict what Christ has told us or done for us."

Then who leads the Catholics, Methodists, CoE, AoG . . . ? Or does The Holy Spirit have different messages for each denomination?

I agree with this too Bill... that whatever the Holy Spirit "speaks" to us will never, ever contradict the Word... it always, always, always times a thousand times, will line up with the concepts in His written Word and HIs character, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures... He cannot contradict Himself and will direct us to His Word as breathed through Scripture...  Scripture is the primary test for prophecy...  and every "alleged" word must pass that test... the problem is when people don't know the word, or want to justify their actions through a "god told me so..." claim even though what they share cannot be God, because their "word" contradicts His Word.

oh, sorry Bill...  now I see that you were quoting JZ's comment that I couldn't see until it was expanded... and you are asking a question about the variety of denoms...  my guess is there are many in the Kingdom Body, that haven't been too good at intentionally listening, discerning and testing of the Holy Spirit and His ways of "speaking" to us today, His ways of leading and guiding us, in specific situations, with specific people, for a specific time...  modern rationalism and intellectualism has not been very open to this concept... go figure...