Want to really know the essence of the Person, work and character of the Spirit of God? Read this!
Still the Spirit of Truth (2)
by Prof. David Engelsma (Standard Bearer, vol. 65, issue 16)
The Holy Spirit of God, however, the Spirit received by the glorified Jesus to be the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit poured out on the church on Pentecost, the Spirit with whom we have become familiar after some 2,000 years of church history under the new covenant—this Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Three times in the great passage of promise concerning the Spirit, John 14-16, Jesus calls the Spirit, “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Truth is His nature. Truth is His business. Truth is His unmistakable, identifying mark—His “sound” or voice.
The Holy Spirit is truth, for He is God; and God is truth.
In the Triune Being of God, the Third Person eternally conducts a full, thorough examination of the reality of the Godhead. He is always studying the Truth in order to know It (Him) with huge delight. “The Spirit searches … the deep things of God …” (I Cor. 2:10).
The Holy Spirit can no more ignore, minimize or despise the truth than He can deny Himself.
In keeping with what He is in Himself, the Spirit is the Spirit of truth also as the Pentecostal Spirit, sent by Jesus to the church. He came as the witness to the truth. He came speaking. That which He speaks is the truth, namely, Jesus the Christ as made known in the gospel which is now written in the inspired Scriptures of the New Testament, as well as in those of the Old. By this means, He teaches the elect church, guiding her into all the truth. By this means, He also convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.
Always, the Spirit has been the Spirit of the Word, of Scripture, of doctrine, of preaching, of confessions, of intellectual knowledge of propositions that are in harmony with the reality of God. He inspired Scripture (writing! a book!). He moved prophets and apostles to teach. He created the church a confessing church. He put in the church the office of “pastor and teacher” (Eph. 4:11). He guided the church in rejecting heresies and in approving and understanding right doctrines (orthodoxy!) by the formulating of creeds. He illumined the minds of countless men, women and children to know the sound words of Scripture.
That He came as the Spirit of truth was evident at once on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit-filled believers spoke the wonderful works of God (and not their wonderful feelings). Peter preached a sermon—a doctrinal, biblical sermon. Thousands were converted by believing the message. The first thing said about the life of the church after Pentecost is that it was a life of adherence to right doctrine.
It is as the Spirit of truth that He is of any benefit to the church and to the Christians. Every blessing that the Spirit gives, He gives by means of the Word. He works faith—by the truth; He forgives—by the truth; He makes men and women holy—by the truth; He comforts the distressed and fearful—by the truth; He preserves believers to eternal glory—by the truth; He unites the saints—by the truth.
The Reformed faith confesses the indispensable instrumentality of the truth for the saving work of the Spirit in Question 65 of the Heidelberg Catechism, when it says about the faith by which alone we share in Christ and all His benefits that it is worked in us by the Holy Spirit “by the preaching of the gospel.” The Reformed believer who makes this his or her own is really saying, “I believe in the Spirit as the Spirit of truth.”
We should act accordingly.
As a believer, do I seek the riches that are in the risen Christ? I should! I must attend to the Word and doctrine, to the truth. I must see to it that I am a member of a church that maintains the truth. I must use the means of grace diligently. I may leave this church, whether for a church that corrupts the truth or for no church at all, for no reason. I may not despise the lively preaching of the truth. To do so is to forfeit the presence, operations, power, and gifts of the Spirit, if not to “do despite unto the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29; cf. v. 25), for He is the Spirit of truth.
As a preacher, do I desire, ardently desire, a spiritual congregation—a congregation of saints who love God and who love each other for God’s sake (which is different from, though it includes, having deep feeling for each other)? I should! I must give myself to preaching and teaching. There will never be a spiritual church where the truth is not faithfully preached. There cannot be. If there is, the Spirit has ceased being the Spirit of truth.
As a body of elders, do we take seriously our responsibility to keep the flock of Christ? We should! We must above all else make sure that the preaching on the Sabbath and the catechism instruction during the week are the sound, faithful explanation of God’s Word. This will guard and build up the church, not because preaching and teaching in themselves have this power, but because the Spirit is the Spirit of truth, making Christ’s words spirit and life.
What then must we make of the strange “Spirit” of our day—indifferent to doctrine; friend of the lie; critic of Scripture; contemptuous of creeds; disparaging of pure preaching?
One of two things must be true. Either the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ has changed recently, so as no longer to be the Spirit of truth, or this strange “Spirit” is not the Spirit of Christ.
But the Holy Spirit cannot change. He is still the Spirit of truth.