The meaning of life is Jesus. His glory is the purpose of the entire world, according to Scripture. God is in the business of orchestrating creation and history to reflect Christ’s goodness and beauty.
So far we have considered how everything in life can rightly be understood as a type of Christ. Life is like the Tabernacle or like Solomon’s Temple; it is like a room or a building that is filled to the brim with images and symbols designed by God, the Master Artist, which point to the Messiah Jesus. The building blocks of our reality are pictures of Jesus. Everything we experience points to him. He is the True Security that our soul longs for when we lock our home. He is the True Freedom our hearts crave when we clock out at work.
We have also considered that Jesus is the Beloved Son of God the Father, and therefore he is the Teaching that God is a loving Father. That all things point to Jesus does not mean that all things point to a tyrant or to an Unmoved Mover. The world points uniquely to the Beloved Son of God, and the significance of this fact is the reality that the world is created by a Loving Father.
If life is all about Jesus, then it is impossible to overemphasize the importance and worth of the Holy Spirit. “He will bear witness about me,” says Jesus. If Jesus is the Teaching that God is a loving Father, then the Holy Spirit is the one who brings everything into conformity with this Teaching: “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:15-16). The Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the reality of Jesus, the reality that God is a loving Father, the reality which saturates our world.
It may seem strange to say on one hand that life is all about the Teaching that God is a Loving Father, and to say on the other hand that life is all about the Glory of Jesus. Yet if we hope to begin to understand the heart of the Scripture, then we must grasp how these two concepts are precisely the same. To make much of Jesus is to make much of the fatherhood of God. To make much of our adoption into the family of the Loving Father as his sons and daughters is to make much of Jesus, who is the Son of God.
That is what the Holy Spirit is all about; he is all about Jesus, the Son of God. He is therefore all about our adoption as sons and daughters. Both of these agendas find their fullness in the heart of the Father. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father.
For most people, spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy are probably the first thing that come to mind when the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
There are three lists of “spiritual gifts” in the New Testament. Two lists are found in Paul’s writing (1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12) and the third is in Peter’s (1 Peter 4). Even though these lists contain many of the same gifts, none of the lists match perfectly with any of the other lists. Every list has unique gifts which are not found in the other two lists.
This leads us to recognize that these lists do not exhaust the total number of spiritual gifts that are available to followers of Jesus. Instead, the lists provide a framework for discovering dozens more spiritual gifts as we come to understand who God has created us to be and what he has given us. The Scripture teaches that every person in existence has been carefully designed by the Father to play an extraordinary part in the kingdom of God. Every human finds their purpose in Christ, and those who miss Christ miss their purpose entirely. We miss everything if we miss Jesus. The work of the Spirit is to take every last nuance of our personality and bring it life in Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul begins writing about pneumatikos (πνευματικός) or “spirituals.” This is usually translated “spiritual gifts”, yet Paul and Peter both use the Greek word karismata (χαρίσματα) “graces” to talk about the specific gifts of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Therefore, a more exact translation of 1 Corinthians 12:1 would perhaps go like this:
“Now, I want you all to know how to be Spirit-filled people (pneumatikon).”
And, providing clarity that cuts through the cessationist and charismatic debates of our day, Paul tells us what it means to be Spirit-filled people: “I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).
For Paul, the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the declaration that Jesus is Lord. As he will go on to explain, there are as many different manifestations of what this looks like as there are people in the church. Yet, the work of the Spirit is always summed up in the Lordship of Jesus. To be a Spirit-filled person is to use everything you are – your personality, your talents, your weaknesses, your circumstances – for the glory of the Lord Jesus, and therefore, it is to flourish as a son or daughter of God.
The Holy Spirit always and exclusively works toward the glory, the lordship, and the renown of Jesus. There is nothing he does that is separate from this agenda. Paul Pastor articulates the idea well in his theological devotional the Face of the Deep: “We could talk about the revealing work of the Spirit for longer than a lifetime, but there is a pinnacle to it: the Word made flesh, Jesus of Nazareth, the anointed Christ.”
In his well-read Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this observation about the Holy Spirit:
“The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know this is almost inconceivable, but look at it thus. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trade union, people talk about the ‘spirit’ of that family, or club, or trade union. They talk about its ‘spirit’ because the individual members, when they are together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they would not have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course, it is not a real person: it is only rather like a person. But that is just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three Persons who are God.”
Lewis understands the Spirit as a sort of literal personification of the love between the Father and Son himself. The Spirit did not come into existence at a certain point in time. Rather, the Father and the Son eternally exist in a relationship of love and delight in each other, and that relationship is not some sort of impersonal substance or energy, but rather, the Relationship and Love between the Father and the Son is God himself, yet this Love is not the Father or the Son; he is the Holy Spirit.
So love is not something that God is like, but rather, love is something that God is. “God is love.” He is the Holy Spirit. Jonathan Edwards describes the Spirit like this: “…an infinitely holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and Son in mutually loving and delighting in each other, for their love and joy is mutual.”
By saying the Spirit arises between the Father and the Son, Edwards like Lewis does not mean that the Spirit comes into existence at a certain point. He is making a statement about the essence of God. The word “spirit” both in our modern vernacular as well as in biblical language describes what something or someone is all about. When a person talks about their spirit being moved they are speaking of a deep part of who they are being affected. When we talk about the spirit of a community we are talking about that community’s identity. When we talk about God’s identity and what God is all about we must talk about love, for “God is love.” The Spirit of God is the Love of God, and the fascinating reality which Scripture teaches is that the Spirit of God is not merely a substance or energy like a human’s spirit (although he can be described as an energy) but he is most fully a person, someone you can get to know, the person who created the world with God and who continually sustains and transforms the world.
Paul Pastor builds this same theme: “As the Father and the Son – both God, both perfect love – look upon one another, each loving the other according to their shared single nature and difference of person, they breathe out love, love that is itself a divine person, sharing fully in their nature and coeternal with them.”
We see this divine love between the Father and the Son revealed during Jesus’ baptism when the Holy Spirit lands on Jesus in the form of a dove and the Father declares, “This is my Beloved Son.” It is as if we get a glimpse into what has been happening for all eternity. Indeed, this was Jesus’ prayer for his disciples while he was on Earth: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).
As many theologians and students of Scripture have observed, the Bible uses the Holy Spirit and the Love of God interchangeably. Jesus prays this for his disciples who would soon be filled by his Spirit after he would ascend: “I have made your name known to them, and will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).
And the Apostle Paul says this, “… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).
The Holy Spirit is the Love of God himself, dwelling in believers.
Holiness is often considered the Attributes of all Attributes of God. After all, Isaiah describes Yahweh as the thrice holy God: “holy, holy, holy is Yahweh of hosts.”
But this demands the question. What is holiness? What is it like to be holy?
The Bible paints a picture of holiness in terms of God being set apart from sin and the unclean. Leprosy and dead animals according to Old Testament law were considered unclean and were to be distanced from the community and the holiness of God.
But this gives rise to another question: what do all these images of uncleanness symbolize? What is sin that God is set apart from?
In the Gospels we find that the Pharisee rather than the prostitute is the chief of sinners. Again and again, Jesus contrasts the tax-collector who confesses his sin to the self-righteous Pharisee. If Yahweh is set apart from sin, and if self-righteousness is a kind of pinnacle of sin, then this means that we are the cold, snobby ones who look down our noses at our neighbors. God, in his trinitarian love, is set apart precisely from our self-righteous snobbery. Holiness is not mutually exclusive to love and beauty, nor does it have anything to do with self-righteous snobbery. Rather, holiness is defined by love and beauty. God is always giving and always pursuing, and is set apart from the snobbery and self-righteousness of the Pharisee, who is really just a symbol for all of us.
Edwards says it in a word: “Holiness is a most beautiful and lovely thing. We drink in strange notions of holiness from our childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. ‘Tis the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties.”
Pastor puts it like this: “We come from love, we go to love, and any other conception of the cosmos is a bitter lie.”
The one who set the world in motion and painted the mountains is Love Himself. The Jesus whom the world was created by, through, and for is the Beloved Son of God.
Church traditions have often found themselves debating the specific number of sacraments. Many protestants will argue that there are (if any) only two sacraments: baptism and communion. Catholics will expand the list to seven, including marriage and extreme unction and others. A sacrament is the idea of the invisible grace of God being present in a visible thing, like communion.
Eastern Orthodox have rightly recognized that there are as many sacraments as there are deeds done for the glory of Christ. Whether you are taking communion or grabbing lunch with a co-worker or playing guitar, so long as you are doing it in a spirit of prayer and thankfulness, you are in a real sense performing a sacrament. This does not mean that there is nothing sacred or special about going to church, taking communion, or reading Scripture. This does not mean that we may as well skip church to watch football since all things are sacred. But this idea recognizes that these special sacred things like the Tabernacle, church, communion, baptism, are sacred precisely to make the rest of the world sacred. The Holy Spirit is in the business of making all things holy.
1 Tim 4:4-5: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.”
The word of God and prayer make our world holy, according to Paul. The world – i.e. “everything created by God” – is made holy when it is brought into the context of the story of Jesus in the Scripture (the word of God). We do this through prayer, through the communion of the Holy Spirit, and we do this through thanksgiving, through telling God that the good things in our life do not just happen to be but that he has designed them; food and bicycles and card games and space exploration are part of his holy agenda, not just happenstance. Thanksgiving transforms our perspective on reality from being a mundane drudgery to a gift from a Father, and therefore thanksgiving makes our world holy.
Most of us approach the world as if there are sacred things and there are secular things. But Paul considers all things created by God good, even after the fall. So things are not either sacred or secular, rather, things are either enjoyed in context of Jesus in a prayerful thanksgiving or else things are enjoyed in idolatry, in a rejection of the Father.
We live in a world that is all about Jesus. But the condition of our times and our hearts is darkness. It is as if the lights are off in a beautiful gallery full of paintings. The paintings are there. They are beautiful. But you need light to see them. The Holy Spirit is like a light.
Imagine walking through Solomon’s Temple in the dark. Here, you would be surrounded by images and types of Christ. Just because you wouldn’t be able to see the altar of incense or the golden artistry does not mean that these things are not right next to you.
The Holy Spirit is the light which illuminates Christ in our world. Imagine standing in the dark in Solomon’s Temple when all the sudden light floods the room. You would be instantly surrounded by types and images of Jesus. But these types and images were there all along. It’s not as if something new comes into existence when the light comes on. Rather, what was true and real all along was simply illuminated, and you were able to experience it in truth.
This is true of our world as well. When the Holy Spirit works in our lives we come to realize the holiness and beauty of marriage and food as images which point to Jesus. But it’s not as if something about marriage or food changed. All along, rather, the purpose and meaning of both food and relationship is the greatness of Jesus and his love and salvation of his bride. The Spirit simply turns on the light so we can see it.
Sadly, billions of people live in a world saturated with the life of Jesus and never experience him. This is the tragedy of the human condition. If you miss Jesus you miss everything, no matter how extraordinary your experiences might be.
The Holy Spirit brings our life into conformity with Jesus. He opens our eyes to his glory all around us. Suddenly, the things we enjoy do not just happen to thrill us, rather, they thrill us because Jesus is beautiful, and we experience a bit of him as we experience everything. And when we experience pain and loss, the Spirit brings us to Jesus. Whatever good things we might lose are shadows of Jesus’ goodness, and the Holy Spirit gives us Jesus forever. And we will never lose him.
In a true sense, there is nothing more important than being filled with the Spirit. We should always long for more Holy Spirit in our lives, for he is the one who brings us into the fullness of the fatherhood of God in union with Jesus.