This week we begin with Question 36 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 3 (questions 36-52), which focuses on the Spirit, restoration, and growing in grace.
Question 36: What do we believe about the Holy Spirit?
Answer: That he is God, coeternal with the Father and the Son, and that God grants him irrevocably to all who believe.
The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is one God who exists as three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This means that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Spirit is fully God. The Son is no less God than the Father, and the Spirit is no less God than the Father and the Son. This is what the catechism indicates when it says of the Holy Spirit, “That he is God, coeternal with the Father and the Son.” The word “coeternal” simply means that he has always been God; there never was a time when he did not exist or did not share completely the essence of deity with the Father and the Son.
The full deity of Jesus Christ the Son is necessary for our salvation. Only God can save, and if Jesus is our Savior, he must be God. But how does the full deity of the Holy Spirit factor into the gospel? What would we lose if we no longer confessed that the Holy Spirit is God? We would lose everything! The deity of the Holy Spirit is every bit as important as the deity of the Son. Why is that the case? It is because the experience of salvation entails the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within each believer and within the church corporately. Jesus Christ is God with us, and the Holy Spirit is God in us (for those who believe in Christ). That means the Holy Spirit is the one who directly mediates our experience of God. He is the very presence of God, and thus if he is not fully God, our experience of salvation does not really connect us with God but with something else that is less than God.
If we are not temples of the Holy Spirit (i.e., temples of God himself), then the gospel is not really good news, because it would fail to reconcile us fully to the God from whose presence humanity was banished in Genesis 3. Thanks be to God that he is lavish in giving his Spirit to those who believe in his Son!
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: 1 Corinthians 3:1-17. What does Paul teach about the church using the idea of a building? What does he teach about the Holy Spirit in relation to the church? What does this mean about how we should think of the church?