53. Q. What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?
A. First, he is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God. Second, he is also given to me, to make me by true faith share in Christ and all his benefits, to comfort me, and to remain with me forever” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 20).
Christians confess that the Holy Spirit is not a force or impersonal power, but that he is true and eternal God. The apostle Paul desired to encourage believers in this truth by rooting salvation in the work of the triune God. In Ephesians 1, is it God the Father who “chose us from before the foundation the world, and predestined us for adoptions as sons,” it is God the Son who worked “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”
At this point, Christians often leave the impression that the we are the ones now responsible to uphold ourselves in sanctification until Jesus comes. But this is not what the apostle says. The preserving and keeping of our lives is accomplished by the power of God the Holy Spirit. The description of the triune God’s salvation is met with a grand crescendo as Paul writes that we have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Eph. 1:13-14).”
What a beautiful truth that God has conveyed to us. We have been put under the oversight of the Holy Spirit who has guaranteed our preservation until we are met with the full possession of glory when Jesus returns and we see him face to face. The Holy Spirit is our preserver who applies and preserves us in the redemption that has already been won for us through the work of Christ.
We should never give the impression that in our sanctification, we are the ones, by our own power, maintaining our position and status before God, as if it could be lost. Further, we should never leave the impression that holiness rests upon us to see God. This is impossible because it is the work of the Holy Spirit who keeps us and preserves us as he has been entrusted a guardianship.
We have, as Peter says, “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pet. 1:4-5). It is the Holy Spirit’s power by which we are kept. The Spirit has chosen to dwell in you, dear believer; as the Heidelberg says, he is given to us “personally.” He completes the purpose for which Jesus left us on this earth, in full assurance that you will be presented blameless on that day (Jd. 1:24)!
The Present Blessings of the Spirit
This is why the Heidelberg says he makes us to share, by true faith, in all of Christ’s blessings. Our challenge is simply to understand what is already ours by the Spirit. Paul rehearses two great benefits of the Spirit’s sealing presence in our lives. First, Paul prays that the Spirit would open our hearts to know “the hope to which God has called us…what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18-19 ).
Hope is not wishful thinking, we have absolute certainly of future glory that lies ahead of us. How much do Christians need to look forward to the promises in the difficult days in which we live when all the kingdoms of this earth are crumbling? The Spirit gives us a living hope in this present darkness of the bright future of heavenly glory that awaits us.
Second, he prays that by the Spirit of wisdom, we might “know what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, (Eph. 1:19-20).” Yes, you read that correctly, dear Christian. The same power that raised Christ from he dead is given to you by the Spirit who dwells within you.
This we need to understand this more than ever. Discouragement, depression, weakness, sin, sorrow, all of these things often make us feel powerless in the present age. We wonder why God is not helping us. But Paul is asking, on their behalf, that God would open their hearts through knowledge to “perceive” the help that he has already provided, that they might know what is their’s right now in Christ. Christians are called to live by the Spirit’s power who promises to keep them until the end. Yes, there is true power given to the believer, by the Spirit, to put sin to death and to walk in the newness of life, and in the joy of your salvation.
This, I trust, is the encouragement you need today, dear believer. Do not grieve the Spirit through sin, doubt, or unbelief, but trust in his preserving power in your life, for he has sealed you and promises to keep you until the end.