Pentecost and the Holy Spirit
We trust in the one triune God, the Holy One of Israel,
whom alone we worship and serve;
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.
—“Brief statement of Faith,” lines 5-6, 80
This triune God is the creator of the universe, the savior of the world, who has been revealed as the perfect model of humanity in Jesus Christ and is the ongoing presence and power of God in the world.
On Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, Christians commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ early followers. But the Bible contains several earlier references to the Spirit as well — for example, in the accounts of Mary’s conception: “… she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18) and “The Holy Spirit will come upon you …” (Luke 1:35); the accounts of Jesus’ baptism: “… he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him” (Matthew 3:16) and of Jesus sending his disciples out for the first time: “… do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say … for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19-20).
Through the Holy Spirit, God empowers us to grow in faith, make more mature decisions and live more faithful lives. The Spirit gives us the will, as Jesus said, to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The Holy Spirit gives believers the authority to accurately interpret the Bible, just as the Spirit enabled the original writers of Scripture to tell truthfully about God, Jesus and everything else we need to know. The Spirit also gives authority to the church to act in God’s name for the good of humanity. The Spirit gives every person a sense of “calling” to a special function in the world, in keeping with God’s providence and Jesus’ summons to “follow him.” Among the “fruits of the spirit” identified by the apostle Paul are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
The “Westminster Confession of Faith,” a historic Presbyterian document, refers to the Holy Spirit as a source of God’s grace and “the only efficient agent in the application of redemption.” For all humans, the confession says, the Spirit “convicts them of sin, moves them to repentance and persuades and enables them to embrace Jesus Christ by faith.” It further states that God is willing to give the Spirit to all who ask.
The “Brief Statement of Faith,” the most recent Presbyterian confessional document also speaks about the Holy Spirit:
We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church.
The same Spirit who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls women and men to all ministries of the Church.
In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.