I’ve really been enjoying talking about the Spirit as part of theology class the past couple of weeks.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve found in looking at the Spirit as part of the trinity has been…
‘How do we talk about the Spirit in church?’. It seems this is a bigger issue that you might think!
As we saw in class, the Biblical testimony about the Spirit is that he always points to Jesus. He’s even referred to on a couple of occasions as ‘the Spirit of Christ’ or ‘the Spirit of Jesus’. The Spirit is involved in the unity of the body of Christ, making Jesus known, transforming Christians to be like Jesus and working in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus. Of course he is at work in creation and the new creation as well, but even that has its centre in Christ.
In other words, the Spirit is not the Lone Ranger. Perhaps he’s more like Tonto (or is that just really unhelpful? …maybe).
JI Packer says, perhaps more helpfully, that the Spirit works like a Floodlight, always lighting up Jesus so that people can see him, while not bringing attention to himself. John 16:12-15 certainly is evidence for that.
So with all that in mind, what sort of language is helpful to use about the Spirit in church, and even in our own personal devotional times? There is not one verse (to my knowledge) that talks about praying to the Spirit. Also never are we told to worship the spirit. In fact in Revelation we see worship of the Father and of the Lamb, but no mention of worshipping the Spirit.
So I don’t think there is anything wrong with praying to the Spirit (maybe Romans 8:26 may be helpful) or worshipping the Spirit (after all a divine part of the Godhead), but what language should be used in general?
In class I suggested that on reflection of all this, that thanksgiving to God might be the right approach. At the end of this lecture I felt full of thanks to God for the gift of the Spirit. So in liturgy and song, maybe when we want to talk about the Spirit, perhaps thanksgiving might be the most appropriate format?
Evangelical churches are often suspicious of ‘Spirit’ language in church, which I think is sad. It seems to me that the emphasis should always be Jesus, but we must work harder at figuring out what are good ways that we can acknowledge the Spirit as being fully God and his work amongst as being of the utmost importance.