by Rev. Chuck Muether
In this week’s Heidelbit, we reflect on Lord’s Day 20 of the Heidelberg Catechism.
53. What do you believe concerning the “Holy Spirit”?
First, that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son. Second, that He is also given unto me: by true faith makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits, comforts me, and shall abide with me forever.
The Second Battle of El Alamein in October and November 1942 was a major battle during the Second World War that disrupted an Egyptian railway. With the Allies victorious, it marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War.
That might not seem very noteworthy to you, dear reader, but you might recall from a school history book the famous quote of English Prime Minister Winston Churchill, which commemorated the event: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
It was about victory begetting future victories.
On an astronomically larger scale we have the victory of the cross, which some Lord’s Days ago, many of you celebrated on Resurrection Sunday. You are saved because of that victory, one that has made your heart malleable, one that has made your eyes see, and your ears hear.
While we have that John 19:30 passage (“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”), and the immediate sacrificial work of Jesus had ended, the totality of His work was not, and is still unfinished, properly understood. What Jesus had achieved on the cross was the end of the beginning.
Jesus would spend 40 days on the earth after His resurrection. His disciples went from being doubters to being amazed when they finally recognized Jesus. They still struggled to connect the dots regarding His Messianic ministry, but the Lord said in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The Lord had already prayed, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).
In time the disciples would understand more, for in ten days after the ascension, fifty days after the Passover, the great event we know as Pentecost would occur.
But prior to that glorious occasion, Men of Galilee were staring at the sky in amazement as the Messiah who rose from the dead had ascended. He was gone! Jesus was gone!
Did the disciples not understand that the Lord has to ascend and sit at the right hand of God, the Father? Did the disciples not realize that Jesus would be their Advocate in the presence of His Father in heaven, and that He had to ascend in order to prepare a place for those whom the Father has called to be His own?
Did the disciples not apprehend that the Spirit would take glorious residency in them and be their guide and helper? The disciples and we have a glorious representative in heaven in the flesh of man—the Head of the church who will take His members up to Himself.
As Jesus ascended, He sent His Spirit, by whose power we today seek those things which are above. The Spirit has always existed as the third person of Godhead. It is by the operation of the Holy Spirit that we are partakers of Christ and all His benefits and that we are truly comforted. “The Spirit Himself” (Romans 8:16) bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Too often those who call themselves Christians see “He arose” as the complete end of the Lord’s work, and think they themselves must continue the spiritual heavy lifting of that which Jesus had started. That is not what the Bible says. Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension are not the end, nor even the beginning of the end, but His earthly walk is the end of the beginning as it relates to the ushering in of the Kingdom of Christ.
We have a glorious future as His kingdom citizens, and He has given us His Spirit to remind us of and to equip us for the chief end of man, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. “Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3:24).