Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
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.
Article 8 of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” is the beginning of the third part of the Creed, which deals with the Holy Spirit and our sanctification (see again Question 24).
The first thing we need to know about the Holy Spirit is that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son. Co-eternal means also-eternal. He is “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:4). From Questions 24 and 25 we learned that the three distinct divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are indivisibly One God, having in common all the divine perfections and qualities. All the attributes of the divine essence are attributed to the Holy Spirit (e.g. Gen. 1:2; Psalm 33:6; 1 Cor. 2:10-12).
The Holy Spirit is clearly declared to be God (Acts 5:3-4) and also to be distinct from the Father and the Son (cf. Luke 12:10). “I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16); “when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). “He is said to be sent by the Father and the Son, and must, therefore, be another person; for no one is sent of himself. A person may, indeed, come of his own accord, and of himself; but no one can send himself” (Ursinus, 273).
The Holy Spirit is that Person of the Trinity who has been given to us believers to live in us. By working true faith in our hearts, He has united us to the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, so that we receive all the benefits of Christ’s death, namely, justification, adoption, sanctification, and ultimately glorification. “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” (1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit sanctifies us by causing us to obey God’s command, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).
The Holy Spirit dwells in us to comfort us (Acts 9:31), especially in times of sorrow: “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us” (2 Cor. 7:10). “The Holy Spirit strengthens and establishes us when weak and wavering in our faith, and assures us of our salvation [Rom. 8:15-16, 26-27]” (Ursinus, 278).
The Holy Spirit will abide with us forever (John 14:16). “For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). True believers “are sometimes for a season deserted by God [2 Chron. 32:31], either for the purpose of testing, or chastising, or humbling them [Heb. 12:3-11]; yet they are nevertheless brought to repentance, so as not to perish” (Ursinus, 474). David, in his fall, lost the joy which he had felt in his soul, the purity of his conscience, and many other gifts, which he earnestly prayed might be restored to him; but he had not wholly lost the Holy Spirit, or else he would not have said, ‘Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me’ [Ps. 51:11], from which it is plain that he had not wholly lost the Spirit of God” (Ursinus, 284).