Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 20
Lord's Day 20
What do you believe
concerning the Holy Spirit?
He is, together with the Father and the Son,
true and eternal God.
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.
God the Holy Spirit and Our Sanctification
Q. & A. 53 The Comforter
- LD 20 brings us to the third part of the Apostles' Creed. It speaks of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Triune God (LD 8). Together with the Father and the Son, he is true and eternal God. That is why the creed says, “I believe In the Holy Spirit.” That the Holy Spirit is himself God is evident from the fact that Scripture accords him divine names (Acts 5:3, 4), attributes (Ps 139:7, 8), works (Gen 1:2b), and honour (Mt 28:19). (See further the annotations to LD 8).
He is not merely a power of God, or an influence which proceeds from God, but an independent Person. 1 Cor 2:10 says: "For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God."
Further, we can grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).
- This third Person is called Spirit, not because he is more spiritual than the Father or the Son, but because of the manner of his existence. For he proceeds like a breath from God and returns to him, just like a person's breath proceeds from him and returns to him. He is called Holy, not because he is holier than the Father or the Son, but because his special work is the sanctification of all things.
- The Catechism only speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in the church, i.e., of his work which is designed to redeem and preserve the Lord's people. But his sphere of operation is much wider than the church. It is he who gives life, and all knowledge and learning is his. Ps 104:30 says: "When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground." (See also Ex 31:3).
- The believer confesses about the Holy Spirit, “He is also given to me.” This means, in the first place, that we do not have the Holy Spirit of ourselves. Alas, the spirit of wickedness dwells in our old nature. Further, we cannot earn the Holy Spirit; he must be Given to us.
How can the confessor say with such certainty that the Spirit has been given him? Only through faith in God's promise. For when we were baptised in the Name of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit testified and assured us by that holy sacrament that he would dwell and work in us, and would impart to us what we have in Christ.
- The Holy Spirit was given to us in order to make us by true faith share in Christ and all his benefits. It is necessary for us to enter into a living communion with Christ, our complete Saviour. That is what the Spirit does, by working faith in us, the faith whereby we are grafted into Christ (LD 7). The Holy Spirit does this through the preaching of the Word (LD 25, Ans. 65), through which he causes us to know ourselves and teaches us to flee to Christ.
- He Comforts us. The word, “comforter,” is the same as intercessor, defence counsel, barrister, advocate. Christ is our advocate at the right hand of the Father. There he pleads our cause, pointing to his completed work. The Holy Spirit is our comforter in us. He pleads here with us and, through the Word, points us to Christ's completed sacrifice and to the Father's promise. Thereby, he helps us in our weakness and prays for us (Rom 8:26, 27).
- He will be with us For Ever (Jn 14:16). He can withdraw himself and his gifts from us. He does this when we sin and grieve him (Eph 4:30). The promise that he will be with us for ever was given to us for our comfort and to prevent us from becoming despondent (Ps 51:13).
The Scriptures also speak about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, or the sin against the Holy Spirit. This sin can only be committed by those who were familiar with the gospel. It consists of this that one who knows better resists the gospel and rejects what he knows to be the work of God by calling it the exact opposite. This sin will not be forgiven. It is not followed by repentance. Hence, it may safely be stated as a rule that he who fears that he has committed this sin, has not committed it (Heb 6:4-8; Mt 12:31, 32).
B. Cross References
- The BC, art. 11 also confesses that the Holy Spirit is true and eternal God.
- The confessions speak of the work of the Holy Spirit in many places. I draw the following to your attention: CD III/IV, 3, 6, 11, and 16; V, 5 and 6.
- Also the Forms for Baptism (Doctrine of Baptism) describe the work of the Holy Spirit in their definition of the promise which is sealed in baptism. The Forms refer to: indwelling, cleansing and renewal.
- The prayer before the Lord's supper in the Forms for the Celebration of the Lord's Supper ask that God work in us through the Holy Spirit.
- What does LD 20 say first about the Holy Spirit? How is it evident that the Holy Spirit is himself God? Is he simply a power of God? What is he then? What does Eph 4:30 say?
- Why is he called Spirit? Why Holy Spirit?
- Where else, in addition to the church, does the Holy Spirit work? What does he do there?
- Why must the Spirit be Given to us? For What Purpose is he given to us? How can the believer say with certainty that the Spirit has been given him?
- What does the Holy Spirit do in us? Who is our Advocate in heaven? How does the Holy Spirit comfort us?
- Can the Holy Spirit depart from God's people? But what does he do? What do you know about the sin against the Holy Spirit?