The Holy Spirit: Spotlight on the Exalted Christ
Scripture is very clear on the fact that the Holy Spirit has a number of other tasks. We read that it is the Spirit who renews the face of the earth every spring again (Psalm 104:30). Lord's Day 20 mentions specifically that it is the Holy Spirit who makes me by a true faith a partaker of Christ and His benefits. It is also He who comforts me and abides with me forever. But all these other tasks of the Spirit are to be understood in the light of this central task: He draws the attention of sinners to Jesus Christ.
For why is it that the Holy Spirit renews the face of the ground?
So that there might be life on earth, existence. Obviously, where there is no life, there can be none to praise God.
Why does He renew men's hearts, work faith?
So that men might be able to give glory to Jesus Christ.
Why is it that the Spirit abides with believers?
Because if it were not for the continued presence of the Spirit, not a single believer would remain a believer.
And none would seek the things that are above. The mandate given to the Spirit of the exalted Christ is based on the fact that all of life is dependent upon God. Apart from the Spirit, there can be no praise for God. Hence all that the Spirit does is directed to that one goal: glory for the exalted King of kings, Christ the Saviour.
So it is, then, that the presence of a Spirit with such a task is really a source of humiliation for men. The Saviour has obtained a salvation that no person in any way deserves. He has told us, too, that this salvation is for all who look to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith. Yet there is not a single descendent of Adam that is able to observe what the Christ has done, to praise Him on account of it. Each is thoroughly dead in sin. And the dead see not. Christ may have obtained much for us but it does not profit us anything as long as God does not Himself apply it to us. Without Christ, there is no salvation. Without the Holy Spirit, the salvation that Christ may have acquired could not be made ours. 1
Why is it that the disciples were assured that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth (John 16:13)? That was because the fallen mind of man is such that no man can comprehend the depths and the heights of God. They were given this promise because on human strength alone there can be neither Bible nor Christians. Because of our absolute depravity the Holy Spirit has been mandated to cause men to see the Christ. To deny depravity is also to deny the necessity of the Holy Spirit. Conversely, to challenge this work of the Holy Spirit is to challenge the reality of our deadness.
The fact of Pentecost has faced Christians with a challenge: why was Pentecost necessary? 2 And what is its real purpose? Yet these questions need not be that difficult. Human nature is such that no man would see Christ if it were not for the fact that a floodlight was placed on the Saviour. Even then, our eyes would be and remain blind until they were opened by the renewing work of the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit was poured out after Christ had finished His work on earth so that we might benefit from Christ's work; yes more, so that fallen men might glorify this exalted Lord. Pentecost, then, is just as important in the history of salvation as is the incarnation or the resurrection or the ascension.
Having said that, it is also clear why we may be thankful that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person. No one less than God Himself can free man from the snare of sin, can open the eyes of the spiritually blind. If the Holy Spirit were not Himself God, we would have no salvation. But as it is, even though Christ has left earth for heaven, we are not orphaned. "Immanuel" remains a reality, even after the Ascension. God the Spirit is with us, even dwells in our hearts, so that we might be enabled to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. His identity makes His work possible.
The Work of the Holy Spirit is Christocentric3
He takes that which is Christ's and declares that to the disciples. He says to fallen, blinded men:
behold, the Christ. Look to Him, for He has many riches. He is greatly to be praised, for in Him there is much salvation.
The apostle Paul repeats the thought. The Holy Spirit causes us to direct our eyes to heaven, to where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1 ff; cf. Lord's Day 18.49).
A further indication that the central task of the Spirit is to cause men to look to Jesus Christ is given to us in Acts 2. If ever there would have been an opportunity for the Spirit to reveal precisely what His task was, that would surely have been Pentecost Day. Yet in that sermon which Peter preached after the Holy Spirit was poured out, Peter does not ask attention for the Spirit. Inspired by the very Spirit Who was moments before poured out, Peter asks the crowd to consider Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Certainly, he uses as text a passage from the prophecies of Joel that speak about pouring out the Spirit. But as soon as Peter gets to the sermon proper, what does he say?
Men of Israel, hear these words: 'Jesus of Nazareth …'Acts 2:22
And he goes on to explain how Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried, but was raised by the Father on the third day and taken up into heaven and given a seat at God's right hand. And it is from His throne at God's right hand that Jesus "has poured out this which you see and hear" (Acts 2:33). And why has the Lord done this? That "all the house of Israel (might) know assuredly that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36).
From what the Holy Spirit does on Pentecost Day, it becomes apparent that this is the basic thrust of His work. He causes men to see Jesus Christ. He does not cause people to look to Himself. No, He works with the Father and the Son to cause men to marvel at the redeeming work of God Almighty, and so to praise this great God, three in one. For that reason, even on the day of His outpouring, He acts as a floodlight. He does not draw attention to Himself, but He encourages people to look to the exalted King of kings and Lord of lords. To separate the Holy Spirit from Jesus Christ is to do a gross injustice to the revelation of God. There is a reason why the Scriptures repeatedly refer to the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of Christ." It is His task to highlight the Saviour. What God has joined together, let not man cast asunder.