holy spirit

The Holy Spirit Behind the Scenes

In John 17 we read Jesus’ prayer to be one with each another in Christ. Jesus prayed that his disciples

… may be one. As you, Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us. … I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. … I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:21, 23, 26)

Our union with the Father reflects and participates in the union of the Father, Son, and Spirit. The same glory that the Father ascribes to the Son is now given to all who are in the Son, which is to say, we participate in the glory of God. However, this passage only mentions the Father and Son, leaving out the Holy Spirit. Why is this the case?

I argue that the Holy Spirit is very much included in our participation in the Father and Son’s love for one another, but he is so as a “silent partner.” The particular way that the Spirit lovingly and submissively participates in our dance with the triune God is by working behind the scenes, as it were, to make it all happen. The Spirit is not the explicit object of the dance but the one working on the inside to open the dance up for us to participate.

Here are some of the ways that the Spirit does this. The Holy Spirit:

  • works in our hearts to open us up to trust in Christ Jesus (John 3:5; 1 Cor 12:3).
  • reconciles us to the Father through Christ (Eph 2:18).
  • abides in us (1 John 3:24).
  • teaches us (John 14:26; 16:13).
  • transforms us (2 Cor 3:17-18).
  • empowers us (Acts 1:8; Rom 8:13).
  • leads us (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:18).
  • sets us free from the law (Rom 7:6; 8:2-4).
  • mediates the abundant life of the Trinity to us (John 7:38-39; Rom 8:14; 16; 26-27).

The Holy Spirit causes the love the Father has for us to abide within us and flow through us (Rom 5:5; Col 1:8). Thus the unity of the church—our being one as the Father and the Spirit are one—is the unity in the Holy Spirit.

Our participation in the love of the Father for the Son and the love of the Son for the Father is a participation in the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son (Rom 8:9-11). The Holy Spirit works and abides within us, pointing us to Christ, placing us in Christ, all the while causing us to participate in and be transformed by the love the Father has for the Son and the love the Son has for the Father.

Adapted from Repenting of Religion, pages 39-41

Photo credit: Sint-Katelijne-Waver on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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