The Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, is not an impersonal force. He is God, and He is very personal. He cannot be controlled by special spells, charms, or actions. He comes with a presence and a power undeniably unique to himself, but his attributes and qualities, the things that make him God, do not end with mere authority and muscle. If they did, however, worship and respect would still be required and owed. Our God, the god of the Bible, is multifaceted in who he is and how he relates to his people.
Paul understood this. When we look into his letters (a majority of the New Testament) we can see that his view of the Holy spirit includes, but is not limited to; Gods’ very own spirit, His wisdom, His revelation, divine power, missional support, new life and heart giver, eschatological sign signifying God’s promised salvation and restoration, a worship facilitator, and an aide to the believer, so that he may live out God’s will.
But what did Paul want to communicate to the Galatian church in particular about the Holy Spirit and the role He played in their salvation and life? How did He enrich and encourage the lives of the believers in Galatia, and how will He do the same for us today?
The Holy Spirit is One
In Galatians, Paul asserts that there is one Holy Spirit, and one God, who supplies the spiritual gifts for the covenant community. He is what we are brought into, and the means by which we are brought into this fellowship. This is important because it communicates that we are all one “in the spirit”. This is particularly helpful in understanding the dynamics of the church. We are called to live as one body with Christ as the head -and we are to live by the power of His spirit. And by the grace of God, helping and loving one another well until Jesus’ return.
The Holy Spirit is a gift received by faith
There will always be people in every generation that will try to “tickle the ears of their hearers” by perverting the Gospel. It was true in Galatia then, and it’s true in America today! The Gospel is scandalous to the world because it almost seems too easy, cheap even, though it’s not! It cost God himself, in the flesh, his very life. The Judaizers of Paul’s day perverted the Gospel by saying that salvation and the receiving of the Holy Spirit came by following works of the law and not by faith in the Son of God. We Christians understand that it is a scandalous statement to say that, “the Spirit comes only as a result of faith in Christ and is not otherwise a possession of humanity in general” (Gal 3:1–2). But it is a beautiful reality! The Holy Spirit comes to reside in, work through, and empower the believer by faith alone!
The Holy Spirit transforms lives and hearts and calls us sons of God
Martin Luther made famous the saying, “the Christian life is a life of repentance”. Another way of saying this is, “the Christian life is war”. In Galatians, the Holy Spirit is also the power of the future age present for believers in their struggle with the forces of this age which are at enmity with God—particularly the flesh and sin.
When we walk by the spirit, when we follow His lead, when we recognize Jesus’ lordship and yield ourselves to His spirit’s control we, by the grace of God, experience His victory. The struggles of yesterday are today’s triumphs! And coupled with this triumph is an assurance that we are in fact God’s chosen and beloved children. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6).