Do you ever have things in conversation that are taken for granted? Say for instance you are talking to one of your dear friends and you make a passing mention of an inside joke that you have had forever. Everyone involved gets the reference and all that is entailed in the reference without having to go into every little detail. This is a good thing because the inside joke is not the main point of the conversation but is an underlying truth that you and your friends all know so it does not need to be explained. This is similar to when the Apostles Creed mentions the Holy Spirit.
The Forgotten God?
In our recent history, it has become popular to think of the Holy Spirit as the forgotten member of the Godhead. Some have gone so far as to bring back old heresies in their effort to make the Holy Spirit more prominent. (Perhaps you have heard or seen examples of people talking about the God of the Old Testament vs. the God of the New Testament. This is known historically as the Marcionite heresy.) Some have argued that the writers of the historic creeds, the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creeds, and the like, did not truly understand the Holy Spirit and that is why they left them out of the creeds. While there have definitely been people and times when the work of the Holy Spirit is forgotten or misunderstood, we should look at what the point of the creeds is before we judge them guilty of this.
The Main Point
Most of the debates in the early part of church history center around the deity of Christ. That is to say, they are arguments over the answer to the question "Is Jesus God or Man?" There are huge debates and arguments over this question. You have men like Arius, from whom we get the heresy of Arianism, who taught and believed that Jesus was not truly God but was the first and highest created being. You can see modern examples of this ancient idea in the Mormons and the Jehovah's witnesses, who both teach that Jesus is a created being. You have men like Marcion whose ideas we mentioned above. There is the idea that Jesus was fully God but only seemed to take on humanity, this is known as the heresy of Docetism. There are a lot more of these but I think you get the point. It was a big deal that needed to be worked through. Our understanding of the Trinity and the Hypostatic Union, that is that Jesus is fully God and fully human without mixture or separation, comes out of all of this controversy. What is interesting is that in all of this controversy, there are very few if any disagreements over the work of the Holy Spirit.
Only a Brief Mention
When the Apostle's creed mentions the Holy Spirit it is not avoiding or lessening the Holy Spirit, It is actually stating that the role of the Holy Spirit is not in question. People understood the role and deity of the Holy Spirit as Scripture teaches it. They believed implicitly. There were no arguments about the work of the Holy Spirt during this time. So there is no long section on him in the creed. It is not until later in Church history that issues arise over the work of the Holy Spirit.
What is the Work of the Holy Spirit
One of the first controversies over the role of the Holy Spirit comes up as part of the Pelagian heresy. See Augustine understood that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit in redemption is the work of Regeneration. This is where the Holy Spirit changes the sinner's heart into the heart of flesh. This is what gives the sinner the ability to come to Christ. Apart from this work sinners are unable to come to Christ. Augustin understands this when he writes "O Lord, command what you will and give what you command." He understands that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make effective the work of Christ. This is why scripture talks about the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. These are given as evidence in scripture that shows that Holy Spirit is active in someone's life. Unfortunately today it has become increasingly popular to misconstrue and misunderstand these things. People want to take the gifts of the Spirit and make certain ones requirements for salvation. They want to make the baptism of the Holy Spirit something different than what it is. It is increasingly mainstream to believe that the work of the Holy Spirit depends on people being willing to let him. As if God needed my permission to do what he is going to do. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are just that, gifts. Gifts are not earned, they are not chosen, they are freely given and each person is given the gift that God chooses to give them. The fruit of the Spirit is just that, the visible product of a healthy tree. Scripture says that the good tree produces good fruit (Matthew 7:17). The fruit is evidence that the Holy Spirit is active in someone's life.
Where to Go From Here
The Holy Spirit is important. He is the third member of the Godhead. Fully God. He is the one who applies the work of redemption to God's people. He is not forgotten by the creeds. We should not forget Him either. But neither should we go to the extremes of making him dependent on us or simply the messenger that brings gifts. The Holy Spirit is fully God. All that can be rightly said of the Father and the Son can and should rightly be said of the Holy Spirit. He is Fully God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise. He is not needy, for he lacks nothing. There is nothing that we can bring to him for everything that we have is from him and for his glory. As you go throughout your week this week remember that the Holy Spirit is fully God. He is not forgotten by the Apostles Creed and should not be forgotten by us. But neither should he be twisted to fit our desires.
Soli Deo Gloria