The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit

November 5th, 2013

Remember the three backwoodsmen from the 1980’s TV show Newhart? These guys were brothers, and whenever they’d enter a scene, one would announce, “Hi, I'm Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl.” Darryl and Darryl never spoke until the last episode of the series, they just tagged along with Larry. Larry was the spokesperson for the group. If you dealt with him, you dealt with all three of them. But for all practical purposes, the two Darryls were mostly human props. Larry was the only one who could be interacted with, at least verbally.

Now before I make the ridiculous attempt at illustrating the Holy Trinity with three sitcom characters, rest assured that I haven’t lost my mind, and I haven’t run out of topics to write about. There’s a point here, I promise, and here’s hoping I can make it without putting my foot in my mouth.

Sometimes I think Christians see the Holy Spirit as the “other brother Darryl.” The last one mentioned. Second runner up. The member of the Godhead we understand (and talk about) the least.

God the Father and God the Son are a little easier for us to process, because we see fathers and sons in everyday life, and we also have our own family relationships. But God the Holy Spirit? (Holy Ghost if you use the King James Bible or sing the Gloria Patri.) Spirits and ghosts seem way out there.

So some of us don’t mention the Holy Spirit much. Or we talk about him like he’s a force or energy. An it, not a he. That’s unfortunate, because the Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead we interact with at the deepest level—with our own spirits. Paul closes 2 Corinthians with this blessing: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:13 CEB. Fellowship is the English translation of the Greek word koinonia, which can also mean communion, intimacy, or even joint partnership. The word communication also shows up in one of the definitions I found. This kind of language is used for a personal being, not an abstract force.

We can talk directly to the Holy Spirit, and experience his presence. We can hear his voice. The one who worked in our lives to bring us to Christ is with us all the time, always indwelling us. And he’s able to fill us and equip us for carrying out the missions that God gives us—we only need to ask. The Holy Spirit will warn us when we’re about to go down the wrong path, gently convict us if we do, and offer us assurance of forgiveness when we confess our sins and repent.

The Holy Spirit possesses an infinite amount of knowledge and insight. 1 Corinthians 2:10 says, “The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God.” (CEB) That’s mind-blowing to me.

The Holy Spirit can be trusted to tell us what we need to know, when we need to know it. He helps us to understand the Bible and apply it. Once we begin to tune in to the Spirit, even the most familiar passages of Scripture seem to have new things in store for us. And crazy supernatural stuff happens too, sometimes in the most natural ways.

If we don’t resist him, he even messes with our theology from time to time. Few things are more invigorating (or frustrating) than being prompted by the Holy Spirit to rethink some of our sacred cows.

We almost always mention him last, but the Holy Spirit isn’t just “the other member of the Trinity.” He’s essential to living an effective Christian life.

As I press forward to know the Spirit better, I’ll be sharing my experiences and insights here. I’d enjoy hearing some of your stories too. 

Shane Raynor is an editor at Ministry Matters and editor of the Converge Bible Studies series from Abingdon Press. 

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