Why is there no chapter on the Holy Spirit in the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith? We have seen in this short blog series that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is distributed throughout the confession and described in relation to key points of doctrine. Our last blog noted how the confession outlines biblical teaching on the connection between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In this blog post, we will see how the confession summarises the bible’s teaching on the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the mediation of Christ.
The confession shows us that a biblical view of the Spirit’s work directs us to the person and work of Christ. The Spirit is linked to the person and work of Christ in chapter 8 of the confession. In paragraph 1, the confession connects the union of the two natures of Jesus Christ to the work of the Spirit. The building blocks for this doctrine may be observed as follows.
First, the writers of the confession set out the divine nature of the Son as consubstantial with the Father:
“The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made…”
Second, it is this one who took on human nature. Thus, the confession states that the Son of God,
“…did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it, yet without sin;”
Third, God’s Son did this by the power of the Spirit (Luke 1:35). The confession positions the work of the Holy Spirit as vital to the union of the two natures of Christ in his conception. Reflecting the biblical witness, it declares,
“being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.”
Therefore, Christ is qualified as the mediator because he is very God and very man. Yet, the Spirit’s work is central to the person of the mediator.
Fourth, the Spirit’s work is also central to Christ’s work so that he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of mediator. As the Christ, Jesus is appointed by the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit to fulfil his task (Mark 1:9-11). He is the one who has the fullness of the Holy Spirit, without measure, as John states (John 3:34). The confession summarises the biblical teaching:
“The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety”
Fifth, the mediatory work of Christ is enabled by the Spirit, so everything Jesus did for us, he did as the man of the Spirit. He then imparts the benefits of his work to us by the Spirit. In 8.5, the confession teaches that Christ offered himself up by the eternal Spirit. In 8.8, the confession says the Spirit of Christ unites us to Christ, our mediator. In this way, since Jesus has the Spirit, was raised by the Spirit, and received the reward of the Spirit, he can grant the Holy Spirit to us. The Holy Spirit takes what was procured by Christ and applies the covenant benefits to us. The Spirit anointed Jesus Christ to pour out the Spirit upon us so that we might live in union with him. Charles Spurgeon said,
“Wherever the Spirit of Christ is, He… reveals Christ to the understanding, enthrones Christ in the affections, Gives Christ the control of the will, endears Christ to the heart, Glorifies Christ in the soul and conforms the person to the lovely likeness of Christ.”
(The Holy Spirit Glorifying Christ)
Too often, when we speak of the Holy Spirit, we disconnect Him from Christ. However, when we consider the confession of faith, we see that the bible teaches that the Spirit’s work is focused on the mediator. The Spirit is key to the incarnation. He is sent to enable the incarnate Son’s ministry, to testify of him, to unite us to him and to communicate the benefits of Christ to us. The teaching that most honours and glorifies the Spirit will focus upon the person and work of Lord Jesus Christ and deepen our love for him.