The Floodlight Ministry of the Holy Spirit

In all of the activities of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and in the life of the Church is there one thing above all other things he is seeking to do? Is there, in other words, a centre to his work and ministry in the lives of Christians? An answer to these questions can be readily found in John 16:13-14, verses which record important words that Jesus spoke to his disciples on the night of his betrayal.

"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

In the surrounding context Jesus is assuring his disciples that they will not be left alone when he returns to the Father after the cross and resurrection. Jesus will still be present with them, but not now via his Incarnate presence but rather by means of his Holy Spirit. He is thus helping them understand something of the ministry of the Holy Spirit after what we call Pentecost.

Now, in the words “He will bring glory to me,” we have set forth for us what J. I. Packer has rightly called the “Holy Spirit’s distinctive new covenant role,” namely, “directing all attention away from himself to Christ and drawing folk into the faith, hope, love, obedience, adoration, and dedication, which constitute communion with Christ.” This ministry of the Spirit in relation to Christ is what Packer goes on to call “a floodlight ministry.” [Keep In Step With The Spirit (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1984), 64, 65. A slightly revised edition has just been released by Zondervan (2005).]

Since 1985 I have had the privilege nearly every year of teaching at Séminaire Baptiste Évangélique du Québec, in Montreal, Canada (SEMBEQ), the French Fellowship Baptist seminary in the west end of Montreal, located on Gouin boulevard. The building that houses the seminary used to be a school and is located in a very prestigious area of the West Island of Montreal. I recall vividly one summer night after I had taught all day. I had decided to go for a walk in the neighbourhood. I noticed that a good number of the owners of the wealthy homes in the area had strategically placed floodlights around their homes so that passers-by like myself might ooh and aah about their achievements in stone and brick.

Now, if instead of focusing on the homes which were lit by the floodlights I had instead concentrated my attention on the floodlight themselves—“Oh, that’s an interesting-looking floodlight; I wonder where they bought it” or “what a lovely light that floodlight is giving; I wonder how powerful it is”—I would have missed the whole meaning and purpose of the floodlights. The owners of the homes had put the floodlights out in front so that I should look at their homes, not at the floodlights, the source of illumination.

So it is with the Spirit’s ministry. He has been sent by God the Father to focus our attention to Christ, to kindle in our hearts an unquenchable love for Christ and for his purposes, and to enable us to reflect faithfully his person and character. The Spirit has not come to primarily speak about himself. He has not been given to us so that we should focus primarily on him and his work. He has come to inhabit these mortal frames so that we should love Christ and adore him, and that we should seek to live each day in obedience to Jesus. The work and ministry of the Holy Spirit has this one indispensable genuine mark then: it is Christ-centred—it is designed to exalt him and glorify him in the minds and hearts of men and women, and boys and girls. As the great nineteenth-century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) once put it:

"If we do not make the Lord Jesus glorious; if we do not lift him high in the esteem of men, if we do not labour to make him King of kings, and Lord of lords; we shall not have the Holy Spirit with us. Vain will be rhetoric, music, architecture, energy, and social status: if our one design be not to magnify the Lord Jesus, we shall work alone and work in vain." [The Greatest Fight in the World (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1891), 64].