Confessing our belief in the person and work of the Holy Spirit
The Apostles' Creed now shifts focus toward confessing a belief in the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit. One immediately notices the brevity of the statement. Certainly, there is much more that can be said of the Holy Spirit. It would, however, be left to future creeds and confessions to present a more detailed description of the person and ministry of the Spirit as those truths needed promoting and defending. Here, the apostolic confession was simply stated as:
"I believe in the Holy Spirit"
At the most basic level, then, what are we confessing?
First, that there is a real person of the Holy Spirit. Again, we are affirming that He is to be spoken of in personal terms. In other words, it is not appropriate to speak of the Spirit of God in terms of being impersonal as if He were just a force or power. Second, just as we have confessed that both the Father and Son are God, we confess that the Spirit is likewise God; He is the third person of the Holy Trinity. In this way, we confess that He is holy in the exact way that God is holy, because the Holy Spirit is God. Being God, He has all the attributes of God and is actively involved in the work of God.
What, then are the works of the Spirit?
The works of the Spirit, as we might expect, are diverse, thus it would be difficult to present an exhaustive list. We will, however, present some of the major works found in the Scriptures. The Spirit of God was present and involved in creation (Genesis 1:2). All true and Godly prophecy is spoken as men were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). This is true in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit empowered the Old Testament saints to accomplish supernatural feats of might (Judges 14:6). Further, God bestowed the artisans of the Tabernacle with the Holy Spirit that they might appropriately do their work to the glory of God (Exodus 31:1-11).
The Spirit was also actively involved in the incarnate ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus was conceived of a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). The Spirit descended like a dove upon Jesus at His baptism (Mark 1:10) which was accompanied by the Father's testimony. Just as the Kings were anointed for service, so too was this great Son of David, who was anointed by the empowerment of the Spirit (Acts 10:38). This should not be misunderstood to suggest that Christ was not God in the incarnation, but that He was empowered in His humanity by the Spirit of God according to the will of God the Father. Further, Jesus promised that He would not leave His followers unless He sent them the Spirit (John 14:16).
The Spirit's work in the believer is just as numerous and essential. He convicts of sin (John 16:8), without which we could not see our need of salvation. It is the Spirit who regenerates us (Titus 3:5) and transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18). He is the agent of our sanctification (1 Peter 1:2). Jesus called Him the Comforter (John 14:26). In that same verse, the Spirit is described as a Teacher with His ministry bringing to remembrance the things which Jesus has said. While that is specifically meant for those to whom Jesus is speaking, there is no question that the Spirit works in all believers to remind us of the Word of God (Ephesians 1:17-18).
The Holy Spirit indwells the believer (Romans 8:9) as evidence of our regeneration. Additionally, we are sealed with the Spirit as a guarantee of future glory (Ephesians 1:13-14). In fact, it is because of this work of the Spirit that we are able to call God "Abba" or Father (Romans 8:15). Further, the Holy Spirit intercedes in our prayers (Romans 8:26), and gifts us for service unto God (1 Corinthians 12). Literally, we could neither have life in Christ, nor live the Christian life without the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is for these numerous reasons that we confess our belief in the Holy Spirit.
So, again, what do we believe concerning the Spirit of God?
Put simply, we believe the confession of our forefathers as presented in the Orthodox Catechism (a Baptist adaptation of the wonderful Heidelberg Catechism):
Question 52: What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?
Answer: First, that He is true and co-eternal God, with the eternal Father and the Son. Second, that He is also given unto me, to make me partaker of Christ and all His benefits through a true faith, to comfort me, and to abide with me forever.
All of this, and even more, is what we confess when we join two thousand years of Christian affirmation that:
I believe in the Holy Spirit.