We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

The Creeds Class, Part 4, March 13, 2024

“Worship the Holy Spirit” – Lance Brown

I believe in the Holy Spirit

Collect for Trinity Sunday – ” Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever.” Amen

This session completes the Trinity with the Holy Spirit. There were 6 participants.

The Holy Spirit

In Hebrew and in Greek, the word spirit means “breath.”  Our spirit is the breath of life that allows us to be active.  God’s spirit is God’s activity throughout all the ages, beginning with creation and continuing into our lives today. 

God’s spirit in the Bible

Creation (a wind from God swept over the face of the waters)

Ezekiel the prophet claimed that the Spirit could bring life to the dead.  The valley of the dry bones, in Ezekiel “Come breath from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they might live.” And then, to the people of Israel,   “I will put my spirit within you and you will live.”  The prophet Joel  2:28, “God will pour out God’s spirit on all flesh, your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions” 

In the gospels, the Spirit directs Jesus’ actions from Baptism on—the spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness In Luke, Jesus quotes Isaiah—the Spirit of the Lord is upon me.  In John, after his resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples and breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Also in John, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the  Paraclete, and the Spirit of truth who will continue to reveal things to the believers after Jesus’ departure.  The Spirit takes over some of the functions that Jesus had carried out during his ministry.   Paul repeatedly reminds the Christians that they have received the Holy Spirit.  Romans 5:5  God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” 

God the Spirit is also associated with truth and unity in the NT.  In his farewell discourse, Jesus speaks of God the Spirit as the Spirit of Truth.  And he also says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” 

John describes the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete, the holy comforter but the word has a stronger meaning—advocate or counselor, those who speak up for someone else. 

According to Luke, the disciples receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, after being sent back to Jerusalem by Jesus to wait for the Spirit.

Paul writes about the gifts of the Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit is hard to define or describe.  (What images come to your mind when you think about the Holy Spirit?—how some of these images can be confusing)  

Let’s take a look at the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed as we consider what both have to say about the Holy Spirit. 

The Apostles’ Creed.  Remember, the Apostles’ Creed was in use earlier than the Nicene Creed and reflects the foundational teaching of the Apostles.

The Holy Spirit gets one line in The Apostles’ Creed.

The Nicene Creed came later and addresses the controversies around the nature of Jesus and also puts more emphasis on the nature of the Trinity.

The Nicene Creed has several lines about the Holy Spirit. 

Thinking of the Holy Spirit as the unifying force, love is exchanged between Jesus and God through the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit also draws us into the love of the Trinity, we too become part through the power of the Spirit. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. 

On the night we talked about God, we talked about how each of the parts of the Trinity were involved in creation.  God, the Father Almighty, is the maker of heaven and earth.  The creed refers to Jesus as the One through whom all things were made.  And now the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Lord, the giver of life.  So all parts of the Trinity are actively involved in ongoing creation.  Also, in the NT, Jesus is referred to as Lord, and in the creed, the Holy Spirit is also referred to in this same way, as Lord, which reinforces the Creed’s emphasis on the Trinity. 

For the first few centuries of the church, questions about the relationship between God and Jesus occupied the attention of the leaders, and there wasn’t a lot of discussion about the Holy Spirit. 

Of course, as heresies arose, then the church had to make some decisions how to describe the Holy Spirit. 

The first heresy was Montanism, and Pentecostalism today is reflected in Pentecostalism.  In the year 172, a Christian named Montanus began to prophesy.  He believed that he was the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, and that he was bringing a new revelation.  This group was completely against hierarchy.   Tertullian, the father of Latin theology, was a follower.  Eusebius, historian, called the group both heretical and schismatic. 

Then there was Joachim of Fiore—he was a Cistercian in the 12th century.  He divided the history of the world into three ages, those of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Age of the Spirit would begin in 1260.  Joachim died before 1260, but was still condemned posthumously by the Fourth Lateran Council—because of his doctrine of the Trinity.  But the idea of a coming Age of the Spirit set people to dreaming and criticizing the voices of authority. 

In the 6th Century, the Western Church added to the line, “who proceeds from the Father” to read “Who proceeds from the Father and the Son.”  Eastern Orthodox Christians don’t like that addition.  

Who proceeds from the Father and the Son. How are we recipients of God’s spirit?  Jesus speaks of the Spirit of Truth that comes from the Father. (15:26) In earlier translations, the word proceeds was used, hences the idea of a procession.  But then at the end of John’s gospel, the Risen Lord breathes on the disciples and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  (20:22)  So the first text supports single procession, the second makes a case for double procession.  The Eastern Orthodox go with the first, the western church likes the second, and so the phrase, the filioque, was added in the Creed in 589CE by the Council of Toledo and it approved for local use in the liturgy.  This version of the creed gained popularity in West, but not in Rome, where Pope Leo III refused to add it to the creed in 809BCE.  But then in 1024, Pope Benedict VIII added the phrase to the creed, and among other disagreements this led to the splitting of the church in 1054, known as the 1054 Schism between Orthodox and Catholics. 

In three Lambeth Conferences (1888, 1978, 1988) the recommendation was for this phrase to be dropped from the creed in the Anglican communion, but it is still used in global Anglican liturgies. 

  • Another way to say this would be to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son.  J
  • John 15:26
  • John 16:7
  • John 20:22
  • Titus 3:5-7
  • Revelation 22:1

    Hans Kung, a famous theologian, says that “The Spirit of God, if domiciled in the Church is not domesticated in it.  He is and remains the free Spirit of the Lord, not only of Christians, but of the whole world.” 

With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.

A revision of the Creed at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381CE) called by the emperor Theodosius added this phrase to the creed.  The Macedonians were teaching that the Holy Spirit was a creature, or one of the ministering angels, much like the heresy about Jesus from Arius.    The chief purpose of this phrase is to clarify the belief that the Holy Spirit is fully and completely God.  

How does the Holy Spirit make a difference in our own lives?  How are we called to be saints?  Sanctification is a process of gradual transformation through which God’s Spirit works to help the human spirit grow closer to God.  It is growth in the Christian life, in Christian love. 

The wisdom of the council in relating the idea of worship to God the Spirit becomes very clear when we think about sanctification.  Worship is the activity in which we open our spirits to God’s Spirit.   

What do you think the Holy Spirit is up to today?  How is the Holy Spirit at work in the world? 

He has spoken through the prophets. 

The Prophets were  the prime social critics of their day in the Bible, they were the ones who shook up the religious establishment, kept it honest, They rocked the boat.  It’s the quality of unpredictability of the Spirit that makes the Church uncomfortable.  Remember Jesus saying to Nicodemus, (John 3:8),  “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”   We can detect the presence of the Spirit, but we can’t chart its precise movements.  Jesus’ offer of new birth is like the wind/spirit, a mystery beyond human knowledge and control.  


These notes are from Marianne H. Micks,  Loving the Questions:  An exploration of the Nicene Creed, and from Marshall D. Johnson  The Apostles’ Creed, A User’s Guide.  Exploring Christian Faith. 

And from The New Interpreter’s Bible, the commentary on John, by Gail R. O’Day.