FATQ: What Difference Does the Holy Spirit Make? Does It Matter?


Letter FFor many of us it’s sometimes hard to understand just what difference the Holy Spirit makes. We unwittingly pare the Trinity down to two persons. We find ourselves asking, would our lives really look any different if the Holy Spirit didn’t exist? If so, how?

The question basically boils down to: What does the Holy Spirit do

To answer that we need to know three things: What is the core of Christianity? How does each member of the Trinity relate to that core? What would happen if the Holy Spirit’s contribution was taken away?

1) First, to understand what the Holy Spirit does, we have to know what Christianity is about. What is the core? Christianity, in short, is about salvation into the kingdom of God, about union with Christ.

2) Second, how does each member of the Trinity relate to that core? Simply put, the Father ordains it, the Son procures it, and the Spirit imparts it.

In more technical terms, the Father works through His eternal decree by choosing His people in Christ before the foundation of the world; the Son works in His people by procuring for them a righteous standing before God; the Spirit works in His people by applying to them that which the work of Christ procured.

It’s for this reason that Christ says “no man can say ‘Jesus is the Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).

3) Finally, what would happen if we removed the Spirit from the equation?

Basically, there’d be nobody to open our eyes to the Word or apply Christ’s work to us, so we’d be unregenerate and darkened in our thoughts.

Salvation and grace were decreed by the Father and were wrought for us by Christ, but are only wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit both applies it to us and perfects it in us.

The question “what would our lives look like without the Spirit” thus translates into “what would our lives look different if we were never given God’s grace?”

The first question sounds nebulous, it sounds difficult to pin down, but the second question is much easier for us to answer in our lives. So the next time you’re wondering what difference the Holy Spirit makes, just wonder what it would have been like if you’d never seen God’s grace.

[For a more in-depth treatment of this subject, check out ‘The Holy Spirit in the Reformed Tradition’.]



A member of the Society of Christian Philosophers and the American Chesterton Society. Ordained PCA. MDiv.

May or may not be a Time Lord.

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