by Michael Horton, adapted from his new book, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life.
What we meet in the unfolding biblical drama is not merely three “personas” but three concrete persons; not just three roles, but three actors. We encounter the Father as the origin of creation, redemption, and consummation, the Son as the mediator, and the Spirit as the one who brings every work to completion.
There are various ways of formulating this mystery:
1. The Son is the Father’s image; the Spirit is the bond of love between them. Consequently, in every external work of the Godhead the Father is the source, the Son is the mediator, and the Spirit is the consummator. Creation exists from the Father, in the Son, by the power of the Spirit; in the new creation Christ is the head while the Spirit is the one who unites the members to him and renews them according to Christ’s image to the glory of the Father.
2. Or we can say that the Father works for us, the Son works among us, and the Spirit works within us.
3. God’s works, both of creation and new creation, are typically described in Scripture as performed through speech, so we may also say it this way: Just as the Son is the Word of the Father and the Father (or the Father and the Son) breathes out the Spirit, all of the Father’s speech in the Son brings about its intended effect because of the perfecting agency of the Spirit. We hear the voice of the Father, but we behold God himself in the face of Christ. Jesus could even tell Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). But the Spirit is the one who brings about this recognition within us, as Jesus goes on to point out so clearly in the following verses (vv. 15–27). The Trinitarian reference is implied in 2 Corinthians 4:6: “For God [the Father], who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts [by the Spirit] to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
4. In the covenant of grace, the Father is the promise maker (Heb 6:13), the Son is the promise (2 Cor 1:20), and the Spirit brings about within us the “amen!” of faith (1 Cor 12:13).
5. Athanasius observed that “while the Father is fountain, and the Son is called river, we are said to drink of the Spirit.”
For it is written that “we have all been given to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). But when we are given to drink of the Spirit, we drink of Christ; for “they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ” (1 Cor 10:4). . . . But when we are made alive in the Spirit, Christ himself is said to live in us: “I have been crucified with Christ,” it says, “I live, yet it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19–20).
It is not different works but different roles in every work that the divine persons perform. This can be something like a paradigm shift not only in our thinking but in our worship, living, and mission. As we begin to discern the Spirit’s distinctive role across the whole canvas of biblical revelation, we begin to recognize his distinctive role in our own lives.
Again, for emphasis: We will have a very narrow vision of the Spirit’s person and work if we identify him only with specific works (like regeneration and spiritual gifts) instead of recognizing the specific way he works in every divine operation.
In creation, redemption, and the consummation, the Spirit is the life-giver.