It is in these words, I believe, that we have the key to the New Testament doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; He is sent by Christ; He comes to continue the work of Christ. He is, as one writer has it, Christ’s alter ego, or, as it was said long ago, Christ’s “Vicar,” or substitute, on the earth. When, therefore, we speak of the presence of the Spirit, what we mean, or what we ought to mean, is the spiritual presence of Christ. In the Holy Spirit Christ Himself is present, wherever, as He said, two or three are gathered together in His name. In the Holy Spirit, given to be with us for ever, He makes good to His disciples the great word of His promise, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” This is the fact continually to be kept in mind—the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ; for, if this be forgotten, then, as all experience shows, either the doctrine is wholly ignored, or it is made the subject of that vague, unreal way of speaking, which, alas! is so often the bane of spiritual truth.
At the same time, what has been said must not be interpreted so as to suggest that the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal influence. On the contrary, the words of our Lord quoted above distinctly imply what we call “personality,” and a personality separate from His own. If all that Jesus really meant to teach was that He would manifest His own invisible presence to His disciples by spiritual influences, we can only conclude that His words have been tampered with; as they stand, it is impossible that this should exhaust their meaning. To teach, to bear witness, to guide, to bring to remembrance, to declare the things that are to come,—these are the acts, not of a Power, but of a Person; and all these things, Christ said, the Holy Spirit should do. Indeed, it is not easy to see how language could have been framed to set forth the idea of a Divine Person, separate alike from the Father and the Son, more explicitly than we find it in these chapters.
We turn now to the second part of our question: What is it that the Holy Spirit does for us? Christ’s teaching on the work of the Spirit may be gathered up under two heads: (1) His work in the Church; (2) His work in the world.
(1) When we speak of the Spirit’s work in the Church, it must be understood that the reference is to no particular ecclesiastical organization, but to the people of Christ generally, “the men and women in whom the spiritual work of Christ is going forward.” And among these the Holy Spirit works in two ways.