God the Holy Spirit

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another [Comforter], that He may abide with you forever. (JOH 14:15,16)

    1. This is the third in a series of three sermons on the subject of the doctrine of the Lord.
      1. In this sermon we are going to consider the nature and effect of the Holy Spirit, and the text was chosen to illustrate what, in the Lord’s own words, the function of the Holy Spirit is: to help and comfort us in the trials and temptations of our life on earth.
      2. In the days before the crucifixion and resurrection, the Lord repeatedly tried to warn the disciples about what was about to happen, and to prepare them to face life without Him after He had completed the process of Glorification. He worried that without His presence to calm and reassure them, they would drift away and return to their former occupations
        1. (which in fact they did — until He appeared to them and gave them new direction. See JOH 21).
      3. In that context, it appears that the Lord’s words to His disciples as recorded in the 14th chapter of John are intended to comfort them as He warns them of His impending departure by promising that He will give them something just as good to support and protect them in their efforts to spread the gospel.
      4. The Divine Human, about to glorified and reunited with the Father, cannot any longer be present in the world, except as it exists in the minds of those who read the descriptions of His life and deeds in the gospels. The Divine Truth itself is no longer in the world, for its use is completed, but the effect of the Divine Truth continues: and that is the Holy Spirit, that which is the spiritual comfort for all those who come to know Jesus through the record of the gospels.
    2. During the Easter season, we celebrate the Resurrection, which was the sign that the Lord promised,
      1. the sign of the Prophet Jonah
        1. Dead for three days, then returned to life.
      2. The sign that the twin objectives of Redemption and Glorification were completed
      3. As the Human was made Divine and was leaving the World of men
        1. A New form of the Divine Truth was provided in its place.
        2. Not really new, as the Spirit of Holiness had operated through the prophets although not in quite the same way.
          1. Throughout the Old Testament, the Hebrew actually says “Spirit of Holiness.” Christian translators, not realizing that there is an important difference, translated this to “Holy Spirit” for consistency with the translation of the Greek in the New Testament, and to reflect their own doctrine that the Holy Spirit was one person in a Divine Trinity that had always existed (See TCR 158).
            1. However, the Holy Spirit was capable of being received in a new way
              1. Because of the teaching of Jesus — so the name was changed
    3. In past weeks we have considered aspects of the Divine Itself
      1. Not persons, as the idea of person only serves to confuse:
        1. TCR 183 From the doctrine of three Divine persons from eternity, which in itself is the head of all the doctrinals in the Christian churches, there have arisen many ideas of God that are unbecoming and unworthy of the Christian world, which, on the subject of God and His oneness ought to be and might be a light to all peoples and nations in the four quarters of the globe. All who dwell outside the Christian church, both Mohammedans and Jews, and besides these the Gentiles of every cult, are averse to Christianity solely on account of its belief in three Gods. This its propagandists know; and therefore they are very cautious about divulging the doctrine of a trinity of persons as it is taught in the Nicene and Athanasian creeds; for if they did they would be shunned and ridiculed.
      2. Father = Divine Love Itself: The Love that longed for others whom it could make happy and be conjoined with to eternity.
      3. Son = Divine Truth Itself: The wisdom that could create the means by which that Love could ultimate itself and become the natural universe in an orderly way.
      4. Holy Spirit = Divine Truth Proceeding: The effect that the Divine has on a person.
        1. The Holy Spirit, strictly speaking, signifies the Divine Truth, thus also the Word; and in this sense the Lord Himself is also the Holy Spirit.
        2. To differentiate between the Divine Human and the Holy Spirit is like trying to differentiate between a person and that person’s effect on you. How do you actually know a person except through his effect on you? It could be argued that you never really know the person, you only “know” how you perceive that person.
        3. Many little children only see their minister in church, so they innocently confuse him with “the Lord.” As they grow older and get to know him through school and Society picnics and so forth, the confusion is easily and quickly cleared up.
        4. If we were invited to join some famous person at a family picnic, we would probably see quite a different person than we see giving speeches on the TV news – because we all present ourselves differently according to the circumstances.
          1. We read the Word, or learn the truth, and it has an effect on us –
            1. Reformation, Regeneration, Renewal, Vivification, Sanctification, Justification. These are the virtues which the Lord makes effective in those who believe on Him, and who adapt and prepare themselves to receive Him and become His dwelling-place.
            2. This is brought about by means of the Divine Truth, and in the case of Christians, by means of the Word, as this is the only means by which a man approaches the Lord, and into which the Lord enters.
            3. The Lord cannot be directly conjoined with finite man, but He can be joined with those things that are in man that are from Himself, that is, with the truths of the Word.
            4. Therefore, while it is true that one truth, lived conscientiously, may be enough to save you, the more truths from the Word you have, the more closely the Lord can be conjoined to you, and the more heavenly delight you will feel because you will be, as to your spirit, closer to heaven.
        5. With the Clergy
          1. Enlightenment and instruction
            1. The clergy in particular receive enlightenment and instruction because these relate to their office. … But they ought to be very careful not to persuade themselves that the zeal which takes hold of many when preaching is the Divine operation in their hearts.
            2. How can we tell the difference between the Holy spirit and Zeal or Enthusiasm?
              1. The Lord promises the Holy Spirit to those who keep His commandments, no others
              2. These things are possible only with those who believe in the Lord. Those who do not believe in the Lord will not seek His help.
              3. Those who keep the commandments for the sake of appearance, for the sake of deceiving others into thinking that they are better than they really are, are not really keeping them at all, but rather using external good as a cover for their internal evils.
              4. Only those who do what is good because they believe it is what the Lord wants them to do are capable of actually doing saving good.
              5. Then there is a marriage of good and truth within them, and the Lord can approach that genuine good. The good is the Father with us, the truth is the Son with us, and the uses we perform, the effect our good has on the neighbor, is the Holy Spirit with us. As it says in JOH 14:23, If anyone loves {the FATHER} Me, he will keep My word {the SON}; and My Father will love him, and We {all Divine aspects} will come to him and make Our home with him {the gift of the HOLY SPIRIT}.
    1. As little children, we first learn that God is our Heavenly Father
      1. All powerful, the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
      2. He then draws near to us in the stories of the New Testament
        1. And we can come to know and love Him as a person, the Good Shepherd
        2. And because we know and love Him, we seek to obey His commandments
        3. We shun evils because they are sins against Him
    1. As we shun evils, He enters our Hearts as the Holy Spirit
      1. And, as it were, makes us holy.
    2. We celebrate Easter as the symbol of the unification of these three aspect of God
      1. Into one Lord, the Lord God Jesus Christ.

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. (DAN 7:13,l4) AMEN.

1st Lesson: JOH 14:15-26

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. {16} “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever; {17} “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. {18} “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. {19} “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. {20} “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. {21} “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” {22} Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” {23} Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. {24} “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. {25} “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. {26} “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

2nd Lesson: JOH 20:1-23

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. {2} Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” {3} Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. {4} So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. {5} And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. {6} Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, {7} and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. {8} Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. {9} For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. {10} Then the disciples went away again to their own homes. {11} But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. {12} And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. {13} Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” {14} Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. {15} Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” {16} Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). {17} Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” {18} Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. {19} Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” {20} When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. {21} So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” {22} And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. {23} “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

3rd Lesson: TCR 138

All those of the clerical order who have cherished any right idea of the Lord our Savior, when they enter the spiritual world (which generally takes place on the third day after death), receive instruction at first about the Divine trinity, and particularly about the Holy Spirit, that it is not a God by itself, but that the Divine operation proceeding from the one and omnipresent God is what is meant in the Word by the Holy Spirit. They are thus particularly instructed about this, because very many enthusiasts after death fall into the insane fantasy that they themselves are the Holy Spirit; also because many belonging to the church who had believed while in the world that the Holy Spirit spoke through them, terrify others with the words of the Lord in Matthew (xii. 31,32), claiming that to speak against what the Holy Spirit has inspired into them is the unpardonable sin.

Those who after instruction relinquish the belief that the Holy Spirit is a God by itself are then taught that the unity of God is not divided into three persons, each one of whom is singly God and Lord, according to the Athanasian creed; but that the Divine trinity is in the Lord the Savior, like the soul, the body, and the proceeding energy in every man. After this they are prepared for receiving the faith of the new heaven; and when so prepared a way is opened for them to a society in heaven where a like faith prevails, and an abode is given them among brethren, with whom they are to live in blessedness to eternity.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

God the Redeemer

An Extemporaneous Sermon by Rev. James P. Cooper

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (LUK 21:27,28)

  1. As we celebrate the Easter season, it is fitting that we reflect on the doctrine of the Lord.
    1. Last week, in the first of a series of three sermons on the subject of the Holy Trinity, we considered that aspect or quality of God which we call the “Father.”
      1. It was shown how the “Father” represents the Divine Itself, the Divine Love which is the source of all things in the universe, the love which creates and sustains all life, and the love for the salvation of the Human race which was embodied in Jesus Christ as the soul in the body.
      2. It is that embodiment of the Divine Love which we are to consider today. In the same way that we are unable to communicate love directly to one another, but must express it through words and actions, so God, who is in Himself Divine Love Itself, must but that love into some form so that it can be communicated to mankind.
  2. Main Body
    1. The Son Born From Eternity
      1. The former Christian Churches, when talking about the Trinity, refer to the Son born from Eternity. As it is their doctrine that there are three distinct persons who somehow are at the same time one person, they talk about the “Son,” Jesus Christ, as if He were always present in Heaven in the human form.
      2. However, in one sense the “Son” has existed from eternity. The Father is the Divine Love, and the Son is the Divine Truth, the form by which the Divine Love expresses itself, the means by which God communicates to the human race.
      3. The Word tells us that from the very beginning, God has made every effort to teach mankind what was expected of them if they were to prepare themselves for heaven. Throughout the Old Testament it is recorded that God appeared to many different men, and spoke to them. Sometimes He brought words of comfort, as when he promised Abraham that he would become the father of a great nation; sometimes He gave laws, as when spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai; and later in the history of the Jewish church, He often sent words of warning and a call to repentance through many different prophets.
      4. It is not difficult to look at the record of scripture and see that while the Lord was very close to mankind at the beginning (And [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day….[GEN 3:8]), but that over time He became more distant. He appeared to Jacob only in dreams. The kings of Israel and Judah only heard Him speak through the prophets. Finally, there was the “Great Silence” where no one in Israel or Judah heard His voice for over 500 years until the angel appeared to Zacharius to announce that He was coming in person.
      5. Was it the Lord who had withdrawn from His people? Or was it that the people had become so immersed in the loves of self and the world that they retreated from the Lord, that they didn’t want to hear His voice, because they knew that He would want them to stop their evil ways — and they loved their evils.
      6. Of course, that is what had happened. The people had withdrawn so far into their own evils, hell had becomes such a strong influence in the world, that in order for the Divine Love to reach out and touch them, and save them, it had to accommodate itself to the extent of actually taking on the Human form. Literally, as John so succinctly said, the Word became flesh.
    2. The Jewish Church was a remnant of the Ancient Church
      1. It was a representative of a Church
        1. Because right from the beginning they were not interested in internal things
        2. In fact, because they denied that internal things even existed, but they had such reverence for the things of the world, the letter of the Word was protected by them, and they never even suspected the internal sense that lay hidden within, so it was safer with them than with any other people.
    3. Idolatry was always a problem with them
      1. Because of their Babylonian heritage
      2. Because they lived in the midst of it
      3. Because it was incredibly attractive
    4. They missed the point of scripture
      1. And so adulterated it
    5. The twin falsities of idolatry (the Lord) and falsity (the Word)
      1. Made them spiritually distant from God. In the spiritual world, space and time are not fixed as they are in the world of nature. There, distance is a function of love. We use the concept whenever we say that someone is a “close” friend. We don’t mean that he is nearby, we mean that he shares many of our affections and ideas — he enjoys the same things that we enjoy.
      2. It is a principle of spiritual association that the Infinite cannot be conjoined with what is finite. That means that the Lord cannot really every be conjoined with a human being. On the other hand, He has created us in such a way that we can, if we choose, learn truth from the Word, and through conscientious effort, come to love it. If this happens, then we have made good and truth our own. Good and truth are from and of the Lord, and He can then conjoin Himself with those things that are His in us.
      3. What this means is that the more truth we learn from the Word, and the more we love to be useful in this world, the closer the Lord can draw near to us. By the same token, the more we choose to pervert the truth to our own agenda, the more we choose to do things that benefit only ourselves, the farther we push Him away from us. Our relationship, our closeness to the Lord is determined by the choices we make during our lives in this world.
    6. The World of Spirits was filling up with people who appeared innocent
      1. But inwardly were evil
      2. There were so many that they became like an invading army
      3. The spiritual spheres were overwhelming
      4. Made it necessary for the Lord to come into the world to restore the truth
    7. The sphere of evil became so powerful that the eternal life of everyone was at risk
  3. In Luke 21 the Lord answered their question as to what would be the sign that the coming judgment on the Church was about to take place.
    1. He described all kinds of wars and natural disasters, and ended by saying that then He would be seen coming “in a cloud with power and great glory” (21:27) He then says that when these things happen, that people should lift up their heads, because “your redemption draws near.”
    2. What He has described is the first step in redemption. Redemption can be defined as restoring spiritual freedom to all people in the world by restraining and ordering the influences of hell.
    3. The first part of the lesson, the wars and disasters, is a description of the states of disorder in the spiritual world that made it necessary for the Lord to come into the world in the first place. As he admitted each hell into His person, there were great battles that were seen by those in the spiritual world as if armies of devils were attacking the spiritual Jerusalem.
    4. The second part then describes the ordering that will take place when the Lord conquers and through His presence and power restores spiritual order, when He conquers hell by His own power. The Word tells us that when the Lord appears, ready for battle, that we should lift up our heads and watch, for victory – redemption – is at hand.
    5. In the 24th chapter of Luke, we have a marvelous insight into what the Lord’s disciples thought about Him.
      1. Two of the disciples are walking together to Emmaus the day of the resurrection which they have only heard about from the women who went early to the tomb. The Lord joins them as they walk. They do not recognize Him, because he “restrained” their eyes, and He asks them why they are sad. They proceed to tell Him about the great prophet that had been crucified by the chief priests. They are upset about this because they “were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (24:21)
      2. The Lord’s response to them neatly ties redemption to glorification. They say that they wished He had been the redeemer and He answers “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (24:26) And then He went on to explain to them, opening the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing them the spiritual sense that lies within the letter, and teaching how that the only way that He could have Redeemed Israel was not through civil war or revolution, but by suffering temptations, even to that of the cross, and so drawing ever closer to the Divine within, eventually glorifying the Human so that it became one with the Divine Itself, the Father.
  4. . The Writings of the New Church teach that the Lord came into the world for two reasons: Redemption and Glorification.
    1. Redemption
      1. Just as the problem that caused the Lord to take on the Human developed over a long period, so redemption was not an instantaneous act, but a process that the Lord was engaged in throughout His entire life in the world.
      2. He came because the hells were overflowing into the world of spirits and even into heaven, creating a situation where people were no longer spiritually free. In order to save us, in order to return the human race to a circumstance where they would be spiritually free, the Lord had to met, be tempted by, and overcome every society of hell; He had to be tempted by every evil desire that men had ever conceived.
      3. Each time He overcame a temptation, another hell was brought back into order, and people in both the spiritual and natural worlds became a little more free. Finally, when He overcame the temptation to come down off the cross and instead allowed the human body to die, the process of redemption was completed, and we were saved because the hold of hell had been broken; we would only be led into evil if we ourselves wished it.
    2. Glorification
      1. Through the process of Redemption, the Lord also Glorified His human.
      2. As before said, in spiritual terms, “closeness” has to do with similarity of loves. Therefore, when the Lord took on the human form, He took on with it all the failings and frailties that were passed on to him through Mary’s heredity. These inclinations to evil made Him feel distant from the Divine Love within, the Father.
      3. He felt the same confusion we feel when what we are thinking about is very different from what we know we should be doing, or the anxiety we feel when faced with a difficult moral decision. It seems as if there are two sides to our minds, and they draw far apart as they fight over the course of action.
      4. It was in these times of confusion, when He was unsure about which form His love should best take, that He prayed to the Father as if to another, just as we, in times of trouble, ask ourselves, “What should I do?”
      5. Throughout His time in the world, He was fighting against and conquering the hells. As each of those hells were conquered, as each step in the process was completed, the Lord felt His power grow, felt His return to unity within Himself, until finally, with the temptation on the cross, there was no longer any hereditary inclinations to evil within Him: He had conquered them all, and there was no longer anything separating Him from the Divine within. Union was achieved. We call it glorification, for the Human which the Lord took on had been purified and made holy.
    3. Once again the Lord is the Word
      1. Having restored spiritual freedom, and having put off all those inclinations to evil that He inherited from the human body He received from Mary, He had accomplished what He set out to do.
      2. As He had been present with the human race by means of the Word of the Old Testament before the incarnation, so once again it was His intention to be present with His people by means of the Word, rather than in a physical form. And so, He inspired several of His disciples to write out the account of their experiences with Him so that others, like us, could share in the wonder of having God Himself walking among us and “opening the scriptures.” His presence with us now, as the internal sense of the Word, is the aspect or quality of the Divine that we call the Holy Spirit, and which will be the subject of the sermon in two weeks.

It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (ACT 1:7,8) Amen.

AC 1893 There are in every man an internal man, a rational man that is intermediate, and an external, which is properly called the natural man.

With the Lord these were represented by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the internal man by Abraham, the rational by Isaac, and the natural by Jacob.

The internal man in the Lord was Jehovah Himself, for He was conceived of Jehovah; on this account He so often called Him His “Father,” and in the Word He is called the “Only-begotten of God,” and the only “Son of God.”

[2] The Divine Rational itself is represented by Isaac; but the first rational before it was made Divine, by Ishmael; and therefore that “Sarai, Abram’s wife, did not bear unto him” here signifies that hitherto there was no Divine rational.

As before said, the Lord was born as are other men, and as regards all that He drew from Mary the mother He was like other men; and as the rational is formed by means of knowledges (scientifica et cognitiones), which enter through things of the external senses, or those of the external man, therefore His first rational was born as with any other man; but as by His own power He made Divine all the human things that appertained to Him, so did He also make the rational Divine. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2005 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009