The Holy Spirit and Beauty
“Moses said to the people of Israel, ‘See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft’ ” (vv. 30–33).- Exodus 35:30–35
If you were to ask Christians to identify the chief works associated with the Holy Spirit, most of them would probably say that His chief works are to empower us for ministry and to sanctify us or make us holy. These answers are correct, but they are incomplete. When we as believers think about the work of the Holy Spirit, we commonly forget one of His most important works, and that is to equip people to create beauty.
Dr. R.C. Sproul frequently pointed out that the first people in Scripture described as being filled with the Spirit of God are the men tasked with designing and outfitting the tabernacle. One of the key passages is Exodus 35:30–35, where we read about Bezalel and Oholiab and how the Holy Spirit filled them to do their crafts and to teach others fine craftsmanship as well. In light of these facts, we may conclude that God has a particular concern for beauty and even for beauty in worship. Aesthetics must be important to God if He was willing to send His Spirit specifically to enable artisans to create a beautiful sanctuary for worship.
When we talk about beauty, we need to make a distinction between primary beauty and secondary beauty. Primary beauty refers to God Himself, who is the absolute standard of beauty. Psalm 27:4, for example, speaks of “the beauty of the LORD.” Beauty is defined by God Himself, and that which is beautiful reflects our Creator and His glory.
Secondary beauty is the beauty we see in creation. In the first instance, this beauty is imparted by God the Holy Spirit. Genesis 1:1–2 refers to the Spirit’s activity in creation, and so we can infer that the beauty of the flowers, the trees, the mountains, and so forth was worked into creation by the Spirit in full agreement with the Father and the Son. The Spirit did not work apart from the Father and Son in making creation beautiful, but as the works of God are undivided, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all worked out beauty in the universe. In this work, however, the Holy Spirit comes especially to the fore, just as the Son comes especially to the fore in the atonement, and the Father comes especially to the fore in planning redemption.
Besides working beauty into creation, God also made human beings in His image (Gen. 1:26–27). We have been made to imitate our Creator, and one of the ways we do that is by creating beauty. The Spirit gifts us with the ability to make beautiful things.
One of the ramifications of the Holy Spirit’s enabling people to create beauty is that the church can encourage artists to create beauty for the glory of God. We rightly prize the gifts of teaching and preaching, but we should also prize the gifts of those who can create beauty to God’s glory.
Passages for Further Study