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STUDY ONE: THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD

© Rosemary Bardsley 2009

 A. The Holy Spirit is a divine person within the Trinity

The Bible assumes that the Holy Spirit shares with God the Father and God the Son in eternal, personal deity. He, along with the Father and the Son, is God - one of the three persons in the three-persons-in-one-God whom the Christian church describes as a ‘trinity’: one God, existing as three distinct persons, all equally God, all equally eternal, all equally present and active at the same time.

Note: We must be aware here that there is a belief in some churches and some cults that God is only one divine person, who shows himself as either the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit at any given point of time.

But the Bible outlaws any such unitarian concept of God. We are not permitted to understand Father, Son and Spirit as three alternate modes or manifestations or expressions of God. Rather, the biblical concept is that at any given point in time God is all three, that God exists in a permanent, eternal, trinity. Father, Son and Spirit each eternally present, each eternally existing in relationship with the other.

Think carefully about what these verses say. In what way do they reveal the existence of Father, Son and Spirit as three distinct divine persons?

Matthew 3:16-17

 

 

 

Matthew 28:19

 

 

 

John 14:16,17

 

 

 

Acts 5:3-4,9

 

 

 

Romans 8:16-17

 

 

 

Romans 15:30

 

 

 

2Corinthians 1:21-22

 

 

 

1Peter 1:2

 

 

 

 These verses obviously understand that there is a distinction between Father, Son and Spirit. All are equally and fully God, but each has a distinct individual identity.

 But, as with the Father and the Son, so here with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is both this clear distinction, and also an essential unity. This essential unity is obvious in what Jesus said when he promised to send the Spirit to his disciples when he returned to the Father:

John 14:16-18: ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’

John 14:21: ‘He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’

John 14:23: ‘… we will come to him and make our home with him.’

John 16:7: ‘It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.’

In these verses:

 To have one is to also have the other two.

 Thus we have within the Trinity:

 Note: This essential unity of Father, Son and Spirit raises serious issues with the division created between the Son and the Spirit in two lines of teaching within the Christian church: [1] the ‘second blessing’ movement which taught the reception/baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second experience distinct from conversion, and [2] the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement which also teaches the reception/baptism of the Spirit as a second experience distinct from conversion.

 It is a theological and trinitarian impossibility to have received Jesus Christ and not to have received his Spirit. Such a concept fails to acknowledge the unity and equality of the three persons of the Trinity, and in doing so effectively denies the full deity of both the Son and the Spirit. [The delayed timing of the original baptism of the Spirit until Pentecost is discussed in a later study in this series.]

A.1 The Holy Spirit is a person

While most Christians understand clearly that the Father and the Son are persons, that is, personal beings with the characteristics of personhood such as verbal communication, thought, emotions and will, it does not seem to be so clear cut or easy to accept that the Holy Spirit is actually a divine person, not just a divine influence, power or force.

That the Holy Spirit is indeed a person, with the characteristics of personhood is evident in the way the Scripture speaks of him.

How do these texts reveal that the Holy Spirit is a person, not just an influence, power or force?

2Samuel 23:2

 

 

Isaiah 63:10

 

 

Micah 2:7

 

 

Ephesians 4:30

 

 

B. The names of the Holy Spirit

The Bible uses many names or titles to refer to God, to refer to the Son, and also to refer to the Holy Spirit. When we look at these names or titles our understanding of God is expanded. The names reveal the nature and the character of God, in this case, the nature and character of the Holy Spirit.

From the scriptures below list the names of the Holy Spirit. What do these names teach you about the Holy Spirit? [Focus only on the names, descriptive titles, and/or on adjectives describing those names, not on anything else the verse says about the Spirit.]

Genesis 1:2

 

 

Judges 3:10

 

 

Nehemiah 9:20

 

 

Psalm 51:11

 

 

Isaiah 11:2

[4 names/titles]

 

 

 

Isaiah 30:1

 

 

Matthew 10:20

 

 

John 14:16

 

 

John 14:17

 

 

Romans 1:4

 

 

Romans 8:2

 

 

Romans 8:9,14

[2 in verse 9]

 

Romans 8:15

 

 

1Cor 6:11

 

 

2Cor 3:3

 

 

Galatians 4:6

 

 

Ephesians 4:30

 

 

Philippians 1:19

 

 

Hebrews 9:14

 

 

Hebrews 10:29

 

 

1Peter 1:11

 

 

1Peter 4:14

 

 

 

C. The Holy Spirit in creation

The Bible identifies the Holy Spirit as active in creating and sustaining the universe:

Genesis 1:2: ‘… the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’

Psalm 104:30: ‘When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.’

Job 26:13: ‘By his breath [Hebrew = ruach – Spirit] the skies became fair …’

Here we understand that the Holy Spirit is actively involved in creation, and also in sustaining the earth. This creative activity of the Spirit automatically identifies the Spirit as God, for the Bible is adamant that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. The equation is extremely simple:

 

D. The Holy Spirit and revelation

God reveals himself in three distinct ways, or in three different places:

What are the three ways [or places] in which God reveals himself?

Psalm 19:1-4

Romans 1:19-20

 

Zechariah 7:12

John 5:37-47

1Timothy 3:16

 

John 1:18

John 14:7-9

 

The Bible makes it very clear that the Holy Spirit is involved in this three-fold revelation.

 

D.1 The Holy Spirit and the Scripture

The Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible to speak and to record the Word of God. They did not speak on their own account or by their own initiative; indeed, some of them were the reluctant and unwilling instruments of God. 

What is the relationship between the Spirit of God and the Word of God?

2Samuel 23:2

 

 

2Chronicles 24:20

 

 

Nehemiah 9:20,30

 

 

Isaiah 48:1

 

 

Isaiah 59:21

 

 

Isaiah 61:1

 

 

Ezekiel 2:2,7

 

 

Ezekiel 3:24,27

 

 

Ezekiel 11:5

 

 

Zechariah 7:12

 

 

Mark 12:36:

 

 

Acts 1:16

 

 

Acts 8:25ff

 

 

Acts 28:25f

 

 

Hebrews 3:7-10

 

 

Hebrews 9:8

 

 

Hebrews 10:15-17

 

 

1Peter 1:11

 

 

2Peter 1:19-21

 

 

We can add two further verses here:

Acts 7:51: in which Stephen refers to the Jews’ historical rejection of the prophets and their messages as rejection of the Holy Spirit. 

Ephesians 3:5: where Paul teaches that Holy Spirit had now revealed to the New Testament apostles and prophets the hidden meaning of the Old Testament. 

D.2 The Holy Spirit and our personal knowledge of God

Not only was the Holy Spirit involved in providing God’s self-revelation, it is also the Holy Spirit who applies that revelation to the individual human heart, so that we may grasp and understand that knowledge of God available in creation, in Scripture and in Jesus Christ.

Without this operation of the Spirit of God in the individual human heart we would forever miss, or misinterpret, the revelation that is there.

Read 1Corinthians 2:6-16. Make a list of everything Paul teaches here about the involvement of the Holy Spirit in getting us to know and understand God’s truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we read 1Corinthians 2:6-16 we learn that, left to ourselves we cannot understand God’s truth, God’s ‘secret wisdom’. That is, we cannot understand God’s age-long mystery: the truth about Jesus Christ and the salvation God grants to us through Christ’s crucifixion. Left to ourselves, we would not even think of the truth of the Gospel, it is so grand and so glorious that it wouldn’t even enter our heads as a possibility. ‘But,’ says Paul, ‘God has revealed it to us by his Spirit’ [1Corinthians 2:10].

Paul teaches us,

The fact that you and I know Jesus Christ, the fact that you and I know and understand what Christ did for us on the cross, is clearly the result of the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.

This revelatory role of the Spirit is also taught by Jesus Christ:

John 15:26: ‘When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.’

John 16:13: ‘But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.’ 

E. The Holy Spirit and Judgment

The Scripture teaches that God is the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25], and that God has delegated the authority to judge to Jesus Christ [John 5:22], who, when he returns, comes as judge [Jude 14-15]. The Scripture also teaches us that the Holy Spirit is involved in judgment –

E.1 Genesis 6:3

In a context where wickedness saturated the earth [6:5] God said ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever …’ where ‘contend’ translates the Hebrew ‘deen’ which means to rule, specifically to rule in terms of judgment, and the execution of judgment. Hence the KJV translated this word ‘strive’. Here we see that it is the Spirit of God who confronts humans with the reality of their sin and its consequent judgment. We also learn from this verse that this striving of the Spirit of God that impacts against the human will not continue forever; there is therefore an urgency to repent now, immediately, in response to the Spirit’s conviction. There is a time for everyone when God says ‘Enough is enough. It is time for the judgment to fall.’

E.2 2Thessalonians 2:7

This verse speaks of ‘the one who now holds it back’ – that is, the One who, when Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, was holding back ‘the secret power of lawlessness’ and ‘the lawless one’ [v8]. Various conservative biblical scholars have identified this ‘one’ who restrained evil as the Holy Spirit.  If this interpretation is correct, then we have here a reference similar to that in Genesis 6:3, teaching us that the Holy Spirit is actively impressing people with the wrongness of sin, and, therefore, restraining evil. A time will come when the Holy Spirit ceases to confront man with his judgment and condemnation, and, therefore, ceases to thus restrain the evil done by man.

Although the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, there is a similar concept in Romans 1:18-32, where constant human rejection of the word of God results in God giving people up. In this passage we see God’s repeated self revelation and the repeated human rejection or corruption of that revelation. Three times in this terrible passage we read that God gave them up [verses 24, 26 & 28], that is, that God left them to their own choices, to their ignorance and sin which they preferred above his revealed truth.

When the Holy Spirit of God ceases to act in this role of Judge, when he ceases to expose our sin and convict us of our sin, it is then that we see his most terrible judgment of all: that he leaves us alone in our sin and its consequences; he leaves us alone to face the final judgment.

E.3 John 16:7-11

This exposing, convicting role of the Spirit is also taught by Jesus Christ.

Jesus said:

John 16:7-11: ‘…I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, … and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.’

Here we see that the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world is exactly the opposite of his action in the believer:

On the one hand, to the believer, he is the ‘Counsellor’ – the legal helper who befriends us and, by teaching us of Christ, assists and encourages us to rest in our acquittal from all guilt by the substitutionary, sin-bearing death of Christ. The Holy Spirit is, in this way, our legal defence. Similarly, as Paul teaches in Romans 8:16 the Holy Spirit testifies that we are God’s children, that is, that we are no longer the objects of God’s wrath and judgment. See also Galatians 4:6.

On the other hand, to ‘the world’, [and this is one of the few places where the Holy Spirit’s specific activity towards the unbeliever is clearly mentioned], the Holy Spirit has the role of the legal prosecutor. He convicts the world of guilt from three perspectives: from the perspective of sin; from the perspective of righteousness; and from the perspective of judgment.

Guilt ‘…in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me’:

Those who believe in Christ never again bear the guilt of their sin: Christ bore it for us; it was nailed to his cross, and he took the full penalty there [Colossians 2:14; 1Peter 2:24]. Those who do not believe in Christ still carry the guilt of their sin [John 8:24]. They stand ‘guilty’ in the presence of God so long as they do not believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit exposes and identifies this guilt. Indeed, unless the Holy Spirit convicts them of this guilt in respect to the core sin of unbelief, they will never come to genuine faith and repentance.

Guilt ‘… in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer’

Those who believe in Christ never again have to bear the guilt of their own legal disqualification [lack of righteousness] in the presence of God: they have been clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ [Romans 3:21-24; Philippians 3:7-0]. The return of Christ to the Father, after his death and resurrection, affirms his perfect righteousness, and exposes the sheer inadequacy of all human attempts to secure their own righteousness. By Christ’s righteousness all of our righteousness is exposed as filthy rags. It is the Holy Spirit alone who convinces/convicts the world that by its own ‘righteousness’ it can only be declared ‘guilty’, never ‘acquitted’, and thus drives them to accept the free gift of the righteousness of Christ.

Guilt ‘… in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world stands condemned.’

Those who believe in Christ never have to bear the just judgment of God: in Christ they have been removed forever from the realm of condemnation [John 5:24; 8:1]. The Holy Spirit convicts the world that it is guilty, and therefore under the judgment of God. This is evident in the defeat of Satan in and by the cross of Christ, by which all of Satan’s lies and deceptions are exposed. God is proved to be God, and Satan and his agenda stand condemned by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The world, which aligns with Satan, is also thus condemned. This truth is made known to the world by the Holy Spirit.

[This exposure of the world’s guilt in these three areas is perhaps, at least in part, the reason why unbelievers feel uneasy, even antagonistic, in the presence of believers. The very fact that someone actually believes in Christ, believes his claims about his divine identity, and believes what the Scripture teaches about his death and resurrection, exposes the guilt of the unbeliever, exposes his unbelief. Every Christian believer stands as a silent witness that the Holy Spirit is right, and we humans are wrong.]

 

E.4 Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:16-17

These verses contain a possible additional reference associating the Holy Spirit and judgment. John states that when Jesus comes he will baptize ‘with the Holy Spirit and with fire’. Fire is commonly a reference to judgment. That judgment is in John’s mind here is indicated by his next words: ‘His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ It is obviously Jesus who executes this judgment, but the way he does it is by baptizing with the Holy Spirit. We must also note the perspective of cleansing which is associated with this judgment, and potentially included in the meaning of these verses by the fact that they are speaking of baptism. See also Isaiah 4:4, where cleansing, judgment, the Spirit and fire are all mentioned.

SUMMARY:

The Holy Spirit is God – co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son, and like them a personal being, not a non-personal manifestation, force or power.

This deity of the Holy Spirit is evident in the teaching of Jesus Christ, from the names attributed to the Holy Spirit in the Scripture, and from the involvement of the Holy Spirit in creation, revelation and judgment. As we will see in subsequent studies, the full deity and real personality of the Holy Spirit is also demonstrated in the Holy Spirit’s relationship with Jesus Christ, by his role in our salvation, and by his present relationship with every believer.