Not being incarnate in our humanity, they cannot physically suffer and die. The Spirit and the Father were present with Jesus, each in their own non-incarnate way. Yes, we can say one leads. The Spirit perfects. But he perfects human beings with the perfection that is accomplished by Christ. The Spirit shares with us the holiness and the sanctification of Jesus in our humanity. The work of the Spirit is not separate from the work of the Son, but the Spirit does lead in dwelling in us now.
The Divine Persons are one in being and distinct in Person, not only in their internal and eternal being, but also in terms of what they do towards creation, in creation, redemption and consummation. Why do we get tripped up in this? I think there are a number of reasons, but one of them is that we tend to think of God in ways we think of ourselves. We start with ourselves and then try to get to our understanding of God. Think of how we usually distinguish ourselves from each other. I note: you have a different body. You do this but I do that. You live there but I live here.
I want X, but you want Y. The Father wants A and the Son wants B. They each have different jobs to do. We try to distinguish them from each other in the same way we distinguish ourselves. But God is not a creature like we are. Thinking that way would only work if God were a creature.
The essential way we have been given to distinguish between the Divine Persons is by means of their different names: the Father, the Son and he Holy Spirit. The different names reveal a difference of their Persons. That is also why we believe there are three, not four or two. We are given three names, not two or seven. They are not just arbitrary words, concepts, ideas, or conventional labels. So we address God in worship, in prayer, by means of these three names.
He uses these names in his relationship to the Father and Spirit and directs us to do so as well. Those names also represent and so reveal unique relationships. The Father has a different relationship with the Son than the Son has with the Father. And the Spirit has a different relationship to the Father than does the Son. The names identify and reveal to us unique relationships.
Following biblical teaching, we can also find distinct designations for the different relationships. Corresponding to the Father is the relationship of begetting to the Son. Begetting is the special term used to describe more particularly how the Son comes from the Father. The Father begets the Son. Begetting indicates a certain kind of relationship. In the early church they recognized that begetting is different from making.
What is made is of a different kind of thing than the maker. But what is begotten is of the identical kind of being. So we say that the Son is begotten, indicating a unique kind of relationship to the Father. The Son is distinct from the Father but of the identical kind of being, namely, divine, fully God. They each have a different relationship with each other, and that difference of relationship which is internal and eternal to God is what makes them personally distinct from one another. The unique names and relationships identify who the Persons are. They are who they are in relationship with each other.
Without the relationships with each other, they would not be who they are. They are not interchangeable. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father. Being the begetter and being the begotten one are different and not reversible. The Son has always been the begotten Son. The Father has always begotten the Son. The Son is eternally the Son, and the Father, eternally Father.
Among creatures these words include the idea of a time sequence. God is eternal and so, then, are the Divine Persons. The Father generates begets the Son from all eternity. There never was a time when the Son was not. The Son was always the begotten Son of the Father, which is to say the Son is eternally the Son and the Father is eternally the Father, begetting the Son. The discipline of theology is to discern where and how words when used to refer to God must be used differently from how they are used of creatures.
This task would be impossible if we did not have biblical revelation to lead us. Now what about the Spirit? We use a special word to talk about those relationships. The New Testament gives us a clue as to one word good to use. These words indicate unique and non-interchangeable relationship. The name and relationship indicate who the Spirit is. The Spirit would not be the Spirit without spirating from the Father and the Son. The relationship of the Spirit is essential to who the Spirit is and so to who the Triune God is. Along with the name, Holy Spirit, the word simply indicates that there is a unique kind of relationship of the Spirit with the Father and the Son, one that is different from the relationship of the Son to the Father.
With this unique relationship, the Spirit is not interchangeable with the other Persons. It means that the Holy Spirit has always been the Holy Spirit. We affirm in this way that God has always been a Trinity. There never was a time when God was not Triune. In summary then, the three Divine Persons eternally exist in absolutely unique relationships, and that is what is essential to their being distinct Persons. They have unique relations. Each one has a different relationship with the others. The Father is the Father, not the Son.
The Son is the Son, not the Father. In these ways we honor what we are given by Jesus and through Scripture as if what we are given is revelatory, as if God has actually fulfilled his will and desire to make himself known to us so that we now have accurate and faithful ways to speak about and know God. God is the Triune God. God is Father, Son and Spirit. The Father is the Father. The Son is the Son. The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit. What we are attempting to do is take what we are given in biblical revelation and see what understanding can come of it.
There will always be much more, and what we come up with can be further refined, corrected and sometimes even done away with. We do this seeking in fellowship with the rest of the church down through the ages for some additional guidance, inspiration and insight. The doctrine of appropriation held down through the ages is that the various acts of God towards creation can be appropriated to one or the other of the divine Persons. The Persons act as one. There is no temporal before and after in God between the Persons, and no separation of the Persons. They are one in being and one in act.
But the kind of oneness they have does not seem to rule out some kind of difference in their united contribution to those united acts as conveyed in biblical revelation taken as a whole. That would wrongly be assuming a temporal order, which is ruled out, as is any idea of the Divine Persons acting independently. God speaking creation into existence in Genesis gives the same sense that aligns with what is said in John 1 concerning the Son being the Word of God the Father. God the Father and the Word are united and distinct at the same time. The Father speaks—he speaks through his Word his Son.
The result is creation. In that way the more fundamental understandings of the Trinity are at least not undone. The doctrine requires careful use because it can be misunderstood. But God is not one and three beings; nor is he one and three Persons. We humans are created in the image of God, but God is not an image of us. Divine Persons are not exactly the same as human persons. If God was three persons exactly like we are, then God would be three beings, since human persons are separate beings.
We have to avoid projecting human ideas on God. In speaking of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as Divine not human Persons, we are affirming that these personal names and personal relationships between them reveal to us the reality of God. God knows himself as Father, Son and Spirit.
There are real and eternal relationships in God. Elsewhere in Scripture these relationships are also characterized as a mutual knowing, loving, glorifying and oneness. What we think about human persons in living, loving and holy relationship with each other does, to a certain degree, reflect the truth about God. God is more like a community of three human persons than like any other created thing. But God is not more like a single, lonely, isolated individual. Reflecting on the unity and distinction of the Divine Persons, some down through the ages have thought of the church as imaging the Trinity: one in Christ, yet many members.
But the church does not and cannot have the same kind of unity as do the three Divine Persons. Their unity is their oneness of being. Our unity cannot match that. The kind of unity that God has is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. It is a unity so unique that early church teachers eventually coined a word to represent that one-of-a-kind divine unity.
It means, most literally, to envelope one another or to make space for one another.
It has also been translated as mutually indwelling each other, or having a coinherence in each other, or in-existing in one another. It is also just what we see lived out in the Gospels as we watch and hear Jesus in his dynamic relationship with the Father and the Spirit. This unique unity has been also explained by saying that the whole of God, all three Persons, are present in each of the Persons. Each, though fully God in being, is distinct in Person so that there is a real relationship and exchange going on from all eternity between the three Divine Persons.
Everything we can say about the Father we can say about the Son and we can say about the Spirit except that they are not each other. Because they mutually indwell one another and so equally are God, sharing all the divine attributes together as one God. They have an absolutely unique kind of unity so that they are distinct in Divine Person but united in being. Nevertheless our words about God are important, as far as they go, in faithfully identifying who God is.
When carefully stated in the context of all of Scripture, they show us something significant about the kind of God this God is. They point to the fact that God has his being by being a fellowship, a communion of Divine Persons. Along with the biblical writers, we can sum up the quality of those relationships as all being forms of love. Begetting, being begotten and proceeding are all relationships of loving exchange.
It makes sense then that Jesus tells us that as the Father has loved him, so he loves us. And further, that as he has loved us, so we ought to love one another. No wonder then that the ways of the people of God can be comprehensively summed up in the two commands to love God and love neighbor. Those relationships, internal and eternal to God, are filled with holy loving. God is a fellowship kind of God—a communion kind of God. Bringing it all together, we can say the Father and Son have their fellowship and communion in the Spirit.
The Triune God is very different from a god who exists with no internal and eternal relationships, one in whom there is no exchange, no giving and receiving, in whom there is no reciprocity of knowing, loving and glorifying of one another. Such a god would be very different from the God we come to know through Jesus Christ, according to Scripture.
To summarize: the Christian God is a fellowship, a communion. God the Trinity has his being by being in relationships of holy loving. Those relationships are, in particular, eternally begetting, being begotten and proceeding—each a unique form of holy, loving exchange.
Those are the key words that we have to point to this amazing reality of who God is. We have to remember who the Spirit is. Those come afterwards. There was a time when nothing other than God existed and the Holy Spirit was perfectly happy being the Spirit of the Father and the Son. There was a time when there was no creation.
The being of the Spirit is being one with the Father and the Son. Having completed an introduction to Trinitarian doctrine, what can we go on to say about the Holy Spirit? In answer to the question, who is the Spirit? That means that whenever we speak of the Father and Son, or hear about them in the Scripture, since God is one in being, the Spirit is also involved in some way, whether we know it or not or explicitly say so.
The Spirit always has something to do with the Father and Son. And we probably should make it more explicit more often. Reference to the Son involves the Spirit and the other way around. So certainly a full understanding will always seek to grasp each of the divine Persons in their relationships with each other. This is particularly the case when the topic is the Holy Spirit. Or, How did Jesus become united to a human nature?
Or, How did God save us? Or, How does God perfect us? Or, How does God communicate his word and will to us? Or How do we receive the gifts and fruit of the Spirit or the help of the Spirit in prayer? The follow-up questions reveal why.
We want to know the mechanisms, the machinery. We want to know the chain of cause and effect. Somehow we have come to believe that simply identifying the agent responsible for what takes place does not constitute an intelligible answer. We are simply told who does something and that, in many cases, is the full extent of the explanation. Question: How? Answer: By the Holy Spirit! Did Jesus tell Nicodemus the mechanism of how one becomes born from above?
Did he offer him a technique? He explained that, because the Spirit works more like the wind, there can be no such kind of explanation given. Many of our questions, especially those regarding the Christian life, are answered simply by identifying the agency of the Holy Spirit. But we always seem to want more that involves some mechanism, technique or steps. We feel that there needs to be some combination of conditions filled in order to get the Spirit to work. On that path we can easily be tempted to start asking all kinds of questions. Some can mistakenly assume God can be divided up.
We replay the exact same error that Paul wrote the church in Galatia about. Of course, we can try to use all kinds of Bible verses to work out answers to these questions and controversies. But the problem with that approach is that the nature and character of the Holy Spirit is forgotten, even lost. For example, if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in being, can you then have one without the other? The unity of the Persons in action is indicated in biblical revelation where we are told that no one truly proclaims Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit 1 Corinthians I hope you catch up later.
They act and work together. Many if not most current controversies have forgotten some of the most fundamental things about who God the Holy Spirit is. Our thoughts can then head in all sorts of wrong directions and we end up speculating in order to answer misguided questions. We can just grab random Bible verses and try to throw them together to come up with an answer.
But in doing so, they left behind the more fundamental teaching that points to the reality of who the Spirit is. Biblical revelation about the ministry of the Spirit is often presented in connection with the mention of at least one other Divine Person. It tells us that we only have the Spirit because he is sent by the Son, from the Father John It also says that if anyone is convicted by the message of the gospel, it is because the Spirit is at work 1 Thessalonians As Scripture declares that Jesus sends the Spirit to bring persons to an acknowledgment of sin and the need for judgment and righteousness John If we know who the Spirit is, the answer is obvious—because God is one in being and one in action.
The whole Trinity is involved in that one simple and profound cry of our hearts. All our thinking about the Holy Spirit needs to be contained within these Trinitarian boundaries. That will help us interpret Scripture properly and also see more deeply into Scripture so that we come to know the reality of who the Spirit is ever more profoundly. So, we want to help others read Scripture, interpret Scripture and bring all the pieces of Scripture together. Why the need to talk about the Spirit beyond simply acknowledging him? First, because a disconnection between the Divine Persons can develop in our understandings of the Father and the Son and the Spirit.
As a matter of fact, many churches end up emphasizing and talking almost exclusively about the Father. Others restrict their focus to the Son, while others have a tendency to put the spotlight on the Spirit. Misunderstanding trips us up in our faith and in our lived relationship to God. In the end we want our understanding to be faithful and coherent with the truth of God as all three persons, not dividing them up.
As faith seeks understanding, we aim to improve our understanding so that it more faithfully matches the reality. You can recognize and interact with things better when you have improved understanding. We can grow in understanding even if the reality is not changed by our better grasp. And if we have misunderstandings, it will be good to clear them up. As the Holy Spirit is working, it is far better to be aware of that work compared to being unaware. God does not all of a sudden become the Holy Spirit when we recognize the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not tied up, unable to do anything until we figure him out. That would be like saying the wind is tied up until we can figure it out. No, the Spirit still works, but we may not recognize it. And by recognizing it we may more fully participate, we become more involved, become more in tune with the truth and reality of who God is. So we need to remember that our understanding may be fragmented but God is not fragmented. If that were the case then God would be dependent upon us.
But we want to sort this all out and let our understanding be as full as it can be. How do we then bring our understanding of the ministry of the Spirit up to speed in a way that recognizes the Spirit is one of the three Divine Persons of the Trinity? Some are concerned about the need to speak proportionately about the Holy Spirit.
We might say, giving the Holy Spirit equal time or equal emphasis. There are situations where our faith and understanding of the Spirit is lacking, and so lags behind the Father and Son. Wherever we find this situation, it ought to be rectified. So in those cases, additional teaching and focus on the Spirit is called for. Although this should never be the exclusive focus. In that way our faith and knowledge of the Spirit will become better aligned with the other Divine Persons.
In pursuing this kind of correction, we may run into some obstacles that contributed to the unbalanced situation in the first place. For example, some persons might not be interested in the Spirit and so have neglected the topic. Hopefully those in this condition who worship the Triune God will come around and see that the Holy Spirit is no less important than the Father and Son. Others may not want to know or have much to do with the Holy Spirit because the Spirit seems kind of, well, spooky. Who wants that? Some people may be avoiding the Spirit because they have certain worries.
Their fears may be based in part or perhaps in whole on ignorance or misinformation about the nature of the power and working of the Holy Spirit. Those who have misgivings may not have a good grasp on who the Holy Spirit is. So helping people know that the Spirit is Holy, is good, is crucial.
The best way to do this is to emphasize regularly that the Spirit has the exact same character and purpose as Jesus. There is no slippage in mind, attitude, or aim between the two. The best way to identify the working of the Spirit is to compare it to what we know about Jesus. It is his Spirit. Knowing Jesus is how we best discern the spirits, that is, which is the Holy Spirit. Some could think the Spirit is now irrelevant to our current situation or no long available to us, at least as in the days of the early church.
That was back in those days, some may think. That would be another poor reason, however, to have little or no interest in the Spirit. Of course this does not mean that the Spirit cannot adjust the mode of his ministry as, in his wisdom, he sees fit from time to time and place to place. He can in his sovereign grace make adjustments. However, there is no absolute reason that the Spirit could not continue to work today as in the days of the New Testament. That is up to the Spirit. Those who dogmatically conclude that the Spirit does not work and cannot work in the same manner have argued from their own experience, and on that basis they have selected and interpreted Scripture to explain their lack of experiencing the working of the Spirit.
But such arguments do not have binding authority in the church—and especially upon the Spirit! If the Spirit depends on us in these ways, then the Spirit does not cannot? The ministry of the Spirit is then being regarded as a reward for works. Whatever the Spirit does and however he works, it is all of grace. We do not condition the Spirit to act. The Spirit is faithful whether or not we are. Now some are concerned about abuses and misrepresentations of the Spirit.
Indeed, there are legitimate reasons for folks to be cautious or concerned. There have been, since the days of the New Testament, abuses, misuses and misleading teaching about the Spirit. There are many cases where an emphasis on the Holy Spirit has contributed to conflict and even church splits.
There have been deceitful things said and done in the name of the Holy Spirit. And in connection with an emphasis on the Spirit, some things have occurred that are bizarre and in some cases even abusive. Are these good reasons to entirely neglect the Spirit? Any good thing can be misused. As an ancient maxim states: abuse does not rule out proper use. If these things can be guarded against, all the while coming to understand and welcome the ministry of the Spirit, I think the way can be clear to address any imbalance.
But checks and balances, spiritual discipline and discernment need to be in place provided by wise pastors and elders ministering under the authority of the whole teaching of Scripture. That is a legitimate requirement to guard against spiritual pride and abuse, disunity and division. There are real dangers. Given all that, however, setting up a goal of equality of emphasis or parity of focus on the three Divine Persons is not the best way to go about making a healthy correction if there is an imbalance or ignorance about the Spirit.
There are valid reasons why there necessarily always will be a certain kind of faithful disproportion or inequality of emphasis or focus on the Spirit compared to the other two Persons of the Trinity. The reason has to do with the nature and character of the Spirit. There are good reasons why the church down through the ages has had less to say and did not give equal concentration or time to the Spirit. Here are some good reasons why the Spirit will not get equal time or focus, in terms of our level of explanation or concentration of attention.
First, there is simply less biblical information about the Holy Spirit. In the Gospels there are plenty of references to the Spirit, but more concerning Jesus and his relationship with the Father. Jesus definitely speaks of the Spirit and not just as side comments. The Spirit is an essential element to his message and life, and is not less important. But he talks and tells much more in detail about the Father and his relationship with him.
There is plenty of important teaching there about the Spirit and living in relationship with the Spirit. But there as well, we find significantly more discussion and detail about the person and work of the Son and his connection to the Father. The disproportionate detailed treatment does not signal an inequality of importance since it is clear that faith in the Holy Spirit and his ministry is not only important, but vitally connected to the ministry of Jesus.
In the Old Testament there are significant references to the Spirit, including landmark prophecies about the Spirit in Joel and Ezekiel. Yet, throughout the Old Testament there is far more consideration given to God the creator, covenant maker and deliverer of Israel. But again, this disproportion does not indicate that the Spirit is less important. We simply are given less detailed information about this important subject. Though the Father and Spirit are named together in Scripture, we are given little detail about their relationship. We find their actions described in a way that indicates they are coordinated with each other.
When Jesus acts he does so in or by the Spirit, including on the cross Hebrews Given the whole of biblical revelation, we do not have near as much written about the Spirit as we do about God the Father and the Son. Though the information given is unequal, disproportional, that is no excuse not to pay careful attention to the insight we are given about the Spirit. That may be a problem that needs rectifying. Perhaps we should give even more care to what has been made available to us.
But such speculations about the Spirit, even if they start with a bit of Scripture, can offer nothing secure since simple logical inferences even from some true starting point are never necessarily true. Some preachers and teachers have taken a few biblical verses and then attempted to make strings of logical arguments from them, oftentimes not paying attention to other biblical teaching regarding the Spirit. But the conclusions reached that way are speculative. But all that additional information and the logical chains developed on them do not amount to reliable Christian doctrine. So giving the Spirit more attention by generating more information than we actually have been given is not a recommended or reliable procedure.
But sometimes a desire to rebalance things and give greater emphasis to the Spirit has resulted in such practices. We should not follow suit. Is there some reason why there is unequal information about the Holy Spirit in Scripture? It seems to me the disproportion ought to be expected because of what we do find out about the Spirit. Given the very nature of the Spirit and the nature of his work, it makes sense that there is less to say concretely and authoritatively about the Spirit than the Father or the Son.
First, the Spirit is not incarnate. The Spirit remains undetectable himself, but is identified indirectly by the effects of his working like the wind. The Son is the only triune Person who becomes incarnate. The purpose of his coming in human form was to be the self-revelation of God. He is the Word of God to us. Jesus is the Logos, the intelligibility, the communication, the living interpretation of God to us.
In fact, without the incarnate life and teaching of Jesus we would know far less about the Spirit, for the Son reveals not only himself, but the Father and the Spirit to us. The Incarnate Son takes us to the Father and sends us the Spirit. So we approach the Spirit through the mediation of the Son. The Spirit remains the Spirit. That is, he remains unincarnate while present to and within creation.
Seven books Christians should read on the Holy Spirit
It prevents us from reducing God simply to a creature or thinking that we can understand God entirely in terms of creaturely realities. It preserves the transcendence, the spirituality of God. God is not a creature and so we cannot explain God as if God were a creature subject to creaturely ways and limitations. We cannot simply read back onto God the incarnated nature of Jesus. Now, some people mistakenly think that when the Son of God took on human form, the Father or God turned into a man, a creature. Two mistakes here. First, it was the Son of God who became incarnate, not the Father nor the Spirit.
Second, the Son of God did not cease being the eternal, divine, Son of God when he took on human being. He remained what he was but also added to himself a fully human nature and lived a human life. How the eternal Son of God can be incarnate in human form is indeed a mystery. But, remember: God is not a creature. If A becomes B, then it ceases to be A. He remains what he was, the eternal Son of God, assuming a human nature as well.
The Spirit never did take on a human nature himself. By the Spirit. No mention of DNA or what happened with the chromosomes. Instead, we are told who the agent was. He knows how! I suppose if we asked the Spirit and he thought it was important for us to know, the Spirit could explain it to us if we were educated and intelligent enough to grasp it.
But we definitely learn something about the Spirit in this event. The Spirit can interact in time and space, with flesh and blood without being incarnate himself. The Spirit is able to be present and active at the deepest levels of creaturely existence, down to the DNA and chromosomes if need be. The Spirit is not absent but able to be present to creation. Recognizing that God is the Spirit and the Spirit is God and he remains the Holy Spirit prevents us from thinking of God as merely being a creature. As Jesus said, he is sending another Comforter who was with us, but will be in us John There is another reason we find that makes sense as to why there is a disproportion in the amount of information we have about the Spirit in the biblical portrayal.
Again this distinction is not one of importance, but of the extent of the revelation. If what we say and teach about the Spirit depends upon that revelation, then this will make a difference in how much we can say and how much we can understand about the Spirit. This second reason has to do with the character of the Spirit and of his ministry. It seems that the whole purpose and character of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is actually to always direct attention away from, not bring it to himself.
The ministry of the Spirit, Jesus tells us, is to direct us to Jesus John The Spirit does not glorify himself, but Jesus by taking his words and declaring them to us John That is the glory of the Spirit! He helps us recall all that Jesus taught, the truth that he taught. He, perhaps annoyingly, passes up his opportunity to shed light on himself. Rather, he points away from himself. The early church put it this way: The Holy Spirit is like light that shines.
And the Holy Spirit shines light on the face of Jesus who has an actual, flesh and blood human face. The invisible face of the Father. Look at me. The Spirit has a coordinated but different mission and ministry than the Son. But that ministry would be somewhat compromised and would not demonstrate the true nature and character of the Spirit if it drew attention to itself.
Theologian Thomas Torrance brings out this same point regarding the character of the Spirit. Relatively speaking he stays in the background. Now, should we conclude that the Holy Spirit serves the Father and Son rather than himself? Whenever we find revelation concerning the Spirit, we discover more references to the Father and the Son. You saw the face of the Father and the face of the Son. Think of times when we repent, as a whole church or as individuals. Our repentance is the result of the ministry of the Spirit who brings us the conviction of sin. Why does anyone ever repent and not hang on to their pride and remain in self-justification mode all their existence?
Because the Holy Spirit works. Most of the work of the Holy Spirit is deep and internal to persons, speaking with their spirits as Paul put it 1 Corinthians So we see evidences of the ministry of the Spirit. But we see the results, the outcome. Most of the work of the Holy Spirit, as far as I can tell, is invisible to us. What we see is the result, the effect. The Spirit seems to deliberately not draw attention to himself. He is the shy one, the humble one, the retiring one, or as T. The Spirit is not worried about that. Each person of the Trinity gives glory to the others. The Spirit has his own way of giving glory.
Even in the names of the Divine Persons, we find an asymmetry. Father and Son are mutually referential terms that speak of a concrete Father-Son relationship. Thus these terms are easier to think about than is Holy Spirit, which does not lend itself as easily to being described using creaturely terms. Has the Holy Spirit gotten short-changed once again? Maybe not. Maybe being given that identifying name is not a mistake. Maybe the name, the Holy Spirit, is given in order to prevent us from trying to nail down his identity in the same way we might the Father and Son.
And perhaps by being named Holy Spirit, we are kept from merely reducing the Father and Son to creaturely definitions, thinking God is Father and Son in just the way human beings are. After all, Scripture can refer to the whole God as Spirit. The Holy Spirit reminds us of the transcendence, the sovereignty, the irreducibility of God to an idol, made by human hands or minds and imaginations. Given the pattern and content of biblical revelation about the Spirit, we should not expect to be able to have as much to say, or be able to say in as much detail as we can say about the Father and the Son.
Though we would expect some disproportion, it does not indicate inequality of importance among the Divine Persons. If we have under-represented the Spirit up to this point, not making use of what we have been given to go on, why not simply take time to shift our focus of attention to the Spirit—attempting simply to bring about a proper symmetrical balance?
Why not attempt to make up for lost time, giving the Spirit his turn on stage, even if just a temporary one? The danger to watch out for in attempting to correct in this way is giving the Spirit independent consideration, somewhat in isolation from the revelation of the Son and of the Father in him. Why is this a problem? So the best way is to move in our understanding from the Son to the Father and then in a more focused way to the Spirit, bringing all three into coordination.
You took your turn and accomplished that great task.
- Free Newsletters.
- A Summary of The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon!
That splits God into parts and separate roles or tasks as creatures would. It obscures the oneness of God in being and in action. A simple way to point to the unity of the working of God—while allowing for distinction of contribution to the one whole work—is to say that what Christ has done for us according to the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit does in us. When we say that the Spirit takes all of what Christ has done for us in his humanity and delivers it to us, does that amount to little or nothing?
No, not at all. The Holy Spirit cannot accomplish his deepest work except on the basis of what Jesus, the Son Incarnate, accomplished for us in the name of the Father. They are one God. They are all together Savior. The Father sends the Son. The Son sends the Spirit.
And this was all done so we might have the life of the whole Triune God over us, with us and in us. That means we first need to be reconciled to God and, second, have our human nature regenerated, sanctified, made new. The Spirit does lead in working out in us what Christ has accomplished for us in his humanity. The Spirit does work in us in unique ways. But there is no independent mission—the Father, Son and Spirit work entirely together in an ordered and coordinated fashion. That insight ought to guide our thinking, our explanations, our preaching and teaching about the Spirit. Describing their joint mission requires mutually referring to one another, because the Spirit is the Spirit of the Son and the Spirit of the Father.
The working of the Spirit is to work out in us what the Son has done for us. His ministry is personal and relational. This was seen at Pentecost when the Spirit came down. No human agency initiated, conditioned or controlled that event. No believer set it up, orchestrated it, or made it more or less likely to occur. Rather, Jesus had promised its fulfillment in the name of the Father. His work, promise and sending is what pre-conditioned that mighty, longed-for event pointed to by the prophets.
The church was simply to wait. Why at that particular time? Because Christ in his earthly form had finished his dimension of the saving work that God was accomplishing. The Spirit was promised by the Son. And perfectly coordinated, the Spirit showed up on time. But notice what happened when the Spirit descended. The people started talking about the great and mighty things that God had done to accomplish their salvation in Jesus.
And they related to each other in new and amazing ways, just as the Spirit was working in them in new ways. Their view was much larger, much more comprehensive of all that God had done, was doing and would do. Pentecost is a primary example of a manifestation of the working of the Spirit that is dynamic, variable, not static, not fixed, not mechanical, but personal and relational.
The Spirit does not operate in that way. He can apparently be present in a wide array of ways, or at least in a range of ways that have a wide array of effects we can notice. It is dynamic. These too involve dynamic interactions. So Paul encourages believers to use them in certain ways: let the person with the gift of giving, he says, give with liberality; those who give aid, with zeal; those who do acts of mercy, with cheerfulness Romans Gifts can be used well or misused. They are to be received and then used well, rightly, faithfully.
That is a dynamic process, not a magical chain of effects impersonally sparked. Just on or off; here but not there; near or far. But God is not like that. And I suppose we could say that the Spirit, especially, is not like that! There is a particular dynamic to living in the Spirit. Often, by the time we become aware, the Spirit probably has already moved on to another thing. There is a variability, a change, a dynamic, an ebb and flow to the activity and manifestation and interaction with the Spirit in relationship to the Church and in relationship to the world.
So we ought not think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force, a vending machine or conveyor belt. Another way we can think mistakenly of the Spirit is as a genie or a magician. And what we have to do to get the Spirit to work in that way is to fulfill certain conditions just exactly right—then like magic! You were stuck in your head and thinking too much. Or…, or…, or…. Any number of conditions might be specified. And each teacher of such false views will specialize in describing and prescribing exactly which conditions are called for. Notice how these wrong-headed approaches put us in charge, making the Spirit dependent upon us with little to say for himself.
How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God! Notice two aspects about these verses. The first is that the Holy Spirit is lied to. This means that the Holy Spirit is personal. You cannot lie to a table or to electricity because it is not a person. The second aspect is that lying to the Holy Spirit is equated with lying to God. This means that the Holy Spirit is God. In the very first verses of the Bible the Holy Spirit is seen as involved in the creation of the universe.
Gen The significance of this is that breath is what gives life to a body. Here the Psalm is said to be by the Holy Spirit though David. The human author David is described as the intermediate source of the message while the Holy Spirit is the source that channeled it to him. Heb In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit filled individuals for various kinds of service and in some cases this filling is explicitly seen as temporary. David did not want what happened to Saul happen to him. However, a temporary filling of the Spirit seen in the Old Testament era should not be confused with the baptism of the Spirit in the church age Acts 2.
This baptism is a permanent act of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. So Christians can be assured that the Holy Spirit will not be taken from them cf. Eph In fact, the Spirit is indispensable for anyone to be saved. His work can be divided into three general categories of activity: his pre-conversion work, conversion work and post-conversion work. One of these roles is the convicting of sin and truth. One could supplement this idea with the concept that the Holy Spirit speaks to individuals though the preaching of the gospel.
Here, the gift of the Holy Spirit is conditioned upon repentance in relation to the gospel preaching of Peter. Upon conversion the believer in Jesus Christ is said to be baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. This baptism is a one time event in which metaphorically speaking Christ becomes our head and we are joined with believers as fellow members of the body.
This baptism forms our union with Christ and with fellow believers. Related to the baptism of the Spirit is the indwelling of the Spirit. Upon and after conversion, the Holy Spirit indwells the life of the believer. One could say that the indwelling Spirit is the definition of a Christian. Believers, who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, are also sealed with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is also described in these verses as a pledge or down payment that insures that God will complete his salvific work in us. Lastly, every person who has been born again receives a spiritual gift from the Holy Spirit. This leads us to the very large topic of spiritual gifts and their use in the life of a believer.
In some cases unfortunately this is a topic comes with a lot of questions and even controversy. Lists of spiritual gifts occur in Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. The gifts are listed in the order in which they are given. Romans Ephesians 4. We can begin the process of studying spiritual gifts by describing points of clarity and agreement from 1 Corinthians The first point is that each Christian has at least one spiritual gift 1 Cor Gifts are not given primarily for the benefit of the gift holder but rather as a ministry for others.
Spiritual gifts are not to be self-focused but rather others focused. Fourthly, not all people have the same gift. Lastly, gifts are to be exercised in love. As Paul states, exercising gifts without love is like an annoyance of banging gongs or symbols 1 Cor Most evangelical Christians are at least somewhat aware that there are questions and points of difference and disagreement regarding spiritual gifts.
For example, is God giving all gifts today, such as the gift of apostleship, prophecy, tongues, or healing? The gifts of apostleship and prophecy are foundational to the church and on which the church is built. One criteria of apostle in the early church is that the person saw the resurrected Jesus Acts ; 1 Cor Unless Christ made a special appearance as he did to Paul on the road to Damascus this criteria would not be replicable today.
There is no explicitly clear statement that some gifts have ceased but one must also compare the claim of possessing a certain gift with Scripture. What is the nature of the gift in the Bible? What is its purpose? How did or does it function? Lastly, for most evangelicals even if one does not hold to all the gifts functioning today this does not rule out God doing miracles directly such as healing in response to prayer James What is the role of the Holy Spirit following conversion?
While the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs once at conversion, the filling of the Spirit can happen multiple times after conversion and also is commanded. Here the filling of the Spirit is given as a command to be followed. In this analogy the Spirit is compared negatively to wine. Closely related to being filled with the Spirit is being empowered with the Holy Spirit. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that enables Christians to live lives obedient to God. Lastly, not only does the Holy Spirit fill and empower but he also leads or guides the believer in Jesus Christ.
A final area of discussion is that of some instances where the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Bible with a symbol. Four prominent symbols that refer to the Holy Spirit are the dove, fire, wind and water. When looking at a symbol, one must be careful to make sure the context is identifying the symbol with the referent you are considering in this case the Holy Spirit. For example, even though the Holy Spirit is identified with a dove in Matt it would be an interpretive mistake to see the Holy Spirit in every place a dove is referred to in the Bible.
In Genesis Noah sends out a dove to see if the flood waters had receded, but one should not interpret this as Noah sending out the Holy Spirit. Probably the most recognizable symbol of the Holy Spirit is the dove that appeared at the baptism of Jesus.
Related The Holy Spirit: A Comprehensive Study of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit
Copyright 2019 - All Right Reserved