Is the Holy Spirit the Father's "Grandson"?
One of the more important biblical portrayals of the Holy Spirit is found in Romans 8:9. There the Apostle Paul wrote: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” Continue reading . . .
One of the more important biblical portrayals of the Holy Spirit is found in Romans 8:9. There the Apostle Paul wrote: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
Here the Holy Spirit is referred to in three ways: (1) as “the Spirit”; (2) as “the Spirit of God” (the Father); and (3) as “the Spirit of Christ”. There are not, however, three Spirits, but one Spirit who simultaneously sustains the same relationship to both Father and Son. Note also that the presence of the Holy Spirit is the key criterion in determining if someone is a Christian. To have the Holy Spirit is to be a Christian. To be devoid of the Spirit is to be devoid of Christ.
There is a reason why the Spirit is described as “the Spirit of Christ.” As Christopher Holmes has noted,
“When Christians call on the Spirit, we are calling on the Spirit of the risen Jesus. Rather than being directed away from Jesus Christ, the Spirit deepens our fellowship with him and his people, all to the glory of the Father. The Spirit does not replace Christ or take over from him. Rather, the Spirit’s work ‘is to carry forward the divine philanthropy begun in the incarnation.’ The Spirit does not detract from Christ, supersede Christ, or act as his substitute. [Rather] . . . the Spirit is primarily at work in relation to the Word (incarnate, written, and proclaimed), strengthening baptized children of God to remain true to Christ. Indeed, the mission of the Holy Spirit is coextensive with the mission of the Word (the Lord Jesus Christ)” (The Holy Spirit [Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 21).
Holmes also points out that to speak of the Spirit as the Spirit “of Christ” is “not to reduce the Spirit to an appendage of Christ or to collapse the Spirit into him. Rather, it is to say that the Spirit demonstrates profound boldness in promoting another, Jesus Christ” (22). This is simply to say that “the Spirit is other-directed, Christ-directed” (22).
We should avoid drawing unbiblical conclusions from our tendency to speak of the Holy Spirit as the “third” person of the Godhead. The Bible nowhere speaks of him in such numerical terms. Neither are we to think of this as pointing to rank, as if the Spirit, being “third,” is somehow below the Father (who is “first”) and the Son (who is “second”). Rather “the Spirit is consubstantial with Father and Son, of one essence with the Father and Son. There is unity of being between the three, from eternity” (Holmes, 24).
This means the Holy Spirit is not the “grandson” of the Father. Some have thought that since the Son is the second of the three and the Spirit third that we should call the Spirit the son of the Son and the grandson of the Father. No. Recall that “what distinguishes the three from each other are . . . not degrees of divinity. Rather what distinguishes them is their originating relations” (Holmes, 28-29).
That is to say, the Father is not the Son or the Spirit because as God he begets and is he from whom the Son and Spirit proceed. And the Son is not the Father or the Spirit because he neither begets nor proceeds but is begotten. And the Spirit is not the Father or the Son because he neither begets nor is begotten but rather proceeds.