The Person of the Holy Spirit
"All that we spiritually know of ourselves, all that we know of God, and of Jesus, and His Word, we owe to the teaching of the Holy Spirit; and all the real light, sanctification, strength and comfort we are made to possess on our way to glory, we must ascribe to Him. . . . Where He is honoured, and adoring thoughts of His person, and tender, loving views of His work are cherished, then are experienced, in an enlarged degree, His quickening, enlightening, sanctifying and comforting influence" (Octavius Winslow).
"The Holy Spirit has long been the Cinderella of the Trinity. The other two sisters may have gone to the theological ball; the Holy Spirit got left behind every time. But not now. The rise of the charismatic movement within virtually every mainstream church has ensured that the Holy Spirit figures prominently on the theological agenda. A new experience of the reality and power of the Spirit has had a major impact upon the theological discussion of the person and work of the Holy Spirit" (Alister McGrath).
A. The Holy Spirit is a Person
1. The Holy Spirit is referred to in the Bible as “he” and “who”, not “it”. Although the noun pneuma (“spirit”) is neuter, Jesus uses masculine pronouns to describe him:
John 14:17 (neuter pronouns ho and auto); but the masculine is used in John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8,13,14. See also Acts 13:2. Gordon Fee refers to the struggle one student had with understanding the personhood of the Spirit: "God the Father makes perfectly good sense to me," said the student, "and God the Son I can quite understand; but the Holy Spirit is a gray, oblong blur" (5-6).
In a recent paper delivered to the Institute for Biblical Research (11-17-01), Dan Wallace has argued that such grammatical arguments for the Spirit’s personality are invalid. He argues that in John 14:26 and 15:26 the noun pneuma “is appositional to a masculine noun, rather than the subject of the verb. The gender of ekeinos thus has nothing to do with the natural gender of pneuma. The antecedent of ekeinos, in each case, is parakletos [a masculine noun], not pneuma” (6). As for John 16:13-14, again the masculine gender of ekeinos is more likely due to parakletos in v. 7 than to any attempt to predicate personality of the Spirit. Wallace also addresses similar cases in Ephesians 1:14 and 1 John 5:7-8. None of this is to suggest, however, that Wallace himself denies the personality of the Holy Spirit. He simply argues it must be established on other grounds.
2. The HS has all the qualities of a personal being.
· Mind (knowledge) - Isa. 11:2; John 14:26; Rom 8:27; 1 Cor. 2:10-11.
· Emotions (feelings) - Rom. 8:26; 15:30; Eph. 4:30 (cf. Isa. 63:10); Acts 15:28; James 4:5.
· Will (choices/plans) - Acts 16:7; 1 Cor. 12:11.
3. The HS performs all the functions of a personal being.
· He talks (Mark 13:11; Acts 1:16; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 21:11; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7; Rev. 2:7)
· He testifies (John 15:26; 16:23)
· He can be sinned against (Mt. 12:31)
· He can be lied to (Acts 5:3)
· He can be tested/tempted (Acts 5:9)
· He can be insulted (Heb. 10:29)
· He enters into relationship with other persons (2 Cor. 13:14)
· He encourages (Acts 9:31)
· He strengthens (Eph. 3:16)
· He teaches (Lk. 12:12; John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:13)
B. The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person
1. What is said of God is said of the Spirit (Acts 5:3-4).
2. The Holy Spirit is identified with Yahweh (Acts 7:51, quoting Ps. 78:17,21; Heb. 10:15-17, quoting Jer. 31:33-34).
3. The activity of God = the activity of the Holy Spirit (e.g., in creation, conversion, etc.).
4. “God said” = “the Spirit said” (Isa. 6:9 / Acts 28:25).
5. We are the “temple of God because the Holy Spirit dwells in us” (Eph. 2:22; 1 Cor. 6:19). If the HS is not God, how could we properly be called the temple of God simply because the Spirit indwells us?
6. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin (Mt. 12:31; Mk. 3:28).
Some argue that the Spirit is but an impersonal power, emanation, or attribute of God, which lacks personality. Winslow responds: "It is . . . incredible, and certainly inexplicable . . . that all manner of blasphemy against the whole character of God, particularly against his moral character, should be forgiven; and yet that blasphemy against a single natural attribute should never be forgiven. And what shall be thought of a doctrine that teaches that blasphemy committed against the Divine attribute of power is more heinous and unpardonable than blasphemy committed against God Himself?" (15)
7. Attributes/Actions of deity are ascribed to the Spirit.
a. Omniscience (Isa. 40:13-14; 1 Cor. 2:10-11)
b. Omnipresence (Ps. 139:7-8)
c. Omnipotence (as seen in the Spirit’s role in creation [Gen. 1], providence [Ps. 104:30], regeneration, etc.; see especially Zech. 4:6)
d. Eternality (Heb. 9:14)
e. Holiness (used of the Spirit only twice in OT: Ps. 51:11 and Isa. 63:10)
8. The names of the Spirit suggest (require?) His deity.
a. Spirit of glory (1 Pt. 4:14)
b. Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:29)
c. Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2)
d. Spirit of truth (John 14:16; 15:26; 16:13)
e. Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17)
9. The linking of the Spirit with the Father and Son (Mt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Cor. 12:4)
Take special note of several texts in Paul's letters where the work of saving sinners is formulated in Trinitarian terms: Rom. 5:1-8; 2 Cor. 3:1-4:6; Gal. 4:4-6; Eph. 1:3-14. See also 1 Thess. 1:4-5; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Cor. 1:4-7; 2:4-5; 2:12; 6:11; 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Gal. 3:1-5; Rom. 8:3-4; 8:15-17; Col. 3:16; Eph. 1:17; 2:18; 2:20-22; Phil. 3:3.
Special note on Rom. 8:9. 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: 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.
C. The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person with a Purpose
(See J.I. Packer’s Keep in Step with the Spirit, pp. 17-54)
1. Power - the God-given ability to do what God wants us to do and what, apart from the Spirit, we otherwise could not do.
Power for hope (Rom. 15:13)
Power for miracles (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:18-19)
Power for prayer (Eph. 6:18-19; Rom. 8:26-27)
Power for praise (Eph. 5:18-19; Phil. 3:3)
Power for preaching (Acts 4:33)
2. Performance - the impartation and energizing of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:7).
3. Purity - the Spirit sanctifies our motives and actions and delivers us from the power and pollution of sin; the Spirit cultivates His fruit in our lives (Gal. 5).
4. Presentation - of the truth, in the sense of making us aware of spiritual things: revelation, interpretation, illumination (Eph. 1:17; 1 John 2:20,27).
5. Presence - the Holy Spirit makes known to us and in us the person of Jesus; He mediates the presence and power of Christ in our hearts; His role is to throw a floodlight, as it were, on the person of Christ (John 16:14).
The purpose of the Holy Spirit is also seen in three metaphors used by the apostle Paul.
1. The Holy Spirit is portrayed as a down payment (2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).
The term (arrabon) was used in commercial transactions to refer to the first installment of the total amount due. The down payment effectively guaranteed the fulfillment of whatever contractual obligations were assumed. "The Spirit, therefore," says Fee, "serves as God's down payment in our present lives, the certain evidence that the future has come into the present, the sure guarantee that the future will be realized in full measure" (807). According to Eadie,
“It is the token that the whole sum stipulated for will be given when the term of service expires. The earnest is not withdrawn, but is supplemented at the appointed period, . . . But the earnest, though it differ in degree, is the same in kind with the prospective inheritance. The earnest is not withdrawn, nor a totally new circle of possessions substituted. Heaven is but an addition to present enjoyments. Knowledge in heaven is but a development of what is enjoyed on earth; its holiness is but the purity of time elevated and perfected; and its happiness is no new fountain opened in the sanctified bosom, but only the expansion and refinement of those susceptibilities which were first awakened on earth by confidence in the Divine redeemer. The earnest, in short, is the ‘inheritance’ in miniature, and it is also a pledge that the inheritance shall be ultimately and fully enjoyed” (Eadie, 67-8).
In giving the Holy Spirit to us “God is not simply promising us our final inheritance but actually providing us with a foretaste of it, even if it ‘is only a small fraction of the future endowment’” (O’Brien, 121).
This sealing extends until the final “redemption of the possession” (Eph. 1:14). Does this refer to believers’ possession of the promised blessings? Or does it refer to God’s possession of believers? Probably the latter, as in v. 11. See Ex. 19:5; 23:22; Dt. 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Isa. 43:20-21; Mal. 3:17; 1 Pt. 2:9; Titus 2:14; Acts 20:28.
Note finally that the Spirit is called the Holy Spirit “of promise” (Eph. 1:14). That is to say, the Spirit is himself that which the OT promised would be given in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. See Gal. 3:14 (and Acts 2:17).
2. The Holy Spirit is portrayed as the firstfruits (Rom. 8:23).
This metaphor is also used of Christ's resurrection as the guarantee of ours (1 Cor. 15:20,23). Similar to the idea behind down payment, the Holy Spirit as "the first sheaf is God's pledge to us of the final harvest. Thus . . . the Spirit plays the essential role in our present existence, as both evidence and guarantee that the future is now and yet to be" (807).
3. The Holy Spirit is portrayed as a seal (2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30).
· Its meaning – (1) to authenticate (John 3:33; 6:27; 1 Cor. 9:2) or confirm as genuine and true, including the idea that what is sealed is stamped with the character of its owner; (2) to designate or mark out as one’s property; to declare and signify ownership (see Rev. 7:3-8; 9:4); (3) to render secure or to establish (i.e., protect; cf. Eph. 4:30; Mt. 27:66; Rev. 20:3)
· Its instrument – With what are we sealed? The HS. It isn’t so much that the Spirit does the sealing as the Spirit is the seal. Hence, sealing = the reception and consequent indwelling of the HS.
· Its sphere – In regard to whom are we sealed? Christ (“in whom”)
· Its time – When were we sealed? The Reformed Sealers (e.g., Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, and in our day, Martyn Lloyd-Jones) sought to identify spirit-baptism with the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit described in Eph. 1:13. I have no major problem with that, but they believed it to be an experiential event subsequent to regeneration (and therefore to be sought) that brings a profound, inner, direct, assurance of salvation (as over against a syllogistic assurance which one deduces from the fact that one believes). It also produces power for ministry and witness, joy, and a sense of God’s glorious presence. These men make no connection between baptism in the Spirit and the charismatic gifts. Indeed, aside from Lloyd-Jones, the Reformed Sealers were all cessationists (i.e., they believed that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit ceased when the original apostles died; see Martyn Lloyd-Jones' book Joy Unspeakable: Power & Renewal in the Holy Spirit [Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1984]).
The dispute, then, is over how we are to understand the relationship between "believing" (lit., “having believed” [an aorist participle]) and "sealing" (lit., “you were sealed” [the main verb]). Should we translate it, "after believing (or “since you believed”), you were sealed," in which case sealing is indeed separate from and subsequent to saving faith (conversion)? Or should we translate it, "when you believed, you were sealed," in which case sealing and believing are simultaneous? Grammatically speaking, one can find evidence for both usages in the NT (although "when you believed" is more probable; see esp. Acts 19:2). Fee is inclined to think that believing is indeed antecedent to sealing, but, he says, "the two verbs have nothing to do with separate and distinct experiences of faith. Rather, the one ('having believed [in Christ]' logically precedes the other ('you were sealed'); but from Paul's perspective these are two sides of the same coin" (670). So, whereas there may be a basis for equating the "sealing" of the Spirit with the "baptism" in the Spirit, there is no basis for making the latter a separate and subsequent event that brings an extraordinary anointing or experiential empowering.
“Come, O Creator Spirit blest,
And in our hearts take up thy rest;
Spirit of grace, with heavenly aid
Come to the souls whom thou hast made.
Thou art the Comforter, we cry,
Sent to the earth from God Most High,
Fountain of life and Fire of love,
And our anointing from above.
Make our dull minds with rapture glow,
Let human hearts with love o’erflow;
And, when our feeble flesh would fail,
May thine immortal strength prevail.
Show us the Father, Holy One,
Help us to know the Eternal Son;
Spirit Divine, for evermore
Thee will we trust and Thee adore.”
(Latin hymn of the 10th century)
The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament
The Hebrew term ruah = breath, wind, spirit, appears @ 377 times in the OT (only 264 of which are translated by the Greek pneuma in the LXX). 94 of these 377 instances refer to the Spirit of God. Gordon Fee has summarized the activity of the Spirit in the OT:
1. The Spirit as Divine Power
The Spirit is responsible for creation (Ps. 104:30; Gen. 1:2) as well as the eschatological renewal of the earth (Isa. 32:15).
2. The Spirit and Leadership
The Spirit empowers for leadership in the OT (Num. 11:17; 27:18). See also Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:6,19; 15:14. Saul was empowered by the Spirit to be king (1 Sam. 11:6) as was David (1 Sam. 16:13).
3. The Spirit and Prophecy
The Holy Spirit is the agent of prophetic activity as well as other forms of inspired speech. See 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Chron. 12:18; 2 Chron. 15:1; 20:14. See esp. Num. 11:29.
4. The Spirit and Revelation
Daniel 4:8,9,18; 5:11,14.
5. The Spirit as God's Presence
Psalm 51:11; 139:7; Isa. 63:10-14.
6. The Spirit and Eschatology
The Spirit is the key to Israel's future. See Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 59:21; 61:1; Ezek. 11:19; 18:31; 36:26-27; 37:1-14; Joel 2:28-30.
For a helpful discussion on the role of the HS in the OT as compared with his role in the NT, see the article by Gary Fredricks, “Rethinking the Role of the Holy Spirit in the Lives of Old Testament Believers,” Trinity Journal, 9 NS (1988):81-104.