|When asked, who is the Comforter? Most Christians would quickly answer, the Holy Ghost;. But if asked, but who or what is the Holy Ghost the vast majority could not give a quick answer. The bible answer is very quick and powerful; simply the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God (1st Corinthians 2:13-14). With this lets take a few minutes and see what the bible teaches about the Holy Spirit.
The Origin of the Holy Spirit
Matthew 10:20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
The Bible teaches us that the Holy Spirit [Holy Ghost, Spirit of truth, the Comforter] is the ‘Spirit of God’. The Holy Spirit is called the ‘Spirit of the Father’, because, according to Christ, the Spirit’s origin is with God the Father.
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” – John 15:26
The word ‘proceedeth’ [Greek: ekporeuomai -present tense] means to flow continually like a river. Thus the Spirit originates from the Father and flows out from him continually.
From the Father the Spirit is given to the Son, and through the Son the Spirit is poured out upon the believer.
“Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he [Jesus] hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” – Acts 2:33
“... the Holy Ghost; Which he [God] shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” – Titus 3:5-6
The Spirit is Eternal.
“... The Eternal Spirit” – Hebrews 9:16.
The Holy Spirit is called the “Eternal Spirit”, showing that the Holy Spirit has always been and does not have a beginning. In Genesis chapter one verse two we see that the Holy Spirit already was in existence before creation and was active in the creation of the world [Genesis 1:2, Psalms 104:30, Psalms 33:6, Job 26:13, 33:4]. It is thus right to say that there never was a time that the Holy Spirit was not.
The Holy Spirit is God.
“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost... thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.... How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord” – Acts 5:3-4, 9
The Holy Ghost, which is the Spirit of the Lord, and is also designated as the Spirit of the Father [Matthew 10:20], is recognized in Scriptures as God, or Deity. When Ananias lied to the Holy Ghost, he was lying to God.
The Holy Spirit is also proven to be God, seeing the Holy Spirit is eternal [Hebrews 9:14], and the only eternal essence in the universe is the Godhead [Deuteronomy 33:27, Romans 1:20]. Everything outside of the Godhead is considered a creature, and according to the Bible the Spirit of God is not a creature, but rather the Spirit was active in the creation of all things [Genesis 1:2, Psalms 104:30, Psalms 33:6, Job 26:13, 33:4]. Also, the very fact that the Spirit is the ‘Spirit of the Father’ and continually proceeds from the Father, proves the eternal nature of the Spirit, for virtually all men recognize that the Father is eternal [1 Timothy 1:17], and if He is eternal, then His Spirit must of necessity be eternal; and all that is eternal is God.
Distinction between the Father and the Holy Ghost.
The Scriptures also teach that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. Concerning the Father and the Spirit the Scriptures tell us that:
The Spirit is not the Father, but is of the Father [Matthew 10:20].
The Spirit continually proceeds from the Father [John 15:26]
The Spirit is a gift given by the Father [Luke 11:13].
And it is through the Spirit that men have access to the Father [Ephesians 2:18].
Distinction between Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit
The Spirit is not Christ, but is of Christ [Romans 8:9, Galatian 4:6].
The Spirit was given to Christ [John 3:34, Acts 2:33].
Christ was anointed with the Spirit [Luke 4:18].
Christ was raised from the dead by God through the Spirit [Romans 8:11].
Christ sheds forth the Spirit upon believers [Acts 2:33, Titus 3:6].
The distinction between Christ and the Holy Spirit is also seen from the fact that a deadly sin is said to have been committed against the Holy Spirit by Ananias. Christ himself explained that those who blasphemed the Son could be forgiven; but those who blasphemed the Holy Spirit could not [Matthew 12:31-32].
Also the Spirit is distinctly viewed at the baptism of Christ, where we are told the Spirit descended upon Christ like a Dove [Matthew 3:16].
Also in the Baptismal formula given by Christ before his ascension the Spirit is listed separately from the Father and Son [Matthew 28:19].
The Holy Ghost is thus shown to be distinct from the Father and the Son; or, in other words, the Holy Spirit is a distinction of some kind in the Divine Nature [Godhead].
Is the Holy Spirit Personal?
As we have seen, the Holy Spirit is shown to be distinct from the Father and the Son in the Godhead. The Question that we must now ask is: Is the Spirit personal or is the Spirit impersonal? Does the Spirit exhibit traits of personality or is the Spirit a mere divine force emanating from the Father and Son?
It is impossible to ignore the fact that the Spirit is often referred to as the Power of God in Scriptures. For an example, in Luke 1:35 the angel tells Mary; “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee”, thus showing that the Power of God and the Holy Ghost is one and the same. Also in Romans 8:11 we are told that the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead, but then in 1st Corinthians 6:14 we are told that it was God’s power that raised him. The Holy Spirit is equated to the power of the Most High throughout the pages of Scriptures [2nd Corinthians 13:4, Micah 3:8, 1st Corinthians 5:4, and Job 26:12].
In the Bible the Spirit is also designated by impersonal symbols. Some of these are:
a. wind - John 3:8, Acts 2:2.
b. fire - Matt. 3:11
c. water - John 7:37-39
d. oil - Psalm 45:7, Isa.61:1
e. seal - Eph. 1:13
f. dove - Matt. 3:16
g. lamps - Rev. 4:5
h. breath - John 20:22
i. horns - Rev.5:6
j. eyes - Rev.5:6
The Spirit is also given impersonal characteristics. The Spirit is mentioned as:
a. poured out - Isa. 32:15, 44:3, Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, 10:45
b. shed - - - - - Titus 3:5,6
c. shed forth - - Acts 2:33
d. breathed - - - John 20:22
e. filling - - - - - Acts 2:2,4 Eph. 5:18
f. anointed with - Acts 10:38
g. baptized in - - - Matt. 3:11, Acts 1:5 1 Cor.12:13
h. drank of - - - - 1 Cor.12:13
i. blowing wind - John 3:8
The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits the following:
"The OT [Old Testament] clearly does not envisage God's spirit as a person, neither in the strictly philosophical sense, nor in the Semitic sense. God's spirit is simply God's Power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly (Isa. 48:16; 63:11; 32:15).... The majority of NT texts reveal God's spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God." -- New Catholic Encyclopedia.
THE PERSONAL ATTRIBUTES OF THE SPIRIT
Yet the New Testament is filled with instances where the Holy Spirit is said to have personal attributes. Here are some of them:
The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit can be grieved [Ephesians 4:30].
The Holy Spirit can be lied to [Acts 5:3-4].
The Holy Spirit can teach [John 14:26].
The Holy Spirit guides [John 16:13].
The Holy Spirit speaks [Acts 28:25].
The Holy Spirit comforts [John 15:26].
All of these are personal attributes which cannot be credited to an impersonal force or power. The Holy Scriptures clearly attribute personality to the Spirit of God. The Spirit, though recognized as the Power of God, is still personal.
UNDERSTANDING THE PERSONALITY OF THE SPIRIT
To help us understand the personal attributes of the Holy Spirit we will first quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia:
“Very rarely do the OT writers attribute to God's spirit emotions or intellectual activity (Isa. 63:10; Wis. 1:3-7). When such expressions are used, they are mere figures of speech that are explained by the facts that the ruah [Hebrew word for "Spirit"] was regarded also as the seat of intellectual acts and feeling (Gen. 41:8). Neither is there found in the OT or in rabbinical literature the notion that God's spirit is an intermediary being between God and the world. This activity is proper to the angels, although to them is ascribed some of the activity that elsewhere is ascribed to the spirit of God" (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, p. 574).
Realizing that in the Bible the ‘Spirit’ is considered the seat of intelligence may help us understand the personal attributes of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit of God also represents the Mind of God, then the personal attributes given to the Spirit is easily explainable. Notice in the Bible the Spirit or Soul of man is also given personal attributes.:
“What is the soul capable of doing? A. It is the director of man’s actions. Compare Psalm 119:167 with Romans 7:25. One text mentions the soul as the agency of obedience, the other calls this agency the mind. B. Man’s soul takes counsel (Psalms 13:2). C. It refuses things (Job 6:7). D. It can be grieved (Job 30:25). E. It feels bitterness of sorrow (Job 10:1; Mark 14:33,34). F. It is satisfied with good things (Psalms 63:5). Note: These are all functions of the mind.” (SDA YOUTH BIBLE, Basic Bible Study Helps pg.140 by Harold E. Metcalf).
The Bible teaches that the Soul or Spirit of man has all of these personal attributes, but the spirit of man does not constitute another person, distinct from the man. Some may wonder if we can honestly compare this truth about man to the true and Holy God? If we remember that man was made in the image of God, we can.
The Apostle Paul himself compares the Spirit of God with the spirit of man, saying:
“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God”– 1st Corinthians 2:11.
According to the Scriptures the relationship that exists between the Father and the Spirit is comparable to the relationship that exists between man and the spirit in man. Thus we can understand how the Spirit of God can be grieved just like man’s spirit (Ephesians 4:30, Isaiah 54:6, Daniel 7:15), and most likely feel the whole realm of emotions just like man’s spirit (Luke 1:47, 10:21, 1st Samuel 1:15, 2nd Corinthians 7:13, Exodus 31:17); because the Spirit of God is not only the Power of God, but also the mind of GOD, just like the spirit of man is the mind of man.
A simple word search reveals that the term ‘Spirit’ is interchangeable with the word mind, for example of this look at Ezekiel 11:5:
“And the Spirit (7307 ruwach) fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the Lord; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel; for I know the things that come into your mind (7307 ruwach), every one of them”.
But unlike man’s Spirit that has no consciousness outside of his body, God’s Spirit fills the universe. And because the Spirit fills the universe the Father and Christ [who is glorified by the Spirit] can be personally present with each of us [Psalms 51:11, John 14:23]. As Christ told the Disciples: “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you... he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” John 14:18, 21.
The promise of the coming Comforter, according to Christ, is the promise of the personal presence of Christ in the heart of the believer through the agency of the Holy Spirit. When Christ speaks of ‘another’ Comforter coming, the word ‘another’ actually means, more of the same.
DOES THE SPIRIT HAVE A DISTINCT INTELLECT FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON?
To conclusively prove that the Spirit has a distinct intellect one must prove that the Spirit has a distinct intellect from that of the Father and Son. In our previous study concerning the distinction between the persons of the Father and Son we showed them distinct by many infallible proofs. We will consider these proofs and see if the Spirit can be identified as a distinct person.
The Scriptures tell us that the Father and Son love each other [John 3:35, 14:31]. This ‘agape’ love can only be among persons. If a Scripture could be found that stated the Father loved the Spirit, or the Son loved the Spirit, or even the Spirit loves the Father or Son, then it would be good proof that the Spirit has a distinct intellect. Yet no Scripture of this sort exists.
The Father and Son are shown to commune together in the Scriptures. They have conversations with one another [John 12:27-28], which proves conclusively that the Father and Son are two persons. Yet there is not a place in all the Bible where the Father or Son converse with the Holy Spirit.
The Father and Son are also shown to have distinct wills, though the Son always submits his will to the Father [Luke 22:42], which is another absolute proof that the Father and Son are distinct persons. Yet the Holy Spirit is never shown in Scriptures to possess a distinct and individual will.
The Father and Son are also shown to have personal names [YHWH and Jesus], yet the Spirit is never given a personal name.
Jesus, the Word, is called the Son of God because he is a person who truly proceeded from the Father [John 8:42]. The Spirit is said to ‘proceed from the Father’ [John 15:26], yet the Spirit is not considered an offspring of God. Why? If he is a distinct intellect from the Father like the Son is.
These facts alone show that the Father and Son do not relate to the Spirit as another distinct person. Yet there are many more examples that show, I think, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Spirit does not have a distinct intellect. For example:
The Father and Son are worshiped distinctly, but according to the Bible no creature in heaven or in earth worships the Spirit [Revelation 5:13].
Prayers are offered to the Father and the Son, but no one prays to the Spirit [Matthew 6:9, Acts 7:59].
In the new earth there will be no temple, “For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” Revelation 21:22. If the Spirit is a Third Person, why isn’t he mentioned here?
In the new earth the Father and Son will have a throne, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as a crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” Revelation 22:1. Yet the Spirit is never mentioned as having a throne.
In 1st Timothy 5:21 the Apostle Paul called the greatest intellects in the universe to witness his charge to Timothy, they were “God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels”. If the Spirit was a ‘third person’ equal to Christ and above the angels in power, would he not had called upon him?
The Apostle Paul greets the Churches always in the following manner: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” [See 1st Corinthians 1:4, 2nd Corinthians 1:2. Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, to the Colossians 1:2, Thessalonians 1:1.
He also gives the same greeting to Timothy (1:2) and to Philemon (1:3). Paul only mentions the Father and Son in his opening remarks to Titus (1:1) and to the Hebrews (1:1-2). James follows the same sequence (1:1). Peter gives basically the same greeting as Paul has used (2nd Peter 1:2). John only makes mention of the Father and Son in his greetings (2nd John 1:3), as does Jude (1). This would not be well mannered if the Holy Spirit was a Third Person equal to the Father and to the Son.
Also consider whom John said he had fellowship with: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
Clearly the Apostles did not recognize the Holy Spirit as a "distinct Being" possessing his own distinct intellect. But rather the Apostles viewed the Spirit as the Spirit of God, that communicated the presence and personality of the Father and Son to the believer.
When the Holy Spirit spoke, the Apostles knew that it was truly Christ who was speaking to them through the agency of the Spirit. Notice in Revelation chapter 2 at verse 18. The Bible states:
“And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God”. So clearly these are the words of Jesus Christ, but just listen how he finishes this letter, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” Revelation 2:29.
The same idea is taught in Acts chapter one verse two:
“Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he [Jesus] through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen”
THE USE OF THE PHRASE ‘THIRD PERSON’ IN THE CREEDS
The Council of Nice in 325 AD [which was called to deal with the heresy of Arianism] had clearly declared the Divinity and eternal Sonship of Christ, but had been unclear concerning the Holy Spirit. In 360 AD there arose a debate among the Churches concerning the Divinity of the Spirit due to the heresy of the Macedonians which taught that the Holy Spirit was created and not Divine [Pneumatomachianism]. It was because of this schism the First Council of Constantinople was called [381 AD]. During the Council it was agreed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and thus is of [ousia] the Father’s Substance [Godhead]. As we have seen from our previous study the Bible does indeed teach the Divinity of the Spirit and that the Spirit according to Christ continually proceeds from the Father.
The Error of Modalism.
During the course of these ancient debates concerning the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was defined as distinct from the Father and the Son. This distinction in Theological circles is often denominated by the English word “person”, originally by the Greek word hypostasis, and later the Latin word ‘persona’. Though the Latin ‘persona’ can mean mask, yet when referring to the Trinity it always means subsistence.
The declaration that the Spirit is a person [hypostasis] within the Godhead was given to guard the truth from the heresy of Modalism. Modalism [propounded originally by Sabellius in Rome during the third century] taught that the Father was the only Divine person, who appeared through time in different modes [roles], or with different masks [Grk. Prosopa] a.k.a. Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
The Doctrine of Modalism was condemned by the early Church as heresy. Tertullian speaking of the doctrine said this: "By this Praxeas did a twofold service for the devil at Rome: he drove away prophecy, and he brought in heresy; he put to flight the Paraclete and he crucified the Father”
The orthodox doctrine of the Godhead thus taught that the Son and Holy Spirit are not mere roles or masks, but have eternal subsistence [hypostases] in the Eternal Essence [Godhead]; that is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit though of the same essence [homoousios] are truly and eternally distinct within that essence. The essence being the Father’s, from which was begotten Christ the Word, and from which continually proceeds the Holy Spirit. Thus the Father is truly a Father, the Son is truly the Son, and the Spirit is truly the Spirit of God, and the Three should not be confused, because they have always been distinct.
WHAT THE TERM “PERSON” MEANS
Thus we see in theological terms the word ‘person’ deals more with distinctions within the divine essence, rather than personal intellect. And this is why the ancient church spoke of the Spirit as being a ‘third person’, not because they necessarily believed the Spirit possessed distinct intellect like the Father and Son, but rather because the Spirit was seen as distinct from the Father and Son within the Godhead.
This is seen from the following quotes from St. Augustine [400 AD]. Augustin is of course considered the greatest and most influential of all the Christian Fathers. He was the intellectual head of the North African and the entire Western church of his time and is still highly regarded by Protestants and Catholics alike. He wrote after the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, and had full understanding of its implication. As we shall see, he refers to the Holy Spirit as the Third Person [hypostasis], yet clearly teaches that the Spirit is not an individual intellect like the Father and Son are. Augustine repeatedly refers to the Spirit as “holy and inviolable and unchangeable Love”, the Holy Communion and the Divine “friendship” that unites the Father and Son.
“But when we came to treat of love, which in the Holy Scriptures is called God, then a trinity began to dawn upon us a little, i.e. one that loves, and that which is loved, and love.... [therefore] the true faith pronounces to be three, when it both declares that the Father is not the Son, and that the Holy Spirit, which is the gift of God, is neither the Father nor the Son.”
“Therefore the Ho!y Spirit, whatever it is, is something common both to the Father and Son. But that communion itself is consubstantial and co-eternal; and if it may fitly be called friendship, let it be so called; but it is more aptly called love.... And therefore they are not more than three: One who loves Him who is from Himself [The Father], and One who loves Him from whom He is [The Son], and Love itself [The Holy Spirit]” On the Trinity Book 6
“I say, in such manner also see the Trinity that is God; because there also, by the understanding, we behold both Him as it were speaking, and His Word, i.e. the Father and the Son; and then, proceeding thence, the love common to both, namely, the Holy Spirit”
“Therefore that unspeakable conjunction of the Father and His [Son] is not without fruition, without love, without joy. Therefore that love, delight, felicity, or blessedness, if indeed it can be worthily expressed by any human word, is called by him... the Holy Spirit... the sweetness of the begetter and of the begotten, filling all creatures according to their capacity...”.
Augustine also explained why the Father and Son love each other, but neither says he loves the Holy Spirit: “But it is one thing to love one’s self, another to love one’s own love. For love is not loved... For I do not love love, except I love a lover; for there is no love where nothing is loved. Therefore there are three things — he who loves, and that which is loved, and love.”
“Nor let it trouble us that the Holy Spirit, although He is co-eternal with the Father and the Son, yet is called something which exists in time; as, for instance, this very thing which we have called ‘Him’, [is] a thing that has been given. For the Spirit is a gift eternally, but a thing that has been given in time.”
“But, whether the Holy Spirit of the Father, and of the Son, who are both good, can be with propriety called the goodness of both, because He is common to both, I do not presume to determine hastily. Nevertheless, I would have less hesitation in saying that He is the holiness of both, not as if He were a divine attribute merely, but Himself also the divine substance, and the third person in the Trinity.” City of Good, Book 11, Chapter 24
“Believers in Him were set on fire, they received the flame of love: and for this reason when the Holy Spirit itself had been sent to the Apostles, It thus appeared: “cloven tongues, like as of fire.”
“Wherefore also the Holy Spirit consists in the same unity of substance, and in the same equality. For whether He is the unity of both, or the holiness, or the love, or therefore the unity because the love, and therefore the love because the holiness, it is manifest that He is not one of the two [not the Father or Son]...“
From this short investigation concerning the Holy Spirit of God we can thus conclude that the Biblical writers and most of the early Church Fathers believed the Spirit to be:
Divine and yet Distinct from the Father and Son.
A distinct person [hypostasis] within the Divine essence, yet not a distinct intellectual being.
The Divine and Personal communion between the Father and Son.
The Divine and Personal communion between Christ and the Church.
Sadly many of the Church world has come to regard the hypostasis of the Spirit as a third distinct intellectual being; which I believe is a gross and even dangerous departure from the Faith.
BACK HOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT?
"Come out of her My people" - Jesus Christ
WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT