Whether you were raised in a Christian household, have grown up in the Church, or have recently become a Christian, I would be interested to ask what your view is on the Holy Spirit. Can you support with biblical evidence the triune divinity of the Spirit and His role in the Father, Son, Spirit relationship? Not to mention, how would you begin to explain who the Holy Spirit is to a non-believer? I too had to wrestle with these questions as I came to terms with the reality that the Holy Spirit is a person of depth and the roles of the Spirit need to be addressed by looking at the narrative of Scripture.
The deity of the Holy Spirit is essential to understand as a Christian and recognize its various roles in the history of Scripture, as well as its active role in the world today. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit may prove to be a challenging topic to be fully cognizant of; yet we must challenge ourselves to think critically and rely on wisdom from the Lord to gain understanding.
The Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruakh, meaning an invisible, powerful energy, necessary for life. The Holy Spirit is invisible but is an indwelling person, and the biblical authors refer to the Spirit as God’s personal presence. Jesus, Himself, says,
“He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Jesus uses a singular, masculine pronoun to establish that the Spirit is a “He,” not an “it.”
Being honest with ourselves and others about the importance of the Holy Spirit is crucial to our Gospel witness. The Gospel mandate is to go into the world preaching the Good News to all creation. To do this, believers must first understand the Scriptural basis for the Holy Spirit and the roles this third person of the Trinity fulfills.
The Role of the Spirit in the Trinity
To begin addressing some of the questions posed above, there must be a clear presentation of how the Holy Spirit is involved in the Trinity. This starting point must be concrete knowledge in the heart of the Christian. Michael Horton presents a clear, foundational explanation of the Trinity in his book, Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story. He writes,
So the essence is one. The persons are God in exactly the same way and to exactly the same degree. They are equally omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, loving, just, and holy. The Son and the Spirit share the same essence (homoousios) as the Father. But the persons are three. Each has his own personal attributes that distinguish him from the others. The Father is the unbegotten source of all things, the son is the only-begotten Son, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Father gave his Son, and the Spirit unites us to him.
The doctrine of the Trinity was secured during the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 and later finalized at the Council of Constantinople in AD 381. The doctrinal statement of one essence in three persons is established in the recognizable Nicene Creed. Today, the Church recognizes the overwhelming importance of the Holy Spirit in every born-again believer.
Pastor and theologian, John Piper, establishes two key truths about the Holy Spirit in his message, The Holy Spirit: He is God! that succinctly describes who the Holy Spirit is: 1) the Holy Spirit is a person, not an impersonal force (John 14:15-17), and 2) the Holy Spirit is God, not a creation of God (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The Spirit is “of God” not because God created Him, but because He shares God’s nature and comes forth eternally from God. It is by the Spirit that Christ’s followers comprehend the Scriptures as well as speak and preach the good news of the Gospel.
The triune relationship of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is complex and yet each person is equal first and foremost in power, knowledge, and divinity. Acts 10:38 gives a glimpse of this relationship,
“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
God himself provided Jesus with the Holy Spirit and the full power to complete His commands and purposes. Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, is our example to work towards our high calling (Phil. 3:14) and to fulfill our role as ambassadors for His Kingdom on earth (2 Cor. 5:11-21). The presentation of the roles of the three persons in Acts 10:38 proves evidently that each divine being engages equally together according to their respective characteristics. As Michael Horton puts it,
The Father is the source, the Son is the mediator, and the Spirit is the one at work within the world—and within us—to bring the work to completion.
The history of redemption that spans the course of Scripture progressively evolves the triune relationship. The Trinity, specifically the Spirit, has been and will continue to be imperative to the work of the Gospel.
The Spirit’s Divinity Evident in Scripture
Since the very beginning, the Spirit has been presently involved in the biblical narrative of Scripture.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and the darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The triune God is the Maker of heaven and earth: the Father speaks creation into being through the Son and by the operation of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 104:30; John 1:1-3; Heb. 11:3). Realizing the Spirit was present, hovering, and actively participating during the formation of the world verifies His divine quality.
Advancing into the New Testament, the Spirit continues to be present and declarative in the life of Jesus Christ. For the birth of Christ was by and from the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18; 20) and the Spirit was present at Jesus’ baptism, descending like a dove as Jesus arose from the water (Matt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lk. 3:21-22; Jn. 1:32-34). The Spirit of God came once again in the person of Jesus Christ to transform and commission people to love the Lord God and others more completely. Jesus Himself as part of the Trinity was in a relationship with the Spirit as God saw accordingly fit. John Piper states that,
Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River was God’s Spirit empowering Jesus to begin the new creation; healing and forgiving sins.
Today, the Spirit is continuing to work among the hearts of believers and non-believers to bring about the great multitude promised in Revelation 7:9-12. Two of the Great Commission accounts (Luke 24:44-53 and John 20:19-23) acknowledge the gift of the person of the Holy Spirit. Luke refers to the disciples being “clothed with power from on high” while John expresses the receiving of the Holy Spirit by being breathed on by Jesus. In particular, the Johannine Commission records Jesus appearing to His disciples after the Resurrection. This receiving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ disciples is the same Spirit believers receive today when they confess, repent, and believe in God.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then, the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
The Holy Spirit is a gift upon becoming a new creation in Christ and as a follower of the Lord you are given the Holy Spirit as a Helper and Teacher and peacemaker as you live in the world for Christ’s glory (John 14:15-17, 25-26). When we ask the Spirit to direct and guide us daily, we are asking in the power of Christ to engage with the Father so we can honor Him in all that we say and do. For we know we are to love one another, and through the Spirit, God’s love is perfected in us as we abide in Him (1 John 4:12-14).
Spurred on by the Spirit
Ultimately, each Christian’s life is to be lived empowered by the Spirit, who is not just a figure of the imagination, but is a fully divine being—the third person in the Trinity. The Spirit was present at Creation, in a communal relationship with Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and now is living in the hearts of Christians all over the world. Theologian John Piper articulates in The Holy Spirit: He is God! by saying,
There is only one power that can break the spell of Satan, waken the armies of the Lord, and rout the god of this age—the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit has the power to right unbelief with trust, shatter hate with love, and awaken wayward hearts to the Gospel of grace. The reality is the Holy Spirit is what allows us to understand the things of God (1 Cor. 2:12-14) and because of Him, we have true wisdom to understand rather than reject the Gospel.
The question now becomes do you believe the truth of the deity of the Spirit found in Scripture, and can you recognize the various roles the Spirit has and will continue to fulfill until the day of Christs’ return? I pray the Spirit will work anew in your heart and awaken your mind to the power living inside you if you are in Christ. If you have not given your life to Christ, I ask that you repent and believe in the saving power of Jesus’ death on the Cross and by faith come to Him, recognizing that it is by the Spirit your heart was awoken to your sin. May the peace of Christ fill you as you live as a Christian in tandem with the Spirit who is our indwelling ability to enjoy and glorify God forever.