Church columnist: Great themes of the Bible — The Holy Spirit
Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 4, 2015
In previous articles we have discussed the Godhead, or Trinity, showing that there are three persons in the Bible that have the divine nature.
They are one in the divine nature and, therefore, three distinct persons that are the one true and living God. We have also discussed in previous articles that Jesus, the son of God, is Himself God. He is the second person of the Godhead. He is our great God and savior (Titus 2:13).
There are very few in protestant denominationalism that deny this. Only very few of what we consider the cultic fringes of Christendom attempt to make a case against the deity of Christ. The church of Christ, neither a fringe cult nor a protestant denomination, fully acknowledges the deity of Christ and honors Him as both Lord and God (John 20:28).
In talking about the Godhead (Colossians 2:9), we recognize Father (Ephesians 1:3), Son (Hebrews 1:8), and Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:3) as the three persons of the Godhead. In this article we’ll look more specifically at the Holy Spirit Himself. Of the three persons, He is probably the most misunderstood in both His person and His work.
Many, even among those who profess to believe in the Trinity, believe that the Holy Spirit is the expression of God’s power and not actually a distinct person from God the father or God the son. However, the Holy Spirit is referred to frequently in Scripture as having the traits of personhood.
The Holy Spirit is a “He” not an “it” (John 16:13-15). The Holy Spirit has mind (Romans 8:27), He knows (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11), He has volition (Acts 16:7), He has emotion (Romans 15:30), He speaks (1 Timothy 4:1). These traits of personhood show that the Holy Spirit is not merely the influence of God but a distinct person of the Godhead.
The Holy Spirit also possesses the attributes of Deity, showing Himself to be God. He is included with the father and the son (Matthew 3:16, 17; 28:19; John 15:26). He has the divine attribute of omniscience – all knowing. Paul says the spirit of God knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11).
The Hebrews writer says that the Holy Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). Only God is eternal so the Holy Spirit must be God. The Holy Spirit was active in creation (Genesis 1:1, 2; Job 26:13; 33:4), showing His omnipotence – all powerful (cf. Romans 1:20).
Peter explicitly stated that the Holy Spirit is God when he rebuked Ananias for his hypocritical deceit (Acts 5:3, 4). He asked Ananias why he had lied to the Holy Spirit and then said he had not lied to men but to God. When he lied to the Holy Spirit he lied to God! The Holy Spirit is God.
The greatest confusion over the Holy Spirit today is how He does His work today. There are many who believe that the Holy Spirit works in them in a miraculous way or that He talks to them and guides them in a very direct way. However, when we study the work of the Holy Spirit in scripture it is clear that the Holy Spirit works on the hearts of men by means of the word He inspired (2 Peter 1:21).
The Holy Spirit dwells in the hearts of men and works on the hearts of men the same way Christ dwells in believers. In Ephesians 3:17, Paul said that Christ dwells in our hearts “by faith.”
The same writer had previously written that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). So, if faith comes by hearing the word of God and Christ dwells in my heart by faith, then Christ dwells in my heart by means of the word of God.
Christ referred to His dwelling in disciples and His word dwelling in disciples interchangeably because it is the same thing (John 15:4-7). The Father, likewise, dwells in the hearts of believers by means of the word of God. It is by faithfulness to the word of God, i.e. the doctrine of Christ, that God makes our hearts His home (John 14:23; 2 John 9-11).
It is no different for the Holy Spirit. Paul told the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, 19) and in a parallel statement to the Colossians he said to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). In the two passages, Paul is saying the exact same thing in different words.
It is the same thing to “be filled with the Spirit” as it is to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” We are filled with the Spirit by means of filling our hearts with the word of Christ. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all three God and all three dwell in our hearts the exact same way, by means of the word of God.
A good illustration to demonstrate how the Holy Spirit operates on the hearts of men is found in Ephesians 6:17. The apostle Paul refers to the word of God as “the sword of the Spirit.”
The word of God is like a sword (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16) in the hand of the Holy Spirit. It is “the sword of the Spirit.” How does a swordsman influence, or operate, on his target? He cuts them with his sword!
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37).