God the Holy Spirit
By Nikolas Larum
Writers are strange creatures, often stretched between the polar opposites of holding opinions and dreams so strong that they must be written down and emotions too fragile to handle editorial comments. I’m no different. I have my convictions. But I want approval. These things are often mutually exclusive. Fully aware of my frailty, I called my mother on the phone and read to her the introduction to this book (the one you just read—unless, of course, you happen to be a skip reader! Did you like the conclusion?). “What do you think?” I asked. “Amazing,” she said, “for someone who never used to believe in the Trinity.” Ouch.
Shocked? She was right. Well, nearly right. I was brought up on the knees of the Southern Baptist faith, so denial of the Trinity hadn’t always been a part of my confession. But in my early teens, I got entangled in a Unitarian cult. After ten years of indoctrination, the Lord delivered me from that organization. What followed was a long journey of reexamining some of the basic tenants of Christianity: life after death, the anointing work of the Holy Spirit, and the nature of the Godhead. What I discovered on this journey, among other things, was that many Christians accept basic theological tenets at face value without ever bothering to ferret them out in Scripture. Though their faith is commendable, it is in that condition rendered indefensible. Without the word of God as a sure foundation to stand on, how are they to combat the doctrinal errors propagated by the enemy?
I do not regard myself to be an expert on the Trinity. If I had to define the progression of my theology, I would have to say that I have moved from Ignorance (or simple conformity) to Unitarianism (or straight forward deception) to Trinitarianism (or informed ignorance). Orthodoxy’s embrace can be an illusive thing. Just when you think you are in the fold, there are still those who wish to inform you that you are from the wrong flock! A simple, cursory read of the Trinitarian debate throughout Church history, past and present, is sufficient to show that even Trinitarians have had a hard time agreeing on all the particulars of what constitutes orthodoxy.
If the nature of the Trinity has never intrigued or baffled you, I’ll warrant that you haven’t given it much thought. The problem with this “take it on faith” approach is that it leaves one very vulnerable to false doctrines regarding the Godhead. Though various groups have denied the divinity of Jesus Christ in many different ways since the days of His earthly ministry, most saints will flatly reject any notion that He is not God. The same goes for any claim that YHWH, the Father, isn’t God. Where ignorance regarding the nature of the Godhead is most destructive to the body of Christ (because it affects the largest amount of people) is in our understanding of the Holy Spirit.
I was held captive for many years in a system of faith that denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. For this unorthodox belief, the group I was a part of was rightly classified as a cult by the greater body of Christ. But many of these same God-fearing folks who righteously branded me and my companions with the big “C” would talk about and relate to the Holy Spirit as if He were an impersonal force. These things should not be. If we are to have a complete and battle-worthy theology of the Godhead, we must be clear on who and what the Holy Spirit is.
As I have already stated, I do not claim to be an expert. I claim the position of informed ignorance. This leaves me great room for learning. If some of the concepts in this chapter (or this book, for that matter) seem heretical to the reader, forgive me. It is not my intent to offend, only to inform. All I ask is that you “search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.” And though it is true that we may never agree on all the particulars of orthodoxy in this life, we must agree that the Godhead is an awesome and mysterious Entity.
1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
God speaks to us through the creation. This is the whole crux of symbolism. “A symbol [in Scripture]…is designed to represent certain characteristics or qualities in that which it represents. To be interpreted, it requires a pointing out of the characteristics, qualities, marks or features common to both the symbol and that which it symbolizes.” To understand the God we can’t see we must study the creation that we can see. The whole creation gives evidence of God. That is what this book is all about. We are going to examine what the Holy Spirit wants us to understand about Him when He calls Himself a river, or a dove, or an eagle, or a cloud, or oil.
Now, I’ll admit that the simplistic definition of the Trinity sounds illogical: three Persons, individual, yet unified; each God, but not three gods. How can this be? It sounds entirely illogical. Our claim to Monotheism is challenged by Jews and Muslims alike in the face of our Trinitarian confession “You can’t have Three Persons being God and claim to believe in only One God,” they say. But we do.
Suppose you had two oxygen atoms, each at the same temperature and pressure. In other words, they are in the same quantum state. Can these two atoms be distinguished? No, from the quantum mechanics point of view, they are the same atom! If you interchanged them physically, the universe is unchanged. Without this exact identity, there would be no stability of matter and keeping track of chemical reactions would be impossible. So we see that even on an atomic scale, two things (or three) can be one. Why would anyone think this to be an impossibility with God?
Not only the principle of exact identity, but also the pervasive state of interdependence in the creation speaks to us of the Godhead. George Otis, Jr. states it this way:
“The truth of the matter is that God’s universe has operated on the principle of interdependence from the very beginning. Atomic structure, the human body, and the family unit all testify to this truth. From one end of creation to the other, nothing is strong enough or sufficient enough to operate with total autonomy. The strategy is delightfully coherent: Let material creation reflect the intrinsic interdependence of the Trinity, and then encourage moral creation to take note and emulate the divine pattern.”
Father, Son, and Spirit Are the Same
Far be it from me to try to reduce the Godhead to a quantum level. But if two systems of the same substance in the same quantum state are indistinguishable, what about Three Persons in the same God state? If these Three Persons be shown to have the same essence, powers, attributes, and privileges would they not, in a sense, be indistinguishable?
The same God state? Herein lies the power in the term Godhead versus Trinity. For one, Godhead happens to be found in the Bible, whereas Trinity is strictly a theological term of human invention. We use the term Godhead like the name of a governing council. For instance, “The Triumvirate determined that the empire should be shared.” Or, “The Council met today to decide next year’s budget.” In this sense, I think the term Godhead is much more useful and less confusing than Trinity. Be that as it may, our use of it in this way confuses us with regard to its true meaning.
The English word “godhead” comes from the Middle English godhede: GOD + hede, which is a variant of –hode, or as we see it today, -HOOD. Thus, our word “Godhead” does not speak to position but to the state, condition, or quality of being. It means Godhood. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all have Godhood: the state, condition, and quality of being God.
The term “Godhead” appears only three times in the King James Version (KJV) and each time it is a translation of a different Greek word as is shown in Figure 1.1.
The verses from 2 Peter teach us that we can share in the nature of divinity. Through His power and promises, God imparts to us the ability to manifest His likeness, to take on “Godlikeness” or “Godhood.” If this statement makes you nervous, then spit a curse at the spirit of religion in the name of Jesus Christ. Being in God’s likeness was the purpose of our creation and redemption!
Romans 1:20 teaches us that we understand the power and majesty of God through the observation of His works. The third use of Godhead in the KJV comes closest to the way we use it the most.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead [theotes] bodily.
The term theotes means God’s personality as directly revealed. This verse teaches us that all that it means to be God (the full expression of Godhood) dwells bodily in our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the preeminent revelation of the New Testament. Thus, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in the same God state. They have the same essence, attributes, power, and privileges.
In essence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same. All three are spirit. All three are the Word. As the Spirit, they have life in and of themselves and provide life to all else. As the Word, they define the reality of all existence.
They are the same in attributes. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all eternal, without beginning or end.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
This is one of the many verses giving a Trinitarian witness of the Godhead in the Old Testament. The prophecy is about Jesus, the child born, the son given. But note the names the Son is given: Wonderful Counselor, everlasting Father. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of counsel in Isaiah 11:2. And the Father is everlasting.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Those who argue against the divinity of Jesus do so on these very same eternal grounds. Since he was born, he had a beginning; thus he cannot be God, they reason. But they are wrong. It isn’t that He had a beginning. It is that He is the Beginning.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
The title of Alpha and Omega (one which the Father bears as well in Hebrew as the Aleph and the Tau) is a claim to sovereignty over time. Only One outside of time can claim rulership over it. It is an eternal epithet. And the eternal Son offered Himself to the eternal Father through the eternal Spirit.
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Not only are they all eternal. They are all also omniscient. This means that they know everything and cannot be taught anything.
Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
1 John 3:20
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.
The above verses declare the omniscience of the Father. As the saying goes, like Father, like Son.
12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.
I know that many of us are accustomed to applying verse 12 to the written word of God. And though it is true that the written word is powerful, these verses are speaking of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One with whom we have to do and from whom nothing is hidden. He sees all. He knows all.
2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. He is omniscient and so is the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 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.
If you were to meet someone who had the exact same knowledge set as you did (i.e., they would have the exact same memories, skills, opinions, perspectives, etc.), who would that person be? Well, who besides you has the exact same thoughts you do? Nobody. In that all Three Persons of the Godhead are omniscient, they all have the exact same knowledge set. This alone would make them One. But not only are all Three omniscient, they are also omnipresent.
23 Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off?
24 Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.
YHWH is the Father’s name. In the King James Version (as well as several others), the translators have tried to tip us off to the use of YHWH in the original text by translating it as LORD in all caps. No one can hide from God the Father for He is everywhere.
Ephesians 4:10 AMP
He Who descended is the [very] same as He Who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things (the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest).
The Lord Jesus Christ is omnipresent. Was He omnipresent during His earthly ministry? No, He willingly left heaven and submitted to being confined to the singularity of a human body which veiled His divinity. After His ascension, He was glorified to His former position and entered once again into the omniscient and omnipresent state of Godhood.
7 Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If you can’t hide from it, it’s everywhere! The Spirit of God is omnipresent. Even those in hell can’t hide from Him. He has what you might call a pervasive Presence. This is certainly good news for us (though I’m not sure how those in hell feel about it!). What plans, schemes, or machinations can the hordes of hell hide from our Holy God? None, God has never been surprised by anything the devil has ever done. Saddened, yes. Surprised, no.
So far, we have seen that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are of the same essence (Spirit and Word) and have the same attributes (eternal, omniscient, and omnipresent). Their power is also of the same quality and quantity. It is omnipotent.
Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
The Father’s strength is everlasting and nothing is impossible with Him. The Son and the Spirit share in His might.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
The Lord Jesus Christ calls Himself the Almighty and the Spirit of God is called the breath of the Almighty. His hand is never too short to accomplish what is required. As the Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Eternal God, He holds the unique right and privilege of being worshipped. Much is worshipped that is not God. But only He is worthy of it.
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
That the Father is to receive worship is not really open to debate. Where arguments have risen throughout the course of church history is whether the Son and the Holy Spirit are to be worshipped. For instance, Paul of Samosata, Patriarch of Antioch at the end of the third century, would not allow prayer to Jesus Christ in his church or hymns in Christ’s honor. The Father alone was to be worshipped and prayers were to be through Christ, as intermediary between God and man. If some would treat the Son this way, what of the supposed silent partner of the Trinity? Because many hold to the concept (either in practice or by tenet) of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force, worshipping Him seems at best weird and at worst unbiblical. I can’t help much with the weirdness aspect, but hopefully I can cast some light on the subject through Biblical documentation.
Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Never does Christ reprove anybody for worshipping Him. How could He since the Father commands it?
And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Those who argue against the direct worship of the Holy Spirit do so on the grounds of a supposed lack of proof text. Where is the verse that says “Worship the Holy Spirit?” they ask. Glad you asked.
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. [Emphasis added.]
Worship God! End of story. The very fact that any would argue against worshipping the Holy Spirit is evidence of a belief that He isn’t fully God. If the Holy Spirit be God, then worship Him we must. If we refuse to worship Him, then our actions confess that we do not truly believe that He is God. It really is that simple. But though a soft answer may turn away wrath, simple explanations don’t always quell a debate. For those who prefer a longer logic chain, what follows is for you.
Worshipping the Holy Spirit
In a concordance search of the KJV for the terms “worship” and “spirit” appearing in the same verse, one would only find four references: John 4:23-24, Philippians 3:3, and Revelation 19:10. In all of these, the closest we get to “Worship the Holy Spirit” is John 4:24.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
If one is prone to splitting the hairs of the Trinity, this simply will not do. Where is the commandment to directly engage the Person of the Holy Spirit in worship? It is contained in the axiomatic logic of the Scriptures.
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness [the tabernacle of Moses], as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus [Joshua] into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.[the tabernacle of David]
47 But Solomon built him an house.[Solomon’s Temple]
48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples [the plural use encapsulates all the worship structures already mentioned as well as Herod’s Temple that was still standing while Stephen spoke] made with hands; as saith the prophet,
49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
50 Hath not my hand made all these things?
51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Stephen reminded his contemporaries that though their forefathers had had the tabernacles of Moses and David and they had the temple, the most High didn’t dwell in any of them. But that is exactly what they were built for, as habitations for God. Temples are built to house and honor the object of worship. Stephen declared that their lack of understanding of God’s true nature—especially His omnipresence—and the fact that the temple could not contain Him amounted to resisting the Holy Spirit of God. If He does not live in temples made with hands, where does He live?
1 Corinthians 3:16-17
16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
He dwells in us. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And temples are built to house and honor the object of worship. It stands to reason, then, that we can and should worship the Holy Spirit. If the truth that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all to be worshipped causes you any consternation regarding your times of devotion (e.g., who should I pray to?), you needn’t worry. When you speak to God, you speak to all Three. That is the beauty of the triune God. Worship of the entire Godhead is seen in the worship of the Name. All expressions of the Godhead are found in the name of the Lord (Father) Jesus (Son) Christ (Spirit). He is “the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Great indeed is the mystery of Godliness.
As we incline our hearts to worship God in spirit and in truth, He will lead us in our relationship with Him. Sometimes we need to honor the Father and feel His comforting embrace. Other times we may bow down before the Son and kiss His feet, full well knowing why they were pierced. There will be occasions when the presence of the Holy Spirit is so tangible that we cannot help but to praise Him. Worship is much more a dynamic, relational reality than it ever is an intellectual exercise. That is why intellectualism always seeks to confine worship in the corral of religious tradition and liturgy. What we cannot control generally tends to frighten us. But we need to remember that no controlling relationship is healthy.
Though the Holy Spirit rightfully receives reverence and adoration, His major role in worship is to lead us in it. In Revelation, we see Him as seven lamps before the throne of God lighting it that we might see the object of our worship. God is Spirit and He seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Who better to teach us than the Holy Spirit? He fills our mouths with praise. He cries out “Abba, Father” within us. Spirit led worship takes us beyond the confines of religious liturgy into the open pasturelands of a dynamic relationship with the Creator of the Universe.
An Operational Definition of the Trinity
I trust that all the above has helped the reader to see that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are indeed One God. This truth has been expressed theologically as the doctrine of the Trinity. That the term “Trinity” is not found in the Bible isn’t sufficient reason to discard it. But if we are to use it, then it is incumbent upon us to define our terms.
The doctrine of the Trinity isn’t tritheism, the idea that there are three gods of equal status in a Christian “pantheon.” The doctrine of the Trinity simply stated is that “in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct from one another…In the words of the Athanasian Creed: ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.’ In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal.”
Now, if by co-equal we mean the continual exercise of the same authority (in level or type) we have a problem. This would confuse the different functions and aspects of the different Persons in the Godhead. On the other hand, if by co-equal we mean to say that the Three Persons of the Godhead have equally and in common with one another the nature and perfection of supreme divinity, then the term as a theological tag may be redeemed. The early church fathers invariable conceived the Three Persons as each exercising distinct and separate functions. Chuck Missler puts it succinctly when he says:
“The Bible reveals to us the invisible Father, from whom all revelations proceed; the Son, who mediates and objectively incarnates that revelation as a historical reality; and the Holy Spirit, who is divinely outpoured and subjectively applies that revelation to each of us.”
Figure 1.2 below is a representation of a classic graphic used to explain the Trinity.
The diagram illustrates the truth that while the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; the Father is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. When I speak of the Trinity, it is with this understanding in mind, that while They are each God, They each play different roles in the history of our creation and redemption. For instance, the Father didn’t die on the cross for you and me. The Son did. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 is another good example of the different functions of the Persons of the Godhead.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
The Holy Spirit dispenses the differing spiritual gifts of grace. The Son imparts the different administrations in the church. But it is the Father who is the originator and architect of the power that They—the Son and the Spirit—release in us. Each member of the Godhead plays a part for equipping us in “the manifestation of the Spirit” that is given to us all for our benefit.
The Holy Spirit is not an Impersonal Force
Charismatic Christianity—that large portion of the body of Christ that believes the signs and wonders seen in the book of Acts are available to believers today—is acutely aware of the Holy Spirit’s role in dispensing the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. In the interest of full disclosure, I must inform the reader that I am squarely within the Charismatic camp. I consider our desire and pursuit of all that God has promised the saints to be noble. But I have also noticed a tendency among us to treat the Holy Spirit more as a power source than a Person. This is seen in many of the analogies we use while instructing people in the gifts. We admonish people to “tune in” or “feel the flow” or “activate the gift.” In our desire for people to experience the Holy Spirit’s power, I fear we have been more concerned about effect than affect. But the latter must come before the former.
To affect means to have an effect on, to bring about a change in someone or something. We get our English word from the Latin afficere, “to exert influence on.” From “affect” we get “affection” and “affectionate.” Effect is the result of the affect. No affect, no effect. To concern ourselves with outcome (signs, miracles, and wonders) without a solid foundation of relationship is to put the cart in front of the horse. Perhaps a story may help explain this a bit better.
Journey to Chicken Island – A Short Story
Your mother and father were proud, excited, and nervous the day you were born as most first time parents are. (If you are not a first born, just go with it. It is a story, after all.) As the nurse put you in the industrial bassinette to cart you off to the hospital nursery, your father patted you mother reassuringly on the shoulder. “It will be ok, honey,” he said. “They’ll take fine care of the baby and you can get a little rest.” Your mother knew better. She tried to relax, but the uneasiness wouldn’t leave her.
“Dear, take me to the baby,” she said, eyes intense beneath a furrowed brow.
“Honey, they just took the boy out not an hour ago,” your father protested. (If you weren’t a baby boy, just go with it. Remember, it’s a story.)
“I know,” she said, “but I just have to see him.” Against the nurse’s protest, he helped your mother out of the bed and they made their way slowly to the human chicken coop.
“There he is,” your father said. “Second row up, forth from the left. Isn’t he precious?” She would have answered him. She would have said, “Oh, yes, dear, he’s beautiful.” She would have, that is, if you hadn’t disappeared right then. “Oh, yes,” died into a gasp that turned into a cry which grew into a howl. It wasn’t the radiologist’s fault. She had no way of knowing. Who could have?
As your father and mother were making their way down the hall, the radiologist two floors down was telling her patient that everything was going to be all right. The procedure wasn’t dangerous at all, she said as she donned a lead jacket and stepped behind her protective wall. At the very instant that your father pointed you out by poking his finger at the glass-encased wire window, she flipped her switch and started a chain reaction that would take multiple pages to tell (complete with fancy looking physics formulas that I can’t understand, let alone write) but took only a nanosecond to complete. The power surge from the nearby electrical substation combined with the powerful x-ray quantum gun and broke loose through faulty wiring in the hospital to connect with the DNA signature in your father’s finger and opened up a worm hole in your bassinette, which swallowed you whole. (I know, I know. Farfetched. But if you saw those fancy formulas, you might believe me.)
Your mother’s screaming was understandable. But she may have been comforted to know that you landed on a lush island inhabited by goat milking chickens. These chickens made sure that you had enough milk to drink and they protected you from the elements and hid you from predators. And you grew.
One day while you were chasing the goats with the chickens to get a glass of milk, you noticed an odd looking creature walking toward you on the beach. Then it dawned on you. It is another human walking toward you. “Nikolas,” you cry out, recognizing me from my back cover photo on this book, “how did you ever find me?”
“Never mind that now,” I said, tugging at my shirtsleeve to cover up my embarrassing x-ray burn. “Your father is coming and I have to prepare you for what to expect.” We spend the next several hours together as I teach you how a hug feels, what happens to your hair when your head is kissed as compared to when it’s patted, the heat your posterior may feel as the result of a swat, and the exhilarating feeling of being thrown in the air and caught again.
As our little seminar draws to a close, a man walks up to us from the shore. The chickens part before him as he nears you. With tears in his eyes, he embraces you. You feel the constriction of your arms, the warmth of his chest, the greater difficulty in breathing that somehow is more comforting than disconcerting and recognize that you are being hugged just as I had described it to you. “Throw me in the air,” you say, full of excitement, “I want to experience all that father can do.” Your father obliges. He tosses you in the air and joyfully catches you before you hit the sand. What a rush! Your father’s powerful arms propelled you beyond your own ability to break with gravity and then captured you before gravity’s renewed grip could cause you any harm. You know excitement. You know the sensation of a comforting hug. You have experienced the power of limited flight. What you don’t know is why your father is doing all these things. You haven’t been taught that his hug is an exhibition of his longing for you, his swat a reminder of his love, his toss an expression of his joy. You recognize the effects of being around him but not the affection they communicate. Imagine your father’s heartbreak when he realizes that you are coming to him just for recreation and not relationship.
Return from Chicken Island – Back to Reality
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. He is a Person. As a person, He has the same attributes that mark you as a person. He has thoughts, a will, memories , and emotions. Like you, He is self-aware.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11
10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
11 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.
What makes you self-aware? What is the entity that monitors your thoughts? How are you able to talk to yourself? The spirit of man within you is the core of your being. It is the heart of who you are. Would you be willing to simply call that a “life force” and regard it as a non-sentient part of your being? I didn’t think so. But in many practical ways, we are willing to do just that with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that knows the things of God even as it is the spirit of man that knows the things of man. The Holy Spirit is not only Self-aware; He plumbs the depth of the heart, will, and emotions of the Father and the Son. Talk about relationship!
The Holy Spirit’s Marks of Personhood
If I stick my finger into an electrical outlet, I am sure to have a memorable experience. The encounter will undoubtedly modify my future behavior toward all things electric. But the outlet itself is nothing to me but the source of the experience. I won’t try to talk to it, hang out with it, or even look longingly at it. I may read about electrical outlets to figure out how best to receive benefit from it and avoid being burned. But even this exercise falls far short of fellowship. And if I began evidencing undue fondness for inanimate wiring, you would rightly judge me odd. But somehow, when we treat the Person of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force it doesn’t cause us heart burn.
Getting to know a person requires more than just shaking their hand. Conversation and openness over time develops the bonds of friendship. It is in those encounters that we learn what a person knows, wants, and feels. Along with self-awareness, the Holy Spirit bears these other marks of personhood. He has knowledge, a will, and emotions.
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord;
He is not the Spirit of data storage. He is the Spirit of knowledge, and knowledge connotes awareness and experience.
1 Corinthians 12:11
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
The Holy Spirit distributes gifts in accordance to His own will. As Jesus subjugated His will to the Father, so the Spirit subjects Himself to Jesus Christ. And the Father Himself submits to the requests of the Holy Spirit. This does not indicate any greater authority on one part of the Godhead over the other. It simply illustrates the principle of submission. And submitting doesn’t indicate a lack of will. Quite to the contrary, one must have a will to submit. And the Godhead models this for us perfectly. Because of submission, They can work in perfect unity without any jealousy of position.
2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. NKJV
Could you imagine the reaction this would have caused if we were talking about a human governing body? Suppose a dedicated group of Marines gathered to honor their commanding general. Right in the middle of the ceremonies, while the gunnery sergeant was praising the general for his vast accomplishments and strategic acumen, another general crashes the party and says, “Jones and Franklin, front and center. I am sending you off on a special mission. You leave tomorrow.” Jones and Franklin might not say anything but “Yes, sir!” The commanding general, on the other hand, may have ideas of his own regarding Jones and Franklin. And who was this other general to come in and crash his party?
Not so the Godhead. The church in Antioch is deeply absorbed in a dedicated worship time of ministering to the Lord Jesus. In the middle of the festivities, the Holy Spirit calls out Barnabas and Saul and gives them marching orders. The King of kings isn’t put off one bit. He was probably smiling as the Holy Spirit went to work. After all, it’s Jesus’ orders that He communicates. But note how He personalizes it. “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” With such ownership over direction, how could we ever doubt that the Holy Spirit has a will?
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
The Holy Spirit has emotions. He can be grieved. Let me ask you, have you ever seen your electrical outlet shed tears of sorrow? Do you know why the Holy Spirit grieves? Because He loves! And as any ardent lover worth his salt, He feels great longing and jealousy. And these are not His only emotions. Remember the fruit of the Spirit?
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
It is His fruit. The reason He can cause us to bear them is because they express His nature: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness. These all have emotional qualities. And it is His emotion—His passion—that brings richness and depth to the relationship.
Yes, the Holy Spirit is God. He is a Person. And as a Person, He desires fellowship with us. He was the one who moved holy men of God to write about Him using symbolic language that we might know how to keep in step with Him. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Rom 5:5; 15:30
Gal 5:25 NIV