The Holy Spirit - His Person
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
We are on safe ground only if we read carefully what the Bible says on this important subject, and, though recognizing the fact that the ' infinite ' cannot be expressed in terms of the ' finite.' adhere to the Scriptural language concerning the Spirit of God, and accept as final God's declarations on the subject.
The method of illustration, though often extremely helpful in making clear profounder truths, is here to be taken carefully, as illustrations are but related to ' finite ' things and cannot therefore express the ' infinite.'
However, in reading our Bibles we are impressed by the fact that the great God whose thoughts and ways so far surpass our own (Isa. 55. 8, 9), reveals Himself in ways extremely similar.
We recognize one God, but three Persons in the Godhead, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and the Scriptures plainly teach that this is so. But here we have used the term ' person ' in reference to God. What then can this mean to man who lives and acts in a world of limitation ? Let us try to put it simply. A person has the capacity to will, to know, to act, and to feel or exhibit emotions. We can show hatred and love, anger and joy, but, in all these, his capacities are limited and imperfect. Of God, however, we read that His will is " good and acceptable and perfect" (Rom, 12. 2) ; His knowledge is complete, for " the Lord searcheth all hearts and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts" (1 Chron. 28. 9) and "there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do " (Heb. 4. 13). His power is absolute and almighty, " With God all things arc possible " (Matt. 19. 26). He is the " blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords ... to whom be honour and power eternal " (1 Tim. 6. 15).
We need hardly be reminded that " God is love " (used absolutely) (1 Jn. 4. 8) and " God is Light " (used relatively, as opposed to darkness) (1 Jn. 1. 5). God, the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into His hand " (Jn. 3. 35). He " so loved the World, that He gave His only-begotten Son " (Jn. 3. 16). Many are the Scriptures which tell us that God is also capable of hate and anger (Isa. 61. 8 ; Amos 5. 21 ; Zech. 8. 17 ; Num. 25. 4 ; Deut. 29. 28), hating sin with a perfect hatred.
The Holy Spirit (though appearing as the ' third ' person in the Trinity) is not in any way inferior to the Father or the Son. Two instances in Scripture may here be cited, where the Holy Spirit is linked with God the Father and the Son on perfect equality.
In the great commission of the Saviour to His disciples, " Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit " (Matt. 28. 19), we clearly observe the unity of the Godhead, and the coequality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Paul in his closing benediction to the Corinthian believers wrote " The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen " (2 Cor.13. 14).
We must not think of the term " third " in reference to time, for in the reckonings of God, who is eternal, there is neither beginning nor end, all is an eternal present. Thus, we shall find no discrepancy when we read that the Spirit of Truth, " which proceeded from the Father, He shall testify of me " (Jn. 15. 26) was always coexistent with the Father.
It has been observed that, in order of revelation, the Old Testament is concerned primarily with the Person and work of God the Father, the first person in the Trinity. The four Gospels are concerned primarily with the Person and work of the Son, the second Person in the Trinity, whilst the Book of the Acts and the Epistles are concerned primarily with the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity.
It would be well for us to read carefully what the Saviour Himself said in reference to the promise and coming of the Holy Spirit in His Paschal discourse as recorded in John's Gospel, chapters 14-16.
Let us note that He speaks of Him as the Comforter (ch.14. 16)—" and 1 will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter " (that is, another of the same sort, not different), " that He may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth." The Comforter denotes the title of a Person, one sent on behalf of another, an Advocate (as in I In. 2. I), one who manages the affairs of another. There is no thought here of the Holy Spirit being an influence or impulse.
Speaking of the Spirit's activities, the Saviour says that He is to be a Teacher—as indeed He Himself had been while yet abiding with them, " but the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things " (ch. 14. 25, 26). Again, " when the Comforter is come, whom 1 will send unto you from the Father, He shall bear witness of me " (ch. 15. 2(5, U.V.). Further, when lie is come, He will exercise His power in convicting the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment (cb. 16. 8, R.V.). He is to be their guide. " for when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all the truth : for He shall not speak from Himself . . . and lie shall declare unto you the things that are to come " (ch. 16. 13, 14).
Surely, this is sufficient evidence that the Saviour declared the Holy Spirit to be, not an influence, an impulse or an energy, but a Person capable of teaching, witnessing, convicting, and guiding.
The Eternal Sin. The importance of this subject is evident when we remember that the most solemn warning ever uttered by our Lord Himself, had reference to the Holy Spirit " Verily I say unto you, all their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies where withsoever they shall blaspheme : but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin : because they said. He hath an unclean spirit " (Mk. 3. 28-30, R.V.).
One has written on this subject that " to deny the Personality of the Spirit, and to deny His Deity, must eventuate—as it has done in every system where it has been attempted -in denial of the Deity of the Son; and in the denial of the Deity of the Son there must be included—as there always has been—a denial of the atoning work. Denying these truths, the whole fabric of revealed religion breaks down."