The Spirit of God - His Personality and Deity
F. Cundick, Luton
The Holy Scriptures speak of the Spirit of God from cover to cover. On its first page there is painted the impressive picture of chaos, when darkness was upon the face of the deep; but the Spirit of God was brooding like a mother-bird upon the face of the waters. From the last page there rings out the evangelical challenge of the Church to the world, ‘the Spirit and the bride say, Come’. The central point of instruction on the Spirit between the above mentioned boundaries is the farewell Paschal discourse of our Lord to His disciples, John 13-16. From this central peak we look back over the Old Testament landscape and afterwards turn to scan the fields of New Testament truth. The outlook creates within the heart an impression of the immensity and comprehensiveness of the subject of the Person and work of the Spirit of God, and at the same time, deep feelings of thankfulness to God for the vantage-ground on which we are able to stand. The priceless ministry of our Lord to His own banishes many of the difficulties that existed in the minds of men of long ago. Living as we are in the brighter light of Christ’s revelations, we can strengthen our apprehension of the Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit. This is essential for the believer because of ‘natural’ inclinations towards opposite views. It is natural to think of God the ‘Father’ as personal, manifested by the ‘Son’ who became incarnate, and walked in lowly grace among men. But of the Spirit who is invisible, and whose operations are secret and silent, we are disposed to think otherwise.
Added to this inclination there is the influence of translation difficulties which translators were unable to avoid. Examples are:
1. THE WORD ‘SPIRIT’
In the language of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, the words for Spirit denote ‘wind,’ ‘breath’. This means that it is not always easy to decide the meaning of obscure passages. An Old Testament example would be, ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’, Isa. 59. 19. Is the spirit mentioned here the Holy Spirit, or ‘a blast of wind’ as some translators think? A New Testament difficulty of a distinct kind is provided by the words of the apostle Paul, ‘Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?’, Gal. 3. 3. Does the apostle refer to the Spirit of God, or the quickened spirit of the believer? See also Romans 8. 10.
2. THE USE OF THE WORD ‘IT’ IN REFERENCE TO THE SPIRIT
Such passages are found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’, 8. 16; ‘The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered’, 8. 26. Students of the Greek language point out that the word for ‘Spirit’ is neuter, and accordingly the strict rules of grammar demand reference to Spirit as ‘it’; we return to this matter later.
3. SCRIPTURE PASSAGES WHICH GIVE EMPHASIS TO THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT
Because of this feature, it is reasoned by some that the Spirit is but a symbol for God spiritually working. It is true that ofttimes it is difficult to distinguish between an operation of the Spirit and the Spirit Himself the Operator. The important thing is to endeavour to understand properly the viewpoint and purpose of such passages.
These are some of the influences that unfortunately produce hazy, nebulous ideas of the Spirit of God. Another has asked, ‘Is the Spirit a divine Faculty or a mode of action, in brief, a divine thing or a divine Person?’ The answer comes not from the imagination of man’s mind, nor traditions of men, but from the inspired Scriptures. In the present age it is obvious to one regardful of the light of Christ’s ministry that the Spirit’s work proves His Personality. No mere non-moral energy is contemplated but a living Person.
What Constitutes Personality?
Some of the elements of personality - personality in a theological sense - are individuality, intelligence and will. Holy Scripture bears evidence that these are possessed by the Spirit of God. The Spirit’s individuality is declared in the words of our Lord, ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter’, John 14. 16. What is meant is ‘another of the same kind’. The Lord spoke of a Personality distinguishable from His own. As He had been a personal Comforter to His disciples, so the Holy Spirit became to them and still is to the disciples of the present day. We may now revert to the exceptional use of the masculine pronoun ‘He’ with the neuter word ‘Spirit’ mentioned in paragraph 2 above. See John 14. 16,17; 15. 26; 16. 7, 8, 13. This ‘phenomenon of grammar’, as another has called it, denotes that John thought of the Spirit as a Person, Scripture using the common masculine form to denote both ‘Comforter’ and ‘Spirit’.
The intelligence of the Spirit is unmistakably taught by Paul in the first Epistle to the Corinthians: ‘The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God’, 2. 10. The actions of intelligence, such as speaking, hearing, guiding, are ascribed to Him in the Holy Scriptures; see, for example, Acts 28. 25, John 16. 13.
Whilst writing of the ministries of the Spirit, Paul attributes to the Spirit will. After enumerating the spiritual gifts in the assembly Paul writes, ‘All these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as He will’, 1 Cor. 12. 11 r.v. Will is the characteristic activity of personal life; therefore, the Spirit must be a Person. He is not something but someone, a Being in His own right.
The Spirit is not only a Person but the third Person of the Triune Godhead. He is co-equal, co-eternal and co-substantial with the Father and the Son. Three well-known passages of the New Testament associate the Spirit with the Father and the Son. (1) In the work of redemption, ‘How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God’, Heb. 9.14. (2) In the great commission, ‘Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’, (Readers should realise that the two English variants ‘Ghost’ and ‘Spirit’ are identical in meaning, being the style of the A.V. translators but not of the Greek original.—Eds.) Matt. 28. 19, newberry. It is helpful to note in this reference the unity of the three Persons as implied in the singular word ‘name’. (3) In the words of benediction, ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all’, 2 Cor. 13. 14.
The essential qualities of Godhead, or ‘attributes’ as they are known theologically, are absolute and moral. When these come into view in the references of Scripture to the Spirit, one has to recognise unhesitatingly that the Spirit is equal in His Personality and Deity with the Father and the Son. We may mention the following absolute attributes. Omnipresence is attributed to the Spirit, ‘Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?’ Psa. 139. 7. Again, ‘For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free’, 1 Cor. 12. 13 r.v. The Spirit must be in every locality to perform this ministry. Omniscience: ‘The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God’, 1 Cor. 2. 10. The nature of the knowledge possessed by a believer is spiritual, surpassing human knowledge in value because his Tutor is the Spirit who knows those things that belong to the very nature of God. Omnipotence: The work of salvation is ascribed to the Spirit, ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost’, Titus 3. 5. The mighty act of resurrection is likewise: ‘If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you’, Rom. 8. 11.
These brief remarks alone remind us that the doctrine concerning the Spirit of God is of great importance. The practical import of the facts of the Spirit’s Personality and Deity reaches out to every branch of Christian experience. The believer’s increase of spiritual knowledge depends upon the gracious Spirit’s operations. The devotion of a saint is vitally affected by what he knows of the Spirit’s ministry. One’s thoughts in this connection are regulated by the deep, unfathomable and inscrutable relationship of the Spirit’s eternal ‘procession’ in the Deity, see John 15. 26. As the ‘Spirit of life’, He is the Creative Energy. Whether in creation or salvation this is so, as consideration of Scripture will show. Compare Genesis 1. 14 with Job 26. 13 for the work of creation, and Romans 6. 8 with Romans 8. 2 for the work of salvation. This ‘well is deep’, but through the ministry of our Lord we are taught that the Father was in the Son, ‘the Father that dwelleth in me’, John 14. 10, and that the Son is in the Father, ‘Believe me that I am in the Father’, John 14. 11, and again, that both the Father and the Son are in the believer by the Spirit, Tn that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you’, John 14. 20 Newberry. All believers should understand that, in their devotions, the Sprit directs them to the Father and the Son, and hence the Spirit has no objective place in any prayer of the Lord Jesus or of the apostles; nor in any doxology, prologue to an Epistle nor in any solemn charge, which are always before the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and in one case the elect angels. If the Lord, the apostles and the Scriptures are silent as to prayer to the Holy Spirit, can we be voluble? This is not creating an artificial distinction, but giving full respect, as should always be the case, to the silence and omissions of Scripture. Then as regards service, is it not necessary, in the somewhat ‘jaded’ conditions that obtain in general, to consider afresh that what has been brought to us through the grace of Christ can be enjoyed and used effectively through the power of the Spirit alone? However clever or fertile the mind of man may be in inventing ideas, methods, technique, etc., one thing is evident that all is useless without the power and operations of the indwelling ‘Heavenly Guest’.