Another Comforter: Who is the Holy Spirit?

In the recent past, Francis Chan has become very popular due to the success of his book Crazy Love. As if that was not enough, Chan came back even stronger when he released another book entitled Forgotten God in which Chan gives his own commentary on the Church’s neglect of the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time that the Holy Spirit has been at the forefront of discussions such as this. In the late fourth century Macedonius “defined the Holy Spirit as a divine energy diffused throughout the universe, not a person distinct from the Father and Son.” However this heresy was later condemned. What do we really know about the Spirit of God? Is the Spirit also God just as the Father and Son are God? Or is He something or someone else? Let us find out.

In the Trinity God exists in three Persons: Father, Son, AND Spirit. Contrary to what many have believed, just as the Father and Son are God so is the Holy Spirit equally God Himself. It is impossible to have one without the other (other Two) because “Trinity means that shared life is basic to the nature of God” (Pinnock 31). Ontologically, God exists in three distinctly unified Persons and cannot exist otherwise. In the fourth century the teaching that the Spirit was not divine, but a subordinate of the Father and Son, was later condemned by Pope Damascus in 374 A.D. The Pope had very good reason for putting down this heretical teaching because the Bible itself explicitly affirms just the opposite.

In the gospel of John, Jesus (God) is recorded saying that He would pray to the Father (God) and ask Him to send “another Helper” (also God) for His disciples (John 14:16, NASB).  In the next verse He explains to His disciples that this Helper is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, NASB). The word that is translated another means “another of the same substance;” it is the Greek term homoousios (Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms 61). So then, what Jesus said was that “I will send you another divine Person like Myself” and He is the Spirit-God.

Not only is the Holy Spirit divine He is also personal. Again, in His divinity He possesses all of the qualities and attributes that the Father and Son possess. The authors of the Bible were not bashful in making this truth abundantly clear to its readers. In reference to God the Spirit it is stated that He can be lied to, grieved, insulted, blasphemed, and Someone who can be loved (Acts 5:1-11; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 10:29; Matt. 12:31; 1 John 4:7-13, NASB). Attributes such as those mentioned can only belong to Someone, not something. Because the Holy Spirit is “fully personal and fully divine” He is therefore able to work on behalf of all people (Grenz 154).

As God, the Holy Spirit was also actively involved in the creation of the world. According to Genesis 1:2, it was the Spirit of God “moving over the surface of the waters.” Also, when “man became a living being” it was as a result of the Spirit of God entering into the man (Genesis 2:7, NASB). Therefore, the Spirit of God is actively “maintaining life” in human beings. Just as the Spirit gives each person physical life He is also where one may find new (spiritual) life in Christ (Greathouse and Dunning 46).

Stanley Grenz refers to the Holy Spirit as the great Completer of the divine program and the great Addresser confronting people through scripture (Grenz 154). The Spirit of God is the only reason that anyone can come to God to begin with. It is God’s Spirit, through the divinely inspired writings of the Bible, awakening sinners to their ever pressing need for a Savior. Because human beings are incapable of saving themselves it is safe to conclude that Someone other than man must initiate the process to bring about man’s salvation. The Spirit of God, through prevenient grace, reaches out to lift man from the mire of sin and death.

Not only is the Spirit of God actively maintaining the life of humans and making it possible that they find new life in Christ, He is also the Spirit Who sanctifies these individuals (Greathouse and Dunning 46-47).  In the Bible Jesus tells His disciples that “when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13, NASB). In order for the Spirit to guide them into “all truth” he must guide them out of all untruth; this is what is meant by sanctification. When the Bible speaks of sanctification it is speaking of separating that which is not God from that which is God. This is the Spirit’s doing. Just as no man can take the initiative to save himself, neither can he take the initiative to do what is pleasing to God. Thus the Spirit will guide him into all truth (Greathouse and Dunning 46).

Let me conclude by agreeing with Francis Chan that, at times, we often forget that God is three distinctly unified Persons, of which, one is the Spirit. We must remember that it is the Spirit of God Who awakens our minds to the truth that can be discovered within the pages of the Bible. It is also the Spirit Who guides us through the rough terrain of life that what we do might be pleasing to the God. If it were not for the Spirit of God equipping saints to the work of God, the Christian church would cease to exist. So then, next time you kneel to pray or you think about God, remember not to forget the Spirit.

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