The Person of the Holy Spirit by T D JAKES
[Author’s note: This article is the first of a series on the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Embraced in this opening article are the following major divisions of the Person of the Holy Spirit: (1) The Personality of the Holy Spirit; (2) The Deity of the Holy Spirit; (3) the Procession of the Holy Spirit; (4) The Titles of the Holy Spirit; (5) The Types of the Holy Spirit. Subsequent articles will deal with the Work of the Holy Spirit.]
In a discussion of the Person of the Holy Spirit, few writers will claim any large degree of originality. The revelation of the Scriptures, the theological discussion of the Christian centuries, the many publications on the subject, however brief and limited in their treatment of the subject, have summed a total of theological literature which very few can exceed in a lifetime of study. The current trend has been to emphasize the present work of the Spirit without a due consideration of His Person without which His work has no real foundation. To this end, this article will constitute another voice testifying to the fact that the study of the Persons of the Trinity is foundational to all theological truth.
The plan of consideration directs attention to the Person of the Holy Spirit to the exclusion of His work. It must be admitted that the study of His Person is never complete without the complement of the revelation of His Person in His works. For the sake of analysis, however, His Person will be considered first, with reference to His work only where necessary, leaving to later discussion the aspects of His work throughout the ages.
- The Personality of the Holy Spirit.
It is a fundamental revelation that the Holy Spirit is a Person, in the sense that the Father is a Person, and the Son is a Person. Without denial of the one Essence of the Godhead, the personality of the Holy Spirit must be affirmed and is subject to proof unassailable by any who accept the Scriptures as authoritative. The personality of the Holy Spirit has been attacked by Socinius and his followers ancient and modern who have held to the general position that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal energy proceeding from God. Shedd states that though the Socinians deny the personality of the Spirit they affirm the eternity of the Spirit as proceeding from the eternal God: “Socinians deny the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit; they concede eternity, because they regard the Spirit as the influence or effluence of the eternal God.”1 Centuries before, Arius had much the same idea, affirming that the Spirit did not have personality, as Watson indicates, “His personality was wholly denied by the Arians, and he was considered as the exerted energy of God.”2 Arius, however, denied the eternity of the Spirit, making him a creature. While the variations in the views of doctrine on the Person of the Holy Spirit have been many, the great body of orthodox and conservative theology has held to the personality of the Spirit, the proofs of which may be here considered.
- THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AFFIRMED BY HIS ATTRIBUTES.
In the nature of the case, every discussion of any portion of either the Person or work of the Holy Spirit has a bearing on the doctrine of His personality. The various qualities of His Person demonstrate that personality is a necessity, the center without which other qualities could not exist. The attributes of the Holy Spirit demand His personality.
(1) It may be noted that the Holy Spirit possesses the essential of mind or intelligence. The Scriptures explicitly affirm that the Holy Spirit exercises a moral and sovereign will comparable to that of the other Persons of the Trinity. In connection with the sovereign bestowal of spiritual gifts on men, the Spirit is said to accomplish this “as he will” (1 Cor 12:11). The essential of mind or intelligence is further confirmed by His works. His works indicate intelligence, knowledge, and the normal functions of personality. Personality, which is an attribute of His Person, is demonstrated by the actions of the Person. The attributes of omniscience (1 Cor 2:10-11) is evidence of the existence of mind and intelligence on a plane of deity.
(2) The Holy Spirit possesses life (Rom 8:2) which is an essential of personality. On the human level, possession of life is taken as proof of possession of personality, one without the other being impossible. As the Holy Spirit possesses life, personality is necessary. A mere influence or emanation does not possess the attributes of life, even if it should proceed from God. Life on a moral plane is always associated with personality.
(3) The deity of the Holy Spirit is conclusive evidence of personality, as sustained in the material upholding the deity of the Holy Spirit to be given in a later section. If it may be assumed here that God possesses personality, if the Holy Spirit is a Person of the Trinity, He in turn possesses personality. The two doctrines are mutually sustaining.
- THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AFFIRMED BY HIS WORKS.
Without a doubt, the most tangible and conclusive evidence for the personality of the Holy Spirit is found in His works. While it is not the purpose of the present discussion to examine the nature of His works, it is sufficient proof of His personality merely to name them. The very character of His works makes it impossible to interpret the Scriptures properly without assuming His personality. From the more complete discussion of His works to follow, these illustrations will be sufficient: (1) His work in creation (Gen 1:2); (2) His work in empowering (Zech 4:6); (3) His teaching ministry (John 16:13); (4) His guidance (Isa 48:16; Rom 8:14); (5) His comforting (John 14:26); (6) His prayer (Rom 8:26); (7) His work of convincing the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8); (8) His restraint of sin (Isa 59:19); (9) His authoritative commands (Acts 8:29; 13:2; 16:7). It should be clear from these citations that personality is absolutely necessary to explain these ministries. A mere influence or emanation does not create, empower, teach, guide, pray, or command. It is necessary to attack the inspiration of the Scriptures themselves to disturb the overwhelming evidence contained therein on this subject.
- THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AFFIRMED BY THE USE OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS IN RELATION TO HIM.
It is customary when speaking of persons to use the personal pronouns, I, thou, he, they. While personification of things material and immaterial is common, such uses of the personal pronouns are quite obvious and do not cause confusion. The use of personal pronouns in relation to the Holy Spirit in Scripture is sufficiently frequent to justify a conclusion that He is a person. As Charles Hodges states: “He is introduced as a person so often, not merely in poetic or excited discourse, but in simple narrative, and in didactic instructions; and his personality is sustained by so many collateral proofs, that to explain the use of the personal pronouns in relation to Him on the principle of personification, is to do violence to all the rules of interpretation.”3 The Greek of the New Testament is quite explicit in confirming the personality of the Holy Spirit by use of the pronouns. As πνεῦμα is neuter, it would naturally take neuter pronouns to have grammatical agreement. In several instances, however, the masculine pronouns are found (John 15:26; 16:13, 14). The use of the masculine form, ἐκεῖνος, makes the personality of the Holy Spirit clearly the intent of the passage. It is inconceivable that the Scriptures should turn from the normal neuter to the masculine unless a person is in view.
The same use of the masculine may be observed in the use of the relative pronouns, and in such a connection as supporting the thought of personality (Eph 1:13-14). No valid reason may be found for this except as indicating His personality.
- THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AFFIRMED BY THE FACT THAT HE IS REGARDED AS A PERSON BY THOSE WHO PLACE FAITH IN HIM.
Christians who have an intelligent comprehension of truth regard the Holy Spirit as an object of faith. This is done unconsciously rather than deliberately, their relation to the Spirit effecting this response. It is in keeping with the baptismal formula mentioned in Matthew 28:19 where the Holy Spirit is associated on an equal basis with the Father and the Son, whose personality is generally accepted. Likewise the apostolic benediction as recorded in 2 Corinthians 13:14 indicates an equality in respect to personality of the members of the Trinity. According to the Scriptures, it is possible to sin against the Holy Spirit (Isa 63:10); grieve Him (Eph 4:30); reverence Him (Ps 51:11); and obey Him (Acts 10:19-21). The experience of the Christian life and faith enters into these realities and affirms that it is most natural for Christians to regard the Holy Spirit as they would regard a person.
From the various lines of evidence, it is clear that the only tenable position for those who accept the Scriptures is to accept the full-orbed personality of the Holy Spirit. This has been the position of the orthodox body of Christians from the beginning. As Charles Hodge puts it, “The personality of the Spirit has been the faith of the Church from the beginning. It has few opponents even in the chaotic period of theology; and in modern times has been denied by none but Socinians, Arians, and Sabellians.”4
- The Deity of the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of the deity of the Holy Spirit has an intimate logical relation to the doctrine of the personality of the Spirit. It is clear that if the Holy Spirit is God, He is also a person. In like manner, if His Person be accepted, we are driven inevitably to the conclusion that He is God by the work He performs. Accordingly Hodge states, “Since the fourth century his true divinity has never been denied by those who admit his personality.”5 In the fourth century Arius held originally according to Watson6 that the Spirit was created and hence affirmed in part His personality without affirming His deity. The inconsistency of this position drove Arius and his followers finally to renounce completely the personality of the Spirit, and, as Hodge points out, no further attempt in this direction has been made since. The proof of the deity of the Holy Spirit is extensive to the point where it is impossible to display all the possible ramifications of the argument. Every aspect of the truth regarding the Holy Spirit speaks in eloquent terms of His deity. Hence, it is possible to indicate merely the broad outlines of the argument for His deity.
- IDENTIFICATION OF JEHOVAH AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
All agree that the term Jehovah is a title of deity. Accordingly, it is of great significance that this title is given the Holy Spirit. A comparison of Isaiah 6:8-9 and Acts 28:25 will reveal that the Jehovah of Isaiah is the Holy Spirit of Acts. The identification is not of Person but of Essence. Jehovah is used of all three Persons of the Trinity severally as well as of the Trinity corporately. Another instance of identification of Jehovah and the Holy Spirit is found inJeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 10:15.
- IDENTIFICATION OF GOD AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The term God as found in the translations of the Old and New Testaments is frequently identified with the Holy Spirit. The several instances point to details of the confirming evidence. In 2 Samuel 23:2, 3, the Spirit of Jehovah and the God of Israel are identified. Both titles refer to the same entity. In like manner, the presence of the Holy Spirit is said to be the presence of God. The Christian indwelt by the Holy Spirit is indwelt by God (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19;Eph 2:22).
The identification of God and the Holy Spirit is further illustrated by the fact that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is declared by Christ to be unpardonable (Matt 12:31-32). Blasphemy in its nature is an act against deity. If the Holy Spirit were not God, it would not be possible to commit this sin.
Another clear instance of identification of the Holy Spirit and God is found in Acts 5:1-4, where the sin of Ananias against the Holy Spirit is said to be a sin against God. From these several identifications, an inescapable conclusion is reached of the deity of the Holy Spirit.
- ASSOCIATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WITH THE FATHER AND THE SON ON EQUAL TERMS.
Frequently in Scripture the Holy Spirit is associated with the Father and the Son on equal terms, predicating His deity. In the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are related on an equal basis. The use of name in the singular is worthy of note. The significance of the singular points to the fact that the final name of God is, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is essential to the Triune God.
A comparison of Scriptures often reveals an association of the Persons of the Trinity in terms which infer equality of association. Watson7 notes that inspiration of Scripture may be traced to God (Heb 1:1), to the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21), and to the Spirit of Christ (1 Pet 1:11). Hence, the Holy Spirit is accorded the same honor, position, and ministry as the other members of the Trinity.
Another instance of such association is found in the apostolic benediction recorded in 2 Corinthians 13:14. In this frequently quoted verse, the Persons of the Trinity are displayed in all their equality, and accorded equal honor. While the instances of association are not as conclusive in their argument as those proving the identification of the Holy Spirit and God, their added weight makes the case for the deity of the Holy Spirit more clearly irrefragable. The remaining lines of evidence are even more important.
- THE ETERNAL PROCESSION OF THE SPIRIT.
This doctrine will be considered more at length in the section dealing with it. Of importance here is the relation of this doctrine to the deity of the Holy Spirit. If it can be proved that the Holy Spirit proceeded eternally from the Father and the Son, it is evident that the Holy Spirit is of the Essence of God and is God. While the doctrine of procession is more theological than Biblical, it is in harmony with the Scriptures as will be seen later, and an important evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit.
- THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Two approaches are possible for the doctrine of the attributes of the Spirit. From the assumption that the Holy Spirit is God, it may be deducted that every attribute of the Trinity is an attribute of the Holy Spirit. The other approach, which is taken here, is through the explicit reference of Scripture, revealing certain attributes. The sum of this revelation is such that it constitutes conclusive evidence for the deity of the Holy Spirit.
(1) The Holy Spirit is revealed as possessing life (Rom 8:2). The context indicates spiritual or eternal life is in view, which, originally, was the possession of God alone, now bestowed on some of His creatures through regeneration. (2) The attribute of personality has abundant witness as already demonstrated. (3) The Holy Spirit is omnipresent (Ps 139:7), an attribute only God may possess. (4) Omniscience belongs to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10-11), and (5) omnipotence, as illustrated in His work of creation (Gen 1:2). (6) Holiness is frequently assigned the one who is distinctively known as the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). The eternity of the Spirit (7) is evidenced also in Scripture (Heb 9:14). The nature of the attributes are such that they could not all be communicated to a creature. From the explicit revelation of the attributes of the Holy Spirit, it may be concluded that His deity is given further evidence against which no argument could stand.
- THE WORKS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
An extensive argument for the deity of the Holy Spirit is found in His works, the extended study of which will be the subject of later discussion. As an illustration, three of His works may be brought forward as being distinctively in the realm of divine operation. (1) The work of the Holy Spirit in creation by its very nature could be accomplished only by one who is God (Gen 1:2). (2) The work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration (John 3:6) likewise is clearly in the realm of a work of God. (3) The ministry of the Holy Spirit in effecting the sanctification of the believer is another illustration (2 Thess 2:13). Men may influence, but only God can sanctify.
It may be concluded therefore, without further summation of the arguments, that the case for the deity of the Holy Spirit is impregnable. We may conclude as Charles Hodges does: “He is therefore presented in the Scriptures as the proper object of worship, not only in the formula of baptism and in the apostolic benediction, which bring the doctrine of the Trinity into constant remembrance as the fundamental truth of our religion, but also in the constant requirement that we look to Him and depend on Him for all spiritual good, and reverence and obey Him as our divine teacher and sanctifier.”8
III. The Procession of the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of procession has to do with the being and eternity of the Holy Spirit in His relation to the Father and the Son. As a division of the doctrine of the Trinity, it affirms that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, the same in substance and essence, and equal in power, eternity, and glory. The proper statement of the doctrine is that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, as the Son proceeds from the Father.
- THE FACT OF THE PROCESSION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
The doctrine of procession is based on Scripture and on inference. The early creeds of the Christian church gave attention to the proper statement of it. The Nicene Creed, for instance, states: “And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and Son together, is worshipped and glorified.”9 The Athanasian Creed speaks of it more briefly, “The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”10 In more recent times, the Articles of the English Church state the doctrine: “The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.”11 The Westminster Confession of Faith has a similar statement: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.”12
The abundant creedal evidence while not possessing the infallible inspiration of the Bible may be taken as conclusive proof that the large portion of evangelical Christendom accepts without question this doctrine. While the statements vary, the fact of the procession is clearly stated in all as being eternal and distinguished from generation. in time. The inference fromJohn 15:26 is certainly that of an eternal relation. The most obvious difficulty with the view of the Greek Church is that the Holy Spirit is operative in the Old Testament, and the procession was then a fact (Ps 104:30). The work of the Holy Spirit in creation and all subsequent operations involves the procession of the Spirit.
The very nature of procession points to its eternity. Procession like the eternal generation of Christ is not a matter of creation, commencement of existence, or analogous in any way with physical relationships common in the human realm. It proceeds rather from the very nature of the Godhead, being necessary to its existence. Without the Holy Spirit, the Godhead would not be what it is. The procession of the Holy Spirit cannot be compared to the incarnation, as the incarnation was not essential to deity, though it is essential to its manifestation, especially the attributes of love and righteousness as they combine in grace.
- THE RELATION OF PROCESSION AND GENERATION.
Theologians have borrowed the Scriptural distinctions as to the eternal relation of the Second and Third Persons to the First Person. In speaking of the Son, the Scriptures affirm His generation eternally (Ps 2:7), while in speaking of the Spirit, the word proceed is used, as we have seen. No human mind can improve on these distinctions, even if it be admitted that the terms are inadequate to comprehend all the truth which they represent. Generation must be guarded from all purely anthropomorphic ideas, and proceeding must be made eternal. The terms cannot be reversed. Though Christ may be said to have proceeded from the Father, it cannot be said of the Spirit that He is generated.
- THE RELATION OF PROCESSION TO THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
In the case of Christ, His eternal generation involved the work of the Son which was accomplished in time, fulfilling the covenant of redemption. On the part of the Holy Spirit, the eternal procession of the Spirit issued in the ministry which ensued. As Christ became an obedient Son in doing the Father’s will, so the Holy Spirit in procession became obedient to the Father and the Son. This subordination without detracting from the eternal glory and divine attributes which characterized all three Persons is illustrated abundantly in the Scriptures (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The ministry of the Third Person is accomplished in His own power and gives testimony to His eternal deity and glory, but it is accomplished on behalf of the Father and the Son. Hence, we find the Spirit being sent into the world to reveal truth on behalf of Christ (John 16:13-15), with the special mission of making the things of Christ known and magnifying the Father and the Son. He is not seeking His own glory any more than the Son sought His own glory while in the period of humiliation.
We may see, then, in the work of both the Son and the Spirit, an illustration of the respective doctrines of eternal generation and procession. While the Father sends the Son and the Spirit, the Son never sends the Father, but does send the Spirit. The Spirit neither sends the Father nor the Son, but is subordinate to Their will which at all times is His own will, and accomplishes His work in the earth. While the nature of procession is largely inscrutable, it is an expression in human words based on the Scriptural revelation of the relationship of the Persons of the Trinity to each other.
- The Titles of the Holy Spirit.
An examination of the Scriptural revelation on the Holy Spirit will indicate that He is nowhere given a formal name, such as we have for the Second Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, but is rather given descriptive titles, of which the most common in Scripture and in common usage is the Holy Spirit. As His Person is pure spirit, to which no material is essential, He is revealed in the Scriptures as the Spirit. The descriptive adjective holy is used to distinguish Him from other spirits, which are creatures.
A study of the references to the Holy Spirit by various titles in Scripture will reveal some significant facts. The basic words in the original are also used in reference to entities other than the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, however, רוח is used over one hundred times for the Holy Spirit. The matter of interpretation enters into the problem. Cummings lists eighty-eight references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.13 The American Standard Version of the Bible by means of initial capital letters indicates considerably more than this. In any case, the instances are numerous and well scattered throughout the Old Testament. Cummings notes that the Pentateuch has fourteen references, none in Leviticus, that Isaiah and Ezekiel have fifteen each, and that the references are scattered throughout twenty-two of the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament.14 The concise summary of Cummings on the significance of these references may well be quoted: