I have recently been posting my own thoughts and comments in regards to The Great Trinity Debate over at Parchment & Pen. This week’s focus, round 4, was centred around the Holy Spirit. Here are some specific thoughts I posted.
In my article, I pointed out some interesting theology that had developed in the New Testament in regards to the uniqueness of the Holy Spirit. Developed, one may ask? What I mean is this.
Most who deny the personal deity of the Spirit (Judaism, ‘cults’) would say that the Spirit is actually an extension of the Father’s own personhood, not a distinct person Himself. For when the Spirit acts, it is the Father Himself acting, because it is His Spirit.
And, I believe this would be faithful theology if we only had the Old Testament. But we cannot stop there or let the beginning of the story determine our full theological understanding on any subject matter. Rather, we have the New Testament, which is the final capstone on God’s redemptive revelation in Jesus Christ. Thus, I am convinced the New Testament sheds the greatest interpretive light on the Old Testament and all of God’s revelation. To deny such is, I believe, missing the mark.
Thus, it is the New Testament that becomes most helpful in forming both our Christology and our pneumatology.
One of the important developments we see in the New Testament is that the Spirit is not just the Spirit of the Father, but also the Spirit of Jesus Christ. That is very important to recognise. Here are three passages to begin with: Acts 16:6-7; Galatians 4:6; and Philippians 1:19.
And part of recognising such significance is noting the role Jesus played in sending the Holy Spirit. This is made clear in the great Johannine passage on the Spirit, John 14-16. Specifically, we see these words in John 15:26:
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
It is the Spirit that would be sent by the Son from the Father. Now, I know that a Unitarian would still argue that it was the Son who sent the Spirit from the Father. Thus, the Spirit remains the Spirit of the Father, merely His power at work in the world, rather than a unique divine person. But I believe this negates the reality of many other passages that confirm that the Spirit is not just the Spirit of the Father, but also the Son. Again, I point out Acts 16:6-7; Galatians 4:6; and Philippians 1:19.
All of these confirm the Spirit as the ‘Spirit of Jesus’, the ‘Spirit of His Son’, and the ‘Spirit of Jesus Christ’. Now attempts could be made to say that this is the Spirit of Jesus, but this Spirit is more a ‘spirit’ (lower-case) of Jesus rather than the Holy Spirit of the Father. But, rather than provide a ton of expositional thoughts on each of the three passages referred to above, I think I can just ask you to read the fuller context of each of the three Scriptures and you will see that the Spirit of Jesus is none other than the Holy Spirit. For starters, simply look at Acts 16:6-7:
6And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
Look at the parallel between the reference to the ‘Holy Spirit’ in vs6 and the ‘Spirit of Jesus’ in vs7. We are talking about the same Spirit, the Spirit of God Himself. and I believe the context in all three passages clarifies this truth as well.
Therefore, it’s interesting that the Spirit is now, from the New Testament teaching, not only connected to the Father, but also to the Son. As I said in my comments #4 post, this has major implications for both Christ and the Holy Spirit.
But another passage that I had been thinking about just yesterday was Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in John 20. We read these words in vs21-22:
21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
There is much debate on whether this was the real and/or full giving of the Spirit, or was it a prophetic precursor to Pentecost. I tend to lean towards the Spirit being given here in some sense, but also pointing to the greater outpouring that would come at Pentecost not many days from then.
Nonetheless, Jesus is showing His ability and role as Spirit-giver. The giving of the Spirit was a co-working event between the Father and the Son, not just the Father.
This is echoed in Peter’s proclamation following Pentecost:
Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:33)
The proof in the pudding that Jesus was reigning as both Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36) was that He would give the Spirit to God’s people. Again, the Unitarian would highlight that Acts 2:33 designates that Jesus ‘received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit’ and, thus, it was not really Christ’s Spirit, but still remains the Spirit of the Father alone.
But I believe such arguments fail when we recognise that the Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ as well. Knowing the the Spirit was also the Spirit of the Son helps us understand the importance of the Son being intricately involved in sending the Spirit. And so, John’s record of Jesus’ teaching on the Spirit becomes important:
I [Jesus] will not leave you as orphans; I [Jesus] will come to you. (John 14:18)
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I [Jesus] will send him to you. (John 16:7)
This is all important for both our Christology and pneumatology. From the full revelation of Scripture, which includes allowance for the New Testament to bring better clarity than the Old Testament, but not shunning the Old Testament, we see that the Spirit is unique from the Father, also being connected to the Son. I believe this 1) points to the unique divinity of the Son and 2) points to the unique personality of the Spirit.
This, I believe, represents true biblical theology in regards to Christ and the Holy Spirit.