April 12, 2011

Pneuma I / πνευμα ένα

The Trinity is such a mind-bending concept that is fairly clear to me that there is a low probability that it is the product of human reason or logic (which is to say impossible). If anything, it is counter-intuitive and defies conventional logic of men. In other words, it could only have been revealed by God because man could’ve never invented the concept. What man can even fully grasp it? I believe this revelation primarily came in the form of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and through theophany. In the New Testament we can attribute many statements to Jesus. The primary aspect that I would like to zero in on in the Trinity is the person of the Holy Spirit. Although I will use other references and hit on other areas of the Bible to construct a coherent picture of the “invisible” Person of the Trinity. I will try to focus to some extent on what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit in Chapters 14-16 in the Gospel of John as this Gospel is the mitigating factor for the course that this paper is being written for. If I focus purely on the Gospel of John though I will miss a plethora of other pertinent information in the Scripture so I will try to do both and tie them together. What is of upmost importance to me is to drive home the point that the Holy Spirit is the third “person” of the Trinity.

We have many Biblical references that directly link the Holy Spirit as an active agent both in the world and in believer’s lives. One of the best descriptions of the Holy Spirit’s active participation in contributing to the life of a believer is John 14’s statement from Jesus when He says:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26

I will launch into the discussion with a precursory examination of the Biblical evidences to the Holy Spirit before John. Most of what we learned in the Old Testament about the Holy Spirit is gleaned either through writings of those inspired by the Spirit of God or through direct theophany. How else would Moses have even known of the things at the creation of the world? We see right from the beginning of the Old Testament that He was involved in the creation of the world. He moved, fluttered or vibrates over it and nearly appears to bring it to life. Even more importantly in the New Testament, He was the active agent in the divine conception of Jesus, He generated or begat the incarnational attribute of Jesus Christ. Please note I said begat not began. It is He who anoints Christ to ministry, drives Jesus into the wilderness and even continually filled Jesus with the Holy Spirit during His life. The Holy Spirit even plays a role in Jesus' death and resurrection. Romans 8:11 tells us explicitly that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. It is this Spirit that also dwells within us and that my friend...is powerful assurance of our ability as believers to walk towards holiness. We will then see the Holy Spirit come in lieu of Jesus after His death.

He is referred to or depicted as many things in the creation but He is none of them. When the Holy Spirit descended at Christ's baptism he descended "like" a dove. If it was a winged bird it was only a representation of the Holy Spirit. To say God is a bird is to make Him part of the creation. God the Holy Spirit is not the creation, He is wholly "other". The Holy Spirit is referred to as a pledge in 2 Corinthians 1:22. Pledge in Greek is arrabon/ἀρραβών or means a "first installment" or "down payment". This is the very transaction or downpayment that Jesus refers to in John 16:7, “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” This transaction takes place at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:3) is referred to as fire. Additional comparisons are the Spirit as oil which is all over the Old Testament (Exodus 27:20, 40:9; Leviticus 8:30, 14:17) and in the New (Acts 1:8, 1 John 2:20, Romans 8:2-3) just to name a few. His most natural representation is wind, ר֫וּחַ / ruwach in Hebrew and πνεύμα / pneuma in Greek. It is in this pneuma form that we most often see the Holy Spirit referred to in John outside of being a proper noun like Paraklete or Counselor.

He indwells believers. He restrains sin (Genesis 6:3), He gives us spiritual gifts for use to build up and edify the body (comprehensive list in 1 Corinthians 12). He does all these things and is all these things, yet He is so much more. The Bible is clear that he is a “He” and is a person often referred to in the masculine gender. What really interests me though is what Jesus has to say about the Holy Spirit. Who better would know Him than Jesus? Just like Jesus knew the Father and the Father knew Him, so too do Jesus and the Father know the Holy Spirit. Although this is not directly stated it can be implied from the Scripture based on the concept of the Trinity. So, what does Jesus have to say about Him in John?

John 14:16-“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever…”

We see specifically in John 14 that Jesus claimed deity for the Holy Spirit and in doing so He also showed definitively that the Holy Spirit was not just a “power” or person-less “force” as our Jehovah’s Witness friends claim but an actual person…just like the Father and Jesus. A Counselor/Comforter/Helper was coming, the Spirit of Truth. In this context Jesus clearly states that this Counselor is coming and He (the Spirit) (v.17) “lives with you and will be in you”. To me this designates a relational existence with human believers also. Why will He live with you and in you? It is because Jesus said He will not leave the disciples (by implication: others also) “as orphans”. He then proceeds to say, “I will come to you”. Here I see the direct correlation of the Spirit and Jesus being one and the same. When we see Jesus say “another” Helper he means “one like Himself” that will take His place, not a different Helper. Jesus literally interceded on our behalf with the Father to request a Helper exactly like Himself, which would come and continue to do things for us, such as…interceding on our behalf in our weakness. How ironic....how merciful. Therefore we can conclude that: If Jesus is divine and is to be replaced, His replacement would also have to be divine. Divinity will be coming to replace Divinity.

To bolster this claim we can search other Scripture in the New Testament and find passages that associate divine attributes to the Holy Spirit and also attributes of personhood such as 1 Corinthians 2:10 (omniscience), 2 Corinthians 13:14, Matthew 28:19 (person).We see through Jesus request that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father in answer to the Son’s request. So He comes from, or proceeds from both (John 14:16). That means that He is the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20) and the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:9).

In John 14:25-26 we see that the Holy Spirit will be sent in Jesus’ name and come to “teach them all things” and to bring “remembrance of all things that Jesus had said” to the disciples. We must remember that this was an aural/oral culture and it may have been difficult to remember every single pertinent fact stated by Jesus, especially towards the end of Jesus’ life when many disciples would’ve been under duress or on the run. The Spirit would overcome this problem. We see this idea further reinforced by Jesus’ statements in John 16:

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” John 16:13-15

Here again we see the overlap or synonymous nature of the persons in the Trinity. We also see the masculine gender distinction. “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” What is even more astounding is the interplay of the Father and Jesus in this verse also. We then see the that everything that belongs to the Father is Jesus’. By implication then everything that is the Father’s is also the Holy Spirits. Three persons working in accord for glory of God.

We can deduce more things from these passages in John 14 other than deity. The Helper referred to in John 14:16 is παρακλητον / parakleton from the root / stem parakletos. This compound Greek word means to be “called to the side of, in order to help”. We also know that when the Spirit helps the one He dwells within He is by default, helping the Church also whether it be to comfort, intercede, sanctify, etc. As stated in the Gospel of John class, a paraklete / parakletos was basically a defense attorney or lawyer in antiquity that came to your assistance and represented you when you were in trouble. In other words, it is one who pleads another's cause or is an intercessor. We see the Holy Spirit serve the same type of function minus the litigious imagery. All of these images and references obviously point to Pentecost and the time after Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would dwell in power in His human subjects in the Church. If we look to Matthew 28:20, Jesus even says that, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age”. It would be through the Holy Spirit given as promised in John 14 that He would do this. By virtue of the Holy Spirit’s ministry, Jesus Christ would still be with His disciples and thankfully, with us also until the end of the age. We understand that physically Jesus is no longer with us but in respects to the Spirit, He will not be absent or depart from us if we have trusted in and believed in Jesus Christ.

From the time that we convert and are justified in Christ we begin a process of sanctification. One of the biggest parts of a believer’s life after they are justified or saved in Christ is the ongoing process of sanctification. Sanctification is the process by which a person becomes more holy throughout their life until their death at which time they are glorified or perfected in Christ. There are distinct Biblical references to The Father being a sanctifier: 1 Thessalonians 5:23, to Jesus : 1 Corinthians 1:2 and in Romans 15:16 we see the Holy Spirit being noted as a sanctifier. We also see it alluded to in John 14 where we begin to see hints that we will be sanctified as it is impossible for man of his own accord to search out the things of God. John 14:17 states: “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” But the second half of this verse tells believers, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” It is when He is in us that Jesus is in us and when can begin the process of sanctification. Without Him in us we are incapable, it is not in our nature.


Anonymous said...

Good job. Short, sweet and to the point. Most Christians have a "doctrine" of the Holy Spirit that is formed more by TV preachers than the Word of God. Thank You for taking us to the Word.

Your Neighbor

Andy Pierson said...

Thanks Boss. Glad you liked it.

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