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  • Love and Liberty

The Spirit of God (2)

To find answers, it is important to find the right questions. I have been thinking hard about the teaching of trinitarianism, and I am convinced that most people merely accept what they are told by their church, denomination, or pastor, and they have never studied the issue for themselves. What’s worse, some professing Christians make belief in the trinity essential for salvation, even though they can’t explain it to save their lives. Trinitarianism is not merely the belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it is the belief that there is one God in three persons, or that there are three who are God, but there is only one God. In this, either God, who is a person, is a three person person, or God is comprised of Father, Son, and Spirit but God is a title for this trinity, not a person. We could continue down the road of confusion in trying to explain the different variations of trinitarianism, but that is not my current purpose. If someone were to ask the question “is the Holy Spirit God”, one might get different answers. Actually the question is not specific enough. Is the person asking if the Spirit possesses the attributes of deity? Is the person asking if the Spirit is the third person of a triune God? Is the person asking if the Spirit is the same person as God? Is it a given that the Spirit is a person? I asked other questions and looked at this from various angles here, so it might be helpful to go there first.

It is clear in the scriptures that the Spirit (Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost, etc.) is divine and that the Spirit carries out activities and is affected in ways that manifest personality. But what does this prove? Some say that of course the Spirit is God, but they mean the Spirit is a manifestation of God in the modalist sense. Others say the Spirit is God as in he is a separate person from but equal with God. One might say that the Spirit is the actual presence and power of God, so the Spirit is an extension of God’s being, therefore the Spirit is God. We have gotten closer to the question that I want to try to answer, and that question is: is the Spirit a separate self, or center of consciousness, than God? Again, it is evident that the Spirit’s attributes equal God’s attributes, but this of itself does not tell us if the Spirit is a separate and equal divine being, or if the Spirit is the presence and active power of God.

As I wrote in the previous post:

“It appears we can rightly ascribe divinity to the Spirit, or a supernatural essence, as it is the personal Spirit of God and Christ, but this is not the same as calling the Spirit a third self or person. The Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit; Spirit of Christ) may be referred to as “he” because, rather than being an impersonal force, it is the personification and operational presence and mind of God, the divine breath of life, the expression and source of consciousness. The spirit of a person is “him” or “her” in the deepest sense, and in God’s case, is an extension of his being. The Spirit of God is the agency of God that contains his thinking patterns and can carry out his will. Perhaps the Spirit is not a separate person from God, but is in fact God – God’s presence, the operational consciousness and presence of God’s self that can be grieved, sinned against, or pleased. If so, God and the Spirit are not two distinct persons (though a distinction exists within God’s Personhood – perhaps akin to the difference between soul [being] and spirit [operational consciousness or mind] (in man) though both belong to the concept of one “self”); the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, just as the Bible says.”

I admit this is a challenging subject, but that does not mean I should not try to understand the exact nature of the Spirit of God. Contrary to what some claim, the Bible does not teach that the acceptance of trinitarianism is essential for salvation. How could it? Trinitarians acknowledge trinitarianism itself is not taught in the scriptures, it is something inferred and constructed. Is this a question that can be answered? I know that many will say, yes, of course, because they think what they believe is the final word. I was like that as a younger man, and it wasn’t because of conclusions I had come to through laborious studying, it was because of what I was hearing from commentaries and the older preachers in the circle I was in. I faced many hardships as a preacher in those days, but one thing is for certain, once I broke free from that “circle” and was no longer trying to fit in, my studies have led me to different conclusions in several areas of doctrine and I believe my understanding of God’s truth is much greater today. No doubt some of those men would say I have “strayed” because I interpret the Word differently now in certain ways, but I disagree that I have “strayed.” One in particular told me he thinks I am wrong because I now believe in the possibility of apostasy for the believer, but knowing both views, he will not be able to convince me using the scriptures, and that is the only source that will change my mind. Simply put, my faith is grounded in the Word now, it is not a second hand faith based on what others around me believe and teach. When it comes to the nature of the Spirit of God, I am not trying to fit in, nor am I trying to be different, I am looking for the truth.

I do see a “sameness” between the Spirit and the Father, thus I affirm that the Spirit is divine and is not a mere impersonal force. The Spirit is God one way or the other! But this does not mean the Spirit is a separate person from God, and in fact, there appears to be strong evidence that the Spirit is to God what man’s spirit is to him. I also looked at some verses pertaining to this in the previous post, so I won’t go over all of them here, but I do want to consider this angle once again.

In Genesis 41:8 we read:

“And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.”

Notice the Bible doesn’t say that Pharaoh was troubled, it says his spirit was troubled, though we would also correctly say that Pharaoh himself was troubled. There are other examples of this in the Word. So Pharaoh’s spirit is spoken of in something other than the first person sense, but his spirit is not a separate person from Pharaoh. There is a distinction between Pharaoh and his spirit, though what could be said of one could be said of both. Whatever is true of Pharaoh personality-wise is true of his spirit. What Pharaoh is said to do, the same can be said of his spirit. There is a distinction within the being of Pharaoh, but Pharaoh, as well as his spirit, is Pharaoh. There are not two beings, two centers of consciousness, or two persons, there is one.

How did the Hebrews understand the Spirit of God? For all the talk from Christians that Christianity is rooted in and springs forth from the Hebrew scriptures, many are more influenced by pagan thought than Hebrew thought. It is common to hear from some Christians that the Hebrews under the First Testament were confused or uninformed when it came to God’s truth. This is absurd. Certainly this could be said of those who had strayed from the Hebrew faith, but those within the Hebrew faith were not confused or uninformed, though it is true they did not know the details of New Testament revelation. As it pertains to this topic, we see in the Hebrew scriptures references to God and separate references to the Spirit. Did they see the Spirit as a separate person from God? It does not appear that they did.

Consider these verses:

Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth (Psalm 104:30).

Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me (Isaiah 48:16).

The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life (Job 33:4).

Again, I must say, it is not clear why the translators capitalized the letter “s” in Spirit at times and did not at times. I have looked at the instances of the word Spirit in the Bible and I see no discernible pattern. It is also a fact that reading different KJV Bibles, what may be capitalized in one may not be capitalized in the other. This creates confusion, to say the least. The best way to approach this matter, in my opinion, is to consider any references to the Spirit or spirit of God as the same.

Considering the application of man and his spirit in the example above with Pharaoh, we can see there is a distinction within God, as shown in Isaiah 48:16. There is reference to the Lord God and his Spirit and then an action – hath sent me. What it is said of one is said of the other. Rather than seeing God and his Spirit as separate persons, it seems we can relate the matter to Pharaoh’s spirit being troubled, showing a distinction within his being, but it is indeed true that Pharaoh himself was troubled for his spirit is “him” in that it is the operational aspect of his consciousness and mind. We are created in the image of God, therefore there are truths about man that correspond with truths about God. A disagreement may arise over whether a man has a soul or is a soul, but both are true. Man is a soul. The human body plus the divine breath of life (spirit) equals a human being - a soul. Man has a soul in that he possesses this being. If a man loses his soul, he loses his being (proof, by the way, that man is conditionally immortal and that the second death is total destruction, not eternal conscience torment, for the Lord said that not only will his body be destroyed in the lake of fire, so will his soul – his entire being). Does God have a soul? Indeed he does. God said:

And I set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you (Leviticus 26:11).

Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul (Jeremiah 32:41).

The Bible also says:

And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel (Judges 10:16).

Having a soul then, means God is a soul. He possesses being, therefore he is a living being. God is Spirit, but this does not mean he is immaterial as some suppose, and in fact, God has a form that can be seen according to the Bible (go here to read more about this topic). God possesses immortality (1 Timothy 6:16), meaning no one has given him life, nor can anyone or anything take it away. God does not need the addition of Spirit (the breath of life) to be – as man does – for God is a Spirit (John 4:24) and has a Spirit (Genesis 6:3) and is self sufficient. So soul and spirit are distinguishable (Hebrews 4:12), but what can be said of one’s being (soul) can simultaneously be said of one’s spirit.

Notice the personification of God’s soul in the verses above. His soul can be grieved. His soul can rejoice. Why doesn’t the Bible just say that God can be grieved and that he can rejoice? I don’t have the answer to that, and I don’t think anyone else does either. But it seems clear that saying one makes the other true as well. God’s soul can grieve and God can grieve.

The soul of man is also personified in the scriptures.

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance (Psalm 42:5).

David could have just as easily said I am cast down. Indeed, using that language would not change the meaning of this verse, though the terminological difference persists.

The same occurs in the Book of Luke:

And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry (Luke 12:19)

The Bible also says:

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41) (see also 2 Corinthians 7:13).

Here the Bible references the spirit, once again in a way other than the first person sense, but no one would argue that the soul of man or the spirit of man is a separate person from the man himself. Just so, as we would equate God’s soul with God himself, it seems inconsistent to claim that God’s Spirit is a separate person from himself.

Going back to the verse that says, “and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me”, and back to the question of what the Hebrews believed and taught, what are we to make of the inclusion of God and his Spirit in this statement? Does it prove there are two persons being referenced here? In the verse, it is believed that God speaks, then the prophet.

Albert Barnes provides two possible interpretations, with the second being: “...that Yahweh had sent him, and at the same time had also sent his Spirit to accompany what he said.” Barnes adds: “Grotius renders it, ‘The Lord by his Spirit has given me these commands.’

This verse does not prove that God and his Spirit are distinct persons. It can be taken to simply mean the prophet was sent by God and accompanied by his Spirit.

Here are a few quotes (the first three are copied from, a unitarian website; I do not affirm unitarianism, but these quotes are valuable nonetheless) and I will have more to come on this subject.

"No Apostle would have dreamed of thinking that there are three divine Persons" (Emil Brunner, Christian Doctrine of God, Dogmatics, Vol. 1, p. 226).

"Although this spirit is often described in personal terms, it seems quite clear that the sacred writers [of the Hebrew Scriptures] never conceived or presented this spirit as a distinct person" (Edmund Fortman, The Triune God, p. 9).

"The Jews never regarded the spirit as a person; nor is there any solid evidence that any Old Testament writer held this view” (Edmund Fortman, The Triune God, p. 6).

“….according to the Rabbis, although the “spirit of God” is of divine origin, this does not mean that there is a “Holy Spirit” as a divine person. On the contrary, the holy spirit is a mode of the one and only God’s self-expression in word and action.” (Averbeck, – a site that espouses trinitarianism)

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