‘Trinity,’ it’s a word never found in scripture, but represents a very important biblical doctrine to the Christian faith. The term is derived from ‘Tri’ meaning three, and ‘Unity’ meaning one, Tri+Unity = Trinity. It is a way of recognizing what the Bible reveals to us about God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God known as three “Persons” who have the same essence of deity; yet the emphasis is that there is only ONE God. Thus, the study of the Trinity seeks to bring a clearer understanding of the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as set forth in the scripture; and yet the absence of the term used to describe the doctrine does not necessarily mean the term is not biblical. Unfortunately with this definition, much debate continues to swirl surrounding the identity of the Holy Spirit. As the twenty-first century has shown, contemporary views regarding the Holy Spirit has been challenged by the emergent church movement and an ever-growing environment of political correctness. This has led some to interpret the Holy Spirit as a fairy-tale like power. Others recognize the Holy Spirit as being more of an impartial influence that God provides to those who follow Christ. Yet, to find the truth, one need only ask themselves, how is the identity of the Holy Spirit described in the Bible? In its simplest form the Bible proclaims that the Holy Spirit is God. However, to better understand this concept, this article will look to identify three areas of the Holy Sprit. These are God as Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and the identity of the Spirit.
“The term ‘Spirit of God’ appears many times in the Old testament, but the first appearance of ‘Holy Spirit’ is in Psalm 51:11 when David pleaded with God to not take away His Holy Spirit from him, which was tantamount to being cast out of God’s presence” (Dulle 6). Today there is a fundamental disagreement whether the Spirit of God is defined correctly. Contemporary views have led to idealistic interpretation and fallacy of what the Spirit of God actually is; thus, significantly changing ones view of the Trinity. As I discovered, the Spirit, “Properly describes, not one of the three divine persons, but the whole activity of God in his relation to man: ‘the Spirit of God’, is to be understood, not as referring to a divine hypostasis distinct from God the Father and God the Son or Word, but as indicating God himself as active towards and in His human creation” (Webster 2). As Paul wrote, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). From this verse one can see why the scripture attests to God being the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in a sense, the innermost heart of God. What one comes to recognize is that God’s activity in our lives, provided by the Holy Spirit, serves as a reminder of certain aspects of God’s self-revelation to man.
Man’s understanding of the Spirit of Christ is crucial to how one comprehends its position with regards to submission and influence on the work of Christ incarnate. “Through the Spirit, Father and Son are compacted into loving unity. Such a conception clearly ties the Spirit very closely to Father and Son, sometimes to such an extent that it is difficult to see how it is personally differentiated from the first two persons” (Webster 3.) This misunderstanding has led to many contemporary views not supported by the Bible. However with proper research one can find evidence to support that the obedience of Christ is what is responsible for purchasing our salvation. As the Bible states, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). What this verse shows is that for man to have the Holy Spirit inside him, then the Spirit of Christ must essentially flow unto us from Christ; the same Holy Spirit that flows through Christ Himself. “This Spirit is the agent of the subjective realization of Christ’s objective accomplishment of salvation. The Spirit of Christ discloses His words and deeds, His Cross and His resurrection to us, as the divine reality bearing upon us, embracing us, giving to us” (Webster 3). Thus, the Spirit becomes identified by the influential role it takes in effecting the union between the believer and Christ.
“Although church history has not always focused much attention on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit has traditionally been referred to as a person – the third person of the Trinity” (Thorsen 223). In fact, the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as being a divine person, one that has emotions, a mind, and its own will. As one finds, this can be confirmed in scripture. To begin, as Paul shows us in Ephesians, the Holy Spirit has emotions, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). Second, the Bible shows that the Holy Spirit not only thinks, but also knows, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Lastly, the Holy Spirit makes choices according to His own will, “To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:8). From these scriptures we can conclude that, “The Spirit is the one in whom God moves beyond himself in provoking mission and worship. If this is true, then we are able to see that the Spirit has an identity of his own, though one essentially bound to that of Father and Son” (Webster 6).
Today, the study of the Trinity seems to be traditionally discreet with its assertion of the identity of Holy Spirit as described in the Bible. However one must remember that God has only attempted to convey things about Himself using human language. While not all answers surrounding the concept of the Holy Spirit can be addressed in such a short article, I believe the information provided offers a clearer understanding of the identity of the Holy Spirit and how it relates to the triune life of God. There is no question that contemporary concerns have led to false assertions about the Holy Spirit. Yet one must not disregard some of these assumptions as fallacy. For who God is, and the relationship of Holy Spirit within the Trinity may seem definable; yet, in essence do we have the ability to put our finger on who God actually is? As Michal Bauman concludes in his book, Pilgrim Theology, we must remain realistic, “Sometimes our theological reach exceeds our grasp. We simply do not know much of what we think we know” (Bauman 96).
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Bauman, Michael. Pilgrim Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992. Print.
Dulle, Jason. “Understanding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Onenesspentecostal.com. 2011. Web. April 27, 2011.
Thorsen, Don. An Exploration of Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2010. Print.
Webster, John. “The Identity of the Holy Spirit: A Problem in Trinitarian Theology.” Theologicalstudies.org.uk. 1983. Web. April 27, 2011.