Summary: The Holy Spirit is a distinct Witness within the Godhead; He is of the same undivided essence as the Father and the Word but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties.
We’re going to spend another week looking at the Godhead and specifically this week we’ll talk about the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned last time there are some errors when it comes to understanding who He is and what He does, and I think a lot of it has to do with His name. In Greek “Spirit” is πνεύμα (pneuma) which means spirit but it can also mean wind or air. When we talk about pneumatic tools we’re talking about tools that use air.
His name in Hebrew isn’t much more help as it’s used to describe the “cool” of the day in Genesis three, the breath of life, wind, the mind, a blast from God’s nostrils, and (of course) the spirit. And so you can see why there’s so much confusion and why some people think He’s merely a force or the breath of God.
But I hope to show you through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is distinct within the Godhead, that He has specific operations, and that He evidences His presence in those He indwells. When we get to the end I’d also like to address some miscellaneous issues about Him.
Let’s begin with our first point:
I. The Holy Spirit is DINSTINCT within the Godhead
You’ll remember that our main verse from last week is First John 5:7:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
This is the hardest part for me to understand, and it’s even harder to explain. But we have to remember that God is one; there is only one divine nature; there is only one essence.
The early London Baptists described it by saying, “In this divine and infinite Being there is the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; each having the whole divine Essence, yet the Essence undivided; all infinite without any beginning, therefore but one God; who is not to be divided in nature, and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties.”
Why is it important that we do it? When we don’t understand the Godhead we’re in danger of making some serious errors. For instance, we might think that the Father is a God and the Son is a God and the Holy Spirit is a God. Now we’ve got three Gods total and we’re practicing polytheism. The Mormons are one example of polytheists who don’t understand the Godhead. They believe that a council of gods elevated the man, Elohim, to godhood after he lived an exemplary life. He has a spirit family and if we do as he did then we too will be promoted to godhood.
Another error is what is known as Arianism (it’s just named after a man). This teaching says that Jesus is literally begotten or created by the Father sometime in the past. In other words, there was a point in time in which there was no Begotten Son of God; He simply hadn’t been created yet. This teaching then goes on to say that either the Father or the Son or both together created the Holy Spirit! Well, this is basically what we read in the Jehovah’s witnesses’ publications. They believe that Jesus is this “begotten god” and that the Holy Spirit is just a force.
There’s another error that’s probably a little closer to home called Unitarianism. They believe that there’s only one God, but there isn’t any distinction within the Godhead. In fact, I assume, they believe there is no Godhead at all. God revealed Himself as the Father for a little while, and then He started showing Himself as Jesus Christ, and then as the Holy Spirit. These three “persons” (I prefer to call them Witnesses because it’s used in the Bible) are one and the same. Around our area there are a few “Jesus only” churches. They believe if you’re baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit then your baptism isn’t valid because it’s only supposed to be in the name of Jesus.
And so you can see why it’s important for us to understand the Godhead as best we can and as much as it’s been revealed. And that’s why we’re going to talk about these distinctions or “peculiar relative properties” of the Holy Spirit.
To begin let’s turn to the book of Isaiah:
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD (Is. 11:1-2)
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles (Is. 42:1).