• Joshua Van Vlack

GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT - THE FORGOTTEN PERSON OF THE TRINITY: "The Person of the Holy Spirit"


This past Sunday, we began a new sermon series at Canyon Bible Fellowship. Having concluded a lengthy series on the Family of Believers, I needed to develop a briefer series to bridge the gap to Resurrection Sunday. My original intent was to explore what the Gospel of John had to say about the doctrine of the Trinity; however, as I continued to look at the texts and to spend time in prayer about my direction, I became increasingly convinced of the need to focus on the Holy Spirit specifically.


I must confess that we as Baptists often do a poor job of developing our understanding of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers particularly and in the life of the church more generally. I have heard the criticism leveled--not without validity--that we practically treat the Trinity as if it was "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Scriptures." In doing so, we neglect the very important, fundamental, and on-going work of the Holy Spirit. We treat the Holy Spirit like the silent partner in the business of salvation; if He is at work at all, it is little more than the equivalent of the Wizard of Oz pulling the levers from behind the curtain.


In an effort to remedy the situation, we began taking a few tentative steps toward a better understanding an appreciation of what the Scriptures have to say about the Holy Spirit. What follows in this blog are the bullet point notes from my message and the associated Scripture references. This is a brief (and nowhere near exhaustive) introduction generally into the doctrine of the Trinity followed by a bit more specificity regarding the Holy Spirit. I encourage the reader to take the time to examine each point and the corresponding passages in their context. I pray that God will use this to move you to explore what the Bible has to say about the Holy Spirit in greater detail.


[NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, the Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update.]


I. THE NATURE OF THE GODHEAD - THE TRINITY.


How does one construct a biblical picture of the Trinity? No one Scripture passage exists to explain what the Trinity is. The word "Trinity", as some have pointed out, does not even appear in Scripture. Perhaps the best way I have discovered to construct such a picture is to use the image of a stained glass window. No individual piece of glass is the window, but the collection of the individual pieces together pain a glorious portrait. So it is with the Bible. No one verse on its own points to the doctrine of the Trinity, but Scripture together paints a glorious portrait of the nature of the Godhead, the Trinity.


a. God is One.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 - “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!”

  • Isaiah 44:6-8 - “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming And the events that are going to take place. ‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.’”

  • John 17:3 - “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

  • 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 - “Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

  • James 2:19 - “You believe that  God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”

b. God is Three.

[NOTE: As conservative evangelicals, we hold to the doctrine of progressive revelation. That is to say, Scripture reveals in increasing specificity the nature of God and His plan from Genesis through Revelation. So it is with the "threeness" of God.]

  • Genesis 1:26 - “Then God said, “‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’” [Similarly, Genesis 11:1-9 references the plural nature within the Godhead.]

  • Psalm 110:1 - “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’”

  • Matthew 22:41-45 - “Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: ‘What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘Then how does David  in the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I put Your enemies beneath Your feet’”? If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his son?’”

  • Acts 7:54-56 - “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”

  • 2 Corinthians 13:14 - “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

c. God is Three in One.

  • Matthew 28:19 - “ Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

  • 1 John 5:7-8 - “For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (NASB)” “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. (NKJV)” [NOTE: I acknowledge that the NKJV rendering is debatable as it reflects language that appears only in later manuscripts; however, I believe that it accurately reflects early Christian thought regarding the doctrine of the Trinity.]


II. THE DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


a. The Holy Spirit is referenced together with the Father and the Son.

  • Luke 1:35 - “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’”

  • Matthew 3:13-17 - “Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and  he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”

  • John 15:26 - “When the  Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.”

  • Romans 15:15-16 - “But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”

  • 1 John 14:13-14 - “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.”

b. The Holy Spirit performs deeds attributed to God.

  • Genesis 1:1-2 - “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was  formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”

  • John 14:16-17 - “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

  • Acts 16:6-10 - “They passed through the  Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in  Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

  • Romans 8:26-27 - “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 - “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.”


III. THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT


In the film, Star Wars: A New Hope, Luke Skywalker asks the Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi, "What is the Force?" Obi-Wan replies, “It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” So often we treat the Holy Spirit like "the Force" from Star Wars. Intentionally or not, we represent the Holy Spirit as if He were something that manipulates us or that we can manipulate. However, the Bible teaches something altogether different.


a. The Holy Spirit is Someone NOT something.

  • John 14:16-17 - “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another  Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”

  • John 15:26-27 - “When the  Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”

  • Romans 8:26-27 - “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

b. The Holy Spirit exhibits characteristics associated with personality.

  • Acts 13:1-4 - “Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

  • Acts 16:6-10 - “They passed through the  Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in  Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

  • Ephesians 4:30 - “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

  • 1 Timothy 4:1-3 - “But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.”

  • Romans 8:16-17 - “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”


As 21st Century Christians, we must acknowledge that the doctrine of the Trinity, including the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not new to us. Included below are just two references from Church History that reflect an orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit.


Nicene Creed

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.


Luther’s Small Catechism states, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (From, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit, by Michael Horton)


CANYON BIBLE FELLOWSHIP'S STATEMENT REGARDING THE TRINITY AND THE HOLY SPIRIT


"We believe in one God, creator and ruler of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."


"We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, convict humans of their sin and the need for Jesus, and regenerate those who place their faith in Christ. He indwells every believer to provide understanding of spiritual truths, guidance in doing what is right, and power for godly living. He further gives every believer spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ."


(From, Constitution and By-Laws, Article IV: Statement of Our Faith, Paragraphs 1) and 3))

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