So far in our study of the Holy Spirit we have learned the following key ideas concerning Him:
1. The Bible is the only reliable source of information about Him.
2. There is no further information available concerning Him that has been released.
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
- Jude 3
3. The Holy Spirit is a distinct person in the Godhead.
- He possesses all the attributes of God.
- He is God and not a personality of God or a third ranking deity after the Father and the Son.
In this lesson we will focus on specific character traits and abilities the Bible attributes to the persons of the Godhead.
The Character of the Godhead
Common question – Is there anything that the Father or Son are or can do that the Holy Spirit is not, or cannot do?
Many people suggest that the Holy Spirit has a character that is different somehow from the Father or the Son.
This idea is held because these people fail to recognize and consider the two-fold nature of Godly relationships:
- Godward Relationship – as the Godhead relates and interacts within itself.
- Manward Relationship – as the Godhead relates and interacts with mankind.
1. Godward Relationship
When interacting or relating within the Godhead, the Holy Spirit possesses every characteristic, power, and ability as the other persons in the Godhead.
This simple chart demonstrates this fact by providing passages that describe and support this idea of similar and equal facets of each person's character and abilities according to the Bible.
Speaks – Matthew 17:5
Speaks – Acts 9:5
Speaks – I Timothy 4:1
When comparing the three persons in the Godhead we notice two things in particular:
a. From the Godhead position and relationship all three persons have the same character (holy and loving), power (to create and destroy), and revelational skills and abilities.
However, we do observe that they each communicate in different ways with mankind. For example:
- Father – Theophanies – The voice, Burning Bush, Dreams
- Son – The Flesh – God became man to communicate man to man
- The Holy Spirit – The Bible – Inspired word spoken
When therefore, we see and hear Jesus, we also see the Father and we see the Holy Spirit since all three are one possessing the same character and power.
8Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
- John 14:8-9
The other thing we notice when comparing…
b. The difference between the Persons in the Godhead appears when we examine the relationship between God and man in the process of salvation, not when we examine the relationships between the persons in the Godhead.
Now we're not going to proceed with our study with a long list of Scriptures that define the various qualities of the Holy Spirit from which we can assemble a clear image of what He is like. If we wish to see the Spirit with our "fleshly eyes" then we should do as Jesus said and look at Jesus since in Him is revealed not only the Father, but the Spirit as well, since they are one in the Godhead. As I mentioned before, it's not in the Godward relationship that we see a difference between the Persons in the Godhead (especially the Holy Spirit), it's in the relationship with man that the work and difference appear.
So, let's review the various stages of the God/Man relationship throughout history and see how these reveal each Person in the Godhead in the process of salvation.
- Godward Relationship – Chart of Characteristics
- Manward Relationship
The first stage in the manward relationship of the Godhead/Trinity and man (humanity)…
A. The Pre-Sin/Fall Relationship
The relationship between God and man seen differently by man before the fall.
Before the fall: all three existed.
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."
- Genesis 1:26
God refers to Himself in the plural. All three communicated their distinct presence:
1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The 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. 3Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
- Genesis 1:1-3
- God the Father spoke
- God the Son (the Word created)
- God the Holy Spirit hovered/moved
- All done in order to bring together the created elements to distinct form.
Before sin man had a comprehensive, unified, peaceful relationship with the Godhead. In other words, man saw God as one even though God's dynamic nature existed.
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
- Genesis 3:8
The Bible suggests that before sin God could walk in the garden in the cool of the day, a description highlighting the nature of man's relationship with God before sin.
B. Post Sin/Fall Relationship
Man's disobedience set several events and plans into motion.
9Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself." 11And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12The man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate." 13Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." 14The Lord God said to the serpent,
"Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
15And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel."
16To the woman He said,
"I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you."
17Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it';
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
18"Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
19By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return."
20Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. 21The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. 22Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"— 23therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. 24So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
- Genesis 3:9-24
- The curse on Satan – Verse 14
- The prophecy concerning his futile attempts to destroy mankind as well as the Savior of mankind – Verse 15
- The suffering of mankind to both propagate and sustain the human race – verses 16-19
- The broken relationship with God where God would no longer have a unified peaceful connection with man but because of sin man's vision and experience of God would be diminished and distorted – Verses 20-24
Part of these changes mentioned cryptically in verse 15 is that God would initiate a plan to save man from both the corruption and the condemnation of sin and return him to a unified and intimate relationship with Himself once again.
In the working out of this plan, however, the persons in the Godhead would each have a task and function differently. It is in these different functions that we see or note a distinction within the Godhead.
It's important to remember that the difference we see is in function, not nature. The natures are divine, the functions vary due to the requirements of the plan to save mankind.
"…then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power."
- I Corinthians 15:24
In this passage Paul suggests that when Jesus returns to judge, these functions will no longer be required and thus will cease to be observed and the Godhead will return to its pre-sin, unified nature with man, part of the Godhead within – no longer observing from the outside.
It is a trustworthy statement, for if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
- II Timothy 2:11-12a
3. Functions of the Godhead in the God-Man Post Sin/Fall Relationship (To Better See What the Holy Spirit Is Like)
In the plan to save mankind each person in the Godhead had a part to play and we are able to identify each as they reveal themselves through the parts they play in the plan of salivation.
God the Father chooses the plan. He designs the manner and justice for sin mercy for sinful man will be realized - Vicarious Atonement (Genesis 3:14-15). In God's plan the innocent will be sacrificed to pay the moral debt of the guilty.
6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:6-8
The Father also chooses and sends the Son to become that innocent human sacrifice who will die to pay for the sins of man.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
- John 3:16
God the Son actualizes and fulfills God the Father's plan (vicarious atonement) to save man from condemnation and spiritual death caused by sin.
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
- Hebrews 2:9
God the Son takes on human flesh, lives a life without sin and submits to a sacrificial death on the cross to pay the sin debt that all men owed to God.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
- Isaiah 53:5
The fact that He was innocent made Him a worthy sacrifice, the fact that He has a divine nature made his sacrifice valuable enough to pay for all the sins of all mankind at he end of the world.
11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. 14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
- Hebrews 10:11-14
We have God the Father as the initiator – He chooses the plan (vicarious atonement), and He chooses and sends God the Son to reveal and fulfill His plan.
- This is the basis of the Biblical doctrine of election.
- Not that God chooses some people for salvation and others for destruction.
- The Father chooses or elects the Son to carry out His plan. The only choice made.
- Those who believe in the chosen/elected Son themselves become the elect of God.
- We vote for someone during the elections and if they win, we say that we won the elections. In other words, we win if they win.
- In the same way Jesus is the chosen, elected One by God, those who choose Him by faith, expressed in repentance and baptism, become the elect, or chosen one by faith.
Here are some of the ideas discussed in this lesson:
- The Persons in the Godhead/Trinity all have the same spiritual divine nature and abilities. On an historical note, Tertullian, a third century Latin theologian was the first to use the term (Trinity) in reference to the Godhead.
- We don't see any difference in their Godward presence and only have a brief indication of their dynamic and complex nature. The use of a plural word to describe God in Genesis – Elohim.
- The separate Persons are revealed as God's plan of salvation is made known. God the Father chooses the plan and chooses the Son to reveal and carry out the plan. God the Son reveals and fulfills the plan.