Misconceptions and Malarkey About the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

Forerunner, "Ready Answer," May-June 2013

. . . having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. . .”

Ephesians 1:13

When a popular congressman from the former second district of Minnesota, Ancher Nelsen, was asked about the secret to his political longevity, he reflected, “I never argue if I can help it—I find someone on the opposite party with views identical to mine and simply agree with his pronouncements.” The apostle Paul used a similar technique to divide the Pharisees and the Sadducees for his advantage. The proponents of the Trinity use a similar technique when they try to categorize all non-Trinitarians as followers of Arius of Alexandria in AD 319.

According to Walter R. Martin—the self-appointed Ralph Nader of the cult world—the

Arian heresy can be summed up in this short proposition: (1) If God the Father gave birth to the Son, Jesus Christ who was born, had an origin of existence; (2) therefore, once the Son was not; (3) and therefore, He was created out of nothing.

Notice how Martin takes our attention away from the scanty evidence supporting the personality of the Holy Spirit, but instead, meticulously and painstakingly sets about proving the divinity of Jesus. Trinitarians would have people believe that all non-Trinitarians reject the plurality of the God Family. We, of course, know this is not the case.

The very same Trinitarian apologist who showed himself sophomorically naïve about grammatical gender, M.R. DeHaan, would have us trust his scholarly savvy about elohim in Genesis 1:1. Any informed student of the Bible would be a fool to dispute this foregone conclusion that elohim is plural, denoting more than one personality. But look at the equivocation and the sleight of hand by the following statements:

Genesis 1:1: It suggests that more than one person was active in creation, and yet these three persons are God.

DeHaan pulls a fast one on us, suggesting that “more than one” has to be “three.” He goes on to throw in front of the reader more redundant, beside-the-point strawmen:

In order to safeguard this truth of three Persons and only one God, the Lord used another strange grammatical construction in this verse. The word translated “created” is baru (“to create”) is a singular verb, denoting only one. Of course, grammatically we cannot use a plural subject with a singular verb.

It is dumbfounding that a man who meticulously sorts out for his reader the mechanics of Hebrew grammar should have made such a gross error here, as well as in regard to the Greek and Hebrew practice of arbitrarily dividing words into gender, as we saw in Part One. (Dare we assume that these commentators never studied these ancient languages, or is it something else?) However, God is not limited by human laws of grammar and rhetoric, and so the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 literally reads, “In the beginning, the Gods He created the heaven and earth.” “The Gods” (elohim) indicates plurality, and the verb (baru) indicates that these different Persons in creation were one.

For the rest of the section, DeHaan concentrates on the spiritual pre-existence of Christ, a la Walter Martin. Notice John 1:1-3:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (Emphasis ours throughout.)

M.R. DeHaan and Walter Martin, along with the Catholic Encyclopedia, seem to assume that, since the divinity of the Son is established, they can automatically infer a three-headed Trinity. That will not fly.

Speaking of Secrets and Mysteries

The Catholic Fathers also loved to play around with paradoxes, riddles, and high-level abstractions. They seem to have taken pleasure in mind-boggling mental gymnastics. On the other hand, perhaps the motive for these obscure word games could be summed up in the popular adage, “If you can’t convince them, confuse them.”

The early Catholic Fathers—Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Basil, Jerome, and Gregory of Nyssa—seemed to take pride in being custodians of a deep, dark, unfathomable mystery. From their pontificating in high-level abstractions, it is clear that they wanted to keep the Trinity unclear. Being holders of secret knowledge gave them considerable power over the uninitiated.

The Vatican Council has suggested that “a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from divine revelation, but which, even when revealed remains ‘hidden by the veil of faith’”! So, even when a person thinks he grasps it, he is really no more enlightened than before he began his quest to understand.

Consequently, the venerable Catholic Fathers engaged in the following kind of gobbledygook. For example, St. Anselm “clearly” articulates on the Trinity:

For there is no relative opposition between spiration on the one hand and either paternity or filiation on the other. Hence the attribute of spiration is found in conjunction with each of these, and in virtue of it they are each distinguished from procession—We are affirming that the Supreme Infinite Substance is identical not with two absolute entities, but with each of two relations.

The dense smoke screen is almost as bad as the spoof paraphrase by Orwell of a passage in Ecclesiastes:

Orwell: Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success in competitive activities. . . .

Solomon: I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. . . .

Perhaps if Thomas Aquinas and Augustine had confined themselves to things people could comprehend with the senses, the doctrine of the Trinity would break down immediately. But where would the fun be in that?

A Mind of His Own?

The New Shaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia suggests that the personality of the Holy Spirit is proved because acts of will and intelligence are attributed to “him.” The following are some of the examples it provides:

» John 15:26: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

» John 16:8: And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

» Romans 8:13:For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

» Acts 13:2: As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

» Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

These so-called proofs are overturned by internal evidence right in the very scriptures used. For instance, John 15:26 reads, “He [the parakletos] will testify of Me.” It conveys Christ’s messages, not its own.

John 16:13 tells us that the parakletos “will not speak from his own.” If the parakletos has a personality of his own, why does he never get a chance to express himself?

The Holy Spirit in Acts 13:2 in the original Greek is called pneuma hagion (literally, “spirit holy”)—without the article. The context of this verse would indicate that Paul was being inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:26 seems to suggest that a person is actually making intercession for us. However, in Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:15-16, the apostle is clear that Jesus Christ is our intercessor before God the Father. The Holy Spirit is the instrument that He gives us to help us become more spiritually articulate in our requests before God.

» Hebrews 2:17: Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

» Hebrews 4:15-16: For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

God’s Holy Spirit has to become an integral part of us if we aspire to sonship, that is, the offspring of God (Romans 8:11,14). God’s Spirit makes the difference between deification or oblivion.

» Romans 8:11: But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

» Hebrews 8:14: For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

In Part One, we learned that conversion and adoption into the God Family begins with an implantation and regeneration by God’s Holy Spirit into our minds, as stated in Ephesians 1:13-14:

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Holy Spirit—Power or Person?

Trinitarians, in their misguided zeal to make the Scriptures say things they were never intended to say, have ignored some of the most elementary descriptions of the nature, scope, and function of God’s Holy Spirit. Here are a few of these, which will give us a more complete picture:

In Luke 1:35, we learn that the Holy Spirit is the spirit and power that comes from God.

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

In Zechariah 4, the prophet sees a vision of two olive trees dripping oil into a golden bowl atop a lampstand. In verse 6, this oil is identified as God’s Spirit, which is poured out upon a person to do His work:

So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

This is corroborated by Isaiah 61:1, which suggests that a person can be anointed by this Spirit, in this case Jesus Christ:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. . . .

So pervasive and fluid is this Spirit that it actually permeates the universe. In John 7:38-39, Jesus even likens the Holy Spirit to a gushing river flowing from those who believe Him:

“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

If rightly used, God’s Holy Spirit can make a person bold and balanced, as Paul writes in II Timothy 1:7:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

It can help a person to be spiritually articulate before God, as the same apostle shows in Romans 8:26:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

And it aids Christians in being physically articulate as well:

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. . . .(I Corinthians 2:4)

But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)

In I Corinthians 2, Paul speaks about the Holy Spirit as the gift we have received from God to help us understand spiritual things. In verse 16, it is specifically called “the mind of Christ”:

For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:16)

In Ephesians 3:16-17, the apostle Paul expands on this gift, saying that God’s Spirit supplies us internal, spiritual strength, the Spirit being the means by which Christ lives in us:

. . . that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love. . . .

If we allow God’s Word to describe and define the Holy Spirit rather than rely on pointy-headed theologians and philosophers to explain it in their overwrought and convoluted language, we have a far better chance of understanding what God’s Spirit is. Just as man has a spirit in him (Job 32:8), a spiritual component that gives us the power of mind and will, God also has a Spirit, one that is far more potent and effective—but one that is similarly not another personality but an essence of mind and power that accomplishes God’s will.

While our minds have difficulty comprehending the scope and abilities of God’s Spirit, this basic understanding, upheld throughout Scripture, cuts through all the world’s misconceptions and malarkey about God’s wondrous Spirit. We can thank God, not only that has He given us this knowledge, but that He has also given us His Spirit, providing us with the understanding and power to do His will and ultimately become His glorified children.

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