The Holy Spirit is not an “it”: The Person and Deity of the Holy Spirit

Well I had yet ANOTHER visit from the Jehovah’s witnesses this week if you can believe it. Only this time since I was preparing to preach on the person and eternal deity of the Holy Spirit I also said a few words about the Holy Spirit in addition to defending the eternal deity of Jesus Christ. But once again this proves that we need to be prepared to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, especially around this time of year, because I have noticed that Jehovah’s Witnesses are big on canvassing neighborhoods right around Easter time. And so, I’ll bet that you’ll meet a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses between now and April 8. Which means you need to be ready to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. And so, as a follow up to my previous post on why the deity of Jesus Christ is necessary and so comforting, I thought I would share some of the content from my afternoon sermon on “The Person and Eternal Deity of the Holy Spirit.”

The Eternal Deity of the Holy Spirit

In the first place we believe and confess as Christians that the Holy Spirit is eternally God. This is proven in several places in the Bible

  1. divine names: He is called God in a number of places
    1. 1Cor. 3:16–Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
    2. Acts 5–Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit (v. 3) which is said to be lying to God (v. 4).
    3. Based on these two texts alone we have sufficient Biblical support for the deity of the Holy Spirit (remember these!). But we can consider other proofs as well.
  2. divine attributes are ascribed to him
    1. Omnipresence (Ps. 139), Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    2. Omniscience (1Cor. 2:11): no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  
    3. Omnipotence: Is. 11:2 And 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 the fear of the LORD.
  3. divine works are performed by him
    1. Creation by the Holy Spirit
      1. Genesis 1:2: the Spirit (ruach) was hovering over the waters
      2. Psa. 33:6: By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath (ruach) of his mouth all their host.
      3. Job 33:4: The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
      4. Thus as the Father and the Son are said to give us life, so too does the Holy Spirit give us life.
    2. New Birth by the Holy Spirit
      1. John 3: in order to enter the Kingdom of God, you must be born again by the Spirit
      2. Titus 3:5: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
    3. Inspiration: He is involved in the divine work of inspiration.
      1. The author of Hebrews says that the Spirit spoke to Israel in Psalm 95: Heb. 3:7  Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
      2. 2 Pet. 1:21: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God las they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Trinitarian Statements
    1. Baptism: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19)
    2. Greetings: Rev. 1:4 Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits (a reference to the Holy Spirit, seven being a symbolic number of perfection) who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. . .1Pet. 1:1 To those who are elect exiles. . .2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
    3. Benedictions: 2Cor. 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.

There is more that we could say to prove the deity of the Holy Spirit. But I hope from this Biblical survey you can see that it’s abundantly clear in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is eternally God. It doesn’t matter that the word Trinity is not in the Bible (a common objection from Jehovah’s Witnesses). The doctrine is there and it is clear: God is one in essence and three in persons. And so, it is Biblical and right to confess as Reformed Christians do in the Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 11 that the Holy Spirit is: “the third person of the Holy Trinity; of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son; and therefore is the true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.” Not only Reformed Christians, but all Christians should and do confess this.

The Person of the Holy Spirit

We not only believe and confess the eternal deity of the Holy Spirit, we also confess that the Holy Spirit is a person. And it’s important that we realize this. It’s easy to forget this because his name, the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost in KJV language), doesn’t immediately make us think of a person like the names Father or Son do. And in fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person, but an impersonal force of God. But the Scriptures also clearly teach that the Holy Spirit is not a thing, an it, or an impersonal force. Rather, He is a self-conscious actor in the drama of creation, redemption and consummation. Persons do things and they relate to other persons. And this is true of the Holy Spirit. We’ve already mentioned some of the divine works that the Holy Spirit performs.

And in addition to this we see in the Bible that he is given personal pronouns: John 14:25  “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, HE will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Furthermore, He’s given personal attributes such as a mind (Rom. 8:27), emotions (Rom. 8:27), and a will (1 Cor. 12:11). While we should understand these statements analogically, they prove that he is a person and not an “it.”

Within the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the third person. And what distinguishes Him from the other members of the Trinity, at least as the western church confesses, is that He eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. This is what we confess in the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and in the Belgic Confession, Article 11: “We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son; and therefore neither is made, created, nor begotten, but only proceeds from both.”

I won’t get into the historic controversy, known as the filioque (and the Son) controversy, which led to the Great Schism of 1054 between East and West. In this post, I simply wanted to prove from the Bible that the Holy Spirit is eternally God and is a person, not a thing. I hope you are better prepared to contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), especially when Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on your door this Easter season.

You can listen to the full sermon, where I also discuss the ministry of the Holy Spirit, on our web-site here.

Why is the eternal deity of Jesus Christ necessary and so comforting?

It’s been way too long since I posted a blog. For some reason I am inspired today to start posting again on a more regular basis. So I thought I would start with a synopsis of a sermon I preached this past Sunday on “The Eternal Deity of Jesus Christ” (cf. Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 10).

A couple of Jehovah’s witnesses visited me about two weeks ago. It was interesting timing because I was preparing to preach a few catechetical sermons on the topics of the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the person and deity of the Holy Spirit. Jehovah’s witnesses of course deny these Biblical and historical doctrines of the Christian faith. So this past Sunday when I preached on the eternal deity of Jesus Christ one of my goals was to equip my congregation with Biblical answers to their objections. Here are a few Scripture verses that we went through to prove the deity of Christ:

John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. . .14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. . .18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Colossians 1: 15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. . .Col. 2:9: For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,

Hebrews 1: 11 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. 

It’s easy to remember these three references because they all are from chapter 1 (John 1, Col. 1, Heb. 1). With John 1 and Colossians 1 I responded to the common objections that Jehovah’s witnesses make with these verses (listen to the audio below if you’d like to hear these answers). Some other verses you may want to consider are the following:

1. Jesus’ “I AM” statements in John’s gospel (Jn. 6:35, 48; 8:12, 58; 9:5; 10:7, 11-14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). This was Jesus claiming God’s covenantal name for Himself (cf. Ex. 3:14), which is why the Jews wanted to stone Him (John 8:59).

2. Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17. Jesus prays: John 17:5:And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. This is a remarkable statement since in the Old Testament God often told Israel that He was jealous for His own glory and that He shares His glory with no one (cf. Isa. 42:8). Here we see that Jesus indeed has always shared that glory with God the Father, being the second person of the Trinity.

3. Jesus receives worship (Matt. 28:16; Heb. 1:5-6, 7-12 [here Psalms praising God apply to Him]; Rev. 5:11-14). Compare this with John being rebuked for trying to worship an angel in the book of Revelation (Rev. 19:10).

At the conclusion of my sermon I wanted to press home the point that it is both necessary and extremely comforting to know that Jesus Christ is eternally God. Here are the reasons that I gave:

  • Because it’s Biblical as we have seen above
  • Because we cannot see God if Jesus is not divine. He reveals the invisible God to us (Jn. 1:18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). He is Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23)! Jesus said to his disciples if you have seen me you’ve seen the Father (Jn. 14:9).
  • Because we cannot be saved if Jesus is not divine. In Reformed churches we confess in Heidelberg Catechism Question 17: “Why must He also be true God? That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath, and so obtain for and restore to us righteousness and life.” We need a mediator who is fully God and fully man in order to be saved from our sins. Without Jesus’ divinity we are hopeless.
  • Because we cannot be preserved and comforted in this world if Jesus is not eternally God. We would have a weak and insufficient mediator if Jesus is not eternally God. But because Jesus is God, this doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort. In Reformed churches we also confess these comforting words from the Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 26: “And if we seek for one who has power and majesty, who is there that has so much of both as He who sits at the right hand of God, and to whom hath been given all authority in heaven and on earth? And who will sooner be heard than the own well beloved Son of God?You see, because Jesus is the eternal Son of God you and I can be sure that we have an all sufficient Mediator and that Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 will most definitely be answered!

And so, let us believe in our heart and confess with our mouth the eternal deity of Jesus Christ with great comfort and with great confidence. And let us invoke, worship, and serve Christ both now and forevermore Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

You can listen to the full audio of this sermon at our church web-site here.