What I am about to explain is far from an easy task. I have to admit my human limitations in trying to explain the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Even Ellen White admits, “The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.”
It is noteworthy that Mrs. White indicated that “it is not essential for us to be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is.” However, she proceeded on describing who the Holy Spirit is. She states, “Christ tells us that the Spirit is the Comforter, ‘the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father’.” In other words, when trying to describe what the Holy Spirit is, we are treading on the mysterious ground. On the other hand, when we are striving to conceptualize who the Holy Spirit is, the Bible is clear. Thus, this is not an easy subject to deal with. When there is not much information from the Bible regarding the nature of the Holy Spirit, we must be careful not to go beyond what the Bible reveals to us.
It is vitally important that we must recognize and accept our human limitations in our attempts to explain anything related to God. We cannot put God into a box of certainty in trying to understand the essence of God. It stands to reason the same goes for the Holy Spirit in terms of applying faulty explanations which may not be in alignment with what God wishes to reveal. Therefore, we should let the Word of God speak for itself and accept its affirmation on the topic of the divinity of the Holy Spirit. As Deuteronomy 29:29 reminds us, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (NASB).
Trying to understand divine reality from a human perspective may lead to inaccurate ideas about God. Describing Him using our human language maybe inadequate. But it should not deter us from pursuing it. The fact that He revealed Himself to us, for example, through His written word, then any effort to understand Him is a worthy task.
Most biblical references to the Holy Spirit are indirect to His divinity. One of the direct references to the Holy as God is in Acts 5:1-4. In that passage, Peter said to Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit (v. 3), and then later in the text, he expressed to Ananias “You have not lied to man but to God” (v. 4). Based on this parallelism, the Holy Spirit is called God. Not only, He is called God, He is described as a person to whom Ananias lied.
The Holy Spirit’s divine attributes indicate that He is God. He is omniscient as are other members of the triune God. He “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” and “no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11, NKJV). He raised Jesus from the dead and can even give life to our “mortal bodies” (Romans 8:11, NIV). Mere human beings cannot do what the Holy Spirit can do. A mere influence or force cannot resurrect Jesus from the dead. Indeed, He is a divine being.
It is clear that what the Bible is revealing to us is not so much on what the Holy Spirit is, but who the Holy Spirit is, and how He works for our salvation. I think this is a crucial consideration with regard to the Holy Spirit. This suggests that the Holy Spirit is not an inanimate impersonal concept to deliberate and philosophize about, but a Person to know and to trust. We can trust Him because He is God.
This leads us to what is really important to our personal lives and to our salvation when we try to understand the Holy Spirit as revealed in the Scriptures. Apostle Paul declares, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, NKJV). The Holy Spirit plays a very important role in renewing our minds and changing our lives.
The functions and works of the Holy Spirit are some of the reasons why it is challenging to elaborate His divine nature. He works in the background and speaks not of Himself but more of Jesus Christ. Jesus points out to His disciples that Holy Spirit “will not speak on his own” (John 16:13, NIV).
It is ironic that although He is a divine being, yet He will not speak on His own, “He only speaks what He hears” (John 16:13, NIV). The Holy Spirit, in spite of His supposed authority and power, His divinity further reflects and reveals the servant nature of God by working without seeking attention. He does not seek to assert himself or seek recognition simply because it is not part of the nature of God nor how God works. Ostensibly, the Holy Spirit functions as an insignificant divine being. That is probably one of the reasons why the divinity or even the existence of the Holy Spirit has been questioned. We do not appreciate His unassuming personality and His divinity. We do not appreciate His work in us, but the Holy Spirit teaches us important lessons of the servant nature of God. Indeed, the unselfish nature of the Holy Spirit is divine. He is not thinking only of Himself and His welfare. He works cooperatively and unselfishly with the other members of the Godhead for the salvation of human beings.
The Holy Spirit’s role and function are not remarkable as the Father and the Son. It is interesting that in both Hebrew and Greek languages, the word “spirit” is the same word for “breath” or “wind.” Wind conveys power while breath associates with life. The work of the Holy Spirit in us is not as conspicuous as we would expect it to be. He works silently and yet powerfully. Jesus declared to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NIV). Yahweh spoke to prophet Ezekiel and said, “I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live” (Ezekiel 37:14, NKJV). Apostle Peter adds another important function of the Holy Spirit which is His “sanctifying work” in us, enabling us to “to be obedient to Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:2, NIV).
Let us start recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to know Him more fully. In conclusion, I will use the words of Alister McGrath of this third person of the Godhead, “The Holy Spirit has long been the Cinderella of the Trinity. The other two sisters may have gone to the theological ball; the Holy Spirit got left behind every time. But not now.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7846