Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (part 2)

June 25, 2012     Time: 00:39:23

Last time a number of you who come out of liturgical backgrounds protested to me that in fact the Nicene Creed has much more to say about the person of the Holy Spirit than I claimed when I said that the Nicene Creed simply ends with the words “and in the Holy Spirit” – that we believe in the Father, and in the Son, etc., and in the Holy Spirit and then it anathematizes the Arian heretics. One of you even sent me a copy of the Nicene Creed in the mail where it says “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets,” etc. What you need to understand is I am talking about the original Nicene Creed that was promulgated in 325 at the Council of Nicea. What is commonly used in liturgical church services is a revision of the creed that was done at the Council of Constantinople in 381. There was a good deal of controversy about the Nicene Creed, especially in the eastern part of the empire and therefore it needed clarification and revision and some additional language was added about the person of the Holy Spirit. So what is typically used as the Nicene Creed in liturgical services is actually the Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 and that does have more language about the Holy Spirit.

Attributes of Deity

Last time we began our discussion of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by introducing the person of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity and therefore God himself; not an “it” or an impersonal force, but a person just like the Father and the Son and co-equal with the Father and the Son and part of the Trinity. As such, he shares all of the attributes of deity, which is point (b) on your outline. Let’s just look at some of the scriptural testimony to some of the divine attributes that the Holy Spirit possesses.

First would be eternity – the Holy Spirit exists eternally. Hebrews 9:14 says, “how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Here it refers to the Holy Spirit as the eternal Spirit. He didn’t just come about in the aftermath of Jesus’ death or ministry; this is a person who has existed eternally like the Father and the Son.

Second, he has the attribute of omniscience, that is to say, the Holy Spirit is all-knowing. Psalm 139:4-7:

Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

There it describes how God, through his Spirit, is omnipresent and all knowing. The Spirit of God has these properties of deity as well. Also, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11:

God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

That is a really interesting verse.[1] What it says there is that in the same way that your soul or spirit comprehends your thoughts, the Spirit of God comprehends (understands all of) the thoughts of God. So the Holy Spirit is not only omnipresent (He is everywhere, there is no place you can flee from his presence), he is also omniscience and he even comprehends the fullness of the divine intellect.

Number four would be holiness. Romans 1:4 – this is a rather obvious attribute in virtue of the fact that we refer to this person as the “Holy” Spirit. This verse says that Christ was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” So the Holy Spirit has the property of the holiness of God – God’s moral perfection and separateness.

Finally number five, the love of God characterizes the Holy Spirit. God’s love – Romans 5:5 says, “. . . God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” There it speaks of how the Holy Spirit is the one who imparts the love of God to us.

I think you can see that in various ways, and even more, the Holy Spirit is given the attributes of deity: eternity, omnipresence and omniscience, holiness and love.


Question: (inaudible)

Answer: Yeah, I kind of ran omnipresence and omniscience together but those should really be separate attributes.

Question: So the Holy Spirit is omniscient which means he would know everything but yet Jesus also says, for example, only the Father knows when the second coming will be. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t know this, would that make the Holy Spirit not omniscient then?

Answer: If you took that in too wooden and literal a sense, then that is what it would imply. But I think that is putting too much theological freight on that verse. I think that what Jesus is saying there in speaking to the disciples is, “I don’t know, I am not aware of the time of my second coming. This is known only to God.” He is not trying to make fine theological distinctions. Indeed, I would say the Son himself knows – Christ did know when his second coming is – but he knew that according to his divine nature not in his human nature and human consciousness. I think that would be splitting theological hairs to try to put that much freight on a passage like that. As God himself, both the Son and the Holy Spirit would know the future and would know the time of his return.

Question: Would you agree then the same thing applies to “no one knows the Son except the Father and no one knows the Father except the Son?”

Answer: You mean in the sense that the Holy Spirit knows the Father?

Followup: He knows, too, but it is like – to try to deny this as in “no one” – that includes the Holy Spirit, doesn’t it? That is too much freight.

Answer: Yeah, he is not speaking there in a way to deny that the Holy Spirit, for example, knows the Father. He is communicating to his human audience and saying, among human persons, those who know the Father do so because the Son is the revelation of the Father to human beings. This is a good lesson in biblical hermeneutics – it is important to remember to allow the author to speak to us according to the author’s original intent and situation and not to try to import too much philosophy or theology into some of these passages which, in their original context, probably had not that sort of intention.

Relation to Christ

What is, then, the relationship of the Holy Spirit to Christ? This is point (c) on the outline. The Holy Spirit is involved with the ministry of Jesus from beginning to end. It is very interesting to see how intimately connected with the life and ministry of Jesus the person of the Holy Spirit is.[2]

It begins right at his conception. Luke 1:35, this is the enunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel, “And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’” Here the virginal conception of Jesus is attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s body. Jesus was conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit in Mary.

Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit at the time of his baptism. Luke 3:21-22,

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

Then in the next verse, Jesus begins his ministry. So Jesus, in order to carry out the ministry that God had called him to, needed to be anointed by the Holy Spirit and empowered and filled by the Holy Spirit.

Similarly, Jesus’ miracles and exorcisms are said to have been performed through the power of the Holy Spirit. Look at Matthew 12:28, this is Jesus speaking, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Here his activity as an exorcist in casting out demons is attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit. This is the way the apostles remember Jesus. Look at Acts 10:38, this is Peter’s sermon to the household of Cornelius in Caesarea Maritima and in this verse Peter reminds them “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” Also in this passage Jesus is described as a healer and a preacher and an exorcist and this is attributed to the power of the Holy Spirit with which he had been anointed by God.

Also Jesus’ preaching is attributed in its power to the Holy Spirit. Luke 4:14-21, this is Jesus ministering in Galilee:

And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Wow![3] This is one of those moments where Jesus makes his identity clear and he attributes his powerful preaching of the good news to the Spirit of God – the Spirit of the Lord – which had come upon him and anointed him just as Isaiah had prophesized. So Jesus’ ministry was carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit; Jesus was filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

The continuance of Jesus’ ministry after his death is also attributed to the Holy Spirit. Look at John 16:7, 13-14, Jesus says,

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. . . . When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Here the Holy Spirit is the one who will continue the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth after Jesus has departed from this world. He will continue to proclaim the truth and to speak what he, himself, has heard and received with regard to the things of Christ.

So I think you can see that in the ministry of the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit from beginning to end is very intimately and closely involved. Jesus carried out his ministry only because of, and in the power of, the Holy Spirit.


Question: I have a question on Luke 3 when you were explaining about the Holy Spirit coming upon Jesus before he started his ministry. In my past understanding of that verse, I viewed it more as a celebration rather than a prerequisite or a legal requirement. Maybe you can add more about that – what are your thoughts there about that event?

Answer: I am not saying it is a legal requirement; that wasn’t my intention. But it seems to me that this is more than just a celebration. It is more than just saying that God is ratifying that the Holy Spirit has been with Jesus all along. This fits the pattern, and this is why I think this is convincing what I am suggesting, this fits the pattern of the way in which Old Testament prophets and people sent by God were anointed to carry out special tasks. As we will see in a moment, when you look at the old covenant, the Holy Spirit would come upon judges or prophets or leaders to anoint them with a special power to carry out a ministry that he had called them to. Jesus seems to fit right into this pattern. It says that when he was baptized that the Holy Spirit came upon him, he descended upon him. So I take this to be a special anointing that he received at that time to carry out this ministry. Now that of course doesn’t mean that Jesus was bereft of the Holy Spirit prior to that. I am not suggesting that at all. But there does seem to be this special anointing for ministry that came upon Jesus at that moment that is very typical of this pattern in the old covenant.

Question: It seems that if Jesus was all God and all man, why would he need this special anointing? It would seem like to me to be already there. I understand prophets needing an anointing and I understand us needing the Holy Spirit but other than us understanding the whole working of the Godhead or the Trinity, I don’t get this. Can you elaborate?

Answer: I think here it is very helpful to remember what we talked about when we studied the person of Christ. We saw that Christ has two natures subsequent to his virginal conception.[4] Therefore, it is misleading, I think, the way you put it to say that Jesus is all God. He is not all God if you mean that in terms of totality. He is God and man. He has a human nature which is all human. It is a fully human nature – body and soul. But he has a second nature – he has his divine nature which he has had from eternity. Very often Christians misleadingly say things like this: Jesus is 100% God, or he is 100% man, too. No, that is really not right. What the creeds say, such as the Nicene Creed says, is he is truly God and truly man, but it doesn’t say he is all God or all man because that is simply false. He is divine in that he has a divine nature, but then he also has a human nature, which is just as weak and ordinary as yours and mine. We evangelicals are sometimes guilty of denying the real humanity of Christ, but over and over again when you read the Scriptures you see in his humanity Jesus was physically limited, he felt anxiety and stress and emotions, weariness, he hungered, he thirsted, he was of course mortal, he was limited in knowledge as he grew up as a boy, and he increased in wisdom and knowledge. I say all of that simply to say that it was his human nature that was in need of being infused with the power of the Holy Spirit and that was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was, if you will, a charismatic. He was a man who depended upon and was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out his ministry. If we think of it in those terms, we can understand how the man, Jesus of Nazareth (or Jesus in his human nature would be a better way to put it) needed to pray, to fast and to draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit to do what God had called him to do.

Question: In Matthew 3:13, the baptism of Jesus, it says, “then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’” That is how I conceive of it. He is fulfilling the Father’s will and carrying out the plan that God has.

Answer: OK, you are asking a slightly different question, I think. You are not asking about the role of the Holy Spirit in anointing Jesus with power for ministry. You are in a sense asking why would a man who is sinless need to go and be baptized for repentance for forgiveness of sins. Since he didn’t have any sin, it wouldn’t seem to make much sense for him to go be baptized by John the Baptist.

Followup: Only someone who has a divine nature would be sinless. So in that sense he didn’t need to be baptized.

Answer: Correct! So it is puzzling that Jesus would seek out baptism by John the Baptist. The answer he gives there is that it is fitting – I don’t need it, but it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness. I think that what this expresses is Jesus’ solidarity with the human condition. Jesus was not just the Son of God, but he was the Son of Man. He was the Son of Man prophesied by Daniel who would come and be the Lord and judge. I think this represents his solidarity with us, with his brethren, that he would participate in this baptism even though he, himself, doesn’t need to repent and be forgiven.

Followup: It just helps me to understand it in totality of why he is God in the flesh, why he is incarnate.

Answer: Well, I think what you are saying is, correct me if I’m wrong, you are saying that Jesus not being sinful shows, or is evidence, of his divine nature.[5] Because if he were just a human person, if he were 100% human, then he would need to be baptized by John. But the fact that he doesn’t is an indication of his divine nature. Is that right?

Followup: Yes.

Question: Can we say that the Spirit also had a part to play in his atoning work? Hebrews 9:14 for example.

Answer: That is the one about eternal Spirit? Hebrews 9:14, “Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God.” I’ve never thought of that in those terms before. One usually doesn’t think of the atonement in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit. There it says, “He offered himself without blemish through the eternal Spirit” so maybe in some way the Holy Spirit helped to facilitate his sacrifice. Maybe it refers to the struggles in Gethsemane where he wanted this cup to pass from him but nevertheless submitted to the Father’s will. Maybe it was through the Holy Spirit strengthening him to carry out this offering of himself to God. Or maybe it is a reference again to the sinlessness of Christ that was just mentioned – he offered himself without blemish through the Holy Spirit preserving him. I don’t know, that is worth thinking more about, I hadn’t thought of it before.

One of the encouraging things about this section is you see that the same way in which we need to relate to the Holy Spirit are ways in which Jesus himself related to the Holy Spirit. If our Lord needed to depend upon the power and the filling and the anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry out his ministry, how much more do we need to daily depend upon the Holy Spirit as we walk through this life? So it is encouraging to me, I think, as a Christian to see that Jesus himself drew upon and depended upon the Holy Spirit in the same way that we need to.

Work of the Holy Spirit

Section 3 on the outline speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit. When you read what the Spirit of God does, it is just amazing the works that are attributed to the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. Let’s look at some of these.

Number one, creation – the creation of the world. Genesis 1:2-3, the Holy Spirit was involved in creation: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” And then the rest of the creation narrative continues to unfold. So right in the beginning, at the moment of creating the Earth as a habitable place for human beings, the Spirit of God is involved in creation.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is involved in divine revelation. 1 Corinthians 2:9-10, 12-13, talks of the role of the Holy Spirit in divine revelation. It says in verse 9, “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” Sometimes people just quote the first half of that verse to say, “Look at all these unknown things that God has for us in the future” but what the verse actually says is that all of these unimaginable and unheard of things God has revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. It continues, “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” then verses 12-14:

we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

So the divine revelation that the apostles gave was teaching that they received through the Holy Spirit and they imparted these spiritual truths to people by words that the Holy Spirit had given them.[6] So the Holy Spirit is involved in divine revelation.

Thirdly, even more specifically, the Holy Spirit is involved in the inspiration of Scriptures. The Scriptures are, themselves, inspired by God. 2 Peter 1:20-21: “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” So when these prophets spoke, they spoke not under their own impulse but at the instigation of the Holy Spirit. That is why the Bible is attributed to God as the Word of God, as being inspired by God – literally God breathed. Here this is attributed to the ministry of the Holy Spirit who gives them the impulse to speak as they did.

Number four I have already mentioned, the conception of Christ. Let’s just read again Luke 1:30-31, 34-35:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus”. . . . And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

So the conception of Christ, the virginal conception, is through the Holy Spirit.

Number five: regeneration – that which transfers a person from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration is attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit. John 3:5-7, this is Jesus talking to Nicodemus: “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” So, the new birth, regeneration, that which transfers you from death to new life is, as Jesus said, through the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is the one who regenerates a person and imparts new life. And the Holy Spirit isn’t finished with you once he regenerates you.

Number six, the Holy Spirit then is responsible for baptizing and indwelling you. Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Any one who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” So here it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life which is the dividing point whether that person is aligned with God, who is a Christian, or is a person who is not a Christian, who is apart from God. He says that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life that determines whether or not you belong to Christ.[7] 1 Corinthians 12:13 speaks of the baptism that the Holy Spirit gives: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” So when a person becomes a Christian, he is not only regenerated by the Holy Spirit, but he is baptized and indwelt by the Holy Spirit as a believer.

Number seven: the Holy Spirit is the source of your assurance of salvation. Romans 8:14-17 says the Holy Spirit is the source of assurance of salvation[8]:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Here Paul says that when we recognize that we are sons of God, we cry out to God as our Father. He says it is the Holy Spirit who bears witness with our spirits and gives us the assurance that we are in fact reconciled to God and are his children.

Number eight: enablement for spiritual living comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Galatians 5:16-18, 25, Paul says,

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Paul says it is going to be walking in the Holy Spirit daily – that day-by-day walk in the power of the Holy Spirit – that is going to give you the power to resist the desires and temptations of the flesh that would subvert the desires of the Holy Spirit in your life.

There is more to be said but we are out of time. Just to recap what we’ve seen so far, you can see the tremendous importance of this person of the Trinity in the plan of salvation. The Holy Spirit is present at creation, he imparts divine revelation, he is responsible for the inspiration of the Bible, he is there at the virginal conception of Christ bringing that about, he is responsible for bringing about regeneration and new birth, for baptizing and indwelling Christian believers, he is the source of our assurance of salvation and he enables us for spiritual living. Truly, we ignore the person of the Holy Spirit at our own peril. The Holy Spirit is absolutely vital to victorious Christian living. And that is not all! Next week we will see a few more roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and of the Christian.[9]

[1] 4:59

[2] 9:58

[3] 14:69

[4] 20:00

[5] 25:06

[6] 30:29

[7] 35:00

[8] Dr. Craig mentions verses 14-16 but will read through to verse 17.

[9] Total Running Time: 39:23 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)