centuries, mainstream Christianity has placed the doctrine of the
Trinity at the top of its list of fundamental beliefs. To many,
"Trinitarian" is virtually synonymous with "Christian."
If a person doesn't believe in the Trinity, they claim, he is not
a true Christian?
assert that the one God exists eternally as three Personsthe
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, God indeed
exists as a plurality of Persons. No one doubts that the Father
is God, and Scripture clearly teaches that the Son of God. But what
about the Holy Spirit? Does God's Word present the Spirit as the
"Third Person" of the Godhead, as Trinitarians insist?
begin our investigation with the text most often cited as support
for the doctrine of the Trinity.
the night of His betrayal, Jesus Christ promised that after His
departure He would send "the Comforter" to His disciples.
"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another
Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit
of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not,
neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you,
and shall be in you" (John 15:16,17).
said the Comforter is the "Spirit of truth," which is
the Holy Spirit. "But the Comforter is the Holy Spirit, whom
the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things,
and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said
unto you" (verse 26).
word "Comforter" is translated from the Greek Parakletos,
which means "called to one's side, i.e., to one's aid..."
The word "suggests the capability or adaptability for giving
aid. It was used in a court of justice to denote a legal assistant,
counsel for the defense, an advocate; then, generally, one who pleads
another's case, an intercessor, advocate..." (W.E. Vine, An
Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 200).
definition of the word, the use of the personal pronouns "He"
and "Him," and the teaching role of the Comforter
certainly seem to connote personality. The Comforter's ability to
"testify" (John 15:26), "reprove" [convict]"
(16:8), "speak" (16:13), and "shew you things to
come" (16:13) seems to further strengthen the belief that the
Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Godhead.
addition to John's record of Jesus' teaching, other scriptures present
the Holy Spirit with attributes of personality. In Acts 13:2, the
Holy Spirit speaks and commands: "As they ministered to the
Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas
and Saul..." In Romans 8:26, the Spirit intercedes for the
saints: "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:
for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit
itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot
be uttered." Acts 21:11, the Spirit prophesies: "And when
he [Agabus the prophet] was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle,
and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy
Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth
this girdle..." And in Acts 5:3, we find that one can lie to
the Holy Spirit: "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled
thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and keep back part
of the price of the land?" In verse 4, Peter said, "thou
has not lied unto men, but unto God."
the passages do give personal attributes to the Holy Spirit,
and leave us with the impression that the Spirit is not an impersonal
"it." An impersonal "it" doesn't speak, prophesy,
intercede, or command. Nor can an impersonal "it" that
is equated with "God" be lied to. All these descriptions
leave us with three possible ways of understanding what the Scriptures
mean by "Holy Spirit."
is the traditional understanding: Since God the Father and Jesus
Christ are the First and Second Persons of the Godhead, the Holy
Spirit is the Third Person. In view of the above passages, this
seems to be a logical conclusion.
second way of understanding the Holy Spirit is through understanding
the use of personification in the Scriptures. In Proverbs
8, for example, "wisdom" is given the attributes of a
person, though wisdom is not a person. "She [Wisdom"]
standeth in the the top of high places..." She crieth
at the gates..." She says, Unto you, O men, I call;
and my voice is to the sons of men... I lead [walk]
in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment...
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever
the earth was... When He prepared the heavens, I was there...
Blessed is the man that heareth me..." (verses 2-4,
23, 27, 34).
course, the "Wisdom" spoken of hear is God's own wisdom,
though it is presented as a personage who is distinct for the One
who "prepared the heavens." Thus, through an understanding
of the use of personification in the Bible, we might conclude that
"the Comforter" is the personification of God's power,
wisdom, love, and so forth.
of the above views seem logical, at least on the surface. But there
is another, and more consistent, explanation for the Holy Spirit's
personal attributes. Let's now consider the third way of understanding
why the Scriptures present the Spirit with the characteristics of
The Spiritual Presence of God
Pantheism, which states that God is everything (or everything is
God that is, the universe and God are identical), Scripture
presents God as "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity"
(Isaiah 57:15). In other words, He is transcendentwe might
say, "extra-dimensional." He created laws that govern
the universe, but His existence is above and beyond the universe
and in no way depends on it.
is bound by neither time nor space. Solomon said, "But will
God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of
heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house [i.e., the
Temple] that I have builded" (I Kings 8:27). God dwells above
and beyond the space-time universe; therefore, He is not omnipresent,
or "everywhere present," in the sense that He dwells within
the universeunder every rock, in every heart, on every street
corner, and so forthas if He were some sort of "Energy"
akin to the "Force" of Star Wars fame. Rather,
He is omnipresent in that there is no place inaccessible to Him,
no place unknown to Him, and no place beyond His reach.
God is transcendent, He has on many occasions "invaded"
the time-space universe. That is, He has reached from eternity into
the world of man, as it were, and altered the course of history,
changed lives, and interrupted the natural order of things. The
scriptural writers described these supernatural phenomena in may
ways. One such way is through use of words "Holy Spirit,"
or "Spirit of God."
said, "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall
I flee from thy presence" (Psalm 139:7). Notice that "thy
Spirit" is synonymous with "thy presence." God's
Spirit, then, may be defined as God's spiritual presence.
David knew that no matter where he went, God would always be there
in Spirit. He also knew that God was fully capable of intervening
into the time-space universe (the natural world) and making His
went on to say: "If I ascend up to heaven, thou art there:
if I make my bed in hell [Hebrew: sheol, referring here to
the deepest pit], behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of
the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there
shall thy hand lead me [notice, David is speaking of God's intervention,
His activity within the physical world], and thy right hand shall
hold me" (verses 8,9).
we understand the Holy Spirit as God's invisible presence and activity
within the natural world, we can easily understand why the scriptural
writers so often gave personal attributes to the Spirit. Since "Holy
Spirit," or "Spirit of God," refers to God's spiritual
presence (through intervention) within the natural world, it is
incorrect to say that the Holy Spirit is nothing more than an impersonal
force, or that the personal pronouns "He" and "Him"
cannot be appropriately used when speaking of the Spirit. This,
however, does not mean that the Holy Spirit is the "Third
Person" of the Godhead.
Psalm 51, David again associates the Holy Spirit with God's presence.
He said, "Cast me not away from thy presence, and take
not thy Holy Spirit from me" (verse 11). Throughout
the Old Testament, we read of God placing His Spirit within His
messengers. Such statements as "And the Spirit of the Lord
came upon him" are common, and always describe the presence
and activity of the invisible God in the lives of human beings living
in the natural world. Obviously, the concept of the Spirit of God
as a personage distinct from the One who gives the Spirit was unknown
to the scriptural writers.
this understanding, let's now examine several New Testament descriptions
of the Holy Spirit.
Power of the Highest
Luke the first chapter, we find important information about the
Holy Spirit. The angel Gabriel, foretelling the birth of Jesus,
said to the virgin Mary: "The Holy Spirit shall came upon thee,
and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also
that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the
Son of God" Verse 35).
that the angel first said, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon
thee..." He then said, "the power of the Highest shall
overshadow thee..." Obviously, these two statements are
two ways of saying the same thing. The Holy Spirit that "shall
come upon thee" is the power of the Highest that "shall
overshadow thee"! The Holy Spirit, then, may be defined as
the power of God.
course, the phrase "power of God" by itself does not capture
the full meaning of "Holy Spirit," but it is an appropriate
description because it is another way of speaking of the spiritual
presence and activity of the invisible God.
if the Holy Spirit is a Personage distinct from yet equal to the
Father of Jesus, as Trinitarians claim, one cannot help but wonder
why Matthew's account tells us that Mary "was found with child
of the Holy Spirit" (1:18), and "that which is
conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (1:20). Of course,
Trinitarians explain that since the one God exists as three Persons,
when one acts, the other two actthus, all three Persons of
the Trinity were involved in the Incarnation. This argument may
seem plausible; nevertheless, the fact that the Holy Spirit is singled
out as the source of the conception is curious, if not confusing.
However, by simply understanding the Holy Spirit as the power of
God the presence and activity of the invisible God in the
natural worldany confusion instantly clears up.
expression "power of God" is but one way of describing
the Holy Spirit. Let's see how many other ways the Bible describes
The Finger of God
Jesus was accused of casting out demons "through Beelzebub,
the chief of the devils" (Luke 11:15), Jesus answered, "And
if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them
out? therefore shall they be judges. But if I with the finger
of God cast out devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come
upon you" (verses 19,20).
Matthew's parallel account, Jesus quoted as saying, "But if
I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom
of God is come unto you" (Matthew 12:28). The Spirit of God,
then is the "finger of God"; it is the spiritual presence
of God. This is yet another way of describing the presence and activity
of the invisible God in the natural world. It is a way of describing
God's "reaching down" and "touching" the lives
of human beings.
Ten Commandments were "written with the finger of God"
(Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10), meaning that the law was miraculously
engraved in stone by the Spirit of God. In other words, "the
high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity" reached into the
natural world and produced the Ten Commandments on tables of stone.
The "finger of God" is another way of describing the "power
of God." The Spirit by which Jesus cast out demons is the same
Spirit by which He healed the sick. Luke wrote, "...and the
power of the Lord was present [with Jesus] to heal them" (Luke
addition to "finger the of God," other similar descriptions
of God's activity are recorded in Scripture. Recall that David spoke
of God's "right hand" leading and holding him (Psalm 139:10).
God promised to redeem Israel "with a stretched out arm"
(Exodus 6:6). With "the blast of [His] nostrils," God
parted the Red Sea (Exodus 15:8). These and similar expressions
are found throughout the Old Testament, and are synonymous with
"power of God," "the Spirit of God," or simply,
the miraculous presence and activity of the invisible God in the
natural world. In fact, the Hebrew expression for "the Spirit
of God" can be translated literally "breath of
God." Obviously, God's "stretched out arm," "right
hand," and "breath" (or "Spirit") all refer
to His supernatural intervention.
New Catholic Encyclopedia is correct in stating that the
Old Testament "clearly does not envisage God's spirit as a
person," and that "I it [the Spirit of God] is sometimes
represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath
[i.e. "Spirit"] of Yahweh acts exteriorly"
(Vol. XIII, p. 574)that is, the Spirit of Yahweh is the spiritual
presence, activity, and influence of the invisible God in the natural
Christians of the first century experienced God's spiritual presence
and activity in a most profound way. Let's notice what the phrase
"Spirit of God" meant to them.
Spiritual Indwelling of God
The apostle Paul wrote, "And if Christ be in you, the
body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit [that is, "Christ
in you"] is life because of righteousness" (Roman 8:10).
And, of course, if Christ dwells in you, then so does the Father
(I John 1:3; 2:23; II John 1:9). John wrote: "No man hath seen
God [the Father] at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth
in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that
we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us His Spirit"
(I John 4:12,13). The Holy Spirit, then, may be defined as the
spiritual indwelling of God, both the Father and the Son.
wrote: "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if
so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man
have no the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans
8:9). He added, "But if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus
from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the
dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth
in you" (verse 11).
that Paul spoke of the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ.
Are these two different Spirits? No! Paul wrote, "There
is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one
hope of your calling" (Ephesians 4:4). Clearly, the Spirit
of the Father is no different from the Spirit of the Son. Both expressions
refer to the spiritual indwelling of Godanother way of describing
the invisible presence, activity, and influence of God (both Father
and Son) in the lives of human beings living in the natural world.
the Corinthians, Paul wrote: "Know yo not that ye are the temple
of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile
the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God
is holy, which temple ye are" (I Corinthians 3:16, 17; cf.
II Corinthians 6:16). Anciently, the Temple of God was God's "house,"
or God's "dwelling place." In the same wayor a more
profound waythe church is the Temple, or "dwelling place,"
of God. When Paul said "the Spirit of God, dwelleth in you,"
he was speaking of the spiritual indwelling of God, both the Father
and the Son. He gave no reason to think that a "Third Person"
Bible tells us that God the Father dwells in heaven, and that Jesus
Christ is at His right hand. How can the Father and Son dwell in
heaven and, at the same time, dwell "in" us? Answer: By
spiritual presenceby reaching into the natural worldboth
the Father and the Son dwell in the spiritual Temple, the church.
view of the Holy Spirit helps us to better understand why Jesus
mentions the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the
baptismal formula. "Go ye therefore, and teach [make disciples
of] all nations, baptizing them in [or into] the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew
28:19). God promises the Holy Spirit of the repentant believer upon
baptism (Acts 2:38). By understanding that the Holy Spirit is the
spiritual indwelling of the Father and the Son, we can understand
why Jesus mentioned all three in the baptismal formula.
the Holy Spirit is not the Third Person of the Godhead, it is a
mistake to say that the Spirit "is not personal and is not
God." The Spirit of God is inseparable from God. As the apostle
Paul said, "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the
Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Corinthians 3:17).
This supports our primary definition of the Holy Spirit as the spiritual
presence, activity, and influence of God in the natural world.
first epistle to the Corinthians further clarifies what he meant
when he spoke of the Holy Spirit.
The Mind of God
wrote: "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God
hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them
unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea,
the deep things of God" (I Corinthians 2:9,10). Notice that
the Spirit is the means whereby God reveals His truth to His people.
the next verse, Paul tells us what he means by "His Spirit":
"For what man knoweth the things of man, save the spirit
of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth by
no man, but by the Spirit of God" (verse 11). In this
case the "spirit of man" is the mind of manthat
part of man that thinks, reasons, stores knowledge. It follows,
then, that since the "spirit of man" is the mind of man,
the "Spirit of God" is the mind of GodHis
thoughts, His way of viewing things. Further, since the "spirit
[mind] of man" is not a personal entity that is separate from
the man himself, the Spirit of God (or "mind of God")
is not the Third Person of a Trinity.
went to say: "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world,
but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that
are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in
the words which man's wisdom [which comes from the mind of man]
teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit [ the mind of God] teacheth;
comparing spiritual things spiritual" (verses 12,13). Here,
"the spirit of the world" is contrasted with "the
Spirit which is of God." Since "the spirit of the world"
refers to the influence of the world, "the Spirit which
is of God" must carry the meaning of "divine influence."
further clarified what he meant by "Holy Spirit" in verse
16: "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he
should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."
Paul's statement, "For who hath known the mind of the Lord,
that he should instruct Him?" is a quotation from the Septuagint
version of Isaiah 40:13. The King James Old Testament, translated
the Hebrew manuscripts, reads: "Who hat directed [or "searched
out"] the Spirit of the LORD, or being His counselor hath taught
Him." The Hebrew word for "Spirit" is Ruwach,
which is elsewhere translated "Spirit," as in "Spirit
of God." To Paul, then, the Spirit of God was the mind of God,
or God's influence upon His people in their view of the world, in
the values they hold, and in their concepts of ethics and morality.
definition "mind of God" agrees perfectly with "spiritual
presence and activity of God," and denotes God's influence
in the life of the Christian. Here again we see no evidence of the
involvement of a "Third Person." On the contrary, we see
clear evidence that Paul never thought of the Holy Spirit as the
Third Person of the Godhead.
salutations provide further evidence that he was not a Trinitarian.
Holy Spirit Not Included in Paul's Salutations
point to II Corinthians 13:14 as proof that Paul believed in the
triune nature of God. Paul did mention the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit in this passage, but his use of these terms hardly
proves that he believed that God is a Trinity. Interestingly, Trinitarians
ignore the fact that Paul, in the introductory comments in each
of his epistles, refers to the Father and the Son together, but
does not mention the Holy Spirit. If Paul was a Trinitarian, why
did he fail to at least acknowledge the role of the "Third
Person" in the believers' Christian experience?
example, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul said, "Grace
be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus
Christ" (Verse 3). Why didn't Paul mention the Holy Spirit?
Does grace and peace come from the First and Second Persons of the
Godhead, but not from the Third Person? This is especially curious
in view of the fact that the "fruit of the Spirit" includes
"love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness,
faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22,23).
Trinitarians can forgive Paul for failing to mention the Holy Spirit
just this once. But, if they would read all of Paul's salutations,
they would see that he consistently left out the Holy Spirit.
Surely Paul did not believe the Holy Spirit was the Third Person
of a Trinity.
Paul did speak of the Holy Spirit as having personal attributes.
In Acts 28, Paul quoting the prophet Isaiah, said, "Well spake
the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers, Saying,
Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not
understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive" (verses
25,26). Paul was quoting from Isaiah 6:9,10. Let's examine this
passage and see what the prophet said about the manner in which
the prophecy was given to him.
wrote: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying..."
And then follows the section of Scripture Paul quoted.
that Paul said, "Well spake the Holy Spirit by Isaiah...; and
Isaiah said, "I heard the voice of the Lord..."
Paul knew that Isaiah had heard God's voice during a visionary experience,
which God had produced by His Spirit. Isaiah had seen God in vision,
but not in actuality, and had received revelation from Him in vision.
Therefore, when Paul said that the Holy Spirit spoke to Isaiah,
he was not trying to point out which member of the Godhead spoke;
he was simply indicating that Isaiah's prophecy came through inspiration
of the Holy Spirit.
the Bible says that "the Holy Spirit said..." it is merely
telling us how God spoke. If Jesus Christ appeared (not in
vision, but literally) to the disciples and spoke, then the disciples,
when later quoting what Christ had said, would simply say, "The
Lord said..." But when the Lord spoke to them in a "Still,
quiet voice," or when they heard His voice without seeing His
form, then the disciples, when quoting Him, would say, "The
Holy Spirit said..."
Christ and His disciples, the Holy Sprit was the spiritual presence,
activity, and influence of the invisible God in the natural world.
No doubt, it was this understanding that led them to compare the
Holy Spirit with the natural elements.
Spirit Compared to the Elements
book of Acts reveals that the Holy Sprit came on the Day of Pentecost
with the sound of "a rushing mighty wind," and
manifested itself in "cloven tongues like as of fire
(Acts 2:1-3). Jesus likened the Spirit to living water (John
4:10-15). "He that believeth on me," Jesus said, "as
the Scripture hath said, out of His belly shall flow rivers of
living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they believed
on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because
that Jesus was not yet glorified.)" (John 7:38,39).
these descriptionsfire, wind, and waterdenote power.
Think of the sheer energy produced by a raging fire, a mighty
river, or a rushing wind. The Holy Spirit was the powerthe
presence and activity of the Eternal Godthat brought this
vast universe with its billions of star-sprinkles galaxies into
word translated "Spirit"Pneuma, in the New
Testamentsuggests force, or power. Vine says
the word "primarily denotes the wind (akin to pneo,
to breath, blow); also breath; then, especially the spirit, which,
like the wind, is invisible, immaterial and powerful" (W.E.
Vine, An Expository Dictionary of the New Testament Words,
word "spirit" is used of the motivational forces of the
mind (attitudes, motives, emotional drives)that invisible
part of us that causes us to behave the way we do. Therefore, the
Holy Spirit, as the mind of God, is given to us to convert
us, to help us to change, by enabling us to redirect our
thoughts and adopt new attitudes and motives.
Bible, God is described in terms of a family relationshipa
Father and a Son. The Holy Spirit is never presented as a third
family member; never portrayed as a "Mother," or as a
"Daughter." Thus, the Holy Spirit is best understood as
the power, mind, and spiritual extension of Godthe spiritual
presence and activity of the invisible in the natural worldnot
as a Person distinct from the Father and the Son.
brings us to several important scriptures that show us how the New
Testament writers thought of the Holy Spirit.
Trinitarians Dogma Foreign to New Testament Writers
commonly use such expressions as "God the Holy Spirit"
and "Third Person of the Trinity," believing the Spirit
to be "God the Sanctifier," who is co-equal and co-eternal
with "God the Father" and "God the Redeemer."
The New Testament writers, however, spoke of the Holy Spirit in
entirely different terms.
example, in the Gospels, the Holy Spirit is described as a "dove."
"And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of
the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw
the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him"
(Matthew 3:16; cf. Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22 John 1:32). God is
described as a Father and a Sona Family of divine Persons.
A "dove" hardly fits within the description of a family
God says, "I pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh..."
(Acts 2:17); Jesus was "full of the Holy Spirit..."
(Luke 4:1); and on the Day of Pentecost, the disciples were "filled
with the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 2:4). Notice the expressions
"pour out," "full of," and "filled with."
These expressions show that the New Testament writers thought of
the Holy Spirit, not as a "Third Person" of the Godhead,
but as a spiritual power flowing from God.
apostle Paul spoke of the "supply of the Spirit" (Philippians
1:19), contrasted being "filled with the Spirit" with
being "drunk with wine" (Ephesians 5:18), and contrasted
"spirit of bondage" with "Spirit of adoption,"
which is the "Spirit of God" (Romans 8:14,15). It is not
likely that Paul would have used these descriptions had he though
of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of a Trinity.
course, Trinitarians object by pointing out that Scripture also
speaks of being "filled" with god. For instance, in Ephesians
3:19, Paul said that Christians can be "filled with all the
fulness of God." This, however, is quite different from the
expressions "pour out," "full of," and "filled
with," as used in reference to the Holy Spirit. Being "filled
with the fulness of God" simply means being filled with the
quantities God is filled withlove, mercy, wisdom, and so forth.
A person is filled with these qualities by being filled with the
Holy Spirit, which Paul described as "the power that worketh
in us" (verse 20). Both the Greek construction and the context
(see verses 16-20) support this conclusion.
then, that the Holy Spirit is presented in Scripture, not as the
Third Person of a Trinity, but as the spiritual presence and activity
of the invisible God in the natural world, let's return to Christ's
comments on the Comforter, and see if we can come to a clearer understanding
of what He said.
John 14-16, Jesus spoke of His "going away" and of His
"coming again" unto His disciples. He said, "A little
while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye
shall see me, because I go to the Father" (John 16:16). He
was obviously speaking of His death, resurrection, ascension, and
post-resurrection appearances, but the disciples did not understand
what He meant. Jesus explained with an illustration:
woman when she is in travail hat sorrow, because her hour is come:
but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no
more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And
ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your
heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (16:21,22).
went on to say: "These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs
["figurative language"NASB]: but the time cometh,
when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but shall shew
you plainly of the Father" (verse 25).
that Jesus said that He had spoken to His disciples in "figurative
language" included the illustration of the "woman in travail"
and, perhaps, the "husbandman-vine-branches-fruit" analogy
of John 15:1-16. But with our understanding of the Holy Spirit as
the spiritual presence and activity of God, it is likely that Jesus'
description of "the Comforter" was also "figurative
fact, throughout John 14-16 Jesus incorporated figurative language
in His teaching, as some commentators point out. He said He would
go to His "Father's house" and "prepare a place"
for His disciples, after which He would "come again" and
receive them unto Himself (John 14:2,3). "Father's house"
is figurative language, for the Father doesn't dwell in a "house."
The disciples must have thought He meant that He was going to some
particular place in this earth, for they clearly said they didn't
know where He was going (verse 5). In chapter 15 and 16 Jesus uses
more figurative language in His analogy of the vine-husbandman-branches-fruit
(15:1-8) and in His illustration of the "woman in travail"
(16:21,22). His description of the Holy Spirit as the "Comforter"
(or "Helper") He will send from the Father is also best
understood as figurative language, especially in view of the fact
that toward the end of His discourse He said, "These things
have I spoken unto you in proverbs [or figurative language]..."
said, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another
Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16).
He then clarified His figurative language by explaining that the
Comforter is "the Spirit of truth" (verse 17). Interestingly,
within this context Jesus said, "I will not leave you comfortless
["as orphans"NASB]: I will come to you"
(verse 18). This seems to suggest that His description of "the
Comforter" is figurative language for Jesus' own spiritual
presence, activity, and influence in the lives of the disciples.
He said that in a little while the world would see Him no more,
but the disciples would see Him, Judas asked, "Lord, how is
it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?"
(verse 22). Notice Jesus' answer: "If a man love me, he will
keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come
unto him, and make our abode with him" (verse 23). Does
this mean that the spiritual presence of the Father and the Son
would be in addition to the presence of the Comforter? More
likely, it means that the spiritual presence (or indwelling) of
the Father and the Son is "the Comforter." This
agrees perfectly with our understanding of the Holy Spirit as the
spiritual presence and activity of God (both Father and Son) in
the natural world. It seems obvious that Jesus' description of "the
Comforter" was part of His "figurative language."
use of figurative language, then, Christ was telling His disciples
that they should not be alarmed by His bodily absence, for
He would be spiritually present with them, and that His (and
the Father's) spiritual presence would in fact be more beneficial
to them than His bodily presence. Later, after His resurrection,
He said to His disciples: "All power is given unto me in heaven
and in earth... and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end
of the world [age]" (Matthew 28:18:20).
rabbinic writers never believed that the Ru'ah ha-Kodesh
(the "Holy Spirit") was a distinct personage within the
Godhead, as in Trinitarianism. Yet, it was not uncommon for rabbis
to describe the Ru'ah ha-Kodesh with personal attributes.
The Encyclopedia Judaica states: "This tendency towards
hypostatization is already apparent in such expression as 'Ru'ah
ha-Kodesh resting' on a person or a place, or someone 'receiving
Ru'ah ha-Kodesh.' But it is pronounced in descriptions of
the Ru'ah ha-Kodesh speaking (Pes. 117a), or acting as defense
counsel on Israel's behalf (Lev. R. 6:1), or leaving Israel and
returning to God (Eccels. R. 12:7)" (Volume 14, p.366).
terms Ru'ah ha-Kodesh and Shekhinah ("dwelling,"
or "resting"used of God's presence) were interchanged
in some rabbinic instance, "the Shekhinah is pictured
as talking to God (Mid. Prov. To 22:28)..." However, the rabbis
knew that such descriptions could easily be misinterpreted, so they
"occasionally preface their remarks with kivyakhol,
'as if it were possible'..." (Encyclopedia Judiaca,
Vol. 14, p. 1350).
the rabbis described the Ru'ah ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) as
having personal attributes and as Israel's defense counsel, yet
did not believe the Spirit to be distinct Person among other Persons
in the Godhead, why should anyone have difficulty believing that
Jesus' description of the Comforter (the disciples' "defense
counsel") was figurative language.
strongest case Trinitarians have for their belief in the Holy Spirit
as the Third Person of the Godhead is Jesus' description of the
Comforter. But once we consider all that the Bible says about the
Holy Spirit, and once we understand that Jesus used figurative language,
the doctrine of the trinity is left without any real scriptural
let's consider some objections often presented by Trinitarians.
Answers to Objections
following objections are represented of arguments that have been
presented in various publications, in public forums, and in letters
sent to our office.
#1: "Jesus said that the only sin that would not
be forgiven is 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.' He said: 'And
whosoever speaketh against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven
him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not
be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to
come' (Matthew 12:31,32). Since the Son of man is a Person, the
Holy Spirit must be a Person as well. Further, the fact that the
Holy Spirit can be blasphemed is evidence that He is a Person."
First, the Word of God (God's revealed truth) can be blasphemed
(Titus 2:5), so the object of blasphemy need not to be a person.
Second, why is blasphemy against the Second Person of the Godhead
forgivable, while blasphemy against the Third Person is not? As
noted previously, by comparing this account with Luke's parallel
account, we see that "the Spirit of God" is "the
finger of God" (compare Matthew 12:28 with Luke 11:20), which
shows that the Holy Spirit is the spiritual extension of God. In
context, Jesus was reproving the Pharisees for attributing the power
of God (i.e., His spiritual presence and activity) to the
devil. Matthew 12:31,32 hardly supports Trinitarianism.
#2: "In Mark 3:29,30, the Holy Spirit is contrasted with
an 'unclean spirit.' Since an 'unclean spirit' is a personal entity,
the Holy Spirit must be a Person."
Again, in Luke's parallel account, the Holy Spirit is described
as "the finger of God." Thus, Mark's account, as Matthew's
and Luke's, speaks of the source of Jesus' power. The Pharisees
said the source of Jesus' power was an unclean spirit. Jesus said
the source of His power was God. Whether that source was personal
is not in question.
#3: "The Holy Spirit cannot be defined as 'the power of
God,' for then the expression 'power of the Holy Spirit' (as in
Romans 15:13) would mean 'power of Power,' which makes no sense.
Thus, the Holy Spirit must be a Person who has power.
Scripture speaks of the "power of God" (Luke 9:43); yet,
Jesus called God "Power" (Matthew 26:64). Does this mean
that "power of God" means "power of Power"?
This is nothing more than a play on words. Electricity is power;
yet we speak of the "power of electricity." Therefore,
we may define the Holy Spirit as the "power of God," and,
without contradiction, speak of the power of the Holy Spirit. As
previously noted, the Holy Spirit is equated with "the power
of the Highest" in Luke 1:35. Jesus was speaking of the Holy
Spirit when He said that His disciples would be "endued with
power from on high" (Luke 24:49). Paul equated "the gift
of God, which is in thee" (i.e., the Holy Spirit) with
"the spirit of... power, and of love, and of a sound mind"
(II Timothy 1:6,7). Remember, however, that "power of God"
is but one way of describing the Holy Spirit.
#4: "The God of the Bible doesn't need a power, or force,
to do His work for Him. He is omnipresent, which means He is everywhere
present, and doesn't have to 'send' a force or power in order to
create, perform miracles, or change the lives of human beings."
As we have seen, God's "Spirit" is synonymous with
God's "presence" (Psalm 139:7). When the Bible speaks
of God "sending" or "pouring out" His Spirit
(as in Acts 2:17 and Galatians 4:6), it is speaking of the spiritual
presence and activity of an invisible God in the natural world.
Since the Bible speaks of God "sending" and "pouring
out" His Spirit, it is appropriate that we do so as well. Further,
the Holy Spirit enables us to understand how God is omnipresent.
Since He is transcendent, He does not dwell within the natural world,
but above it. He is omnipresent in that there is nothing hidden
from Him and no place beyond His influence. He does not dwell on
every street corner, in every home, and under every rock. But all
of these places are subject to his influence. He can at any moment
reach out into the natural world and bring about change. This is
what the scriptural writers had in mind when they spoke of God sending
His Spirit, or of the Holy Spirit being poured out.
#5: "First John 5:7 states: 'For there are three that bear
record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and
these three are one.' Doesn't this verse say that one God exists
in three persons?"
It is a well known fact among theologians that I John 5:7 is
spurious. Harrison explains: "The third edition [of Erasmus'
Greek translation] (1522) became famous because of its inclusion
of I John 5:7. Erasmus had promised to put it in if it could be
found in any Greek MS. When it was found in a single MS 61 (16th
century), he had to abide by his promise, even though, as he suspected,
this was translated back into Greek from Latin. It got into the
Latin by mistaking one of Cyprian's comments as part of the text
of Scripture. It continues to stand in the King James Version as
a reminder that diligence is needed in order to free the text from
additions to the original" (Everett F. Harrison, Introduction
to the New Testament, p. 71).
#6: "Since believers are to be baptized 'in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 28:19),
doesn't this suggest that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three
The expression "in [eis, "into"] the
name of," as in Matthew 28:19, denotes "in recognition
of the authority of (sometimes combined with the thought of relying
or resting on)" (W.E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of
New Testament Words, p. 722). Baptism is performed in recognition
of the Father's authority, which is administered through the mediatorship
of the Son and confirmed by the reception of the Holy Spirit. As
we have seen, the Holy Spirit is the power, spiritual presence,
influence, and activity of God (both Father and Son) in the lives
of repentant believers. The Father's act of giving the Holy Spirit,
the Son's act of mediating, and the Spirit's life-changing activity
are authoritative actionsthus, baptism is performed in recognition
of the authority of the gift-giving Father, the mediating Son, and
the life-changing Holy Spirit.
#7: "Paul wrote, 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and
the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you
all' (II Corinthians 13:14). Paul could have hardly named all three
in such a way unless he believed them to be three co-equal, co-eternal
The Greek word translated "communion" is koinonia,
which means "fellowship," or "to share in."
The verse could be rendered, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God, and the sharing in of the Holy Spirit be
with you all." (See marginal note in the NRSV.)j God shares
His Spirit with His people, and His people are united with God (both
Father and Son) and with each other through the Spirit. Though Paul
concluded II Corinthians with mention of the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit, he began the epistle with his usual: "Grace
be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus
Christ" (1:2). As we have noted, Paul's repeated "failure"
to include the Holy Spirit in his salutations casts great doubt
upon the assumption that the apostle was Trinitarian.
often that not, New Testament passages that speak of the Father
and the Son do not mention the Holy Spirit, and for obvious reason:
The writers of the New Testament did not think of the Holy Spirit
as the Third Person of a Trinity. The earliest Christians, including
all the apostles, were Jewish. As Jewish Christians, their concept
of the Holy Spirit was founded upon the Old Testament's presentation
of the Spirit as the power of God, or spiritual presence and activity
of the invisible God in the natural world, upon Jesus' teaching
on the Holy Spirit and His example of Spirit-filled living. They
knew that the Father is God, and that Jesus' claim of deity was
confirmed by His resurrection. Thus, God is presented in Scripture
as two divine Persons, not three.
now consider one final witness that attests to the dual nature of
The Witness of Nature
wrote, "For the invisible things of Him [God] from the creation
of the world are clearly see , being understood by the things
that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..."
(Romans 1:20). Some Trinitarians argue that the "triune"
nature of God is revealed in nature. For example, they point to
triplets at the molecular level, and speak of the "triple point
of water," showing how water, under certain conditions, can
simultaneously exist in three formssolid, liquid, and gas.
However, it is doubtful that the ancients to whom Paul spoke were
particularly keen in their awareness of molecular structures and
the laws of thermodynamics.
they were aware of their natural surroundings. They knew
that there are two sexes; were aware of the day ;and night; knew
of the "greater light" that rules the day, and the "lesser
light" that rules the night; knew that each human beings has
two identical sidesa right side and left side. They were aware
of duality throughout nature.
the creation that is observable to everyone reflects the nature
of the Creator. And since we see so much duality in creation, is
it not likely that the Creator is dual in nature? With the witness
of creation alongside the revelation of God's Word, it is not likely,
it is certain that God exists as two Personsthe Father
and the Son.
you can come to know both the Father and the Son in a far greater
way than you have known them in the past. You can receive a small
measure of God's powerpower that will enable you to conquer
the obstacles along the way as you follow in the footsteps of Jesus
Christ. You can have the mind of Christ, and experience the spiritual
indwelling of the Father and the Son. You can receive the Holy Spirit
as the "earnest," or "downpayment," on eternal
lifethus assuring your future inheritance, an eternal
can you receive this wonderful gift? The answer is in Acts 2:38,
a statement made by the apostle Peter over 1,900 years ago: "Repent,
and be baptized...in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
- End -