Before the above question can be answered, it is necessary to take a look at the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity has been linked historically to the explanation of the Holy Spirit. The term “Trinity” is used to define the one God as three divine persons-the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is admitted that most Christian teachers regard the Trinity as a mystery-its nature not fully understood by human intelligence. The early church creeds associated the concepts of the coeternity and coequality of God with the Holy Spirit, thereby making the Holy Spirit a person. But the following questions should be asked: Why should an attempt be made to think of distinctions within the Godhead, and why should the number be three? And how can we think of three distinctions and yet maintain the unity of God? Anyone familiar with the Trinity recognizes that the concept falls within the realm of philosophy rather than Scripture. Trinitarian passages that seem to be in the Bible are often based on the threefold elements in the believer’s experience-seeking, finding, and doing the Father’s will. It has been concluded that since there is a threefold experience in the believer’s life, there must be a threefold element in the personality of God. The fact is, however, that the doctrine of the Trinity, as set forth in the creeds, is a statement that concerns itself with the nature of God, not an analysis of the Christian life and experience (E. J. Newman, “The Doctrine of the Trinity”).
Various ideas have been advanced to explain the Trinity. Augustine, for example, said that according to the Apostle John, God is love. Love must have an object and that object is the Father’s love of the Son which unites them in the Spirit. But, as Newman points out, this distinction is artificial, and it does not address the kind of love John was describing. An examination of what John stated refers to the kind of love God has shown to man by the gift of His Son. This description actually emphasizes the separation and mutual exclusiveness of the persons of the Godhead, and makes it difficult to associate mutual inclusiveness, which is essential to the unity of the Godhead. The various analogies tendered, Newman says, fall short of what they are intended to accomplish, and the entire tension of the creed is unresolved. The problem created by the creed’s assertion that the unity of God is made up of three persons is also left unresolved (Newman, 23).
Newman points out, that if the Godhead were a Trinity, the Apostle Paul would have said so. What we recognize from Paul’s writings is that the gifts of the Spirit are the manifestation of the power and presence of God and Christ, without assigning to the Spirit anything in the nature of a personality (Newman, 18). In the New Testament Paul actually identifies Christ with the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17), and refers to both God and Christ as the source of the Spirit. In seventeen epistles which open with an invocation of grace and peace, thirteen of them attribute this grace and peace to God and Christ without any reference to the Holy Spirit. Only in 1 Peter 1:2 is the Holy Spirit mentioned, and then as the means of sanctification, not the source of grace. In eleven epistles where thanksgiving and blessings follow the opening salutation, not once is the Holy Spirit mentioned. Newman points out that Paul’s thought follows what is presented in the gospels-that the Holy Spirit is represented as the active power and presence of God the Father and Christ, not as a third person in a triune Godhead.
The fact is: Neither the Old nor the New Testament supports the idea of a Trinity. As far as the Bible itself is concerned, it reveals that Christ and the Father are One, but two separate persons. Jesus Christ was the YHWH of the Old Testament (1 Cor. 10:1-4). When in the flesh on this earth, He prayed to the Father, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5). Jesus Christ was the Spokesman, the Logos, the One who created the universe. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . . He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (John 1:1-3, 10).
Since the Bible does not support the doctrine of the Trinity, where did it originate? Notice what Alexander Hislop tells us in The Two Babylons, pages 16-19:
So utterly idolatrous was the Babylonian recognition of the Divine unity, that Jehovah, the Living God, severely condemned his own people for giving any countenance to it: ‘They that sanctify themselves and purify themselves in the gardens, after the rites of the ONLY ONE, eating swine’s flesh, and the abomination, and the mouse, shall be consumed together’ (Isa. 66:17). In the unity of that Only One of the Babylonians, there were three persons, and to symbolize the doctrine of the Trinity, they employed, as the discoveries of Layard prove, the equilateral triangle, just as it is well known the Romish Church does at this day. . . . The Papacy has in some of its churches, as, for instance, in the monastery of the so-called Trinitarian in Madrid, an image of the Triune God, with three heads and one body. The Babylonians had something of the same. Mr. Layard, in his last work, has given a specimen of such a triune divinity, worshipped in ancient Assyria. . . . All these have existed from ancient times. . . . While overlaid with idolatry, the recognition of the Trinity was universal in all the ancient world, proving how deep-rooted in the human race was the primeval doctrine on the subject. . . . showing, though blasphemously, the unity of Father, Seed, or Son, and Holy Ghost. While this had been the original way in which Pagan idolatry had represented the Triune God. . . yet there is evidence that, at a very early period, an important change had taken place in the Babylonian notions in regard to the divinity; and that the three persons had come to be, the Eternal Father, the Spirit of God incarnate in a human mother, and a Divine Son, the fruit of that incarnation.
One text often used to support the doctrine of the Trinity is 1 John 5:7-8. It reads: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one” (1 John 5:7-8). The italicized portion of the above text is a Trinitarian interpolation not found in the original Greek manuscripts. It was first seen in the margin of some Latin copies, and eventually found its way into the Greek text. No Greek manuscript contained it before the sixteenth century. The text should properly read: “For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” The reader should note that in the correct text, the Spirit is placed in a trio with two other elements, not with personalities.
The earliest and most simple of the creeds is the Apostles’ Creed. It contains no reference to the Trinity. The Apostles’ Creed was current before AD 150. It is believed it was used by the Apostles, but this is doubtful. Another creed, the Nicene Creed, formulated in the fourth century, attempted to explain the nature of God but made no attempt to explain the Trinity. Neither did the Athanasian Creed, which was adopted in the fifth century. The Athanasian Creed did, however, assert that Jesus Christ is one of three persons of the Holy Trinity, coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
The Athanasian Creed, according to Newman, reflects the doctrinal controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries. It is essentially a series of logical and intellectual statements based on reasoning. The various creeds were written for the times in which they were formulated and are difficult, if not impossible, for modern Christians to understand. Most who accept them do so on the authority of the church and have long given up any attempt to understand them. Newman finds this most unsatisfactory (Newman, 9). The fact is: The language and form of expression of the creeds do not reflect that of the Bible. Others assert that they do justify the Bible teaching. Newman, quoting a Dr. Matthews, says: “The doctrine itself [Trinity] is not part of the original gospel. The Athanasian Creed and even the Nicene would have been strange in the ears of St. Paul and St. John. Nevertheless, the experience, to preserve which the dogmas of the Incarnation and Trinity were formulated, is plainly expressed in the New Testament” (Newman, 10). We shall see if this last statement is true or not.
Certain words used in the creeds are used in the technical sense. Take the word “person,” for example. When person is used in the creeds, it implies something less personal than an individual, but more “personal” than an attribute. It emphasizes the unity of persons, not the difference. In normal usage, person means one individual distinct from another individual; thus, an individual distinguished from other individuals. This is not the case in the creeds. They express the nature and unity of the being of God in philosophical and metaphysical terms (Newman, 10). Pagan religions worshipped gods galore. Christian theologians were attempting to counteract the accusation that Christians believed in more than one God. Use of the word “person” has confused the whole issue because, as understood in its usual sense, it makes nonsense of the statements concerning God. With respect to the Athanasian Creed, the inadequacy of human language used to express the mystery of the nature of God has resulted in an unresolved opposition. In effect, the Athanasian Creed, with regard to the Trinity, attempted to define the simple truth of the Holy Spirit by means of convoluted philosophical reasoning. The end result is that the doctrine of the Trinity is impossible for anyone to understand (ibid, 10-11). Augustine said that when we speak of three persons, it is only because we lack words to express the distinction between the Father and the Son, and between the Holy Spirit, and the Father, and the Son. When we say “Three,” human language labors from great poverty of speech. We say three persons, not that it may be so said, but that we may not keep silence. We say of each person that He is omnipotent, but there are not three omnipotents (History of the Christian Church, by G. P. Fisher, 178). In effect, the doctrine of the Trinity is a doctrine that cannot be supported by any human language.
The Holy Spirit-a Person?
According to Newman, the least satisfactory teaching of the creeds is the doctrine of the Trinity. Those who defend the doctrine find criticisms and weaknesses in this aspect of the creeds. Dr. Matthews, quoted above, admits the personality of the Holy Spirit offers a real difficulty-both theologically and philosophically. In addition, he admits the New Testament evidence for the personal concept of the Trinity is mixed. (Newman, 16). Orthodox Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a person. They fall back on the Athanasian Creed for support, which, as we have seen, could not really define the Holy Spirit and neither can anybody today. The Athanasian Creed was an impressive exercise to silence pagan advocates, but it requires an act of faith to accept the Holy Spirit as a third person.
Orthodox advocates go to great lengths to support the belief that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. They tell us that the usage of “he” in John 14:16, 17; 15:26, in the Authorized Version, proves the Holy Spirit is a person. This “proof” is no proof at all when it is realized that the word “Comforter,” the noun and antecedent to the pronoun “he,” is in the masculine gender in the Greek text. Rules of grammar require agreement between the pronoun and the antecedent. This is why the pronoun is translated “he” or “him” in the following verses. The word “Spirit,” in verse 17 is in the neuter gender in the Greek text and requires a neuter pronoun when called for. Ephesians 1:14 is often quoted to prove the Trinity. Orthodox advocates tell us that the masculine relative pronoun “which” in this verse refers back to the neuter word “spirit” in verse 13. Not so, according to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page 558. This work tells us the antecedent of “which” is “earnest” in verse 14, which is in the masculine gender in the Greek.
Trinitarians tell us the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally ranked within the Godhead. Yet, a look at the New Testament quickly tells us the Father and the Son are never ranked as equals. See John 14:28, 1 Corinthians 3:23; 11:3, and 1 Corinthians 15:24. Trinitarians insist the Holy Spirit is a person because the Bible attributes things to the Holy Spirit that cannot apply to anything but a person. For example, the Holy Spirit participated in the Creation. It can teach and bring all things to remembrance, guides into truth, hears, speaks, can give authoritative commands, can be sinned against, lied to, resisted, obeyed, etc. Recall Dr. Matthew’s comment that substantiation for belief in the Trinity in the New Testament is mixed. Applying this concept to some of the above mentioned attributes of the Holy Spirit would indicate the same. Some Trinitarians go so far as to identify the Holy Spirit with the title of Jehovah.
On the other hand, the truth is relatively simple to understand. Alan Richardson, quoted in “The Trinity Examined,” by Anthony Buzzard, states: “The Spirit of God has no existence apart from God, any more than the spirit of Elijah can exist apart from Elijah. God’s Spirit is God acting. The spirit of man is his ‘dunamis,’ i.e. (power), his person in action, and the same is true of God’s Spirit. It is His ‘dunamis,’ ie. it is God acting. To ask whether in the New Testament the Spirit is a person in the modern sense of the word would be like asking whether the spirit of Elijah is a person. The Spirit of God is of course personal, it is God’s power in action. But the Holy Spirit is not a person existing independently of God . . . The New Testament (and indeed patristic thought generally) nowhere represents the Spirit, any more than the power or the wisdom of God, as having an independent personality” (Richardson, 104-105, 120). Paul draws an analogy between “the spirit of man which is in him” and “the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). What Paul makes plain is that the spirit of man is in no sense a different person from the man himself than the Spirit of God is a different person from God. In addition, Paul tells us here that the Spirit by which God communicates to men through Christ, far from being a third person, is the principle of His divine self-consciousness. Thus, the spirit that resides in man as the conscious mind is akin to the Spirit that resides in God, and which proceeds from Him as His divine activity. In the disciples, the Spirit of God was the active power and life of God residing in them through Jesus Christ. Indeed the Spirit guided, spoke, showed, and commanded. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord directing the Church. After the Resurrection, the Spirit was the manifested power of God and the very presence of Christ Himself (New Testament Theological Wordbook, article “Spirit,” 238). It is certainly in this sense that the Spirit was “lied to.” Acts 5:4 shows that lying to the Holy Spirit is equated with lying to God. Jesus is God, and He is the Spirit (Heb. 1:8, 2 Cor 3:17). When the Holy Spirit speaks, it is the equivalent of Christ speaking. Both Mark 13:11 and Luke 21:15 state that it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit that will give you a mouth and wisdom. The operation of the risen Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit are the same (Richardson, 109).
A Closer Look
Statements in the previous section of this article have maintained that the Holy Spirit is the power of God in action. Do the Scriptures substantiate this? The Trinitarian belief is that the Spirit of God is a person distinct from the Father and the Son. To be consistent, then, Trinitarians must admit that the spirit in man is a separate person from the man himself. This would mean, for example, that when Elizabeth rejoiced, a person other than herself was rejoicing (Luke 1:47). It should be obvious that when Elizabeth’s spirit rejoiced, she herself rejoiced in mind. A look at the Old Testament points out that the primary meaning of the Spirit of God is the power of God in action. This view was continued in the New Testament, and the “Spirit of God” is equated with divine power. When Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God, He cast them out by the power of God (Matt. 12:28). In Luke’s account of the same incident, Jesus cast out demons “by the finger of God,” which means He cast them out by the power of God (Luke 11:20). In Luke 1:35 we read: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy [Spirit] shall come 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.” Here again, the Holy Spirit is likened to the power of God. Yet, some insist the Holy Spirit is a third person in the Trinity. If so, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not the Father. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is His Father, not God the Father.
The power that John the Baptist possessed was the same power as that of Elijah. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). The Holy Spirit is equated with power from on high (Luke 24:49). The Holy Spirit, given to the apostles on the day of Pentecost, was the power of God (Acts 1:8). Following Christ’s resurrection, another concept was added to the understanding of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit took on a more personal meaning, and the distinction between Christ and the Holy Spirit was blurred. New Testament writers did not attempt to distinguish the difference between the operation of the risen Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit. Christ Himself now came in the gift of the Spirit. John wrote that the Comforter (Paraclete) would come in the same manner as Christ; he indicated the two meant the same (Richardson, 121). That the Comforter refers to Christ is made plain in 1 John 2:1: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate [Paraclete; Greek parakleton] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous”(1 John 2:1). Trinitarians maintain that the Paraclete is some unknown person, distinct from Christ, mysteriously introduced by John, and unknown to the other apostles, who did not use the term. 1 John 2:1 says that Christ is the Paraclete, manifested in the Holy Spirit. Christ, now absent from the Earth, is present in His Church in spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a third person; it is the Lord Himself in the presence of His Spirit. The Apostle John did not introduce a third person in the Godhead. His writings illustrate one thing clearly: They dwell on the relationship between the Father and the Son without any thought of a third person (The Fourth Gospel, by E. F. Scott, D.D., 341). John even represented the Holy Spirit as the divine breath, but not as a third person. “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy [Spirit]” (John 20:22).
Many Bible examples liken the Holy Spirit to various things which could not apply to a person. For example, the Holy Spirit is likened to living water (John 7:37, 39); it can be poured out (Acts 2:17); it can be quenched (1 Thess. 5:19; and given in different portions and measures (John 3:34). Other examples of how the Holy Spirit is utilized are that it “spoke,” “forbade,” and “permitted.” See, for example, Acts 16:6-7. Here we see the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Lord directing the Church. “The Spirit said” is synonymous with “Christ, or the Lord said” (Acts 8:29; 10:19). After Christ ascended into the heavens, direct communication was made known by His Spirit residing in, and united with, the minds of the disciples. “After the resurrection, the Spirit is known henceforth as God’s gracious power and equally as the presence of Christ Himself” (New Testament Theological Wordbook, article “Spirit,” 238). The precise equivalent to Christ speaking is the Holy Spirit speaking. The principal idea associated with the Spirit is that of divine power. The words “Holy Spirit” and “power of the Highest” are the exact equivalent (Luke 1:35). When one is under the divine impulse, he is “in the Spirit” (Rev. 1:10). Paul mentions the Holy Spirit almost 120 times. He attributed the success of his ministry to the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13-19). He specifically called the Spirit “the Spirit of Christ” ( Rom. 8:9). “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. . . ” is the risen Christ speaking (Rev. 2:7).
One who interprets Bible texts with the preconceived idea of a Trinity will reach the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is a person. Many clear-cut texts, however, point out that the Holy Spirit is the working of the mind and power of God as He deals with His creation. For example, see Psalm 139:7: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” Here we see that God’s Spirit is ubiquitous. How can a person be everywhere at once? Or should we assume the third person of the Trinity followed David everywhere he went? Other examples of the mind and power of God in action are seen in Genesis 6:3, where we read that God’s Spirit strove with man in the pre-Flood world. Nehemiah 9:20, John 14:26, and 16:13 all show the power of the Holy Spirit instructing men. In 1 Corinthians 2:10, 12, the Spirit reveals the secret things of God. In Exodus 31:3 and James 1:5-6, the Holy Spirit grants wisdom and other attributes. It gives the inspiration to judge properly (Isa. 28:6). God’s spirit bears witness with our spirit (Rom. 8:16). Holy men of old were inspired to speak and to record God’s instructions (2 Pet. 1:21, Isa. 61:1, Joel 2:28-29). God’s Spirit is the Spirit of power (Judges 14:6, 19, Micah 3:8, Luke 24:49). It has placed ministers as overseers in the Church of God (Acts 20:28). It directs the ministry (Acts 13:2; 16:7). It has placed various ministrations in the Church (1 Cor. 12). All these texts illustrate the fact that God’s Spirit is the power, mind, and will of God revealed to men, as He works out His purpose here on this earth.
What Should the Holy Spirit Accomplish in Us?
Just before His ascension into the heavens, Jesus told His disciples, “. . . All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18). Jesus intended His disciples to share in that power. He said, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:8, we read: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Jesus imbued His disciples with the necessary authority to carry out the commission He had given them. But, the scope of the power that God grants to His people goes beyond that. Men, as a whole, lack the kind of control and power required to overcome the evils and pulls of human nature. There is no true righteousness within man without the help of the Holy Spirit (Isa. 64:6). Man must overcome his present state of carnality in order to attain to his true potential. The Apostle John described that potential when he wrote, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). Man is engaged in a struggle for life or death-life for all eternity or death for all eternity. This struggle is spiritual in nature. Paul described it. “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Mankind, as a whole, is in a state of spiritual darkness, and must be delivered from it. God alone is the One “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). Spiritual darkness is the opposite of spiritual light. One in spiritual darkness does not have God’s Holy Spirit. What is man’s behavior without God’s Spirit? Notice Paul’s instruction:
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. . . . Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 16-17, 19-21).
These lusts and emotions generally rule over man’s nature, and the only way to overcome them is by means of the Holy Spirit.
What, then, are the fruits, that is, the result of having the Holy Spirit? Paul describes it as follows: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:22-24). Notice, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is faith. What did faith accomplish in the lives of the great men of God?
Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth (Heb. 11:33-38).
By means of the Holy Spirit, which granted these men of God faith necessary to overcome, they set the example for us today.
Another gift of the of the Holy Spirit is peace. How much peace do we have in the world today? John wrote, “. . . the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). What is the result of this wickedness? “There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked” (Isa. 48:22). Is there peace among the nations today or as Jesus said, do we constantly hear of wars and rumors of wars? (Matt. 24:6). What is the natural reaction when someone does us wrong? We usually react accordingly. The human tendency is to forego peace for the sake of revenge. What does the Bible instruct?
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21).
Jesus told His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is little peace in the world today. Why? Peace is a gift of God’s Spirit. Without the Spirit of God there can be no peace.
When it comes to the kind of spiritual power God wants us to exercise, men indeed are weak. Jesus said to His disciples, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Man must have help from God to live up to what God requires. God sent His Son-Jesus Christ-into the world to pay the penalty for our sins. When man repents he can receive the help he needs from God’s Spirit. How weak are we? Notice how Paul described it:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom. 7:14-25).
By the power of the Holy Spirit we can overcome the weaknesses of the flesh. The evil and lust in human nature can be replaced by the love of God. Love is another one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But what is this love? Consider the following: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Notice its application:
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not [love], it profiteth me nothing. [Love] suffereth long, and is kind; [love] envieth not; [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [Love] never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away” (1 Cor. 13:3-8).
Only by means of the Holy Spirit can this kind of love be manifested in our lives. This description ought to tell each of us how far we must yet go in order to attain the kind of behavior God desires to see in us. This love, Paul tells us “. . . is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5).
During His ministry, Jesus frequently spoke of love. He said, “. . . Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 19:19). He also said,
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:43-48).
Humanly speaking, how do we accomplish this? It is almost impossible. Jesus further explained, “. . . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-39). There is further instruction respecting love toward God and toward the Christian brethren. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). Years later, the Apostle John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). Without the help of the Holy Spirit, loving God’s commandments would be an impossibility. The same is true with respect to Christian love. Paul tells us: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3).
And Peter added, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). Is there a way we can tell if God’s Spirit is dwelling in us and we are living up to God’s instruction? Consider this:
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. . . . Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 3:10-24; 4:7-8).
Other fruits of the Holy Spirit are patience, longsuffering, and gentleness. Here is God’s instruction: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:12-13). “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men” (Titus 3:1-2). “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (Jas. 3:14-18).
Attributes of God’s Spirit include goodness, meekness, and temperance. Proof that these can be manifested in our lives can be seen in God’s instruction. We see that these three are included in Galatians 5:22-23. Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, saying: “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another” (Rom.15:14). In Ephesians 5:9 Paul said this was the fruit of the Spirit, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Meekness is a requirement. Notice the Bible instruction: “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Eph. 4:1-2). “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering” (Col. 3:12). “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1 Tim. 6:11). “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Meekness allows us to humble ourselves before God and listen to His instruction. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). Unless we have the help of God’s Spirit, meekness as a part of our fundamental attitude, would be hard to attain. Temperance allows us to exercise control over all aspects of our lives. Instructions on being temperate are found in 2 Peter 1:6, 1 Corinthians 9:25, and Titus 1:8-9; 2:2.
Jesus emphasized unity among His disciples. Paul called it the “fellowship of the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1). So, unity is an important attribute of the Holy Spirit. Notice how Paul addressed it in 2 Corinthians 13:14. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy [Spirit], be with you all. . . . ” Christian believers are baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17). So, there is a unity and oneness of mind among true believers. Jesus prayed to the Father, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). One of the most important identifying signs of the true children of God is that they are united in mind and heart, unified in their mission and purpose in life.
But Christians must be on guard for false spirits. In spite of the biblical proof identifying the true Spirit of God, many are deceived by false ministers. Notice the warning: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:1-3). Just prior to His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus told His disciples that He would send them the Comforter (Paraclete), which would give them the needed help to accomplish God’s work and will in their lives. The Apostle John spoke of Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. How does He come in the flesh? Here is Paul’s answer: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy [Spirit] which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19). The proof of the Holy Spirit dwelling within is the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit. We have seen these fruits listed earlier in this article. Refer to Galatians 5:22-23. Those who fail to manifest these fruits in their lives, yet think they are the recipients of God’s Spirit, are deceived. John wrote: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Cor. 13:5). It is easy to profess Christ, but to live up to what He requires in our lives can be an entirely different matter. Of the many, Paul wrote: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). Many have been deluded into believing they are satisfying the will of God when, in reality, their works make it plain that Jesus Christ is not living in them.
Man’s Purpose-to Build Character
Mankind was placed on this Earth for a purpose. He must build the necessary character to qualify for salvation. A fraud of the greatest dimension is the notion that man is saved by simply professing Christ. While many refuse to accept it, the Bible points out that man’s nature is essentially evil, and the mere professing of Christ will not change it. Notice what the Bible says about the nature of man: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:21-23). Paul wrote to the Ephesians:
And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Eph. 2:1-3).
After receiving the gospel, these Ephesians had changed. They had been converted. They had gone from a physical orientation to a spiritual one. This is what conversion and building character is all about. What is character? Character is the ability to recognize right from wrong and to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. When God calls one to a knowledge of the truth, he becomes enlightened. With the knowledge of God’s Law, he learns the difference between right and wrong. With God’s help, by means of the Holy Spirit, he is able to choose the right in opposition to the wrong. This life-long process is not accomplished by merely “accepting Christ as Savior.” Accepting Christ requires much more than simply acknowledging Him. Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). The Apostle John wrote: “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6). By a lifetime struggle, we can overcome the evil pulls of human nature. We can build holy, righteous character, and qualify to enter the Kingdom of God.
This is why John wrote: ” And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron. . . ” (Rev. 2:26-27). The Holy Spirit helps us to overcome in many ways. For one thing, it convicts or reproves us of sin. Of the Holy Spirit, Jesus promised, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). This serves to impress upon us the need to acknowledge our sins and mistakes when we make them. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). We must rid ourselves of the old man (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 4:22, Col. 3:9).
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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 not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Rom. 8:4-10).
The promise of the Holy Spirit is predicated upon conditions we must first meet. Peter described these when he said: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39). Baptism is a requirement for salvation, but repentance must come first. Repentance means to turn around and go the other way. We must repent of sin, that is, breaking the Law of God-the Ten Commandments. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). Paul described repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:10, when he wrote: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Godly sorrow is true remorse. The sorrow of the world is a temporary remorse for being caught. One who receives the Holy Spirit receives the power of God, enabling him to overcome. He becomes the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:18-22).
He is baptized into one body-the Church (1 Cor. 12:13). His life now takes on a new meaning. He is now a begotten son of God. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Christ now works His purpose in the life of the repentant sinner. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13). “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
It is impossible to achieve salvation without receiving the Holy Spirit. We must possess the Holy Spirit in order to be resurrected to immortality. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up 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” (Rom. 8:11). The only assurance of the resurrection is that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. This is not a third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is the very mind, character, and power of God dwelling in us. Receiving the Holy Spirit within is the means by which we are saved. But, can we lose the Holy Spirit after receiving it? Yes, if we are careless and do not appreciate it. Paul warned the Hebrew brethren:
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:23-31).
By ignoring or refusing the help of the Holy Spirit, we stand in danger of losing the glorious opportunity God has given us. Jesus warned: “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy [Spirit] shall not be forgiven unto men. . . “(Matt.12:31).
Each called and chosen child of God must act responsibly with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:6-7). It is up to each one called of God to keep the Spirit stirred up by means of Bible study and prayer and to use that Spirit to overcome the pulls of the flesh. The right use of the Holy Spirit assures us of personal overcoming and the ability to manifest the fruits of the Spirit. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Anything less than this denies the power of Christ in our lives (Titus 1:16).