Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and the Word (1)

There is a theory which is widespread throughout Christadelphianism that in the Bible the terms "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit" mean different things. One Christadelphian writer explained the perceived difference this way:
The Spirit is a "mental and moral likeness of the Lord Jesus created by the impact of the gospel on an individual" while the Holy Spirit is "God's power ... given in the first century for specific purposes".
In this post I'd like to dispel these myths and demonstrate that the Bible uses the terms "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit" interchangeably and that any distinction between them is artificial and unBiblical.

By comparing the following parallel accounts in the Gospels we see that the Gospel-writers understood "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit" to mean the same thing.

1. Matt 3:16 "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. " (cp. John 1:32 "Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.")

cp. Luke 3:22 "and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. "

2. Matt 4:1 "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."

cp. Luke 4:1 "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert."

3. Matt 10:20 "for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

cp. Luke 12:12 "for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.

4. Matt 12:31 "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. ."

cp. Mark 3:29 "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (cp. also Luke 12:10).

5. Matt 12:43 "He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord'?"

cp. Mark 12:36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: " 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." '.

6. Luke 2:26 "It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord's Christ."

cp. the next verse (27) "Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts."

When we read further in the New Testament we see that other writers also meant the same thing by the terms "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit".

For example, 1 Cor 12:3 "Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit."

Also, Jude 20 "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit." Cp. Eph 6:18 "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions."

Again, 2 Cor 1:21-22 "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." Cp. Eph 1:13-14 "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, which is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory."

The similarity between these passages is striking. The writers obviously saw no difference between 'the Spirit (of God)' and 'the Holy Spirit.'

The following passage shows that some other terms have the same meaning and are also used interchangeably:

Rom 8:9-11 "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, which lives in you."

I believe therefore that it is demonstrable that in Scripture these terms have the same meaning:

• the Spirit
• the Holy Spirit
• the Spirit of God
• the Spirit of Christ
• Christ in you

Other texts show that the NT writers thought of 'the Spirit of God' or 'Holy Spirit' as the same as 'the Spirit of Christ' or 'Spirit of Jesus'. For example:

Acts 16:7 "When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." Cp. the previous verse "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia."

Also, Phil 1:19 refers to "the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ." Are we to conclude that this is a diffferent 'Spirit' to the help-giving Spirit referred to elsewhere? e.g. Rom 8:26 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness"; 2 Tim 1:14 "Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit which lives in us."

Consequently, I believe that to say God dwells in us, or Christ dwells in us, is the same as saying the Holy Spirit dwells in us. This is confirmed by the following texts:

John 14:16-18 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth (referred to as "the Holy Spirit" in verse 26). The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."

It is through the parakletos, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, that Jesus comes to us. Cf. verse 23 "Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."

The same concept (i.e. that God 'dwells' in the church and the believer through the Holy Spirit) is found in the following places:

• 1 Cor 3:16-17 "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."

• cp. 1 Cor 6:19-21 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

• cp. 2 Cor 6:16 "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

• Eph 2:22 "And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."

• Cp. Eph 3:16-17 "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."

• 1 John 4:13 "We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit."

This selection is by no means exhaustive, but it is more than adequate to demonstrate that it is quite wrong to make an artificial distinction between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit. The Bible uses both terms to mean the same thing, but never uses the term "Spirit" to mean "the Bible" (more on that later).

7 comments:

Rob J Hyndman said...

Hi Steve. I'm not sure how "widespread throughout Christadelphianism" this idea really is. While I've heard it several times, I don't think anyone at my own ecclesia would agree with it. In my book
"The Way of Life" (which is used in lots of ecclesias around the world) we specifically state that the various names for the Holy Spirit are interchangeable, using some of the same arguments you use here, although you provide a much more thorough discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve

Good article, its got me wondering though, if the scource of the spirit is the power of God,what is the scource of the spirit of antichrist?

1Jo 4:3 But every person who doesn't declare that Jesus Christ has come as a human has a spirit that isn't from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that you have heard is coming. That spirit is already in the world.

Regards Phil F

Steve said...

Rob,

It's good to hear that this unBiblical argument is not as widespread in the Christadelphian community as I might have suggested. Unfortunately, however, despite the best efforts of Christadelphians such as yourself to present a more balanced and Biblical approach some of the conservative publishers are still spreading the myth that the Holy Spirit is somehow different to the Spirit of God.

I'm pleased to hear that your book is being used by lots of ecclesias around the world.

Steve said...

Phil,

Good question, and I hope to get to it later when I discuss the ways the Bible uses "spirit" with reference to the spirit of man as opposed to the Spirit of God.

ntbrierly said...

I can only speak to my own experience in North America, but the "spirit-word" concept seems to be pretty widely held. I ran into it while growing up in the Norfolk, VA ecclesia, the Arlington VA ecclesia, and several ecclesias in Austin, TX. Not to mention a number of bible schools, youth weekends, etc. I've been to, and numerous visits to other ecclesias.

The fact that we have alot of Pentecostals in NA might have something to do with this.

The Holy Spirit is not a subject that is talked about very often, and then usually just to make the point that the miraculous gifts are no longer present.

Anonymous said...

Dear Steve,

You've writen:

There is a theory which is widespread throughout Christadelphianism that in the Bible the terms "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit" mean different things. One Christadelphian writer explained the perceived difference this way:

The Spirit is a "mental and moral likeness of the Lord Jesus created by the impact of the gospel on an individual" while the Holy Spirit is "God's power ... given in the first century for specific purposes".
In this post I'd like to dispel these myths and demonstrate that the Bible uses the terms "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit" interchangeably and that any distinction between them is artificial and unBiblical.

Christadelphians do believe that in the Bible the terms "Spirit" and "Holy Spirit" mean different things. But what you've done here is to claim that we believe the terms 'Spirit' and 'Holy Spirit' always mean different things. Christadelphians don't. you've also quoted a single unnamed Christadelphian, without context, and tried claim that this is what all Christadelphians believe.

Just wondering if this due to a misunderstanding on your part?

Love in Christ

Phil F

Steve said...

Phil,

The unnamed Christadelphian was John Allfree, regarded in some Christadelphian circles as a kind of 'expert' on the Christadelphian understanding of the Holy spirit. For example, he wrote a critical review of The Holy Spirit and The Believer Today which was written by A.D. Norris and published by The Christadelphian (his review was published by Bible Study Publications in Nottinghamshire England in 2002).

The context was a lengthy discussion on the Truth Alive forum some time ago. You will be able to follow most of it (including the quoted comments) here:

http://groups.msn.com/truthalive/holyspirit.msnw