To gain any understanding of the Holy Spirit I believe that we need to consider how Scripture talks about the Holy Spirit in relation to the other 2 parts of the Godhead (namely God the Father and God the Son). This article will be a little more technical in approach than I normally write, as I want us to consider the Holy Spirit by looking at some discussions that occurred in church history and then start to gain an understanding to the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
Ways of Approaching the Trinity
Traditional Approach—the traditional way of approaching the Trinity is to study and evaluate all passages that present all three persons of the Trinity within the same context. One example of this is during the baptism of Jesus when we hear the voice of the Father saying “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”; the Son is obviously present as the one that is being baptized by John the Baptist; and the Spirit is descending from heaven like a dove (Mark 1:9-11). Another example would be in the great commission passage of Matthew 28:18-20 when all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in early church councils and the Filioque debate:
The role and importance of the Holy Spirit seems to have taken a roller coaster ride in the early centuries after Christ and even continues to today. Some groups seem to devalue the Holy Spirit and other groups seem to make the Spirit the primary focus of all that they do. Why is there this discrepancy of this person of the Godhead? That is a question for another day but it is important to at least acknowledge some differences.
The early church seemed to have a tough time figuring out exactly what to do with the person of the Holy Spirit. Before I go any further, I want to express that I do not boast in having all the answers of the Trinity figured out. In fact, we must be mindful that we do not imply that we have the Trinity figured out because we do not have the mind of God. God has revealed things about each person of the Trinity that we need to prayerfully consider. As for the early church, early councils began grappling with issues that concerned the three persons of the Godhead. Early church councils seemed to emphasize the Father and the Son. One early creed just finished their creed by stating that “we believe in the Holy Spirit”.
The Nicene Creed (325) and the Constantinople Creed (381) also wrestled with how the Trinity fit into the discussion of God. The central issue surrounded the wording of the Nicene Creed, which said that the Spirit proceeded from the Father. The Western church (Augustine—Calvin—Luther) developed a contrasting viewpoint from the Eastern Church (Cappadocias) and in 589; the western church added a clause to the Creed. This is called the Filioque controversy. Filioque means that they added “and from the Son” to the creed. The Eastern Church strongly opposed this addition and the church had a major division in 1054. The Eastern Church felt that adding this clause made the Holy Spirit a lesser member of the Trinity.
Groups to this day still debate over the importance of the Holy Spirit. Some groups such as the Pentecostal groups place a huge emphasis on the Spirit and other groups seem to devalue the Spirit by placing more emphasis on reason and knowledge in trying to live a life worthy of being a Christian.
The Way the Spirit Works with the Trinity in Redemption
We are all sinful people and our sin nature separates us from a holy and almighty God. God desires to have a relationship with His created image bearers and to live with us forever. However, the problem of sin stands in the way of us having a relationship with God. God provided the perfect sacrifice in sending His Son into this sin cursed earth to die and be resurrected and to be the ultimate sacrifice for His people. God provided the sacrifice but it does not automatically change our status with God unless we turn from sin and confess to God our sins and trust Him as Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit is the One that draws us to truth and the next section will describe how redemption occurs from both God to man; and then from man to God.
God has created us to bring glory to Himself (for His creation purposes).
The Son has provided the perfect sacrifice by His work on the cross (redemption provided).
The Holy Spirit draws us to the knowledge of truth (redemption applied by the Spirit).
The unity of the Trinity can be seen in the picture of God redeeming us and bringing us into a right standing before God. God has bought us with a price of the blood of the Lamb on the cross of Calvary.
All sinners that need a provision and sacrifice to enter a relationship with God:
By the Holy Spirit;
Thru the Son and
To the Father
The Holy Spirit draws us to God and is a revealer of sins. He also allows us to understand the truth of the Word of God. There are many roles of God and roles of the Spirit. We can never fully understand God or the Holy Spirit and that is why there are many ways or ‘portraits’ of looking at God. God cannot be understood in one way or term and we can better understand Him by looking at these roles of God. The Spirit is sometimes described as wind (ruah) or breath. Scripture uses the illustration of looking at the wind when trying to understand the Holy Spirit. You obviously cannot look at the wind but can see the effects of the wind. One cannot know where it comes from or where it is going but we can clearly see the effects of wind in nature and the wind of the Spirit. The Spirit is God and is described in terms that can only apply to God.
This just scratches the surface of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the believer. I think in today’s church, the role and the person of the Holy Spirit is often dismissed or deemphasized. This is not a biblical approach to a correct view of God. I pray that this article might whet your appetite to do your own study and search of what the Holy Scriptures say about the Holy Spirit.
Want to read more about the Holy Spirit? Take a look at this article: