The Deity and Person of the Holy Spirit
July 26th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
THE DEITY AND THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Genesis 1: 2
7-26-81 10:50 a.m.
For years I have been asked to deliver a series of sermons on the “Great Doctrines of the Bible.” And as they are delivered, they are published. There will be about, something like twelve volumes in this series on the doctrines of the faith. The series is divided up into about fifteen sections. And last Sunday morning the pastor delivered the last message on Christology, the doctrine of Christ.
And today we begin the series on pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The title of next Sunday’s message will be The Outpouring of the Spirit. Our Lord called that “the Promise of the Father” [Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4]. That means that when Jesus died for us [Matthew 27:32-50], the Lord promised Him that when He gave His life for us He would pour out upon the world the Spirit of grace and love and salvation. That will be the sermon next Sunday morning, the outpouring, the Pentecostal visitation from heaven [Acts 2:1-42].
The sermon today is entitled The Deity and the Person of the Holy Spirit. When we open the Bible, we are introduced to the Spirit of God. It starts off:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep—
It was chaotic—
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
That is the way it begins; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the chaotic deep and brought life and light and cosmic order, beauty out of the destroyed and chaotic earth.
The Holy Spirit of God is God Himself. There is one God. Deity is one. We are not polytheists nor are we tritheists. We do not believe in three Gods. There is one God. The basis of the revelation of the Old Testament and the Judaic affirmation today is the shema, Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one God, one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord with all your heart, and your mind, and your soul” [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Exodus 20:3]. God is one; eternally, everlastingly one. He is one in essence. He is one in power. He is one in being. He is one in glory. He is one in attribute. There is one God. But there are three distinctions in the Godhead.
You see that in the benediction that closes Paul’s second letter to Corinth, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen” [2 Corinthians 13:14]. There is God the Father, over all, blessed forever; there is God the Son, our redeeming Savior; and there is God the Holy Spirit, who lives in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. “The grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen” [2 Corinthians 13:14]. We know God as our Father, and as our Savior, and as the moving Spirit of Jesus in our hearts.
You see that again in the Great Commission, its mandate to disciple, to win to Christ, and to baptize [Matthew 28:19-20]. A moment ago, you listened to that mandated formula, “baptizing them in the name of,” singular, one God, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]. There is one God, but there are three distinctions in the Godhead. And we know God and are baptized in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God. He has all of the attributes of God. He is eternal, according to Hebrews 9 [Hebrews 9:14]. He is omnipotent, according to Genesis 1. He is omniscient; He knows everything, according to 1 Corinthians 2 [1 Corinthians 2:10-16]. And He is omnipresent; He is everywhere, according to Psalm 139 [Psalm 139:7-12].
In the work of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit does this: He is the author of the Bible. There are more than 40 writers, writing over a period of one thousand six hundred years. But the author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit of God. This is according to the avowal of 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Peter 1:20-21, “Men of God wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit of God.” The Bible is the product of the Spirit of God. The author of the Bible is the Spirit of God [2 Peter 1:21]. He is the great illuminator and teacher of the Bible. He takes the words of the Bible and makes them live in our hearts.
According to John 14 [John 14:26] and according to John 16 [John 16:12-15], He takes the words of God and He reveals them unto us. We read literature at a profit, a Homer, a Dante, a Shakespeare, a Milton, even modern literature that is worthy, and we are blessed by it, entertained by it, it is interesting. But it is the Bible that the Holy Spirit takes and speaks to our hearts. And He teaches us the mind of God [John 14:26, 16:12-15]. And our lives are enriched immeasurably, infinitely by the wisdom that the Holy Spirit teaches. The finest teacher of the Bible is the Spirit of God.
The Holy Spirit is also, in behalf of the Father and of the Son, the One who works the miracle of regeneration [Titus 3:5]. The Holy Spirit of God convicts us in our hearts. He makes known to us our lostness, our sin [John 16:8]. We are morally sensitive because of the Holy Spirit of God. He convicts us. Then His office work is to lead us to Christ. He reveals to us the Lord Jesus [John 16:9]. According to the sixteenth chapter of John, He never speaks of Himself. But He always glorifies Christ. He leads us to the Lord [John 16:13-15].
When you see a people that are magnifying the Spirit of Christ, I don’t have anything against such a doctrine, it’s just not what He does. The Holy Spirit never draws attention to Himself. Always, He is lifting up the Lord. He is bringing us to Jesus. He is magnifying our wonderful Savior [John 16:13-14]. And He is taking the words of Christ and making them live for us. He convicts us of our sins, then He leads us to Him who can redeem us from them [John 16:7-15]. Then He performs His office work of re-creation, regeneration [John 3:3-8].
According to the third chapter of John it is a birth of the Spirit that makes us members of the family of God and the kingdom of our Lord [John 3:5-8]. In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we are told that Mary conceived, that in the womb of Mary Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. His body was formed and shaped by the Holy Spirit of God [Luke 1:31-35].
In a same miraculous way our natural generation is a miracle of God. The creation of a life, a babe with body and soul, into its nostrils breathed from God the breath of life. It is a miracle of natural generation [Psalm 139:13]. It is no less a miracle of regeneration when we are born into the kingdom of God, and that regeneration, that creation, that remaking, is a work of the Spirit of God [John 3:3-8].
We’re also taught in the Bible that it is the Spirit that baptizes us into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13]. Dr. Patterson, a moment ago, asked that he might see the list of the sermons that are going to be delivered on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. And one of them is The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is when we are regenerated and converted, we are added to the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:13, “By one Spirit are we all baptized into the body of Christ.” We are made a part of the family of God. We belong to Him. We are a part of Him. And the Holy Spirit places us, when we’re saved, into the body of Christ.
Again, the Holy Spirit guides us in our Christian pilgrimage. He teaches us, He illuminates us; He speaks to us [John 16:13]. He helps in our infirmities, He helps us to pray, and makes intercession for us [Romans 8:26-27]. And it is the work of the Spirit that we bear fruit to God. The fruits of the Spirit are, and then Galatians 5 names them; love, joy, and peace, and all the fullness of a beautiful and holy and heavenly life [Galatians 5:22-23]. This is the work of the Spirit of God.
Then, again, He makes His home, His house, His palace, His dwelling place in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Isn’t that a wonder of wonder that He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain [2 Chronicles 2:6], God, should live in a human heart? What a marvel, what a thing God has done. The Scriptures refer to the Spirit; say in Matthew 3 [Matthew 3:16], as the Spirit of God, in Romans 8 [Romans 8:9], as the Spirit of Christ, in Philippians chapter 1 [Philippians 1:19], as the Spirit of Jesus. Whether He is called the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ, or the Spirit of Jesus, it is He that lives in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Jesus is in heaven [Luke 24:51; Acts 1:11]. Jesus is a man. Jesus has body, He has flesh and bones [Luke 24:39-43]. It is the Spirit of Jesus that lives in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And we have all of Him, and all of God in the Holy Spirit of Christ. And what a wonder, I say, that the world, the creation itself, cannot contain the majesty and the glory and the marvel of God [2 Chronicles 2:6]. And yet, the temple of the Spirit of God is in us [1 Corinthians 6:19]. This is the temple of God.
Once again, it is the Spirit of God that is the seal and the earnest of our ultimate triumph and resurrection [2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14]. It is the Spirit of God that is the down payment, the promise that we shall ultimately be saved, be raised from among the dead, shall walk through those gates of glory, shall look upon God’s face, and live [Revelation 22:3-4]. The Spirit is the promise and the seal, and the earnest of that ultimate victory.
One of the tremendous doctrines of the apostle Paul is this, that it was the Holy Spirit that raised up Jesus from the dead [Romans 1:4], and he says that same Holy Spirit in us shall also raise us up from the dead. In Romans 8:11, Paul avows that the Spirit that raised up Christ from the dead shall raise up us also. That is why we have a victory in the grave.
How would you bury the Spirit of God omnipotent in a tomb? How could you keep Him? How could you pronounce Him dead? It’s unthinkable. So it is with us who have the Spirit of God. We are immortal, eternal, everlastingly, forever triumphantly saved. We are just abiding the day of our ultimate redemption, the full-purchased possession, the resurrection, the immortalization, the glorification of our bodies, and the earnest of that promise, the down payment that God means to keep His contract, is the living Spirit in our hearts [2 Corinthians 1:22]. Thus, the deity of the Spirit.
We speak now of the person of the Spirit. In the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Acts is one of the most unusual verses to me in the Bible. If you’d like to turn to it, turn to Acts chapter 15, and we are going to look at verse 28. The occasion is the Jerusalem conference, and the apostles and the elders of the church and the brethren are considering whether or not a heathen Greek can become a Christian and not be circumcised, not keep the law of Moses, not first be a Jew [Acts 15:24].
So, it says here in the Bible, in chapter 15 of the Book of Acts, that they considered that and came to a consensus. The heathen, the Greek, an idol worshiper could come directly out of his idolatry into the Christian faith just by trusting Jesus [Acts 16:31]. Then they say this unusual thing. We have sent you Judas and Silas, who will tell you the same things by word of mouth [Acts 15:27]. Now look at verse 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden . . .” [Acts 15:28]. And then they name four things they would like for them to do [Acts 15:29].
Do you see that? In the conference in Jerusalem, when they came to a conclusion, then they write in the letter, “for it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” [Acts 15:28]. The Holy Spirit is one of us. He is there in the meeting, He takes part in the discussion. He speaks. He gives the wisdom of God in the deliberation, and when the conclusion is wrought, they write it out, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” [Acts 15:28]. We are fellow members, fellow persons in the household of faith in the deliberation in the conference.
That is hard for me to realize. The Holy Spirit is a person. He is somebody, and He shares in our discussions and our work, our commitments, our achievements, or our failures. He is one of us. Somebody.
Well, when I think about that, the Holy Spirit is a person, He is somebody, I think, well, I need not stumble before that. The Holy Spirit is a person. I live in a world of death. I have ever since I’ve been a teenager pastor. I don’t know how many services and memorials over which I presided. And I will usually stand at the head of the casket and try just by being there, maybe, to be an encouragement or a comfort to a weeping mother or father or wife or son.
And as I look down in the casket, here is, say, a beloved deacon in our church, and a godly man and my dear friend for scores of years, and I look at him. What I see is dust and ashes. And it will turn to that before my eyes if I were long enough to wait. It is ground, it is dirt, it is dust, it is ashes. That’s what I see before me. Is that the godly deacon I knew, this prayer partner of the years gone by? It never enters my mind that it is dust and ashes. My godly deacon is gone. He is spirit. He is in heaven. Therefore, the person is not the dust and the ashes. The person is the spirit that is gone to be with God [2 Corinthians 5:8]. That is person. Person is spirit.
And if I am present at the memorial service over you, I don’t think of you as dust and ashes, buried there in the ground. I’ll think of you as somebody, a spirit that has gone to be with God, awaiting the redemption of the full purchased possession [Ephesians 1:14], the resurrection, the immortalization of the body [1 Corinthians 15:42-54], a person.
Well, if I see that, then, then I don’t stumble at the Spirit, a person. That is person. And the Holy Spirit of God is somebody. He is a person [John 16:13].
Now I want to expound for a minute. Would you turn to Romans 8? Romans 8; Romans chapter 8. Look at verse 16. Romans 8:16. Now, I have here in this Criswell Bible, I have the King James Version, and this is it, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
Now pastor, if you say that the Spirit is a person, then why does the Bible say the Spirit is an it? The Spirit itself, it said it, beareth witness with our spirit, we are the children of God [Romans 8:16]. Well, down here in the note in this Bible is a splendid explanation of that. Language is different, and sometimes it’s difficult to translate message from this nomenclature into another. And this is a good example of it. In English we have natural gender and that alone. We don’t think in terms of any other. Nor do we speak in terms other, natural gender always. A stallion is a he. A mare is a she. And a barn is an “it.” And you don’t talk any other way in the English language. It’s natural gender. But it’s not that way in other languages.
There are languages that have grammatical gender. German is one. The word for a girl in German is das, neuter, das Mädchen, not der Mädchen, as though it was masculine, or die Mädchen, as though it were feminine, but das machen. It’s neuter; a girl in German is neuter gender.
Now to me that’s the craziest way to talk I ever heard of in my life! But that is the way they talk; they have grammatical gender, it’s just according to to the language. Well, Greek also has grammatical gender, and to pneuma, to is the little article for neuter, to pneuma is neuter, and that’s why it is translated here like that, trying to be true to the text, the Spirit, itself, neuter, pneuma, neuter.
But always in the Bible, the Spirit is referred to as a He. “When He comes, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment . . . and He will take the things of Mine, and show them unto you” [John 16:8, 14]. This is a matter of grammar, a grammatical construction. But always in the Bible, the Spirit is presented to us as a person, as somebody. Language cannot bear the weight of the revelation of God [Isaiah 55:8-9].
In about 200 AD there was a heretic, a brilliant one, named Sabellius, and he promulgated the doctrine that the Holy Spirit of God was a mode, He was a manifestation. He was not God. He was an energy. He was an effluence. He was an effulgence. He was an influence, like a law or like motion, but he wasn’t personal. Now that’s what Sabellius taught.
One of the greatest fathers of all time, and the greatest of the Latin fathers, was Tertullian, a lawyer, a converted and brilliant lawyer. And he espoused the revelation of the Holy Spirit according to the Bible, and in trying to defend the personality of the Spirit of God, he used—and this was the first time the word was ever used to refer to God—he used the word “person.” It’s not a Bible word. It’s not a New Testament word, the word “person” to refer to God. But language stumbles. Language is not equal to the indescribable, immeasurable, infinite majesty and glory of God. And that’s why it’s difficult to say in human speech what God really is, and this word “person” is a halting word, and to us it would be one, two, three. No, it’s not that at all, as though they were three Gods. You just don’t know how to say it. And language cannot bear the revelation. “Person” was just the best word that Tertullian could use in combating Sabellius, who said that the Spirit of God is like a law, or like motion, or like an effulgence. No. The Spirit of God is God, said Tertullian, and says the Bible. And they use the word “person.” There’s no better word to use. So we just say person. God is a person. Jesus is a person. We can understand that because He has a body. The Spirit is person. He is God, a person.
Now, in the marvelous revelation of the Spirit of God:
He works and He moves in Genesis 1:2.
He has knowledge in 1 Corinthians 2:11.
He searches all things in 1 Corinthians 2:10.
He divides gifts to the people, 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7, 11.
He helps our infirmities and makes intercession, Romans 8:26-27.
He can be resisted, Acts 7:51.
He can be vexed, Isaiah 63:10.
He can be grieved, Ephesians 4:30.
He guides the Christian into all truth, John 16:13.
He convicts the world, John 16: 8-11.
He points to Jesus, John 16:13, 14.
He pleads for our salvation, Hebrews 3:7, 8, and Revelation 22:17.
He is a person, and He thinks and He moves and He wills and He acts and He feels.
And I ought to conclude, for my time has gone. I want to conclude with this: the Holy Spirit, a person who, first, He pleads, He speaks. Hebrews 3:7, “Wherefore, as the Holy Spirit” saith, legei, it’s in the present, continuous active, “Wherefore, as the Holy Spirit says,” continues to say, “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8]. He speaks. The Holy Spirit pleads, He talks to us.
Sweet people, I do not know the number who have come to the pastor’s study, and they will lay some hurt, or some problem, or some vexation, or some frustration, or disappointment, they lay it before me, and ask me to pray and maybe to help if I could. But you know, I never fail to say to them, “Now I’ll pray, and I’ll give you my best judgment in what to do, but the ultimate wisdom of an answer that is infallible and infinite is God. Lay it before the Lord. Tell Him all about it, and He will answer it. He will talk to you. He will speak.” If He can’t talk to us, if He can’t answer and if He can’t speak, He doesn’t live, so we just forget it; doesn’t make any difference anyway.
But the Holy Spirit speaks, saying, “Today if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrews 3:7-8]. He pleads. He will answer. He will guide. He will show the way, if we will just listen. The Holy Spirit is a person, and He speaks to us in our hearts, and if I will, I can hear His heavenly voice, and understand what He says.
Just one other. Being a person, and a loving person, in the Book of the Ephesians, chapter 4, Paul writes, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption” [Ephesians 4:30]. “Grieve not the Spirit of God.” My friend, it’s only somebody who loves you that you can make to grieve for you. If they don’t love you, they can hate you or they can be embittered against you, create enmity, but if they love you, they hurt. They grieve.
Like a dear mother I talked to about the most prodigal boy I ever knew; in the days of my little country pastorate, they owned such vast farmlands and fertile acres, and they had given it all in order to defend that boy with court costs and legal fees and lawyers. And one day I said to her, “Sweet mother, why don’t you give up that prodigal boy? You have spent a fortune on him and lost everything you have.” And she replied to me, “We have thought of that a thousand times, but he is our boy and we can’t do it.”
That is love. That is grief. And it’s because He is a loving somebody that we can grieve the Spirit of God. We grieve Him when as Christians we’re backslidden. We neglect our prayer. We forget our Bible, and the joy of serving Christ has fled from us. It’s routine and duty. It’s not happiness and glory. We grieve the Holy Spirit of God when our church is dead. When our prayer meeting dwindles away, and we don’t mourn over it, we don’t care. When people are not saved and they’re not converted, when the church has lost its voice of triumph and glory and victory, the Spirit is grieved. And we grieve the Spirit of God when we harden our hearts. When the unconverted say, “No, no.” For the Spirit of God woos in a man’s heart. He invites in a man’s heart, and He points to the Lord Jesus. When the man says, “No, no,” the Spirit hurts. He grieves.
The most beautiful invitation in the Bible is the last one, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” [Revelation 22:17]. Come. Come. The Spirit of God in your heart pleads, “Come to Jesus, come.” May we stand?
Our wonderful Savior and Redeemer in heaven, looking down upon us today, and present in this service, and in our hearts, O Spirit of Christ, do Thine office work, convict and woo, and appeal and entreat, and make invitation, and win to Jesus. Do it, Lord. Do it.
And in this moment when our people pray and we stand before God, out of the balcony, down one of these stairways, and in the press of people down on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, today, we’re answering the call of God.” A family you, a couple, or just one somebody you, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome.
And thank Thee, precious Savior, for the work of the Spirit that leads us to Thee, and to heaven. In Thy saving name, amen. While we sing, come, welcome, come. A thousand welcomes while we make appeal, while we sing our song.