“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. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1.2.
Look, says the Trinitarian, there is the Holy Spirit, the third Person of a triune God.
What makes you think so?
Well it says so. It is the first time the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the Bible, and it continues through the whole of Scripture.
But it doesn’t say ‘Holy Spirit’.
No, but that is what it means.
How do you know that is what it means?
What else can it mean?
So many fall into the eisegesis trap with Genesis 1:2. It is not only a false method of study, but gives a totally wrong picture, as you saw in a previous chapter when Jim jumped on the words “tormented for ever and ever.”
The word for Spirit is ruach. This is the only word in the Hebrew for spirit -- any spirit -- man’s spirit, holy spirit and evil spirit. The word ruach itself does not identify which spirit; it is the context.
The Hebrew is ruach elohiym - “spirit god” - moved upon the face of the waters. We know it is speaking about the true God, so we can give both words a capital letter “Spirit God”, and to have it read well in English we can legitimately add ‘of’’, making it Spirit of God.
When interpreting the text, what does the Bible say?
It says, “the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”. Genesis 1:2.
Does it say this is the third person of a triune God? No.
Is it Trinitarian or non-Trinitarian?
It depends on whether our mode of study is exegesis or eisegesis. Based on this text alone we must say, I don’t know. Only a study of all the Bible references for ruach will reveal the meaning of Spirit of God.
Throughout the Old Testament ruach is seen as – ‘Spirit of God, Spirit of the Lord, My Spirit, my spirit, His Spirit, his spirit, the Spirit, the spirit, a spirit, every spirit, your spirit, their own spirit, of spirit, another spirit, in spirit, whose spirit, spirit, spirit of, spirit in’; and others with an adjective before ‘spirit’, such as ‘familiar spirit’. (Those with a capital letter refer to God’s Spirit, gained from the context; with lower case, either a man’s spirit or an evil spirit)
Nowhere is there the title ‘God the Holy Spirit’ in the Hebrew.
In the New Testament, the Greek word is pneuma, and exactly the same terms are used. Some with an adjective before them are ‘unclean spirit, dumb spirit, quickening Spirit, eternal Spirit’. Other verses are – ‘by one Spirit are we all baptised’, and ‘he who is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’. (Similar terms use Holy Ghost instead of Spirit) Other New Testament terms are ‘Spirit of Christ, Spirit of your Father, Spirit of His Son, Spirit of His mouth, Spirit of prophecy’.
Nowhere is the title ‘God the Holy Ghost’, or ‘God the Holy Spirit’ in the Greek, nor is it in the Hebrew. Neither is it in the Spirit of Prophecy.
A comprehensive study reveals that ‘the Spirit’ is God’s own personal presence -- in Spirit. This does not mean it is non-personal. “The Holy Spirit is a person; for He beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” 20 Manuscript Release 68.
A false charge against non-Trinitarians is – You believe the Holy Spirit is only an influence or power.
No, it is the Spirit of God Himself in His omnipresence that has the power.
Seated upon His throne in glory, God is able to speak to the holy beings in His presence, but He is also able to speak, hear, direct, guide, rebuke, convict, comfort and give power to His people in any place in the universe by His personal omnipresent and powerful Spirit.
Some have a hard time imagining the concept, but the devil has counterfeited it by supposedly giving men and women the ability to have out-of-body experiences.
One of these is called astral travel. The body remains in its local environment, while the ‘spirit’ roams distant lands. In a far-away-place, the ‘spirit’ takes hold of a definite item from the country, and when the trip is over, and the ‘spirit’ returns to the body, the evidence is in their clasped hand.
It should not be difficult to grasp. Our spirit-abilities are limited by our own minds, but God’s abilities are not. We can say, I am with you in spirit, and we mean our thoughts and feelings are with you. Colossians 2:5. When God says it, He can be with us in reality by His omnipresent Spirit, not simply as an influence, but His very presence.
Listen to the Psalmist as he speaks of God’s Spirit. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” Psalm 139:7-10.
This is not an inanimate power -- in heaven, the grave, the sea -- but God’s very presence.
“The greatness of God is to us incomprehensible. ‘The Lord’s throne is in heaven’ (Psalm 11:4); yet by His Spirit He is everywhere present. He has an intimate knowledge of, and a personal interest in, all the works of His hand.” Education p132.
Ellen White was not implying that God’s Spirit was only a powerful influence. She was making it perfectly clear that God was everywhere, having an “intimate knowledge of” and “personal interest” in His creation, by His Spirit. (Psalm 139 is quoted with this passage)
If we ask God to be with us in our meetings, His presence is really with us, for He says, “… there I am in the midst.” Matthew 18:20. It is the same “Spirit of God” who moved upon the face of the waters in the beginning.
Another charge is made – You don’t believe in the Holy Spirit.
For many the thought is frightening, because a denial of the Holy Spirit might be the unpardonable sin. But this too is incorrect.
When Jesus promised the Comforter, Judas (not Iscariot) received a glimmer of understanding, for he asked, “How is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” John 14:22.
In reply, Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him…” John 14:23.
Do not ignore Jesus’ words -- “We”, speaking of Himself and His Father, “we will come unto him, and make our abode with him”. It is the Father and the Son who will make their abode with the believer. Jesus said, “… the Spirit of truth… shall be in you.” John 14:17. (Romans 8 makes this clear by an interchange of terms between the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ, not as two Spirits, but one. Romans 8:9-11)
Clearly there is only “…one Spirit…” Ephesians 4:4. Ephesians 2:18.
The relationship between the Father and the Son is intimate as they “both have the same Spirit.” Christ and His Righteousness. E.J. Waggoner p30.
“Wherever God's children are, there is the Spirit - not an individual person, as we look upon persons, but having the power to make present the Father and the Son.” Questions and Answers. M.C. Wilcox. Vol 11. 1919 Edition p38. 1938 Edition p34. “…both come by the Holy Spirit.” Ibid.
Jesus prayed for His people, “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 they may be one, even as we are one… I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one…” John 17:21.23.
It is only as we have the Spirit of the Father and the Son that we can have unity and closeness to them. Another independent Spirit, such as the third co-eternal person of a Trinitarian God, cannot give intimacy on behalf of the Father and the Son. No one can provide intimacy for another person.
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He promised He would not leave His disciples as orphans. “I will not leave you comfortless.” John 14:18. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” John 14:16.
What did Jesus mean by “anotherComforter” whom He called the “Spirit of truth”? Jesus said of this Spirit, “he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:17. (The Greek for ‘another’ in this verse is allos, which means ‘another the same’, showing the Comforter to be a familiar person, not a stranger)
Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit in the third person, “... he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” John 14:17. But He also spoke of the Spirit in the first person, for He said to His disciples – “I will come to you.” John 14:18. (For readers not thoroughly acquainted with grammar, the first person is when we speak of ourselves as I, me, my; second person is when we speak toanother as you or your; third person is when we speak of another as he, she, it, him or her)
In the above verses Jesus speaks in the third person and the first person when referring to the Holy Spirit?
Speaking in the third person when referring to Himself was not unusual for Jesus. He often called Himself the ‘Son of man’ and people asked, “Who is this Son of man?” John 12:34.
At times Sister White spoke in the third person of herself. One example, “Sister White is not the originator of these books. They contain the instruction that during her lifework God has been giving her.” Review & Herald. Jan 20. 1903. (She could have said, ‘I am not the originator… God has been giving me.’ This would have been first person)
When the prophet said “the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead,” she was speaking numerically. Desire of Ages p671. It is true, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three living persons, but it is not easy to understand the Holy Spirit.
We are told by the prophet that the “nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it... (and regarding) such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.” Acts of the Apostles p52.
Take special note, that it is the natureof the Spirit that is the mystery. It is the same for God Himself, as the prophet wrote, “No human mind can comprehend God. None are to indulge in speculation regarding His nature. Here silence is eloquence. The Omniscient One is above discussion.” Ministry of Healing p429. This does not mean we must remain totally silent about God or the Spirit, for much has been revealed.
The word ‘another’ must be seen in the light of Christ’s promise to not leave His children as orphans, and to return to them in Spirit, as their indwelling Comforter. Reflecting Christ p200.
Another difficult word is Ellen White’s use of ‘representative’, as our minds immediately see another co-equal person (as in the Trinity) representing Christ, but this is not the message.
“The Holy Spirit is Christ’s representative, but divested of the personality of humanity, and independent thereof. Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally. Therefore it was for their interest that He should go to the Father, and send the Spirit to be His successor on earth…. By the Spirit the Saviour would be accessible to all. In this sense He would be nearer to them than if He had not ascended on high.” Desire of Ages p669.
If you have read the passage correctly, you would have seen that the Spirit was ‘divested’ of the ‘personality of humanity’. This does not mean divested of personality, but of the hindrances [that is, the
cumbrances] of the human personality or flesh.
Some brethren think that by becoming human, Jesus gave up omnipresence, and therefore had to send ‘another’ as His representative. It is true, in His human flesh, Christ was limited to one place at a time, but after His glorious enthronement in heaven, He was able to return in Spirit. If Jesus had remained on earth, He could only be with those in His physical presence, but by coming in Spirit, He was able to be with all believers.
Another quotation, similar to the previous one, makes the subject even clearer. “Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore it was altogether for their advantage that He should leave them, go to His Father, and send the Holy Spirit to be His successor on earth. The Holy Spirit is Himself divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit, as the Omnipresent.” 14 Manuscript Release. p23. Italics added. No.1084.
Note the words, “The Holy Spirit is Himself…” In these words, the prophet has made it perfectly clear that Christ would “represent Himself…” on earth. As a man goes to court on his own behalf, so Christ returns in Spirit, representing Himself.
Do not be surprised if it is difficult.
“The disciples still failed to understand Christ's words in their spiritual sense, and again He explained His meaning. By the Spirit, He said, He would manifest Himself to them.” Desire Ages p670.
On His first resurrection visit, Jesus “breathed on” His disciples, saying “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” John 20:22.
“Jesus is waiting to breathe upon all His disciples, and give them the inspiration of His sanctifying spirit, and transfuse the vital influence from Himself to His people… Christ is to live in His human agents, and work through their faculties, and act through their capabilities. Their will must be submitted to His will, they must act with His Spirit, that it may be no more they that live, but
Christ that liveth in them. Jesus is seeking to impress upon them the thought that in giving His Holy Spirit He is giving to them the glory which the Father has given Him, that He and His people may be one in God.” Signs of the Times. Oct. 3. 1892. Ye Shall Receive Power p26.
While Christ is ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, He is still “by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but His parting promise is fulfilled, ‘Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ While He delegates His power to inferior ministers, His energizing presence is still with His church.” Desire of Ages p166.
The mystery relating to the in-dwelling Spirit has been revealed in the words, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. Romans 16:25.
We were designed to be God’s dwelling place, for the apostle Paul said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God…” 1 Corinthians 3:16. It has always been true, as it is “God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator.” In Heavenly Places p191.
Adam and Eve were created with the indwelling Spirit that shone from their bodies as “garments of light”. Story of Redemption p21. When they sinned, the Spirit departed and they were left naked. Genesis 3:10. Confrontation p59.
These beautiful garments of light are “such as the angels wear”, and if we have Christ’s Spirit in our hearts, the day will come when it will shine from us as a glorious light of heavenly clothing, evidence of our union with God the Father and His beloved Son. Sons and Daughters of God p124.
When Jesus returns, He will come with the glory of His own Spirit, the glory of the Father and of the holy angels, and “will come clad in the robe of light, which He has worn from the days of eternity.” Lift Him Up. p373.
In the kingdom of heaven, the holy Spirit has no throne, except the sanctified hearts of all who make up God’s great family.