23. The Spirit of God

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

John 14:26

Here, we just want to reflect on a few of the Bible’s teachings about the Spirit of God. In the Bible, there are two Holy Spirits. The Spirit of Christ was the “Holy Spirit” in the Old Testament prophets. The Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit that was first put on Christ, and then poured out on the Day of Pentecost.

The Spirit of God is the Spirit of grace and truth

For the Law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

John 1:17

The Spirit of Christ, in the Old Testament, brought the Law. We read this in Zechariah:

Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts.

Zechariah 7:12

But Zechariah prophesied the Spirit of grace would be poured out on Jerusalem:

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication, then they will look upon Me whom they pierced.

 Zechariah 12:10

Here, Christ, the Word, prophesied that He would pour out the Spirit of God on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2:35.

The Spirit of God proceeds from the Father

“the Spirit of truth who proceeds (ἐκπορεύεται.) from the Father”

John 15:26

Jesus told us that the Spirit of God proceeds from the Father, using the Greek word ἐκπορεύεται.

The word ἐκπορεύεται appears eight times in the New Testament, and there are three uses of this word in the Book of Revelation that really help us understand its meaning:

  • Out of their mouths proceed fire (Rev 9:17)
  • fire flows out of their mouth (Rev 11:5)
  • From His mouth comes a sharp sword (Rev 19:15)

The most striking picture of the Spirit of God proceeding from the Father is found in in Daniel 7:10, where we see “a river of fire flowing and coming out before” the Ancient of Days. From here, the Spirit of God was described as a “river” and as “fire” throughout the New Testament. Daniel 7:10–13 is probably the only Old Testament passage that shows us the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, after the Day of Pentecost.

This Spirit of God is not a “birthed” Spirit, it is not another being. And it does not appear in the form of Angels like the Spirit of Christ.

All Christians recognized that the Spirit of God was not a “birthed” Spirit when the Trinity doctrine was established. This was not disputed by either the Eastern or Western Churches.

However, the East and West had a very different view on whether the Spirit of God was “another person.” The Eastern Churches believed that the Spirit of God was simply the Spirit of God, and not “another person.”

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

Jesus told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of Father. This was the promise given by God, in the book of Joel: “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh” (Joel 2:28).

Peter quoted this verse on the Day of Pentecost, saying that it had been fulfilled.

We can also find the promise of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 32:15, 44:3, and Ezekiel 37:14 and many other passages.

The first person to receive the Spirit of God was Jesus Christ Himself. This is recorded in Matthew 3:16, and was prophesied in Isaiah 42:1. From the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel, we read, “Behold, my servant, the Messiah, whom I bring, my chosen in whom one delights, my Word, I will put my Holy Spirit upon Him.”

Here, Jonathan contrasted the Spirit of Christ as the Word, with the Spirit of God. The Word was the Spirit of Christ, who was in the prophets (1 Peter 1:11).

Today, the Spirit of God Himself is received by the Church, and so we say “now is the tabernacle of God with men” (Revelation 21:3). The Church is the New Jerusalem prophesied by Ezekiel.

Jesus said the Spirit of truth “will abide with you forever” (John 14:16).  For the Spirit of truth is not just a “prophetic Spirit” as imagined by some. It is God Himself.

In the Book of Hosea, God told us He would be the promised Comforter:

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness
And speak comfort to her.
“And it shall be in that Day,” says the LORD,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master.’

Hosea 2:14-16

When God said, “you will no longer call Me “My Master,” He meant that we would no longer call Him our Lord.

God is no longer our Lord, but our Comforter, who Paul called “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

The Expression “the Spirit of Prophecy”

The expression “the Word” identified the Spirit of Christ in the Targums, and the expression “Spirit of Prophecy” identified the Spirit of God in the Targums.

For example:

  • The Targum in Isaiah 11:2 called the Spirit of God to be put on Christ, the Spirit of Prophecy. It reads, “the Messiah shall be anointed, and there shall dwell on Him, the Spirit of Prophecy from before the Lord.”
  • Speaking of Christ, in Isaiah 61:1, the Targum reads, “the Spirit of Prophecy from before the presence of the Lord God is upon Me.”
  • 2 Samuel 23:2 identifies both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, saying, “The Spirit of YHVH, HE-spoke in me, and His Word was on my tongue.” The Targum translates this as “The Spirit of Prophecy from before YHVH spoke through me and the holiness of His Word, I set in order in my mouth” The Targum recognized “the Spirit of YHVH” as “the Spirit of God” by the masculine “He.”

In the Book of Revelation, John called the Spirit of God “the Spirit of Prophecy,” to let us know the testimony received by those in the true Church. The “testimony of Jesus” is explained in Revelation 19:10: “For the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.” In other words, those who are in the true Church, receive the Spirit of God.

The Expression “the Holy Spirit”

“the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name.”

John 14:25

As we mentioned in Chapter 2, in the Old Testament, the expression “Spirit of ELOHIM” or “Spirit of YHVH” referred to the Spirit of Christ. Likewise, the phrase “Holy Spirit” referred to the Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament, except in the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel.

Jonathan’s Targum called the Spirit of Christ “the Word” and called the Spirit of God “the Holy Spirit” when speaking of the Holy Spirit to be given in the New Covenant.

This Targum was truly an inspired paraphrase.

After the Day of Pentecost, the phrase “Holy Spirit” referred only to the Spirit of God, except when referring to Old Testament passages. The Spirit of God that descended on Christ was also called the Holy Spirit, because Christ was the first of the New Covenant.

There are 92 uses of the phrase “Holy Spirit” in the New Testament, which you can quickly scan to verify this.

The Expression “the Spirit”

After the Day of Pentecost, the phrase “the Spirit” referred to the Spirit of Christ, as evidenced by the verses below:

“The Lord is the Spirit”

2 Corinthians 3:17, 18

We are being changed by the Lord, the Spirit.

No explanation needed

The Spirit of Christ is “the Spirit” in all Paul’s verses, such as “live by the Spirit.”

“The Letter kills but the Spirit gives life”

2 Corinthians 3:6

“The Ministry of the Spirit”

2Corinthians 3:8

Christ is “a life-giving Spirit”

1 Corinthians 15:45

 

“God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, by which we cry out ‘“Abba Father’”

Galatians 4:6

No explanation needed
“The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,” etc.

Galatians 5:22

This comes directly from John 15, where Jesus described Himself as the vine, “if you abide in Me you will bear much fruit,” etc.
“Access by one Spirit to the Father”

Ephesians 2:18

The Spirit of Christ is our mediator

1 Timothy 2:5

“Into a holy temple in the Lord, into a dwelling of God in the Spirit”

Ephesians 2:21 and 22

Paul equates the Lord to the Spirit again here, as shown by the parallel structure.

Ephesians 2 explains the relationship of the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of God introduced in John 14, as we will discuss below: The Spirit of Christ is the Dwelling Place of God.

Paul repeatedly used the phrases “in Christ” and “in the Spirit” throughout Ephesians and other letters as synonymous terms.

“There is one body, one Spirit”

Ephesians 4:6

The Spirit of Christ is the body of Christ, as John so graphically illustrated in “the Rider on the White horse.”
“Hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”

Revelation 2:7, 11, 17 and 29; 3:6, 13, 22

The Spirit of Christ is the Angel speaking to John.

Once we understand that “the Spirit” is the Spirit of Christ, we can understand that Romans 8:26–27 is talking about the relationship between the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God. Let us improve the current translation, and together we will really understand this verse:

In the same way, the Spirit of Christ also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit of Christ Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and the Spirit of God (the one) who searches the hearts knows what the (mind) desire of the Spirit of Christ is, because He (the Spirit of Christ) intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Paul is actually quoting from Jeremiah 17:10, “I (God) search the heart and test the mind.” God (is the one) who searches the heart and desire of the Spirit.

The expression “desire of the Spirit” (φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος) comes from verse 6: “For the φρόνημα (desire of) the flesh is (leads to) death, but the desire of the Spirit (φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος) is life and peace.” Its sister verse is Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.”

The Spirit of God is not another “Person”

We have avoided the word “He” in describing the Spirit of truth. The personal pronouns that appear in John 14–16 are deceiving. They are only a function of the Greek language. Greek, like French and the Latin languages, require all pronouns to have a gender, and “He” appears only because the Greek word for comforter is masculine. There are also about a half dozen cases where the pronoun “He” is used to translate, where the grammar warrants the expression “it.”

However, it is admitted by Trinitarian theologians today, that the Greek grammar in the New Testament does not support the idea that the Holy Spirit is a person.1

This confusion of the Greek grammar began when the Bible was translated into Latin and read by the Western Churches.

The Greek grammar was clearly understood by the Greek Church. The Chalcedonian Definition of the Greek Church in 451 A.D. only defines “two persons” of the “Godhead.” The Council at Ephesus attended by 250 Bishops in 431 A.D. actually condemned the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed of 381 A.D., calling it “a different faith.”

Many believe that because the Spirit of God has a will, it is another person. But in fact, the spirit of a person represents their will, as Jesus said; “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

In 1 Corinthians 12:11, the subject of the phrase “distributing (gifts) to each one as He/it wills” may be “God” from verse 6; or “the Spirit of God” in verse 11. The grammar of 1 Corinthians 12:11 is identical to Hebrews 2:4: “God also testifying . . . by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” The subject in both passages is “God,” but it makes no difference, because the Spirit of God is God’s spirit. It makes no difference whether we say “according to the Spirit of God,” or “according to God.” The same meaning is the same. The Spirit of God is God’s spirit.

Our spirit, like the Spirit of God, has a will and a desire, but that does not make our spirit “another person.”

The Apostle Paul explained that the Spirit of God is like the spirit of a man in 1 Corinthians 2:10 –12:

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

Paul concluded by saying, “For ‘who has known the mind (νοῦν) of the LORD that he may instruct Him’ [Isaiah 40:13]? But we have ‘the mind (νοῦν) of Christ’” (Philippians 2:5).

The verse Paul quoted from Isaiah reads, “who has directed the Spirit of God (Holy Spirit2)?”

This clearly proves that the mind of the Spirit of God and God are the same, since Paul has substituted “LORD” for “Spirit of the LORD.” We can also see this in Acts 5:3–4.

In Greek mythology, there is a dog called “Cerberus” who guards the gates of Hades. Hercules tried to subdue Cerberus at the gates (his twelfth labor). Cerberus is a three-headed dog, with three brains and three distinct states of consciousness.

God is not like this. God has only “one mind,” one center of consciousness.

 

 The Relationship between Christ (the Spirit of Christ) and the Spirit of God

 

Old Testament

God was the LORD

New Testament

Christ is the Lord

   

 

The above diagram shows the relationship of Christ and God in the Old Testament and New Testament.

The word “Kurios” for Lord is only used for Christ after His resurrection, and before the LORD’s Day.

In the LORD’s Day, the relationship of Christ and God will be as it was in the Old Testament.

 The Spirit of God now speaks the words of Christ

The Spirit of God is very active in the work of salvation. But, like the Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament, the Spirit only speaks what He (God) hears:

“However, when He (ἐκεῖνος), the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13).

In the Old Testament, the Spirit of Christ was the one we saw and heard. Today, the Spirit of truth is the Spirit of God we “feel” and “hear” speaking the words of Christ.

Let us prove this with an example in the New Testament.

In Acts 13:2, we know the Spirit of God is speaking for Christ, the Spirit of Christ: “As they (certain prophets and teachers) ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”

The Spirit of God speaks only “whatever He hears.” The Holy Spirit speaks Christ’s reply to His disciples, just as the Spirit of Christ spoke the words of God in the Old Testament.

The Spirit of truth was sent by Christ

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

The Spirit of God proceeded from God and was poured out by Christ (Acts 2:17, 33). It was the Lord who added to the Church (Acts 2:47), by baptizing the believers with the Spirit of God. As John the Baptist said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11).

The Spirit of Christ is the Dwelling Place of God

This is where things get very abstract.

In John 15, Jesus described Himself as the vine. The Spirit of Christ is the vine, the Body of Christ, in which all believers must abide. The Spirit of Christ is pictured as a Rider on the White Horse in the Book of Revelation.

The Spirit of Christ is “the dwelling place” of the Spirit of God. Jesus made this analogy in John 14, saying, “in My Father house there are many dwelling places” (1.John 14:2. This has been incorrectly translated as mansions in some versions.] The Father’s house is the Church of God; it is the house in which the Spirit of God dwells. The Apostle Paul calls the Church “the Church of God” ten times. In fact, he never uses the expression “Church of Christ.” The Church is the house, built by Christ, where God dwells. The boundaries of this house are set by the Spirit of Christ; and therefore, Jesus continued, “I go to prepare a place for you.” In John 14:23, He said, “we will come and make our home with Him.”

The Apostle Paul continued Christ’s analogy in Ephesians 2:6: “He . . . made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” and in verse 21 and 22, “in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom, you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

You can see from the bolded words how Paul has equated “the Lord” to “the Spirit,” just as he did in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, saying, “the Lord is the Spirit.”

There are two Spirits who come to live inside us: The Spirit of Christ, who makes the house, and the Spirit of God, who dwells in the house.

The Spirit of Christ determines who belongs to Christ (Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6); He makes the house of God.

When the Apostles use the expressions “in the Spirit” and “in Christ,” they are speaking about the Spirit of Christ, the house in which God dwells.

A few facts about the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth

Our primary purpose is to explain the relationship between the Spirit of Christ and God. So, we will just summarize the rest of the Bible’s teachings on the Spirit of God, here:

  • The Spirit of truth is a “baptizing spirit.” Jesus said, “you with the Spirit will be baptized holy not many days from now” (Acts 1:5, we’ve changed the word order to agree with the Greek).
  • The Spirit of truth poured out by Christ baptizes us into the body of Christ. Paul said, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
  • This was the Spirit of which Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).
  • Jesus described the evidence of the receiving the Spirit of God: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
  • Receiving the Spirit of truth is evidenced by the tongue emitting sound, laleo glossa (Acts 10:46).
  • The evidence of receiving the Spirit of truth can be both “seen and heard” (Acts 2:33) for there is a comforting movement of the Spirit in one’s body.
  • The Spirit of truth is sent to testify to the truth: “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know all things” (1 John 2:20).
  • The Apostle John said, “test the spirits . . . ; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). He tells us how to test the spirits to see if they are of God. “He who knows God hears us (follows the Apostles’ teachings); he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (v. 6).
  • Jesus said, “if anyone loves Me, He will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make our home with him” (John 14:23). The condition of being baptized by the Spirit of truth, and receiving the Spirit of Christ, is obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of truth is “a dwelling place of God” (Ephesians 2:22).
  • Those who refuse to do God’s will may receive “a different spirit,” in whom Christ does not abide, therefore when the Son of man returns, Jesus will simply say to them, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23).
  • Only those who obey the Gospel of Christ receive the Spirit of truth. The Apostle Paul wrote, “if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:4;  1 John 4:1-6)

How do we know the Spirit of truth was not given until the Day of Pentecost?

  • In John 7:39, we read that “the Spirit 3 was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
  • John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of Christ, like the prophets of old, but he did not receive the Spirit of God, whom Jesus said would abide with us forever. For this reason, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John (Matthew 11:11).
  • Jesus said, “it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (John 16:7).
  • Before Jesus ascended, He breathed into them, saying, “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). But was this the Spirit of truth, or His Own Spirit? It could not have been the Spirit of truth. After this He told them to wait for the “Promise of the Father which you have heard from Me” (Acts 1:4-5).
  • The Spirit of truth was the Spirit Jesus promised to His disciples in John 14:16: “I will pray to the Father and He will give you another Helper that may abide with you forever.”
  • The disciples were not “baptized” into the body of Christ by “the Spirit of truth,” until the Day of Pentecost, as Jesus said, “but you with the Spirit shall be baptized Holy not many days from now.” 4
  • In Acts 2:33, we read, “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” In other words, Jesus did not receive the promised Spirit of truth to pour out until the Day of Pentecost. This was not the Spirit Jesus breathed into them when He said, “receive the Holy Spirit.” The Spirit Jesus breathed into them earlier was His Own Spirit.

The historical deviation from the truth

The confusion began with the understanding of the phrase, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit in this verse should be “the Spirit of Christ,” because Jesus spoke these words before the Day of Pentecost. We can see that at the same time, Jesus breathed His Own Spirit into His disciples, He also said, “receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).

The Spirit of Christ obviously bears the name of Jesus, but even if we concluded that “the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 28:20 was the Spirit of God, the name of the Spirit of God would be the name of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said the Father would send the Holy Spirit “in My Name” (John 15:26). Compare this to “I come in My Father’s Name.” [34]

But, very early in Church history, Justin Martyr, and others, became very confused by the statement “name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” as we explain in the Appendix.

Initially, Justin believed that the name of God was Jesus, but then, when he wrote his First and Second Apologies, he changed his mind. Justin also concluded that the Spirit of truth must be “another person” who has another name. In fact, in Chapter 60 of his First Apology, Justin ranked the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit: first, second, and third place.

The identification of the Holy Spirit as “another Person” continued among the Western Churches.

But the Churches of Asia were less convinced, as we can see in the Chalcedonian Definition of the Greeks, which reads, “co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead . . . before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead . . . not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons.”

As time went on, the West would pressure the Eastern Churches to accept a Creed that said the Holy Spirit was another person who “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” But this was strongly resisted by the Eastern Churches who saw this as “a different faith.” The Eastern Churches understood that the Holy Spirit was the Spirit of God, the Father.

A Comparison of Theologies

With the understanding of Christ and the Spirit of God, we are now able to compare the main theologies of Christ.

Essentially, there are four or five main theologies, and each of them differs on how they see the relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Apostolic Theology

The Spirit of ELOHIM in the Old Testament was Christ’s Spirit, the firstborn of creation, sent out of the Father in the beginning of creation. He was, and is, the image of the invisible God, who was manifest in the flesh. As “the Word,” He spoke the words of the Father, and was sent by the Father. The Spirit of truth that proceeded from the Father on the Day of Pentecost is the Spirit of God. He speaks the words of Christ, bringing comfort to the believers and distributing spiritual gifts as He wills.

Modalism

Because the Spirit of ELOHIM in the Old Testament and the Spirit of Truth are both called “the Spirit of God,” then these two Spirits are the same.

The Trinity

Both Christ and the Spirit of truth existed eternally with the Father and are equal to the Father. At times, they choose to submit to the Father because they play different roles in salvation. This is called the “economy” of the Trinity.

So-called “Unitarian” and So-called “Binitarian”

Unitarians believe Christ was a man chosen by God to carry out His mission. He did not pre-exist. Any Spirit of God mentioned in the Bible is only a “force” or “power” of God.

Many so-called “Binatarians” believe that Christ pre-existed but the Holy Spirit is only a power or the Spirit of God. However, some, who are labelled as “Binitarians” by Trinitarians, do not actually believe in the idea of one God in two distinct persons. Rather, they believe in the plurality of God in the Old Testament that is evidenced by the word “ELOHIM” and they believe Christ was only the speaker for the invisible God, who is the one true God.


  1. See Wallace, “Greek Grammar the Personality of the Holy Spirit;” and “Prooftexting the personality of the Holy Spirit: an analysis of the masculine demonstrative pronouns in John 14:26, 15:26 and 16:13–14 by Andrew David Naselli and Philip R. Gons.
  2. The Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel calls the Spirit of YHVH here “the Holy Spirit.”
  3. The oldest manuscripts omit the word “Holy.”
  4. Ibid. We’ve changed the word order to agree with the Greek.