Thursday, July 25, 2019

God the Holy Spirit and Redeemer

1. God as Redeemer
Jesus Christ is Lord. For us to know this, two things must occur. First, Jesus Christ must objectively confront us. Secondly, we must subjectively acknowledge his lordship. In the New Testament, most people objectively confronted by Jesus Christ did not subjectively recognize him as Lord. The people who did were brought to him by the Father (John 6:65). They were empowered by the Son (John 1:12-13). It was and remains the Holy Spirit who enables us to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Corinthians 12:3). Only this presence of God’s Spirit within us makes us capable of opening up to God’s revelation. God becomes present to us, then, not just objectively from outside us but also subjectively from inside us. He not only comes from outside of us to encounter us but also from inside of us to encounter himself.

We should not confuse the Holy Spirit with Jesus Christ, the Son or Word of God. Jesus Christ is the one whom God the Father exalted. The Spirit is the one who from our exalted Lord in Heaven comes down to us (cf. Acts 2:2, 10:44, 11:15). At the same time, we must not separate the two. The Spirit is not a new Word of God superseding the one Word of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Instead, the Spirit testifies to us on behalf of Jesus, and to the glory of Jesus, with the testimony he bears through Jesus (John 15:26, 16:13f.).

We may speak of the importance and actions of the Holy Spirit in three ways. First, the Holy Spirit is God’s affirmation in us that the Word of God spoken to us is meant for us. Second, even though the Holy Spirit dwells within us, he teaches us and leads us as our Lord. Third, it is the Holy Spirit who calls us and equips us to speak about the great work of God done in Jesus Christ. Though we are sinners, the Holy Spirit as Lord sets us free for God’s Word that we may be servants of God as hearers and doers of it. He also frees us to be adopted children of God so that we may know and cry to him as our Father (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).

In 2 Corinthians 3:17 we read, “the Lord is the Spirit.” In John 4:24 we read, “God is Spirit.” Scripture attests then that the Holy Spirit is God. Although the Spirit is distinct from both the Father and Jesus Christ, the Spirit nonetheless is God just as both the Father and the Son are God. So even after we receive the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit remains God and we remain sinners.

When we acknowledge the Holy Spirit as the Lord who frees us, we make a statement of praise about God rather than about ourselves. We ourselves do become liberated children of God, but only in faith; that is, only in the Holy Spirit subjectively and in Christ objectively. We may be strong in faith, but only because the strength of our faith rests not on our own strength, weak enough in relation to sin, but on the strength of the act of God which liberates us from sin. We rightly have confidence, but only because God is our rock.

We have our redemption, but only in faith; that is, only according to God’s promise. Now we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We believe God’s promise to redeem us, though we do not see that Word as yet fulfilled. We believe our inheritance is eternal life, but now we continue to lie in the shadow of death. But with faith in God’s promise of our redemption, we do participate even now in that redemption, we do have it through a living hope, through the lively expectation that Jesus is coming in glory and, when he does, we shall be like him (1 John 3:1f.). The Holy Spirit is the seal of this promise given to us even now to the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

2. God the Holy Spirit
What the Holy Spirit is to us he is beforehand in himself. The Holy Spirit is God just as the Father and the Son are God. This doctrine, while based on Scripture, is not in Scripture. It is our interpretation of Scripture. This doctrine of the deity of the Spirit came much later than that of the deity of the Son. It was introduced finally into the Creed by the Latin Church only in 1014. This tardiness may be attributed to the doctrine’s intellectual difficulty but this, in turn, may be due to our difficulty in accepting what the deity of the Spirit means.

We may accept that the Father, the source of revelation, is fully God. We may even accept that the Son must be fully God to reveal the Father. But we may well prefer to hold our own finally when our own active appreciation of God’s revelation comes into question. The doctrine of the deity of the Holy Spirit affirms the biblical witness that even our affirmation of God’s revelation is not our own work but God’s alone.

To understand more clearly the doctrine of the deity of the Holy Spirit and the dogma of the Trinity, we shall follow the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed affirmed at Chalcedon in AD 451. We shall confess, first, that we believe in the Holy Spirit as Lord. This does not mean the Father is one Lord, the Son another, and the Holy Spirit a third. The Holy Spirit is Lord fully and in unity with the Father and the Son. But the Holy Spirit is Lord in his own way. The Father is distinct from the Son, and the Son is distinct from the Father, but their two distinct ways of being are nonetheless reciprocal. The Holy Spirit is Lord as the love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father. The uniqueness of the Spirit’s divine way of being lies in the Spirit being this act of reciprocal love between Father and Son. Because God is this act of communion or love in himself, he can be so in relation to us.

Second, we confess that the Holy Spirit is the giver of life. Just as the Holy Spirit is involved in the Son’s work of reconciliation as the Spirit of the Son, so he is involved in the Father’s work of creation. The same word in Hebrew may be translated “breath,” “wind,” or “spirit.” In the beginning, the hosts of heaven were made by the “breath” of God’s mouth (Psalm 33:6). The Spirit as the “breath” of life is in all flesh (Genesis 7:15). When God sends forth his “Spirit” he creates all living creatures and, when he takes their “breath” away, they die (Psalm 104:29-30).

Third, we believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. This means, first, that the Holy Spirit is not a creature but one of God’s three distinct ways of being. Secondly, procession means that the Spirit of God is not the Son of God. Thirdly, procession means the eternal origin of the Holy Spirit differs in some way from that of the Son. If before we spoke of the Father begetting the Son, here we may speak of the Father and the Son as together breathing the Spirit.

We also affirm the procession of the Spirit from both the Father and the Son as being true both of God in himself and of God in relation to creation. We said previously that the Holy Spirit is the act of reciprocal love, the act of communion, between the Father and the Son. This act of love in God himself is the basis of the act of love between God and human beings. The communion of the Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is the basis of God being the God of us and of us being the people of God.

We shall now attempt to summarize our understanding of God as he is in himself from all eternity. In himself, God is the Father. As the Father, he begets himself as the Son. In himself, God is the Son, As the Son, he is begotten of himself as the Father. In himself, God is the Spirit. In the begetting of himself as the Son, and in the being begotten of himself as the Father, God posits himself a third time as the Holy Spirit or act of love binding himself as Father to Son and Son to Father.

As the Father begets the Son, he posits himself as the Spirit of love. This is because, while not dividing himself, the Father chooses to reject all self-isolation by begetting the Son. God the Father chooses to be God only with and in God the Son. Likewise God the Son chooses to be God only with and in God the Father. And as the Son is begotten of the Father, he too posits himself as the Spirit of love. In this way the positing of the Spirit belongs not to God the Father alone, nor to God the Son alone, nor to God the Father and God the Son in cooperation, but to the one God whose first two ways of being are united by his third way of being God. So, from all eternity, God chooses to be God only by positing himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three ways of being God which remain distinct but not separate and of one nature but not identical.

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
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