Thursday, April 25, 2024

Post #43 The Doctrine of God: The Old Testament and Jesus' teaching on the Divine Person of the Holy Spirit


    In the last three posts, I've written about what the Old Testament and Jesus taught about God the Father, His relationship with the Son, and His works in creation and redemption. Interested readers may review those last two most here here and here

    In those prior posts, we covered the following:

1. God the Father as truly God.

2. God the Father sharing the same equality of deity or Godhead with the Son.

3. God the Father being the Creator of the world.

4. God the Father being the Savior of His people.

    We discovered that Jesus was carrying forth the "Trinitarian consciousness" resident within the Old Testament Scriptures and in His own teaching. As the incarnate Son of God Himself, Jesus gave unique authority and personal experience in how He communicate the two truths that form the cornerstone of the doctrine of the Trinity:

1. The unity of the Godhead or Divine nature, revealing God as One True and Living God. 

2. The plurality of Persons within the Godhead, identified as "the Father", "the Son" (or "the Word" and "Angel of the Lord" in the Old Testament), and the Holy Spirit (or "Spirit of God", "Spirit of Holiness", "The Glory of Israel" in the Old Testament).

    We've seen thus far continuity from Old Testament implications about those two cornerstones of the doctrine of God to Jesus' explicit teachings about their meaning. In today's post we want to uncover what the Old Testament and Jesus had to teach about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.

The Deity, Personhood, and work of the Holy Spirit and His relationship to the Father and Son in the Old Testament.

    As we've explored the Old Testament's teaching on the Godhead or Divine nature, we've discovered what it had to teach us about God's nature and attributes in regards to His unity of being, as well as His Personal identification thus far as the Father. Consideration of the Father gets us to the understanding of God as one true and living God, personally identified as "Father". 

    We've also seen too that mention is made of "the Son" (Psalm 110 and Proverbs 30:4), a.k.a. as "the Angel of the Lord" (Zechariah 3 for instance) and "the Word" (Psalm 33:6,9). Such pre-incarnate appearances of the Divine Son of God in the Old Testament are what we call "Christophanies", whether as one of the three mysterious visitors to Abraham in Genesis 21 or as the fire in the burning bush to Moses (Exodus 3). The Son is revealed as exhibiting the same Divine attributes, names, and actions as the Father, while distinct from Him in regards to identity. In future posts I plan to write about the useage of the term "begotten" to describe the Divine relationship between the Father and the Son, discussed in passages such as Psalm 2:7 and John 3:16).  

    As the student of the Bible explores the Biblical revelation of God, they find a consistency of presentation regarding Divine personhood and Divine nature or Godhead. We've already noticed these two trends in our studies thus far of how the Persons of the Father and Son progress from Old Testament implication to what Jesus Himself explicitly taught. So, do we see this same pattern of Divine Personhood and Godhead with respect to the Holy Spirit? 

    In Genesis 1:2 we see first mention of the Holy Spirit's activity as the Creator "hovering over the waters of the deep". The Spirit's work of infusing life into the otherwise inanimate creation demonstrates His creative capacity as we would expect of God (see Psalm 33:6; 104:29-30; Job 26:13; 33:4; 40:13). Author John Walvoord in his classic book "The Holy Spirit" noted the following about the Holy Spirit's creative activity,

"Creation is ordered by God in such a way as to be self-sustaining to some extent, the design of animal and plant life being such that species are self-perpetuating. Behind the outward phenomena, however, is the work of the Holy Spirit, sustaining, directing, renewing."

    As we understand the Holy Spirit's abilities in creation, we can also note His activity as the Redeemer. No doubt the Holy Spirit was at work in the Old Testament convicting people of their sin and working to change hearts and lives to turn to God in what the Old Testament called "the circumcision of the heart" (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11; Nehemiah 9:20; Psalm 143:10). 

    In as much as the Spirit's work of salvation was not as robust as we see in the New Testament, it nonetheless had the same principles - changing of the heart, saving faith, preservation of the believer in their salvation. Jesus makes note that the key differences of the Spirit's working of salvation in Old and New Testaments was in the former He worked "outward and upon", whereas in the latter He would come to work "inwardly and through" (see John 14:17; John 16:8-12). 

    By the Spirit's works of creation and redemption, we readily see proof of His deity. 

    Further, in those same works we see evidence that He indeed was a "He" and not an "it". The Spirit could be grieved (Isaiah 63:10-11); jealous for His glory (1 Samuel 15:25); exhibiting a will in terms of restraining sin or working forth holiness in the life of the Jewish people (see Genesis 6:1-9; Isaiah 32:15ff; 44:3-5; Ezekiel 36:26; Zech 12:10). The Spirit distributed gifts, another indication of His will or volition (Exodus 31:3; 35:30 for example). We know He spoke to the prophets in words (for instance Psalm 16:9-10; Acts 2:25-31; 2 Peter 1:10-12; 1:19-21). 

Closing out of today's post.

    In addition to the Holy Spirit's deity and personhood in the Old Testament, we finally see evidence of Him alongside the Father and the Son. Two prime examples of this is Isaiah 48:12-16, and even more explcitly, Isaiah 63. Isaiah 63:1-7 shows us God the Father, ever calling to His people. Then in Isaiah 63:8-9 we see the Angel of the Lord, corresponding to the Person of the Son. In Isaiah 63:10-14, we see mention of the Holy Spirit, performing the same acts of deity we mentioned above. Remarkably, the remainder of Isaiah 63 closes with focus upon God as the true and living God, giving us the two foundations necessary for the later New Testament's full revelation of the Trinity: Divine unity and plurality of Personhood. 

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