The Deity and Person of the Holy Spirit
July 26th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE DEITY AND THE PERSON OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Matthew 3, Romans 8
7-26-81 8:15 a.m.
And God be praised for the great throngs of you who are listening to this service and worshipping the Lord with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message. It is the first in the series on pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday with the message on our sympathetic High Priest [Hebrews 2:17, 18], we closed the long series on Christology, the doctrine of Christ. And today we begin the series on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and the message is entitled The Deity and the Person of the Holy Spirit.
When we open the Bible, we are immediately introduced to Him, the Spirit of God. The Bible begins:
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—and the Spirit of God—moved upon the face of the waters.
And out of the chaotic world, universe, He brought order and light and life [Isaiah 45:18].
In the teaching of the Word of God, the Lord God is one. The Shema of Judaism is the basic foundation upon which Judaism rests. Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord thy God is one God—one Lord—Thou shalt love Him with all your mind, and soul, and heart” [Deuteronomy 6:5]. “And thou shalt have no other gods before Me” [Deuteronomy 5:7]. This is the basic doctrine, the monotheistic doctrine of Judaism, of the Bible, of the New Testament [Ephesians 4:5-6], as well as the Old [Deuteronomy 6:5]. There is one God, just one. One in essence, one in equality, one in power, one in glory, one in manifestation, one in effulgence, one in attributes; there is one God. In the beginning God [Genesis 1:1]. But there are distinctions in the Godhead. The benediction of 2 Corinthians, the last verse is this, “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 one God [Ephesians 4:6], but there are distinctions in the Godhead. “The grace of Jesus, the love of the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen” [2 Corinthians 13:14].
You have that again illustrated in the formula of baptism that the Holy Spirit gave us and which you heard just a moment ago. “I baptize you, my brother/my sister, in the name—singular—in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19]. Singular, “the name of”; there is one God. But there are distinctions in the Godhead. We know God as our Father, we know God as our Savior, and we know God as the moving Spirit of the Lord within us [Matthew 28:19]. Whatever can be said of God can be said of the Holy Spirit. He is eternal according to Hebrews 9 [Hebrews 9:14]. He is omnipotent according to Genesis 1 [Genesis 1:1-31]. He is omniscient according to 1 Corinthians 2 [1 Corinthians 2:10-11]. He is omnipresent according to Psalm 139 [Psalm 139:7-12]. The Holy Spirit is God.
In the distinctions in the one Godhead, the Holy Spirit is God, and the work of the Holy Spirit is manifest as we see Him unfolded before us in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. He is the Author of the Bible. There are more than forty writers over a period of one thousand six hundred years, but the moving Spirit that writes is the Holy Spirit of God. He is the Author of the Bible. This is according to 2 Timothy 3:16. It is according to 2 Peter 1:20-21. He not only is the Author of the Bible, but according to John 14:26 and John 16:7-15, He is the great Teacher and Illuminator of the Word of God in our hearts.
The best teacher of the Bible is the Spirit of God. We can read Shakespeare, or Dante, or Milton, or Homer with great profit. We can read modern literature and enjoy that part of it that is wholesome and interesting. But it is only the Bible, the Word of God, that the Holy Spirit takes and teaches us, illuminates us in the things of the Lord God [John 14:26]. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. In behalf of the Father and of the Son, the Holy Spirit works in us the work of regeneration. We are born again [John 3:3, 5-8]. We are made new. We’re given a new nature by the Holy Spirit of God [Titus 3:5]. It is He that convicts us [John 16:7-11]. It is He that shows us the Lord Jesus, reveals to us Jesus as our Redeemer [John 16:13; Colossians 1:14]. And it is He that brings to pass that miracle of a new creation in us [2 Corinthians 5:17].
The Scriptures say that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit [Matthew 1:20]. His body was formed by the Holy Spirit. It is a miracle of God, the creation of this house in which we live [Psalm 139:13]. It is no less a miracle of God, the recreation, the regeneration, being born again into the love and grace and kingdom of our Lord [2 Corinthians 5:17]. That is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Having born us, having created us, having given us a new nature, having recreated us, having made us a new creature [2 Corinthians 5:17], the Holy Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ. First Corinthians 12:13 says by one Spirit, that Holy Spirit of God, are we all baptized into the body of Christ. We are made members of His body.
We belong to Him indissolubley, eternally, and forever. Our Head is in heaven, and we are members of His body [Ephesians 1:22-23]. And as long as the Head is in heaven, the feet cannot drown, cannot be lost. We are all baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13], and when the sermon comes a few weeks hence on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we shall expatiate upon that. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is we are baptized into the body of Christ [1 Corinthians 12:13].
And the Holy Spirit of God leads us in our pilgrim way. He guides us. He comforts us. He teaches us. He helps our infirmities. He intercedes for us. The beautiful work of the Holy Spirit of God is set before us on the pages of the Scriptures in John 14, in John 16, in Romans 8 [John 14:15-26, 16:7-15; Romans 8:1-27]. And in Galatians 5, we are taught that the fruit of the Spirit that glorifies God is a work of the Holy Spirit of God in us. Love, joy, peace, these, the beautiful fruit of the Christian life is the result of the working of the Holy Spirit within us [Galatians 5:22-23].
The Holy Spirit makes His temple, His palace, His home in us. This is His dwelling place. According to 1 Corinthians 6:19, our body is the holy temple of the Spirit of God. In Matthew 3, the author will speak of the Spirit of God [Matthew 3:16]. In Romans 8, Paul will speak of the Spirit of Christ [Romans 8:1-27]. And in the first chapter of Philippians, the author writes of the Spirit of Jesus [Philippians 1:1-27]. The Holy Spirit of God is the Holy Spirit of Christ, is the Holy Spirit of Jesus, and He makes His home, His dwelling place in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19]. Jesus is in heaven [Acts 1:9-11]. Jesus has flesh and bones [Luke 24:39]. Jesus is a man. It is the Spirit of Jesus that lives in us. He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain [2 Chronicles 2:6] dwells in our mortal bodies [1 Corinthians 6:19]. What an amazing revelation. The house, the home, the palace, the dwelling place of Jesus is in us. He lives in us, in the Spirit of Christ that dwells in our hearts.
And finally, it is the Spirit of God that shall raise us from the dead. According to Ephesians 1, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit of God against the day of redemption, of salvation, of the resurrection of our bodies. And the earnest of that promise is the Spirit of God that now lives within us [Ephesians 1:13-14]. The token of it, the down payment of it, that God’s going to do it is the Spirit of God that lives within us. And according to Romans 8:11, the same Holy Spirit of God that raised up Christ from the dead is the same Holy Spirit of God that shall raise us up from the dead. This is the work of deity, the Spirit of God.
We now speak of the Holy Spirit of God as a Person, as Somebody. In Acts 15:28 is one of the most unusual verses in the Bible, Acts 15:28. They are writing to the brethren, to the Gentiles, about how to be saved, and they are saying to them that you don’t have to be circumcised. You don’t have to keep the law. You don’t have to be a Jew in order to be saved. And in writing that, they say they’ve sent Judas and Silas [Acts 15:22] who will tell you the same things by their word of mouth. Now look at Verse 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” [Acts 15:28], and then he names four of them there. Do you see that? “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.” He is looked upon as one of us. They had a meeting there in Jerusalem, at this Jerusalem council, and when they came to a conclusion, a consensus, the Holy Spirit and the brethren agreed [Acts 15:1-28]. They were together. They thought alike. They came to the same conclusion. “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us.” The Holy Spirit is one of us. He is a Person. He is a Somebody [Acts 15:28].
Now I must take a moment to speak of Romans 8:16. There is a literal translation here that refers to the Holy Spirit as an “it.” In Romans 8:16, the translation reads, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Now, in the Criswell Bible, there is a fine discussion of that translation, “the Spirit itself,” as though the Spirit were an “it.” Sometimes in language, you have a difficulty in translating from one to the other. In English, we have natural gender. Everything is in its proper gender. A stallion is a he. A mare is a she. A barn is an it. Now, there’s no exception to that kind of speaking in the English language. Everything in English is according to its natural gender. It’s a he, or an it, or a she. That’s the way we speak.
There are languages that have grammatical gender. German is one. A girl in the German language is a “das Mӓdchen.” Das, not a “der Mӓdchen,” not a die Mӓdchen, feminine gender, but das, neuter. German has grammatical gender. A girl in German is neuter. Now, to us that’s so funny. To them that’s just the way they speak. Greek is the same way. Greek has grammatical gender, and ta pneuma is neutral. It’s neuter. It is not in the language male or female. It doesn’t have natural gender. It has grammatical gender.
So this King James Version out of which I preach is translating the word exactly as it is grammatically. But we don’t have grammatical gender in English, so it should have been, “The Holy Spirit Himself.” And in all of the Bible, the Spirit of God is referred to as a He; He; when He is come. The Spirit of God is a somebody.
- He works and moves, according to Genesis 1:2.
- He has knowledge, according to 1 Corinthians 2:11.
- He searches all things, according to 1 Corinthians 2:10.
- He divides gifts to the people, the gifts of the Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12: 4, 7, 11.
- He helps our infirmities and He makes intercessions for us, according to Romans 8:26-27.
- He can be resisted, according to Acts 7:51.
- He can be vexed, according to Isaiah 63:10.
- He can be grieved, according to Ephesians 4:30.
- He can guide us into all truth, according to John 14:26.
- He can convict the world, according to John 16:8-11.
- He points to Jesus, He reveals to us Christ, according to John 16:13-14.
- And He pleads for Jesus, according to Hebrews 3:7-8 and Revelation 22:17.
He moves. He speaks. He thinks. He guides. He is Somebody. He is a Person.
Now, in the things that the Holy Spirit does as a Person, as Somebody, I have chosen two. Before I speak of that, may I point out to us all of the things of God are an unfathomable, indescribable, impenetrable mystery? We just look at it.
I stand before, as I do so often, I stand before a coffin, a casket, a corpse, and I look at that man. He may have been one of the finest workman and fellow Christian and prayer partners I ever knew, and I look at him. What I am looking at is dust and ashes, literally; dust and ashes [Genesis 3:19]. Well, what has happened? Where is the person that I knew and maybe loved and revered? Where is the person? Well, he is gone. The spirit is gone. Is not that dust and ashes, the person? It’d never occur to me that it is. This is dust. This is ground. This is dirt. This is ashes!
Well, who is the man? The man is a person. The man is a spirit, and the man went to be with God. He’s translated to God. Therefore when we speak of the Holy Spirit as a Person, we’re speaking of the great mysteries of God. I just see them. No man can explain them. He just observes them, and that’s what we do. We just look at the marvel of the mystery and the infinitude of God and that’s one. He is a Person. He is the Spirit of God, and He lives within us [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And living within us, He does all these things, and I’ve chosen two.
Number one: He speaks to us. He pleads with us. He talks to us. He woos us. In Hebrews 3:7, “Wherefore as the Holy Spirit legei”—present tense—“as the Holy Spirit speaks”—continuous action—“Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts” [Hebrew 3:7- 8]. That’s the Spirit of God. He speaks to us, and He pleads with us. He does, and if I will listen, God’s voice can be heard in my heart. He talks to me.
I cannot tell you how many times in counseling, in praying with a couple maybe in deepest grief or in perplexity, I will say to them, “Take it to God. Lay it before the Lord. Tell Him all about it, and if He can’t answer, there’s not any God. It doesn’t matter anyway.” He can talk to you just as I do, and you hear my voice. You can hear His voice in your heart, if you will listen!
And there is no problem, and there’s no sorrow, and there’s no frustration, and there’s no hurt, not in life, in which He will not speak to you. The Holy Spirit speaks. “Wherefore as the Holy Spirit says, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart” [Hebrews 3:7-8]; He pleads, He invites, He guides, He directs, He answers, He lives—that is Jesus in our hearts, the Holy Spirit of Christ.
Now I choose one other thing about the Holy Spirit of God. He can be grieved. Ephesians 4:30 says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” He can be grieved. Sweet people, listen. You don’t grieve somebody who doesn’t love you. It is a loving somebody that you can grieve. Anyone else, what displeases may turn into bitterness, or into hatred, or into terrible enmity. It is only somebody that loves you that you can grieve, hurt their hearts.
I remember so pointedly a precious family, he a godly deacon in my little country church. They had the most wayward boy I ever knew, and that father and that mother literally took everything they had and spent it on that boy, hiring lawyers, keeping him out of the penitentiary, trying to work with him. Now, to me that was an amazing thing, because I was a teenager at the time and pastor of the little country church, and I remember talking to the mother, a godly woman.
I said to her, “I don’t understand why you don’t let that evil, wicked, obstreperous, incorrigible boy go! Let him go!”
She replied, “We’ve thought of that a thousand times,” then, with tears, added, “but he is our boy and we can’t do it.”
So they cry, so they weep, pour everything they have into an unworthy and prodigal son. That’s because they love the lad. “He’s our boy.” That is an identical thing with the Holy Spirit of Christ, of God, of Jesus, that is in us. He is a loving Person and as such He can be grieved. He can be hurt [Ephesians 4:30].
Well, what grieves Him? A back-slidden Christian grieves the Spirit of God. They don’t pray. They neglect their Bible. The joy of their salvation is fled away. Even if they read the Bible, it’s dull and has no meaning and understanding. They are back-slidden. They don’t witness. They don’t win anybody to Jesus. They don’t overflow. They’re not filled with the gladness, the wild gladness of the Spirit of God. If they do anything for Christ, it’s kind of like duty or drudgery. They’re back-slidden, and the Spirit is grieved.
Who grieves the Spirit of God? A dead church, a dead church. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” [Revelation 2:17]. The services are routine. Few, if anyone, is ever converted. The prayer meeting dwindles away to nothing, and the church wills that it’s so. They don’t mourn o’er it. A dead church can grieve the Spirit of God.
And last, an unconverted heart grieves the Spirit of God. The Spirit woos, the Spirit convicts, the Spirit points to Jesus [John 16:7-11], and when we harden our hearts and say no to the invitation, the Spirit hurts; the Spirit of God is grieved [Ephesians 4:30]. What a wonderful thing that the Bible should close with this kind of an invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, Come” [Revelation 22:17]. The Spirit of God pleads with a heart to come, come to Jesus. And the living church, the bride of Christ, pleads, “Come, come to Jesus.” And when we listen to the voice of the Spirit, there is life, and joy, and gladness, and salvation, and blessing forever [Psalm 16:11]. And when we turn aside from the Spirit of Christ, there’s judgment, and death, and loss, and frustration, and nothing remains but to feel through the darkness of death and the grave [Jude 1:13]. O Lord, bring life and light to us through the Holy Spirit of Christ [2 Timothy 1:10], who speaks, who lives, who dwells in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:9]. Come, come, come.
“Pastor, today, today I hear His voice and I’m answering with my life.” On the first note of the first stanza, come. Welcome. Down one of those stairways if you’re in the balcony, down one of these aisles if you’re on the lower floor: “Pastor, today I have decided for Christ and I’m coming” [Romans 10:9-10]. A family, a couple, or just you, in this moment when we stand, on that first note take that first step, and God speed you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.