sermon: The Trinity and the Holy Spirit (Part Two)
No Evidence of a Third Personality
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 23-May-10; 77 minutes
At the beginning of yesterday’s sermon we saw that the term Elohim was not specifically the name of a singular personality translated as “God” in English Bibles. Rather, when information is added from other parts of the Bible, something else emerges. Elohim is a plural noun—a term that designates more than one personality. It should most correctly be translated as “Gods”—plural. However, of the two clearly-revealed members of Elohim, only one has communicated directly with mankind, and this is the One who became the Man, Jesus of Nazareth. He is the One who preached the gospel, revealing much more fully Elohim’s character, mind, and purpose. He lived without sin, becoming mankind’s Savior as the perfect sacrifice for paying of man’s sins.
Now who revealed, either by Himself personally, or by the men He chose to write the New Testament, that Elohim is, in reality, the designation of a kind, a genus, a family, an institution, a kingdom consisting at present of two personalities He termed as “the Father and Son”?
By “kind” I mean this—perhaps you can get the relationship here. There is by creation the insect kind, the animal kind, the human kind, the angelic kind, and Elohim—the God kind. The God kind is the creating-ruling One, or Family that has brought this entire creation into existence for a specific purpose. Once you have information supplied from the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles, you can look back into Genesis 1 to find the barest indication right at the very beginning, a vague outline of what that purpose is. When you turn to Genesis 1, pay attention to the sequence Elohim reveals here.
Genesis 1:21-22 So God [actually Gods—Elohim] created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God [Elohim] saw that it was good. And God [Elohim] blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”
I will give you a clue. He says “multiply.” These things that He is creating are reproducing themselves after their kind.
Genesis 1:23-26 So the evening and the morning were the fifth day. Then God [Elohim] said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. And God [Elohim] made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God [Elohim] saw that itwas good. Then God [Elohim] said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Each living thing created by Elohim reproduces after its kind, and that is exactly what man did as well. Adam and Eve produced after their kind. Once we have the information supplied by the New Testament, it is revealed that Elohim, just like all these other categories of kind, is doing exactly the same thing. They are reproducing after their kind.
Elohim’s creating did not end with the physical creation of Adam and Eve. Jesus Christ is clearly designated by the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 15 as the second Adam—a similarity with the first Adam. The first Adam was the beginning of the physical creation. Jesus Christ is the beginning—the second Adam of the spiritual kind. Now Paul designates the first Adam as physical, and the second Adam as spiritual. The creating by Elohim that continued on from Genesis 1 was the spiritual creation. Elohim did not stop creating, but it shifted gears, and the creation began to move toward the spiritual creation, and that is the expansion of Elohim into a full-fledged family-kingdom.
Elohim’s oneness is as a harmonious institution—a family, a kingdom, a government—that in contrast to mankind’s chaotic and competing confusion, has holy character that speaks and acts with one mind in love and tender concern. There is clearly structure, order, and government within Elohim. The Father is greater than the Son. The Son always does what pleases the Father. They are not co-equal, and they are not co-mingled with each other, but separate, distinct personalities working in complete harmony and accord with each other.
Today, after setting the stage for this sermon with quotes from two articles, we are going to examine many scriptures putting to rest man’s claims about the trinity doctrine. We are going to begin with a brief article by Billy Graham. He has a column that appears in many, many newspapers across the United States. Then we are going to read one paragraph out of the Letter Answering Department from Ambassador College involving this same subject.
The question to Billy Graham was: “What is the Holy Spirit?” This questioner said, “I have heard some of my Christian friends talk about it, but I don’t come from a religious background and I don’t know what they are talking about.” The answer was this:
The Holy Spirit is God Himself, particularly as He comes to us personally and as He works in our world. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal spiritual force, and for that reason we should refer to “Him,” and not “It.” But He is God Himself, and He has all of the attributes and characteristics of God.
Christians (particularly theologians) sometimes talk of God as existing in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. By this they don’t mean that there are three different Gods. In fact, the opposite is the case. “For the Lord our God is one.” [Quoting Deuteronomy 6:4]
Now to understand this it may help you to think of God as having three personalities or three elements to His character or nature. We know from the Bible that God is our heavenly Father who has given life to us somewhat as an earthly father gives life to us by creating us and taking care of us. He also has come to us in Christ who was God in human flesh, fully God, and yet fully man.
God also comes to live in us as the Holy Spirit when we turn to God and receive Christ in our heart. This is a profound truth and none of us can fully understand its mystery. But don’t let that worry you, for the Holy Spirit points us to an important truth you should not miss. God loves us and He wants us to come to know Him in a personal way.
Now, a couple of sentences from the Worldwide Church of God’s Letter Answering Department. This is on the trinity and the nature of the Godhead:
Now since the fourth century comes short of an entirely satisfactory explanation of the nature of the Godhead . . . . [I am going to skip part of this paragraph] In the meantime, believers be not concerned in the practice of the faith even though theologians and philosophers cannot agree on the nature of God. The Worldwide Church of God has made all biblical truth an indispensable part of its teaching, including the doctrine that “God is One,” but not in the specific way in which God is One, which is entirely philosophical matter. It teaches the full divinity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, but it does not enter the debate of whether God is an essential, a personal, or a super-personal being in the way that these terms are used by theologians.
Those quotes will come back at least a little bit as we go along here. These quotes are not intended to be an exhaustive account of the trinity doctrine, but they do serve as an introduction to what is commonly believed in this world’s Christianity.
Did you notice the use of the terms “theologians” and “philosophers” in both statements? I draw your attention to this because the Bible absolutely does not contain even one clear statement regarding the existence of a third personality in the God family. Not even one statement!
I want you to turn with me to John 5. I chose this chapter specifically because I want you to see the way the Jews reacted to what Jesus was saying. And wonder upon wonders, for a change they understood what He said—at least a certain part of it.
John 5:17-18 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” [Notice the reaction.] Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, [Why?] because He not only broke the Sabbath [according to their thinking], but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.
Of course, they thought “Blasphemy!” Jesus was not blaspheming in the sense of the way that Jesus intended, He was not blaspheming. He was equal with God.
I bring this to your attention because I want you to think, if you can, of any place in the entirety of the Bible that Jesus stated He had a relationship with anybody in the God family other than His Father. Was there also an uncle, a brother, a sister, an aunt, some sort of an in-law? Was there any neighbor who was also in the Godhead? Nobody else was in the God family except the Father and the Son. The Jews understood enough of what Jesus said for them to say, “You are blaspheming, because you have made yourself equal with God.” And the way Jesus said it, He meant it, and it was true. In terms of kind, He was equal with the Father. They were in the same Family.
Recall also from what I read about the mention of the fourth century in yesterday’s sermon. That is of some importance, because the trinity did not make its appearance of part of the doctrine of any church calling itself Christian until then, having been introduced in the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. (That is the fourth century.) Thus a necessary question is this: If the trinity is the central doctrine of the Christian church as the Catholic Encyclopedia claims, why did not the apostles state it right from the beginning? You do not hide the central doctrine of a church, and then start a church. Jesus revealed to the apostles everything that was essential, including the central doctrine which has to do with the nature of the Father and the Son, and it was not included in the apostles’ teaching.
The answer given by supporters of the trinity is that it was there all along, but it was not until the fourth century that references to it were discovered. That was four hundred years after the church began. Whose chains are they pulling?
Now, this thing about theologians and philosophers: The clear fact is that this doctrine was arrived at by human deduction mixed with speculation following the disciplines of theology. It was not developed from clear scriptural references, but rather beginning with an assumed premise and boldly claiming it was true, and then they proceeded to make scriptures say what they do not say.
If you want to read an interesting article that possibly nobody in here except maybe Richard and a couple of others ever read, is a 1995 article by Earl Henn which appeared in Forerunner. Its title is, “Can Theology Define God’s Nature?” It is not a real long article, but it is worth reading if you want to dig it up, and more than likely it is on the website.
In this article he shows that theology exalts human reason above God’s inspired Word. That is what I meant by this deduction that I mentioned earlier. They deduce it into existence by human reason, not by extracting it from Scripture. This is what theology often does, and from that flawed beginning, that premise, follows reasoning that applies to the physical world that in turn is applied to the spiritual world as though it fits exactly the same way. That is an assumption. They have never experienced the spiritual world, and neither have we. They just fit it in there, but that is what theology does.
The trinity doctrine is one that is read into the Scriptures, not derived from them. The trinity doctrine is a convoluted mass of words that confuse, and admittedly cannot be understood. We just read that in Billy Graham’s answer. “Don’t worry about understanding it. You can’t.” That is a real revelation. (I am being sarcastic.)
God says, “Out of the mouth of two witnesses let a thing be established.” There are two witnesses against the trinity doctrine. Number one is the historical witness, which has already been mentioned. It just suddenly popped up. It took 126 years to get it into the Catholic Church. The details of that are available to anybody. We are not going to go any further into that, because the conclusion is obvious. You do not do something like that—to suddenly have a major new doctrine appear 300 years after the foundation is laid.
One little aside is that this trinity doctrine was introduced into the Catholic Church by the same emperor, and those working under him, who eventually removed the keeping of the Sabbath as necessary for Christians. This same group of people changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
We are going to spend the rest of this sermon on the second witness, which in this case is the Bible.
I want to take just a brief look at something we touched on yesterday, but it is an important place to begin. I am going to give you another quote, and this quote is from the Athanasian Creed, and something that it says about the trinity.
And the catholic faith [meaning the universal faith] is this, that we worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity. The whole three persons are co-equal and co-eternal. We therefore that will be saved must think thus of the Trinity.
In other words, without believing this, you cannot have salvation. That is what they are saying.
What they said was that these three are co-equal and co-eternal. I saw a hole in that immediately, and I will again mention it to you so that it will weaken any confidence you might have remaining in you about a trinity and what these people are saying about it.
They are not co-equal and co-eternal, because Jesus said, “The Father is greater than I.” He also said, “I always do what pleases the Father,” showing that the Son was submissive to the Father. That is hardly co-equal, co-mingled, and co-eternal, and of course also when He, through Paul, gave the order of authority—“from the Father, to the Son, to the husband” [I Corinthians 11:3]—the scripture does not show that the trinity is co-equal and co-eternal.
From that little reminder we are going to go, first of all, to show what the Bible says the Holy Spirit is, according to Scripture.
Luke 1:30-35 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.
Did you see it in there? The Holy Spirit is the power of God. That is so plain—a dogmatic statement showing clearly what the Holy Spirit is. It is the power of the Highest. Some people try to make an argument out of this and say, “See, see, see! The Father is not the Father of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the Father of Jesus.” I am not kidding you. There are people who would do something like that.
Let us go to Acts 1. You all know this is just prior to the Day of Pentecost when this took place.
Acts 1:4-5 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized [be immersed] with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Acts 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Again, the Holy Spirit is shown as the power of the Father.
Acts 2:17-18 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit [pour out His power] on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy.
When the Holy Spirit is received, the visions and the dreams are the result of receiving the power of God.
Turn now to Acts 10 and we will see an interesting way in which the Holy Spirit is described. This took place when Peter was going to visit with Cornelius.
Acts 10:44-45 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been pouredout on the Gentiles also.
Notice these interesting terms. The Holy Spirit fell, and was poured out. How can that possibly be done to a personality, falling on Cornelius and his group, crashed, or poured out like it was a drink?
Turn to Acts 2. Notice how this power is being described as rushing mighty wind.
Acts 2:1-2 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Again, how can a personality fill a whole house, fall on people, and be poured out? You see, by the descriptors we are seeing something that is inanimate. It is a thing. It is an “it.” It is the power of God. The Holy Spirit is the power that is given. It is sent forth, and emanates from the Father and Son.
Since the adherents of the trinity assert that the Holy Spirit is a personality alongside the Father, you need to ask yourself this important question: Why, in their letters, did the apostles, and especially Paul, reveal that when the God family is involved, the Holy Spirit as a person is totally absent? It is never mentioned. Not even once.
We are now going to be turning to quite a number of scriptures. I am going to make you turn to each one of them so that this is really drilled into your mind by the exercise of leafing through the Bible and just looking at what the apostles actually wrote. Whenever the Father and the Son are mentioned together, you will see the complete absence of the Holy Spirit as a personality. Either they did not know, or they were guilty of neglecting one of the God family.
First we will go to James 1. Notice the way this is stated.
James 1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Did you see who is missing? Was James not a servant of the Holy Spirit? James did not even address the Holy Spirit at all. If the Holy Spirit is part of the God family, why did James not mention him?
II Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
Where is the Holy Spirit?
I John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
We just had a sermonette on fellowship, but we do not have any fellowship whatever with the Holy Spirit. That is a true statement. Within the context of that verse, the Holy Spirit is not a personality, but the Father and the Son are personalities, and we do have a relationship and a partnership with them.
Well, grace and peace from two, but not from a third one. Were they neglecting the Holy Spirit? No. Not at all, because it does not exist as a personality.
II Corinthians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
You never get any peace from the Holy Spirit; just from the Father and the Son. Are you beginning to get the drift of this?
Galatians 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is opening up these letters with what was then, you might say, a formula for the opening statement in any letter, and so that formula included only the Father and the Son, and not the Holy Spirit. They were not ignoring it at all because it did not exist as a personality.
Philippians 1:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:2 To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 1:1 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There we are again. I said at the beginning I was going to make you go through all of these. I take that back. They all say the same thing, and I think you are getting the point. They did not know of any third personality, and they most certainly were not guilty in any way of neglect. They were not guilty of insubordination at all because there is no such personality in the God family. I will give you the scriptures, because they all say basically the same thing.
I Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, a true son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
II Timothy 1:2 To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Titus 1:4 To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior.
Philemon 1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In every case the apostles, when greeting God’s children in the name of God, completely ignored the Holy Spirit. They did this because they did not know the Holy Spirit as a personality within the God family because Jesus taught them no such thing existed. The Holy Spirit is the power of God by which He directs and carries our His purposes in creation.
We are going to do some sort of the same thing, but with more serious questions involved.
Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
So here is a question: Why are we not co-heirs with the Holy Spirit too? Since it is a personality, it is subject to the Father. No, it is not. It does not exist [as a personality].
I Corinthians 3:23 And you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
Now does anything belong to the Holy Spirit?
I Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
Are we not servants of the Holy Spirit? Not in the way he is writing here, because it does not exist [as a person]. We certainly are servants of Christ, even as Christ is the Servant of the Father.
I Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the chain of command, so if the Holy Spirit is a personality it must not be the head over anything despite [allegedly] being part of the God family.
I Corinthians 15:28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.
Now if the Holy Spirit is a personality, why no mention of him in this transference of power, because that is what it is talking about? The Holy Spirit is not involved, because the Holy Spirit is not a personality.
II Corinthians 2:14-17 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.
From the lack of the Holy Spirit being mentioned, were they to understand that we are not supposed to speak in his sight? We speak in the sight of God, we speak in the sight of Christ, and we have permission to do so, but there is no permission given to speak in sight of the Holy Spirit. What the verses are saying though is that it was the Father working in Christ, reconciling the world to Him, but no credit is given the Holy Spirit for our triumphant life in verse 14.
II Corinthians 12:19 Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification.
The apostles had the responsibility, and so do we, of speaking before God the Father within the authority of Jesus Christ. But again, the Holy Spirit as a personality is ignored as one having divine authority. We do not speak before God by the authority of the Holy Spirit, but by Christ.
Ephesians 5:5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
If the Holy Spirit is part of the God family, why did Paul leave him out? Does the Holy Spirit have no part in the Kingdom of God? It does not, because it does not exist [as a personality]. We can learn some things from absence.
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
There is Christ, sitting at the right hand of God. If the Holy Spirit is the third part of a single Godhead, why did Paul ignore him? Who is sitting on God’s left? You would think anybody with that high a rank would be on the left of God, but he is not. There is no such statement.
I Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
You and I have mediatorial responsibility before God for each other. God expects us to mediate before Him for our brethren. How effective it is I do not know, but God expects us to appeal to Him in our brethren’s behalf, that they might be relieved of a trial, that they might be forgiven, that they should be guided, or be given the strength, or whatever. We have that responsibility. The Holy Spirit, if he exists, has no responsibility to mediate. None is given, because he does not exist [as a personality]. The Mediator, our High Priest, is Jesus Christ.
Let us go to Romans 8. This is very similar in character to the one we just read in I Timothy 2.
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the willof God.
Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
The Spirit being referred to in verse 26 and 27 is Jesus Christ. He makes intercession for us, not the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 7:25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
That puts the cap right on that idea of who the Intercessor is.
We are going to go to the Old Testament to Psalm 139. Pay special attention to verse 7.
Psalm 139:7-10 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.
In verse 7, that very first line says that the Holy Spirit is the power of God. It is the means through which He accomplishes His will. Notice that verse 7 very positively and clearly says it is the Father’s Spirit. It belongs to Him. God is a personality, and He is located at one place in one time even as we are, but His ability to insert Himself into and affect events and circumstances anywhere in His creation at any time is in the power of His Spirit which emanates from His mind.
When this is all over, I hope that you are impressed at how much information is missing in the scriptures about a so-called Holy Spirit.
II Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
This is an interesting verse. People assume that the Holy Spirit is a person because the Father and the Son are, but brethren that concept has to be read into that scripture. You are seeing how much there is missing in the Bible about the Holy Sprit being a personality. Now the key word there is “communion.” It means fellowship or sharing. What Paul is hoping is that the Corinthians will have a sharing with the Father and the Son and fellow members by means of the Holy Spirit—by that spirit which they receive from the Father, the spirit that He gives to them.
The Holy Spirit is what we all have in common, and it is this Holy Spirit that joins us into one spiritual family with each other, and with God, and with Jesus Christ.
In John 16:7 we see something that Jesus said.
John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
It is the Holy Spirit which enables us and keeps us in communion with God. This is accomplished because the Holy Spirit is the expression of the divine nature given to us by God to begin creating us into His kind—the God kind.
In what way is it an advantage that Christ returned to heaven? As long as Jesus remained on earth He could only be in one place at one time. However, as Holy Spirit in heaven, He could send forth His Spirit anywhere at anytime to take care of any need for His people, just like the Father can.
Here is another angle. The Father and the Son are both clearly shown to have shape and to be able to express personality. If the Holy Spirit is a being, what shape would you give to him?
Let us go to Romans 8:9. This is where this becomes, not critical, but it is interesting and important.
Romans 8:9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
Let us look at that. The Holy Spirit dwells in us. How is that accomplished? If it is a personality, how does he dwell in us? That is an interesting little twist. It is true. Do you know that Genesis 1:1 can be literally and accurately translated as “the spirit of God fluttered above the face of the deep”? Some scriptures say “hovered.” Now why would that be interesting? Well, because of something John the Baptist said, and we are going to look at that in John 1. This is at Jesus’ baptism.
John 1:32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.
If we are going to take this literally, can a dove dwell in a Christian and make that person a son of God? You know, in all kinds of ceremonies all around the world they use a dove as a symbol of peace, and quiet, and contentment, and prosperity. They fly all over the place. How can a dove dwell in each Christian? Theologians have a problem with this kind of thing, but they dismiss it by saying this is a mystery. They say that the Father merely allowed John to witness the power of His Spirit coming upon Jesus in the form of a dove—a creature harmless and gentle. Did you notice they admitted that the spirit is a power? A nice little twist there. Certainly, the Holy Spirit is not a bird of any kind.
When Jesus described the Holy Spirit in John 3:8, He said, “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.” Jesus described the spirit not as a bird, but He said the spirit is invisible, and the effect of its presence and its actions can be observed, but the literal power producing what is observed cannot be seen. It is invisible. Spirit is invisible, and that much is true.
In John 7:37 Jesus uses water as a figure of spirit, and in another place oil is used. If the Holy Spirit is a person, how is it able to flow from people’s bellies? “Out of their bellies show flow rivers of living water.”
You are beginning to see that this is getting almost ridiculous. When one begins to look at these scriptures from a rational and logical perspective, believing in the trinity borders on the absolutely irrational.
Everybody who is baptized, at least into the church of God, is baptized according to this formula in Matthew 28. This formula has the authority of Jesus Christ Himself.
Since the Father and Son are indeed personalities, does not this indicate that the Holy Spirit is a personality as well?
Speaking in the name of something does not necessarily mean that one is speaking in the name of a personality. I am going to give you a simple illustration of how this is true in anyone’s life.
Have you ever seen this in a movie or whatever, and a police officer says, “Stop in the name of the law!” Now wait a minute! Is the law a personality? No. The law is an inanimate thing. You see, a crack is opened up here because we can deal with the fact that police officers can stop somebody in the authority of something that is inanimate, so why cannot Jesus also do the same thing? That is exactly what He did.
The Holy Spirit is inanimate; however, it plays a very, very large part in our life because that spirit was sent forth from the Father, first of all to call us, to convict us of sin, and to lead us to baptism. When we were baptized we were baptized in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the means by which we were called led to a conviction of sin, led to the place of baptism, and before we made that commitment by baptism to become a Christian, this is what we are going to be led by until our dying day. That is a reminder during the ceremony itself of what has occurred. We received the Spirit of the Father—the power to make use of the privilege of being a son of God.
What we are going to go through here right now could be a little bit complicated. I gave you all the simple stuff here, and now we are going to go to John 14:26. This is really not all that terribly difficult to understand, and for any of you people who are good at grammar, this ought to be very easy for you.
John 14:26 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.
I read that out of the New King James Version. In that verse the Holy Spirit is identified in the masculine by the pronoun “He.” This is an English translation. So now here comes the question: Is it really identified by “He”?
I am going to read a comment drawn from my own personal English Standard Version Study Bible concerning the very important pronoun-gender relationship. This comment concerns this verse, and several others besides. What I am going to read to you is quite an admission from a Protestant Bible, and I wonder how many people catch it.
[ESV Study Bible on John 14:26]: “He will teach you” uses the masculine Greek pronoun ekeinos instead of the neuter pronoun ekeino, which would have been expected for grammatical agreement with the grammatically neuter antecedent pneuma. Many interpreters have seen this as a deliberate choice indicating an awareness of the distinct personhood of the Holy Spirit, though others disagree, suggesting that the pronoun is masculine to agree with the masculine noun ‘Helper’ earlier in the sentence.”
I will transliterate that. Ekeinos is the Greek word for “he.” Ekeino is the Greek word for “it.” Already they are admitting there is a question here. This verse is possibly not grammatically translated correctly. They are going to blame this on the apostle John!
At the very least, if you are thinking at all, you will know there is confusion here, and that is quite an admission. Everything depends really on two things. What do the most accurate original (as far as we know) Greek Bibles actually say? The second thing is, when this was translated, did they translate correctly? This also applies to John 15:26; John 16:8, 13 and 14; and I Timothy 4:1, and actually a couple others as well.
The reason this is critical here is because of the way they have translated it. The one designated by the word “He” (meaning the Holy Spirit) is doing things you would expect a personality would be able to do. “He will testify.” “He will convict.” “He will guide.” “He will glorify.” “The spirit expressly says.”
I am going to give you some scriptures that show this was not something that was hard to understand.
I Corinthians 12:15-16 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?
This is the note that I put down: “This is about the human body.” In those verses Paul has the foot talking to the body. He has the ear talking to the body. Both of those are inanimate and yet they are doing things that a human or a personality would actually do. Personalities talk, but your ear does not talk to you, and neither does your foot talk to you. What I am getting at here is that it is not unusual in the Bible for the apostles and the other writers to assign human characteristics to things that are not in any way expected to be doing anything that is normal to a human.
Let me give you some more examples. In the Psalms you will often see something like this. “The heavens rejoice.” “Earth will be glad.” “Fields will be joyful.” “Woods rejoice.” “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Is there anybody here who would say that they have heard the mountains sing, or the hills sing, or the trees clap their hands? Are you beginning to see what I am saying here?
The Holy Spirit as a personality does not exist. It is an inanimate power. It is not at all unusual for the apostles to assign the power of God to be doing things that a human would normally do but which an inanimate thing literally cannot do. An inanimate thing cannot testify, cannot convict, cannot die, cannot glorify, cannot save, so it is not at all unusual for the Bible’s writers to assign human characteristics to something that is inanimate.
The key to understanding these verses where “He” appears is you have got to find the subject of the sentence. The “He” here is obviously referring to the personality they assigned to the Holy Spirit. It is the subject of the sentence that is largely going to determine whether the pronoun is going to be masculine, feminine, or neuter. In every case the translators did not choose the subject of the sentence correctly, and that is why the ESV Bible says, “Hey! We’ve got a problem here.”
The reason why you want to find the subject of the sentence is in order to know what the antecedent is, and therefore the pronouns will then be in the same gender as the antecedent.
Pneuma is the Greek word for spirit. It is neuter, and it is always neuter. Nowhere in the Bible is the spirit ever referred to anything except something that is neuter. It has no gender. It can emanate from anybody, and just because it is emanating from a male personality does not necessarily change the pronoun if the neuter pneuma is the subject of the sentence—and it is, for instance here in John 14:26.
Here is what the translators did. They assigned the masculine Greek word parakletos, translated “helper,” and made it the subject of this sentence. It is not the subject of this sentence. The subject of this sentence is the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is neuter, and Holy Spirit becomes the antecedent. The neuter Holy Spirit becomes the antecedent for the pronouns that follow and modify it. Therefore, in the pronoun “whom” in verse 26, in order to be grammatically correct, must be changed to “which,” which is the neuter there.
In the next clause—“He will teach you”—the word “He” must be changed to “it” because it is referring to Holy Spirit.
How is it that we know that these Greek manuscripts we are using here are correct? The answer lies in what I gave you at the beginning of this sermon. This is why I went through so many of those examples which show you over and over and over and over again that the apostles ignored a third person because it is just not there in the scriptures, and the Greek manuscripts that are trustworthy will agree with the Bible in all of those things. If their records of these verses that are questionable are different from what these translators of the King James Version and the New King James Version are translating from, they are to be accepted, and the ones they are translating from are to be rejected. They are not accurate.
I just happened to think of something. When you went to school, and you took English, did they make you diagram sentences? That is what you have to do here. You have to figure out what is the subject, what is the predicate, what are the modifiers from each of those, and if you are able to do that, then you are able to see that the translations I am going to give you are correct.
The subject of John 14:26 is the Holy Spirit, not helper (a masculine noun which is nothing more than a modifier of the subject of the sentence, which is Holy Spirit. It is a descriptive term).
I am going to read to you the correct translation of the following scriptures.
John 14:26 “But when the helper comes, even the Holy Spirit which the Father will send in My name, it shall teach you all things and shall bring to your remembrance everything that I have told you.”
John 14:17 “Even the spirit of truth which the world cannot receive, because it perceives it not nor knows it, but you know it because it dwells with you and shall be in you.”
Do you see all the neuter pronouns in those verses? They are all referring to the spirit of the truth. That is the subject.
John 15:26 “But when the comforter [the parakletos, a masculine noun] has come, which I will send you from the Father, even the spirit of the truth, [There is the real subject of the sentence. That is what is being described here.] which proceeds from the Father, it shall bear witness of Me.” [You have to use the neuter “it.”]
John 16:13 “However, when it has come, even the spirit [the subject] of the truth, it will lead you to all truth, for it shall not speak from itself, but whatever it shall hear, shall it speak, and it shall disclose to you all things to come.”
John 16:14 “It shall glorify Me because it shall disclose to you the things that it received from Me.”
The best Greek manuscripts support new translations into English, and we know those ones are true because they support the things I told you earlier in this sermon. I really have to stop. I have run out of time. There are probably a few things that would be helpful, but if there are any questions that come up that are maybe of a technical nature or whatever, just let me know and I will see what I can do to help you with it.