The Holy Spirit and the mystery of the Trinity.
Lesson 61 from The HOPE Study Guide
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
– John 14:16–20
And when the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were bewildered, because they were each one hearing them speak in his own language.
– Acts 2:1–6
…we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.
– Acts 2:11
Not many days after Jesus has ascended to heaven, His followers were gathered together. Suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a rushing wind filling the whole house. They saw what appeared to be tongues of fire, which came to rest on each person. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit of God, and began speaking in languages other than their own. Just as Jesus had promised, His followers were not alone, for His very presence was being manifested in them by the Spirit of God filling them.
– The HOPE, Chapter 12
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
On the eve of His crucifixion Jesus promised His disciples He would not leave them as orphans. He told them that the Father would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16), who would be with them forever. On the fiftieth day (the Pentecost) after His resurrection, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came and filled the followers of Jesus.
In Genesis 1:26 God speaks of Himself in a plural form. “Let us make man in our image.” In Matthew 28:19 Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” These verses (and many others1) speak to a truth that is clearly taught in the Bible, though not necessarily explained. God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), and He is three–in–one. He is not one God with three parts. He is not three distinct Gods existing in community. God is three–in–one. This truth is known as the doctrine of the Trinity, and though it is supported by scripture it remains a mystery to the human mind.
Just as the Bible speaks of the Father and the Son as God, so also it speaks of the Holy Spirit as having the attributes of God:
- Eternal – having neither beginning nor end (Hebrews 9:14)
- Omnipotent – having all power (Luke 1:35)
- Omnipresent – being everywhere at thesame time (Psalm 139:7)
- Omniscient – understanding all matters (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Although He is God, manifesting all the attributes of God, the Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself. Rather most theologians would say that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to mediate or manifest (make known) the person and presence of Jesus Christ in God the Father. In John 14:9, Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus (John 15:26) and Jesus reveals the Father.
In 1 John 4:16 Christ states that God is love. Consider that to be expressed, love must have an object. Some have argued that God created man as the object of His love. This was not necessary, because from eternity past, the triune God had an object of love within Himself! In fact, one theologian has described the Trinity as an infinite explosion of love and life from one to the other!2 Think about that… an eternal explosion.
The Holy Spirit who came to fill the followers of Jesus equipped them to enter into and participate in that intimate, eternal fellowship that exists between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus was describing when, in the final verse of the John 14 passage above, He said, “In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”
After His followers were filled with the Holy Spirit, they went out in power and proclaimed the wonders of God in a heavenly tongue, and everyone who heard them understood in their own language. That was the Holy Spirit making Jesus known, and the Holy Spirit is still making Jesus known today!
ASK & REFLECT
Many analogies have been used to attempt to explain the doctrine of the Trinity. Some 30 years ago, a seminary professor shared an analogy with his students, comparing the Trinity to a book which has length, width, and thickness. The length is not the book’s width; the width is not the book’s thickness. These three dimensions can be described separately, yet they are connected together. If you remove one dimension, you are no longer describing a book.3 In the same way, the triune God has three separate members that are connected together, and if you try to remove one you no longer have God.
Certainly no single analogy can enable us to completely fathom the incredible mystery of the Trinity. But analogies can be helpful. Does this illustration help you to understand the Trinity? Why or why not? How would you help someone understand the mystery of the Trinity?
DECIDE & DO
As the Apostle Paul begins the closing comments in the book of Romans, he writes (Romans 15:13), “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Clearly God does not expect us to live a life that honors Him in our own strength. He wants us to rely on the Holy Spirit. How are you doing in your walk with God? Are you weary? Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy–laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Moment by moment, by faith, trust God the Father to manifest the presence of Jesus in and through you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you constantly.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Jorge Atiencia, Witnesses Experience the Presence and Power of God the Holy Spirit (Urbana 96 – Exposition: Acts 2). (© InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA). (http://www.urbana.org/_articles.cfm?RecordId=681). Retrieved December 8, 2006.
- Mike Oppenheimer, What Is the Trinity? (© Let Us Reason Ministries, 2006). (http://www.letusreason.org/Trin7.htm). Retrieved December 8, 2006.
- Paul Kroll, The Holy Spirit Is the Personal Presence of God Himself. (© 2004 Worldwide Church of God). (www.gci.org/god/presence). Retrieved December 11, 2006.
- Who Is the Holy Spirit? (© EveryStudent.com, a site developed by Campus Crusade for Christ, International). (http://www.everystudent.com/forum/hspirit.html). Retrieved December 8, 2006.
- John Piper, How Can We Be Clothed With Power? (© Desiring God Ministries, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TopicIndex/4/654_How_Can_We_be_Clothed_with_Power/). Retrieved December 11, 2006.
1Genesis 3:22; Genesis 11:7; Isaiah 6:8; 2 Corinthians 13:14.
2Leonardo Boff, Holy Trinity, Perfect Community. Orbis Books, 2000, p.15.
3Harold Willmington, Willmington’s Bible Study Library 1 & 2: The Doctrine of the Trinity. p.9. Retrieved December 11, 2006.