By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – May 16, 2016) — Sunday, May 15th, 2016, marked the day of Pentecost; the time the Church celebrated the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is celebrated fifty days after Easter Sunday. Biblically, Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles found in the book of Acts, chapter 2. To help celebrate Pentecost, this article will briefly look at the Holy Spirit, using the titles: Person, play, personified, paraklete, and to guide us through a general overview of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit.
The first thing you need to know is that truth begins with a Person—God. Without getting into the details of all the theology, I can say this: without God there is no truth, and without truth there is little reason to believe in God. The two go hand in hand. And if you’re going to purse something or someone—God, truth, or whatever, it’s a good idea to get to know the person or idea you’ll be pursuing so you can enjoy traveling together. And if this person or idea is someone or something you’ll be spending a lot of time with—namely, all eternity—then how much more you should be getting to know him or her! This is true of the Holy Spirit.
The second thing you need to know about truth is that if there is a God (and there is heavy probable cause to say He does), truth exists. It’s that simple. Truth—the way things really are in all places, in all people, and at all times—can be defined as the “that which corresponds to fact and reality.” If God is, truth is. God is the ultimate source of reality, and His creative work (the world and Word) are representatives of His truth. God speaks and it is true. God acts and it is true. Again, God is, therefore truth is.
But who exactly is God? What does the Bible say about Him? The answer to this question could take pages. But I won’t go there. Rather, I’ll just summarize what the Bible teaches: God is a trinity. Who, then, is in the Trinity? And if there is one God, how can the number three be equal to the number one?
These are great questions. The fact is, however, the Bible teaches that God is One, yet exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Collectively, the three persons of the Godhead make up the Trinity. Put another way, God has always existed as a Tri-unity of persons.
In the fullest sense, the teaching of the Trinity is a great mystery, one that boggles the mind. Though the Bible does not use the word Trinity in its pages, the concept of the Trinity is found in the earliest book of the Bible, Genesis. In Genesis 1:26, we read, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Notice that the writer of Genesis used the words ‘us’ and ‘our’ when referring to God. These are plural words, denoting “more than one.” Genesis 1:26 give us a hint at the plurality of the Godhead. Church Fathers used the word perichoresis to describe the interrelationship between the Godhead. It can best be defined as the “mutual exchange of love within the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Though the Trinity may be a difficult truth to understand, it is not totally incomprehensible; it does not go against logic. To help you understand the Triune nature of God a little better, I want to give you an analogy to think about!
In school, many of you have done addition. When you add up 1+1+1, you should get the number 3 as the answer. Your equation looks something like this:
Yet, when attempting to understand the Trinity, we do not add up the persons of the Godhead with addition. Instead, we use another form of math, multiplication. Therefore, when we multiply the 1’s we get this:
The tri-unity of the Godhead is best-understood using multiplication as an analogy, not addition. When you multiply the one’s you still get one! This is similar to the Trinitarian nature of God. He is one in essence, but three in persons, just like the multiplication problem above demonstrates: three 1’s equal 1.
If you need another picture to help you understand the Trinity, think of a triangle.
The three points of the triangle present the three persons of the Godhead, yet the points are found in one object—the triangle. This is similar to the Trinity. There is one God, but three distinct persons in the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one in three.
By the way, if you noticed above, we used the word “Persons” when talking about the Trinity. We used this word because it tells us that each person within the Godhead is a unique personality, individual and distinct. Each person is fully God and fully a personal being. Just like you are a unique and distinct person, so to is each person within the Trinity.
Follow me here in my line of thinking: First, God exists. Therefore there is truth. God exists in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And each Person of the Godhead is truth. Furthermore, truth is manifest in both God’s general revelation (His world) and specific revelation (His word—the Bible).
So far so good?
The third thing you need to understand about truth is that truth is communicated by and through the Holy Spirit.
If a Trinitarian understanding of God is correct (and the Bible upholds this position, then each Person of the Godhead is God, and thereby truth), it logically leads to the fact that the Holy Spirit is truth. To answer the question as to how we discover and interact with truth leads us to the Paraklete—the Greek word for the Holy Spirit. Paraclete means comforter, advocate, and counselor.
As God, the Holy Spirit has all the characteristics of personhood. He teaches truth, brings comfort, convicts, is grieved, and has a host of personal and divine qualities. And part of the Holy Spirit’s role is relational—to do what He does with humans.
Furthermore, the Bible talks about three unique ways the Holy Spirit interacts with humanity—as the truth bearer. These can be described with the Greek prepositions para, en, and epi, translated as with, in, and upon, respectively.
First, the Spirit convicts the world of sin and righteousness, leading people toward Christ. In this interaction, the Holy Spirit is with humanity (see John 16:8), pointing us to the truth of God found in Jesus. Here, the Holy Spirit is convicting people of sin, of righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
Second, when we receive Christ into our lives and are saved, the Spirit comes to dwell in us (see John 14:17). This is when we become a Christian, a follower of Christ—also known as being born again or born from above (see John 3:3). This process is known as justification. With justification, God removed the penalty of sin and declared us in right standing before Him based upon the finished work of Christ on the cross. We receive this standing based upon faith or belief (a faculty of reason, see Romans 10:9)). We are therefore called a child of God, a participant in God’s kingdom, living according to God’s rule and reign.
Finally, the Spirit comes upon the believer, comforting and conforming us into the image of Christ (see Acts 1:8). This is where the rubber hits the road—where the Holy Spirit empowers us for service and leads us to God’s truth. This area relates to our sanctification, how the Holy Spirit is molding us and shaping us into the image of Jesus, which includes a pursuit of truth in accordance with His word and world.
Now that we have a sense of the person we’re walking with, let’s turn to the plan of the Holy Spirit. As mentioned above, the primary role of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin and point them to Christ. However, the full-orbed ministry of the Holy Spirit involves much more—as noted. Generally speaking, the Holy Spirit communicates the truth of God, which is found in the person of Christ, God’s Word (the Bible), and the world (creation). Put another way, God wrote two books: the book of nature (general revelation) and the book of the Bible (specific revelation—which points us to Christ). And because God is the author of both, the two are not in conflict; they both represent the truth of God. And it is the Spirit of God that unifies them in a cohesive whole in the hearts and minds of Christians.
Think of it this way: if God is the Author of all truth, then truth—wherever it may be found—is from God. Augustine of Hippo said it this way, “Wherever truth may be found it belongs to the Lord.” Wheaton Professor—in his book of the same name—narrowed it down to a simple axiom, “All truth is God’s truth.”
If you need a mental image to hone in on the correlation of truth between the word and world, think of a triangle above two circles. The triangle represents the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Underneath the triangle are two circles. In one circle is written ‘general revelation’—nature. In the other circle is written ‘specific revelation’—the Bible. Now draw a line towards each, connecting the three shapes in a unified whole. This gives you and idea of how God’s truth infiltrates and infuses each area; they are connected. Because God is truth, His truth touches that which He touched, His Word and world, the Bible and nature. Practically, gravity gives us a reason to praise God as does grace; they are both gifts from God.
So there you have it, a quick overview of the reason we celebrate Pentecost—the celebration of the Holy Spirit speaking truth concerning Christ and the world. Of course much, much more could be said in relationship to the Holy Spirit and truth, but there’s no more room.
And if all of this discussion is lost on you, no worries; simply praise the Holy Spirit, thanking Him, relying upon Him, and yearning for more of His truth this season.
Photo captions: 1) Illustration of the Holy Spirit descending. 2) Coptic picture of Pentecost. 3) A church window featuring the Holy Spirit descending. 4) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixonis a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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