The usual doctrine of the trinity states that there is one God (Deut 4:3, 6:4, Isa 44:6, 45:5, 6, 1 Cor 8:4, 1 Tim 1:17) but in three persons who are co-equal and co-eternal, composing the “Godhead” (Col 2:9, Rom 1:29, Acts 17:29). While this doctrine is not Biblically explicit, it is the only way to harmonise all the Biblical data. However, the closest explicit expression for the Trinitarian teaching is found in the baptismal formula of Matt 28:19, where the singular “name” (singular) is used for the all three, viz, “… in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. (Some suggest that 2 Cor 13:14, 1 Peter 1:2 are “almost explicit.”)
Numerous other passages list the three persons: Matt 3:16, 17, 28:19, Mark 1:10,11, Luke 3:21, 22, John 1:32, 15:26-16:14, Acts 10:38, Rom 1:2-4, 1 Cor 6:11, 12:2, 3, 2 Cor 13:14, Gal 3:11-14, Heb 9:14, 10:29, 1 Peter 1:2, 3, 4:14.
The first use of the word “trinity” was Theophilus of Antioch in about 170 AD (Greek Trias) and later by the Latin theologian, Tertullian, in about 200 AD.
Of the numerous topics surrounding the Godhead, the divinity of the Holy Spirit and His personhood are the most delicate. The matter must be decided on the basis of three aspects of the Bible text: (a) implicit statements involving Hebrew parallelisms, (b) Repeated statements about three persons, and (c) the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
- Acts 5:3, 4 equates lying to God and lying to the Holy Spirit
- Acts 10:38 equates the Holy Spirit with the presence of God
- Comparing Rom 1:2-6 and 16:26 we find that The Holy Spirit has the authority of God
- 1 Cor 12:4-6 equates the Holy Spirit with the one Lord and God
- Job 33:4, Eze 37:14, Rom 8:2, 10, attributes the source of life to the Holy Spirit
- Titus 3:4-6, 1 Peter 1:2 attributes the Holy Spirit as the source of spiritual life
- Psalm 104:30 and Gen 1:2 both declare the Holy Spirit as the creator
- Heb 9:14 also declares the Holy Spirit an essential part of Salvation.
- 2 Cor 3:17 calls the Holy Spirit “Lord”.
- Comparing Isa 63:10 with Num 14:11 shows that grieving the Holy Spirit is equivalent to grieving God.
Matt 3:16, 17, 28:19, Mark 1:10,11, Luke 3:21, 22, John 1:32, 15:26-16:14, Acts 10:38, Rom 1:2-4, 1 Cor 6:11, 12:2, 3, 2 Cor 13:14, Gal 3:11-14, Heb 9:14, 10:29, 1 Peter 1:2, 3, 4:14. Note that these passages refer to the Holy Spirit as a separate person distinct from the Father and Son.
The passages in John 15:26 – 16:14 repeatedly use a masculine pronoun (“ekeinos”) to refer to the Holy Spirit despite the Greek word for spirit being neuter! Further, these passages repeatedly talk about the Holy Spirit as a separate person from either the Father or Jesus.
1 Cor 2:10, 11 (see also Isa 40:13, 14) also identifies the Holy Spirit as a separate person because of His teaching and instructing function. See also Rom 15:19 and Ps 104:30.
In Matt 12:31, 32, Mark 3:28, 29, and Luke 12:8-10 the unforgivable sin is defined as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is an expansion of Isa 63:10-14 where people grieved the Holy Spirit. Such a sin would not be even possible if the Holy Spirit were not both a person and divine. Note further, that these passages make a clear distinction between sinning against the Son or Father as opposed to the Holy Spirit, again, shown that the Holy Spirit is distinct.
In 1 Cor 12:11 it is the Holy Spirit who decides about spiritual gifts and their distribution. This passage attributes volition and sentience to the person of the Holy Spirit.
Further Teachings about the Holy Spirit
- He is called “holy”. Rom 1:4. Thus He makes Christians, those He inhabits, holy. Rom 8:11, 1 Cor 3:16, 17, 6:19, 2 Thess 1:14. Thus, the Holy Spirit is the seal of ownership over Christians. Eph 1:13, 4:30; for without the Holy Spirit, we cannot be Christian. Rom 8:9
The Bible assumes that the Holy Spirit is divine in many instances.
- Compare Isa 63:10 with Num 14:11 & Deut 32:12 – The Holy Spirit spurned/grieved is equivalent to God being grieved
- 2 Sam 23:2, 3 makes clear that the Holy Spirit speaking is the voice of God
- 1 Cor 3:16, 17, 6:19, 20 – the indwelling Holy Spirit is a divine presence
- 1 Cor 12:11, 28 – the Holy Spirit distributing gifts is equivalent to the will of God
- The Holy Spirit is essential to the plan of salvation through washing/rebirth (Tit 3:4-6, 1 Peter 1:2), giving spiritual life (Rom 8:2, 9, 11)
- The Holy Spirit is the agent of Scriptural inspiration (Acts 28:25-27, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:16, 17)
We should also note that the Bible affirms all the usual attributes of divinity to the Holy Spirit of being omniscient (1 Cor 2:10, 11), omnipresent (Ps 139:7), eternal (Heb 9:14, cf 1 Tim 6:16), omnipotent (Luke 1:35, Rom 15:19, Zech 4:6), etc.