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In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul uses two different expressions of spirit; “Spirit of God” and the” Holy Spirit”. Are these (2) different spirits, or the same spirit?

Now, this question may be answered by the very next verse:

4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

As well as verse 11

11 But all these worketh that one and the same Spirit…..

If it’s the same spirit, why does Paul uses (2) different expressions within the same verse (Understanding that there were no “verses” within the original manuscripts….but it’s within the same thought. I was gonna say within the same “breath”, but didn’t want to add that layer)

Paul does something similar in Romans 8:9. He describes the spirit in two different expressions; “Spirit of God” and “Spirit of Christ”, yet within this verse it appears to be describing the same spirit.

9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Although verse 11 seems to make a distinction that God’s spirit is separate from Christ.

11 But if the Spirit of him (God) that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his (God’s) Spirit that dwelleth in you.

So, I guess it’s a two-part question:

  1. Does God have a spirit separate from the Holy Spirit, or is the Holy Spirt God’s spirit?

The following verses seem to indicate that humans have a separate spirit from the Holy Spirit.

Romans 8:16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God

1 Corinthians 2:11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

  1. If “Spirit of God”….”Holy Spirit” and “Spirit of Christ” are all the same spirit, why does Paul make the distinction?

If Paul referred to the spirit of God in one letter, and then referred to the same spirit as “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of Christ” in another letter, I could almost wrap my head around that. But when he makes a distinction within the same verse (thought), I feel like he’s trying to make a point.

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    I suggest you have answered your own question. The Person of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. Our human spirit (if we be in Christ) joins in union with that same Holy Spirit. Thus we know God, and the Father. He that has not the Spirit of God is not of Christ. Up-voted +1 for the question and for your own answer.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 26 at 15:50
  • The "problem" here is that "spirit" is used in two senses in the NT similar to English (1) as a non-material entity, and (2) the mind. Disentangling these two is tricky at times.
    – Dottard
    Apr 26 at 22:07

3 Answers 3

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Answers to some extent are necessarily opinion-based depending on one's theology (or pneumatology). Jews, for example, understand "holy" as simply an adjective modifying the noun "spirit" (of God) who cannot be divided in any way. Unitarian Christians also take this viewpoint, in which the holy Spirit is never anything other than simply God's spirit. For example:

1 Samuel 10:10:

When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying.

Isaiah 63:10

They rebelled and grieved his holy spirit; So he turned to become their enemy, and warred against them.

Trinitarian Christians, on the other hand, usually understand "the Holy Spirit" to be one of three persons of the Godhead, which also includes the Father and the Son. In the New Testament, "spirit of God" is sometimes used in the Jewish sense, and so is the term "Holy Spirit" on occasion. For example, in Luke 1:41 and 1:67, Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" in the same sense as Old Testament prophets. But in John 14, we see "the Holy Spirit" used in a special sense:

John 14:26

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that told you.

Here the Holy Spirit is understood to be sent from the Father, is "sent" as "the Advocate" of "Comforter" to guide Christian into a complete truth. The issue becomes complicated because in Paul's writings, the Holy Spirit sometimes refers to what the Gospel of John describes but sometimes refers to the spirit that animates the prophets, as in the Old Testament. Many volumes have been written attempting to sort this all out.

Conclusion: God does not have a spirit separate from the Holy Spirit. Biblical writers sometimes use the term "spirit of God" or even "the Holy Spirit" to mean God's spirit (the spirit of the One God, who may be understood as either a unitary or triune deity) and sometimes to what Christians call "the Holy Spirit" - the Third Person of the Trinity.

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  • @ Dan Feferrman Interesting read on pneumatology, hadn’t heard of that before. For clarification, my question is presented from the perspective of a belief in the Trinity. Out of the gate I was leaning toward your conclusion, but 1 Cor 2 seems to indicate two spirits. Verse 10 says the spirit searches the depths of God. If it were referring to God’s spirit, it seems out of place that he would have to search himself? Verse 11 seems to confirm this idea, because who knows one’s thoughts other than their own spirit…no one. The same with God…God’s spirit is the only one that knows God’s thoughts.
    – matt
    May 6 at 12:55
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There are two points to be made here.

  1. Different Titles

The Holy Spirit is also called "the Spirit of Christ" and "the Spirit of God" and these titles are used interchangeably as per Rom 8:9 (quoted by the OP).

Further, the Holy Spirit is sometimes also called:

  • "Spirit of Truth", John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13, 1 John 4:6, etc
  • "Advocate", John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7.
  • "Spirit of Grace", Heb 10:29
  • "Eternal Spirit", Heb 9:14
  • etc (there are many, many more)
  1. "spirit" = "attitude of mind"

As in English, the word "spirit" is sometimes used to denote the attitude of the mind such as:

  • 1 Peter 3:4 - but from the inner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.
  • 1 Cor 4:21 - Which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and with a gentle spirit?

It is in this latter sense ONLY that God's "spirit" (= His mind) is distinct (but wholly in unison with the Holy Spirit) that is separate from the Holy Spirit's mind/spirit because we read -

Rom 8:26, 27 - In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know how we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

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  • That’s a good clarification between “title” and “attitude of mind”. Do you think the latter applies to any of the “spirits” within the verses quoted in my question? Also, can you clarify what you’re saying in the last part of your answer. Meaning…..spirit is used (4) times in Rom 8:26-27, do you understand each instance to be the 3rd person of the Trinity….and the “he” (in verse 27) referring to God? Or another interpretation?
    – matt
    May 6 at 12:58
  • @matt - now you are asking another set of questions that deserve their own question. Suffice to say here that all occasions of the word "Spirit" you have quoted in you original question are the Holy Spirit with the notable and rather obvious exception of the second instance in Rom 8:16 and the first in 1 Cor 2:11.
    – Dottard
    May 6 at 20:59
  • @Dottard- The first part of my comment asked that you apply part of your answer to my original question, so as to help me understand your answer……which you did, thanks. The second part of my comment asked that you clarify a portion of your answer, which you did not. But that’s okay, thanks for your input up to this point. Also, thanks for clarifying that Rom 8:16 and 1 Cor 2:11 are not one of the “tricky times” but are one of the “rather obvious” times.
    – matt
    May 8 at 13:11
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The OP asks, “In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul uses two different expressions of spirit; ‘Spirit of God’ and the 'Holy Spirit’. Are these (2) different spirits, or the same spirit?” Paul’s use of two different noun constructions does serve to distinguish “the Spirit of God” from “the Holy Spirit.” At the same time, the two are shown to work together as one such that the possibility of disagreement or contradiction is excluded.

1 Corinthians 12:3-4 BLB

3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed,” and no one is able to say, “Jesus is Lord,” if not in the Holy Spirit. As the OP notes, the two that are distinguished in v3 are singularly referenced as “the same Spirit” in v4. 3 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

Based on my understanding of the passage, Paul’s goal is to highlight the unifying effect of the Spirit. The idea that distinct entities are united in one Spirit is a central theme of 1 Corinthians 12. Using the analogy of the members of the body, Paul articulates this unity of Spirit in his depiction of the body of Christ.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

It is important to note, however, that the distinctions between the members of the body of Christ are fundamentally different from those of the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit. With respect to the former, there is a plurality of “the many” that are united into one. With respect to the latter, however, despite the distinction between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit, there is but one Spirit, a point that is reinforced by the multiple repetitions of “the same Spirit” and “the one Spirit” in verses 8 to 11.

8 For truly, to one is given a word of wisdom by the Spirit, and to another a word of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 and to a different one faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another working of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another distinguishing of spirits, and to a different one various kinds of tongues, and to another interpretation of tongues. 11 Now one and the same the Spirit works all these things, apportioning individually to each as He wills.

While the nature of the distinctions between the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), and the Spirit of God is not made clear, the distinctions themselves are understood to parallel those between Spirit, Lord, and God in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. Paul’s use of repetition and parallelism to unite/distinguish distinct elements/entities is evident here. On the one hand, there are a variety of gifts/services/activities, corresponding to the many members of the body of Christ; on the other, there is the same Spirit/Lord/God, corresponding to the one God.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;

5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;

6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God

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  • @Nhi-If I understand you correctly, you see “Spirit of God” and “Holy Spirit” as different spirits….yet the same (at least within this verse/chapter), in a similar fashion as to the 3 persons of the Trinity.
    – matt
    May 7 at 12:42
  • @matt-With the Trinity, there are 3 persons of the one God, but I am not saying that there are 3 Spirits of the one Spirit. This is not the parallel/comparison that I am trying to make. My point is a bit more subtle - the distinctions between the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit correspond to and reflect the distinctions between the 3 persons of the Trinity. Following Paul's example, I have carefully avoiding the plural "spirits" in this context. There is ever only one Spirit, just as there is ever only one God.
    – Nhi
    May 9 at 18:54
  • @matt-Perhaps a better way to express my point is that there are three distinct persons who are united in one Spirit.
    – Nhi
    May 12 at 12:01

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