Is the Holy Spirit Only the Power of God?
Herbert W. Armstrong taught that the Holy Spirit was only "the power of God," but not God, and certainly not part of the Godhead. In order to try to understand what the Bible reveals about the Holy Spirit, let's first look at Jesus and see if He was indeed very God and very Man in His incarnation and then we will look at the Scriptures which cover the Holy Spirit.
"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
~II Corinthians 4:6
The following chart should help you see the two natures of Jesus "in action":
|He is worshiped (Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33).||He worshiped the Father (John 17).|
|He was called God (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8).||He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5).|
|He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1).||He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37).|
|He is prayed to (Acts 7:59).||He prayed to the Father (John 17).|
|He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15).||He was tempted (Matt. 4:1).|
|He knows all things (John 21:17).||He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52).|
|He gives eternal life (John 10:28).||He died (Rom. 5:8).|
|All the fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9).||He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).|
Jesus is God in human flesh. He is not half God and half man. He is fully divine and fully man. That is, Jesus has two distinct natures: divine and human. Jesus is the Word who was God and was with God and was made flesh, (John 1:1,14). This means that in the single person of Jesus is both a human and divine nature. The divine nature was not changed. It was not altered. He is not merely a man who "had God within Him" nor is he a man who "manifested the God principle." He is God. "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power," (Heb. 1:3). Jesus' two natures are not "mixed together," nor are they combined into a new God-man nature. They are separate yet act as a unit in the one person of Jesus. This is called the Hypostatic Union.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6
The Communicatio Idiomatum
A doctrine that is related to the Hypostatic Union is the communicatio idiomatum (Latin for "communication of properties"). It is the teaching that the attributes of both the divine and human natures are ascribed to Jesus. This means that the man Jesus could lay claim to the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), claim that He descended from heaven, (John 3:13), and also claim omnipresence, (Matt. 28:20). All of these are divine qualities that are laid claim to by Jesus; therefore, the attributes of the divine properties were claimed by the person of Jesus.
"For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." ~Colossians 2:9
Mistakes Cultists Make
One of the most common errors that cults make is not understanding the two natures of Christ. For example, the Jehovah's Witnesses focus on Jesus' humanity and ignore His divinity. They repeatedly quote verses dealing with Jesus as a man and try and set them against scripture showing that Jesus is also divine. On the other hand, the Christian Scientists do the reverse. They focus on the scriptures showing Jesus' divinity to the extent of denying His true humanity.
For a proper understanding of Jesus and, therefore, all other doctrines that relate to Him, His two natures must be properly understood and defined. Jesus is one person with two natures. This is why He would grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52) yet know all things (John 21:17). He is the Divine Word that became flesh (John 1:1,14).
The Bible is about Jesus (John 5:39). The prophets prophesied about Him (Acts 10:43). The Father bore witness of Him (John 5:37; 8:18). The Holy Spirit bore witness of Him (John 15:26). The works Jesus did bore witness of Him (John 5:36; 10:25). The multitudes bore witness of Him (John 12:17). And, Jesus bore witness of Himself (John 14:6; 18:6).
Other verses to consider when examining His deity are: John 10:30-33 ["I and my father are one"]; 20:28 "And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God."]; Col. 2:9 ["For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."]; Phil. 2:5-8 ["...Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:"]; Heb. 1:6-8 ["...But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:]; and 2 Pet. 1:1 ["them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:".
1 Tim. 2:5 says, "For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." Right now, there is a man in heaven on the throne of God. He is our advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1). He is our Savior (Titus 2:13). He is our Lord (Rom. 10:9-10). He is Jesus.
From: "Jesus' Two Natures" by Matthew Slick
NOTE: See chapter one, "The Fatal Flaw, Rejection of Christ's Deity," Jesus Christ IS God by Robert L. Sumner
"But thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." ~Micah 5:2
"...the plain antithesis of this clause, to 'come forth out of thee' (from Beth-lehem), shows that the eternal generation of the Son is meant. The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable (cf. Psalm 90:2; Proverbs 8:22,23; John 1:1). Messiah's generation as man coming forth unto God to do His will on earth is from Beth-lehem; but as Son of God His goings forth are from everlasting." (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 692)
"...they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity. He is fully God. He is eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, has a will, and can speak. He is alive. He is a person. He is not particularly visible in the Bible because His ministry is to bear witness of Jesus (John 5:26). Some cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses say that the Holy Spirit is nothing more than a force (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, pp. 406-407). This is false. If the Holy Spirit were merely a force, then He could not speak (Acts 13:2); He could not be grieved (Eph. 4:30); and He would not have a will (1 Cor. 12:11). The truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person the same as the Father and the Son are within the Trinity.
Some cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses say that the Holy Spirit is nothing more than a force (Reasoning from the Scriptures, 1985, pp. 406-407). This is false. If the Holy Spirit were merely a force, then He could not speak (Acts 13:2); He could not be grieved (Eph. 4:30); and He would not have a will (1 Cor. 12:11).
|His Names||His Attributes||Symbols of||Sins Against||Power in Christ's Life|
2 Cor. 3:18
1 Cor. 2:10
|Spirit of God
1 Cor. 3:16
1 Cor. 12:11
|Filled with Power
|Spirit of Truth
|Witness of Jesus
Acts 8:29; 13:2
1 Thess. 5:19
The Works of the Holy Spirit
|Access to God - Eph. 2:18||Inspires prayer - Eph. 6:18; Jude 20|
|Anoints for Service - Luke 4:18||Intercedes -Rom. 8:26|
|Assures - Rom. 8:15-16; Gal. 4:6||Interprets Scripture - 1 Cor. 2:1,14; Eph. 1:17|
|Authors Scripture - 2 Pet. 1:20-21||Leads - Rom. 8:14|
|Baptizes - John 1:32-34; 1 Cor. 12:13-14||Liberates - Rom. 8:2|
|Believers Born of - John 3:3-6||Molds Character - Gal. 5:22-23|
|Calls and Commissions - Acts 13:24; 20:28||Produces fruit - Gal. 5:22-23|
|Cleanses - 2 Thess. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:2||Empowers Believers - Luke 24:49|
|Convicts of sin - John 16:9,14||Raises from the dead - Rom. 8:11|
|Creates - Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4||Regenerates - Titus 3:5|
|Empowers - 1 Thess. 1:5||Sanctifies - Rom. 15:16|
|Fills - Acts 2:4; 4:29-31; 5:18-20||Seals - Eph. 1:13-14; 4:30|
|Gives gifts - 1 Cor. 12:8-11||Strengthens - Eph. 3:16; Acts 1:8; 2:4; 1 Cor. 2:4|
|Glorifies Christ - John 16:14||Teaches - John 14:26|
|Guides in truth - John 16:13||Testifies of Jesus - John 15:26|
|Helps our weakness - Rom. 8:26||Victory over flesh - Rom. 8:2-4; Gal. 4:6|
Excerpted from: "The Holy Spirit" by Matthew Slick
The Holy Spirit According to Herbert W. Armstrong
Does the Holy Spirit have intelligence? Or is the Holy Spirit (as HWA wrote) merely "the power that responds and does what Jesus commands"?1 HWA contradicted himself. If the Holy Spirit does not have intelligence, then how can "it" respond and do what Jesus commands?
Oftentimes HWA would make the remark that if the Holy Spirit was a person, then the Holy Spirit was the "father" of Jesus. Arno C. Gaebelein gave a good answer to this reasoning and the following will quote some of his words (which concerns Luke 1:35 which says, "And the angel of the Lord said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that Holy Thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God."):
"Let us notice the two great statements given about His incarnation. 'The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee.' From the Gospel of Matthew we learn the full meaning of this statement. 'That which is begotten in her is of the Holy Ghost.' ...
"The second statement is: 'And the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee." This is not a repetition of the same truth as contained in the first statement. If this too would mean the Holy Spirit, we would have to conclude that the Holy Spirit is the Father of Him who became incarnate. We read at once after this second statement, 'Therefore that Holy Thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.' The power of the Highest does not mean the power of the Holy Spirit. It is none other than the Son of God Himself. The eternal Son of God, He who is God, overshadowed her and this overshadowing meant the union of Himself with the human nature created by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary.
"He is called 'that Holy Thing.' He is something entirely new. A Being which cannot be classified. And then we read again, 'That Holy Thing shall be called the Son of God.' It does not say 'shall be the Son of God;' such He ever was. Incarnation did not make Him Son of God. He shall be called Son of God; God manifested in the flesh." (Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945), The Work of Christ, "His Past Work")
Herbert Armstrong plagiarized his teaching on the Holy Spirit from the Jehovah's Witnesses.2 One of their books claims: "As for the 'Holy Spirit,' the so-called 'third Person of the Trinity,' we have already seen that it is, not a person, but God's active force" (The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1968, p. 24)
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come." ~Revelation 22:17
What is the Greek for "the Spirit"?
Those who have been taught Herbert W. Armstrong's view of the Holy Spirit, when having it pointed out to them that certain Scriptures; i. e., Rom. 8:9, I Pet. 1:11 and Phil. 1:19, say "the Spirit of Christ," and "the Spirit of Jesus Christ," have retorted that "Spirit" in those verses simply means the "mind" of Christ.
In Strong's Concordance the Greek word for "Spirit" as in "the Spirit of Christ" and "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 8:9, I Pet. 1:11 and Phil. 1:19) is pneuma (#4151), which is the same Greek word used in many other N.T. passages that refer to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of our God, the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of grace, the Spirit of life, etc. Likewise, the same Greek word pneuma is used for "Ghost" as in "the Holy Ghost." This shows that whether we are talking about the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, etc., they are all one and the same.
The Greek word for "mind" as in, "Let this mind be in you..." (Phil 2:5) and "Be of the same mind..." (Rom 12:16), is phronema or phroneo (#5427). Clearly, mind (phronema) and Spirit (pneuma) are not the same.
God is a trinity of persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the same person as the Son; the Son is not the same person as the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit is not the same person as Father. They are not three gods and not three beings. They are three distinct persons; yet, they are all the one God. Each has a will, can speak, can love, etc., and these are demonstrations of personhood. They are in absolute perfect harmony consisting of one substance. They are coeternal, coequal, and copowerful. If any one of the three were removed, there would be no God.
Jesus, the Son, is one person with two natures: Divine and Human. This is called the Hypostatic Union. The Holy Spirit is also divine in nature and is self aware, the third person of the Trinity.
There is, though, an apparent separation of some functions among the members of the Godhead. For example, the Father chooses who will be saved (Eph. 1:4); the Son redeems them (Eph. 1:7); and the Holy Spirit seals them (Eph. 1:13).
A further point of clarification is that God is not one person, the Father, with Jesus as a creation and the Holy Spirit as a force (Jehovah's Witnesses). Neither is He one person who took three consecutive forms, i.e., the Father became the Son, who became the Holy Spirit. Nor is God the divine nature of the Son (where Jesus had a human nature perceived as the Son and a divine nature perceived as the Father (Oneness theology). Nor is the Trinity an office held by three separate Gods (Mormonism).
The word "person" is used to describe the three members of the Godhead because the word "person" is appropriate. A person is self aware, can speak, love, hate, say "you," "yours," "me," "mine," etc. Each of the three persons in the Trinity demonstrate these qualities.
The chart below should help you to see how the doctrine of the Trinity is systematically derived from Scripture. The list is not exhaustive, only illustrative.
The first step is to establish the biblical doctrine that there is only one God. Then, you find that each of the persons is called God, each creates, each was involved in Jesus' resurrection, each indwells, etc. Therefore, God is one, but the one God is in three simultaneous persons. Please note that the idea of a composite unity is not a foreign concept to the Bible; after all, man and wife become, are said to be one flesh. The idea of a composite unity of persons is spoken of by God in Genesis (Gen. 2:24).
|Called God||Phil. 1:2||John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9||Acts 5:3-4|
|Creator||Isaiah 64:8||John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17||Job 33:4, 26:13|
|Resurrects||1 Thess. 1:10||John 2:19, 10:17||Rom. 8:11|
|Indwells||2 Cor. 6:16||Col. 1:27||John 14:17|
|Everywhere||1 Kings 8:27||Matt. 28:20||Psalm 139:7-10|
|All knowing||1 John 3:20||John 16:30; 21:17||1 Cor. 2:10-11|
|Sanctifies||1 Thess. 5:23||Heb. 2:11||1 Pet. 1:2|
|Life giver||Gen. 2:7; John 5:21||John 1:3; 5:21||2 Cor. 3:6,8|
|Fellowship||1 John 1:3||1 Cor. 1:9||2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1|
|Eternal||Psalm 90:2||Micah 5:1-2||Rom. 8:11; Heb. 9:14|
|A will||Luke 22:42||Luke 22:42||1 Cor. 12:11|
|Speaks||Matt. 3:17; Luke 9:25||Luke 5:20; 7:48||Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2|
|Love||John 3:16||Eph. 5:25||Rom 15:30|
|Searches the heart||Jer. 17:10||Rev. 2:23||1 Cor. 2:10|
|We belong to||John 17:9||John 17:6||*****|
|Savior||1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10||2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:4; 3:6||*****|
|We serve||Matt. 4:10||Col. 3:24||*****|
|Believe in||John 14:1||John 14:1||*****|
|Gives joy||*****||John 15:11||John 14:7|
|Judges||John 8:50||John 5:21,30||*****|
Therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at by looking at the whole of scripture, not in a single verse. It is the doctrine that there is only one God, not three, and that the one God exists in three persons: Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. An analogy would be time. Time is past, present, and future. But, there are not three times, only one.
From: "The Trinity" by Matthew Slick
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost,
be with you all. Amen." ~II Corinthians 13:14
Related articles and books for further study:
Jesus Christ IS God! by Robert L. Sumner (One of most comprehensive works defending the Deity of Christ. Chapter two confronts the arguments which say the Holy Spirit is an impersonal "it." (book)
The NT Witness: The Personality of the Holy Spirit [offsite article]
The History of the Trinity: What the Watchtower Doesn't Want You to Know (a response to the claim that the Trinity is pagan) [offsite article]
Is the Trinity Pagan? [offsite article]
Do We Only Receive the Holy Spirit as a Result of Baptism? (includes at end, "What does the Holy Spirit Do in the Believer's Life Today?")
What Herbert Armstrong said concerning the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the "God Family." (from chapter one of ESN's critique of Mystery of the Ages
Herbert Armstrong is Confused by the Trinity (From: Herbert Armstrong: Mr. Confusion)
1 Herbert W. Armstrong, Mystery of the Ages, 1985, p. 44.
2 For evidence that HWA plagiarized his teaching on the Holy Spirit from the Jehovah's Witness, see chapter three, pt. 2 and chapter six of ESN's critical review of Mystery of the Ages (search for the word "Watchtower").