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The Bible assumes that the Holy Spirit shares with God the Father and God the Son in eternal, personal deity. He, along with the Father and the Son, is God - one of the three persons in the three-persons-in-one-God whom the Christian church describes as a ‘trinity’: one God, existing as three distinct persons, all equally God, all equally eternal, all equally present and active at the same time.

This trinitarian existence is expressed in several New Testament texts where we see the Father, the Son and the Spirit all present together:

Matthew 3:16, 17 – ‘At soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”’

Matthew 28:19 – ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’

John 14:16, 17 – ‘And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth...’

Romans 8:16, 17 – ‘The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ ...’

Romans 15:30 – ‘I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.’

2Corinthians 1:21, 22 – ‘Not it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.’

1Peter 1:2 – ‘...who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit ...’

These verses obviously understand that there is a distinction between Father, Son and Spirit. All are equally and fully God, but each has a distinct individual identity.

But, as with the Father and the Son, so here with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is both this clear distinction, and also an essential unity. This essential unity is obvious in what Jesus said when he promised to send the Spirit to his disciples when he returned to the Father:

John 14:16-18 – I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’

John 14:21 – ‘He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’

John 14:23 – ‘… we will come to him and make our home with him.’

John 16:7 – ‘It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.’

In these verses:

We see that both the Father and the Son send the Spirit to us.

We discover that the coming of the Spirit to dwell in us is also the Father and the Son coming to dwell in us.

To have one is to also have the other two.

Thus we have within the Trinity:

Distinction of persons, but not difference of nature, essence or character.

Unity of purpose, will, action, but not fusion or merging or loss of individual identity.

Equality of deity in all of the aspects of deity, including, for example, eternality [Hebrews 9:14], omniscience [Isaiah 40:13 (NIV has mind where the Hebrew text has ruach - Spirit), 1Corinthians 2:10] and omnipresence [Psalm 139:7].

Note: This essential unity of Father, Son and Spirit raises serious issues with the division created between the Son and the Spirit in two lines of teaching within the Christian church: [1] the ‘second blessing’ movement which taught the reception/baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second experience distinct from receiving Christ, and [2] the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement which also teaches the reception/baptism of the Spirit as a second experience distinct from receiving Christ.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2024