Sept-Oct 2023: Role of the Holy Spirit

Bonnie WohllebenPastor's Blog

As we’ve been walking through the Acts of the Apostles over the last few months, we’ve discovered the central role of the Holy Spirit in so many aspects of the Christian life. The Spirit opens our hearts and minds to God. He teaches us the truth of the Good News about Jesus Christ. He gives us spiritual gifts for God’s glory. He calls us to serve God in the world. And that’s only scratching the surface!
The Holy Spirit is such a powerful influence in our lives—the most powerful in the universe—because the Holy Spirit is God. 

Jesus is also God. And so is the Father. But how can that be? Doesn’t the Bible teach that there us only one true God? Magnificently, yes. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three, individually and together, our one true God. This mystery, most of you will already know, is what Christians for many centuries have termed the Trinity (“Three-ness”) or Triunity (“Three-in-One-ness”). You have likely, at some point, heard someone say that the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible, and that’s true. Does that mean that the Trinity is just a speculative concept with no grounding in the Scripture? No, certainly not. 

Now, let me say up front that no human being, even in an article a thousand times longer than this one, could ever fully explain the Trinity. God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isa. 55:8). The fullness of the truth about God is ultimately beyond our ability to understand (Rom. 11:33). The human brain—though one of God’s most sophisticated creations—simply can’t contain him. But I would like to show you, in the simplest and most straightforward way, what the Bible says about God that shows us his mysterious Three-in-One-ness. I hope this brief word of explanation will give you some theological stepping stones as you read your Bible, help build your confidence in this ancient teaching of the Church, and give you a tiny glimpse of the majesty of our God.

So where do we find the Trinity in the Bible? First, the Bible plainly refers to the Father as God. We can look, for example, at John 4:23-24, where we read that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Here, Jesus himself uses the names “Father” and “God” interchangeably. Second, the Bible plainly refers to Jesus as God. For example, in John 20:28, when Thomas sees the nail marks in the hands of the risen Jesus, he calls out to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus declares the same about himself in John 10:30 when he says, “I and the Father are one.” Third, the Bible plainly refers to the Holy Spirit as God. We can look, for example, at Acts 5:1-4, where Peter tells Ananias that, in choosing to “lie to the Holy Spirit,” he has in fact “not lied to man but to God.” At the same time, the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New, plainly asserts that “the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4, Mark 12:29). Jesus brings the One-ness of God together with the Three-ness of God, with no hint of contradiction, when he tells his disciples to baptize people “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

All of the points raised above could be shown from many other places in Scripture, not just the verses quoted here. When read together as a whole, the Bible makes a coherent statement: our God is a mysterious God whose “Three-in-One” nature can’t be contained within normal human categories. That’s a good thing. A God who is beyond our normal categories is beyond our limitations. As Jesus said to his disciples, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). What a Savior! God is bigger, better, kinder, holier, more powerful, more righteous, more merciful, and more loving than we can imagine—and he cares for you and me!

Dr. Nick McRae
Senior Pastor, First United Methodist Church of Decatur