Getting your head around the difference between God the Father and Jesus is one thing and many struggle to grasp who the Holy Spirit is in a way they could explain clearly to someone else. God is one God, but three persons. When theologians speak of the three-in-oneness of God, they refer to Him as “the Trinity.” The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. Understanding who the Holy Spirit is, the place He holds within the Holy Trinity and the role He plays in individual lives is vital to anyone exploring what it means to become a Christian and anyone trying to follow Jesus. Knowing the Holy Spirit will radically change your life because He is the way you will experience the life of God within you. So just as you need oxygen to live in your human body, if you trust in Christ, you are born again in a spiritual sense and the Holy Spirit becomes the source of new life God places within you. You no longer just relate to God as a higher power outside of yourself. God transforms you from within so that you become more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in the life of a believer. But this does not mean God separates Himself into three separate parts. God is three distinct persons who somehow are one in substance. God is unique in this way, so it’s not surprising that it takes some work to come to terms with this truth. The Bible helps us to break down the mysteries of the Holy Spirit into ideas we can grasp. Often, people describe the Holy Spirit as a presence or an “it.” But the Holy Spirit is a person, -God- with a will consistent with his plan for us. “‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love Him — these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us”
The persons of the Trinity know one another exhaustively, and each understands the #thoughts and #actions of the others. In human beings, there are #hidden depths in our nature so that we cannot fully understand our own actions and motives. But God is #fully #known to himself. Much about God is mysterious to us, but not to him. One way Scripture describes God’s exhaustive self-knowledge is by saying that he is a #speaking God or, simply, that he is #Word: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1) God is not only eternal, holy, all-powerful, and so on, but he expresses and shares those qualities -through something like human speech. In his eternal nature, he has the power to speak (the “Word”), and that power to speak is who he is: his Word is eternally with him, and his Word is his very nature. John identifies this Word with Jesus Christ in John 1:14. In Jesus, the Word became flesh. So the existence of the Word did not begin with Jesus’s incarnation. There are hundreds of references to the divine word in Scripture, in both testaments, as the means by which God reveals himself. Paul says, “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Rom. 1:18). Though God is clearly revealed to all, fallen people prefer to deny that they know him, as Adam hid from God in the Garden (Gen. 3:8). When people say they do not know God, it is not because God has failed to reveal himself, or that God’s revelation is not clear enough. Rather, their unknowing God is something they have done to themselves. And God’s revelation, is also his presence, the place where he meets with his people. God’s nearness to Israel is the nearness of his word (Deut. 4:7–8, 30:11–14). And God comes to be “with us,” Immanuel, in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, his living word to us (John 1:1–14) revealed through man’s internal conscience and the created order. Man is created in God’s image, meaning divine imprint marks him; man is sensus divinitatis, sense of the divine. Man cannot escape the morality embedded within his very makeup as a creature made to reflect his Creator.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the best explanation for all of the biblical evidence. There is only one God, but He exists eternally as three individual Persons and has revealed Himself as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This is different from the teaching of three individual gods because the three Persons of the Trinity are co-equal, co-eternal, interdependent, and always in complete agreement. There is one God who exists as three individual Persons. Thus, the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; however, the Father is not the same person as the Son, nor is the Son the same person as the Holy Spirit. This is sometimes complicated by the fact that God the Father is often simply called “God” in the New Testament.
The first three verses of the Gospel of John give us an idea of how this works out:
John 1:1. In the beginning was the Word . . . (We know from verse 14 that the Word is Jesus. In the beginning, He was already there.)
. . . and the Word was with God . . . (At least two Persons are in view here: one called “God” and one called “the Word.”)
. . . and the Word was God (The Word is distinct from God, yet He is also called “God.” The Word is divine in His essential nature.)
John 1:2. He was with God in the beginning (After the essential identification of the Word as God, once again the distinction is emphasized—He was with God when it all began.)
John 1:3. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made (Here, we see that the Word is actually the Creator. He made everything. In the Old Testament, we are told that God created everything--Genesis 1:1.)
It is this kind of biblical information that led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity. When “God” is spoken of in the Old Testament, most people probably think of God the Father, but it would be more accurate to think of “God the Trinity.” In the New Testament, we see how each Person of the Trinity assumed different roles in the redemption of lost humanity, but the different Persons are always in complete agreement, acting as one.
Jesus is God, but Jesus (who is God the Son) is not the same Person as God the Father or God the Holy Spirit.
LORD, EMPOWER US BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO HAVE EYES TO SEE. We are in a time when every believer needs to function in the ability to see, to have spiritual perception. Lord, empower us by the Holy Spirit to have eyes to see. I’m praying for you, to have increase in your ability to see for your life, for your family, for your destiny in Christ, for others around you, for city and regional impact, and for Kingdom building. I pray you will see with greater clarity so you may be a wise master builder according to His blueprints. We are living in changing times and experiencing greater challenges. But there is good news. We do not have to peer through the lens of adversity or hard times darkly. Neither should we grope our way through hardship, veer off to the highway of destiny, or even engage survival mode in these times. Rather, we can stand strong and brave because, as Spirit-filled believers, we have God-given eyes to see through the night what others cannot! The apostle Paul says, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18 NIV). Likewise, James tells us, “If any be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass” (James 1:23 KJV). In other words, we cannot give up but must continue to be people of action who fix our eyes on the unseen, believing in and having assurance of its existence. The measure of adversity we face today is great, but it is also indicative of the incredible opportunity available to believers. Today we do not have to blindly call things forth and wish with all of our might that these things will happen; rather, we can see through the tough stuff and the climate of the day to actual solutions—some of which have not yet been discovered, thought of, or tried—and see the incredible plans and opportunities of God. You and I have an advantage! Our advantage is our spiritual eyesight, which—by reason of use and, of course, the precious Holy Spirit—we can learn to see through our circumstances into ways we may have never seen before. Spiritual eyesight gives an advantage to Christians to see in the heavenly realm what unbelievers cannot see. We look at the world with our natural eyes, but with our spiritual eyes, we look at the Kingdom of God! In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit moved upon the prophets of God, giving them the ability to see in the spirit. Elisha knew by faith what was outside and assured his despairing servant that, though he saw with his physical eyes the enemy surrounding them, they were not outnumbered. Then Elisha prayed that his servant’s eyes would be open to see what he knew to be true, the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding them (see 2 Kings 6:15). Sure enough, the servant’s spiritual eyes opened to the realm of the Spirit, and he was able to see the scope of their salvation. Not only that, but as the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, He struck the enemy with blindness. I love that. Under the New Testament Covenant, the Holy Spirit is in all of God’s people and available, by His power, to help us see what we otherwise cannot see and what the unsaved cannot see. The apostle Paul explained it to the Corinthians this way: But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.—2 Corinthians 4:3–4 We do not live as the spiritually blind do. We want the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to shine on us ever brighter, illuminating greater knowledge and greater understanding of His marvelous plans and purposes. God’s desire is to fill our hungry hearts so that we may do exceedingly and abundantly above what we can think or ask. It is true that we walk by faith and not by sight (see 2 Cor. 5:7); faith actually opens our spiritual eyes. What is faith? The writer of Hebrews gave this famous definition of faith: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible." Hebrews 11:1–3 The Conviction of Our Reality The Amplified Bible explains faith as “the conviction of our reality.” The more we see those unseen things in the spirit, the greater the realm of faith for our circumstances will be. Remember again how Elisha answered his terrified servant. “They that be with us are more than they that be with them” (KJV)! Elisha was already aware of the protection the Lord had encamped around them. He wanted to reassure his servant of the reality of the Lord watching over them. Elisha was not moved by the natural because he was anchored in faith in the Lord because of what the Lord let him see. I believe seeing in the spirit, for Elisha, was a natural thing, second nature. By reason of use, he could see the things he needed to with the eyes of his heart and understanding. I am convinced we can train our spiritual eyes to see as naturally as we do with our physical eyes, as naturally as we take a breath, without even thinking about it. Natural eyes only see the surface of things—present realities, the appearance of things as they are in the world. The Lord has given us our physical eyes that are marvels of creation. For example, the retina can take in light at the incredible speed of light, which travels at about 186,000 miles each second—roughly a million times faster than sound travels and fast enough to circle the Earth more than seven times in one second! How great God is to have conceived the intricacies of vision. The wonders of the eye are the product of the wisdom, skill, and creativity of God, and they baffle scientists even today. It would take a watch over twenty-three years to tick as many times as the nerves in the retina vibrate when receiving various colors. We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made! As They Really Are By the power of the Holy Spirit, because of the blood of Jesus and our redemption in Him, God allows us to see what our natural eyes cannot; He allows us to see beyond the surface and into the reality of things as they really are according to God’s plan, work, and good purposes. The moment we enter into a new relationship with our Creator through Christ Jesus, we experience a new birth. This, like natural birth, is a process. Gradually, as God opens our spiritual eyes to see what we could not see before, we start to use our eyes. Where once we could only construe surface meaning in the words and stories of the Bible, for instance, we are now able to go deep enough, into the breadth, width, and depth of it, to see in greater dimension and vastness the wonder, beauty, and glory in His Word. In the natural, the Bible is a great history and story book, but in the spiritual, the Light illumines; the Scriptures come alive in a meaningful way. Words, truths, promises, instruction, revelation, nature, and history open up with spiritual significance, direction, and insight. With God’s supernatural help, we can behold every wonderful thing He has for us. Of course, such vision gives us understanding of our situations and faith for the seemingly impossible—an advantage to help us accomplish the smallest and the greatest feats and exploits in Jesus’ name, despite insurmountable worldly odds. When John the Baptist saw Jesus for the first time, he had eyes to see Jesus for who He really was, the Son of Man. A casual observer—like one of us, had we been there that day—may have seen Jesus as an unremarkable, plain, dusty, and modest-looking thirty-something-year-old man. Perhaps some there did not notice Him at all. The Bible tells us in the Book of Isaiah that nothing in His appearance would have necessarily attracted someone to Him. Jesus was born into a humble carpenter’s family in the small farming town of Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth, a town scorned by the elitists of the day as a place of nothing good. Then one day He showed up where John was, at the Jordon River in northern Israel, an obscure and desolate location in the wilderness. And immediately, John saw Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. How did John do that? He had eyes to see what the world could not. The Father had opened them when He designated John as the one who would prepare the way for His Son. John would point Jesus out to the world. The Father actually allowed onlookers to see things as He saw them, through Jesus’ baptism and anointing into ministry. They saw more than just the dunking of a man into a muddy river. “This is My Son,” He said, “The Holy One of Israel.” The heavens opened and they saw the very Spirit of God descend and alight upon Jesus as a dove. (See Matthew 3:17.) In that moment, God revealed the perfection of the distinct Persons of the Trinity in a great and profound demonstration of Himself as the loving Father, Jesus as the Son and the Savior of the World, and the precious Holy Spirit in His gentleness and power. Wow—what a powerful glimpse! Abundant Glory Blessings to you, Keith & Janet Miller
Not the Soul Genesis 1:26-27 says that God made humankind in his “image” and “likeness.” Both terms mean the same thing, and so this is usually referred to as “image of God” (imago dei). Some understand image of God to mean those qualities that make us human, for example: possessing a soul, higher-order reasoning, self-consciousness, consciousness of God and the ability to have a relationship with him. This seems like a good definition, since only humans are in God’s image and these are qualities that make us human. Understanding image of God as the soul also helps some people reconcile evolution and Christianity. Somewhere along the evolutionary line God gave two hominids immortal souls, thus becoming the first true human beings. In other words, despite the lengthy evolutionary process, humans were “created” only at this point. These two “souled” hominids are Adam and Eve. Some say this could have happened about 10,000 years ago, which would line things up nicely with the rough chronology presented in Genesis. I understand the motivation for this explanation: to maintain somehow the biblical description of human origins in the face of evolution. But I am fairly skeptical about it. For one thing, it is complete guesswork. It is also difficult to see what is gained here. Preserving the biblical description of human origins this way means it has to be adjusted well beyond what it says. More importantly, equating image of God with the soul or other qualities that make us human puts a burden on Genesis 1:26-27 than it cannot bear—which brings us to the next point. God’s Representative Rulers Image of God is important theologically, and the topic is open for discussion—but it is not a free-for-all. Genesis, other Old Testament passages, and Israel’s surrounding culture give us a good idea of what image of God means. Many scholars draw a parallel between the image of God in Genesis and images of kings in the ancient world. Rulers could not be everywhere at once, and travel was slow. So, they would erect monuments or statues of themselves throughout their kingdoms. These “images” let everyone know that the king’s rule extended wherever his image was found. Another kind of image in the ancient world is an idol, a physical object that represented the god in the temple. Idols were not considered gods themselves. They were statues that let you know the god was in some mysterious sense “present.” Statues of kings and of gods help us understand what it means for humans to be made in God’s image: humans are placed in God’s kingdom as his representatives. J. Richard Middleton (Roberts Wesleyan College) puts it well in The Liberating Image. He offers that the image of God describes “the royal office or calling of human beings as God’s representatives and agents in the world.” Image of God means that humans have been given “power to share in God’s rule or administration of the earth’s resources and creatures.”1 When one reads Genesis 1:26-27 with this in mind, the point becomes fairly obvious: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish…birds…cattle…wild animals…creeping things” (NRSV). Humankind, created on the sixth day, has been given the authority to rule over the other creatures God had made on the fourth and fifth days. They have that authority because humankind is made in God’s image. There is nothing here about a soul, the ability to reason, being conscious of God or any other psychological or spiritual trait. As John Walton points out, as important as these qualities are for making us human, they do not define what image of God means in Genesis. Rather, those qualities are tools that serve humans in their image-bearing role.2 The phrase “image of God” is not about what makes us human. It is about humanity’s unique role in being God’s kingly representatives in creation. Once we understand what image of God means in Genesis, we will be in a better position to see how this idea is worked out elsewhere in the Bible.