The Holy Spirit - A Person or Power?
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1991
This Doctrinal Report concerns the Spirit of God. Biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit is clear enough, but the opinions of men (prompted primarily by new theological speculations originating within the fourth century) have clouded the whole issue of a just what the Holy Spirit is, or what its role was in the relationship of God with mankind. It is time that the biblical teachings concerning the Holy Spirit be restored to their proper place of recognition in the minds of those who love the biblical revelation. What I Intend to do in this Doctrinal Report is to present sixteen pertinent questions about the Holy Spirit which will reflect the essential theological factors which determine what the Holy Spirit is, and what its role is in mankindís relationship with God and Christ. The answers will be clear and should satisfy the pen on who truly wants to understand the biblical teaching on this important subject.
Question One: Is the Holy Spirit a Person or a Power? What are the biblical proofs that could support the Holy Spirit as being a distinct person within the Godhead and representing a third member of a divine Trinity (three persons in one comprising the Godhead)?
Answer: Though the word "Spirit" in John 14:26 is neuter in gender (expressing no personality of itself, the pronoun that describes the Spirit is masculine This would lend weight that the Spirit is a personality who appears as one having masculine qualities. Thus, it seems perfectly proper to call him "he." This is emphasized by the repeated statements that "he shall teach you" (verse 26); "he shall bear witness" (John 15:26); "he, when he is come will convict" (16:8); "he shall guide you" (16:13); and "he shall glorify me" (16:14). These verses strongly imply, so many scholars urge, that the Spirit is a personality because of the use of these masculine pronouns. Besides this, the Spirit is said to be able to speak: "The Spirit speaks expressly" (I Tim. 4:14). It is argued that the Spirit could hardly utter words from its mouth unless it was a personality.
Comment: While it is true that the above verses seen, to indicate that the Holy Spirit is a masculine person, it could also be shown from hundreds of biblical verses (both Old and New Testaments) that many things animate and inanimate are given genders in the Bible though they are not personalities at all. Such things are even given "mouths" to speak. "If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body.... And if the ear shall say, because I am not of the body" (I Cor. 12:15,16). Of course, feet and ears do not actually have mouths to speak. They are simply personified by Paul in an allegorical sense. From these indications, no one would seriously consider feet, hands and ears as being personalities. "Let the heaven rejoice, and let the earth be glad. Ölet the field be joyful . . then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice" (Psa. 96:11,12). But really, the heavens have no actual mouth with which to express joy; the earth has no faculty of its own to be glad; the fields of grass cannot actually show joyfulness; nor can trees of the forest demonstrate a happiness as a human can. The Bible says that "the mountains and hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees shall clap their hands" (Isa. 55:12), but is there anyone so bold as to suggest that mountain and hills can actually sing or that trees really clap hands. These are simple figures of speech.
The same thing applies to teachings about the Holy Spirit. Simply because the Holy Spirit is given a masculine gender in its pronouns in a few scriptures and with attributes of being able to speak, no one could legitimately insist that these verses prove the personality of the Spirit. True, they provide evidence in favor of the proposition, but with a host of other scriptures giving the same "personalities" to hands, ears, trees, hills, mountains, the earth, heaven (and many other inanimate things), it is precarious business to demand the personality of the Spirit from a few verses which do the same thing with other objects. Indeed, even today it is common for us to refer to ships of the sea in the feminine gender, but none of us really thinks of them as being real women.
Question Two: It is acknowledged by all that the Bible gives personality to many inanimate things as figures of speech, yet the Holy Spirit is so intimately connected with God and Christ (who are personalities appearing like humans) should not the Holy Spirit also be accorded a personality of like nature? Since the Holy Spirit can speak for God and it can convict people of sin, is this not "personality" in action?
Comment: If theologians and preachers wish to insist that the Holy Spirit is a "personality", then they will be forced to conclude that the Holy Spirit must look like a male dove (a bird with wings, a beak and small legs for grasping the limbs of trees or bushes). The reason for this is plain. The Bible clearly states that the Holy Spirit has the bodily appearance of a bird specifically a dove (Luke 3:22). Even in the Book of Genesis the Spirit is described in Hebrew as "fluttering over the waters" as a bird with wings (Genesis 1:2). Of course, if these descriptions are simply symbolic (which they certainly are) then we would not be led astray into believing the Holy Spirit actually appears like a bird that we call a dove. If, on the other hand, we insist (like theologians of the fourth century onwards began to imagine) that the Holy Spirit is indeed a personality and that the verses are literal (and not symbolic), then we have effectively created a "bird god" just like the ancient Egyptians and other heathen societies did. Such a concept is utterly absurd from a biblical point of view, but this is the conclusion we are inevitably forced to accept if we insist on the literal personality of the Holy Spirit and that the pronoun "he" associated with the Holy Spirit in a few places in Johnís Gospel demonstrates that personality. On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit is only represented as a dove in a symbolic sense, then we are not faced with the "bird god" concept found among some early pagan religious groups.
Comment: Look at the absurdity of taking these matters literally. Though John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit appearing as a bird, does the Spirit actually have such a form? If it does, how can it dwell in each Christian in the likeness of a dove (John 14:17; Romans 8:9)? A dove occupies space (about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide). How could a single "dove" dwell in millions of Christians around the world at the same time and appear in a single bird form? Or does the Holy Spirit appear to people as several million separate "doves"?
Really, the whole concept of which we are speaking is ridiculous if accepted literally. In actual fact, the Scripture says John the Baptist saw the Spirit like [as] a dove. In no way does the Bible mean that the Spirit always has the form of a dove or that the Spirit had any distinct form at all. At the baptism of Christ, the Father simply allowed John to witness the power of the Spirit coming upon Christ in the symbol of peace, kindness and gentleness. The Bible does not mean the Holy Spirit always appears like a dove any more than Christ Jesus always looks like a lamb with seven horns and seven pairs of eyes as he is allegorically depicted in Revelation 5:6. These figures of speech should not be taken literally.
In truth, the Bible gives a far different description of the Holy Spirit in its general and normal form. Christ described the Holy Spirit as being something like the wind. Even the basic meaning of the word "spirit" is wind or air. "The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). From a physical point of view the wind is probably the best descriptive representation of the Spirit and its actions. The wind can be felt but not seen. Only in a figure of speech is the Holy Spirit able to be seen, and even then its appearance is that of a dove, not a human being.
There is another descriptive element in the Bible about the true Holy Spirit. We are told by the Scripture that the Holy Spirit can be "poured out" on people. See Acts 10:45. This makes perfectly good sense to me. My profession before I went into biblical and historical studies was that of a meteorologist -- a person dealing with the weather sciences. Now note this. We have an atmosphere which envelops this earth. When that atmosphere begins to move, it is called wind. Though much lighter in weight than water, the wind acts very much like water in it physical actions. And believe it or not, air can be "poured out" of a cold container into warmer air, and the cold air will act just like water being "poured out" of a similar container. Remember, Christ said that the Spirit is like the wind [even the word "spirit" means wind]. Colder or heavier air can be "poured out" like water from any receptacle that contains it. And what does Acts 10:45 state? It says that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The Spirit is really like the wind and it can be poured out on people like water if it is retained in a container and it is kept colder than the surrounding air. But someone in the form of a dove or appearing like a human being cannot in any way be "poured out." The fact that the Holy Spirit is sometimes reckoned as a dove or that the Spirit is sometimes personified as one who can speak is no proof whatever that the Spirit is a personality of its own. We get into absurdities when one accepts such things as being literal. To prevent such nonsense from being seriously considered by reasonable people, the New Testament always renders the word "Spirit in the neuter gender -- not in the masculine or the feminine (which might give the impression of personality).
Question Three: In spite of the fact that figures of speech commonly describe the Holy Spirit which cannot be literal, some feel the Holy Spirit surely must be a personality because in First John 5:7 the Spirit is shown as one of the three witnesses. For there are three that bear record in heaven the Father the Word [Son], and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
Answer: The truth is, all the underlined words in the above text within the King James Version were not part of the original writings of John. Those words are not found in any known Greek manuscript except four, and those four are Greek translations from a late rendition of the Latin Vulgate. Of those four manuscripts, one was written in the 16th century another in the 12th century which had the underlined words inserted in the margin by a later hand; another was written in the 14th or 15th centuries; and the other was in an 11th century manuscript. These extra words are not found in any ancient version (Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Ethiopic, Arabic, Slavonic) except the Latin. Even then they are not found in the Old Latin, or the early Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome. The underlined words were interpolated into the Latin Vulgate (probably in the 5th or 6th centuries).
Without a shadow of a doubt, the underlined words mentioned above in First John 5:7 were not authored by the apostle John and they are not a part of the genuine text of the New Testament. See Professor Bruce M. Metzgerís A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp 716-718 for certain proof of this.
Comment: The fact that these added words were placed inside the text of the New Testament was to give some credence to the doctrine of the Trinity --that is, that the Holy Spirit is a personality who is co-equal with the Father and Son in the Godhead. But look at this. Had that teaching been clear in the original words of the New Testament, there would be no need for the addition of these extra words. The unauthorized intrusion of these additional words by later scribes is just another example of how weak the doctrine of the Trinity is in the original New Testament texts. These additional words tend to show the doctrine of the Trinity itself to be spurious (which it is).
Question Four: Even though the underlined words in First John 5:7 do not belong among the apostolic writings, some theologians believe that other original writings must surely show the personality of the Spirit.
Answer: Really, there is very little (if anything) to support the personality of the Spirit. This can be seen when one compares the references made by the apostles to the Godhead. In cardinal texts dealing with Deity, the personalities of the Father and Christ are constantly mentioned in association with one another, but the mention of the Holy Spirit is almost always absent. Note how Paul and the other apostles consistently referred to the authority of the ones they represented in the opening salutation to their epistles. Look at what they state. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thes. 1:1; II Thes. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; II Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; II Pet. 1:2).
Note that there is no mention of the Holy Spirit whatever in the introductions to these epistles. Other apostles show the same thing. James said he was "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1) -- no mention of the Holy Spirit. John also said. "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ" (I John 1:3) -- still no mention of the Holy Spirit. But if the Spirit were an individual co-equal with the Father and the Son, this consistent omission is incomprehensible. In fact, it would have been affrontery and insubordination by the apostles at the highest level. In modern terms, this would be like recognizing three people who own and run a business, but their employees in the field would only give references to two of them when writing to headquarters. This would he unthinkable. But if there were only two "presidents" who used a powerful force to accomplish their tasks, then it could be understood why the power itself was not addressed in any salutations from or to their underlings. This is precisely the way it was with the apostles in their letters to the various congregations. The apostles consistently left out the Holy Spirit in their salutations in their epistles to Christians.
Comment: There are many other sections of the apostolic writings which also show a lack of identifying the Holy Spirit as a personality alongside the Father and the Son. In Romans 8:17 Paul mentioned that Christians are heirs of God the Father and heirs of Christ, but he said nothing about Christians being co-equally heirs of the Spirit. Why not, if the Spirit is a co-equal individual alongside the Father and Christ? In I Corinthians 3:23 Christians are said to belong to Christ as he belongs to God ó but nothing about anyone belonging to the Holy Spirit as though he were an equal personality too. In I Corinthians 4:1 Paul said the apostles were ministers of Christ and also stewards of the mysteries of God [the Father], but he said nothing about the apostles being representatives of the Holy Spirit as if the Spirit were a co-equal person with the Father and the Sort. In I Corinthian, 11:3 Paul said the man was head of the woman, that Christ was the head of the man, and that God was head of Christ. There is nothing in the teaching of Paul about the Holy Spirit, as a person, being the head of anyone. In I Corinthians 15:28 Paul said all things would be subdued by Christ, and that Christ would in turn hand over all power to God the Father. But the Holy Spirit as a co-personality is not so much as mentioned in Paulís account and in the figuring in of this transference of power and authority. In II Corinthians 2:14-17 Paul said that the apostles were commissioned to speak in the sight of God the Father and in the sight of Christ, but nothing about them being in the sight of the Spirit. In II Corinthians 5:19 it was God the Father who was working in Christ for the reconciliation of the world to himself, yet Paul said nothing about the Holy Spirit ass personality being involved in that reconciliation.
In II Corinthians 12:19 Paul said that the apostles had the responsibilities of speaking before God the Father within the authority of Christ, but again there is not a single mention of the Holy Spirit as having an individual role as a personality itself and having a say in this matter of authority. In Ephesians 5:5 Paul mentioned the kingdom of God along with the kingdom of Christ, but never referred at all to a kingdom of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit were a person, why did Paul (time after time) leave him out? In Colossians 3:1 Paul spoke of Christ sitting on the right hand of God the Father. But there is nothing about Christ sitting on the left (or right) of the Holy Spirit. Why not if the Spirit is co-equal with the Father and Christ and forms with them a triune Godhead? And when Stephen looked into heaven and saw Christ standing next to the Father, he did not state that the Holy Spirit was there with them in a co-equal manner (Acts 7:55).
The Clincher: All these scriptures (and there are many more) speak against the teaching that the Holy Spirit is a person in the same co-equal category as the Father and Christ. But ranking above them all in clearness is I Timothy 2:5. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." There is no scripture more plain in showing the deities whom man has above him. The only mediator between you as a human being and God the Father is Jesus Christ. There is none other! This means that not even the Holy Spirit (sent to earth as a comforter to man) is a mediator between mankind and the Father. However, if the Holy Spirit were a person who is co-equal with the Father and Son as the doctrine of the Trinity suggests, it would have been an affront of the highest order to exclude him from some intermediary position between mankind and the Father. Or the other hand, if the Spirit is simply the power of God to exercise the purpose of Gods will on earth and in the universe (like electricity that travels along a metal wire), then Paulís statement to Timothy (I Timothy 2:5) and in all other sections of his epistles makes perfectly good sense.
The Holy Spirit must simply be the power that the Father and Christ use to accomplish their purposes throughout the universe. Note this. God is described as being everywhere in the universe. "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell [sheol], behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Ps, 139:8-10). How is it possible for God to be in all these places as described by the psalmist, and still be in all other places with everyone else of his children? The answer is simple. The psalmist also said: "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit" (Psa.139:7). It is Godís Spirit, not himself, which pervades the totality of the universe. God, as a personality and as an individual is in one place at one time and He is not (of himself as a personality) located everywhere at the same time throughout the universe That the Spirit can be everywhere at once like an electrical power that emanates from God. That is why the Spirit itself cannot be an individual or else it too would not be able to be everywhere at the same time. But if the Spirit is simply the power of God to accomplish his purposes, that Spirit can encompass at all times the totality of the universe.
Question Five: While the above information seems to support the non-personality of the Spirit. we find Paul in II Corinthians 13:14 mentioning the Spirit as occupying a co-equal position in the same context as the Father and the Son. Does this not show his co-equal personality after all?
Answer: In this case Paul asked the Corinthians to remain in the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit. The word communion means that they should be "sharing" in the Holy Spirit.
Comment: There is nothing here to suggest that the Holy Spirit is a personality. Paul is hoping that the Corinthians will have "a communion" [or a sharing] with the Holy Spirit. If one looks on the Spirit as that faculty of power which allows the saints of God to be in association [communion] with God and Christ, Paulís statement makes perfectly good sense. The Spirit, in this case, is like the telephone line, or the radio beam, which is actively energized with electrical power to allow one to be in communication [communion] with someone else while the parties are at a distance from one another. It is through this power that keeps the Father and Christ in a present contact with people on earth. "I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [the Holy Spirit] will not come unto you" (John 16:7). All Christians can maintain a comforting communion with the Father and the Son through the agency of the Holy Spirit. This is a "direct line" to the heavenly throne. This is what gives Christians comfort at the present time while Christ (as a personality) is away from all people on earth.
Question Six: Yet did not Christ ask people to baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)? Surely this shows the personality of the Spirit since Christ said the Spirit had a name.
Answer: To speak in "the name" of something does not necessarily mean that the subject is a personality. Even today an officer of the law may call out to an escaping criminal: "Stop, in the name of the law." The law" is certainly not a personality. The phrase simply means "by the authority" of something. If one wanted to show in plain language what Christ meant in the baptism formula of Matthew 28:19, it could go like this: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them by the authority of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." And since the Spirit is the means by which man is convicted of sin through a communication from God (John 16:8), a baptism on this earth would not have been effective unless the authority of the power which reproved the person of sin, and activated his mind towards righteousness, would have been involved. After all, it was to be the Holy Spirit which, from the time of Christ onward, would guide Christians into all the truth (John 16:13). There is, however, nothing in the text of Matthew in mentioning "a name" to suggest that the Holy Spirit was a personality. The Holy Spirit is simply the power (the energy) that activates and sustains the work of God.
Question Seven: Indeed, are there not "seven spirits" before the throne of God rather than just one Holy Spirit?
Answer: Though seven spirits are mentioned In Revelation 1:4 alongside the Father and Christ, the identification of these particular spirits is given elsewhere. These seven spirits are not the Holy Spirit. Let us note the scripture in question. "Grace be unto you, and peace from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before the throne; and from Jesus Christ" (Rev.1:4).
The phrase "is, was, and is to come" is a translation of the Old Testament name for the Lord (Yahweh). In this case it refers to the Father because Christ is mentioned in the latter part of the verse and in distinction to him. Yet, in the midst of this superscription is the mention of "seven spirits before the throne." So, we have the Father, the Seven Spirits, and the Son. Are those Seven Spirits personalities? Yes they are. Are they the Holy Spirit itself? No they are not. This is made clear in Revelation 8:2. They are further identified in Revelation 4:5 and are equated with the seven angels who stand before the throne of God. These spirits are not deity. These are the seven lamps, or spirits, mentioned in Revelation 4:5 and are equated with the seven angelic beings who preside over the seven congregations of Revelation 1:20. Angels are, themselves, called spirits. "He maketh his angels spirits" (Heb.1:7).
Since these Seven Spirits are angels, they cannot be a part of the Godhead. This is because angels are not to be worshiped. "I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then said he unto me, see thou do it not: for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God" (Rev. 22:8,9). Only God (the Father and Christ) can be legitimately worshiped. Since the Seven Spirits of Revelation 1:4 are angels, they do not represent deity and they are not to be worshiped. Nor are they the Holy Spirit.
In this introduction of the apostle John in the Book of Revelation, he refers to the Father, the seven angels, and Christ, but not once to the Holy Spirit as a personality to be worshiped in a co-equal sense with the Father and Christ.
Question Eight: What about Christís conception and birth? Since the Scripture says that it was the Holy Spirit which caused Christ to be conceived and placed in the womb of Mary (Matt 1:18), do we not have a problem if one considers the Holy Spirit an individual person who is co-equal with the Father and Christ? Would this not make the Holy Spirit the father of Christ and not the Father himself?
Answer: This would actually be true. If the Holy Spirit is a person in his own right, yet equal with the Father and Christ by being a part of the triune Godhead (the Trinity), then the Spirit would be the father of Christ, not the Father. But this cannot be. Throughout the Bible, Christ recognized only one Father, and he was the supreme head of all. However, through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ was conceived and the impregnated ovum was placed in Mary. If this is not the case, then the father of Christ was not the Father, but it would have to be the Holy Spirit. This scenario renders the whole matter of the incarnation of Christ as being completely incomprehensible and unexplainable. But we need not resort to such reasoning. When the Spirit is understood as not being a personality the problem is averted and common sense prevails in this matter. This is surely the answer to this question and a score of other related problems.
Question Nine: Just what is the Holy Spirit?
Answer: Let us first find out what God the Father is. The Bible says that the Father himself is Spirit (John 4:24). And there can be no doubt that the Father, as a Spirit, is holy. He, himself is a Holy Spirit. But this does not end the matter. Christ Jesus is a Spirit too. Paul informs us that there is a Spirit which "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26). But Paul also said the only one who intercedes with the Father was Christ (I Tim. 2:5). And this is what Paul went on to teach in Romans 8? "It is Christ who died, Yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). Who, then, is the intercessor who makes intercession in Romans 8? Paul said that Spirit was Christ. And indeed, Christ is a Spirit. Paul said that the "last Adam [Christ] was made a quickening spirit" (I Cor. 15:45).
Comment: This means that the Father and Christ are made up of a spiritual substance that is called "Spirit." They are themselves "Spirits." The Lord Jesus Christ is a spirit and the Father is a spirit too (John 4:24). And since the Father and Christ are both "holy," they themselves are considered Holy Spirits: Thus, when the Bible says that the Spirit does this or the Spirit does that, or that the Spirit speaks, groans, rejoices, etc., it often means that it is Christ (and in some contexts the Father) who is doing the actual speaking groaning, rejoicing etc. Of course, they do it through the spiritual power (the "electrical energy" called the Holy Spirit) which activates and sustains the forces that keep the universe in operation. The Bible shows that the Holy Spirit itself does not have a bodily substance made up of spiritual elements as does the Father and Christ Jesus. It is the electrical or "spiritual" energy that performs the wishes of the Father and Christ And that "energy" is the Holy Spirit.
Question Ten: But some call attention to a point mentioned in the Hebrew portion of the Bible. Does not the Hebrew language of the Old Testament support the proposition that the Holy Spirit is a distinct personality? ó a third God in the triune Godhead? Is the Hebrew speaking of a Trinity?
Answer: The Hebrew language of itself does not condone the suggestion of a Trinity making up the Godhead. This may be a hard pill for some to swallow, but it is true. Yet, there are some theologians who point to the Hebrew word Elohim (which means "God" or "Mighty") and state that it has a distinct plural meaning and could refer to the Trinity. Indeed, Elohim is many times connected with singular verbs which might give the impression of plurality within singularity, something that the doctrine of the Trinity might propose. The first verse of the Bible has this characteristic. In the beginning Elohim (plural) created (singular) the heaven. and the earth" (Gen.1:1). But some verses get even more emphatic when certain plural pronouns and verbs are used in the context. "And Elohim (plural) said, Let us make (plural) man in our image" (Gen. 1:26). "And the Lord Elohim (plural) said, Behold the man is become as one of us" (Gen 3:22).
This may at first appear as an Old Testament vindication of the doctrine of the Trinity (that them are three Gods - the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit yet they are still one God). But this could hardly be the case when one studies the Scripture carefully. If it is so, why did not the Hebrews from the time of Moses to Christ speak about the Trinity in the Old Testament and in their ordinary literature? In no way did Jews see such a concept in the meaning of the Hebrew words. The fact is, the word Elohim is simply plural (not dual or triune of itself). Its plurality could embrace a number of three OR MORE in its meaning This makes excellent sense with teachings from other parts of the Old Testament. Even angels are called Elohim and they are not limited to three in number (Job 1:6; 2:1). The human judges of Israel are also called Elohim and they are likewise not limited to three in number (Exo.21:6; 22:8,9,20,28). We are told that even human beings on earth are called Elohim and there are billions of humans (Psa 82:6). The word Elohim does not represent a Ď"Trinity." There are vast numbers of personalities which can be found within the word "Elohim." Though angels and humans are not a form of deity to be worshiped (certainly not at the present) the word Elohim cannot be restricted to three Gods in one. It embraces many Sons and daughters of God!.
Question Eleven: Why, then, is the word Elohim (God) found in the plural if the Trinity doctrine is not its meaning?
Answer: This is an important point and it needs an answer. Particularly is it essential because the foundational position of Judaism and Old Testament teaching is that God is one. Most people recognize that monotheism (a belief in one God) has its bedrock teaching within the pages of the Old Testament. And so it does. "Hear, 0 Israel: the Lord our God [Elohim] is one Lord" (Deut.6:4).
There is one Lord (singular), yet he is called Elohim (plural). And throughout the Old Testament this plural word is governed by singular verbs. What an enigma. At least it appears to be that way or the surface.
The answer, however, is simple and is dearly explained in the New Testament. The word Elohim is like what we tall a collective noun. It is a word that has a plural significance embodied within it, yet the plural numbers perform their actions in unison-- as a unit. Such a word is "army." No one thinks of an army as comprising only one or two men. The word army brings to mind many hundreds (even thousands) of troops. But what if a newspaper headline said: "The Army Is On The Move"? Everyone would know what is meant. All the separate members of the army were all marching in unison, and under a single command, to do the job assigned.
Another word of similar construction is "family." There may be ten members of one family but they could act together as a unit. To say "The family is going on a picnic" make perfectly good sense. While each of the ten members goes on the picnic the descriptive phrase shows that it is the family as a unit that performs the action.
This usage exactly describes what the Godhead of the Bible is like. It is a single family unit (one God) made up of separate members. We are told of the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. But are there more members? One thing for certain, the apostle Paul said that each person redeemed by Christ is "in Christ" and represents a cardinal part of that divine family (Eph. 1:3,4,10; 2:6). We are all a part of the household of God (Eph. 2:19-22). He further illustrates this by saying that each of us individually as well as all collectively make up the one body of Christ. "For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the one body, being many, are ONE body: SO IS CHRIST" (I Cor.12:12).
Jesus Christ is part of the one family of God (of Elohim), We are Sons and daughters of the Father too. This means that all of us are members of the divine family of God. Christ simply represents the firstborn. But we are reckoned as being "In Christ," so this puts us in the same relationship with the Father that Christ now enjoys.
The Godhead is not a Trinity of three personalities. This is why the Trinity doctrine is such a disastrous (and anti-biblical) teaching, because it limits the Godhead to three personalities alone. By adopting such a teaching, the message of the Gospel of Christ (how we are to become members of the divine family of God) is then vitiated and destroyed.
But if the Holy Spirit is a personality like the Father and Christ as the Trinity doctrine states, what is he? Is he our brother like Christ is to us? Is he the Fathers son as Christ is? If so, is he the second born son, since Christ is the first born? Or perhaps the Spirit is the brother of the Father?
The truth is, the doctrine of the Trinity confuses the whole issue of the essential teachings of the New Testament. The doctrine is as Satanic and heretical as any doctrine can be. It is cultish in the extreme and resembles the teaching about the triune deities that comprised the pagan godheads among the Gentile religions of the world. The authoritative Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (vol.12, p. 458) states: "Although the notion of a divine Triad or Trinity is characteristic of the Christian religion, it is by no means peculiar to it. In Indian religion, we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahma, Siva, and Visnu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, constituting a divine family. Nor is it only in historical religions that we have God viewed as a Trinity. One recalls in particular the Neo-Platonic view of the Supreme or Ultimate Reality, which was suggested by Plato in the Timaeus."
The simple fact is, the Trinity doctrine was adopted by theologians in the fourth century to satisfy philosophical teachings which were permeating society in the western world at that time in world history.
Question Twelve: Didnít the real creation of the Trinity doctrine have its "orthodox" origin in the fourth century after Christ and that it is not found in the New Testament?
Answer: There can be no doubt that the doctrine of the Trinity was arrived at in the fourth century through philosophical speculation about pagan principles and beliefs and through the application of deductive reasoning from a few isolated passages in the New Testament. The Trinity doctrine was even looked on in the fourth century as "brand new teaching" by the ones who formally adopted it (notably the Cappadocian theologians Basil and the two Gregorys).
In fact, there were great debates going on among theologians of the forth century about the matter of the Trinity. There were many top scholars of that period who refuted it as an untenable doctrine and not found in the Holy Scriptures. These people were known as Arians and they were represented by great numbers throughout the Roman Empire and beyond its borders. It is not that the Arians were always right in their concepts of the deity of Christ, but they wore not trinitarians. It could really be said that belief in the Trinity became an "orthodox" doctrine with the decrees of the Nicean and Chalcedon Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries. It was the enforcement of these church decrees of the councils by the "Christian" emperors and ecclesiastical leaders (using the Roman army and its legions) that secured the Trinityís acceptance. Indeed, it took over a hundred years ofí intense debate before the doctrine was absolutely accepted at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D.451.
It could legitimately be asked that if the teaching of the Trinity was so clear in the pages of the New Testament, why did it take so long for people to adopt it, and then only by the secular and religious authorities enforcing the doctrine on the general population? The truth is, the doctrine is nowhere found in the teachings of the Holy Scriptures It the manner arrived at by the Council of Chalcedon, and its application is devastating to the true teachings of the Gospel of Christ.
In fact, if you could take ten intelligent people who know nothing about the doctrine of the Trinity, lock them up for a month in separate rooms, give each of them a modern translation of the Bible and tell them to discover what the biblical teaching of the Godhead is all about, there would not be a one of them that would come up with anywhere near the final teaching of the Trinity that was arrived at with the Council of Chalcedon. The latter conclusions were based on philosophical speculations of the Neo-Platonic school that make them completely inexplicable to the ordinary intelligent person. In fact, there is not a person in the world who can satisfactorily explain what the doctrine of the Trinity is all about. Yet today, it is that very doctrine that must be believed by all modern Christians or the mainline denominations will consider disbelievers as being heretical and cultish. The whole thing is non-biblical and it is also anti-biblical.
Question Thirteen: Following up on this matter is it not a fact that every theologian or scholar who has studied the doctrine of the Trinity (even those who sternly believe its "orthodoxy"), say that its teaching is inexplicable to human understanding?
Answer: This is true. It could well be said that no human on earth has been able to comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity in a way that makes it sensible. That the Spirit is a "power" is understandable, but the fact that the Trinity is impossible to fathom by the human mind is one of its major weaknesses.
Comment: While it is not a difficult proposition to conceive of the Father in one place at the same time with a shape and form, and that the Son is also beside him with also a distinct shape and form, it is impossible to perceive of the Holy Spirit being a separate personality with shape and form and at the same time inhabiting ten or a hundred million people throughout all areas of the earth.
But if the Spirit is simply the power of the Father and the Son to accomplish their wishes throughout the universe (and not having shape and form), all can become better understood. Most of us can comprehend the basic principles of how electricity works and how it is able to utilize power and energy. It is this same type of principle that the biblical revelation reveals as best answering what the Spirit is and how it works. But doctrines like the Trinity cannot be explained in such simple terms. It is so vague and impossible of human explanation (even in its fundamentals), that this alone makes such philosophical doctrines suspect and that they deserve to be looked on with considerable doubt.
Question Fourteen: But have not some people related experiences in which they, claim to have seen the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a body form? -- either all three together, or each separately? Does this not prove the personality of the Holy Spirit after all?
Answer: There are many people who dream dreams and have visions of various kinds. The Bible warns about the reliability of such experiences (Deut. 13:1-5). We are told to test the spiritual perceptions of others because many false prophets have emerged as a consequence (I John 4:1). It is not always possible to be certain if anyoneís visionary experience is from God. This is especially true when a person says he or she has seen something that the teaching of the Bible does not countenance. And in regard to the Bible, there is not one example of any righteous person in either the Old or New Testament that has "seen" the Holy Spirit as a personality like the Father or Christ. Indeed, it is not recorded in Scripture that any righteous person has "seen" the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit together as personalities. If this has not occurred to any righteous person of the Bible, why should God pick out certain modern people to have some extraordinary and special experiences that supposedly show this?
Even with those who say they have "seen the Holy Spirit as a personality, how can they be sure the "person" is the Holy Spirit? It could very well be some other "spirit" that is counterfeiting the Spirit of God (II Cor. 11:14,15). This is especially so since there is no example in the Scripture of the Holy Spirit being in human form. When it is personified, it is reckoned as a dove -- a bird with wings that "flutter" (Gen. 1:2). But even this is a symbol. No one today seriously thinks of the Holy Spirit as a "bird god." Since this is the case, people ought to give up the concept that the Holy Spirit is a personality and focus on the truth that it is the power of God to accomplish his purposes throughout the universe.
As far as the Spirit is concerned, It is described as being like the wind that cannot be seen (and only in symbol is it shown to be like a dove). It seems to us at ASK, that it is better to stay with the biblical descriptions than those of a few visionaries who have experiences contrary to Bible teaching.
Question Fifteen: When our Lord bestowed the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and Christians in general, what was the method by which he gave it to them? Did a separate God (or some "body form") enter into them?
Answer: The New Testament said Christ "breathed" on them (John 20:22). Did some human form come out of his mouth and enter every apostle? This is hardly a suitable belief. Since the word "spirit" itself means wind or air it becomes perfectly natural that a "breathing" out of his body could allow Godís power to be dispensed to them. Christís "breath" (or "spirit") became mingled with their own "breaths" (or "spirit") and this intermingling gave the apostles the spiritual power they needed to accomplish the tasks assigned to them by Christ.
This is even more sure because on the Day of Pentecost after Christís rising from the dead, the Bible says the Spirit came into all the disciples "as a rushing mighty wind" (Acts 2:2). It filled not only each of the persons in the house with spiritual power, but even the whole house itself became filled to the rafters with this spiritual energy. This incident was not the appearance of a male bird (a dove) filling the house. It was also not a single (and separate) God in some "body form" filling the home. If, however, we understand that the Holy Spirit is simply the power of God (like some kind of electrical energy) to accomplish Godís purposes, all can become much more comprehensible and reasonable to human beings.
Question Sixteen: In spite of the fact that the doctrine of the Trinity is thoroughly inexplicable to human understanding, why is it that about 95 per cent of "orthodox" Christians today demand that all Christians believe this incomprehensible doctrine or they will be considered by mainline denominations as heretical and/or cultish?
Answer: The reason for this is plain. The doctrine of the Trinity has become the most important teaching in Christendom, since the fourth century because it was arrived at by strenuous and intense activity of early church officials over a period of a hundred and twenty-five years. To not accept it means that the Christian does not accept the opinion of those ecclesiastical authorities or the Christian emperors who forced their opinions on the Christian world. In other words, it is only a matter of who has authority in Christendom. Is it a body of men (whom people claim were inspired by the Holy Spirit to come to their conclusions) or is it the teaching of the Holy Scriptures alone that should suffice. As for us at ASK, we accept only the authority of the Bible.
The simple truth is, the doctrine of the Trinity is a Church Doctrine, not a biblical one. If one used the Bible alone as his or her authority, no one would hardly come up with such an inexplicable doctrine concerning the Godhead. In a word, by disallowing the false teaching of the Trinity (and its concomitant doctrines), one is left with the fact that we no longer need the authority of church leaders and their opinions to rule over mankind. The doctrine of the Trinity was concocted by the philosophical speculations of men (by church leaders). It did not originate in the Bible.
The Trinity doctrine also falsely links Christ with the Father (and the Holy Spirit) in such a way that all three individuals are given an existence from eternity to eternity (because the proponents of the doctrine feel all three are inseparable in function and composition). But this is directly contrary to the explicit teaching of the apostle Paul that Christ was the firstborn son of the Father and that Christ was the first one that the Father created (Colossians 1:15). The apostle Paul said that after Christ was created, then Christ created the rest of the universe (both things visible and invisible) (Colossians 1:16.21). The Trinity doctrine, however, denies this teaching of Paul and gives to Christ (as well as the Holy Spirit) an eternal existence with the Father. As far as I am concerned, however, I would rather believe Paul any day that Christ was the first one to be created by the Father rather than resting my belief on the philosophical speculations of some theologians of the fourth and fifth centuries who were trying to get Christian teachings to dovetail with the essential concepts of paganism then found in the world.
Conclusion: What this world needs is to return to the plain and simple teachings of the Holy Scriptures. That is what we of ASK are trying to do. We hope that all of you will join with us in this quest to present the real teachings of Christianity to this world with all the power and authority that the Father and Christ can give to us. It is time to abide by the teachings of our Elder Brother (Jesus Christ) and give up the pagan deductions and philosophical nonsense now being taught in most societies of modern Christendom.
Ernest L. Martin
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