The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Who is the Holy Spirit, Really?

I think the whole context makes it clear:

24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.
26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

The Pharisees were constantly blaspheming Jesus. Jesus was not that concerned about it. But He knew that it was through the spirit of God (that is, His Father’s spirit within Him) that He was casting out demons. This blasphemy really cut Him to the heart—suggesting tht Beelzebul was empowering Him to cast out demons, rather than the spirit of His Father.

Would it be plausible to say that the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of our salvation?

I’ll try to explain what I mean, starting with a few scriptures. Jesus said,

The Father sends the HS in Jesus’ name. We are in Christ by the HS (Eph 1:13-14). Jesus later says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

Further, to manifest our salvation by the HS is true worship, just as Paul exhorts in Romans 12: offer your body as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship. How do we do this? In several ways, as we grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as these scriptures illustrate:

Worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:23, Phil 3:3)
God’s love has been poured into our hearts by the HS (Rom 5:5)
Abound in hope by the power of the HS (Romans 15:13)
The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God (1 Cor 2:10)
Gifts are distributed by the HS (1 Cor 12)
Walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16)
Restore a fallen individual in a spirit of gentleness (Gal 6:1)
Sow to the Spirit (Gal 6:8)
Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3)
Do not grieve the HS (Eph 4:30)
Be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18)
Pray in the Spirit (Eph 6:18)
Stand firm in one Spirit (Phil 1:27)
Be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in the HS (Col 1:9)
Do not quench the HS (1 Thess 5:19)
HS bears witness to us (Heb 10:15)
Guard the good deposit, by the HS (2 Tim 1:14)
We know He abides in us by the HS given us (1 Jn 3:24, 1 Jn 4:13)
Hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev 1-3)
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17)

Because we have the gift of the Spirit, we are able to show love, joy and peace to the world, even to our enemies. When we fall, when we retreat back into our flesh, when we are afraid, we know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, but He will restore us – and often through help from our spiritual brothers and sisters, who open our eyes to our error (Gal 6:1). And all of this comes from the Lord to show that it is from Him and not from us.

I believe that much of the mystery of the HS derives from the truth that the same HS that is in you is also in me and, arguably, every other person who has been, is now, or will be (and on this point, I search for answers from God). Therefore, as perfectly unique as you are, and everyone else on this forum, we are all being made One in the Father and the Son by the HS, to the praise of His glory. One Father (our heavenly Father), One Master and Teacher (the Lord Jesus), and one Spirit to lead us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). I think it is knowing that there is only one Spirit of Truth that gives me such great joy in the midst of trouble, that God really is working all things out for His own glory in all of this, well, trouble. Jesus said that in the world we would have tribulation – but to be of good cheer, for He has overcome the world.

I hope I did not stray from your topic, Cindy. It is such a deep and glorious thing to contemplate the HS.

Hi Cindy,

I understand the Holy Spirit to be the revealed and active spiritual and personal presence of God. Concerning the word “person” though, I don’t see God having multiple “personalities”, but only one “personality”. And thus I struggle with the traditional deffinition of Trinity as being “One God in Three Persons”. Rather, I think of God a being a tripartate being/person, similar to what I believe to be as we are - spirit, soul, and body. So Jesus is the Physical presence of God. The Spirit is the Spiritual presence of God. And God the Father is the Transcending presence of God. But of course, I could be way off-base.


This is a fairly common idea within Christendom. But I can’t make sense of one part of God’s being praying to another part. Jesus prayed to His Father as to another Individual. He wasn’t praying to Himself, was He?

Jesus also made statements such as, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me." (John 5:30). This sounds as if He considered the Father to be a different Individual, and does not sound as if He is talking about Himself, or about some part of Himself.

Jesus also prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done!” as if the Father’s will might be different from His own. Or is it possible tht He was schizophrenic?

I think much of what Jesus did was meant to model to us how to live as one submitted to God; it’s possible that this is what is going on in these instances. These passages could also be reflective of how we are to submit the desires of the physical to the will of the spirit within our own selves. However, as you note, prima facia understanding of these passages do lean towards seeing Jesus as being a completely seperate person/individual. I see Jesus as being God in flesh. It was Jesus, I think, who walked with Adam and Eve in the garden, Jesus who appeared to Abraham and warned of the destruction of Sodom, Jesus who was the capain of the Lord’s army who appeared to Joshua.

Thanks everyone for the great inputs :slight_smile: Sorry I haven’t been around much in the last several days, and I have to go to town shortly – but I wanted to check in, say thanks, and I’ll make some comments here later today.

Love, Cindy

I’ve always experienced the Holy Spirit as a person. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience, and kindness. For me this is Beautiful.

Cindy, perhaps you might want to consider why the Church finally determined that the Holy Spirit must be a distinct hypostasis within the Godhead. It all has to do with theosis: df the Spirit is not fully divine, then he cannot make us divine. Or as St Gregory of Nazianzus writes, “If he has the same rank as I have, how can he make me God, how can he link me with deity?” (Or. 31.4)

I agree that it was Jesus who appeared to Abraham and warned of the destruction of Sodom. But the Father is also mentioned in Gen 19:24.

There are TWO Individuals mentioned in this verse. Each of them is called “Yahweh”. One was on earth talking to Abraham. This Yahweh was the means of bringing about the rain of sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. But the source of that sulfur and fire was the Yahweh in heaven. The Yahweh on earth was but the agent through whom the Yahweh in heaven worked.

What a beautiful post, Patricia :slight_smile: I loved reading your exhortation and praise – and you’re absolutely right – the knowledge that the same Spirit dwells in us all, to make us one in the love of God, is wonderful. Definitely the Spirit in us is the proof, the manifestation of our salvation. Excellent point.


Steve, you’re absolutely right! This is a perplexing topic to me too (which is why I posted it :wink: ). I’ve got a couple of books right now that I’m reading – one I bought long long ago and didn’t read (Forgotten God by Francis Chan – (just because he’s wrong about soteriology doesn’t mean he’s necessarily wrong about everything, :laughing: but I’m not far enough along to make any comments on it)) and “Worship Trinity” by our own Robin Parry (Gregory MacDonald). Again, I’m not very far in yet. I’ll try to remember to post a review here when I’ve made a bit more progress.

Paidion, I appreciate your position. RE the 2 Cor passage. It’s a bit confusing in this chapter – where Paul’s talking about the HS and where he’s talking about Jesus. I wouldn’t try to tease it out. But that very confusion makes me think that Paul doesn’t see a lot of difference, and variously uses the word kurios for either the HS or for Jesus. He appears to be hearkening back to the Spirit infusing Moses after his visit with the Lord. In other places (as I recall – I’d have to do some searching to find the references though) he seems to regard the Son and the Father in the same way – blurring the boundaries (if there are any) between the two. This is I think appropriate for Trinitarians, as we see the three persons (not individuals) as One (for me at least, I see this as a perfect family, since human families (well-functioning ones anyway) are often seen as a type of the unity of the Godhead). I understand that you’re not a Trinitarian; I’d never try to talk you into being one. If the HS wants you to believe that way, the HS is capable of persuading you. Meantime, it’s not something I feel is my business to impose on you or anyone else. I respect your beliefs on this; I know they’re well thought through and sincere.

Thanks, Cole :smiley: Great comment and I agree.

Thanks for this comment, Fr Aiden. :slight_smile:

First, I looked up hypostasis, and this is what Wikipedia says:

I’m not certain I understand this definition and I’m wondering whether you might be willing to explain it in other words? Are you saying that the HS has a distinct “underlying state/substance” from that of the Father and that of the Son? And if that’s what you’re saying, I’m still not sure quite what that would mean. I think that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and that the Son proceeds from the Father, but that the Spirit and the Son (while in unity with one another and with the Father) are each distinct persons. Is this congruent with what you’re saying?

I also looked up theosis:

I’m not sure I completely understand this one either although it’s a teensy bit more comprehensible. Any help would be appreciated! Are you saying that we humans, in unity with the Godhead, become divine in some way? That’s kind of a no-no for Protestants, but I’ve wondered about this. After all, as the bride of Christ, the ekklesia is to become one with Him. Surely He’s not “marrying down.” The Son must have a bride worthy of Him. But I am much inhibited toward any doctrine that suggests humans somehow become gods. I’m very intrigued as to what you have to say about this.

Thanks, Sherman

I’ve heard this thing about the “tri-partite being” of God too. I’m not sure what exactly to make of it. I see the Trinity more in light of a perfectly unified community and specifically a family (since families are (or ought to be) the most intimate of communities). This also (for me) hearkens back to mankind being made in the “image of God” (though I think that has many applications). He created Adam, breathed into him the breath of life (the spirit?) and from him, He brought forth Eve and subsequently Seth and their other children. Essentially in scripture, we are all one because we all came from Adam – and we’ve all been placed “in Christ” on the cross and died with Him, were raised with Him, and live toward God in Him.

So (going way beyond the OP), we’re all supposed to be one as God is One. I guess I do see the members of the Trinity having various personalities and being persons – but not being individuals in the sense of being separate from one another. Does that make sense?

The Orthodox Church defined the deity of the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity, at the Second Ecumenical Council in A. D. 381. (Interesting point for us universalists: St. Gregory of Nyssa, a universalist, was the president of the council.) The saint who did the most work in hammering-out this definition was St. Basil the Great (older brother of St. Gregory of Nyssa), particularly in his work entitled On the Holy Spirit.

I find that the best way to understand this or any point of Orthodox theology is to participate in Orthodox liturgies and/or read Orthodox liturgical texts (which contain a wealth of theology). If I analyze something too closely, I get befuddled. I don’t even know what a table or a shoe is anymore if I parse things too closely! :laughing:

The Father is in heaven and Jesus is sitting at His right hand. (Eph 1:20)

Yet Jesus said:

…If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23 ESV)

How do the Father and the Son make their home with those who love Jesus and keep His word? Do They not extend their Personality into those who love Jesus and keep His word? And is not that extension of their Personality known as “the Holy Spirit”? What need is there to postulate a third divine Individual?

Cindy, this doesn’t sound right at all. I have to question the competence of the person who wrote the Wikipedia article.

The Fathers grabbed two words from the Greek philosophical tradition–ousia and hypostasis–and used them to speak of the unity and plurality of the God of the Bible, respectively. I discuss the development of the use of hypostasis to designate the Three in this two-part article.

But I would counsel you not to worry too much at this point about defining too carefully the meaning of hypostasis, as the 4th century Church Fathers certainly didn’t worry about it. They knew that any words they used were inadequate. That’s why I suggested that you investigate why the 4th century Fathers felt compelled to eventually affirm the full divinity of the Spirit. The three classic 4th century texts are:

St Athanasius, Letters to Serapion
St Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit
St Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 31

I think you’ll find that they were driven to affirm the full divinity of the Spirit because of their soteriological convictions and their spiritual and liturgical experience. It certainly wasn’t just a matter of rational deduction from specific verses. A couple of other blog articles that you may find of interest: "St Basil the Great and the Holy Spirit and a multi-part article on St Gregory and the Spirit.

St Athanasius stated precisely what you fear: “God became man so that man might become God.” It’s a provocative statement and has been unpacked in various ways by the Church Fathers. They certainly did not mean that we cease to be creatures; but they did assert in the most emphatic way that in Christ by the Spirit we are taken up into the divine life of the Holy Trinity and are thus, in a real sense, deified. I can recommend a couple of books if you are interested in exploring further.

I am unaware that anyone who posts here questions the full divinity of the Holy Spirit.

What is questioned is whether the Holy Spirit is a THIRD divine Individual, or whether the Spirit is the extension of the Personality of the Father and the Son.

Context here is critical. Unless one affirms the Nicene understanding of the consubstantiality of the Son, the late 4th century dogmatic affirmation of the distinct identity and consubstantiality of the Spirit probably makes little to no sense. Hence it’s absolutely clear to me that some members of this forum do NOT believe in the full divinity of the Spirit, just as some on this forum do NOT believe in the full divinity of the Son, and I am perplexed how you can write what you have written, Paidion.

But perhaps I should not have used, as I just did in the preceding paragraph, the adjective “full.” The adjective implies the possibility of possessing degrees of divinity, and that possibility had been rejected by all the participants in the 4th century pneumatomachian controversy. The only question was, “Is the Spirit uncreated or created?” If the former, then it was assumed that the Spirit possessed the identical nature of the Father and the Son.

I’m afraid I do not I have a clue what it might mean to say that “the Spirit is the extension of the Personality of the Father and the Son.” Surely this cannot be meant literally. Even metaphorically I’m not sure what it might signify. I can understand how one might speak of the Spirit as the spirit of the Father, just as one can speak of the power, beauty, holiness and whatever other attribute of the Father; and I can see how one might speak similarly of the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of any human being, or even the spirit of a gathering of people. Is “spirit” here synonymous with “personality”? I do not think of the two words as synonyms but perhaps others do.

But that still leaves unanswered what it means to speak of the personality of either the Father (or the pre-existent Son). I suppose that by definition we might say that if God the Father is a person then he has a personality, yet I personally find this an odd thing to say about God. “God has a wonderful personality, once one gets to know him.” It seems to me that we are verging on anthropomorphism here, if we haven’t already crossed the line. But what can it mean to speak of the Father and Son as sharing one personality or being one personality? Is “personality” simply being used here as an equivalent term for “nature” or “being”? But I imagine I have missed the forum discussion of this question.