Holy Spirit: Why so much Confusion?

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The great truth of the Giver and the gift is very difficult to apprehend for someone who believes in the traditional teaching referred to as “the Trinity.” [1] Although many Christians persist in using this term, it is not found in Scripture, as freely admitted by Trinitarians themselves. Here is what the New Bible Dictionary says:

In most formularies the doctrine is stated by saying that God is One in His essential being, but that in this being there are three Persons, yet so as not to form separate and distinct individuals. They are three modes or forms in which the divine essence exists. ‘Person’ is, however, an imperfect expression of the truth inasmuch as the term denotes to us a separate rational and moral individual. But in the being of God there are not three individuals, but only three personal self-distinctions within the one divine essence. Then again, personality in man implies independence of will, actions, and feelings, leading to behavior peculiar to the person. This cannot be thought of in connection with the Trinity: each Person is self-conscious and self-directing, yet never acting independently or in opposition. When we say that God is a Unity, we mean that, though God is in Himself a threefold centre of life, His life is not split into three. He is one in essence, in personality and in will. When we say that God is a Trinity in Unity we mean that there is unity in diversity, and that diversity manifests itself in Persons, in characteristics and in operations. Moreover, the subsistence and operations of the three Persons are marked by a certain order, involving a certain subordination in relation, though not in nature. The Father as the fount of deity is First: He is said to originate. The Son, eternally begotten of the Father, is Second: He is said to reveal. The Spirit, eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son, is Third: He is said to execute. While this does not suggest priority in time or in dignity, since all three Persons are divine and eternal, it does suggest an order of precedence in operation and revelation. Thus we can say that creation is from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. [2]

Is it just us, or does this definition confuse you too? The point we want to make in this article is that this incomprehensible, inexplicable and unbiblical dogma has harmful consequences in practical Christian living, not the least among which is confusion about “the holy spirit.” This issues in a strong tendency not to utilize the gift of holy spirit one has been given, but rather to wait for a “Third Person” to control him and “use” him.

The Bible is, essentially, the record of two men—the “first Adam” and “the Last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). The Hebrew word adam means “man.” The first Adam disobeyed God, received the seeds of death and then, before he died, produced a race of dead men (Rom. 5:12). In direct contrast, the Last Adam obeyed God all the way to the death of the cross, lived via resurrection and will produce a race of people who will live forever with Him in a restored Paradise.

Scripture clearly states (Rom. 5:12-21) that since it was a man who sinned and died, only another man could redeem mankind, and to do so he would have to both live a sinless life and conquer death. Jesus Christ was a lamb from out of the flock, but in order to be a sacrifice sufficient for the sin nature and the sinful behavior of all men, he had to be a lamb “without spot or blemish,” that is, he had to have a sinless nature (like the first Adam). He then had to choose to live a sinless life (unlike the first Adam). By creating a perfect sperm in the womb of a virgin, God made Jesus “the Last Adam.” Jesus then chose, moment by moment, to obey his heavenly Father even unto the horrible death of the cross.

Because Jesus did so, God made him perfect through sufferings, raised him from the dead, highly exalted him and made him “Lord.” Jesus did not perfect, raise, exalt or make Himself Lord. As the “eldest Son” in God’s everlasting family, He will give everlasting life to the “many sons” (Heb. 2:10) who believed in him. Jesus Christ has received an inheritance from his Father, and those who believe in him as “Lord” (Rom. 10:9) will share in this inheritance forever.

The above three simple paragraphs capsulize the essence of true Christianity. There is no verse in the Bible that speaks of “the Trinity,” “God the Son,” “three in one,” [3] nor did Jesus ever say, “I am God.” [For further study on verses commonly used to try to support the doctrine of the Trinity, click here.]

The basic truth of Scripture is actually very simple. In contrast to the many “gods” and “lords” in pagan religions (1 Cor. 8:5), the Apostle Paul stated that, for the Christian, “there is but one God, the Father, …and one Lord, Jesus Christ…” Ephesians 4:5 and 6 says the same thing, that there is “one God” and “one Lord.” Jesus himself stated the same thing while he prayed in Gethsemane shortly before his death: “Now this is eternal life [life in the age to come]: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

In 1 Timothy 2:4, God tells us that He “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” What might be the focal point of the truth? The next verse tells us: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Numbers 23:19 plainly states that “God is not a man…” What is He? John 4:24 says that “God is spirit.”

Two things are not identical if there is even one difference between them, right? Consider the following comparison between “the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He sent.”

 

God
Jesus

Spirit (John 4:24)
Not a man (Num. 23:19)
Father of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3)
Not born (Gen. 1:1)
Cannot die (1 Tim. 1:17)
Cannot be tempted (James 1:13)
Knows everything (Isa. 46:10)
Cannot be weary (Isa. 40:28-31)

Flesh and bone (Luke 24:39)
A man (1 Tim. 2:5 et al)
Son of God (John 3:16)
Born of a virgin (Luke 1:31-35)
Died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3)
Tempted in all things like we are (Heb. 4:15)
Did not know all things (Mark 13:32)
Weary (John 4:6)

 

As we said, we cannot set forth in this article all our biblical reasons to oppose the Trinitarian dogma that is capsulized as follows:

The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and together they make One God. They are persons, but not individuals, because they are one. The Son was begotten (i.e., born) of the Father, but eternally born such that the Son and the Father are not only the same age, but the same essential being. The Spirit proceeded from (i.e., came from) the Father and the Son, but came from them such that He did not come from them in time or place but was always actually with the Son.

Another reason to believe that the “Trinity” is an unbiblical, man-made doctrine is the wide range that exists among Trinitarian theologians in their definitions of it. It is so wide that some Trinitarians actually call other Trinitarians heretics. Although most Christians do not understand the different theological arguments, the fact is that each who says he believes in the “Trinity” must of necessity believe one of the definitions, and this choice by necessity excludes the others. [4]

Most people who say they are trinitarians believe that the “Trinity” is simply God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We believe that if most people really studied the doctrine of the “Trinity” and actually understood what was being stated, many of those who now say “I do not understand it” would say “I do not believe it.”

Psalm 12:6 says that the words of God are pure words. God uses the words that men use, but He does not use them haphazardly and imprecisely as men do. We have no right to change the simple definitions of words like “one,” “God,” “man,” etc, etc. If such words mean at all what most everyone knows they mean, then God and His only begotten Son are two entirely distinct beings. No amount of theological reasoning can make Jesus Christ “God the Son,” or mix in a “third person” so that “three” equals “one.” It is unfortunate that so many Christians think that the same logic, linguistic sense and rational thought they use in everyday life are not applicable to spiritual matters.


Endnotes:

1. One Trinitarian scholar who did recognize this delineation was E.W. Bullinger, whose book, The Giver And His Gifts, is footnoted in this book. Back to top

2. The New Bible Dictionary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1974) page 1300. Back to top

3. In 1 John 5:7b and 8a (KJV), the words “…in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth…” are not found in one of the thousands of Greek manuscripts written before 1500 A.D. They were added sometime later, and there are a number of excellent sources that confirm this. A good one is A Textual Commentary On The Greek New Testament, by Bruce M. Metzger (United Bible Societies, New York, 1971) page 715, 716. Back to top

4. One version of Trinitarian doctrine states that Christ was fully man in a union of natures. Another states that Christ put aside his divinity to take on full manhood. Another version, called “Oneness” or “modalism” [not believed by some to actually be Trinitarian] states that Christ was actually God the Father in another mode of being.

Why all the confusion among Trinitarians themselves? Because the Bible never describes any kind of a “three-in-one” being. What the Bible does speak of is one God—the Father; one mediator and Lord—Jesus Christ the Son; and one gift of God—holy spirit. We, the authors, assert that the vast majority of Christians do not really “believe” in the Trinity since they cannot understand it. Those who say they do really only mentally assent to it, and that because they have been taught it over and over. It seems that few have ever even considered that there may be a rational alternative. Back to top