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 The Principles of Theology - Article 5

by W.H.Griffith Thomas


<< Part 1. The Teaching of the Article

Part 2. The Scripture Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit

1. This is clearly a Bible doctrine and cannot be derived from any other source. It is essentially a truth of revelation. Naturally the subject is not so prominent in the Old Testament as in the New, but it is referred to in about half of the thirty-nine books, and the idea of the Spirit in Genesis is regarded as quite familiar, just as it is in St. Matt. 1.

2. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament calls for attention, first of all, and it is noteworthy that the New Testament identifies the Holy Spirit with the Spirit of God in the Old Testament, thereby showing that there is no difference between them. Indeed, the New Testament conception of the Spirit is very largely only intelligible when read in the light of the teaching of the Old Testament. There are three main lines of teaching in the Old Testament in regard to the Holy Spirit: (a) the cosmical, or world-relation of the Spirit of God. The Spirit associated with creation and human life as a whole; (b) the redemptive relation of the Spirit. The connection of the Spirit with Israel; (c) The personal relation of the Spirit. This is concerned with the spiritual life of individuals. It is often asked whether there are indications of development in the Old Testament of the doctrine of the Spirit of God. In the earlier books the Spirit is certainly depicted as a Divine energy, but in the later there seems to be something like an approximation to the doctrine of the Spirit as a Personal Being (Isa. 48:16; 63:9, 10; Zech. 4:6). Perhaps, in general, the Spirit in the Old Testament is a Divine Agent rather than a distinct Personality. God is regarded as at work by His Spirit. One strong confirmation of the truth that the doctrine of the Spirit is a Bible doctrine is the fact that for all practical purposes the period of the Apocrypha from Malachi to Matthew contributed nothing to it. It is only when we come to New Testament times that we are enabled to see the real implications of the Old Testament in the fuller light and richer experience of the days of Christ.

3. The New Testament is very full of the subject of the Holy Spirit, and it is found in every book, except three short and personal ones. It emerges naturally and clearly from the revelation of Jesus Christ. When we look at it in the light of the New Testament we notice three main divisions:

(a) The character and teaching of Christ. In the Synoptic Gospels we have the Holy Spirit in relation to Christ Himself at each stage of His earthly manifestation. Then there is the teaching of Christ, the general idea being that of the Holy Spirit as a Divine power, promised to the disciples for the fulfilment of the Divine purpose of redemption. The Fourth Gospel is much fuller and more thoroughly developed, though it is particularly noteworthy that here, as in the Synoptic Gospels, there is a clear assumption of familiarity with the Holy Spirit (John 1:32 ff.). But there is a distinct development of teaching in the Fourth Gospel, where the Spirit is personal, and closely associated at all points with the redemption of Christ. Perhaps the most important feature in this Gospel is the use of the new term “Paraclete,” which is found in connection with the detailed teaching of chapters 14-16. The general idea of the Johannine teaching is that the departure of Christ was to issue in the gift of the Holy Spirit, as the special bestowal of the new covenant for the purpose of perpetuating Christ’s spiritual presence and effecting His redemptive work. Thus, the Holy Spirit would at once be a revelation of truth, a bestowal of life, and an equipment for service.

(b) From the Gospels it is natural to pass to the Acts of the Apostles as expressing the first thirty years of the Church’s life and work, and the prominence given there to the Holy Spirit is very remarkable. There are at least seventy references, and on this account the book has been well called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” This emphasis is really a testimony to the prominence of the Divine over the human element, and starting from the Day of Pentecost we see that the Spirit of God is at work, and, indeed, in supreme authority in every part of the early Church. His Person, His gifts, and His work are everywhere, and the book is dominated throughout by the Spirit, because the life of the Church was controlled by His Divine presence and power.

(c) The teaching of the Epistles will naturally follow, and in this St. Paul’s work is of the very first importance. A remarkable fullness is seen in his writings and the teaching touches every part of his message. The usual fourfold grouping of his Epistles reveals references to the Spirit in a variety of ways, and both in regard to the work and the nature of the Spirit St. Paul has very much to say. The Holy Spirit is closely related to God (Rom. 8:9); is regarded as possessing personal activities (Eph. 4:30); and is intimately bound up with Christ (Rom. 8:9). The activity of Christ as the Redeemer and Head of the Church is regarded as continued by the Holy Spirit, and yet with all this intimacy of association they are never absolutely identified. A careful study of St Paul’s teaching will support the view of a well-known writer that “the Apostle’s entire thinking stands under the influence of his estimate of the Spirit.”[3] Other parts of the New Testament are slight and insignificant in comparison with the writings of St. Paul and St. John.

4. The summary of the teaching of the Bible on the subject of the Holy Spirit suggests the following lines: (a) A close and essential relation of the Spirit to Christ; (b) The Holy Spirit as “the Executive of the Godhead” in and for the Christian Church; (c) the Deity of the Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14); (d) the Personality of the Spirit.

It will be seen from a study of the New Testament that the distinctions in the Godhead are always closely connected with Divine operations rather than with the Divine nature. While there is nothing approaching the metaphysical Trinity of later days, the association of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit with Divine operations is a clear implication of essential Deity. The fundamental conceptions are the same throughout the whole of the New Testament, and there is no development of the doctrine of the Spirit through Ebionism to Orthodoxy.

>> Part 3. The History Of The Doctrine


[3] Quoted in The Holy Spirit of God, p. 37.



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The Principles of Theology

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Article 5

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Teaching of Apostles

>> 2 - Scripture Doctrine

>> 3 - Teaching of Apostles

>> 4 - Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit

>> 5 - Place Of Doctrine In Christianity

Content of The Principles

>> Index

>> Preface by J I Packer

>> Introduction

>> 1 - Trinity

>> 2 - Christ

>> 3 - Descent into Hell

>> 4 - Resurrection

>> 5 - Holy Spirit

>> 6 - Holy Scripture

>> 7 - The Old Testament

>> 8 - The Three Creeds

>> 9 - Of Original or Birth Sin

>> 10 - Of Free Will

>> 11 - Of the Justifcation of Man




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