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 The Principles of Theology - Article 5

by W.H.Griffith Thomas


<< Part 4. The Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit

Part 5. The Place Of The Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit In Christianity

It will be evident from the foregoing that the Holy Spirit occupies a vital and essential place in the Christian system.

1. In Relation to the Godhead. The full New Testament idea of God is that of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is impossible to question the fact that the New Testament affords clear proofs of such distinctions within the unity as can only be adequately expressed by the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. And as Christ is within the Godhead it is impossible for the Spirit to be without, since this would imply an inferiority of the Spirit which is contradicted by the facts of Scripture and spiritual experience.

In the same way the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is inextricably bound up with the revelation of Christ. It is not in His absolute Being, but as the Spirit of Christ that He is revealed in the New Testament (Acts 16:7, R.V.). The language in St. Paul’s Epistles about the indwelling of Christ and of the Spirit is practically identical (2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 4:6), and yet with this practical identity there is an equally clear distinction. Christ and the Spirit are different, yet the same; the same, yet different. Redemption comes from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Christ is the Divine Saviour, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, and in this association we have the spiritual and experimental foundations of the Trinity. But however difficult it may be to express the difference between Christ and the Spirit, regarded as in the Being of God Himself, no difficulty must allow us to ignore the clear teaching of the New Testament and the personal testimony of Christian consciousness. There is a close and intimate connection, and yet Christ and the Spirit are never absolutely identical. The Spirit is at once the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, and we believe that God can only become known to us in the Historic Jesus, Who is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit.

2. In Relation to Holy Scripture. The Nicene Creed expresses a profound truth when it associates the Holy Spirit with the Old Testament “Who spake by the prophets.” It involves the important question of a Divine revelation which we believe has been given in the Person of Jesus Christ. Holy Scripture as the embodiment of that revelation comes to us from God through the Spirit, and both in the Old Testament and in the New the Spirit is clearly associated with the written record of the Divine revelation (Acts 1:16; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 3:7; 2 Pet. 1:21). On any showing inspiration implies a specific and unique work of the Holy Spirit in giving to the Church the written embodiment of the Divine religion of redemption, and it is this uniqueness that gives Scripture its supreme authority as the work of the Holy Spirit of God.

3. In Relation to the Individual. The Holy Spirit is described in the Nicene Creed as the “Life-Giver,” and this includes everything essential in His relation to the individual Christian. Without that Spirit no man can be regarded as a Christian (Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:3), and it is the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to man, and thereby to link the Jesus of history with the Christ of experience. The great needs of the soul: conversion, communion, and character, are all made possible by the Holy Spirit, and His action covers the entire life of the believer from first to last. The Spirit uses the truth of God to reveal Christ to the soul, and then every means of grace is associated with the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Christ.” In whatever way we contemplate individual life we see the need of the presence of the Spirit of God.

4. In Relation to the Church. It is not without point that the expression of belief in the Holy Ghost in the Creeds is immediately followed by the confession of our faith in the existence of the Church. This close connection suggests the truth of the relation of the Holy Spirit to the body of Christian people. The New Testament teaches that the Spirit constituted the Church on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2; 1 Cor. 12:13), and thereupon the Spirit abides in the Christian community, builds it up, governs it, unifies it, and provides in every way for its needs. There is no part of the Christian Church, its life, work, power and progress, which is not in some way influenced by the Holy Spirit.

5. In Relation to Christianity. The Holy Spirit is the guarantee of the best, and, indeed the only, satisfactory apologetic Gospel. Mohammedanism and Buddhism have their ideas, their sacred books, and even their founders, but it only in Christianity that God is made real to men. In many respects the Holy Spirit is the ultimate fact in Christianity, for no other religious system has anything corresponding to this truth. The Divine revelation given historically in the Person of Christ is made real to the soul by the Holy Spirit, and this is a characteristic mark in Christianity, since only therein is religion realised as a matter of personal communion with the Deity. So that the Holy Spirit is the unique element of Christianity, and His presence constitutes the only “dynamic” by means of which Christianity can be recommended and vindicated to the world. Whether we think of the individual or the community, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit are absolutely essential for life and progress. The deepest needs of humanity can never be solved by philosophy, scholarship, or criticism. The supreme need today is for that personal discipleship to Christ which is alone made available by the Holy Spirit. Everything in the Old Testament points forward to the Coming of the Spirit, and everything in the New Testament emphasises His presence in the Christian community. It is this that makes the Article so important and the truth it enshrines of the most vital necessity in every aspect of life today.


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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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