A view towards Bishopsteignton in mist. As the mist clears, everything becomes clearer

Diffficult Questions 10

The Trinity (2)
The Holy Spirit

These online Bible study notes or guides are free for you to use for small groups, for individual Bible studies, or as Bible commentaries.

If you would like a printed copy, or you would like to save this study as a PDF file, click below for brief instructions:

For PCs

Press Ctrl + P or choose 'Print' from the menu. Then for PDF, On the print preview page under 'Destination', click the drop-down arrow beside the printer name and choose 'Microsoft print to PDF'

For Macs

Press Command + P or choose 'File:Print' in the menu bar. For PDF choose 'File:Export as PDF'.


Could someone describe the Holy Spirit for us?

Obviously he is spirit, but beyond that, describing him rather than his attributes or his acts is impossible, other than to say that he too is God.

Does the Bible confirm that he is God?

In Acts 5:3-4 the Apostle Peter used the term ‘Holy Spirit’ interchangeably with ‘God’. When Ananias lied about the price of a piece of property, we read:

Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit . . . . You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’

(I have taken some of the following from this helpful website: blueletterbible.org/Comm/smith_chuck/StudyGuides_Spirit/Spirit.cfm )

God is eternal. Hebrews 9:14 speaks of ‘the eternal Spirit.’

God is omniscient. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 says the things of God are known only by the Spirit.

God is omnipresent. In Psalm 139:7 David says the Spirit is everywhere.

God is omnipotent. In Luke 1:35 the angel speaks of the Holy Spirit as the power of the Most High.

It seems that whenever we hear of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, he was acting as the power of God interacting with the created world and coming upon individuals for specific tasks.

Joseph was empowered to understand and interpret dreams, Bezalel was empowered to create beautiful things for the tabernacle, and prophets were empowered to bring messages from God to the people of Israel and to understand events from God's point of view.

Isaiah prophesied (Isaiah 11:1-2)

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD

At his baptism the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus in the form of a dove and empowered him (Luke 3:22, 4:1, 4:14).

But at Pentecost the Holy Spirit no longer just came upon people – if invited, he would enter and occupy them!

Read John 14:15-18

15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

In John 5:21 we read that ‘just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.’

But John 6:63 says ‘The Spirit gives life

Can someone explain?

Jesus had to come in physical human form to suffer as a human. But the life he ransomed for us is a spiritual life – imparted to us by the Spirit.

Jesus gives life, the Spirit imparts it. How then does the Spirit give us this new life?

My mother left a will when she died. ‘To each of my grandchildren I give (so much . . . )’. She gave it, but the executor actually imparted it to the different recipients.

Jesus gave us spiritual life, but only after he had died: John 7:38-39

38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Back to my mother; when she gave up her spirit, suppose she could have actually left it to me in her will, and somehow I could have absorbed it into my being. Would I really want to? I’m sure she was very nice, but would I want her thoughts and personality to change who I am? What sort of a person would I then be?

But that’s just what Jesus did. John 14:16-17

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

When we become a Christian is his spirit forced on us?

No – but when we invite Jesus into our lives his Spirit enters ours.

Not to replace our own spirit but to shape our personalities so that we become more like Christ.

Read Galatians 4:4-7

4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ 7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

It is only as the Holy Spirit lives in us that he will produce his fruits in us.

What are they? Love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

Notice they are his fruits, growing in us only as a result of his life in us.

But also as he works through us we find he has chosen to give us spiritual gifts (but often these are seen in us more by other people!) These may be an enhancement of our own natural ability or skill, as well as those ‘charismatic’ gifts mentioned in the New Testament. And be aware, as these are gifts we mustn’t expect to receive them all!

What might these be?

(1 Corinthians 12:8-10) Wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues,

(Romans 12:6-8) serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, showing mercy, (Ephesians 4:11-12) apostleship, evangelism, pastoring, preparing people for works of service, etc.

The Holy Spirit is our Teacher and he also reminds us of Scriptures that we have read or heard: John 14:26

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.


Now we can look at the Trinity.

Read Genesis 1:1-2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

In Hebrew, the singular word for God is El, the dual tense is Elah, and to indicate three or more the word Elohim is used. In both these verses Elohim is the word used for God (and in many other places).

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, he said in Matthew 28:18-19

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

By now we should be able to agree that God is not only amazing, but also more complex that we can expect our minds to comprehend.

There is a story that St Augustine was walking along the seashore one day contemplating the mystery of the Trinity. As he was walking, he noticed a boy pouring a bucket of water into a hole he had dug. ‘What are you doing?’ asked Augustine. ‘I’m going to empty the sea into this hole,’ replied the boy. ‘You’ll never get the whole ocean into that hole,’ said Augustine. ‘And you,’ replied the boy ‘will never get the mystery of the Trinity into your mind.’

(Pick up dowel)

In John 1:1-3, 14 we read

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Point to time before the beginning of the dowel.

In the beginning, before the universe was created, before the Word became flesh, when Jesus was with God in eternity, what form did Jesus take?

Because Jesus was God, he too must have existed in spirit form.

We have just seen that God, as spirit, must occupy the whole of eternity.

As fully God, Jesus must also fill eternity, and as the Holy Spirit is obviously spirit – and also fully God – he too must fill eternity.

That is the nearest I can get to explaining the Trinity.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit separately co-existing in spirit form and each completely filling eternity so they become indistinguishable. In the same way that air fills every part of the physical world in which we live.

But as our universe is part of eternity, the Trinity fills every part of that too. There is no place we can be where Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not there too. They are present here, now, in this room. Do we find that disconcerting or reassuring?

Is there anything anyone would like to add?

1 How good is the God we adore,

Our faithful unchangeable Friend:

Whose love is as great as His power,

And knows neither measure nor end!

2 'Tis Jesus, the First and the Last,

Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;

We'll praise Him for all that is past,

And trust Him for all that's to come.

Joseph Hart (1712-1768)

Read Psalm 103:10-14

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,

he remembers that we are dust.

Difficult Questions 9 NIV Copyright