The Holy Spirit - Chapter Seven

by R.A. Torrey

The Holy Spirit is distinguished from God the Father and Jesus Christ

We have seen that the Holy Spirit is a Person and also a Divine Person. Now another question arises. Is the Holy Spirit as a Person separate and distinct from the Father and the Son?

One who carefully studies the New Testament discovers that beyond question the Holy Spirit is distinct from God the Father and God the Son. We read in Luke 3:21, 22, “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well pleased.”

Here the clearest possible distinction is drawn between Jesus Christ who was on earth and the Father who spoke to Him from heaven and the Holy Spirit who descended in a bodily form as a dove from the Father, who was speaking to the Son and rested upon the Son as a Person separate and distinct from Himself.

We see a clear distinction drawn between the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19, where we read, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

The distinction between the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Son is crystal in John 14:16. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever.”

Here we see the Son praying to the Father to send the Holy Spirit as Comforter. The Father to whom He prays gives the Holy Spirit as Comforter in answer to the prayer of the Son. If words mean anything, and certainly in the Bible they mean what they say, there can be no mistaking it. The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are three distinct and separate Persons.

Again in John 16:7, a clear distinction is drawn between Jesus who goes away to the Father and the Holy Spirit who comes from the Father to take His place. Jesus says,

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.”

A similar distinction is made in Acts 2:33, where we read, “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”

In this passage, a crystal clear distinction is drawn between the Son exalted to the right hand of the Father and the Father to whose right hand He is exalted, and the Holy Spirit whom the Son receives from the Father and sheds forth upon the Church.

Summary: Again and again the Bible draws the clearest possible distinction between the three Persons of the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are three separate personalities, having mutual relations with one another, acting in concert with each other, speaking of or to one another, applying the pronouns of the second and third persons to one another.

The Holy Spirit is voluntarily subordinate to the Father and the Son.

Because the Holy Spirit is also a Divine Person, the three Persons of the Godhead cooperate in ministry. Therefore God is our Father, Jesus is our Savior and the Holy Spirit is our Comforter. While the Scriptures teach that in Jesus Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, Colossians 2:9, and that He was so truly and fully Divine that He could say,

“I and the Father are one,” John 10:30, and “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” John 14:9, the Bible also teaches with equal clarity that Jesus Christ put aside His equality to the Father in some respects to accomplish His earthly ministry, Philippians 2:5ff.

In a similar way the Scriptures teach us that though the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, He is subordinate to the Son for purposes of His earthly ministry to believers. In John 14:26, we are taught that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and in the name of the Son.

Jesus makes it clear. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” John 14:26.

In John 15:26 we are told that it is Jesus who sends the Spirit from the Father. “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.”

Just as we are elsewhere taught that Jesus Christ was sent by the Father, John 6:29; 8:29, 42, we are here taught that the Holy Spirit in turn is sent by Jesus Christ.

The subordination of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son is also revealed in the fact that He derives some of His names from the Father and from the Son. We read in Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”

Here we have two names of the Spirit, one derived from His relation to the Father, “the Spirit of God,” and the other derived from His relation to the Son, “the Spirit of Christ.” In Acts 16:7, R. V., He is spoken of as “the Spirit of Jesus.”

The subordination of the Spirit to the Son is also seen in the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks “not from Himself but speaks the words which He hears.” We read in John 16:13, R. V., “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all the truth: for He shall not speak from Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak: and He shall declare unto you the things that are to come.”

In a similar way, Jesus said of Himself, “My teaching is not Mine, but His that sent Me.” John 8:16, 26, 40. This is God's way of describing the united ministry of the Godhead and the unified message they reveal in the Bible. They are not three persons at odds with each other in ministry and purpose but are three in one, working together.

The subordination of the Spirit to the Son is seen again in the clearly revealed fact that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ, not Himself. Jesus says in John 16:14, “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you.” In a similar way Christ sought not His own glory but the glory of Him that sent Him, that is the Father, John 7:18.

From these passages, it is evident that the Holy Spirit in His present work, while possessing all the attributes of Deity, is subordinated to the Father and to the Son. On the other hand, we shall see later that in His earthly life, Jesus lived and taught and worked in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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You may also enjoy reading
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of R.A. Torrey by Roger Martin
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First published by Fleming H. Revell Company in 1910, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, by R.A. Torrey, is in the public domain.

This page updated May 30, 2018

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