John Biddle’s 12 Arguments Showing That the Holy Spirit is Not the One God

John Biddle set forth twelve arguments from the scriptures to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is not Himself the one God; rather He acknowledged Him to be a third distinct person besides God and His Christ. Biddle expressed his view in another place: “I believe there is one principal Minister of God and Christ, peculiarly sent from heaven to sanctify the church, who, by reason of his eminency and intimacy with God, is singled out of the number of other heavenly ministers or angels, and comprised in the Holy Trinity, being the third person thereof; and that this minister of God and Christ is the Holy Spirit.” His endeavor here is to show that the Holy Spirit is not Himself the Supreme Being, the one God, viz, the Father, but another distinct person (or rational individual being) besides Him.

Argument 1:

He that is distinguished from God, is not God. The Holy Spirit is distinguished from God: therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The major premise is evident: for if he should be both God, and distinguished from God, he would be distinguished from himself; which implieth a contradiction. The Minor is confirmed by the whole current of the Scripture, which calleth him the Spirit of God, and saith that he is sent by God, and searcheth the depths of God, &c. Neither let any man here think to fly to that ignorant refuge of making a distinction between the Essence and Person of God, saying that the holy Spirit is distinguished from God, taken Personally, not Essentially: For this wretched distinction (to omit the mention of the Primitive Fathers) is not only unheard-of in Scripture, and so to be rejected, it being presumption to affirm any thing of the unsearchable nature of God, which he hath not first affirmed of Himself in the Scripture; but is also disclaimed by Reason. For first, it is impossible for any man, if he would but endeavour to conceive the thing, and not delude both himself and others with empty terms, and words without understanding, to distinguish the Person from the Essence of God, and not to frame two beings or things in his mind, and consequently two Gods. Secondly, If the person be distinct from the Essence of God, then it must needs be something; since nothing hath no accident, and therefore neither can it happen to it to be distinguished. If something, then either some finite or infinite thing: if finite, then there will be something finite in God, and consequently, since by the confession of the adversaries every thing in God is God himself, God will be finite; which the adversaries themselves will likewise confess to be absurd. If infinite, then there will be two infinites in God, to wit, the Person and Essence of God, and consequently two Gods; which is more absurd then the former. Thirdly, to talk of God taken impersonally, is ridiculous, not only because there is no example thereof in Scripture, but because God is the name of a Person, and signifies him that hath sublime dominion or power: and when it is put for the most high God, it denotes Him who with Sovereign and absolute authority rules over all; but none but a person can rule over others, all actions being proper to persons: wherefore to take God otherwise then personally, is to take him otherwise then he is, and indeed to mistake him.

Argument 2:

If he that gave the Holy Spirit to the Israelites to instruct them, be the LORD alone, then the Holy Spirit is not the LORD or God.

But he that gave the Holy to the Israelites to instruct them, is the LORD alone:

therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The sequele of the major premise is plain; for if he that gave the Holy Spirit be the LORD alone, and yet the Holy Spirit that was given be the LORD too, the same will be the LORD alone, and not the LORD alone, which implies a contradiction. The minor is evidenced by Neh. 9. 6, 20. ““You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You… You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst.” (NASB)

Argument 3:

He that speaketh not of himself, is not God.

The Holy Spirit speaketh not of himself.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The minor premise is clear from Joh. 16. 13. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (NASB) The major premise is proved thus: God speaks of Himself; therefore if there be any one that speaks not of himself, he is not God. The antecedent is of itself apparent; for God is the primary Author of whatsoever he doth; but should he not speak of Himself, He must speak from another, and so not be the primary, but secondary author of His speech; which is absurd, if at least that may be called absurd, which is impossible. The consequence is undeniable. For further confirmation of this Argument, it is to be observed, that to speak or to do any thing not of Himself, according to the ordinary phrase of the Scripture, is to speak or do by the shewing, teaching, commanding, authorizing, or enabling of another, and consequently incompatible with the supreme and self-sufficient Majesty of God. Vid. John 5. 19. 20, 30. Joh. 7. 15, 16, 17, 18, 28. John 8. 28, 42. Joh. 11. 50, 51. John 12. 49, 50. John 14. 10, 24. John 15. 4. John 18. 34. Luke 12. 56, 57. Luke 21. 30. 2 Cor. 3. 5.

Argument 4:

He that heareth from another what he shall speak, is not God.

The Holy Spirit doth so:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Minor premise is plain from the forecited place, John 16. 13. The Major premise is proved thus:

He that is taught, is not God.

He that heareth from another, what he shall speak, is taught:

Therefore, He is not God.

The Major is clear by Isa. 40. 13, 14. compared with Rom. 11. 34. 1 Cor. 2. 16. For these places of the Apostle, compared with that of the Prophet, shew that Isaiah did not by the Spirit of the Lord there understand the Holy Spirit, but the mind, or intention of God. The Minor is evidenced by John B. where our Saviour having said in the 26. verse, Whatsoever I have heard from him (the Father) these things I speak; in the 28. verse he expresses the same sense thus; According as the Father hath taught me, these things I speak. Neither let any man go about to elude so pregnant an Argument, by saying that this is spoken of the Holy Spirit improperly: For let him turn himself every way, and scrue the words as he pleases, yet shall he never be able to make it out to a wise and considering man, how it can possibly be said, that any one heareth from another what he will speak, who is the prime Author of his speech, and into whom it is not at a certain time insinuated by another. For this expression plainly intimates, that whatsoever the Holy Spirit speaks to the Disciples, is first discovered and committed to him by Christ, whose Embassadour he is, it being proper to an Embassador to be the Interpreter not of his own, but of another’s will. But it is contradictious, to imagine that the most high God can have any thing discovered and committed to Him by another.

Argument 5:

He that receiveth of another’s, is not God.

The Holy Spirit doth so: Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Minor premise is witnessed by the aforesaid place, John 16. 14. The Major is proved thus; God is he that giveth all things to all; wherefore if there be any one that receiveth of another’s, he cannot be God. The antecedent is plain by Acts 17. 25. Rom. 11. 35, 36. The consequence is undeniable: for if God should give all things to all, and yet receive of another’s, He would both give all things, and not give all things; have all things of his own, and have something of another’s; both which imply a contradiction. The Major of the Prosyllogisme is otherwise urged, thus: He that is dependent, is not God. He that receiveth of another’s, is dependent: Therefore He is not God. The Major is unquestionable: for, to say that one is dependent, and yet God, is in effect to say he is God, and not God, which implies a contradiction. The Minor also is evident: for to receive of another’s, is the notion of dependency.

Argument 6:

He that is sent by another, is not God.

The Holy Spirit is sent by another:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Minor is plain from the fore-quoted place, John. 16. 7. The Major is evinced thus:

He that Ministreth, is not God.

He that is sent, Ministreth:

Therefore, He is not God.

The Major is indubitable, it being dissonant to the supreme Majesty of God to Minister, and serve another; for that were to be God and not God; to exercise sovereign dominion over all, and not to exercise it. The Minor is confirmed by Heb. 1. ult. where the divine Author shows, that the Angels are all Ministring Spirits, in that they are sent forth; as he before intimates Christ to be Lord, because he sitteth at the right hand of God. Thus David, Psal. 2. declareth the Sovereignty of God, in saying that he sitteth in Heaven. The Minor is further proved thus:

He that receives a command for the performance of something, doth Minister:

He that is sent forth, receiveth a command for the performance of something:

Therefore, He ministers.

The Major is evident to common sense, since it suiteth with none but Ministers and inferiours to receive commands. The Minor is manifested by John 12. 49. The Father that hath sent me, he gave me a Command what I shall speak. Neither let any man here reply, that this very thing is spoken also of Christ, unless, having first proved that Christ is the supreme God, he will grant that whatsoever is spoken of him, is spoken of him as God; or can make good that to be sent at least may agree to him as God. The contrary whereof I suppose I have clearly proved in this Argument, shewing that it is unsutable to the divine Majesty.

Argument 7:

He that is the gift of God, is not God.

The Holy Spirit is the gift of God:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Minor premise is plain by Acts. 12. 17. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift (meaning the Spirit) as he did unto us, who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, was I one that could withstand God? The Major, though of it self sufficiently clear, is yet further evidenced thus:

He that is not the giver of all things, is not God.

He that is the gift of God, is not the giver of all things:

Therefore, He is not God.

The Major premise is apparent from Act. 17. 25. God giveth to all, life, breath, and all things. The Minor premise is proved thus:

He that is himself given, is not the giver of all things:

He that is the gift of God, is himself given:

Therefore He is not the giver of all things.

The Major premise is undeniable, for otherwise the same would be the giver of all things, and yet not the giver of all things, inasmuch as he himself, a principal thing, is given, which implies a contradiction. The Minor premise needs no proof. Moreover, a gift is in the power, and at the disposal of the giver; but it is gross and absurd to imagine that God can be in the power, or at the disposal of another. Neither let any man here think to evade, by saying, that not the Holy Spirit himself, but only his gifts are imparted to men; Since both the more learned adversaries themselves confess, that the Person of the Holy Spirit is given together with his gifts, and the Scripture puts the matter out of doubt, if you consult Neh. 9. 20. and Rom. 5. 5. In both which places, the Holy Spirit is said to be given contradistinctly from his gifts and operations: in the first, contradistinctly from the instruction flowing from him; in the other, contradistinctly from the love of God diffused in our hearts by him. Whence we may draw this Corollary, that if the Person of the Holy Spirit be out of favour given to certain men, as the aforesaid places testify, then he was not personally present with them before, and consequently, by the concession of the adversaries themselves, cannot be God, since they will not deny that God is always personally present with all alike. But I forestal the following Argument.

Argument 8:

He that changes place, is not God.

The Holy Spirit changes place:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Major premise is plain: for if God should change place, he would cease to be where he was before, and begin to be where he was not before; which everteth his Omnipresence, and consequently, by the confession of the adversaries themselves, his Deity. The Minor premise is ocularly apparent, if following the advice of the adversaries, you will but go to Jordan; for there you shall have the holy Spirit in a bodily shape descending from heaven, which is the terminus a quo; and alighting upon Christ, which is the terminus ad-quem, Luke 3. 21, 22. Joh. 1. 32. Neither let any man alledge, that as much is spoken of God, Exod. 3. and chap. 20. and Gen. 18. For if you compare Acts 7. 30, 35, 38, 53. Gal. 3. 19. Heb. 2. 2, 3. and chap. 13. 2. with the foresaid places, you shall find, that it was not God himself that came down, but only an Angel, sustaining the Person and Name of God; which hath no place in the history touching the descent of the holy Spirit.

Argument 9:

He that prayeth unto Christ, to come to judgement, is not God.

The Holy Spirit doth so:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Major premise is granted. The Minor is evident from Revel. 22. 17. compared with the 12 verse. “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”… He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.”” (NASB). Neither let any man think to elude this proof, by saying, that the Spirit is here said to pray, only because he makes the Bride to pray: for when the Scripture would signify the assistance of the Holy Spirit in causing men to speak, it is wont to affirm, either that the Holy Spirit speaks in them, as Matth. 10. 20. or that they spake by the Holy Spirit, as Rom. 8. 15. We have received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, Abba, Father. But here it is expressly said, that the Spirit and the Bride say, Come; not the Spirit in the Bride, nor the Bride by the Spirit.

Argument 10:

He in whom men have not believed, and yet have been disciples and believers, is not God.

Men have not believed in the Holy Spirit, and yet have been so:

Therefore the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Major premise is plain: for how can they be disciples and believers, according to the phrase of Scripture, and not believe in him that is God? The Minor premise is proved thus:

Men have not so much as heard whether there were an Holy Spirit, and yet have been disciples and believers:

Therefore, They have not believed in the holy Spirit, and yet have been disciples and believers.

The Antecedent is apparent from Acts 19. 2. “He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”” (NASB) The Consequence is grounded on that of the Apostle, Rom. 10. 14. [How shall they believe in him, of whom they have not heard?] Now if any man, to decline the dint of this Argument, shall say, that by Holy Spirit in these words is meant not the Person, but the Gifts of the Holy Spirit; He, besides that he perverts the plain and genuine meaning of the words, and speaks without example; doth also evacuate the emphasis of the Particles 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, which imply that these disciples were so far from having received the gifts of the holy Spirit, whereof we may, without prejudice to our cause, grant that the question made mention, that they had not so much as heard whether there were an Holy Spirit or not. Again, that the Holy Spirit is not God, doth further appear by this very instance, since the Apostle, when there was so ample an occasion offered to declare it, (if it had been so) doth quite decline it: for it is incredible that he, who was so intent and vigilant in propagating the Truth, as that casually seeing an Altar at Athens inscribed To the unknown God, he presently took a hint from thence, to preach unto the Heathen the true God; yet here being told by disciples that they had not so much as heard whether there were an Holy Spirit, or not, should not make use of the opportunity to discover unto them, and in them to us, the Deity of the holy Spirit, but suffer them to remain in ignorance touching a point of such consequence, that without the knowledge thereof, (if we believe many now-a-days) men cannot be saved. Certainly, the Apostle had a greater care both of the Truth of God, and the salvation of men, then to do so.

Argument 11:

He that hath an understanding distinct from that of God, is not God.

The Holy Spirit hath an understanding distinct from that of God:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Major premise is clear: for he that hath an understanding distinct from that of another, must needs likewise have a distinct individual essence, wherein that understanding may reside. The Minor is proved thus:

He that hears from God at the second hand, namely, by Christ Jesus, what he shall speak, hath an understanding distinct from that of God.

The Holy Spirit so hears from God:

Therefore the Holy Spirit has an understanding distinct from that of God.

The Minor premise is evident from Joh. 16. 13, 14, 15.

The Major is confirmed thus:

He that is taught of God, hath an understanding distinct from that of God.

He that heareth from God what he shall speak, is taught of God:

Therefore, he that hears from God has an understanding distinct from God.

The Minor is manifest from Joh. 8. where our Saviour Christ having said, in vers. 26. Whatsoever I have heard from him (the Father) these things I speak. In vers. 28. he expresseth the same sense thus: According as the Father hath taught me, these things I speak. The Major premise is of itself clear: for he that is taught, hath an unknowing understand∣ing, since none can be taught what he knows already; and he that teaches, hath a knowing understanding, otherwise he could not teach another something; but it implies a contradiction, that the same understanding should at the same time be both knowing & unknowing of the same thing. Besides, that the Holy Spirit hath an understanding distinct from that of God, is easily deducible from the words of the Apostle, 1 Cor. 2. 10. where he affirms, that the Spirit searches the depths of God, (as Rom. 8. 27. he intimates, that God searches the heart of the Spirit:) but to search the depths of any one, necessarily supposes one understanding in him that searches, and another understanding in him-whose depths are searched, as is evident not only by collation of other places of the Scripture, as 1 Pet. 1. 11. Rev. 2. 23. but even by common sense, dictating to every man so much, that none can without absurdity be said to search the depths of his own understanding. Whence the Apostle going about to illustrate what he had spoken of the Spirit of God, by a similitude drawn from the spirit of a man, doth not say, that the spirit of a man doth search, but know the things of a man, though his former words did seem to lead him thereunto.

Argument 12:

He that hath a will distinct in number from that of God, is not God.

The Holy Spirit hath a will distinct in number from that of God.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not God.

The Major premise is irrefragable. The Minor premise is asserted thus.

He that wills conformably to the will of God, hath a will distinct in number from that of God.

The Holy Spirit so willeth:

Therefore, the Holy Spirit has a will distinct in number from that of God.

The Major is plain: for conformity must be between two at least, else it will not be conformity, but Identity. The Minor is confirmed by Rom. 8. 26, 27. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (NASB) Neither let any man here reply, that there is no mention made in the Greek either of the will of the Spirit, or of the will of God: For first, the word intercede, which signifies to make suit for something, implies both the will of him that makes the suit, for if he did not will the thing, he would not make suit for it; and also the will of him to whom the suit is made, for were he not endued with a will, it would be bootless to make suit unto him, all suits whatsoever being made to bend the will of him to whom they are made: so that this, without any more, sufficiently sheweth that the Holy Spirit hath a will distinct in number from that of God; since the one sueth, the other is sued to at the same time, and for the same thing. Secondly, the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, in English rendered Mind, doth here signify the same with Will or Desire, as appeareth from the 6. and 7. verses of this Chapter, and also from the verb 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, whence it is derived, which signifies to Affect, Will, Desire, Pursue: see verse 5. of the same chapter, and Col. 3. 2. Thirdly, though the Greek hath 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, according to God, yet is this, in the judgement of the English Translators themselves, the same as if it had been said, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, according to the will of God; neither can any other commodious interpretation be put upon the words.

But this passage of the Apostle, doth further afford us a second and third impregnable Argument of the Holy Spirit’s being inferiour to God. For first, he is here said to make intercession for us (as we before urged his praying to Christ, Argument 9.) and that with grones unutterable; which is not so to be understood, as if the Holy Spirit were here said to help our infirmities, only by suggesting petitions and groans unto us (as is commonly, but falsely affirmed) for the very words of the context sufficiently exclude such a gloss; since they say, that the Spirit himself, not we by the Spirit, (as we have it in the 15. verse of the same chapter) makes intercession for us: yea, vicarious intercession, as the Greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 signifies: But to help others infirmities, by making intercession; and, what is more, vicarious intercession for them, is not to instil petitions into them, but to pour out petitions apart in their behalf; as is apparent both from the thing is self; since none can intercede for himself, all intercession (at least such as is here spoken of) requiring the entermise of a third person; and by the Collation of verse 34. of the same Chapter, and 1 Tim. 2. 1. Heb. 7. 25. Neither let any man think to baffle off this place, (which is written with a beam of the Sun, and hath together with that, Joh. 16. 13, 14. quite nonplussed, not only Modern Authors, but the Fathers themselves,) by saying, that this is improperly spoken of the Holy Spirit: for, besides that he hath no other ground to say so, but his own preconceived opinion touching the Deity of the Holy Spirit, he ought to know that the Scripture, though it speaks some things of God in a figure, and improperly, yet doth it nowhere say any thing that argues his inferiority to, and dependance on another. But this passage of the Apostle plainly intimates, that the Holy Spirit is inferiour to God, and dependent on him; otherwise what need had he to make intercession to God, and that with groans unutterable, for the Saints? Secondly, the Holy Spirit is here distinguished from him that searcheth the hearts; and this description is made use of to put a difference between God and the Holy Spirit: but how could this be done, were the holy Spirit also a searcher of the hearts? For can a description that is common, yea alike common to two (for so the Adversaries hold concerning God, and the Holy Spirit) be set to distinguish the one from the other? For instance; to prepare the Passover for Christ, is an action common to Peter with John, for they two were sent by Christ to that purpose, and did accordingly perform it; see Luke 22. 8, 13. wherefore can a description taken from this action, be fit to difference Peter from John? and is it suitable to say, He that prepared the Passover for Christ, was a greater Apostle then John? would not this plainly argue, that John did not prepare the Passover for Christ? So that it is apparent, that the Holy Spirit is not a searcher of the hearts. If therefore it would not follow that the Holy Spirit is God, although it had been said in the Scripture, that he searcheth the hearts, unless he had such a faculty originally, and of himself (for nothing hinders but that God may confer it upon others, as we see by the Scripture, that he hath de facto conferred it on Christ, having given him all judgement, and that because he is the Son of man, John 5. 22, 27. for such judgement requires that he be a searcher of the hearts) If, I say, it would not even then follow that he is God; how clearly, how irrefragably doth it on the contrary follow, that he is not God, but hath an understanding distinct from, and inferiour to that of God; inasmuch as he is destitute of such a perfection, as the searching of the hearts, which is inseparable from the divine majesty? These two considerations have I added at the close of my twelfth Argument; because they are not so much new Arguments, as props and further confirmations of the ninth and eleventh Arguments.

Samuel Clarke’s 55 Theses, Part 2: Theses 16-30

Here is part 2 of section 2 of Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity. The introduction is available here. The first part, theses 1-15, can be read here. My comments on the first part can be read here.

XVI.

     They therefore have also justly been censured, who taking upon them to be wise above what is written, and intruding into things which they have not seen; have presumed to affirm [Gr text] that there was a time when the Son was not.

See beneath, thesis 17.

XVII.

     The Son (according to the reasoning of the primitive writers) derives his Being from the Father, (whatever the particular manner of that derivation be,) not by mere necessity of nature, (which would be in reality self-existence, not filiation;) but by an act of the Father’s incomprehensible power and will.

Notes on thesis 17.

     It cannot be denied but the terms [Son and beget] do most properly imply an act of the Father’s will. For whatever any person is supposed to do, not by his power and will, but by mere necessity of nature; ’tis not properly He that does it, but necessity of fate. Neither can it intelligibly be made out, upon what is founded the authority of the Father, and the mission of the Son, if not upon the Son’s thus deriving his Being from the Father’s incomprehensible power and will. However, since the attributes and powers of God are evidently as eternal as his Being; and there never was any time, wherein God could not will what he pleased, and do what he willed; and since it is just as easy to conceive God always acting, as always existing; and operating before all ages: it will not at all follow, that that which is an effect of his will and power, must for that reason necessarily be limited to any definite time. Wherefore not only those ancient writers who were esteemed Semi-Arians, but also the learnedest of the fathers on the contrary side, who most distinctly and explicitly contended for the eternal generation of the Son, even they did still nevertheless expressly assert it to be an act of the Father’s power and will.

“Him [saith Justin Martyr] who, by the will of the Father, is God; the Son and Messenger of the Father.” (Dial. cum Trypho.)

Again: “For he hath all these titles [before-mentioned, viz. that of Son, Wisdom, Angel, God, Lord, and Word,] from his ministering to his Father’s will, and from being begotten of the Father by his will.” (Ibid.)

And in that remarkable passage, where he compares the generation of the Son from the Father, to one light derived from another; he adds, “I have said that this Power [meaning the Son] was begotten of the Father, by his power and will.” (Ibid.)

[Note: In all these passages, the words [Gr text], signify evidently, not volente, voluntate; not the mere approbation, but the act of the will. And therefore St. Austin is very unfair, when he confounds these two things, and asks (utrum Pater sit Deus, volens an nolens,) whether the Father himself be God, with or without his own will? The answer is clear: He is God, [volens,] with the approbation of his will; but not voluntate, not [Gr text], not, [Gr text], not by an act of will, but by necessity of nature.]

Irenaeus frequently styles the Son, [Latin text] the eternal Word of God; and affirms, that [Latin text] he always was with the Father, that [Latin text] he did always co-exist with the Father; and blames those who did [Latin text] ascribe a beginning to his production: And yet (I think) there is no passage in this writer, that supposes him to be derived from the Father by any absolute necessity of nature.

Origen speaks thus concerning the time of the Son’s generation: “These words, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee; are spoken to him by God, with whom it is always today: For there is no evening nor morning with him: but the time co-extended, if I may so speak, with His unbegotten and eternal life, is the today in which the Son was begotten: So that the beginning of his generation can no more be discovered, than of that day.” (Comment. in Joh. pag. 31.) And yet none of the ancient writers do more expressly reckon the Son among the [Gr text] Being derived from the power and will of the Father, than Origen: See the passage cited above, in thesis 14.

Novatian expresses himself thus: “The Son, being begotten of the Father, is always in [or with] the Father: —- He that was before all time, must be said to have been always in [or with] the Father.” (De Trin. c. 31.) And yet in the same chapter he expressly adds: “The Word, which is the Son, was born of the Father, at the will of the Father: —- He was produced by the Father, at the will of the Father. (Ibid.) Upon which passages the learned Bp Bull makes this remark: “When the Son is said to be born of the Father, at the will of the Father, that will of the Father must be understood to be eternal.” (Defens. Sect. 3. cap. 8. S 8.)

And Alexander Bishop of Alexandria: “We believe (saith he) that the Son was always from the Father. But let no one by the word [always,] be led to imagine him to be self-existent. For neither the term, was; nor, always; nor, before all ages; mean the same as being self-existent. —- The phrases, was; and, always; and, before all ages; whatever their meaning be, cannot imply the same as self-existence.” (Theodorit. lib. 1. c. 4.)

Eusebius, in the following passages, expresses his sense of the Son’s being always with the Father: “The singular [saith he] and eternal generation of the only begotten Son.” (Eccles. Theol. 1. 1, c. 12.) And again; “‘Tis manifest that the only-begotten Son was with God his Father, being present and together with him, always and at all times.” (Lib. 2. c. 14.) And again; “But [the consideration of Christ before his incarnation] must extend back beyond all time, and beyond all ages.” (Demonstr. Evang. lib. 4, c. 1.) And again; “That the Son was begotten; not as having at a certain time not been, and then beginning to be; but being before all ages, and still before them, and being always present as a Son with his Father; not self-existent, but begotten of the self-existent Father; being the only-begotten, the Word, and God from God.” (Ibid. c. 3.) And again; “That the Son subsisted from endless age, or rather before all ages; being with Him, and always with him who begat him, even as light with the luminous body”: (Ibid. 1. 5. c. 1.) [Which similitude ** how far it is true, see explained in the following page.] ** See my commentary on 40 select texts, in answer to Mr. Nelson, p. 158. And again; “To Him, [viz. to the Father] is intercession made for the salvation of all, by the pre-existing only-begotten Word Himself, by him first and only, who is over all, and before all, and after all, the great High Priest of the Great God, ancienter than all time and all ages, [Gr. the ancienter of all time and of all ages,] sanctified with the honor and dignity of the Father.” (De land. Constantini, c. 1.) And again: “The only-begotten Word of God, who reigneth with his Father from beginningless ages, to endless and never-ceasing ages. (Ibid. c. 2.)

And yet nobody more expressly than the same Eusebius, declares that the Son was generated by the power and will of the Father: “The Light [saith he] does not shine forth by the will of the luminous body, but by a necessary property of its nature: But the Son, by the intention and will of the Father, received his subsistence so as to be the Image of the Father: For by his will did God become the Father of his Son, and caused to subsist a second light, in all things like unto Himself.” (Demonstr. Evangel. lib. 4, cap. 3.) And again; “Receiving before all ages a real subsistence, by the inexpressible and inconceivable will and power of the Father.” (Ibid.)

And the Council of Sirmium: “If any one says that the Son was begotten not by the will of the Father, let him be anathema. For the Father did not beget the Son by a physical necessity of nature without the operation of his will; but he at once willed, and begat the Son, and produced him from Himself, without time, and without suffering and diminution himself.” (Anathemat. 25.) And this canon, saith Hilary, was therefore made by the Council, “lest any occasion should seem given to heretics, to ascribe to God the Father a necessity of begetting the Son, as if he produced him by necessity of nature, without the operation of his will.” (De Synod.)

And Marius Victorinus: “It was not [saith he, speaking of the generation of the Son,] by necessity of nature, but by the will of the Father’s Majesty.” (Adv. Arium.)

And Basil the Great: “God [saith he] having his power concurrent with his will, begat a Son worthy of Himself; he begat him, such as he Himself would” (Hom. 29.)

And again: “It is the general sentiment of all Christians whatsoever, that the Son is a Light begotten, shining forth from the unbegotten Light; and that He is the True Life and the True Good, springing from that Fountain of Life, the Father’s goodness.” (Contr. Eunom. lib. 2.)

And Gregory Nyssen: “For neither [saith he] doth that immediate connection between the Father and the Son, exclude [or, leave no room for the operation of] the Father’s will; as if he begat the Son by necessity of nature, without the operation of his will: neither does the supposition of the Father’s will [operating in this matter,] so divide the Son from the Father, as if any space of time was requisite between, [for the will of the Father to operate in.]” (Contr. Eunom. lib. 2.)

And again: “If he begat the Son when he would, (as Eunomius contends;) it will follow, that since he always willed what is good, and always had power to do what he would, therefore the Son must be conceived to have been always with the Father, who always wills what is good, and always has power to do what he wills.” (c. Eunom. 8.)

And, among modern writers, the learned Dr. Payne: “There are several things, I own [saith he] in the blessed Trinity, incomprehensible to our reason, and unaccountable to our finite understandings —-; As, why, and how an infinite and all-sufficient God, should produce an eternal Son, —-; Whether this were by a voluntary or a necessary production; etc.”

XVIII.

     The [Logos, the] Word or Son of the Father, sent into the world to assume our flesh, to become man, and die for the sins of mankind; was not the [[Gr text], the] internal reason or wisdom of God, an attribute or power of the Father; but a real Person, the same who from the beginning has been the Word, or Revealer of the will, of the Father to the world.

See the texts, No 535, 680, 654, 616, 617, 6 18, 607, 612, 638, 574, 584, 586, 588, 569, 631, 641, 642, 652, 672.

See beneath, theses 22 and 23.

Notes on thesis 18.

     That [the [Gr text], the [Gr text], the [Gr text],] the Word, the Wisdom, the Power, of the Father, was inseparably united to Christ, and dwelt in him, [the Father which dwelleth in me, he doth the works, Joh. 14:10;] is acknowledged on all hands, even by the Socinians themselves. But the question is, whether that Logos, of whom it is declared in Scripture that He was made flesh, and dwelt among us; that he came down from heaven, not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him; that he came in the flesh;  that he took part of flesh and blood; that he was made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man; does not signify the real Person, to whom the forementioned powers and titles belongs, both before and after his incarnation, in different manners.

As to the sense of Antiquity. Among the writers before the time of the Council of Nice, Theolphilus, Tatian, and Athenagoras, seem to have been of that opinion, that [the Logos] the Word, was [the [Gr text]] the internal Reason or Wisdom of the Father; and yet, at the same time, they speak as if they supposed that Word to be produced or generated into a real Person. Which is wholly unintelligible: And seems to be a mixture of two opinions: the one, of the generality of Christians, who believed the Word to be a real Person: the other, of the Jews and Jewish Christians, who personated the internal Wisdom of God, or spake of it figuratively (according to the genius of their language) as of a Person. See my commentary on 40 select texts, in answer to Mr. Nelson, p. 178.

Irenaeus and Clemens Alexandrius, speak sometimes with some ambiguity; but upon the whole, plainly enough understand the Word or Son of God, to be a real Person. The other writers before the Council of Nice, do generally speak of Him clearly and distinctly, as of a real Person. See a large passage of Justin Martyr, in the latter part of his Dialogue with Trypho; where speaking against those, who taught [[Gr text]] that the Son was only a power emitted from the Father, so as not to be really distinct from him; in like manner as men say the light of the sun is upon earth, yet so as not to be a real distinct thing from the sun in the heavens, but, when the sun sets, the light also goes away with it; he, on the contrary, explains his own opinion to be, that as angels  are permanent beings, and not mere powers; so the Son, whom the Scriptures call [[Gr text]] both God and an Angel, [[Gr text]] “is not, like the light of the sun, a mere name [or power,] but a really distinct Being, begotten from the Father by his power and will; not by division, as if the Father’s Substance could be parted, as all corporeal things are divided and parted, and thereby become different from what they were before part was taken from them; but as one fire is lighted from another, [so as to be really distinct from it,] and yet the former suffers thereby no diminution.” And indeed St John himself, styling him [Theos] God, (which can be understood only of a real Person,) Joh. 1:1; compared with Rev. 19:13, where he says, “His name is called the Word of God”; does sufficiently determine the point.

About the time of the Council of Nice, they spake with more uncertainty; sometimes arguing that the Father considered without the Son, would be without Reason and without Wisdom, (which is supposing the Son to be nothing but an attribute of the Father:) and yet at other times expressly maintaining, that the Son was “neither the word spoken forth, nor the inward word [or reason] in the mind of the Father, nor an efflux of him, nor a part [or segment] of his unchangeable nature, nor an emission from him; but truly and perfectly a Son.” (Athanas. Exposit. Fidei.) But the greater part agreed in this latter notion, that he was a real Person: and the learned Eusebius has largely and beyond contradiction proved the same, [viz. that the Son is neither, [Gr text], a mere power or attribute of the Father; nor the same Person with the Father; but a real distinct living Subsistence, and true Son of the Father;] in his Books, de Ecclesiastica Theologia, against Marcellus of Ancyra, a Follower of Sabellius and Paul of Samosat: And particularly, Book I, chap. 8, and chap. 20; which highly deserve the perusal of all learned men.

After the time of the Council of Nice, they spake still more and more confusedly and ambiguously; till at last the Schoolmen, (who, as an + excellent writer of our Church expresses it, “wrought a great part of their Divinity out of their own brains, as spiders do cobwebs out of their own bowels; starting a thousand subtilties, —- which we may reasonably presume that they who talk of them, did themselves never thoroughly understand”;) made this matter also, as they did most others, utterly unintelligible. + Archbishop Tillotson, sermon concerning the unity of the divine nature.

XIX.

     The Holy Spirit is not self-existent, but derives his Being from the Father, (by the Son,) as from the Supreme Cause.

See the texts, No 1148, 1154, 546; and 1149-1197.

See above, theses 5 and 12; and below, thesis 40.

XX.

     The Scripture, speaking of the Spirit of God, never mentions any limitation of time, when he derived his Being from the Father; but supposes him to have existed with the Father from the beginning.

See the texts, No 1132*, 1148, 1154.

See above, theses 3 and 15.

XXI.

     In what particular metaphysical manner the Holy Spirit derives his Being from the Father, the Scripture hath no where at all defined, and therefore men ought not to presume to be able to explain.

See the texts, No 1148, 1154.

See above, thesis 13.

Notes on thesis 21.

     Thus Basil: “If [saith he] you are ignorant of many things; nay; if the things you are ignorant of, be ten thousand times more than those you know, why should you be ashamed, among so many other things, to take in this likewise, that safe method of confessing your ignorance as to the manner of the existence of the Holy Spirit?” (Orat. contr. Sabell.)

And again: “The very motions of our own mind, [saith he,] whether of the soul may be said more properly to create or beget them; who can exactly determine? What wonder then is it, that we are not ashamed to confess our ignorance how the Holy Spirit was produced? For, that he is superior to created Beings, the things delivered in Scripture concerning him do sufficiently evidence: But the title of unoriginated, this no man can be so absurd as to presume to give to any other than to the Supreme God: Nay, neither can we give to the Holy Spirit, the title of Son; for there is but one Son of God, even the only-begotten. What title then are we to give the Spirit? We are to call him the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth, sent forth from God, and bestowed through the Son: Not a servant, but Holy and Good, the directing Spirit, the Quickening Spirit, the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit which knoweth all the things of God. Neither let any man think, that our refusing to call the Spirit a creature, is denying his personality, [or real subsistence:] for it is the part of a pious mind, to be afraid of saying any thing concerning the Holy Spirit, which is not revealed in Scripture; and rather be content to wait till the next life, for a perfect knowledge and understanding of his nature.” (Contra Eunom. lib. 3.)

XXII.

     The Holy Spirit of God does not in Scripture generally signify a mere power or operation of the Father, but more usually a real Person.

See the texts, No 1017, 1032, 1043, 1045, 1046, 1048, 1059*; 1077, 1129, 1138, 1143, 1144, 1147, 1155, 1171, 1172.

See above, thesis 18; and below, thesis 23.

XXIII.

     They who are not careful to maintain these personal characteristics and distinctions, but while they are solicitous (on the one hand) to avoid the errors of the Arians, affirm (in the contrary extreme) the Son and Holy Spirit to be (individually with the Father) the Self-existent Being: These, seeming in words to magnify the name of the Son and Holy Spirit, in reality take away their very existence; and so fall unawares into Sabellianism (which is the same with Socinianism.)

See above, theses 18 and 22.

Notes on thesis 23.

     “It is so manifestly declared in Scripture, [saith Novatian] that He, [viz. Christ] is God; that most of the heretics, struck with the greatness and truth of his divinity, and extending his honor even too far, have dared to speak of him not as of the Son, but as of God the Father himself.” (De Trin. cap. 18.)

And Origen: “Be it so [saith he,] that some among us, (as in such multitude of believers there cannot but be diversity of opinions,) are so rash as to imagine our Savior to be Himself the Supreme God over all; Yet we do not so, who believe his own words, My Father which sent me, is greater than I.” (contr. Cels. lib. 8.)

And Athanasius: “Was not the Son [saith he] sent by the Father? He himself every where declares so: and He likewise promised to send the Spirit, the Comforter; and did send him according to his promise. But now they who run the Three Persons into One, destroy (as much as in them lies) both the generation [of the Son,] and the mission [of the Son and Spirit.]” (contra Sabell.)

And Basil: “If any one [saith he] affirms the same person, to be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; imagining One Being under different names, and one real subsistence under three distinct denominations; we rank such a person among the Jews.” (Monachis Suis, epist. 73.)

And again: “Unto this very time, in all their letters, they fail not to anathematize and expel out of the Churches the hated name of Arius: but with Marcellus, who has introduced the directly contrary impiety, and profanely taken away the very existence of the divinity of the only-begotten Son, and abused the signification of the word (Logos,) [interpreting it of the internal reason of the Father;] with this man they seem to find no fault at all.” (Ad Athanas. epist. 52.)

And Nazianzen, speaking somewhere of the same opinions, calls those men [[Gr text]] over-orthodox, who by affirming the Son and Holy Spirit to be unoriginated, did consequently either destroy their personality, that is, their existence; or introduce three co-ordinate self-existent Persons, that, [[Gr text]] a plurality of Gods.

The learned Bishop Bull, speaking of the ancient writers before the Council of Nice: “Though perhaps [saith he] they do indeed somewhat differ from the divinity of the schools; on which, Petavius lays too much stress in these mysteries.” (Sect. 2. cap. 13, S 1.)

And again: “He [viz. Petavius] thought every things jejune and poor, that was not exactly agreeable to the divinity of the schools, itself more truly in most things jejune and poor.” (Sect. 3. cap. 9, S 8.)

XXIV.

     The Person of the Son, is, in the New Testament, sometimes styled, God.

See the texts, No 533-545.

See below, theses 25 and 27.

XXV.

     The reason why the Son in the New Testament is sometimes styled God, is not so much upon account of his metaphysical substance, how divine soever; as of his relative attributes and divine authority (communicated to him from the Father) over us.

See the texts, No 533—-545.

See beneath, thesis 51.

Notes on thesis 25.

     So far indeed as the argument holds good from authority to substance, so far the inferences are just, which in the School of Divinity are drawn concerning the substance of the Son. But the Scripture itself, being written as a rule of life; neither in this, nor in any other matter, ever professedly mentions any metaphysical notions, but only moral doctrine; and metaphysical or physical truths accidentally only, and so far as they happen to be connected with moral.

The word, God, when spoken of the Father himself, is never intended in Scripture to express philosophically his abstract metaphysical attributes; but to raise in us a notion of his attributes relative to us, his supreme dominion, authority, power, justice, goodness, etc. For example: When God the Father is described in the loftiest manner, even in the prophetic style, Rev 1:8, he which is, and which was, and which is to come; tis evident that these words, signifying his self existence or underived and independent eternity, are used only as a sublime introduction to, and a natural foundation of, that which immediately follows, viz. his being (ho Pantokrator) Supreme Governor over all.

And hence (I suppose) it is, that the Holy Ghost in the New Testament is never expressly styled God; because whatever be his real metaphysical substance, yet, in the divine economy, he is no where represented as sitting upon a throne, or exercising supreme dominion, or judging the world; but always as executing the will of the Father and the Son, in the administration of the government of the Church of God; according to that of our Savior, Joh. 16:13 “He shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.” See below, theses 32 and 41.

XXVI.

     By the operation of the Son, the Father both made and governs the world.

See the texts, No 546, —- 553, 642, 652.

Notes on thesis 26.

     There is hardly any doctrine, wherein all the ancient Christian writers do so universally, so clearly, and so distinctly agree; as in this. And therefore I shall mention but one or two authors.

“There is one God [saith Irenaeus] Supreme over all, who made all things by his Word: —- And out of all things, nothing is excepted; but all things did the Father make by Him, whether they be visible or invisible, temporal or eternal.” (lib. 1, cap. 19.)

Again: “That the Supreme God did by his Word [which, saith he just before, is our Lord Jesus Christ,] make and order all things, whether they be angels, or archangels, or thrones, or dominions; is declared by St. John, when he saith, All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made.” (Lib. 3. cap. 8.)

And again: “Believing [saith he] in the one true God, who made heaven and earth, and all things that are therein, by his Son Jesus Christ.” (lib. 3, cap. 4.)

And Athanasius: “By whom [viz. by the Son,] the Father frames and preserves and governs the universe.” (contra Gentes.)

And again: “By the Son [saith he,] and in [or through] the Spirit, God both made and preserves all things.”

XXVII.

     Concerning the Son, there are other greater things spoken in Scripture, and the highest titles ascribed to him; even such as include all divine powers, excepting only supremacy and independency, which to suppose communicable is an express contradiction in terms.

Notes on thesis 27.

     The Word, [saith Justin] is the first power (next after God, the Father and Supreme Lord of all,) and it is the Son.” (Apol. 1.)

See the texts, which declare;

That He knows men’s thoughts, No 554, 557, 562, 564, 565, 573, 589, 599, 605, 614, 627, 657, 669.

That he knows things distant, No 571.

That he knows all things, No 606, 613.

That he is the Judge of all, No 582, 623.

That it would have been a condescension in him, to take upon him the nature of angels, No 654.

That he knows the Father, No 555, 576; even as he is known of the Father, No 592.

That he so reveals the Father, as that he who knows Him, knows the Father, No 590, 598, 600, 603.

That he takes away the sin of the world, No 570.

That he forgave sins, and called God his own Father, No 580, 649, 650.

That all things are His, No 604, 608, 655, 656.

That he is Lord of all, No 620, 621*, 622, 630, 633, 638, 651, 652, 665, 679, 681.

That he is the Lord of Glory, No 626, 663.

That he appeared of old in the person of the Father, No 616, 617, 618, 597.

That he is greater than the temple, No 556.

That he is the same for ever, No 652, 662.

That he hath the keys of hell and of death, No 667.

That he hath the Seven Spirits of God, No 670, 674.

That he is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, No 666, 667, 668, 686,

That he is the Prince of Life, No 615.

That he and his Father are one, [[Gr text]] No 594, 595, 609, 610, 611.

That he is in the Father, and the Father in Him, No 596, 600, 602, 610, 611.

That he is the Power and Wisdom of God, No 625, 644.

That he is holy and true, No 671, 672.

That he is in the midst of them who meet in his Name, No 558, 621, 624, 648.

That he will be with them always, even unto the end, No 560.

That he will work with them and assist them, No 563, 640, 643.

That he will give them a mouth and wisdom, No 566.

That he will give them what they ask in his Name, No 601.

That he hath Life in himself, No 583, 667.

That he hath power to raise up himself, No 572, 593.

That he will raise up his disciples, No 582, 585, 587.

That he works as the Father works, and does all as He doth, No 579, 581, 582.

That he has all power in heaven and in earth. No 559, 578, 628, 629, 639, 646, 653, 664, 671.

That he is above all, No 577, 633, 638, 642.

That he sits on the throne, and at the right hand, of God, No 633, 647, 652, 659, 666, 661, 664, 673, 676.

That he was before Abraham, No 591.

That he was in the beginning with God, No 567.

That he had glory with God before the world was, No 607, 612.

That he was in the form of God, No 638.

That he came down from heaven, No 574, 584, 586, 588; and is in heaven, No 575.

That he is the Head, under whom all things are reconciled to God, No 632, 633, 635, 636, 642, 646.

That in him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead, No 642, 645.

That he is the Image of God, No 631, 641, 652.

That he is in the bosom of the Father. No 569.

That his generation none can declare, No 619, 658.

That he is the Word of God, No 680, 535; the Son of God, No 561; the only-begotten Son, No 568; the firstborn of every creature; No 641, 642, 672.

See also the texts, wherein are joined together

The kingdom of Christ and of God, No 637, 677.

The throne of God and of the Lamb, No 684, 685.

The wrath of God and of the Lamb, No 675.

The first fruits to God and to the Lamb, No 675.

God and the Lamb, the light of the new Jerusalem, No 683.

God and the Lamb, the temple of it, No 682.

In order to understand rightly and consistently, and in what sense, in several of these passages, many of the same powers are ascribed to Christ, which in other passages are represented as peculiar characteristics of the Person of the Father; it is to be observed, that with each one of the attributes of the Father, there must always be understood to be connected the notion of supreme and independent; but the titles ascribed to the Son, must always carry along with them the idea of being communicated or derived. Thus, for example, when all power is ascribed to the Father; ’tis manifest it must be understood absolutely, of power supreme and independent: but when the Son is affirmed to have all power, it must always be understood (and indeed in Scripture it is generally expressed) to be derived to him from the supreme power and will of the Father. Again; When the Father is said to create the world, is must always be understood, that he of his own original power created it by the Son: But when the Son is said to create the world, it must be understood that he created it by the power of the Father. See and compare thesis 10 above, with this whole thesis 27; and the texts there cited, with those referred to here; particularly No 447, 362, 58, 669, and 789.

XXVIII.

     The Holy Spirit is described in the New Testament, as the immediate Author and Worker of all miracles, even of those done by our Lord himself; and as the Conductor of Christ in all the actions of his life, during his state of humiliation here upon earth.

See the texts, wherein he is declared to be:

The immediate Author and Worker of all miracles, No 996, 997, 1001, 1009, 1011, 1012, 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017, 1018, 1019, 1021.

Even of those done by Christ himself, No 1000, 1010, 1013, 1023.

And the Conductor of Christ, in all the actions of his life here upon earth, No 998, 999, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, 1006, 1007, 1008, 1010, 1020, 1022.

XXIX.

     The Holy Spirit is declared in Scripture to be the Inspirer of the prophets and apostles, and the Great Teacher and Director of the apostles in the whole work of their ministry.

See the texts, No 1024—-1073.

XXX.

     The Holy Spirit is represented in the New Testament, as the Sanctifier of all hearts, and the Supporter and Comforter of good Christians under all their difficulties.

See the texts, No 1074—-1120.

Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is something many Christians assume. Because we are well used to the idea of the Trinity being a group of three persons, many people come to the texts of scripture with an a priori assumption that the Holy Spirit is person, and that wherever the Spirit of God is mentioned, that is understood to refer to a distinct person from the Father and the Son.

Others, on the other hand, have questioned this doctrine. Rather than approaching scripture with an assumption about the Spirit’s personhood, some have come to the scriptures viewing it as an open question, and have chosen to articulate what they understand of the scriptural data differently. Rather than seeing the Holy Spirit as a distinct person they suggest that the Holy Spirit is better understood as God’s active presence or power. They note that God is spirit, and therefore the mere etymology of “Holy Spirit” can fairly be taken as applicable to the one God, the Father. Also, the fact that the Spirit is never given distinct worship along with the Father and the Son, and that often in New Testament epistles simply a couplet of persons is mentioned (For example “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor 1:3 NKJV) are both pointed to supporting the idea that the Spirit is not a distinct person at all.

It must be admitted that the absence of distinct worship for the Holy Spirit and some of the other things these people point to do not seem to be what we would expect if the scriptures taught a co-equal Trinity of three persons, of which the Spirit is one.

There is, however, good scriptural reason to believe that the Holy Spirit is a person- such strong evidence, in fact, that while the point is never explicitly stated, it can be considered a necessary conclusion from what we are told in scripture. I would ask those who question the personhood of the Spirit to weigh these scriptural arguments objectively and ask themselves if there is really any room left for doubting that the Holy Spirit is a third distinct person in light of the following propositions:

Firstly, the Holy Spirit being sent by the Son indicates that the Son has authority over the Holy Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit cannot be the Father, for if the Holy Spirit were the Father, or some aspect of His action, or some part of Him, then the Son could not have any authority over the Spirit, since “God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3). But if the Spirit were the Father, that statement would be untrue. Since the Father is the head of Christ, and is His God (Rev 3:12), Christ is under the authority and Godhood of the Father, not the other way around. If even part or some aspect of God were under the authority of the Son, statements such as that ‘God is the head of Christ’ would be untrue because in fact only part of God would be the head of Christ, while part would be under His headship, which is obviously absurd.

For the Spirit then to be under the authority of Christ would require that the Spirit is a distinct individual from the Father; and for the Spirit to be sent by the Son, is to show the Spirit to be under the authority of the Son, just as the Son being sent by the Father shows His own subordination to the Father. That the Spirit is sent by the Son (and thus under the headship of the Son) is seen clearly in two passages of scripture:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” (John 15:26 NKJV)

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7) NKJV)

Thus the Spirit must be understood as a distinct person from the Father, since He is under the authority of the Son, while the Father is not, but is rather the God of His Son.

Secondly, along similar lines, the Spirit is also sent by the Father. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26 NKJV). This language shows that the Spirit is not merely the presence or activity of the Father, or a part of Him, since one does not “send” themself. That the Spirit is sent by God, and by His Son, shows that the Spirit is a distinct individual from the Father and the Son, Who is under the authority of both.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is said to intercede for believers:

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 NKJV)

Here we must consider what ‘interceding’ is. In the Greek, the term actually indicates praying for another. To intercede for someone is to make requests for them to another. Being an intercessor involves taking on an intermediary role between two parties, which requires being distinct from those two parties- one by definition cannot intercede for themself. The Spirit’s intercessions are between us and God, as the Spirit assists us in praying to God. This then shows that the Spirit is not merely an aspect or part of God, or God’s active presence, but is a really distinct individual from the one God, the Father.

All in all, these arguments require us to understand the Spirit as being a person. A person by definition is a rational individual. That the Spirit is under the authority of both God and His Son demonstrates that the Spirit is a distinct individual, as does His intercession on our behalf. That the Spirit is rational is clear from His knowing, speaking, and interceding throughout scripture. It is then an important and scripturally inescapable conclusion that the Holy Spirit is a person, distinct from both the persons of God and His Son.