The Holy Spirit is True and Eternal God
We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son; and therefore neither is made, created, nor begotten but only proceeds from both; who in order is the third person of the Holy Trinity; of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son; and therefore is the true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.
John 15:26; Galatians 4:6 (The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father).
John 20:22 (The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son).
Acts 5:3, 4; II Peter 1:21 (The Holy Spirit is God).
John 14:26; I Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:30 (The Holy Spirit is a person).
Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16 (We are to be led by and to walk in the Spirit).
Genesis 1:2; Numbers 11:17, 25, 26, 29; Psalm 51:11 (Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit).
I John 5:16; Matthew 12:31, 32; Hebrews 6:4–6; (The unpardonable sin).
1. Why is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit especially precious for God’s people?
Because it explains the way in which we become partakers of the salvation Christ merited and obtained for us. With respect to our salvation, as well as to creation, “the Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son” (Article VIII, Belgic Confession). Lord’s Day 20 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains this beautifully when it asks: “What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit? First, that He is true and coeternal God with the Father and the Son; second, that He is also given me, to make me by a true faith partaker of Christ and all His benefits, to comfort me, and to abide with me forever.”
2. But is the Holy Spirit actually coequal with the Father and the Son?
Absolutely. Although it is true that the Holy Spirit functions as the instrument by whom God works all things, nevertheless, he is not subordinate to the first and second persons in the Trinity. This is obviously the plain teaching of the Bible. Notice again Acts 5:3, 4, which we read together a few moments ago. To Ananias the apostle Peter says: “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?…thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” The unmistakable implication of these words is that the Holy Spirit is God. I Corinthians 3:16 and 17 teaches the same truth when it says, “Know ye not that ye are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroy the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, and such are ye.”
You can see from this text that to say that the Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit is the same as saying that God dwells in the Church, and this again is the same as saying that the Holy Spirit dwells in her, for the Spirit is God. Certainly the Belgic Confession is correct when it declares that the Holy Spirit is “of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son; and therefore is the true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.”
3. What does the Belgic Confession mean when it states that the Holy Spirit is of “the same…majesty and glory with the Father and the Son?”
These terms mean that the Bible ascribes the same divine attributes, works, and honor to the Holy Spirit as it does to the Father and the Son. For example: Psalm 139:7 teaches that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent (that is, the presence of God is everywhere) when it asks. “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” In addition, the Holy Spirit is almighty: “but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will” (I Cor. 12:11). Genesis 1:2 ascribes the work of creation to the Holy Spirit, as does Psalm 33:6, “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Here “breath” is to be understood as Spirit; so, for example, the King James Version translates this text.) Divine honor is accorded to the Holy Spirit whenever we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All of this adds up to mean that the Holy Spirit is truly God.
4. Is it important that we believe in the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit?
Yes, For unless the Holy Spirit is a person, he is not God; in fact, as a “he” he does not exist! It is very important for Christians today to be very careful at this point. Today’s so-called “modernist” loves to speak of the “spirit of God,” but by this he means merely an all-pervasive, vague power. In this sense “spirit” is used to indicate the same sort of thing that we mean when we speak of “school spirit” or “the spirit of America.” Over against this God, destroying heresy we must, at all costs, insist upon the biblical doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit. Thus he is said to have a will (I Cor. 12:11); he is called by personal names (John 14:16); and in the baptismal formula he is mentioned without qualification in connection with the Father and the Son.
5. In what sense is the Holy Spirit the “third” person?
The Holy Spirit is third “in order,” not in rank. That is why he is called Spirit, which means literally, the “breath” of God. It is obvious that the name Holy Spirit docs not denote his essence, for the Father and the Son are also spirit. “God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We must understand that the name Spirit denotes the third person of the Trinity in his relation to the Father and to the Son. Just as the names Father and Son are expressive of the personal properties of the first and second persons of the Trinity respectively, so the name Spirit denotes the personal property of the third person. The Holy Spirit is “spirited” or “breathed” forth from the Father and the Son.
6. What does the objective “holy” mean when used to denote the Spirit?
It indicates that perfect devotion and consecration which is so wonderfully characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Out of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit, the three Persons of the Holy Trinity live an eternal life of friendship and love. In himself God is our Covenant God. And when that perfectly consecrated Spirit is sent into our hearts, and takes residence there, we experience the joys of covenant-fellowship with the living God. Thus the word of our Lord is realized: “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one” (John 17:23).
7. What is the range of activities ascribed to the Holy Spirit in the Bible?
The works of the Holy Spirit cover both nature and grace, creation and “re-creation” (herschepping) or redemption. Here is a summary of the works of the Spirit:
a. In creation:
(1) The Spirit is the author of life (Gen. 1:3; Job 26:13; Ps. 104:30).
(2) The Spirit is the author of the general inspiration and qualification of men, such as that required for works of art, science. etc. (Exod. 28:3; 31:2, 3, 6; 35,35; I Sam. 11:6; 16:13, 14).
b. In redemption :
(l) The inspiration of the Bible (II Pet. 1:21).
(2) The preparation and qualification of Christ, our Savior. The Holy Spirit prepared a body for Christ (Luke 1:35; Heb. 10:5–7). The Holy Spirit anointed Christ at the time of his baptism, indicating his ordination and qualification for holy office (Luke 3:22).
(3) The maintenance and the enlargement of the Church. In the New Testament the Spirit, as result and reward of the saving work of Christ, comes out of heaven to dwell in the Church (Acts 2, 1–4; Eph. 2:22; I Cor. 3:16). This fact is one reason why all the work of Christ, including missions, must proceed from the Church.
(4) The guidance and the comforting of the believers (Rom. 8:4, 14–17; John 15:26).
8. One hears a great deal about the Spirit’s guidance these days. Just how does the Spirit guide believers?
Only through the Word! Read in this connection John 16:13, 14. Notice from this passage that the Spirit “shall not speak from himself.” He takes out of Christ whatever he speaks. Since there is no Christ other than the Christ of the Scriptures, this means that the Spirit of Christ never witnesses without the revelation of Christ in the Bible. This condemns all false mysticism, such as is found in recent Buchmanism and in other spiritist movements, which despises the Word as a “dead letter” and prefers to live by an “inner light” which comes by way of a direct testimony of the Holy Spirit in the heart apart from the Scriptures.
9. Can we have a living contact with the Scriptures without the Spirit?
No. Without the Spirit the Scriptures are dead. Spirit and Word are never to be separated. There is no access to the Word of God, to the Christ of the Scriptures, except through or in the Spirit.
10. What is the unpardonable sin, or the sin against the Holy Spirit?
The unpardonable sin or the sin against the Holy Spirit is committed by those who are reared in the circle of the Covenant, who temporarily and historically know the things of God and his Kingdom, but who fall away to serve the world. The subsequent hardening of their hearts then comes to expression in a blaspheming of the Holy Spirit, that is. attributing to the devil that which they know is of the Spirit. This sin carries with it such a terrible spiritual hardening that pardon is impossible. (Be sure to read carefully the three passages cited above dealing with this sin.)
11. Isn’t it a most tormenting thought that perhaps we may be guilty of the unpardonable sin?
We must remember that the sin against the Holy Spirit is not an incidental or a single sin. It is rather a process whereby we arc hardened beyond possibility of pardon. Those who are guilty of this sin are, therefore. never tormented by feelings of remorse or guilt except it be a “sorrow of the world” (II Cor. 7:11 ). To be genuinely concerned about sin is not characteristic of those who arc guilty of the unpardonable sin. and is therefore unmistakable proof of our salvation.
The Creation of All Things. Especially the Angels
We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures, when it seemed good unto Him, giving unto every creature its being, shape, form, and several offices to serve its Creator; that He also still upholds and governs them by His eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God.
He also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect; some of whom are fallen from that excellency in which God created them into everlasting perdition, and the others have by the grace of God remained stedfast and continued in their first state. The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and every good thing; to the utmost of their power as murderers watching to ruin the Church and every member thereof, and by their wicked stratagems to destroy all; and are, therefore, by their own wickedness adjudged to eternal damnation, daily expecting their horrible torments.
Therefore we reject and abhor the error of the Sadducees, who deny the existence of spirits and angels; and that of the Manichees, who assert that the devils have their origin of themselves, and that they are wicked of their own nature, without having been corrupted.
Genesis 1 (The biblical account of the creation of the world).
John 1:3 (The Father by the Word created all things).
Revelation 4:11 (Creation took place “when it seemed good unto him”).
Colossians 1:16; Psalm 19:1,2 (Creation is designed to serve the Creator).
Hebrews 11:3 (God of nothing created the world).
Nehemiah 9:6 (God created the angels).
Hebrews 1:14 (The angels are ministering spirits).
Jude 6 (Fallen angels and their destiny).
1. What are the contents of Article 12?
Article 12 expresses the biblical doctrine of creation, including the creation of heaven and earth, men
and angels. It stresses the fact that all things were made for the service of the Creator. To glorify God is indeed the creature’s prime purpose.
2. How did God create all things?
The Confession here stresses, first of all, that God the Father created the universe by the Word, that is, by his Son. Repeatedly Genesis 1 teaches that the different groups of created things came into existence by way of God’s speech, for we read over and over: “And God said.” John 1:3 teaches that the Son of God as the Word created all things. Evidently the Bible means by all of this that we are to see in the Son, as the Word, the full and perfect reflection of the Father. In creation, the Father brings to expression through the Word his own glory by means of the visible creation.
3. How can creation be defined?
The best definition possible is that found in Hebrews 11:3: “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear.” Believers often say that creation is “to make something out of nothing.” Strictly speaking, this is impossible; if it is meant, however, to indicate that God made the universe without the use of pre-existent material, it is perfectly correct.
4. What can we learn from the doctrine of creation as to the nature of our God?
First, that God is absolutely independent of the world. He is a triune God, completely self-sufficient, and therefore he does not need the world at alI. Second, that God is an almighty being who possesses infinite supernatural power by which he can do anything which does not contradict his own nature. The created world is a mighty display of God’s infinite power and wisdom.
5. When was the world created?
The Confession states in this article that God created the heavens and the earth “when it seemed good unto him.” This means that the origin came at that point when God thought it best to begin. All we can say, therefore, is that God created. all things “in the beginning,” although we are not told when the “beginning” was. Consistent with its character as a Christian confession of faith, the Belgic Confession here stresses the wisdom and the sovereignty of the Creator, with which we must always willingly comply.
6. Where did the idea originate that the world was created about 6000 years ago?
Archbishop Ussher (died 1656) made an elaborate study of the chronology of the Old Testament, with the result that he claimed the year 4004 B.C. as the time of creation. His is conclusions were incorporated into the margin of the Authorized (King James) Version of the Bible after his death. Consequently, for countless individuals these dates came to be accepted as virtually inspired and infallible.
- What should we think of Ussher’s chronology today?
Wc must not forget that Ussher’s calculations are not a part of the inspired text, but are merely human opinion, which mayor may not be reliable. Fact is that Ussher’s method for calculating the time of the origin of the world has been shown to be impossible. His method is based upon the assumption that the biblical genealogies (cf. I Chron. 1, 2, 3) arc complete with no links omitted. It has been shown, however, that whole generations are sometimes omitted; for example, a grandson is spoken of as a son, etc. Therefore we cannot accurately calculate the date of the creation from the biblical genealogies. About all that Ussher’s work does show is that the earth is at least 6000 years old. It may, of course, be much older than that.
8. Is it possible that the earth is actually millions or billions of years old?
Although there is difference of opinion as to the length of the days of the creation week as recorded in Genesis 1, nevertheless, the Bible nowhere gives the impression that such enormous figures are to be thought of in this connection. We must remember that these figures usually have their origin with evolutionists who feel that they need such large amounts of time in order to account for the supposed development of things from the single cell to the complex forms of life existing today. Such thinkers consider the biblical doctrine of creation utterly untenable, and arc therefore out of sympathy with the Christian faith.
9. What does it mean that God created all things “good”?
The Genesis 1 account stresses the fact that God saw upon review that everything created “was very good” (cf. verse 31). This means that all things were completely free from evil of any kind, both moral evil and physical evil. God, the Holy One, could rightfully enjoy his creation! This implies that present-day evil is an abnormality. It is actually alien to the universe as God created it.
10. Why are things created as they are?
The shape and form of the several creatures made by God is designed so that God’s service can be best performed. We may say again that the Bible and Article XII of the Confession emphasize that creation’s purpose is the praise of the Creator. This gives meaning and dignity to human existence, for example, because it implies the idea of “office.” The doctrine of creation means that man, the pinnacle of God’s creation, “fits” into the pattern of God’s world so that he can be useful and thus delight himself in the glory of God as revealed everywhere!
11. How must we think of the angels?
(1) We must think of them as creatures with distinct properties and with a distinct task, that is, “to be his messengers and to serve his elect.” (2) Angels are spirits without any bodies. (3) The angels form a great host of individual beings, not organically related nor descended from a common ancestor, such as Adam, who is the first father of us all. (4) The angels are interested in us, for good or for ill (Read Matt. 18:10; I Pet. 5:8; I Pet. 1:12).
12. What was the difference between the fall of the wicked angels into sin and the fall of the human race into sin?
(1) In the case of the human race the sin of one man (Rom. 5:12) brought about the fall of the whole race. In the case of the angels, each one must have sinned individually and fallen by his own personal act. (See question 11 .) (2) While the entire human race fell through one man, only part of the angels fell into sin.
13. Is the opposition of the fallen angels active today?
Yes. It is always our duty as Christians to be alert to the wiles of the Evil One and his cohorts. Believers and the Church are the special objects of his hateful, spiteful activity. Certainly we can never afford to be naive with respect to the reality of the devil and his influence in this present world, of which he is chief. Sometimes modern Christians talk and act as if there were no dangers whatsoever of which to be afraid. As a consequence, the devil rejoices, because then he has full opportunity to practice his trade as chief murderer of the Church and its members. If we knew that a notorious “killer” were running loose in our neighborhood, we would take every precaution to protect ourselves and our dear ones from him. We ought to do no less spiritually with respect to the fallen angels!