In the Bible, three persons are revealed to be God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. There is no difference whatsoever in the divine attributes, in the divine will, and in the divine working, as well as in the divine worship due to each person, for the three are the one God. Each person is fully God, yet the three persons remain distinct from one another.
The Father is the person from whom the Son of God is eternally begotten, begotten not in a flat carnal way, but in an analogically beautiful way from the very being of the Father. The Son always has been “in the bosom of the Father” (John 1:18). The Son of God possesses all the Father possesses (John 16:14-15), does whatever the Father does (John 14:10), and speaks whatever the Father speaks (John 12:49-50). The persons of the Father and the Son are united not only in act but in being. The two may thus be described, according to Jesus, as “in” one another (John 14:11). The Son is one with God (John 10:30).
And both the Father and the Son in turn send the Holy Spirit from eternity into the world to work the will of God declared by the eternal Word. “Sending” speaks to the economy or work of the Spirit, while “proceeding” speaks to the ontology or essence of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit proceeds from God eternally. The language used to describe the eternal procession from the Father in John 15:26 is both fascinating and instructive. The Greek term is ἐκπορεύομαι, which the Bauer lexicon says can be used in two closely related ways. It can either mean “to be in motion from” or “to come forth from.” Bauer classifies John 15:26 under the first to mean the Spirit “proceeds from someone.” And this someone is God.
Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit does not proceed from a creature. He is not like you and me or any other creature. Nor is the Holy Spirit sent by any mere creature. The Holy Spirit proceeds, like the Son, directly from God. The Son and the Spirit are uniquely related to the Father in that both participate by nature in the Godhead. The Son is the eternally begotten God. The Holy Spirit is the eternally proceeding God.
The Spirit’s deity is why, throughout Scripture, we find the Holy Spirit described with divine attributes, working with the divine will, doing things only God can do. Over the next several weeks we must speak of the Holy Spirit in his person and his work. And the first thing we must consider about the Holy Spirit is that He is Love.
One of the divine perfections, alongside the attributes of sovereignty, knowledge, holiness, and so on, understood simply, is love. But be careful about your definition of love. When we run up against the Bible’s definition of love, we soon discover God the Trinity’s love is totally beyond our love. God’s love is perfect love.
John writes that “God is love,” not once but twice (1 John 4:8, 16). God the Father is ontologically love and practically love. From the internal perfection of the dynamic, eternal, and unitary love of the Three, the Father sends His Son into the world (1 John 4:9; John 3:16).
And from the internal perfection of the dynamic, eternal, and unitary love of the Three, God the Son demonstrates perfect love in the supreme loving act of becoming the God-Man. He is the One who was crucified for his unworthy friends. “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The Son showed his love toward us by giving his life for us, even while we were yet sinners.
So, the Father is love, the Son is love, and the Holy Spirit, too, is love. Another apostle, Paul, wrote, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). The Spirit as God brings the love of the Trinity to us, working with the dynamic Word to encounter us from without (Romans 10:9-10, 17) and within, engaging our minds, convicting our hearts, and loosening our tongues (Romans 8:26-27). The Spirit wants to unite you with Himself and with the Son, so that you become indwelt by the Son and the Spirit (Romans 8:9-11).
Did you catch that? The Father loves us by sending his Son as a propitiation for our sins. The Son loves us by dying so we might be reconciled to God and by arising from death so we will be justified before the eternal throne of judgment (Romans 4:25). The Triune God works from the perfection of his love so that we may be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And the Spirit presents to our hearts that perfect love, pulling us majestically and gently into the very heart of God.
And God’s love is perfect, pure, for: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor 13:4-8a).
Why is the Holy Spirit so humble, so focused upon glorifying the other persons of the Godhead, especially the Son? Why does the Holy Spirit appear at first to recede into the background in our mind as He makes sure we clearly see Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was crucified and died for our sin, and who arose for our justification?
The Holy Spirit is humble, because humility is the perfect expression of pure love. The Holy Spirit is love. He humbly loves both the Son and the Father, and He humbly loves you. He is gently knocking on the door of your heart. As your pastor preaches the Word, will you let the Holy Spirit into your heart and confess the truth of the Gospel with your tongue?
(This is the first part in a four-part short series on the person and work of the Holy Spirit. For part two, concerning the Spirit as Intimate, click here.
For part three, concerning the Spirit as the Giver of Life, click here