One of the problems the contemporary Church faces is not that the Holy Spirit is forgotten, but that many do not know who He is. We know who the Father is. We know who the Son is. But many do not know who the Holy Spirit is. As a result, some believe the Holy Spirit is a mode of the Father. He is just another form of God.
Modalism is one of the most common theological misunderstandings concerning the nature of God. It is a serious misunderstanding because it is a rejection of the Trinity. The belief states that God has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms. Because God is a single person, He manifested Himself in the mode of the Father in the Old Testament era. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son. After the ascension of Jesus, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive, and never simultaneous. That is, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit never exist at the same time, but one after another. Therefore, Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Church affirms the doctrine of the Trinity because Scriptures reveal this truth, as challenging as it is to comprehend the mystery of the godhood.
Because the Holy Spirit is not known, some believe He is simply an impersonal power of God. The famous phrase in the Star Wars series, “The Force Be with You”, could easily be spoken by many naïve Christians with reference to the Holy Spirit, for that is their extent of understanding.
Writing to the Church in Corinth, Paul pronounces a benediction. He speaks of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He notes the love of God. And He mentions the communion of the Holy Ghost. Here is the unity of the Trinity. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.” (2 Cor. 13:14) Here is the unity of the Trinity plainly stated. Here is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct, but equal.
So who is the Holy Spirit? The word “spirit” in English is helpful to our understanding, as is the word for “spirit” in Greek and Hebrew. The Hebrew word is “ruah”, and means “breath, wind.” The Greek word “pneuma, “wind, breath.” The idea behind these words, spirit, ruah, pneuma, is that of driving energy, or a driving force in order to communicate to someone else.
The wind, as a gale, is an expression of power, energy, and motion. There is the expression of a great effectiveness. When a person goes to visit someone in the hospital, they might return home and report on the spirit the person was in. The understanding is clear. A person might convey a weak spirit, a sick spirit, or a vital spirit, indicating better health.
So it is in the spiritual health of a person. The Father plans salvation. The Son executes the plan of the Father by dying on the cross for His own. The Holy Spirit sustains the plan of the Father, and the work of the Son, as He regenerates a sinner and drives the force of spiritual life into the soul. One of the basic axioms of the Christian faith, is that God is in Himself, as He reveals Himself to be. Or, to put it another way, God reveals Himself to be what He is in Himself.
God has revealed Himself to be one in essence, but three in persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When God reveals Himself to us, He takes into account that we are human beings, and finite. He is spirit, and infinite. So God accommodates our ability to understand. But, we cannot possibly fully comprehend who God is. And the same is true with the Spirit. The human mind cannot fully comprehend who the Holy Spirit is.
But we can comprehend enough about the Holy Spirit to realize that He has will, power, and intellect. We can comprehend that He is distinct from the Father, and from the Son, and yet co-equal with them in every facet of His essence. All that is true of God the Father, is true of God the Son. All that is true of God the Father, and God the Son is true of God the Holy Spirit. Before this revelation we bow in wonder and awe. It is a great mystery.
Part of the mystery is unveiled when we read the Bible. Beginning with the opening verses of chapter one, we read of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who brings order out of chaos. In the book of the Revelation, the Holy Spirit is again manifested, saying to every soul, “Come. Come to Christ.” So throughout the Scripture, the Spirit is revealed to us that we might know who He is.
Returning to Genesis 1, the Scriptures reveal the presence of the Holy Spirit at creation. The Spirit was present in an active way because He is very God of very God. “In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:1-2)
The Spirit of God hoovered over the face of the waters. The power of the person of God was present when the earth was without form or void. He began to do something. Specifically, the Spirit brought form and order out of chaos. Then the Spirit brought fullness to the emptiness of the created mass.
In the new creation of the heart, the Spirit continues to work in this wonderful way. The Spirit brings order to the life of a believer. And then the Spirit fills the heart with His power and presence so that the soul enjoys the fullness of the Spirit. The command for every Christian is to enjoy this fullness of the Spirit. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18)
When God created the cosmos, it did not have the fulness of form that it has today. The Spirit had to bring order out of chaos, and He did. The Spirit took formlessness, and gave it form. He took emptiness, and gave it fulness. How much more will the Spirit do in the life of every believer? For that reason alone it is wise to be in the Holy Spirit, long for His power in life, and ask for His gifts of grace. Why not do that, right now?