R. A. Torrey gives us some thoughts to ponder as we begin this study. He says, “It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship that we decide whether the Holy Spirit is a divine person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith, our love, and our entire surrender to Himself, or whether it is simply an influence emanating from God or a power or an illumination that God imparts to us” (The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, 9). In the preface of “The Mystery of the Holy Spirit,” R.C. Sproul writes: “‘The Holy Spirit leaves no footprints in the sand.’ These words are from Abraham Kuyper's classic work on the Holy Spirit. Jesus did leave footprints in the sand. He was God incarnate, God with a human nature. When His disciples walked with Him, they could hear His voice, touch His hands, and watch the sand spilling over His feet as He trod the shores of the Sea of Galilee. But the Holy Spirit is like the wind. Jesus said, ‘The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where is comes from and where is goes’ (John 3:8). We cannot capture the wind in a bottle. It is elusive and mysterious but nonetheless real. We see the effects of the wind-trees bending and swaying in the breeze, flags rustling. We see the devastation of the fierce hurricane. We see the ocean become violent in a gale. We are refreshed by gentle zephyrs on a summer day. We know the wind is there. So it is with the Holy Spirit. He is intangible and invisible. But His work is more powerful than the most ferocious wind. The Spirit brings order out of chaos and beauty out of ugliness. He can transform a sin-blistered man into a paragon of virtue. The Spirit Changes people. The Author of life is also the Transformer of life. Because the Spirit is mysterious, we are vulnerable to superstitions and distortions of His Person and work. Here we must listen carefully to scripture as it reveals to us the character of God the Holy Spirit” (Preface).
There are many teachings concerning the Holy Spirit. Not all of them, of course, are from the Bible. So it is important that we begin our study by asking the question, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” I want to break that question into two parts. The first is “Who is the Holy Spirit according to false teachers?” and the second, “Who is the Holy Spirit according to biblical revelation?” Let’s look at the first, “Who is the Holy Spirit according to false teachers?” I.Charles Ryrie says, “Doctrinal formulation of the Christian faith did not occur all at once at some point in the history of the church. Nor did a definition of all Christian doctrines take place at any equal rate. Sometimes one doctrine came in for attention; at other times the spotlight would focus on a different doctrine. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit did not receive much attention in the early centuries as far as formal definition was concerned. What we have come to know as the orthodox expression of the doctrine of the Spirit was witnessed to by the early church in the baptismal formula, in the Apostles’ Creed, and in the castigating of error when it did appear” (The Holy Spirit, 111).
Montanism (150 A.D.)
“Montanism, (also called the Phrygian heresy) appeared in Phrigia about 150 through the ministry of Montanus and two women, Prisca and Maximilla. They announced themselves as prophets and announced the period as the age of the Paraclete in which new revelations from God were to be given” (Charles Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, 111-12).
Montanism “flourished mostly in and around the region of Phrygia, where early on its followers were called Cataphrygians; although it spread rapidly to other regions in the Roman Empire, and at a time before Christianity was generally tolerated or legal” (Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montanism). They “antagonized the church” by claiming “a superior authority arising from divine inspiration” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition - http://www.bartleby.com/65/mo/Montanis.html). “Some people have drawn parallels between Montanism and Pentecostalism (which some call Neo-Montanism). The most widely known Montanist was undoubtedly Tertullian, who was the foremost Latin church writer before he converted to Montanism” (Wikipedia).
“Montanism was officially rejected because of its insistence on additional revelation, and in so doing the church affirmed the belief that the Spirit does not give new revelations apart from the Scriptures” (Ryrie, 111-12).
Sabellianism (215 A.D.)
This is “also known as modalism, modalistic monarchianism, or modal monarchism” (Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabellianism).
“Sabellianism was a Christian heresy named after Sabellius, a priest excommunicated by Pope Callistus I in 220" (Kelly, John N. D., Early Christian Doctrine, 1958 - http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/sabellia.htm).
“Historic Sabellianism taught that God the Father was the only person of the Godhead, a belief known as Monarchianism” (Wikipedia). “Sabellius taught that god is a unity but that He revealed Himself in three different modes or forms. These three forms were three roles or parts played by the one God” (Ryrie, 112). “Sebellianism was the first major error concerning the Trinity which gained a large following in the church” (Ryrie, 112)” “has been rejected by the majority of Christianity” (Wikipedia).
Are there any examples of this is the church today? Yes, T.D. Jakes. “When being interviewed on the radio Jakes in responding to the questioner on the orthodox view of the trinity said “The Trinity, the term Trinity, is not a biblical term, to begin with. It's a theological description for something that is so beyond human comprehension that I'm not sure that we can totally hold God to a numerical system. The Lord said, “Behold, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one, and beside Him there is no other.” When God got ready to make a man that looked like Him, He didn't make three. He made one man. However, that one man had three parts. He was body, soul and spirit. We have one God, but He is Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in regeneration” (“Living by the Word” on KKLA, hosted by John Coleman, Aug. 23, 1998 - http://www.letusreason.org/popteac9.htm).
If you were to visit the beliefs section of his website, you would read “God--There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three Manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (http://www.apologeticsindex.org/j11.html).
“Dr. Norman Geisler President of Southern Evangelical Seminary and a well known scholar and speaker on cults said in an interview with “The Charlotte World,” “I know T.D. Jakes is very popular, and I know people don't like his ministry being called a cult, but it is. It would have been condemned by any orthodox church down through the centuries.”…He “ said that Jakes promotes modalism, which denies the doctrine of the Trinity” (http://www.letusreason.org/popteac9.htm).
Arianism (325 A.D.)
“Arianism first originated with Arius, a presbyter of Alexandra. It consisted of anti-Trinitarian views.
He distinguished the One Eternal God from the Son by saying that the Son was generated from the Father and therefore had a beginning. He also believed that the Holy Spirit was the first thing the Son created” (Ryrie, 112-13). “For his doctrinal teaching he was exiled to Illyria in 325 after the first ecumenical council at Nicaea condemned his teaching as heresy. It was the greatest of heresies within the early church that developed a significant following. Some say, it almost took over the church” (http://www.carm.org/heresy/arianism.htm).
Jehovah’s Witnesses (“a force”)
They teach that “the holy spirit is the invisible force of Almighty God, which moves his servants to do his will.”
“There is no Trinity, (Let God be True, p. 100-101; Make Sure of All Things, p. 386); The Holy Spirit is God's impersonal active force, The Watchtower, June 1, 1952, p. 24); Their church is the self-proclaimed prophet of God, (The Watchtower, April 1, 1972, p. 197); They claim to be the only channel of God's truth, (The Watchtower, Feb. 15, 1981, p. 19)” (http://www.carm.org/heresy/arianism.htm).
They teach, “In the words of St. John: ‘He shall give you another comforter’...this comforter I understand to be Divine Science’” (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy, 331:31). They also refer to the Holy Spirit as “the developer of eternal life, truth, and love” (S&H 331:26).
Mary Baker Eddy said, “His students then received the Holy Ghost. By this is meant, that by all they had witnessed and suffered, they were roused to an enlarged understanding of divine Science” (S&H, p. 46:30-32).
The Holy Spirit “is not part of this belief. However, some use the term to refer to the spirit of a holy person who once lived” (Christianity, Cults & Religions).
“The Holy Ghost is a male personage” (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, p 118; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, page 179). He is “a god separate from the Father and the Son” (Christianity, Cults & Religions). “The influence of deity...like electricity...the executive power of both the father and son, carrying out the plan.”
They believe the Holy Spirit “is a female spirit who works with Jesus in the spirit world to lead people to Sun Myung Moon” (Christianity, Cults & Religions). They say that the Holy Spirit “also cleanses the sins of the people in order to restore them, thus indemnifying (repaying) the sin committed by Eve.”
“There must be a True Mother with the True Father, in order to give rebirth to fallen children as children of goodness. She is the holy spirit.”
This is teachings “based on Eastern mystics, Hinduism, and paganism. Popularized in part by actress Shirley Maclane, 1980s-90s. New age teaches that the Holy Spirit is “sometimes a psychic force. Man is divine and can experience psychic phenomena such as contacting unearthly beings” (Christianity, Cults & Religions).
They do not believe in the Holy Spirit nor does Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation or Buddhism (Christianity, Cults & Religions).
Baha’i World Faith
They teach that the Holy Spirit is “divine energy from God that empowers every manifestation” (Christianity, Cults & Religions).
“The Qur’an refers to Jesus as spirit of God. Muslim scholars see the angel Gabriel as the Holy Spirit” (Christianity, Cults & Religions).
Some see the Holy Spirit as being “a power or an influence.” Others view Him as being “passive, not active or involved.”
As you can see there are many opinions regarding the identity of the Holy Spirit. In our next blog, we will see how the Bible answers “Who is the Holy Spirit?”