Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 17, 1964

Errors About The Holy Spirit

Gordon Wilson

Inasmuch as the Godhead is to some extent a mystery beyond the comprehension of men, it is not surprising that a great deal of speculation has been engaged in since the beginning of Christianity. While there has been more speculation, and consequently more error, advanced concerning the person and nature of the Son, the Holy Spirit has also received a large measure of speculative attention. Let us look at just a few of the errors about the Spirit which have been promulgated in history.

(1) Sabellianism. This doctrine was named after Sabellius, a theologian who lived in the third century A. D. He taught that there is only one Person in the Godhead, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were just different expressions of this Person's work. That is, in reference to one phase of His work, God is called the Father; in another phase He is called the Son; in another phase or capacity He is called the Holy Spirit. The United Pentecostal Church and a few other religious groups hold this doctrine today.

All of the passages which teach three Persons in the Godhead go to show the error of the position. At the baptism of Jesus, the Son was on the earth, the Holy Spirit was descending, and the Father was speaking from heaven. While we believe in the omnipresence of God, we do not believe that He has a "split personality" as the theory demands.

(3) Tritheism. This heresy is at the opposite end of the pole from the one already mentioned. It is the doctrine that there are three separate Gods forming in effect a Divine Council. In other words, the Godhead is a triumvirate rather than a trinity.

The error of this position is shown by all of the passages in the Bible which teach that there is one God. The scriptures plainly teach that there are not three Gods, but one God in three Persons; one substance, but three Personalities.

(3) Mysticism. There have been those who felt that the Bible was unnecessary as a means of receiving communications from the Holy Spirit. Mysticism holds that by meditation and contemplation man can attain a level of communion with the Spirit. This view was responsible for a great amount of confusion and discord during the early period of the Protestant reformation. One modern example of this kind of mysticism is seen in the Societies of Friends, or Quakers. Vestiges may also be noticed in the various denominational views of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion and sanctification.

The Bible plainly declares that God has spoken to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:2). The Son dispatched the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles into an infallible re collection of Christ's teachings (John 14:26). In this was the apostles received and transmitted from and by the Spirit all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

(4) Refined matter. One rather bizarre position on the nature of the Holy Spirit is that which some Mormon theologians have set forth; namely, that the Spirit is of material substance highly refined beyond the ability of man to imagine. However, matter is created rather than eternal. So if the Holy Spirit were matter, regardless of how refined, He would be a created being and not eternal as the Bible teaches (Hebrews 9:14).

(5) Identity of Spirit and word. Some people, including a few of our own brethren, have run so far in trying to escape the denominational doctrine of a direct operation of the Spirit that they have actually claimed that the ford of God and the Spirit are the same thing. But the Bible says that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit, so could not be the Spirit Himself (Ephesians 6:17).

Since error on this subject is so rampant, the solution seems to be to cease from speculating and stay with the Scriptural expressions of the truth about the Godhead. It is true that this course may leave our curiosity somewhat unsatisfied, but after all God did not give the Bible to satisfy human curiosity, but to save our souls. All that we need to know for the present is therein revealed.

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