Section 5: The Holy Spirit
Week 1: The Holy Spirit’s Nature
Day 4: The Holy Spirit’s Relationship to the Father and Son
We saw yesterday that the Holy Spirit is just as much God as the Father or the Son. Have you ever wondered: If all three are fully God, what makes the Holy Spirit the Holy Spirit and not the Son or the Father? They each possess the same divine nature. The Father isn’t more powerful or wiser than the Spirit. Neither is the Son. So what is it that distinguishes them? This is a difficult question to answer because the Bible doesn’t give us a clear picture of the inner workings of the Trinity. But, if they all share the same essential nature, the only thing that can distinguish the Father from the Son and the Father and the Son from the Spirit is the work they each perform in the world. Scholar Bruce Ware puts it this way:
“What distinguishes the Spirit from the Father and the Son is not the divine nature of the Holy Spirit. This-the one and undivided divine nature-is also possessed equally and fully by the Father and by the Son. Therefore, what distinguishes the Spirit is his particular role as the Holy Spirit in relation to the Father and to the Son and the relationships that he has with each of them.”[i]
That, of course, raises a question: What distinct role does the Holy Spirit play? We’ll talk about this more when we look at the Spirit’s work in the Old and New Testaments, but it appears the Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son to complete the work they began.[ii] Thus, even though he is equal to the Father and Son in terms of his essential being, he nevertheless has a subordinate role when it comes to the work he carries out in this world.
We tend to see submission as a bad thing – a mark of inferiority. That’s why so many want to climb the corporate ladder. The higher we go, the more important we think we are. But the Spirit’s role within the Trinity ought to transform the way we look at the idea of submission in all its forms. A subordinate role doesn’t imply an inferior nature. In any given context, someone else may assume the role of leader, but that in no way means they are superior to you or inherently possess greater dignity. If the Holy Spirit, who is fully God, isn’t offended by a subordinate role, neither should we.
List the various roles you have in each of the different areas of your life.
Do you have to submit to someone else’s authority in any of the roles you listed? How do you feel about those subordinate roles? How does your attitude compare to the Holy Spirit’s?
[i] Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance, Wheaton: Crossway Books (2005) Ch. 6 eBook.
[ii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House (1994), 249.