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'The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy'

Explaining James 4:5 and other aspects of the Holy Spirit's Ministries

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Question #1:  

Could you explain this verse to me?

Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
James 4:5 KJV

Response #1:   

When James says here "the scripture says", he is referring to Galatians 5:17 (not the only time a New Testament writer refers to other New Testament writings as "scripture"; e.g., Lk.10:7b; cf. Rom.16:26; 2Pet.3:15). You can get a clearer idea of what James means, therefore, by first looking at the passage he is quoting. Here is what I have written about that in "The Genesis Gap" part 2 of the Satanic Rebellion series:

Paul's description of the Spirit's opposition to sin and evil in His individual ministry to each one of us generalizes the principle [of Holy Spirit restraint on the individual level] (note that James 4:5 in the Greek says essentially the same thing as Gal.5:17):

Thus the flesh (i.e., the sinful nature of Man) sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit sets its desire against the flesh. For these two are antithetical to each other, and so the result is that it is not your own will that you are carrying out.
Galatians 5:17

The last part of the verse is critical to understanding the difference between most instances of the Holy Spirit's ministry of restraint to individuals and the over-arching cosmic ministries of the Spirit we are about to cover below. We are in a position to limit His personal ministries by the action of our free will. He will guide and restrain us from mistakes – up to a point, but, ultimately, God is not going to take away our free will and keep us from the commission of evil when we are dead set on it. That is what is meant by "quenching the Spirit" (1Thes.5:19) and "grieving the Spirit" (Eph.4:30), i.e., stubborn insistence on pursuing a wrong course of action in despite of the Spirit's clear restraint. More extreme cases of this thwarting of the Spirit's ministry of restraint to individuals include "lying to the Spirit" (Acts 5:1-11) and "blaspheming against the Spirit" (Matt.12:31). What all of these cases have in common is human persistence in the face of the Spirit's resistance to sin and evil, but, in all of these cases, what we have are free will acts as the point beyond which the Holy Spirit will no longer restrain from wrong actions.

To return to James 4:5 and its context specifically, these verses are likewise talking about the ministry of the Spirit in restraining sin which constitutes a very important part of every Christian's spiritual provision, and, like the Galatians passage, likewise set up a direct opposition between the humility and prudence of following the Spirit as opposed to the arrogance and folly of following the flesh against the Spirit, especially as a general pattern of behavior (the very thing James is accusing his listeners of, characterizing their actions in verse 5 as based largely upon "envy/jealousy"). I would therefore translate as follows:

(4) You adulteresses (i.e., immoral people of both sexes)! Do you not know that friendship with the world is inimical to God? Therefore whoever wants to be a friend of the world establishes himself as an enemy of God. (5) Or do you assume that the Scripture (i.e., Gal.5:17) says to no purpose "The Spirit" which dwells in you "sets its desire against" [such] envy [emanating from the sin nature, a situation rampant among you (as is evident from the examples given in verses 1-4)]? (6) But [God] "gives grace [which is] greater" [than all these temptations] (i.e., in the provision of the Spirit which resists the flesh). That is why it says, "God opposes the arrogant, but He gives grace to the humble".
James 4:4-6

Please note the identical italicized phrase in both passages: "sets its desire against". This reflects very similar Greek phrasing in Galatians and James (epithumei kata and epipothei pros respectively). The two Greek verbs are close synonyms so that James' paraphrase of Paul's statement in Galatians is very close indeed. The thing which has probably caused most commentators and translators to miss the source of the quote (and thus the entire sense of this passage) is James' use of "envy" to characterize the sinful behavior of verses 1-4. Clearly, however, "sets its desire against [such] envy" is the most straightforward way to render the Greek. The King James "to envy" is a stretch; the NIV's "envies intensely" turns all normal canons of translation on their head, rendering a noun as a verb, the main verb as an adverb, and leaving out the preposition pros ("against" in this context) altogether! James' point is that the Holy Spirit is our Helper in resisting the drives of the sin nature, which he characterizes here as being "envious" of the Spirit's restraint. This is precisely what Paul had said, though in a slightly different way: the Spirit resists the flesh; the flesh resists the Spirit; we make the choice as to whether we will follow Him or our own base desires.

In the One who gave us His good Spirit to guide us through all of our trials and temptations, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Hi Doc!

I have an odd question regarding the Trinity and could not find the answer in the bible. The common description of the Trinity is God is one in essence and three in person.

Romans 8:9 - But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

Commentators have said that the spirit of Christ and the Spirit of God refers to the Holy Spirit. Does this mean that God is One Spirit and three in person? Or God is three spirits and three persons that is one essence. The belief that I hold to about God is that He is one being and three in person.

Luk 23:46 - And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

Did Jesus give over His human spirit over to His Father? and if so, does this mean that Jesus also has a divine spirit? and if so, would this comply with the teaching of His hypostatic union? Are the spirit of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit the same spirit or three different spirits but One God?

Thank you so much,

Response #2: 

You are correct in your assessment of the Trinity in its classical description: God is one in essence, three in person. As to spirit/Spirit, God is spirit. Human beings have a spirit. Our spirit is a reflection of God's essence. We share His image individually and His likeness collectively. We each possess free-will, analogous to His WILL; and collectively mankind shares a common nature or essence, analogous to the essence of God; here the analogy is looser, which explains why scripture says we are made in His image, but only according to His likeness (i.e., there are only three persons in the Trinity, and they are much closer than we are one to another; see the link in BB 3A "The Image and Likeness of God").

In His humanity, Jesus has both of the things we have: a genuine body and a human spirit. His humanity is an addition to His divinity. In His humanity He (now) has a spirit (since the virgin birth); in His divinity He is spirit. There is a big difference in these matters between having a spirit and being spirit. The former indicates that whatever our human spirit is, it is limited in terms of its place and extent; that is to say, it is a finite thing designed to exist inside of this universe. The phrase "being spirit" only applies to God, and gives us some idea of the nature of His infinite being so that we finite human beings can (better) understand. God exists outside of time and space; He cannot be limited in place or time or extent. He existed before He created the universe. We cannot see or detect Him through material means; He has to reveal Himself to us (which He does through His Word). The best way to describe that situation to human beings is to call Him "spirit" since in both Hebrew and Greek the word spirit means "wind", that is, something whose effects we feel and recognize but which we cannot see itself. That is what God is like in His essence: something very real and powerful, yet invisible, and, without being limited by an indefinite article, completely all-encompassing. Angels are "spirits" (plural), which is also something quite different from "being spirit (singular)"; the description of angels likewise indicates something unseen, but in their case the terminology "a spirit" or "spirits" also demonstrates their finite existence, limited to this universe and to a specific time and place at that.

Finally, I also take the phrases "the Spirit of Christ" and "the Spirit of God" as synonyms for the Holy Spirit. He is "the Spirit of Christ" because Christ sends Him (Jn.16:7) and "the Spirit of God" because the Father sends Him (Jn.14:26; see the link in BB 4A: "The Sending of the Holy Spirit"). The three persons of the Trinity share a single essence which can be termed "spiritual" as long as we understand by this that "what they are" is beyond our understanding since it exists independently of time and space (and that is something we cannot yet comprehend in toto, being creatures of time and space). The main point behind the word "spirit" is "invisible but real", and that is certainly true not only of God, but also of the most important part of us, our human spirits (which will live forever in the new bodies we receive at resurrection). Since the real "who we are" is eternal and made for the primary purpose of responding to God, contemplation of these things should remind us that of everything we do here on this earth only that which is spiritually related will last (everything else will turn to dust). Christians should remember this and be motivated to grow in Jesus and produce for Him rather than racing after the temporary things of this world that really mean nothing in the end.

Thank you for your continuing love of the truth!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Dear Dr. Robert

Can I ask you, do you believe in the Godhead, Father Son and Holy Spirit, One God but three unique individuals, and do you believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God as in 2 Tim. 3:16. "All Scripture is God breathed."

Yours sincerely

Response #3:   

Good to make your acquaintance. To answer your questions, I do indeed believe both of these truths, and I think it is fair to say that all of the writings at Ichthys reflect both of these positions clearly and unambiguously.

For the Trinity, please see in particular "The Persons of the Trinity" (in BB 1: Theology).

On the issue of scriptural inerrancy, that doctrine will eventually form a major part of BB 7: Bibliology. For now, please see the special study: "Read your Bible: Protection against Cults".

In our dear Lord Jesus, man and God in one Person forever, even He who is the Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Hello--I have a question for you. Could you please look up Romans 11:36 and 1 Cor. 8:6, and tell me if they are similar in meaning? They sound pretty similar in meaning to me, though structurally, I can see they are a little different. Is "dia" used differently in the Romans verse, than in the 1 Cor. verse? Does "ek" govern "dia" in one text, but not in the other?

Romans 11:36 has, in Greek word order, "Because of Him and through--(di autou)--Him and to Him all things..." (Speaking of God.)

1 Cor. 8:6 has, "...of whom are all things and we in Him, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom--(di ou)--are all things and we through Him--(di autou)."

They do sound very similar.

Does something called "ek" govern the "dia" in one verse and not the other? A Jehovah's Witness is claiming this, but I don't understand what he means, exactly. Also, he says Winer and Thayer agree with him. Both were Unitarians, and the former had his grammar overhauled, after more Greek papyri were discovered, in the late 1800's, as Robertson mentions in HIS huge grammar.

Anyway, just wondering. No hurry. God bless.

Response #4: 

On the transliteration issue: the preposition ek is written as ex when a vowel follows as we have in both passages. These passages are certainly very similar in phraseology, but of course Paul is saying something a bit different in each. In Romans 11:36, he is expressing the wonder and totality of God who is all in all (and that is true of God in three Persons). In 1st Corinthians 8:6, he splitting things up in terms of the roles of the Trinity (wherein Jesus Christ is the One who has ever implemented the Father's plan from the beginning to the end - thus the difference in "of" and "through" being one of planning and implementing respectively): all things are and have come into being "through Him", Jesus Christ the Implementer of the Plan which comes "from" the Father.

I'm a little surprised that anti-Trinitarians would use these two verses, especially in conjunction, since 1) together especially they show equality and unity between Father and Son since the functions of 1Cor.8:6 are surely common to those of Rom.111:36; and, even more significantly, 2) 1st Corinthians 8:6 clearly demonstrates Jesus' role as Creator of the universe in response to the Father's plan – all things which exist came "through" Him (cf. Jn.1:2; Heb.1:2); and 3) it also calls Him "LORD" (i.e., kyrios, the Greek equivalent of YHVH), in context an indisputable title of deity. So perhaps I don't understand the argument - but feel free to write me back.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Dear Doctor--I don't understand it fully, either. A Trinitarian is saying that these verses are saying basically the same thing, though a little differently, in each, showing Jesus to be God. A JW is saying no, that they don't show that Jesus is God, that the ek governs dia, which changes the meaning. I don't know what he means by that. He says that some lexicographer named Winer, 150 years ago, and Thayer, and the BDAG, agree with him, that they mean different things. I know Thayer was a Unitarian, and I just found out that Winer was, too. Also, I know that Winer's lexicon was obsolete, and had to be revised, several times, after more ancient papyri were discovered, after his death, that showed some of his grammar and definitions to be wrong. Robertson mentioned this in HIS huge grammar book. I don't know if you have ever heard of Winer or not.

You probably have the BDAG, but Fred Danker, the main editor, is a very liberal theologian. He was once a Missouri Synod Lutheran, but walked out on the Seminary back in 1974 in what came to be called "Seminex". He and some other professors and students left the Sem, and the ones that left denied even the most basic of Christian beliefs, such as the Virgin Birth and even that Jesus is God. The BDAG editions flip flop back and forth over the examples used to show some definitions. For instance, we have an older edition, that shows "theos" of Jesus, and lists John 1:1 as an example. The newest edition, if I remember right, does not even give that as an example. And it's a pretty obvious example.

Anyway, thanks for your help.

Response #5:   

Well this makes no sense. Both ek and dia are prepositions. Prepositions never govern other prepositions. They govern substantives and in Greek take one of three cases. In the case of these two, ek may only govern the genitive case, while dia can govern either the accusative or genitive cases but it means something different in each case (i.e., "because of" with the accus.; "through" with the genitive - the latter is what we have in these verses). But it is impossible for one to govern the other!

If this person thinks that he/she has found something in some source suggesting that "the ek governs dia", then this person has badly misunderstood. This is such a nonsensical thing to say, in fact, that it leaves me wondering whether the person understands anything at all about English grammar, let alone Greek grammar.

I have Thayer; I use it from time to time (it is still quite valuable). I still use BAG occasionally but felt it pointless to get that "new" Danker edition. Honestly, the best lexical tool for NT studies in my view continues to be the Oxford Liddell and Scott's (three sizes). Moreover, when I want to find something out about a particular word, I always get more and better info using a Greek concordance (so I can scan through and see how the word is actually used in a variety of contexts.

Lexicons, in any case, are only a starting point for finding out what a word "means", since meaning is determined by usage, not by what some scholar put in a lexical entry to sum up his estimation of usage overall. They have their place, but I would imagine that many of the 19th century German and English scholars who wrote them would be shocked and saddened to find out that so many people today think of these books as "the answer" rather than "the beginning of the search for the answer".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill--Hi, long time no write, on my part! I hope you have time to answer a translation problem for me.

It's about Romans 8:26--"In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Sprit Himself intercedes for us with groanings to deep for words."

Now, it seems obvious to me that it is the Holy Spirit who is doing the groaning. If we drop the clause "for us" (I know the "us" isn't in the original text), we have "the HS intercedes with groanings too deep for words."

I know a Catholic who is trying to say that the Holy Sprit doesn't and cannot groan, that the groaning here is people who are groaning. If I understand him right, he thinks it is actually heresy, to say so, but he writes in a pseudo-mystic style sometimes, making him hard to understand. Earlier, in vs. 22 and 23, it is creation and we who groan, but any way I look at it, in vs. 26, it seems to me it MUST be the HS doing the groaning. One commentary I looked at says it cannot be the HS, but another says it is. And that the word for groaning here is more like "words unutterable."

Anyway, it may seem like a foolish argument to you, but this guy is dead serious. He is also rather pompous. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Could you look at the original Greek for me and get back to me, on who is doing the groaning, and does it mean literal groaning, or "words unutterable"? I told this guy that the groaning may mean language that is too deep for us to understand, but God would understand.

Thanks. God bless you.

Response #6: 

Always good to hear from you. You are exactly right. The Greek word meaning "too deep for words" is alaletos, an adjective which is derived from laleo, to speak, compounded with the alpha-privative (i.e., the negating prefix as in a-typical = not typical). Therefore the adjective means "not capable of being spoken". Since of course the groanings are in the dative, an instrumental use here, they have to be the means used by the Spirit, not by us. This passage is an example of a trope which is very common in scripture, the anthropopathism, where human emotions are attributed to God for the sake of explaining things to us. For example, when it says in Genesis 6:6 that the Lord "regretted" creating man, we can be sure that He was in fact not at all surprised about what had happened since He knows the end from the beginning; therefore regret in the human sense is impossible for God. Likewise here, being perfect spirit, there is certainly no way for the Spirit to experience the physical-emotional distress that makes us "groan". However, just as the regret of Genesis 6:6 brings home to us God's great displeasure, so here the groaning opens up for us in a very vivid way the reality of the Spirit's love, concern, and persistent intervention on our behalf, a wonderful window on the personality of Him who is usually hidden from our ken, even in scripture.

What is generally not understood is that anthropopathisms express genuine aspects of God's true character, but these are inevitably deeper, more ideal, and more complex than we could ever understand or even come close to coming to terms with – without the help of such anthropopathisms. For example, being "sons of God" is only understandable from seeing comparable human relationships; the same is true in the case of us being "the Bride of Christ", something we could not understand at all without the institution of marriage. "God is love" but we can only approach understanding this through our experience with human love, imagining the divine ideal both from positive examples which approach it and negative ones which show what love is not.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi--Thanks for your prompt reply. If I read you right, does this mean that Paul doesn't mean literal groaning, but a kind of language that is too deep for words? If so, why is it translated "groanings", instead of "language incapable of being spoken"? Just wondering.

Response #7:   

First, the adjective "unutterable" modifies the noun "groanings", so that idea of inexpressible sounds of distress is definitely there in the text. A stenagmos is a groan, not language, so that removing the idea of non-verbal, plaintive sounds would be out of bounds. As far as literalness goes, as I say, this phraseology lets us know the deep concern of the Spirit for our spiritual welfare, even if from a purely technical point of view He doesn't actually "groan" in the human sense (i.e., it's an anthropopathism as explained in the previous email).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill--Thanks for explaining to me more thoroughly.

I am so mad at this guy I could spit harpoons! I cut and paste what you wrote about groaning and that it comes from the Holy Spirit and not from us, in Romans 8:26 and he wrote to me:

I think due to human respect, He doesn't want to hurt your feelings so he tells you what you want to hear. Since he is your expert friend. I will have to disagree with both of you even though you are both experts. based on one fact. "God is SPIRIT; and those who adore him, in Spirit and in Truth it is necessary to adore Him." John 4: 24 Since GOD is SPIRIT. he has no lungs, throat and vocal cords to make GROANS or SIGHS with. as for Dr. Luginbill's example: "For example, when it says in Genesis 6:6 that the Lord "regretted" creating man, we can be sure that He was in fact not at all surprised about what had happened since He knows the end from the beginning; therefore regret in the human sense is impossible for God. Likewise here, being perfect spirit, there is certainly no way for the Spirit to experience the physical-emotional distress that makes us "groan". However, just as the regret of Genesis 6:6 brings home to us God's great displeasure ... " So , according to Dr. Luginbill, God cancels himself out. and Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple wasn't really Jesus, but only OUR PERCEPTION of what coulda happened ? No thanks, I will have to dismiss you both as having so much education that you are both ... "no earthly good".

This is what he posted, when I cut and pasted what you told me. I am furious that he thinks you told me ONLY what I wanted to hear, and not the truth. I would never ask you to tell me an untruth, just to make me feel good.

Anyway, I don't want you to get too bogged down in this, as I know you are busy and don't have time to get involved with a pompous nincompoop like this guy, but could you at least respond to the part about supposedly agreeing with me so as not to hurt my feelings? I told him that was a bald-faced lie.

Thanks. God bless

Response #8: 

First of all, I never tell people things about the Bible that are untrue for any reason -- least of all out of concern for their feelings. I always try to keep in mind who I am working for. As to this fellow's odd response to you (I cannot at all follow the "logic" of his objections and reactive conclusions), all I can say is that anthropopathism is a genuine phenomenon of scripture, and one which is widely known and widely accepted by all orthodox and all traditional Christian groups without any exceptions of which I am aware. You can find it any group's systematic theology. It makes good sense too. We are human beings, and if God did not deal with us as such we could never form any reasonable idea of what He and His character are like. So when I say that God does not experience regret in the way that we do or groan in the way that we do etc., it does not mean that these expressions from Him in His Word to us are not there for a definite reason, a large part of which is to convey to us His deep love and concern for us which, though not identical to what we as limited and emotional creatures experience, is legitimately compared to these feelings and experiences of ours by Him. If anything, God's comparable "experiences" and "reactions" (no word will really fit the bill) are bound to be deeper and more intense to an infinite degree. After all, how else can we explain the love wherewith He gave His own beloved Son up to death on our behalf? This is "love", but it is a "love" that far exceeds anything we can truly appreciate this side of heaven.

I note that Lenski accepts the principle of anthropopathism as well although he wants to limit it here in this passage. In my view, it's not up to us to say what scripture allows when it is right there staring us in the face in the text and on the page. Lenski's solution to this "embarrassing anthropopathism" can be seem as either brilliant or bespeaking a very poor feel for the Greek. Either way, one does have to choose between the two interpretations and I don't believe Lenski's can be correct. First, it runs fairly violently against the natural impression a Greek reader receives on first reading (where the dative as I say fits effortlessly into the expectation of an instrumental use: "the Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words"). Second, for this to mean what Lenski would have it mean (although in the quote provided he does not explain his logic or the grammatical mechanism which would accomplish this feat), the "unutterable groans" would have to be the thing with which the Spirit intercedes and one does not intercede with a thing but with a person. Further, we know that the Person being interceded with here though not specifically named must be God the Father (Origen apparently did read toi theoi here). Therefore the only grammatical way to make these groans ours instead of the Spirit's is the round about approach adopted in one way or another by a variety of commentators (Augustine, Calvin, Barnes, et al.), whereby the Spirit is seen as being in us and acting through us so that He produces these groans from us as He uses us to intercede in prayer that He motivates (there are a number of variations on this theme, all equally hard to follow in my view). However, this approach still leaves the Spirit actually doing the literal groaning in the straight-up translation of the verse so that we are left "to understand" all of this other stuff happening inside without a word about it from the apostle in the actual text he wrote -- all to avoid attributing groaning to the Spirit (a very common sort of anthropopathism as we have seen). But beyond the questionable logical gymnastics we would need to employ to get from point A to point B, there is, thirdly, the problem that in the very next verse, verse 27, Paul's further extrapolation of this intercession makes it very clear that it is coming from the Spirit entirely and completely, and is not merely a periphrasis to express our own prayers. For God who "searches the hearts" knows "the thinking of the Spirit", and this seems to me to clearly respond to the "unutterable" nature of the groaning prayers -- they may not be expressible in human language, but the Father understands "because He [the Spirit] is interceding in a divine way [with the Father] on behalf of [the] saints". Finally, the fact that verse 26 starts off so emphatically -- "but the Spirit Himself" is a clear indication that He is the unique focus of all that follows on this subject. Attempting to attribute the actions and emotional language (given for our benefit) to us instead of Him is a mistake, one which causes us to miss out on this beautiful insight into the divinely deep love and concern the Spirit has for all of us who belong to Jesus Christ.

Hope this helps!

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9:

 Hello Brother Bob,

Recently I seem to be having some trouble rationalizing Jesus and God. It seems they are one, Jesus is God, and then they are talked about as separate (He sent His Son). John 1:1 describes Jesus as God, the word, and Emanuel is God with us. But, when he is described as " He sent His Son, or this is my begotten Son", they seem not as one in three persons, but separate. I accept the Trinity, but when reading sometimes they seem "separate".

As always, I look forward to the spiritual wisdom God gives you.

God's Blessings on your day-

Response #9:   

There is of course much about the precise nature of the Godhead of which we are at present necessarily ignorant -- and doubtless unable to comprehend without personal experience (something impossible as long as we inhabit these mortal bodies). At present, we "see through a glass, darkly", but on that wonderful day to come we will understand completely for we shall see Him "face to face" (1Cor.13:12). The traditional answer to your question has to do with the essence of God as opposed to the Persons of God. God is "one in essence, three in Person". Jesus is absolutely a separate Person from the Father and the Spirit, yet He and the Father and the Spirit all share in the unique divine essence; they are all "God", viewed individually or collectively. Mankind is, by divine design, a microcosm of this blessed and ineffable reality. We too have individual persons (you are not me and I am not you; just as Jesus is not the Father and the Father is not Jesus), yet we share a common humanity, a common human essence. The degree to which Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are "one", however, is far beyond what we can comprehend from this human analogy. A signal part of their "oneness" is the fact that from eternity past, before the creation of the universe, and to the ages of the ages they have always had one indivisible purpose with never a shadow of a difference between them. That tells us something about their "oneness" or essence when we consider that in this world of sin and confusion it is hard to find two people who agree on much of anything (let alone everything), yet of course that unity is the Christian ideal (only to be achieved from perfect understanding of and obedience to God's truth). In eternity, saved mankind will be in a state of similar, perfect harmony, and yet we will retain our individual persons and personality. Therefore the "oneness" of the Godhead is not "less" but "more"; it is not that the individuality of Jesus or the Father or the Spirit somehow make them less than what we have to compare with in human terms (nor is that unity somehow less desirable to possess, from our limited point of view), but to the contrary it is infinitely more in that they are seamlessly integrated in a collective sense, yet without the slightest loss of individuality. We believers will only fully comprehend this when we too are truly "one" in eternity – not diminished in our unique individuality, but part of a perfect whole in a way which fulfills our deepest longings without loss and with only gain.

You can find more about this in part 1 of Bible Basics; part I "The Essence of God", and part II "The Trinity: the Persons of God".

And, as always, please feel free to write back about any of this.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Dr. Luginbill!

I read a statement from a believer who said some things about God which I disagree with. He wrote:

"He is one of the 3 persons that make up God. The Father and The Holy Spirit are the 2 other persons spirit beings that make up God. When we accept the Father we also accept the Holy Spirit and the Son. When we accept the Son we also accept the Father and the Holy Spirit. When we accept the Holy Spirit we also accept the Father and the Son. There is no division in God. For Jesus said himself a house that is divided will not stand. Never by any iota is God divided among him. He is one God in 3 manifestations The Father the Holy Spirit and the Son Jesus."

I wanted to know if you agree with me. I don't believe that there are 2 "other" spirit beings but that God is 1 being who is 3 persons. I also don't agree that they are 3 manifestations as he wrote but 3 distinct persons. I once heard a Christian debater say that God is like a triangle. The muslim said that if that were true then there would be 3 Gods. The debater stated that each side is not the triangle but has the properties of the triangle. He used a couch as an example. He said that "the couch is red." The couch is not a color but has the properties of being red just as each member of the Trinity has the properties of God. Do you agree with the Christian debater and what do you think about what was written in the quote? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #10:   

I agree with you again. The orthodox formula, time-tested and correct, is that "God is one in essence, three in person". Using words like "spirit being" and "manifestation" is problematic because these words and phrases are inexact, untested, and mean different things to different people. When it comes to the truth, it is very important not to make matters worse when trying to explain the truth. My feeling about both of these words/phrases is that they tend to diminish who and what God is (as well as to confuse the true nature of the Trinity). God is more real than anything we see or experience. He created time and space in an instant; He is superior to and exists outside of time and space. God has "Being", but calling Him "a being" suggests dependency upon the material universe, but that is not true of God at all! The same goes with manifestation, for the word suggests the arising of something that was not there before: God has always existed, even before He created the universe.

The Trinity triangle is a longstanding device to teach various aspects of the Trinity; it may not be perfect but it is not heretical (i.e., in essence it seeks to show how the Trinity is One and yet uniquely three at the same time). However, no theological weight can be placed on this or on any other teaching example: they are meant to help explain the simple "one in essence, three in Person", not to replace the truth of scripture and become sources of truth themselves.

There is more on this topic at the following links:

in BB 1, "The Persons of God: The Trinity"

Defending and Explaining the Trinity

Apologetics and the Trinity

The Trinity in Scripture

Questioning the Trinity

Finally, I strongly disagree with the statement "When we accept the Father we also accept the Holy Spirit and the Son". The "logic" used to support this statement is a typical argument which heretics and unbelievers use all the time: "God is everything; so everything is God" (and variations on this theme). We Christians know very well that the only Way to eternal life is Jesus Christ, and that the Father has specifically designated His Son our Lord as the issue in salvation. The demons acknowledge the existence of God the Father, but have rebelled against Him and the Rulership of His Son. Likewise, all human beings are aware of the existence of God from a very early age (unless and until they blot out this truth through the process of hardening their hearts as many unbelievers do). Such knowledge will not save. What also will not save is for a person to decide for themselves and apart from God's input how to worship and approach God, that is, apart from what God actually requires. Cain was the first person to go this route. He knew God wanted blood sacrifice (representing the coming death of Jesus for our sins), but he offered vegetables instead. God was not pleased. Only through the Son, accepting His perfect Person, human and divine, and accepting His work, dying and being judged for this sins of the world, can we be saved.

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
John 5:22-23 NIV

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
Acts 4:12 NIV

Yours in the One and only Savior, our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Dr. Lunginbill,

I hope that you are doing well. Have you ever heard a pastor refer to "putting a demand on the anointing"? I heard a pastor say this in reference to Christians being able to have what we say (positive confession, I suppose) He was saying that we can call things that are not as though they were. I thought that only God can create something out of nothing (according to the Hebrew word bara).

Thanks in advance for any insight.

Response #11:   

This is a new one on me, but then there are all manner of "new things" out there. On this one, I don't know of any scripture which speaks about "putting a demand on the anointing" or indeed of anything remotely related to this. So I would have to say that this is an individual's application of scripture rather than a biblical teaching per se. As such, it would have to be evaluated on its own merits. If the person is saying we should make full use of the anointing of the Spirit, that would be fine as far as it goes, but from your last comments here there seems to be the suggestion that we can somehow manipulate the ministry of the Spirit, whereas the ministry of the Spirit functions most effectively when we give our will over to God's will and respond to what He wants us to do (rather than setting our own agenda). Indeed, one of the only ways I can think of that we might want to make "something come from nothing" not in response to God's will but in accord with our own will would be in the context of using God as a sort of "slot machine", i.e., the prosperity gospel. Of course I am only reading between the lines here and would certainly not want to make such a judgment about this person's teachings without all the facts.

What I can say is that the word "anointing" is fairly rare in the New Testament, occurring only in 1st John chapter 2 where John uses it three times (verse 20 and twice in verse 27). In all of these instances, John is speaking of the anointing of the Holy Spirit which all believers have (Rom.8:9; cf. 2Tim.2:1) as a result of the baptism of the Spirit (and specifically the baptism "with" part of that ministry where He comes to be in us as opposed to the "by" part of that baptism whereby He enters us into union with Jesus Christ). In 1st John, the role of the Spirit who dwells in us as a result of this unction is primarily one of teaching us the truth (and specifically, the truth that we need to abide in Jesus, i.e., stay faithful to Him, keep believing in Him). The verb "anoint" which is from the same root as the noun "anoint" in Greek is found a bit more often in the Bible. In 2nd Corinthians 1:21 we also find it related by Paul to our solid position in Christ, and also connected to other ministries of the Spirit which have a similar effect of securing us for Jesus (i.e., "sealing" us and "the pledge/surety of the Spirit" in verse 22). But of course the most common word in this set is the adjective used as a proper noun, Christos: Christ is, literally, the Anointed One, and the anointing of the Spirit is both a mark and a means of His status as God's Son sent to earth on the mission of salvation (cf. Lk.4:18; Acts 4:27; 10:38; Heb.1:9).

There is of course much, much more about the Spirit and His ministry in scripture (expressed in a variety of ways). Part 5 of Bible Basics will be devoted entirely to "Pneumatology", that is, the Spirit and His ministries. That is a good ways away from being available. Until then, you can find out more about the way the Spirit empowers our production for the Lord at the following link: "Production is Empowered" (in Peter #18)

See also "The Sealing of the Spirit"

Hope this helps - feel free to write back about any of this.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.


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