Information Related to "God's Spirit and Our Destiny"
A basic litmus test in mainstream Christianity today is that a person believe in the doctrine of the Trinity to be accepted into almost every Christian denomination.
A question on the website of Evangelical commentator John MacArthur's ministry Grace to You asks, "Can you become a Christian if you deny the Trinity?" The response: "I would answer, 'No.' If you don't believe in the Trinity, then you don't understand who God is …"
We must understand that God is a family -- a divine family of more than one person. There is one God (the God family) comprising more than one God Being.
The Trinity doctrine argues that the Holy Spirit is a third divine person along with the Father and the Son. But a closer look at the Bible reveals many problems with this view. It is simply not biblical, and it does not express either the true nature of God or the glorious future He has planned for us!
How, then, does the Bible define the Holy Spirit if it is not a person?
The word "spirit" is translated from the Hebrew ruach and the Greek pneuma. Both words denote breath or wind, an invisible force. Scripture plainly says that "God is Spirit " (John 4:24 , emphasis added throughout).
So, just what is the Holy Spirit? One of the simplest biblical descriptions is this: It is the "power of the Highest" (Luke 1:35 ). Rather than describing the Holy Spirit as a distinct person or entity, the Bible most often refers to it as and connects it with God's divine essence and power.
The prophet Micah explains that "truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord" (Micah 3:8 ). In the New Testament, Paul referred to it as the spirit of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 ). Informing Mary that Jesus would be supernaturally conceived in her womb, an angel told her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you," and the divine messenger described this Spirit to her as "the power of the Highest [which] will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35 ). And, in a noteworthy Pentecost-related statement, Jesus told His followers, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8 ).
Confronted with such scriptures, even the New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: "The OT [Old Testament] clearly does not envisage God's spirit as a person … God's spirit is simply God's power" (1965, Vol. 13, "Spirit of God," p. 574) .
The reference work A Catholic Dictionary similarly acknowledges, "On the whole the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power" (William Addis and Thomas Arnold, 2004, "Trinity, Holy," p. 827) .
God's Word shows that the Holy Spirit is the very nature, presence and expression of God's power actively working in His servants. Indeed, it is through His Spirit that God is present everywhere at once, or omnipresent, throughout the universe and affects it at will.
The Holy Spirit is spoken of in so many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10:45 ). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19 ), that it can be poured out on people (Acts 2:17 , 33), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3:11 ).
People can drink of it (John 7:37-39 ), partake of it (Hebrews 6:4 ) and be filled with it (Acts 2:4 ; Ephesians 5:18 ). The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3:5 ) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1:6 ). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person or personal being!
The Spirit is also described by other designations -- "the Holy Spirit of promise," "the guarantee of our inheritance" and "the spirit of wisdom and revelation" (Ephesians 1:13-14 , Ephesians 1:17 ) -- that show it is not a person.
In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is consistently represented by various symbols and manifestations in a completely different manner -- such as breath (John 20:22 ), wind (Acts 2:2 ), fire (Acts 2:3 ), water (John 4:14 ; John 7:37-39 ), oil (Psalms 45:7 ) and a dove (Matthew 3:16 ).
These depictions are difficult to understand if the Holy Spirit is a person! Notice Matthew 1:20 : "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Here we read that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus continually prayed to and addressed God the Father as His Father and not the Holy Spirit as His Father. He never represented the Holy Spirit as His Father!
Clearly, the Holy Spirit was the agency or power through which the Father begot Jesus as His Son -- not a separate person or being altogether. It's the divine power through which God acts.
We must allow His Spirit to become the guiding force in our lives to produce the qualities of true Christianity. For it is through God's Spirit that we become like Him as His children. But what does that really mean?
Let's get to the heart of this matter. The Jews of Jesus' day accused Him of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God: "The Jews answered Him, saying, 'For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.' Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your law, "I said, 'You are gods'"? If He called them gods … [why] do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"?'" (John 10:33-36 ).
In other words, said Christ, "If Scripture outright called human beings gods, why are you upset when I merely state that I am God's Son?"
Yet are human beings actually gods? What did He mean? Look at Psalms 82:6 , which Jesus was actually quoting to the Jews: "I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.'"
Unlike God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in form and shape, the Holy Spirit is represented in a completely different manner.
The key here is the word children, just as we read in other verses about our relationship with God. We must understand that God is a family -- a divine family of more than one person. There is one God (the God family ) comprising more than one God Being.
The God family from the beginning comprised two divine Beings -- God and the Word. The Word became flesh 2,000 years ago as the Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3 ). After Jesus' human life and death, He was resurrected to divine spirit existence as the "firstborn from the dead" (Colossians 1:18 ) and "firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29 ).
Who are the "many brethren"? They are God's saints -- His sanctified or set-apart people. These are Christ's brothers and sisters -- all the members of His Church.
Jesus was spiritually born in the resurrection as the first of many brethren or fellow children of God to follow later. As pointed out in Acts 17:28-29 , we are God's offspring: "'For we are also His offspring.' Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising."
The Greek word for offspring used here, genos, means "kindred," "race, "kind," "stock" or "family." We are thus of God's kind or family type.
Psalm 82 is much easier to understand in this light. In Psalms 82:6 the word gods is equated with " children of the Most High ." That makes perfect sense. When any entity bears offspring, its offspring are the same kind of entity. The offspring of human beings are human beings. The offspring of God are, in Christ's own words, "gods."
But we must be careful here. Human beings are not literally gods -- not yet, at any rate. Indeed, people initially are not literally even God's children, except in the sense that He created humanity and did so in His image and likeness.
In Psalm 82, when human beings are referred to as gods -- they are still declared imperfect and subject to corruption and death. So they are of the divine family in only a restricted sense.
One aspect of this is that man has been created in God's image and likeness on a physical, mortal level with limited dominion, resembling God but without His divine character and glory. But another aspect of this is that man has the ultimate potential of becoming the same kind of beings the Father and Christ now are.
Amazingly, God's purpose is to exalt human beings from this fleshly existence to the same level of divine spirit existence that He has!
God speaks of us as His children (Romans 8:16-17 ; Philippians 2:15 ; 1 John 3:2 ). The spiritual reproductive process starts with God's Spirit joining with our human spirit: "The Spirit [itself] bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:16-17 ).
Through this miraculous union, we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4 ). The Spirit-begotten Christian is a child of God, an actual member of the God family -- but not yet in an ultimate sense. As children, we must still go through a development process in this life -- a period of building godly character, becoming more and more like God in the way we think and live.
But at the end of this life, in the resurrection at Christ's return, we will be changed into divine spirit beings like the Father and Christ. Look at this amazing truth recorded by the apostle John: "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! … Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:1-2 ).
In fact, to expand on this, we are told in many passages of Scripture that we will receive the divine glory of the Father and Christ. Let's note just one of them: "Walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thessalonians 2:12 ).
As coinheritors with Christ, we will receive dominion over all things, including the entire vast universe just as Christ has (Romans 8:17 ).
To truly exercise dominion over all things -- including the raging thermonuclear furnaces of 50 billion trillion suns and every subatomic particle of every atom of every molecule in the cosmic expanse -- requires the omnipotent power of God. We will need the power of God within us to sustain our inheritance.
And what about our minds? As human beings, we couldn't count all the individual stars of the universe, at one per second, in a trillion lifetimes. But God, in a passing remark, says He knows all the stars by name (Psalms 147:4 ).
Consider this: Converted human beings are to one day possess divine nature, divine glory and total power over the creation, sharing God's infinite knowledge. All of this requires nothing less than divinity!
This biblical truth, hidden by the common doctrine of the Trinity, comes as quite a shock to those who have heard only the traditional view of mainstream Christianity regarding the ultimate reward of the righteous. Yet those who might be quick to denounce this teaching will perhaps be even more surprised to learn that many early "church fathers" of mainstream tradition did understand this incredible truth, at least in part.
Paragraphs 398 and 460 of the current Catechism of the Catholic Church (1995) state: "Created in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully 'divinized' by God in glory [but sinned] … The Word became flesh to make us 'partakers of the divine nature'" (pp. 112, 128-129). The latter paragraph quotes from earlier theologians:
From Irenaeus (2nd century): "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God" ( Against Heresies, Book 3, chap. 19, sec. 1).
From Athanasius (4th century): "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God" ( On the Incarnation of the Word, chap. 54, sec. 3).
And from Thomas Aquinas (13th century): "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us share in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods" ( Opusculum 57, lectures 1-4).
This teaching is even more prevalent in Eastern Orthodox tradition, where it is known by the Greek term theosis, meaning "divinization" or "deification." Notice the remarkable explanation of the early theologian Tertullian, writing around A.D. 200:
" For we will be even gods, if we deserve to be among those of whom He declared, 'I have said, "You are gods,"' and 'God stands in the congregation of the gods.' But this comes of His own grace, not from any property in us. For it is He alone who can make gods" ( Against Hermogenes, chap. 5, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 3, p. 480, quoted in "Deification of Man," David Bercot, editor, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 1998, p. 200).
You see, this was the commonly accepted view during the early Christian centuries before the Trinity doctrine took hold. Some of the later theologians of this early period were, despite this understanding, veering into developing Trinitarianism. But earlier theologians, closer to the original apostolic source, show no hint of Trinitarian ideas.
Consider this remarkable statement from the second-century bishop Irenaeus, who was taught when young by a disciple of the apostle John: "There is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son , and those who possess the adoption [i.e., sonship as God's children]" ( Against Heresies, Book 4, preface) .
So rather than the Trinitarian one God in three persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Irenaeus proclaimed one God that includes the Father, the Son and ultimately us, the multitude of other sons brought to glory (transformed believers).
There is indeed only one God, but that God is a family -- with others to be added to that family. There are at present two fully divine members of the God family -- two distinct Beings -- God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ). And, as incredible as it sounds, there will be more to come.
The Father and Jesus Christ will remain at the top of the family forever, reigning supreme even with the addition of billions of divine children. Unlike us,the Father and Son are uncreated, living eternally throughout time, without beginning. And there is only one Savior in whose name we can receive God's gift of eternal life (Acts 4:12 ), setting Him above us forever. Nevertheless, Their plan is that we share divine existence with Them as Their family, reigning with Them over all creation.
This, then, is why we are here! It is the ultimate potential destiny of all mankind. It is the awe-inspiring purpose for which we were created. As Jesus quoted, seeing our future, He said, "You are gods." Our future can't get any higher or better than that!
The Trinity doctrine doesn't allow for God's family to expand like this. Indeed, the Trinity denies the greatest truth we can know -- that God is a growing family of which we can become part. The truth astounds the mind in the immensity and grandeur of its scope.
May you hold fast to the stunning and glorious destiny God has promised in His Word, and be filled with the power of His Holy Spirit!©1995-2020 United Church of God, an International Association
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