I. The Dual Nature Of The Holy Spirit
The core essence of what we can know about the Holy Spirit is revealed to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. In His final discourse to the disciples before the crucifixion (Jn. 14-16), Jesus identifies the Spirit in two ways. As we shall see, these two names reflect two natures. It is crucial that we discern the Spirit's two-fold nature based in these identities. Following are the key verses from that discourse:
And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of Truth; whom the world cannot receive... but you know Him; for He dwells with you and shall be in you.
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of me.
...If I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you, but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He... the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine and show it to you...
Jn. 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-8...13-14.
Notice the two names, the Comforter, and the Spirit of Truth. These are not just alternate names for the Spirit. Each name speaks to a specific aspect of His character, purpose and mission. I will sketch these only briefly:
- The Comforter
The term Comforter (sometimes translated as Counselor or Helper) comes from the Greek word parakletos which means one who is called alongside, comforter, consoler, exhorter. Three truths emerge that characterize the Spirit's ministry as the Comforter. First, the corporate aspect of the Spirit's ministry is primarily in view. Second, His ministry is geared to meeting man at his point of need. Third, these two aspects combine to present the mothering nature of God.
The corporate nature of the Comforter's ministry is seen when we compare the definition of parakletos (above) with Paul's description of the Spirit's work in the assembly. Consider especially his description of the gift of prophecy: "...He that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort." (I Cor. 14:4). These terms all belong to the definition of parakletos. This same positive nurturing sense permeates Paul's entire discussions of the Spirit's corporate work in I Cor. 12-14, Rom. 12 and Eph. 4. As the "body builder" of the church the Comforter's ministry emphasizes nurture, unity, cooperation and interdependence.
The name Comforter also focuses on God's willingness and desire to meet man at his point of need. The Comforter ministers to us wherever we are in want or deprivation, or in pain and suffering, both in soul and body. Combining this need-centered focus with His corporate emphasis, the Comforter's ministry speaks to the mothering side of God. God's mothering nature is revealed in His Old Testament name El Shaddai. The Hebrew word Shad literally means, the many breasted one. Thus we read in Isaiah 66:11-13, "For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts....As one whom His mother comforts, so will I comfort you." Perhaps the best picture of the Spirit's mothering nature in Jesus is seen when He said to Jerusalem, "... how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Mt. 23:37).
- The Spirit of Truth
As the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit reveals an entirely different nature of God. This nature is characterized by truths oppositely parallel to those of the Comforter. First, the Spirit's ministry is focused intently on the individual heart rather than the corporate body. He yearns jealously within the heart to bring each believer to a fully realized indwelling of the Lord Jesus and the Heavenly Father—something that cannot be shared corporately. The personal nature of the ministry of truth is seen in David's words, "Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part you will make me to know wisdom" (Ps. 51:6). This is not something the church can experience. The hidden part speaks to something intensely personal which can only be experienced on a One-to-one basis.
Second, the Spirit of Truth does not meet man at his point of need like the Comforter does, but at his point of obligation to a holy, sovereign, righteous God. Truth calls for obedience through awakening conviction. It presents a standard to which our hearts must submit and conform. Thus the requirement of God, not human need, sets the agenda for the Spirit of Truth.
Jesus proceeds to show us that our encounter with the Spirit as Truth—not as Comforter—is the starting point of our knowing God. Our response to Him as Truth is what establishes our relationship to Him and defines our love for Him:
If you love me, keep my commandments... He that has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me: and he that loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him... If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him... If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love." Jn.. 14:15,21,23: 15:10
Notice the entry of the Father into the discussion. The intimate knowing and experiencing of the Father's love is found only through our obediencesomething that is conducted by the Spirit of Truth. This means that the Spirit of Truth ministers to us the Fathering nature of God. The Father is the one who purges and disciplines us to bring forth the fruit of obedience whereby He is glorified and our discipleship is proven (Jn. 15:2,7-8; Heb. 12:5-11). This purging is wrought through the Spirit of Truth, not the Comforter. (See also Ps. 51:6-7.)1
- Relating the Comforter and the Truth
Though very different in purpose and expression, the Comfort and Truth natures of the Holy Spirit are not opposed but work together. The Spirit of Truth establishes our personal relationship with the Father over a course of obedience, anchoring us to an eternal hope. This Fathering ministry is foundational and primary. The Comforter supports the ministry of Truth (hence His alternate name Helper), offering healing and encouragement along an otherwise difficult lonely road. His need-centered ministry supports the Truth's requirement-oriented purposes.
As builder of Christ's body in the earth, the Comforter's more visible corporate role in time supports the Truth's more hidden eternal work in the individual—preparing each one for permanent placement in the glorified body to be revealed. Through others, the Comforter speaks indirectly to us, giving us windows on our soul in areas we cannot see for ourselves. He likewise equips us to help others in their earthly quest for the Eternal Father. The Comforter's church building mission is only achieved by supporting the Truth's primary mission to the individual. It does not exist apart from this. His supernatural flow in the church body is designed to test and build up the supremacy of each individual's personal awareness of the Father.2
- The Fullness of the Godhead: The Purpose of the Spirit
Colossians 1:19 teaches us that in Christ dwells the fullness of the Godhead. This is saying that in the Lord Jesus are found the complete realization and harmony of the Comforter and the Spirit of Truth. If this is what characterizes Christ, and if the Holy Spirit's mission is to bring us all into the completed image of Christ (Review Rom. 8:29 and Eph. 4:13), then we can see that God's ultimate will is for us all to become full partakers of the Holy Spirit's two-fold nature even as Christ is.
This makes grasping the dual natures of the Holy Spirit and their proper relationship crucial to us. We're not just talking about theology. We're talking about something that affects our ability to grow up into Christ and fulfil our eternal calling. Failure to perceive this dual reality spells the beginning of our troubles in relating to the Spirit.
Part I cont.... The Partial Presence Of The Holy Spirit