The Eternal Spirit (Nicene Creed #7)
We come now to the section of the Creed that addresses the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.As T.F. Torrance notes (in The Trinitarian Faith), the Creed presents the Holy Spirit as...
...God himself...immediately present in our midst, miraculously and savingly at work, and through him God reveals himself as Lord, for God himself is the content of what he does for us and communicates to us. The Spirit is not just something divine or something akin to God emanating from him, not some sort of action at a distance or some kind of gift detachable from himself, for in the Holy Spirit God acts directly upon us himself, and in giving us his Holy Spirit God gives us nothing less than himself" (p191).Torrance continues:
The Spirit of God is not the emission of some divine force detachable from God but the confrontation of human beings and their affairs with his own Self in which he brings the impact of his divine power and holiness to bear directly and personally upon their lives in judgment and salvation alike (pp192-3).The deity of the Spirit and the doctrine of the Trinity
The Creed thus presents the biblical teaching that the Holy Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is fully God and thus is both the subject and object of our worship. As Torrance notes,
Faith in the Holy Spirit is to be held in a trinitarian frame in accordance with the ordinance of holy baptism into the one name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit...(p193).Indeed, the trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19 was of particular importance to the framers of the Creed in upholding the deity of the Holy Spirit, and establishing the doctrine of the Trinity. The framers also looked to several other passages of Scripture, including:
- Mat 3:13-17, which tells of Jesus' baptism, where the Father acknowledges Jesus as his beloved Son and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, anointing him as the Christ.
- 2 Cor. 13:14, which tells of the Son's grace, the Father's love, and of the communion of the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Cor 12:4-6, which tells of diversities of gifts but of the same Spirit, Lord (Son) and God (Father).
- Acts 2:32-33, 1 Pet 1:2, 2 Thess 2:13-14, Eph 2:18 and Eph 4:4-6, which all include the triadic formula in one form or another.
...A definite doctrine of the Trinity was found to arise out of a faithful exegetical interpretation of the New Testament and out of the evangelical experience and liturgical life of the Church from the very beginning. It made explicit what was already implicit in the fundamental deposit of faith. It was with the formulation of the homoousion [meaning "of one being"] clarifying and expressing the essential connection of the Son to the Father upon which the very Gospel rested, and with the application of the homoousion to the Holy Spirit to express his oneness in being with the Godhead of the Father, that the theological structure the trinitarian understanding of the Godhead unfolded and established itself firmly within the mind of the Church (p199).Thus the Creed teaches that to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit is to be indwelt by God himself. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is "the Lord God in the full reality of his divine life and being... In sending to us his Spirit God has given us, not just something of himself, but his very Self" (p209).
The Spirit's gifts to humanity
When the Holy Spirit comes, he does so from the inner communion of the Holy Trinity. And as he comes, he brings God's own revelation, life-giving power and manifold gifts. This revelation is not of the Spirit himself, but through the Spirit of the "Face of the Father...seen in the Son" (p212). Thus we understand that our understanding of God is "from the Father, shining in the Son and becoming manifest through the Spirit" (p212). Viewed from our perspective, this means that "our mind, enlightened by the Spirit, looks toward the Son, and in him as in an image, sees the Father" (p212). Hallelujah!
Along with this revelation of God, the Holy Spirit brings to us God's own life-giving power and his many spiritual gifts (p220, 225). These are not merely things that God has, but what God, in himself, is. As Torrance is fond of saying, "The Giver and the Gift are one." T.F. continues the thought...
We must think of the Holy Spirit, then, as the creative, energizing, enlightening presence of God who freely interacts with his human creatures in such a way as to sustain their relation to himself as the source of their spiritual, personal and rational life (p227).... Moreover by his presence the Holy Spirit is the 'place'... where men may meet with God and are enabled to have communion with him, receive his revelation and worship him (p229).And so we conclude this post with a short prayer: Come Holy Spirit!