THE HOLY SPIRIT, AN HISTORICAL VIEW
When I was a new Christian I was sitting in a preaching service when
a pastor mentioned that he didn't think that the "outer darkness" of the
New Testament was the eternal state, or hell.
Based on that comment, I was off and running on a study of my own to
find out what "outer darkness" meant. As I studied, I set down some very
correct observations of the term. I finally formed a thinking that this
was an intermediate place between heaven and hell where the not so good,
but not so bad people went. It wasn't hell for they were pretty nice people,
but it wasn't heaven because they weren't that nice.
I mentioned this to a pastor a year or so later and he went off the
deep end, telling me that I was teaching Catholicism and purgatory. I wasn't
sure what purgatory was much less the other big word he used.
I finally mentioned all that had gone on to an older layman that took
time to look into the word and explain to me that the Gospels were given
to the Jewish people and that my interpretation was probably incorrect.
Now, if I had lived in the AD 300-400 days I would have been called
to a council and condemned a heretic by the pastor. I made my mistake in
trying to interpret the texts, out of the context of the entire Bible,
and what God is doing in different times. I did not want to go into an
area of false doctrine, I just stumbled in because I had no training in
how to study the Word.
In the early church even the theologians were untrained in the finer
points of interpretation, indeed, interpretation came along later in time
as well. (the principles and theories of.)
We want to look briefly at the history of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
We will not go into the liberal or Neoorthodox positions. (Walvoord has
a section on Liberal and Neoorthodox views of the Holy Spirit. pp 253ff.
He also lists a group of books that deal with this topic in detail in note
one on p 237.)
The early church carried through with a belief in the Holy Spirit by
their use of the name in relation to the baptismal formula however there
wasn't a Theology 101 on Pneumatology in the Bible College of Ephesus.
The doctrine of the Spirit came about slowly. Probably the reason for this
was that there were other doctrines that were coming under fire. The deity
of Christ was a major problem that had to be dealt with.
Many of the early converts probably had a knowledge of the Old Testament
and they would have known a little, if not a lot of information about God
the Father. They had known much of the Lord Jesus through the Gospels and
the things that they had heard. The Holy Spirit would have been a natural
topic not to come up for awhile.
I'll be quite honest, as I have taught through Theology there are many
areas of study that we haven't been able to touch on, in all the generations
since the Lord was here. I'm sure pastors and teachers have studied in
some of these areas, but their work has never been placed into print for
others to read and interact with.
Each time I state that something would make a good research paper, I'm
saying that I have yet to see info on the subject and haven't had time
to get into it myself.
A side note for free: I think it is very sad that anyone can write a
self help book and get it published, even if it isn't a proven principle,
and yet we have many men of God out there researching in areas that we
haven't even discussed and they can't get it into print. This work on theology
went to publishers, and the reason for rejection at one publisher was that
they could not make a proper profit on such a project. PROFIT is the motivator
for most publishers today, not Spreading the Word and information concerning
THE CHURCH FATHERS:
Some of the early witnesses to the Spirit are found in the writings
of the Fathers.
This information comes from Walvoord. (Walvoord, John F., A.M., Th.D.;
"THE HOLY SPIRIT;" Grand Rapids: Dunham Publishing Co.; 1958, pp 238-239)
"The personality and distinct office of the Holy Spirit are clearly
set forth in Ignatius."
"Have we not one God, and one Christ, and one Spirit of Grace that was
shed for us?" Clement, (c. 100) (Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians,
ch 46, v.6.)
"Justin Martyr, according to Smeaton, 'is an emphatic witness to the
distinct personality of the Holy Spirit."
Walvoord quotes Fisher stating that Irenaeus held to the deity and eternality
of the Spirit even though he felt there was a subordination to the Son
as there was of the Son to the Father. Fisher also mentions that Clement
of Alexandria (150-c. 215) speaks of the Spirit, Father, and the Son as
the "Holy Triad".
H.B. Swete in "THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE ANCIENT CHURCH" tells that the
Spirit was active and evident in the church life and individual lives long
before it was dogma to the church.
"THE SHEPHERD" was written by Hermas the brother of the Bishop of Rome,
Bishop Pius. (Bettenson, Henry; "DOCUMENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH"; New
York: Oxford University Press, p 41; used by permission of Oxford University
Press) This was written in the area of 150 AD and is full of symbols. Some
liken it to the Revelation. In it Hermas mentions, "And when I had walked
a little, I fell asleep. And the spirit caught me away, and carried me
through a certain place..." (Visions I vs. 3) In vs. 20 he mentions a servant
of God having the approval of the "Spirit". Little can be learned of the
doctrine of the Spirit from this source, but he is mentioned.
The rise of the doctrine of the Spirit came around 170 AD from the followers
of Montanus. He and two women named Prisca and Maximilla declared the age
of the Paraclete and with it new revelations from God. They held to a very
high moral standard which drew men like Tertullian to the movement. They
were called the Montanists.
They were moving away from a formal church to a Spirit type of church
life, but their insistence on new revelation brought them ultimate rejection.
Even with this, the doctrine of the Spirit was not formulated to any great
Sabellianism (AD 215) presented the thought that God was one God and
that He presented Himself in three modes. This gave some definition to
the trinity and the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost
even though it was error. This was the first major error that was set forth
concerning the Spirit.
Arius (325 AD) a presbyter of Alexandria picked up on the heresy of
Monarchianism which held to one God in three modes, but that the Father
Arius held that God was first and that He generated the Son and then
the Son created the Spirit because the Word told him that the Son created
The Council of Nicaea was set to settle the dispute over the trinity.
Athanasius was the one that had been opposing Arius. The Council of Nicaea
made the following statement concerning the Trinity: "We believe in one
God, the Father All-sovereign, the maker of all things visible and invisible;
"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, God of God, Light of
Light, Life of Life, Son only-begotten, First born of all creation, begotten
of the Father before all the ages, through whom also all things were make;
who was made flesh for our salvation and lived among men, and suffered,
and rose again on the third day, and ascended to the Father, and shall
come again in glory to judge the living and dead;
"We believe also in one Holy Spirit." (Bettenson, Henry; "DOCUMENTS
OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH"; New York: Oxford University Press, p 35; used
by permission of Oxford University Press)
We still see no real statement of the doctrine of the Spirit.
The council of Nicaea did not declare the Spirit to be God but implied
such by linking the Holy Spirit to such a statement about the Father and
The Council of Nicaea was a minority of the church leaders and when
90 bishops later gathered to dedicate a Church they issued "THE DEDICATION
CREED, 341 which is more specific about the Spirit. They were also more
lengthy on Christ.
"In accordance with the tradition of the Gospel and of the Apostles
we believe in one God, Father...."
"And in one Lord Jesus Christ his son,...."
"And in the Holy Spirit, who is given to them that believe for comfort,
hallowing and perfecting, as also our Lord Jesus Christ commissioned his
disciples, saying, 'Go ye forth and make disciples of all the nations,
baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy
Spirit'; namely, of a Father who is truly Father, a Son who is truly Son
and a Holy Spirit who is truly Holy Spirit, the titles not being given
in a vague or meaningless way but accurately denoting the particular existence
[or personality] and rank and glory of each that is so named, so that they
are three in existence [personality] but one in agreement." (Bettenson,
Henry; "DOCUMENTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH"; New York: Oxford University
Press, pp 58-59; used by permission of Oxford University Press)
The creed of Constantinople in 381 AD mentions the deity of the Holy
Spirit. The cause of this creed speaking to the subject is that there were
some followers of a man by the name of Macedonius that began to detract
from the deity of the Spirit. His followers held that the Spirit was a
creature under the control of the Son. They were called Macedonians or
Pneumatomachians or "evil speakers against the Spirit". (Taken from: "A
SURVEY OF BIBLE DOCTRINE"; Ryrie, Charles C.; Copyright 1972, Moody Bible
Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. p 71)
The statement was as follows: "And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the
Lord, the Life-giving, who proceeds from the Father, who is to be glorified
with the Father and the Son, and who speaks through the prophets."
Augustine (354-430) Wrote the DeTrinitate a work on the Spirit. He presented
the Spirit as God very clearly.
The Council of Chalcedon in 451 confirmed the work of Nicaea and Constantinople.
The Synod of Toledo in 589 after studying the topic added the phrase,
"and the Son" after the Father in the creed of Nicaea and Constantinople.
This was to show that the Father and the Son were one and that the Spirit
proceeded from both. The Eastern church rejected this change and continues
with just the "father" in the statement. (An earlier Council of Toledo
in 447 AD used this phrase but the 589 session evidently made it official.
The statement was called the FILIOQUE CLAUSE. Fili has to do with "son".)
This meeting was to determine if the Spirit proceeded from the Father and
the Son or only the Father.
Ryrie has a quote that is of interest. "The deity of the Son was settled
at the Council of Nicaea; the deity of the Spirit at Constantinople; and
the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son at the Synod of
Toledo. The presence of heresy had forced the church to settle these great
doctrinal matters." (Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; "BASIC
THEOLOGY"; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, pp 386-87)
From this point on, the main thought of comment is on the personality
and deity of the Spirit. Little concerning his work appears until the reformation,
when Augustine's writings became a basis of interest. During the reformation
there was an emphasis on the work of the Spirit in regeneration. The reformers
also laid emphasis on the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit to counter the
idea that the priest was the only one that could explain the Bible.
A man by the name of John Owen (1616-1683) wrote a book DISCOURSE CONCERNING
THE HOLY SPIRIT and it is still held as a classic work on the Spirit. He
was a puritan. (The Holy Spirit, His Works and His Power are listed by
the same author in a 1954 Kregel release and may be the same one. Ryrie
mentions it in his Bibliography in the Holy Spirit book and mentions that
Kuyper held it very highly.)
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) also wrote a work on the Spirit.
The Plymouth Brethren (1825) were very instrumental in the understanding
of the baptizing work of the Spirit as well as His illumination of the
Neoorthodoxy (which rose out of liberalism) sees the Spirit as only
an operation of God and not a person of the Godhead. (Reprinted by permission:
Ryrie, Charles C.; "BASIC THEOLOGY"; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 389)
Neoliberalism is the old liberalism that takes sin a bit more seriously
to paraphrase Ryrie, also teaches that the Spirit is only an operation
of God. They reject both the deity of Christ and the Spirit.
Pentecostalism has probably done more to harm the doctrine of the Spirit
in some ways. They have perverted it greatly, yet out of the false doctrine
has come the need to refute it and the doctrine of the Spirit has been
more closely defined in recent years.
1. The heresy that you may face in your future ministries will feel
like the roof is caving in on you, yet you will rise to the occasion as
did the fathers, and Scripturally refute all comers! Do not fear false
doctrine. The falsehood of the early days did not stop God's program.
If, and we believe we do, hold the truth, the very Word of God, then
we have the answers that we need to refute false doctrine no matter when
or where it comes. We have only to go into the Word and find those answers.
Might we draw some simple application. Some say the Gospel is the important
thing, so we don't need to major on minors. This is true to a point yet
proper doctrine is called for in Scripture. We might wonder, however if
some of us don't get tied up in the detail of the doctrine and fail to
live it? Indeed, might we get so tied up in the detail of doctrine that
we forget to reproduce spiritually as the Lord has commanded us?
2. We need to watch for new falsehood and counter it as soon as possible.
Now, mark my words, I am not advocating denominations, yet there is something
to say of the councils of the past. They united many, many churches in
many doctrines over the early years.
I tend to wonder if the proliferation of so many types of church government
and styles of churches and doctrines aren't from the fact that the church
has no standard to go by. Many churches assume what pastor tells them is
right. It may or may not be!
I think there is some benefit in this area to the fellowships that have
sprung up in recent years that allow the churches to be autonomous, and
yet have a group of believers and churches to fellowship with, as well
as discuss beliefs.
There may be a bit of dampening to the progress of error in these fellowships,
such as General Association of Regular Baptists, Independent Fundamental
Churches of America etc.
3. Don't be afraid to go against the tide if you are convinced that
what you believe is correctly based on the Word. You need to seek out the
advice of church fathers, commentaries etc. Yet, if you feel the church
is in error you need to go forward. Write an article, discuss it with other
pastors or past classmates.
There have been some like Athanasius that have had to stand against
some strong tide and let the waves buffet them for the truth of Scripture.
Beware, however that you aren't on a wrong wavelength! Don't jump in
with both feet. Take time and pray and consider long and hard. You may
have missed finding that one verse that will blow you out of the water.
4. There may be a time when you will have to make a decision concerning
a group with which you work. You may see changes being made that are not
in keeping with the Word. When you have prayerfully considered things before
the Lord, and you have made a good study of the Word, if you continue to
feel the group is in error and it is an error that you do not desire to
be associated with, then you must take steps to separate yourself from
the group. This may well be a very hard thing to do.
A pastor in a certain group of churches lead me to the Lord many years
ago. I was forced to not attend one of those churches recently due to the
doctrinal error that I was hearing from their constitution and teachers.
When some of the Baptist conventions went liberal there were many good
men that disagreed with the new doctrines. Some of them formed and/or joined
other groups of pastors of like faith.
Others, usually the older men, had invested their lives in the conventions
and they thought they could turn them around. Since their churches, parsonages,
and retirement funds were controlled by the conventions, they stayed to
do what they could. (Which turned out to be very little.)
This item of application grows out of my needing to take a stand at
different times of my life. I have changed colleges of attendance, and
left institutions that I felt were moving away from what was Biblical.
It was not easy, but I felt that it was needed.
5. There is one further point to be made. Just because you disagree
with something that you are introduced to, don't automatically reject it
as false doctrine. Take some time to properly understand what this new
point is and then go to the Word to see if there is any validity. If the
new point or teaching is based on scripture, look it over and compare it
to other Scripture and see if it be true. Just because it is new, many
in our day reject it - just because we've never believed that way before.
6. Write and hopefully some day the publishers will begin to publish
some of your information.
7. The fathers and the creeds are not inspired, yet they can give us
some good information if we take time to read them and consider them.
8. You are the future's history and theology writers. Get busy! You
may feel that you have nothing to contribute, but you may well develop
a line of thinking that has never been studied before. Example: I have
been thinking and studying the thought of where the garden of Eden was,
and I have amassed a lot of information. Some day as I continue, I may
submit it somewhere for scholars to consider. Indeed, as I present it to
classes I am given new ideas and references that may well relate. I take
these and work with them and develop my thinking. I am at the point in
my study that I feel that I can almost state that I know where the Garden
of Eden was located. (You might find this an interesting study. It is located
in topic D04350)
WRITE IT - YOU'LL LIKE IT!