Many believers like myself sense a lack in Christendom regarding the third distinction in the trinity, the Spirit. We are apt to pray towards our Father who art in heaven. We are especially knowledgable and appreciative of the Son of God who became a man to die for our sins. Yet, when referring to the third in the trinity, there is an eerie sense that seems to manifest itself, causing fear in evangelicals who dread stumbling into the pseudo-spirituality that characterizes many Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations.
Yet, we must have a firm grasp on the third in our Triune God, for without Him, we are hopeless in our pursuit of perfection, spirituality, transformation, spreading the gospel, or whatever else your goal is in your Christian life. In the following, I in no way plan on teaching anyone how to speak in tongues, but rather I hope to outline some of the key points concerning the Spirit that are critical to our growth in life.
But this He said concerning the Spirit, whom those who believed into Him were about to receive; for the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. John 7:39
This verse in John speaks of the Spirit who was “not yet.” While many translators insert the word “given” after “yet,” there is no presence of such a word in the greek. It is supplied by translators (and in all study Bibles “given” is in italics or supplemented by a footnote to explain its lack in the greek) as a means to make sense of such an obscure passage. However, I’d like to explore another option as to why our brother John omitted such a word before resorting to a change in the text.
Clearly the Spirit was yet in a certain sense prior to the feast in John 7, but what kind of Spirit was there? The Spirit was known as the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Jehovah (Gen. 1:2; Is. 11:2), for He was the Spirit who was purely divine and God. This Spirit was inaccessible to man in an inward way. He would descend upon the prophet and speak through him, but never did the Spirit come in to men to be their life and cause them to be begotten of God (Num. 11:25; Jn. 1:12-13).
I give the following proposition in contrast to the translators: the Spirit was not yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
The Second Becoming
And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. John 1:14a
The last Adam became a life-giving Spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:45b (c.f. Rm. 5:14)
The Lord Jesus underwent two becomings. First, as the Word who was God, He became flesh. This allowed the Lord to live a sinless life on our behalf and to die for our sins. Second, as the last Adam, He became a life-giving Spirit. The Spirit was not yet because Christ had yet to become this wonderful Spirit.
Now I must answer to two fears that should be arising in my orthodox, Christian brothers. First, I do not mean to say here that Christ’s resurrection was not physical or that He did not resurrect bodily. However, I would encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 15:44 and Luke 24:31, 36-37 and explain to me how this temporal, corporal body that you are probably imagining is able to disappear and walk through walls? When you can explain that to me, I will then recant that Christ is Spirit. Second, I do not here express the heresy of modalism in which the Spirit came as a third mode of God that acts in place of the other two who no longer exist. I firmly assert that the Father is on the throne with the Son at His right hand.
Then what am I asserting? The reason 1 Corinthians 15:45 is hard to swallow for most Christians is due to an elementary, tritheistic understanding of God. When the Son came to earth, He did not leave the Father and the Spirit in heaven (Jn. 8:29; 10:30; 14:11; Matt. 1:18; 12:28). The Son may be the leading one in the action, but He cannot do anything apart from the Father and Spirit, for God is One. In the same way, the Spirit is not void of the Father and the Son. So what exactly was the “becoming” in 15:45?
How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14
While it is beyond the scope of this post for me to get into the compounding typified in Exodus 30:22-33, I must make mention of it here. What “became” of the Spirit or what “was yet” after Jesus had been glorified (which means resurrected btw) was the compound Spirit.
This Spirit was no longer simply the divine Spirit of God as in the Old Testament, but now He has had the elements of Christ in His humanity (including, but not limited to, His human living, death on the cross, resurrection power, and victorious life in ascension) added that He might be called “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” “the Spirit of Christ,” and even “the Spirit of Jesus” (Phil. 1:19; Rm. 8:9; Acts 6:7).
The Lord Spirit
And the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is the Spirit.
While you may have been expecting me to get into all the different aspects of the Spirit (maybe the Spirit of comfort, the Spirit of truth, etc.) or all the different gifts that the Spirit bestows (such as apostleship, prophesying, teaching, etc.), I thought this would be a far more beneficial exposition of the third in the trinity.
The Spirit is not some separate entity that is mystical, powerful, and makes people shout in a trance “shun-da-gard!” Rather, He is the very Lord Jesus whom we read about and love in the gospels. He is also our loving Father whom we adore and cry out “Abba Father” to (Jn. 4:24).
We need not think of Him as some force, but rather we must see that He has in Himself the wonderful humanity of Chirst. He is able to empathize with us and relate in all the aspects of our human life. If we want love, we have the Spirit. If we want peace, we have the Spirit. If we need forgiveness, hallelujah we have the Spirit! And as this Spirit grows and spreads into our inward parts, the very Christ whom we desire to resemble is being formed within us (Gal. 4:19). The Spirit is the means by which Christ makes His home in our heart and we are conformed to Him (Eph. 3:16-17; Rm. 8:29).
May the Lord give us all a rich experience of the Spirit of Jesus Christ!