"Notes" to the Belgic
Confession - Rev. C. Bouwman
THE HOLY SPIRIT TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD
Holy Scripture gives evidence of the fact that the Holy Spirit is God, is divine.
1) The Holy Spirit is given divine names: the Holy Spirit is called God.
Acts 5:3, 4: "Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." Note here how Peter interchanges the words 'Holy Spirit' and 'God', though still talking about the same 'person'.
2) The Holy Spirit is ascribed divine attributes: all God's attributes are equally the Holy Spirit's attributes.
The Holy Spirit is EVERYWHERE. Having commenced Psalm 139 by addressing the 'LORD,' David in verse
7 says "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee
from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed
in hell, behold, You are there." Essentially, David is saying that
the Spirit is everywhere; nowhere is he able to get away from God's presence.
However, this cannot be said of any creature.
The Holy Spirit KNOWS ALL THINGS: No creature is able to search or comprehend the depths of God. But the Spirit is able to do so for He is God. Says Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9,10 "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God."
3) The Holy Spirit is involved in Divine work:
The Holy Spirit was involved
in the CREATION of the world. In Genesis 1:1,2 we read, "In
the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without
form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit
of God was hovering over the face of the waters." This is not
recorded for us so that we might be informed as to where the Spirit was at
the time. Rather, the point of the passage is that the Spirit was doing something,
He was active in creation: hovering over the face of the waters.
The Holy Spirit is also busy with the work of RECREATION. In Psalm 104:30 we read how it is that the Spirit renews creation, causing seeds to sprout anew each year and plants to develop new buds. "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the earth."
4) The Holy Spirit has been ascribed divine honour.
In Matthew 28:19, the
Holy Spirit is placed on a level with the Father and the Son. "Go
therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The same is
done in 2 Corinthians 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
How was it possible for deBres to confess that the Holy Spirit is God? DeBres read his Bible, and came to the conclusion that all that the Bible says of God, namely concerning His mercy, truth, love, holiness, etc. is equally true of the Holy Spirit.
HERESIES CONCERNING THE DIVINITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Arius said that Christ is
not true God. In the very same struggle concerning the deity of Christ, Arius
said that the Holy Spirit is not true God either. When the early church contradicted
and corrected Arius' teaching concerning Christ's divinity in the Nicene Creed,
it also corrected his errors in his teaching concerning the Holy Spirit's divinity.
The Nicene Creed (Book of Praise, p. 437, paragraph 4) calls the Holy Spirit "the Lord and Giver of life." To worship the Holy Spirit
is not a matter of worshipping and glorifying a thing, but a matter of worshipping
God. Arius claimed the Holy Spirit to be a power going out from God. However,
our confession says that He is more than that; the Holy Spirit IS God.
THE HOLY SPIRIT, TRUE ETERNAL GOD, IS MY RENEWER
And what are ourthoughts concerning the Holy Spirit? Unlike the Son, whom we picture in
our minds as a man, we find it difficult to picture the Spirit, and consequently
tend to speak of the Spirit as a 'thing,' an 'it.' It is not surprising that
we cannot picture the Spirit. From Jesus' words to Nicodemus in John 3:6-8
we also learn that the Spirit cannot be visualised. Said Jesus, "That
which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit
is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The
wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell
where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." The word for spirit is the same as the word for 'breath', 'wind'. Just
as one cannot see the wind, it is equally difficult to see or picture the
However, we are not to think of the Spirit as a thing, as a 'power' or 'an influence'. The Spirit is as much a Person as the Father and the Son. Of Him too it is true what is said of God, namely, that He is almighty, gracious, kind, holy, etc.
Specifically, of this Holy Spirit Scripture says that He is my RENEWER. Though I am by nature dead in sin as a result of the fall into sin (see later, Article 14), God not only ransomed me from the power of Satan by the blood of Christ (Article 21); He also renewed me by the Spirit of Christ (Article 24). That is: those ransomed from Satan's power do not stay dead in sin; they are raised to a new life, changed, renewed, regenerated. This renewing work is the work of the Holy Spirit. No creature is capable of bringing a dead corpse back to life; only God the (re)Creator can do that.
THE HOLY SPIRIT'S DIVINITY IS ESSENTIAL FOR SALVATION
What, then, if we were
to deny that the Spirit is God? The consequence would be that we stay dead,
despite the fact that God in Christ has ransomed us from Satan's power and
justified us (see Notes on Article 24). If we are not raised to a new life,
if we are not regenerated, we cannot have faith, for faith does NOT live in
dead hearts. And without faith there is no salvation, for it is by faith that
I am saved. Therefore, to deny that the Spirit is God is to have no salvation.
Packer poses the question like this: "But is the work of the Holy
Spirit really important?" His answer is: "Important! Why,
were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit there would be no gospel, no faith,
no church, no Christianity in the world at all." In his elaboration
on this, Packer makes the point that of ourselves we are dead. If the Spirit
is not God, we could not be raised to a new life.
A second consequence follows if we were to deny that the Spirit is true God. Jesus says in John 16:13: "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come." If the Holy Spirit were but a creature, He would not be able to guide us into all truth. Nor would we have any certainty that the word He speaks would in fact be the Word of God. But as it is, true and eternal God Himself, the Holy Spirit, has given us the Bible. It was the Holy Spirit who inspired men to write Scripture. If the Holy Spirit is not God, then the Bible is worthless.
In sum: it is of critical importance that the Spirit is God. The Holy Spirit, true God, is the Author of the most important Book in my house. This same Holy Spirit, true God, lives in my heart. How close God has come to us!!