One of the main doctrines most churches have in common today is the trinity. And yet, many of those churches would agree that the most difficult doctrine to explain is also the trinity. Could it be possible that many people believe a doctrine that they don’t understand? All trinitarians, regardless of their variations in beliefs, try to somehow lump the Holy Spirit in with God the Father and Jesus Christ. The fact that the Holy Spirit is revealed in the Bible as the power of God irrefutably disproves any attempt to make God out to be a trinity or to show the Holy Spirit as being distinct from God and Jesus Christ.
Last month we proved from the Bible that God is in fact a Family. Right now, that Family is made up of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. But that Family will ultimately expand into billions of God beings. God revealed as early as Genesis 1:26 that it is His purpose to reproduce Himself. Otherwise, we would not have been created in His image (God’s character) and in His likeness (God’s features).
If we know God is a Family, where does the Holy Spirit fit into all of this? The Worldwide Church of God (wcg) for many decades taught that God was a Family and the Holy Spirit was the power of God. Since the death of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, the wcg has changed numerous doctrines, including the doctrines on the God-Family and the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at a few quotes from recent wcg literature to try to see how a Church could make such a massive change in beliefs. In the August 17, 1993 Worldwide News , Joseph Tkach, Pastor General of the wcg, wrote this on the subject of the Holy Spirit: “The Bible reveals that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, that is, they are not the same—but neither are they separate Beings.” So the wcg teaches that God is one, and that there are three in one—the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those three, as Mr. Tkach said are distinct , yet not separate. After that it gets really confusing because one of the very definitions for distinct is separate. Webster’s ninth edition says, “distinct indicates that something is distinguished by the mind or eye as being apart or different from others.”
The confusion doesn’t stop there. After all the articles on this “new” teaching, Mr. Tkach says, “In our practice and experience nothing changes…. What we didn’t previously understand was how to put our belief down on paper in such a way it didn’t lead to biblical and theological problems.” At the same time, Mr. Tkach also said, “I pray that none will say that our former, simpler, explanation was better and that we should preserve what we were more comfortable with.”
As we have seen with so many changes within the wcg, saying nothing has really changed does not necessarily mean nothing has changed. The wcg has changed its belief that God is a Family to God is one , yet also at the same time is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This teaching, according to the wcg, is not the trinity (but it really is—ask almost any trinitarian). They have instead chosen the word hypostasis to define God. In the process of this change, they have abolished the God-Family doctrine which they admit is “simple to understand,” and instead embrace an understanding that they admit is “beyond [their] finite understanding” (ibid).
To go along with these recent changes, the wcg has changed its teaching on the Holy Spirit. Mr. Armstrong taught that it was the impersonal power or force of God. Mr. Tkach wrote that the Holy Spirit is often misunderstood “as an impersonal force or power that God uses to do his work.” He says, “the Holy Spirit is personal.” But it’s not a person , he insists. It is however distinct from God the Father and Jesus Christ, he maintains. But it’s not separate. It’s not a Trinity , but it is an hypostasis. What confusion! Last month, we proved from the Bible that God is a Family and that we have the opportunity to be born into that Family. This month we will examine the truth about God’s Holy Spirit. Following are seven proofs that the Holy Spirit is the impersonal power or force of God. Every Christian would do well to have this list handy when confronted by a “biblical teacher” who insists that the Holy Spirit is personal.
1) Jesus Begotten of the Spirit
We find very early in the New Testament revealed understanding concerning the Holy Spirit. Notice what an angel told Joseph concerning Mary in Matthew 1:20: “…for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (Ghost is a mistranslation. The Revised Standard version correctly translates it Spirit). Right away we see that Jesus was begotten by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Here is what the archangel Gabriel said to Mary in Luke 1:30-31: “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.” But Mary asked, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” (verse 34). Notice this amazing and very clear answer to Mary: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (verse 35). The Holy Spirit, the very power of the living God, would come upon Mary, meaning Jesus Christ was begotten of the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus was begotten of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit was a third distinct being in the Godhead, that would make the Holy Spirit Jesus Christ’s Father! Yet, even worldly churches know that is not true. Christ prayed to God His Father. “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father…” (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus Christ was the Son of God the Father. The Father begot Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just as we are begotten physically by our father through the sperm cell, so the Holy Spirit impregnated the virgin Mary and Jesus Christ was begotten.
2) Firstfruits Begotten of the Spirit
Along these same lines, truly converted Christians are also begotten of the Holy Spirit , spiritually (James 1:18). Our physical birth began with the female ovum being fertilized by the male sperm. Our spiritual birth began with our minds being fertilized with a small portion of God’s Holy Spirit upon repentance, baptism and the laying on of hands (Acts 2:38).
Notice Ephesians 1:13: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” We were sealed with that Holy Spirit after we believed and were baptized. Paul then writes, “Which [the Holy Spirit] is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (verse 14). The Holy Spirit is the earnest or down payment of our inheritance, which is to be born into the Family of God. It is by that Spirit that God will resurrect the firstfruits to immortal life at the return of Christ. The Holy Spirit is that earnest. It’s not a different, distinct God within the Godhead.
Because we have been begotten by the same Father as Christ, we too are to call Him our Father. “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren [those of us in the Church], and say unto them , I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). Jesus Christ was begotten by God the Father through the Holy Spirit. The firstfruits, and later all mankind, will go through the same process.
In teaching us how to pray in Matthew 6:6, Jesus instructs us to go unto our Father. The firstfruits were begotten by the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit was on a distinct level all its own, like God the Father and Jesus Christ, that would make the Holy Spirit our Father, which again is quite false. Jesus knew His Father wasn’t the Holy Spirit. The firstfruits also know their spiritual Father is not the Holy Spirit.
3) The Spirit in Man is not Distinct
One topic you don’t hear much about anymore within the Worldwide Church of God, or in other trinitarian groups for that matter, is the subject of the spirit in man. And yet, it is very plainly taught in the Bible (Job 32:8; Proverbs 20:27; 1 Corinthians 6:20). Mr. Armstrong expounded greatly on this subject. God revealed to him that the vast difference between human beings and animals is this spirit in man. That spirit in man, combined with our human brain, makes up what we call the mind and gives us the power of intellect. Animals on the other hand have instinct. Without the human spirit, the human brain isn’t any better than the brain of a dumb animal. Some animal brains are in fact much larger than the human brain.
Notice I Corinthians 2:11: “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” That means exactly what it says. The spirit of man, man’s spirit, makes known the things of man. Likewise, the Spirit of God, God’s Spirit, makes known the things of God. How simple and plain is the word of God!
Our human spirit within us is not a different, distinct being. It is the power that enables us to think, to make decisions, to enjoy fine music and culture, to comprehend difficult math equations—in other words, the things of man.
God’s Spirit reveals the things of God—the plan of God, the potential for man, and yes, the very nature of God. We simply cannot understand the nature of God without His Spirit dwelling in us. Verse 14 makes that abundantly clear: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” How are they spiritually discerned? “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (verse 10). It was revealed by God’s Spirit, not by a being called the Holy Spirit! If the Holy Spirit is a third distinct being in the trinitarian godhead, would not the spirit in man also be another distinct man within us?
4) Paul Didn’t Recognize the Trinity
“And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy [Spirit], it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matthew 12:32). With these very clear instructions concerning the Holy Spirit, it seems odd that the apostle Paul failed to even mention the Holy Spirit in any of the greetings in his letters. He always mentioned God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son—but never the Holy Spirit. Look and see for yourself.
In I Corinthians 1:3 it says, “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” What about II Corinthians? “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:2). Paul also wrote the books of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, I and II Thessalonians, I and II Timothy, Titus, Philemon and Hebrews. Check the greetings in all of those books. They are all similar to both of the verses quoted above.
Out of fourteen books you would think Paul would at least mention the Holy Spirit in one of the greetings if, as Mr. Tkach wrote, “God is one” and “the Holy Spirit is God.” One could even consider such blatant negligence against the Holy Spirit to be almost blasphemous considering what we quoted earlier from Matthew 12.
Proof is evident throughout Paul’s writings. If you read and study all the books he wrote, you will find no proof at all of a trinity of any kind. Notice especially I Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” If the Holy Spirit is an actual being that lives in us, certainly it would be the “mediator” between us and God. But Paul says Jesus Christ is the mediator between us and God. Contrast that with what Mr. Tkach wrote in the August 17, 1993, Worldwide News : “The Holy Spirit is God in us, who leads us to the Father through the Son.” It’s hard to tell whether Mr. Tkach is saying the Holy Spirit or Jesus Christ is the “mediator” between us and God.
Notice other passages Paul wrote: “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:17). “Heirs” of God, “joint-heirs” with Christ—but what about the Holy Spirit? “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3). Notice the beautiful governmental chain Paul explained: the woman is under the man; the man is under Christ; and Christ is under God! Where does the Holy Spirit—this supposed distinct third being in the Godhead—fit into all of this?
We know from Paul’s writings where Christ sits. He sits at the right hand of God on God’s throne (Colossians 3:1; compare with Revelation 3:21). But where does the Holy Spirit sit?
Out of all 14 books Paul wrote, here is the only verse that lists God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit together: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy [Spirit], be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:14). In that closing sentence of Paul’s letter, the Holy Spirit is only mentioned in the context of communion , or fellowship—not as a third, distinct being in the Godhead.
If anywhere we could find scriptural support for the trinity, you would think it would be found somewhere among the writings of the apostle Paul—the most prolific writer in all the New Testament. Instead, we find numerous scriptures, proving without a doubt, that God is not a trinity. God is a Family!
5) Holy Spirit is actually an “IT”
Some trinitarians will undoubtedly point to the fact that the Holy Spirit is referred to as “he” in John 14, 15 and 16. There is a very simple explanation for this. Like many other languages, the Greek language has what is called a gender for every noun. The gender can either be masculine , feminine or neuter.
Here is what the Worldwide Church of God wrote in a reprint article from 1983 concerning this subject: “In the Greek language, the gender of a word has nothing whatever to do with whether the thing designated is really masculine or feminine. If it did—what a contradiction in the Bible itself! For in the Old Testament the Hebrew word for spirit—ruwach—is usually feminine, and only rarely in a masculine form. Gender in language is really nothing more than a convenient grammatical tool. In the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters of John, the English pronoun ‘he’ is definitely used in connection with the word ‘Comforter’—but not for theological or spiritual reasons.” To their credit, at least the wcg makes this point in the new literature. Even they admit that just because the pronoun “he” is used doesn’t really prove anything.
The Greek word for “Comforter” in these chapters in John is parakletos and it has a masculine gender. That is why the translators used the pronoun “he.” “It” would have been a more accurate translation (see Acts 2:2-3 where it is correctly translated “it”).
6) Greek and Hebrew Words Add Insight
A simple study of the Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” illustrate that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal power that emanates from God. The other uses for the the Hebrew and Greek words illustrate that fact.
The Hebrew word for “spirit” in the Old Testament is ruwach and is defined in Strong’s Concordance as, “wind ; by resemblance breath , i.e. a sensible (or even violent) exaltation …air , anger , blast , breath.” Nothing in that definition suggests a distinct being with a personality. Ruwach is number 7307 in Strong’s and comes from 7306 which makes it even more plain: “to blow, i.e. breathe; only (lit.) to smell.”
Gesenius’ Lexicon gives four definitions for the word ruwach : “1) spirit, breath, 2) breath, life, the vital principle, which shows itself in the breathing of the mouth and nostrils, 3) the rational mind or spirit, and 4) the Spirit of God.” Ruwach is used to refer to the Spirit of God. When it is not used in reference to God’s Spirit, it is used to mean breath, life, spirit in man, etc.; all of which are powers, not distinct beings!
Now what about the Greek word used in the New Testament? The word is pneuma. Strong’s (number 4151) defines it as “a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze ; by anal. or fig. a spirit.” Thayer’s Lexicon gives five definitions of pneuma : “1) a movement of air, (gentle) blast, 2) the spirit, i.e. the vital principle by which the body is animated, 3) a spirit, i.e. a simple essence, devoid of all or at least all grosser matter, and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting, 4) the Scriptures also ascribe [pneuma ] to God, i.e. God’s power and agency,—distinguishable in thought from God’s essence in itself considered, and 5) the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of anyone; the efficient source of any power, affection, emotion, desire, etc.”
No definition supports the belief that the Holy Spirit is distinct from God and yet is on the same level with God. Instead, the definitions prove that when not referring to the Holy Spirit, it refers to another power or force like wind, breath or blast!
7) Holy Spirit is the Power of God
After the previous six points, isn’t it now obvious that the Holy Spirit is the power of God? Even with all of the proof presented in the previous six points, there is still one more verse that actually defines what the Holy Spirit is: “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy [Spirit] shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35; see also Acts 1:8). We used this verse in point one though in a different context. Here Luke calls the Holy Spirit “the power of the Highest.” Yes, the truth is plain and simple to understand, if we will just humbly submit to God and His law. The Holy Spirit is the power of God.
We know that God created all things. The Bible reveals that the earth and its surroundings were created by that great power of God (Jeremiah 27:5; 51:15) which we have already proved to be the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ had that same power without measure (John 3:34). It was that same Spirit that begot Jesus Christ as we have already seen (Luke 1:35), but also the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11).
Furthermore, every great work of God is also done through this powerful force. It was God’s power that made man (Job 33:4). We are baptized into the truth by God’s power (Matthew 3:11; John 1:33). That Spirit actually dwells in us after baptism (Acts 2:38; Ezekiel 36:27; Acts 4:8, 31). It says that God will give His Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13). God reveals His secrets to us through the Holy Spirit (Luke 2:26) and brings things to our remembrance through the power of His Spirit (John 14:26).
None of these scriptural references support the Holy Spirit as being distinct from God the Father and therefore having its own personality. It is a powerful force of God. David said, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit?” (Psalms 139:7). It is God’s Spirit that makes Him omnipresent. God Himself isn’t everywhere at all times like some unidentifiable blob. But He is everywhere through His great power—the Holy Spirit.
The Worldwide Church of God has printed many articles recently supposedly proving the “one in three, three in one” teaching to be true, which therefore puts the Holy Spirit on the same level as God and Christ as a distinct , personal being, or whatever word they use. Yet they have not disproved any of these seven points. In fact, the only one they have even discussed, so far as I know, is point number five, and even they seem to agree with that! But they still say the Holy Spirit is not the power of God.
Possible Scriptures of Confusion
The most obvious false attempt to prove the trinity is biblical is found in I John 5:7-8. It says, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” Sounds like a trinity, right? Except for the fact that all the italicized words were spuriously added to the Latin translation of the Bible in the fourth century by a monk copyist.
The italicized words do not appear in any of the original Greek manuscripts. Even many commentaries point this out. Correctly translated, it should read, “For there are three that bear record, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” The Revised Standard translation has it correctly rendered.
Think about this: why would this supposed support for the trinity be added hundreds of years after the Bible was finished, if the trinity was already plainly provable in the Bible? The answer is that the trinity is nowhere to be found in the Bible and the desperate attempt to force this insertion into inspired Scripture is proof of that!
Another scripture many trinitarians use to “prove” the trinity is Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy [Spirit].”
The fact that the first two mentioned, God the Father and Jesus Christ, are two separate Beings does not make the Holy Spirit a separate being also, or as the wcg says, distinct from the other two.
If we understood the first two points covered in this article, this verse becomes quite plain. We are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:10). God the Father brings us to and grants us repentance (Romans 2:4). And after baptism (Acts 2:38), it is the Holy Spirit entering into us that actually begets us as sons of God (Romans 8:9, 14, 16-17). As the begetting agent that comes from God, the Holy Spirit then is the earnest or down payment of our salvation (Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:16). That is why we are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The irony in this verse is that it actually further proves the fact that God is a growing Family of beings; because, upon baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, we become begotten sons of God!
Prove all Things
After writing on the subject in the August 17, 1993 Worldwide News , Mr. Tkach finished by saying, “In our practice and experience, nothing changes. We pray as we always have, and we worship as we always have. But our explanation of how the Bible teaches that God is one has changed. What we didn’t previously understand was how to put our belief down on paper in such a way that it didn’t lead to biblical and theological problems.”
Actually, it is the “new” teaching on the Holy Spirit that presents all kinds of biblical problems. Mr. Tkach concluded by saying, “I pray that none will say that our former, simpler, explanation was better and that we should preserve what we were more comfortable with.”
The way God taught this truth through Mr. Armstrong was simple. God commands us to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). John 17:17 says, “Thy word is truth.” If God’s word is truth and we are commanded to prove that truth, I would much rather hold on to what is provable and plain (and yes, even simple), than to exchange it for an explanation of God that is “beyond our finite understanding.” Wouldn’t you?