Christians often might be confused about the distinction between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. After all, does the Bible not refer to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20). It refers to him also as the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). Now in my article Is Jesus The Holy Spirit? I refuted the modalistic idea that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were the same person. I turn my guns now to the separate question: are the Father and the Holy Spirit the same person? Is the Holy Spirit just the spirit-mode of the Father? What does the Bible say?
I should first point out that the Father himself is a spirit (John 4:24). So we cannot say that the Holy Spirit is just the spiritual version of the Father, because the Father is a spirit himself. But then, perhaps these are just different titles that one applies to the same person. Perhaps in the same way that a man can be a father and a son, so also God is the Father and the Holy Spirit. I will defend the trinitarian position: There is one God who is eternally present in three persons, the Father the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This article will zoom in on the Scripture relevant to the question: are the Father and the Holy Spirit the same person?
The Father will send the Holy Spirit. Suppose a father tells his children, “I will not leave you alone. I will send a babysitter when I go out.” Then the father showed up that night. What will the children think? Where is the babysitter? Then the father tells us, “Oh, I am the babysitter.” We would think that his actions were incoherent. One does not say that they are going to send another, if they are the one who is coming. But that is precisely what Jesus said of the Father.
Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17) He will ask the Father, and the Father will send the Holy Spirit. The modalist is forced to the conclusion that Jesus will ask himself, and then he will send himself. This is clearly and patently incoherent. When Jesus said that the Father will send another, he meant that he will send another. He went on to say, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (v. 26). We see the same theme in Isaiah 48:16, which says, “and now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit.”
Any attempt to say that the Father is the person of the Holy Spirit will rely on fancy hermeneutical footwork. That interpretation forbids us from reading the plain meaning of the passage. The person who wants to think that the Father is the Holy Spirit must read between the lines of this passage and draw an interpretation that the original disciples never would have.
We have access to the Father through the Holy Spirit. When a person wants to be saved, they must put their trust in Christ for their salvation, in the same way that one will trust in a parachute before they jump out of a helicopter (Ephesians 2:8-9). The second they do that, they are instantly granted the free gift of eternal life (John 3:16) and instantly born again by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). So the role of the Holy Spirit is regeneration. We are born again through the Holy Spirit.
This is where we find the distinction of persons. Through Christ, we have access in one Spirit, to God the Father (Ephesians 2:18). This raises a distinction beyond duty, because according to the plain reading of the text, we have access to the Father as the Holy Spirit presents us to him. We are welcome into the Father’s house because of the work of the Holy Spirit. Any attempt to make the Father and the Holy Spirit in this context would, again, rely on shunning the text and elevating ones’ own preconceived ideas and traditions above it.
Are the Father and the Holy Spirit the same person? No, just as there is a distinction of persons between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and Jesus and the Father, so also there is a distinction of person between the Father and the Holy Spirit. If the Father were the Holy Spirit, the text that we have reviewed would not make sense. We have Jesus asking permission of the Father, and then upon receiving that permission, sending the Holy Spirit. If the Father were the Holy Spirit, this event would be reduced to absurdity.
If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!