Almost in an attempt to muddy the waters and distort the biblical teaching about the person of Christ, some people will argue that Jesus is the person of the Holy Spirit. Before I answer the question, ‘Is Jesus the Holy Spirit?’ I ought to preface this topic so that you, dear reader, will understand what I mean. There has been heated debate throughout church history over the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The prevaling orthodox position has always been the position that there is one God, who is eternally present in these three persons. However, some have said that these are different gods (tri-theism). Others have said that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal entity. Others have said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just different modes that Jesus takes, that Jesus is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I defend the orthodox biblical view, namely, there is one God, who is eternally present in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this article, I argue against the position that Jesus is the person of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s name is not Jesus. The Holy Spirit is not just a mode that Jesus takes, but is a distinct person.
Those who want to say that Jesus is the Holy Spirit are known as modalists. They argue that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just modes that Jesus takes, but are all the same person. Similarly, a man may be a father, a son, and an employee. H20 may be solid, liquid, and gaseous. The modalist will argue that Jesus is the H20, and the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are like solid, liquid, and gas. As such, Jesus is the person of the Holy Spirit. The problem is that Jesus is not the person of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said that he would 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.
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 he 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).
Any attempt to say that Jesus 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 Jesus is the Holy Spirit must read between the lines of this passage and draw an interpretation that the original disciples never would have.
Jesus distinguished between blaspheming him, and blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Suppose you heard a man say, “Say what you will against me. But if you talk trash about my friend, you are going to be in real trouble!” Then later, you find out that when he as referring to “his friends,” he was really referring to himself as a friend. This would clearly be incoherent. But that is what the modalist is forced to do if they want to say that Jesus is the person of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said, “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. “Jesus is clearly making a distinction between himself, and the Holy Spirit. I would then pose this question. If Jesus is the Holy Spirit, then why is there a difference between blaspheming Jesus, and blaspheming the Holy Spirit? If Jesus is the person of the Holy Spirit, then he draws a very confusing distinction. Thus this view seems to make Jesus into a very confusing man, who calls himself his own Father, and who makes distinctions when there is no distinction. It is sort of like if I said, “You can blaspheme Richard, but if you blaspheme Mike, you are in real trouble.” But in both situations, I am referring to myself. One of them refers to work-Richard, the other refers to home-Richard. It is incoherent. But that is what the modalists have Jesus saying.
I foresee an objection to this. People will want to say that Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, making a distinction between his humanity and his deity. Jesus was saying, “Your blasphemy against my humanity will be forgiven. But the blasphemy against my deity will never be forgiven.” But I want to emphasize: Jesus was not referring to his humanity when he called himself the Son of Man. The Son of Man is a title that Jews ascribed to the Messiah (Daniel 7:13). Son of Man was just another title for the person of Jesus Christ.
Is Jesus the Holy Spirit? Again, you could do some crazy hermeneutical footwork to get around the plain interpretation of these passages. But if you are honest with yourself, you will inevitably come to the conclusion that Jesus was talking about somebody else. If he was talking about himself, he becomes deceptive, unclear, and the author of heresy. If Jesus is the Holy Spirit, then he used the wrong words to express that. If Jesus is the Holy Spirit, then he made a mistake when he made these distinctions.
If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!