Studies in Galatians
The Doctrine of The Holy Spirit
St. Patrick, while preaching to the Druad priests of Ireland on the subject of the Holy Trinity, was ridiculed by them. There could be no such doctrine, they asserted, because there was nothing in all nature to correspond to the contention that there were three in one and one in three. As they were attempting to refute his logic, he picked up a shamrock, and holding it high, said, “Behold nature’s witness to her Creator, three in one and one in three”!
In the study of trinitarian doctrine, we must understand that God’s Word presents the Holy Spirit, not merely as an influence but as a divine person. He is the third person in the Godhead. God is One but it has pleased Him to manifest Himself in a threefold distinction: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“God is light” and light is the symbol of the Trinity; it is the mysterious combination of the three primary colours: yellow, red, and blue.
In His discourse in the Upper Room recorded in John 14:16-18, the Lord Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit as a divine personality. He used, of the Holy Spirit, pronouns, a proper noun, and an adjective. He used the third personal pronouns “He” and “Him” and the relative pronoun “whom.” He also used the adjective “another,” signifying that another Comforter would be another person of the same nature, character, and capabilities, as the first. Christ was a divine person, and He prayed the Father to send another similar person to be with His disciples.
The proper noun, “Comforter,” can be applied only to a person. It is the translation of the Greek word paraclete, meaning a helper or a guardian. The Holy Spirit is a divine person sent by the Father to help sustain God’s people during the present absence of their Lord and Saviour, the first Paraclete they had known.
The Holy Spirit is not only spoken of as a person in the Holy Scriptures, but these same Holy Scriptures prove that He may be treated as a person: lied to (Acts 5:3), tempted (Acts 5:9), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Eph. 4:30), outraged (Heb. 10:29), blasphemed (Matt. 12:31), quenched (1 Thess. 5:19), and called upon (Ezek. 37 : 9).
Furthermore, the Scriptures attest that He acts as a person: He teaches (John 14:26), testifies (John 15:26), convicts (John 16:8), guides (John 16:13), hears (John 16:13), speaks (John 16:13), and shows (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit possesses all the moral and personal attributes of Deity. He is omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11), omnipresent (Psa. 139:7. John 14:17), and omnipotent (Zech. 4:6).
We shall see in this Epistle to the Galatians that the Holy Spirit is engaged within the believer in a twofold manner. He, first of all, apart from human merit altogether, imparts life to the soul; and in second place, He produces, in spite of the depravity of human nature, holiness in the life of the child of God. In other words, our justification and our sanctification are both the result of His operation within us.
There are some eight references to the Holy Spirit in this Epistle, and all are found in the last two sections, the four closing chapters.
We shall not consider all these references, nor shall we consider them in the order in which they occur, but, rather, according to a moral order, the order of experience in the soul. In this arrangement the Spirit is seen to be: the Regenerator of life, the Inaugurator into life, the Resident during life, the Director over life, and the Husbandman throughout life.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Chap. 5:25). Since, in verse 24 of this chapter, we, through identification with Christ in His death, are considered by God to be judicially dead to the flesh, even so, through the power of the Spirit we live. We are Christ’s, therefore we have died; we are Christ’s, therefore we live in or by the Spirit.
It is through the Holy Spirit of God that we have received the divine principle of eternal life. Our conversion in all its details was accomplished by Him. He convicted us of sin (John 16:7-11), through Him we were born again (John 3:7), and by Him we were introduced unto the Father (Eph. 2:18). The Holy Spirit was the divine agent in our quickening (Eph. 2:1).
“Having begun (been inaugurated, Dr. Moule) in (by) the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Chap. 3:3). We know what it means to be inaugurated, to be inducted into office. The President of the United States of America is inducted into office at the inaugural services when he takes oath of office. The moment a man trusts in Christ as his own personal Saviour, that moment he begins a new life, not only in principle but in practice. The divine life that he receives through union with Christ manifests itself in holiness and service. All believers are inaugurated into this life by the Holy Spirit. We took office, so to speak, through Him.
The words “made perfect” used here mean to mature, to become complete. The idea here is simply this: since we have been inducted into this life, this life of holiness and service, we are to develop in it until we reach maturity, adulthood. The question of Paul is very forceful. Since we have been brought into this sphere of life by the Spirit of God, are we going to seek other help by which to mature? The rhetorical questions raised by Paul in this passage, of course, answer themselves. We cannot complete this new life, we cannot mature in the ways of the Lord by any other means than by the Holy Spirit. The legality to which some of the Galatians were submitting would not, could not, make them complete.
Dr. Pierson called attention to the four emblems near the Queen’s castle at Balmoral: A tree by the water, lilies of the valley, a vine in the process of being pruned, and waving palm trees. The four together represent the four stages of Christian life. First, growing through truth; second, blossoming into beauty; third undergoing chastisement; and fourth, enjoying final triumph. The believer might well ask himself the question, Having begun (such a life as Dr. Pierson has described) in the Spirit, am I now to be made perfect by the flesh? Am I to rely upon the Spirit and enjoy the liberty wherewith Christ has made me free, or am I to be subject to the legal ordinances of men, touch not, taste not, handle not, which all are to perish with the using?