BASIC DOGMATIC TEACHING
An Orthodox Handbook
by Protopresbyter Fr. Anthony Alevizopoulos (1931 – 1996)
Dr. of Theology, Dr. of Philosophy
Chapter 10 – The Person of the Holy Spirit
1. The other Paraclete (Consoler)
Our Lord Jesus Christ, just prior to His venerable Passions, promised His disciples the following:
«And I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, to abide with you forever: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you» (John 14:16-17).
«But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all the things that I said to you» (John 14:26).
«“But when the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father – He will testify of Me”» (Ιωάννης 15,26).«“…but if I do depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will judge the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; of sin, because they do not believe in Me”; […] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them yet. 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 the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you» (John 16:7-14).
All the above passages of the Holy Bible clearly reveal the Person of the Holy Spirit.
We need to underline this fact, because there are heretical people who deny that the Holy Spirit constitutes a particular Person.
When referring to the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Lord says «He, Him, His» (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13), and He also speaks of «another Paraclete» (John 14:16) – that is, of a specific Person – Who is clearly distinguished from the Father and the Son (John 14:26). This was the Paraclete that Christ saw when He was in the Jordan, descending upon Him «like a dove» (Matthew 3:16).
2. The Holy Spirit – the third Person of the Holy Trinity
«”…and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diverse kinds of of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…”» (1 Corinthians 12:3-7).
The Third Person of the Holy Trinity is defined in the Symbol of Faith (Creed) as «…the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets…».
These all denote the faith of our Church in the divinity of the Holy Spirit. In all of its passages that we mentioned pertaining to the Trinitarian God, the Holy Bible certifies the divinity of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity; however, certain ill-intentioned people maintain that the Holy Spirit is not God, but an “energy” of the Father, or even of the Son also. This is not possible, because the Lord Himself referred to the Holy Spirit as «another Paraclete (Consoler)» (John 14:16), Who is «sent by the Father» in the name of Christ (John 14:26).
Additionally, the Lord distinguished between the Holy Spirit and the Person of the Son, when He said:
«…“And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven» (Luke 12:10; cmp Hebrews 10:29).
The Holy Spirit cannot possibly be a mere “energy” of the Father, because then, how is it that the Apostle refers to the Spirit as «Spirit of the Son», Whom God sends to our hearts and Who cries out «Abba, the Father»? (Galatians 4:6; cmp.1 Peter 1:11). How, then, does the Lord say that the Spirit is sent «in His name» (John 14:26) and that the Spirit will take from whatever is of the Son and proclaim it? (John 16:14).
3. Other testimonies of the Holy Bible
«Then one of the seraphim was sent to me, and he had in his hand a live coal that he had taken from the altar with the tongs. And he touched my mouth and said:
“Behold, this has touched your lips, and it will take away your lawlessness and purify your sins.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying,
“Whom should I send, and who will go to this people?”
And I said,
“Here am I; send me!”
And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
‘You will hear by listening but you will not understand; and by looking you will see but you will not perceive; for, this people’s heart has grown fat, and with their ears they have heard heavily, and they have shut their eyes so that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and return and I heal them.”» (Isaiah 6,6-10)
You will hear clearly, but you will not understand; you will observe carefully, but you will not see; because the hearts of the people have become insensitive and they listen heavily with their ears and they keep their eyes partly closed, for fear that they will hear with their ears and perceive with their heart and repent, and be healed by Me….
The Apostle Paul refers to this excerpt and underlines that it was the Holy Spirit Who spoke to the Prophet Elijah:
«…The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, “Go to this people”» (Acts 28:25-27). But, we know that the Prophet had received the instruction to preach repentance to the people, on behalf of «the Lord Sabaoth», Whom he had seen «sitting on a throne, lofty and raised up, and Who was surrounded by seraphim around Him, which kept their faces covered in the presence of the Lord’s glory, while they chanted: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Sabaoth; the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3).
As mentioned, this passage is a testimony of the Old Testament regarding the Triadic status of God. This Trinitarian interpretation of the passage is fully aligned with the proclamation by the Apostle that it was the «Holy Spirit» Who spoke to the Prophet (Acts 28:25). The Spirit, therefore, speaks with the Father and the Son to the Prophet Isaiah; or, better still, the Father speaks “through the Son, in the Holy Spirit”. And elsewhere, the Apostle mentions characteristically: «…the Lord is the Spirit» (2 Corinthians 3:17).
The passage that we mentioned from the Prophet Elijah is not unique in the Old Testament. In the Prophet Jeremiah it says:
«Behold, days are coming, quoth the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Iouda». «…I will give my laws in their mind, and I will engrave them on their hearts […] and I will remember their sins no more» (Jeremiah 38:31-34; Hebrew text: 31:31-34).
When referring to this passage the Apostle Paul observes that here, witness is given by «the Holy Spirit» (Hebrews 10:15-17).
This same Person of the Holy Trinity we also observe in the New Testament as giving instructions to the Apostles (Acts 13:2, 20:22-23). The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit «…For the Spirit searches all things, yes, even the depths of God» (1 Corinthians 2:10); while in Ephesians he writes «And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption» (Ephesians 4:30). Finally, the Apostle Peter explicitly refers to the Holy Spirit as «God» (Acts 5:4; cmp. John 4:24).
4. The deniers of the Holy Spirit
But one cannot reach this truth on his own. He must be guided by the Holy Spirit Himself. Of course, «the Spirit blows where He wills» (see John 3:8) and we cannot place any limitations on Him. But we also cannot separate the Holy Spirit from the Father and from the Son. “The Father can never be considered without the Son“, says Saint Gregory of Nyssa, “nor the Son without the Holy Spirit. Just as it is impossible for one to ascend to the Father if one is not elevated through the Son, in the same way it is impossible for one to call Jesus ‘Lord’ except only in the Holy Spirit”…
«…and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit» (1 Corinthians 12:3).
Therefore, it is not possible for one to have the Spirit of God outside of Christ – that is, outside of the Church. It is, as we said, that which the Lord Himself underlines when He says that the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father, in the name of the Son (John 14:26). We must bear the name of Christ – we must become members of the Church – in order to acquire the Holy Spirit.
«But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things», says the Apostle John when addressing the members of the Church (1 John 2:20). The Apostle Paul adds the following: «In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation (Christ); in Whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Who is the betrothal of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (i.e. the people of God), to the praise of His glory» (Ephesians 1:13-14. Cmp 4:30).
People who are outside of the Church are not in a position to receive the Spirit, because «they do not see Him, nor do they know Him» (John 14:17). That is the reason they deny His divinity. Christians (the members of the Church) however do know Him, «because He dwells inside them» (John 14:17). That is the reason they believe and confess the divinity of the third Person of the Holy Trinity.
5. The opus of the Paraclete (Consoler)
«Because the spirit of the Lord fills the world and that which holds all things together has knowledge of what is said», mentions the Holy Bible (Wisdom of Solomon 1:7. Cmp.12,1; Acts 2:2), while our Church chants the following:
«The Spirit provides everything; He exudes prophecies, He perfects priests, He taught wisdom to the illiterate, He proved fishermen to be theologians, bringing together the whole institution of the Church. O Paraclete, Thou of the same Essence and co-enthroned with the Father and the Son, glory to Thee».
The opus of the Holy Spirit is to guide the faithful – through sacred Baptism – to Christ; to incorporate them into His holy Body – that is, into the Church (1 Corinthians 12:13, Ephesians 2:18, 4:4); to distribute the various charismas (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:4-13) and to compose and build up through them the whole institution of the Church (1 Corinthians 14:4, 12:26).
«and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit» (1 Corinthians 12:3). This primeval truth we can see being applied, even in those very Apostles.
As we know, the Lord’s disciples abandoned their crucified Master and fled (Matthew 26:56), because they had not understood the warnings that He had given them regarding His Passion and His Resurrection (John 3:14-15, Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34, Luke 9:22, 44, 18:31-33). The significance of the Lord’s words «was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken» (Luke 18:34).
After the Resurrection, Christ «opened» the minds of the disciples «that they might comprehend the Scriptures» (Luke 24:45) and He promised them that they would receive «power from on high», «when the Holy Spirit has come upon you» (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:8). Christ also promised them that He (the Paraclete) would testify about Him (John 15:26, 1 John 5:6); that He would «remind» them of everything He (Christ) had taught them (John 14:26) and He would reveal His (Christ’s) glory (John 16:14), so that the Apostles would be rendered «witnesses of Christ» (Luke 24:48, Acts 1:8).
Indeed, on the Day of the Pentecost, the disciples «…were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance» (Acts 2:1-4. Cmp. Acts 2:17, 33, Joel 3:1-5).
This «filling» by the Holy Spirit had rendered them capable of believing absolutely in the name of the Lord (1 Corinthians12:3)
The Holy Spirit therefore leads one towards the faith in the Person of Christ and in the “in-Christ” way of life. That is why The Holy Spirit is also referred to as «Spirit of the Son» (Galatians 4:6).
«And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit […] and I will give my spirit in you and will act so that you walk in my statutes and keep my judgments and perform them», said the mouth of God through the Prophet Ezekiel (36:26-27).
The presence of the Holy Spirit inside the heart of the faithful person constitutes a «sign» – the characteristic mark of the reborn person – and at the same time, the commencement of the Kingdom of God. «For, as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by Whom we cry out, “Abba, Father”…» (Romans 8:14-16): You, however, have received the Spirit of adoption which renders you children of God, so that with every familiarity you can cry out to God: Abba, Father!
«The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God» (Romans 8:16). In fact, at another point the Apostle says that the Holy Spirit Himself – Who was sent to us by God – «cries out inside our hearts “Abba, Father”» (Galatians 4:6).
Thus, the holy Spirit is the cause and the source of a person’s spiritual life (cmp. Romans 5:5, Galatians 5:22-25). For a person to be Spiritual, he must be «drawn» – led – by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit must be, according to Saint John the Chrysostom, the governor of his life, in the manner of the captain of a ship and the charioteer of a chariot.
When we live «in the Spirit», we become a «Temple of the Holy Spirit» (1 Corinthians 6:19) and we are built «on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit» (Ephesians 2:18-22). That is when man fulfils the end purpose of his life and is actually redeemed, because he will have returned to his primeval unity with the Trinitarian God, from Whom he had distanced himself on account of the Fall.
«But you are not ‘in the flesh’, but (rather) ‘in the Spirit’, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you»… You are not carnal, but rather you are spiritual, if of course the Spirit of God dwells inside you, as the Apostle Paul characteristically says (Romans 8:9).
«The Spirit, Who dwells in us, yearns jealously». The Spirit, Who has resided inside us, desires to a jealous degree says the Apostle James (James 4:5); therefore, there is no place inside us for the spirit of the world, «because the Lord your God, Who is present with you, is a jealous god. Lest the Lord your God, being angered with wrath against you, destroy you utterly from the face of the earth» (Deuteronomy 6:15).
That is, if a Christian has become the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18-22, Romans 8:9), it is impermissible for him to obey any other “spirit“; he must be «drawn», be led only by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).
«Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep!… », concluded the Apostle James (James 4,7-9).
«And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do…». the Lord promised characteristically (John 14:13). However, our petitions to the Lord must be made «in the Spirit» (Jude 20), or, rather, together with the Spirit, Who dwells inside us.
«Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God» (Romans 8:26-27)
«You ask and you do not receive», says the Apostle James (James 4:3), which means that we are not being «drawn» – we are not allowing the Holy Spirit lead us into prayer (Romans 8:14) – but instead, we are drawn by our own wills, and do not pray “in the Spirit”.
All the above make it clear why a contemporary saint of our Church – Saint Seraphim of Sarov – used to say that the true purpose of Christian living is to acquire the Holy Spirit. Saint Makarios the Egyptian adds that Grace develops within the person who becomes the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit and becomes one with His essence, just like leaven with dough.
That is why our Church names the Holy Spirit «God and Deifier» (Hymn of the Pentecost) and chants the following during Matins on Sundays:
«By the Holy Spirit every soul is animated and through cleansing is elevated, illuminated by the Triadic One, mystically »
In other words, each soul acquires life through the Holy Spirit; it is elevated through catharsis (cleansing) and is brightened mystically through the illumination of the Holy Trinity’s light.