Chapter 3- Because He Is Divine
“Are you telling me that the Holy Spirit is divine?”, my Jehovah’s Witness friend asked me. “Yes,” I said. “He is not only personal, but He is the Third Person of the Trinity!” “How in the world would you prove that?”, he asked. “Easy,” I said. “But first let me tell you a story.”
Before we look at a fascinating — and frightening — story in the New Testament, let’s think about God’s “attributes.” Theologians get paid by the big words and “attributes” is a big word meaning “characteristics.” God has revealed certain truths about Himself in the Scriptures. His attributes include such characteristics as His mercy, holiness, justice, love, etc.
But typically there are three attributes (called the “omni’s”) that we need to consider. They are His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.
The “Omni’s” of the Spirit
If the Spirit of God is marked by these three “omni” attributes, then the logical conclusion is that He is God. Let’s think about the Spirit’s omniscience. For example, we read in I Corinthians 2 —
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
We also read in I John 2 —
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
The Lord Jesus promises His disciples in John 14 the following: “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).
All the many verses in Scripture that speak of God’s omniscience have application to the Third Member of the Godhead who is divine.
Let’s move on and consider the Spirit’s omnipotence. By this term we mean His all-powerfulness. God can do all that is consistent with His own nature. Scripture tells us that God cannot lie (“it is impossible for God to lie,” says Heb. 6:18). We read in Titus 1:2 about “God, who does not lie . . .” I Timothy 2:13 says God can’t deny Himself.
The Spirit’s power is shown in Luke 1 where the angel Gabriel explains to Mary about the Christ-child: “The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (v. 35; see also Romans 15:19 regarding the Spirit’s power). The Spirit of God caused the biological process (involving a male) to be circumvented as Mary becomes pregnant without any help from Joseph.
Let’s move on and consider the Spirit’s attribute of omnipresence. I like how the theologian Millard Erickson explained this attribute: “Wherever there’s a ‘where,’ God is there!” God is not spatially limited in any way. In fact we read in Psalm 139 —
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If, indeed, the Spirit of God indwells the believer (as we will see in a subsequent chapter), the child of God is never alone. Never abandoned. He or she has the Spirit of God living in them! And He has promised never to leave us (we read in John 14:16-17- “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.”).
The Spirit of God displays the three characteristics of deity — omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.
Although there are many other evidences of the deity of the Holy Spirit, my favorite comes from Acts 5. There we read of a couple (Ananias and Sapphira) who apparently wanted to be like Barnabas who donated money to the apostles (in Acts 4:36-37). But they really didn’t want to give their all to the Lord, so they sold a piece of property and lied about its sale price. Let’s hear the text itself:
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)
Please notice several important factors here. Ananias and Sapphira were not forced into selling their property. We are not talking about some kind of communism in this event. They were free to sell it or not sell it. And they were free to keep the proceeds after the sale of the property. What they were not free to do was to lie to the Holy Spirit! And Peter makes the point that they had not deceived or lied only to the early church. They had not lied to men but to God! And the text makes it crystal clear that LYING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT = LYING TO GOD! That’s our point here in Acts 5, that the Holy Spirit is clearly called “God.”
But the story is too good to stop at verse 4. The moment Ananias heard the words, “You have not lied to men but to God,” he kicked the bucket! The youth group came and buried the body (allow me a little liberty here). And then Sapphira showed up.
One wonders where she had been. The text tells us that it is about three hours after her husband had died (verse 7). Some have suggested that, because she had money in her pocket and time on her hands, she was out shopping — but the Bible doesn’t tell us that.
At any rate, Peter asks her a straightforward question: “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” (verse 8) Let’s say that they sold the land for $100, but gave the apostles only $75 (proclaiming that they had gotten exactly $75 for the land). Peter’s question essentially is: “Did you and your husband sell the land for $75?” Don’t miss this point! God gives Sapphira an opportunity to “come clean.” She is not being judged for her husband’s sin. She seeks to perpetuate the ruse when she replies, “Yes, that is what we got for the land!” The last words she hears are: “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also” (verse 9). And the youth group gets to take another sad field trip to the local cemetery.
The late, great preacher Vance Havner commented on this passage. He said, “Isn’t it good that God does not act in such judgment today? If He did, every church would need a morgue in the basement!”
1. How should we qualify our statement that “God can do all things”?
2. What is your personal takeaway from the story of Ananias and Sapphira?
3. Why did God act in such dramatic judgment in Acts 5?