The Holy Spirit: One or Two?
NCW 31, March 1996:
Answering the Third Rebellion
Q. What actually is the Holy Spirit? Is it the same as the "Spirit of God" and the "Spirit"? Is there any difference between the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament because there are Christians who tell me that there is and that we cannot therefore trust the Old Testament, or that the New Testament is "purer" than the Old because the New Testament Holy Spirit is "purer"?
The terms "Holy Spirit" (Ruach haQodesh), "Holy Ghost", "Spirit", "Spirit of God", "Spirit of Christ", "Spirit of the Lord", "Counsellor", "Advocate" and the "Comforter" (Gk. paraklétos or "paraclete") are all inter-changeable terms in the Bible. The same word (paraklétos) is used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ in 1 John 2:1. The symbols "breath", "wind", "dove", "finger of God" and "fire" are also used to describe the Spirit of God. This variety in the terms which Scripture uses gives us an insight into the Spirit's identity and work.
G. Walters, professor of Pastoral Theology at Gordonwell Theological Seminary, S. Hamilton, Massachusetts, USA, writes:
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit is described, broadly speaking, as having five main "activities":
"There is no irreconcilable antithesis, as some would suggest, between the teaching of the Old Testament and the teaching of the New [on the subject of the Holy Spirit]. Just as no dichotomy exists between the Old Testament emphasis on the providential nature of God's dealings with men and the New Testament teaching concerning His grace, or between the activity in creation of the pre-incarnate Logos (Word/Christ), on the one hand, and the work of redemption of the incarnate Son, on the other, so it is with the teaching of Scripture concerning the Holy Spirit. It is the same Father and the same Son who are active in both Testaments, and it is the same Holy Spirit who is at work throughout the ages. True, we have to wait for the New Testament revelation before we are given a detailed picture of His activity. But this fuller teaching given by our Lord and His apostles conflicts in no way with what we learn from the Old Testament writers" (The New Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England, 1976, p.531).
The New Testament merely amplifies these characteristics by explaining the Holy Spirit's relationship to Jesus Christ and believers. The idea that the Holy Spirit could lead people differently in one dispensation compared with another simply does violence to what we know about God's consistent activity throughout world history. To say, for example, that the Spirit that moved David to write the Psalms was different from the Spirit that moved the first Christians is simply to imply that God is not One but double-faced like the mythical Roman god, Janus.
- (a) The creation of the physical world (Gen.1:2; 2:7; Job.26:1; etc.);
- (b) Equipping God's servants for service and leadership (Ex.31:3; Judg.3:10; 14:6; etc.);
- (c) Conferring the prophetic gift upon God's prophets (Amos 7:14; Jer.31:33; Hos.9:7; etc.);
- (d) Producing moral righteousness in God's people (Ps.51; 139) and bringing souls into God's presence (Ps.139:7); and
- (e) In foretelling of the Messiah (Is.11:2-9; 42:1-4; 61:1-2 cp. Lk.4:18; Ez.36:26-27 cp. Joel 2:28f; etc.).
If there is a difference between the Spirit in the Old Testament and the New it is surely one of quantity rather than quality, meaning that more people have access to the Holy Spirit in the Christian dispensation (John 14-16). True, the Spirit manifests itself in different degrees, as, for example, at Pentecost, but can anyone honestly claim that the Spirit was "fuller" on that day than it was, for example, when Moses communed face-to-face with God on Mt.Sinai? If the purpose of the Spirit is to lead men and women into God's presence, then surely the Spirit accomplished the same with Moses -- if not (arguably) more -- as with the disciples at Pentecost. Though these first Christians spoke with tongues, they did not, as far as we know, light up from within as Moses did, so strong was the Spirit in him! 
New Covenant Christians maintain, with considerable scriptural justification, we feel, that the full activity of the Holy Spirit cannot be comprehended, let alone anticipated, without the revelation of both Old and New Testaments. Whilst we agree with many charismatic denominations that God can, and does, manifest Himself in all the ways of the New Testament -- tongues, prophecy, visions, inspired dreams, etc. -- we also maintain that He reveals Himself as He did in the Old Testament, in direct revelation to His prophets, in dramatic miracles, etc.. In short, we believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are so indistinguishable between Old and New Testaments that it would be folly to try and separate them!
We believe in the activity of the Holy Spirit in all dispensations. And we ask fellow believers the following questions: Why should God not manifest Himself as He did to ancient Israel -- in temples, in mobile tabernacles, with pillars of fire, in clouds, and so on? Who said that such activity ceased with the end of the Mosaic dispensation? Has God shifted the kinds of miracles that He used to do -- giving tongues instead of parting the Red Sea, giving apostles instead of prophets, giving "spiritual" protection instead of "physical" protection? We answer: NO! He gives all of these, and more, to those who have faith in them. The trouble is that most Christians believe little in the power of the Old Testament God -- they have decided to only focus on one aspect of His spiritual activity -- the "meek and mild" part.
For us, as New Covenant Christians, God is both the God of Sinai punishing the wicked as well as the innocent Lamb sent to the slaughter for the sins of mankind. These are His two natures, which are one Nature in perfect agreement -- His Justice-Mercy Nature. And this is the God whom we worship, in His fullness. We worship the Lamb slain from the foundation from the world, but we also worship the victorious Lion of Judah returning in power and authority. This is the God which the Holy Spirit mediates to us through the Son. And it is glorious beyond all words.
There is one Father, one Son, and one Holy Spirit, eternally the same and unchangeable in all dispensations and in both parts of the Bible. God manifests Himself differently according to people's faith and their willingness to be obedient to His commandments. Little wonder, then, that there is confusion in people's minds as to who the Holy Spirit is. We, who are Zion-builders, naturally believe in the works of the Holy Spirit in Zion of old -- the theocratic Zion -- as much as the inner spiritual Zion of the Christian dispensation. The Millennium that is to come will unite the "old" with the "new" and make the "messianic whole". That is what we aim for. And that is the Holy Spirit which manifests itself to us, the Spirit which terrified nations in the past and which is beginning to terrify unbelievers and the lukewarm today. It is also the Spirit which brings peace, joy, meekness and gentleness.
There is One Spirit. May you come to know it!
 There is a school of contemporary Christian thought, which we reject, that claims the Holy Spirit came upon Old Testament disciples whereas in the New Covenant it dwells within. This is just verbal fencing. The Spirit was clearly within Moses.
This page was created on 8 May 1998
Last updated on 8 May 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved