Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Praying to and Worshipping the Holy Spirit

Years ago I was virtually stumped by the question, "What Biblical evidence is there that we can pray to the Holy Spirit?" When asked by Unitarians like Jehovah's Witnesses, the implication is that if there's no Biblical encouragement to pray to the Holy Spirit, we have no warrant to do so. If we have no warrant, then maybe it's illegitimate and impermissible to do so. If we cannot or may not pray to the Holy Spirit, then it would appear that the Holy Spirit can't be God, even if the Holy Spirit were personal. 

Well, normally the Bible presents the Holy Spirit as 1. the one who helps Christians to pray, and 2. who also prays/intercedes for Christians (as Christ who is God also does). Therefore, it's only natural for there to be few (if any) passages that would teach or suggest we can pray to the Holy Spirit.

But even if there weren't any Biblical data supporting prayer to the Holy Spirit, that would not itself invalidate the practice. Since, if there's sufficient evidence elsewhere that imply or teach (directly or indirectly) that the Holy Spirit is God, then it would naturally seem to be permissible. Since, by definition, God is worthy of our prayer. Moreover, it's a positive fact that there is no prohibition to pray to the Holy Spirit unlike the Scriptural prohibitions regarding our licit and illicit interaction with angels.

Having said the above, I nevertheless think the following argument suggests we can pray to the Holy Spirit. According to Biblical teaching, while we human beings are on earth (i.e. before our deaths) we're not allowed to initiate communication with the spirits of dead human beings or with angels. The Old Testament prohibits necromancy and the book of Colossians prohibits a preoccupation with or worship of angels (e.g. Col. 2:18). Instead, the book of Colossians encourages us to focus on Christ as God and as the all sufficient atonement and mediator between humanity and the Father. This entails that if we're going to initiate any form of spiritual communication with unseen spirits it should only be toward God. Specifically, to the Father through the Son since Christ is the sole mediator between God and man. Christ being both God and man (Col. 1:29; 2:9).  Though, there is evidence in the New Testament of prayers offered to Christ. But that's a different topic addressed in other blogposts.

The only exception to the above prohibition is that we are allowed to communicate with angels if the angels initiate the communication with us themselves. But only with God's permission, sanction or commission. Even then, any claimed angel of God must be tested by Scripture since the Bible also teaches that demons can disguise themselves as God's holy and good angels (2 Cor. 11:14). I say this as a continuationists. But if one were a cessationist, then he too would have to admit that at least during the lives of the Apostles the rule I described above applied. 

Yet, the fact that the Bible encourages us to have fellowship with the Holy Spirit suggests that the Holy Spirit is fully God since, as argued above, we're never to initiate fellowship with any other immaterial spirit being or personality (angelic or human). Moreover, fellowship normally entails communication. What other kind of communication then would that be than that of prayer? 

Also, if the Holy Spirit was merely an impersonal means by which we communicate with God, analogous to a telephone or electronic impulses, then we wouldn't be able to fellowship with it.

Revelation 5:6 says that the seven eyes of the Lamb are the seven spirits (or Spirits) of God sent out into all the earth. The fact that Rev. 1:4-5 says that grace and peace is bestowed not only by the Father and Son, but also from the "from the seven spirits who are before his throne" is consistent with the Holy Spirit being a divine and personal dispenser of grace and peace. Notice how the seven S/spirits are closely attached to or associated with God (the Father) and the Lamb (Son). [cf. Rev. 3:1; 4:5. As well as Rev. 22:1 where the river–signifying the Holy Spirit—flows from the throne.]

Here are some of the New Testament passages that encourage us to fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.- Phil. 2:1 NASB

The ESV uses the phrase "participation in the Spirit." However, the NASB, ASV, NKJV (et al.) use the phrase "fellowship of the Spirit."

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.- 2 Cor. 13:14

Similar to the question above, I've been asked whether there's Biblical evidence for worshipping the Holy Spirit. The implication being that if there's no Biblical encouragement to worship the Holy Spirit, we have no warrant to do so. If we have no warrant, then maybe it's illegitimate and impermissible to do. Yet, if the Holy Spirit is God, then it should be licit (yes, even incumbent on us) to worship the Holy Spirit. And similar to the answer I gave above, if there's sufficient Biblical evidence to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is fully God, then regardless of whether there's any direct permission or admonition to worship the Holy Spirit, it would still be legitimate and licit.

The opposite of worship is blasphemy. Yet the New Testament talks about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. That suggests 1. the Holy Spirit can and should be worshipped, and therefore 2. the full deity of the Holy Spirit. How so? Well, we have to ask "What is blasphemy?" It is any reviling of God's name or person, or any affront to His majesty or authority. Or anything that takes away from the proper reverence and worship that God alone is rightly due.

 As I noted in another blog:

 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.- Matt. 12:31-32
Blasphemy, therefore is normally in reference to God. So, the first reference to blasphemy in the passage refers to God the Father. Yet, interestingly the passages also talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This would suggest that the Holy Spirit is God since it makes no sense blaspheming an impersonal force. Notice too that Jesus clusters criticisms against Himself in conjunction with blasphemy against the Father and the Holy Spirit. It may be claimed that a word against Jesus doesn't necessarily imply that it's blasphemy since it can be forgiven; therefore Jesus isn't necessarily God. However, using that logic, the Father isn't God either since blasphemy against the Father can be forgiven as well. Moreover, the fact that blasphemy against the Father and the Son can be forgiven while the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can't, strongly suggests the full deity of the Holy Spirit since it makes no sense for it to be more severe to blaspheme the Holy Spirit above God the Father if the Holy Spirit isn't God. Analogously, that would be like saying insulting the electricity and gasoline of your father's prized Porsche is worse than insulting your father directly.

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?- 1 Cor. 3:16

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,- 1 Cor. 6:19

The fact that Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit strongly suggests that the Holy Spirit is God. For, as Thomas Aquinas wrote long ago, "Now, to have a temple is God's prerogative." Moreover, based on the revelation of the Old Testament the Jewish understanding was that it was God who dwelt and lived in the tabernacle in the wilderness and in the Temple building in Jerusalem. This God is the same God whom they were required to worship. Hence, the Holy Spirit can be worshipped and is fully God.

And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"- Isa. 6:3

....."Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"- Rev. 4:8b
If the triple use of the word "holy" hints at the reality of the Trinity, then the Holy Spirit is being worshipped in the triple use of the word along with the Father and the Son.

Similarly, if the Aaronic Blessing hints at the Trinity (as I've shown HERE), then the Holy Spirit is invoked in prayer and worship along with the Father and the Son.

The book of Revelation's use of the phrase "was, and is, and is to come" (and its variations). Revelation 1:4 clearly speaks of the Father because Christ is referred to in the next verse. However, it might be the case that sometimes the phrase hints at the Trinity rather than a specific person of the Trinity. If it does sometimes hint at and make reference to the Trinity; then I personally suspect the following in those instances:

1. The "was" refers to the Father because He is the first person of the Trinity (especially if there's any truth to the doctrines of the eternal generation/filiation of the Son, and eternal procession/spiration of the Holy Spirit.

2. The "is" refers to the Holy Spirit who is the true "vicar of Christ" (contrary to Papal claims) who takes the place of Christ while He is in heaven. This "dispensation" and Era or Age being especially that of the Holy Spirit as He convicts the world, regenerates the elect, sanctifies the saints, and leads believers into ever increasing truth. The church, along with the Holy Spirit who "arrived" on earth at Pentecost, call for the the Lord Jesus to "come" and return to earth. "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come." (Rev. 22:17a). So, it's appropriate for the Holy Spirit to be the one who "is."

3. The "is to come" refers to Christ who is the one especially expected to arrive in the eschaton at His second Advent. The Church eagerly anticipates His return (Rev. 22:20).

By the way, it's often pointed out that the use of triples in the above passages doesn't necessarily allude to the Trinity since the same grammatical repetition is used of other things in the Old Testament and in the Hebrew language in general. That's true. But we have to ask ourselves why three rather than two or four or five is the number of times to be used for the full, complete and highest degree of absolute emphasis? Might it be that God Himself implanted, directly or indirectly by His providence, in the historical development of the languages and Semitic cultures of that time a subconscious echoing knowledge and understanding of the Absolute, the ultimate reality? That is, of the reality of  God as a Trinity? Might it be the other way around? That rather than the use of triples in reference to God MERELY being a hinting at and pointing toward the Trinity, might it also ultimately be the case that the Trinity itself is the very source and grounding of that linguistic feature found in various Semitic cultures?

It's interesting that the Shema refers to God three times regardless of how one translates it 1.

  1. Yahweh (is) our God, Yahweh alone.
  2. Yahweh our God (is) one Yahweh.
  3. Yahweh our God, Yahweh (is) one.
  4. Yahweh (is) our God, Yahweh (is) one.
  5. Our one God, (is) Yahweh, Yahweh.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.- 2 Cor. 13:14

Wayne Jackson in his article (also linked below) points out that 2 Cor. 13:14 is a benediction, and argues for why it's also a prayer. If it is both a benediction and prayer [and invocation], then that implies prayer to and worship of the Holy Spirit along with the Father and Son. Jackson's article is well worth reading.

 See the following link for the case for the full deity of the Holy Spirit:

Also see Is the Holy Spirit Worthy of Worship? by Wayne Jackson

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