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Potent Prooftexts: Near to Us

16 March 2011 by David

Q. 11. How does it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?

A. The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.

Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? … You have not lied to men but to God.” —Acts 5:3–4

The most obvious point we can make from this text, considering our purpose here, is that the Holy Spirit is God, “equal with the Father.” To belabor that point would risk insulting the audience. I could also make a joke about being biblically slain in the Spirit, but that would be more fun than instructive.

The question I want to answer is this: Why is the Holy Spirit singled out as the person on whom the fraud was perpetrated? Were not the Father and Son lied to, as well? My answer, I admit, might appear to be a bit of speculation; that is, I can’t pull out a text that says explicitly what I’m going to say. I do believe, however, that it can reasonably be deduced from the general teaching of the New Testament.

Jesus went to heaven. Yes, we believe he is with us (Matthew 18:20; 28:20), but this is a spiritual presence.* He went away so that the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7). The Holy Spirit is actually here, “in the flesh,” we might say, if he had flesh. God is immanently present in the person of the Holy Spirit.

It was the Holy Spirit to whom Jesus left orders for the Apostles before his ascension (Acts 1:2). It was the Holy Spirit who gave us the Word (2 Peter 1:21). It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates sinners (Titus 3:5), seals us in Christ (Ephesians 1:13), and sanctifies (Romans 15:16). It is the Holy Spirit who indwells believers (Acts 2:4, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Timothy 1:14), teaches us (John 14:26), guides us (John 16:13), and empowers us for service (Acts 1:8). It is the Holy Spirit who will give us the words to say in times of persecution (Mark 13:11, cf Luke 12:11–12). It is the Holy Spirit whom we grieve with our sin (Ephesians 4:30).

The Holy Spirit is near to us, and indwells us. He translates our stammering, stumbling prayers into words suitable for the ear of the Father (Romans 8:27). And, as Ananias and Sapphira learned too late, he hears us when we lie — because he is here.

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* A can of worms not to be opened today.