The holy spirit is coming AND Christ is coming. How can this confusion be resolved?

“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative, but whatever he hears, he will speak; and he will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify me, for he will take of mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16.12-14).

Jesus would come to his disciples through the paraklete. “The work of Christ’s Spirit as Comforter, Advocate, and Helper was nothing other than the work of Christ Himself as Comforter, Advocate, and Helper through that divine power.”[17] It was through the paraklete that Christ and the Father would come and dwell within the saint (even while Jesus is in heaven). Jesus is not literally in each member of the family of God, but through the spirit his mind is projected into us to comfort, reveal truth, aid in times of temptation, and guide us to follow him. “He had been with them for a short time, but the ‘other paraclete,’ his alter ego, would be with them permanently, and not only with them but in them.”[18] Therefore it is evident that the spirit which inspired Jesus during his ministry on earth would now enable him to be present within his disciples in a new and advantageous way.

The Spirit in the Rest of the NT

Is this concept of Christ indwelling the believer through his spirit unique to John or can it be substantiated in other NT documents? How do the rest of the Greek Scriptures speak about spirit? Before we go any further and look at Paul (who has much to say on the subject), it is necessary to recall the chief prediction of John the Baptist: “I baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the holy spirit” (Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16; John 1:33). This prediction was reinforced by Jesus after he had spent forty days with his disciples in his resurrected body:

“Gathering them together, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” he said, “you heard of from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the holy spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

Then after just a few days of anticipation the disciples were in the temple at the hour of prayer when the sky started making strange noises, into the building rushed a violent wind accompanied by fire. Suddenly they found themselves in a state of ecstatic inspiration in which they spoke foreign languages unlearned as the spirit gave them utterance. Note carefully, Peter’s explanation of this event:

“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the holy spirit, he [Jesus] has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Acts 2:32-33)

Jesus is seen as the dispenser of the spirit. Not only is he the greatest prophet inspired by the spirit of God, not only is he the anointed by God of the spirit (to preach the gospel and heal people), but he is also the lord of the spirit who baptizes his followers in the spirit of God. Even so, this is still not all. Paul picks up where John left off and further develops the connection between the ascended Jesus and the spirit. Consider the chart below which enumerates some of the places that Paul speaks of the spirit:

                         spirit dwells in the believer  – Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 2:22; 5:18

                         spirit of Christ dwells in the believer – Romans 8:2, 9; 2 Corinthians 3:17[19]; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19

                         Christ dwells in the believer – Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 13:5; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:23; 3:16-17; Colossians 1:27

Paul freely switches between these phrases as if they were synonymous. In order to demonstrate this, consider the texts below:

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…” (Ephesians 3.14-17)

One of the functions of the spirit is to empower the Christian to have Christ dwell within them. The two (spirit & Christ) are intimately linked to each other in the experience of the NT saint.

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:9-11

This is remarkable. It is as if the spirit of God, the spirit of Christ, and Christ himself are all equivalent ways of speaking about the same essential truth. Paul does not focus on the ontological distinctions rather he sees the spirit primarily in functional terms in the experience of the Christian. From this perspective the spirit is Jesus. “The Spirit is now definitely the Spirit of Christ[20], the other Counselor who has taken over Jesus’ role on earth.[21] This means that Jesus is now present to the believer only in and through the Spirit,[22] and that the mark of the Spirit is both the recognition of Jesus’ present status[23] and the reproduction of the character of his sonship and resurrection life in the believer[24],[25].

Therefore, we conclude that the spirit is not a person but the projection of a person—the risen Christ—within the heart of the believer. Christ is the one “who searches the minds and hearts” (Revelation 2.23). He is the head of the body (Colossians 1.18) who is able to cause “the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4.16). The risen Christ is with us always (Matthew 28.20) and in the midst of two or three gathered in his name (Matthew 18.20). Yet at the same time, he is still a man (1 Timothy 2.5) seated at the right hand of God (Mark 16.19; Hebrews 12.2; etc.) in heavenly places (Ephesians 1.20; 1 Peter 3.22; etc.). So how can Christ be intimately involved in working within his church even while he is in heaven? As the disciples asked, how could he disclose himself to them without the world seeing him (John 14.22)? Christ is present through the spirit. The spirit which proceeds from the Father connects Christ to his body like a nervous system—making him aware of what is going on and allowing him to coordinate his body. The spirit fully represents Christ and so, to me, the spirit is Christ in me.

“…These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all ” (Ephesians 1.19-23).

Therefore, the holy spirit is God in action (as we have seen from the OT and the Synoptics) PLUS the new added “comforting” aspects (presented in John) distributed under the auspices of the Father by the ascended Messiah in order to benefit the Church by allowing Christ to dwell within each believer.

The Spirit is not a Person

Surfing through the Internet, one could easily conclude that it is a capital crime to deny defining the holy spirit as a person that is co-equal, co-eternal, and co-essential with the Father and the Son. An overwhelming number of anathemas are being proclaimed against people who hold a nonorthodox understanding of the spirit. Furthermore, almost all modern Bible translations push their belief that the holy spirit is a “he” by translating ambiguous pronouns as such, for instance “which” as “who” and “it” as “he,” etc. Add to this the fact that my word processor will not allow me to write the words “holy spirit” without angrily underlining it in a jagged red electronic ink to indicate that I have transgressed the rules of grammar by not capitalizing a proper noun. In light of this enormous pressure to conform to orthodoxy, I thought I should list out some of the reasons why I choose to be a “heretic” and say the holy spirit is not a person.[26] Following are a number of reasons:

Spirit has no personal name

In the Bible, one’s name meant more than what people said to get someone’s attention. Rather, one’s name encapsulated all that a person stood for, and it was believed that there was a strong connection between what one’s name meant and his or her nature. For example, God’s proper name, Yahweh, is derived from the Hebrew verb “to be;” thus, the statements, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3.14) and “[He] who was and who is and who is to come” (Revelation 4.8) reflect the meaning of His name. To be Yahweh is to be the existent one—the one who must exist. Jesus’ name means “Yahweh is salvation,” which makes sense when one stops to consider that Jesus was the implement of Yahweh’s salvation for all mankind. Consider the statement about Jesus, “For there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12). Yet, the holy spirit is given no proper name. This is astounding if the holy spirit were truly a person equal with, yet distinct from the Father and Son. In fact, it was considered severe punishment to strike one’s name from the record, yet this must have been the case if the holy spirit were indeed a person.[27]


[17] Alva Huffer, Systematic Theology ©1960, The Restitution Herald, page 92.

[18] F.F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John ©1983, Eerdmans Publishing Company, page 302

[19] It may be the case that the Lord here is Yahweh depending on how one views 2 Corinthians 3. JDG Dunn has suggested that it is a midrash of Exodus 34. If this is true then this reference should be moved down to the next category.

[20] (Scripture references were not originally footnoted) Acts 16.7; Romans 8.9; Galatians 4.6; Philippians 1.19; also 1 Peter 1.1; cf. John 7.38; 19.30; 20.22; Acts 2.33; Hebrews 9.14; Revelation 3.1; 5.6

[21] John 14.16; cf. 1 John 2.1

[22] John 14.16-28; 16.7; Romans 8.9f; 1 Corinthians 6.17; 15.45; Ephesians 3.16f; cf. Romans 1.4; 1 Timothy 3.16; 1 Peter 3.18; Revelation 2-3

[23] 1 Corinthians 12.3; 1 John 5.6-12

[24] Romans 8.11, 14-16, 23; 1 Corinthians 15.45-49; 2 Corinthians 3.18; Galatians 4.6f; 1 John 3.2

[25] JDG Douglas, New Bible Dictionary (second edition) ©1962, ed. By JD Douglas, FF Bruce, JI Packer, N Hillyer, D Guthrie, AR Millard, DJ Wiseman, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., pages 1140-1

[26] Person means that the being in question has a mind (emotions, intellect, and will). Person does not mean a human being. God the Father is a person. Jesus is a person.

[27] It is not my intention to “put down” the holy spirit or to diminish its influence in our lives by the statements made in this article. If what I have said bothers you, please email me (