May God Himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.
—1 Thessalonians 5:23, The Message
I have a confession to make: I get itchy when I hear the word "holiness."
I seem to feel fine when I hear about the holiness of God, the Holy Spirit, that our God is a holy God, but when it comes to ascribing holiness to people, then I get itchy.
The Sabbath School lesson for this week takes up the question of the Personality of the Holy Spirit, exploring the long-time discussion or debate about the nature of the Holy Spirit. Over time, people have had various ideas on this subject. Some have claimed the Holy Spirit to be an emanation from God, that it is an unseen force of some kind, while other have attributed personhood to the Spirit. This question has been long debated partly because of the language used to describe the Trinity. One particular difficulty is the use of the word “Person,” or “three Persons” of the Godhead.
What I am about to explain is far from an easy task. I have to admit my human limitations in trying to explain the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Even Ellen White admits, “The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church.
The lesson this week takes us into some very interesting territory. It leads us to think about an aspect of the Holy Spirit that is very intriguing, namely that the Holy Spirit, for reasons not fully understood by us, works behind the scenes more than in the limelight. The official lesson even uses the word, “elusive.” If we ascribe personhood, or personality, to the Spirit, we could very quickly come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is somewhat introverted, perhaps.
Perhaps you have seen the Youtube video of a now famous 1999 experiment by two cognitive scientists, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, on selective attention. In the film, six people stand in a room, some of them dressed in white and some of them dressed in black. Viewers are instructed to watch the group throw basketballs to one another and to count only the passes made by the players dressed in white.
Three well-heeled theologians walked into a bar to meet with a peer who had fallen on hard times and was facing a harsh legal sentence. It was the bar of justice, and they came as friends of the court. Each had prepared a brief designed to convince their peer that his adversary was in the right and that he needed to plead guilty and make a deal. They argued that he could not successfully resist the arguments of the prosecution. His adversary had power, public opinion, and tradition on his side. The outcome was a given.
“Blameless and upright.” According to scripture (Job 1:8), Job was known as a person of good moral character. Of course, one can always argue about “the good,” character, and associated virtues. Norms of morality ebb and flow through the years, so the character of Job and/or his friends may be somewhat foreign to us. Nonetheless, in three stages, roughly chronological, let us explore character through the story of Job.
In the last attempt to defend himself at the court case Job longs for perpetual and written evidence of his innocence. The unfairness of his treatment has to be recorded as a testimony for future generations. The hand of God has struck him and now he wishes for the permanent record as a witness of this unfair balance of power (Job 19:21-24).