Whither the Holy Spirit?

Have you ever noticed that in the epistles, none of the apostles include the Holy Spirit in their opening greetings. I asked Richard Ritenbaugh, a pastor of the Church of the Great God if he would write a post on it. Below is his informative post.

Thank you Richard.

bibles

 

Most Bible students realize that most of the New Testament books are letters—epistolé in Greek and

our  “epistle,” written communication between parties. Paul’s epistles, as well as those of James, Peter, John, and Jude, are written primarily to church congregations, although a few, such as those to Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Gaius (III John), are written to individuals. An ancient letter followed a fairly strict format. It begins with the writer’s name, followed by

the recipient(s) and a greeting to him/her/them. The body of the letter ensues, and at the end, the writer closes with additional greetings and perhaps a date.

Thumbing through the salutations of the epistles brings out a curious fact: The greetings are all essentially the same. Time after time, the authors write something akin to this from Romans 1:7: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Almost all of Paul’s epistles follow this wording—perhaps with the word “mercy” thrown into the mix—and some of the others follow suit.

Of the other epistle writers, James pens a workmanlike, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings” (James 1:1). Peter’s first epistle simply states, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (I Peter 1:3), to which he appends in his second, “in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (II Peter 1:1). John dispenses with the standard greeting altogether in his first epistle, while in the second he writes one of the longest: “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (II John 1:3).

The most curious—and theologically significant—facet of these epistolary salutations is the wholesale absence of greetings from the Holy Spirit. A Bible reader brought up in traditional Christianity would expect that the so-called Third Person of the Trinity would get equal billing with the Father and the Son from the apostles, but the biblical text omits all mention of the Holy Spirit in terms of personal greetings to the churches. Is this just a mistake? An embarrassing omission? A slight?

If greetings from the Holy Spirit were absent in some but not all the salutations, we might make a case for any of these explanations, but because they are entirely absent among the greetings of twenty epistles (not counting Hebrews, which is technically a treatise) from five apostles, they make an implicit theological point: The Holy Spirit sends no greetings because there is no Third Person in the Godhead to send them! Put simply, the Father and His Son are the only divine Persons, and in grace, mercy, and peace they send their personal greetings to the church.

The clearest biblical explanation of this truth appears in John 14, where Jesus Himself provides the correct understanding:

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. . . I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. . . . If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:16-18, 23)

Jesus teaches that the Holy Spirit is not another personality but the divine essence of both the Father and the Son that comes to and resides in each of God’s chosen sons and daughters. Paul confirms this in II Corinthians 3:17, writing, “Now the Lord is the Spirit. . . .” It cannot get any clearer than that! The Holy Spirit is the mind and power of God to do His will throughout His creation, especially in those who believe and love Him.

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