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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Trinity: One God in Three Persons

Don Stewart :: Is the Holy Spirit Merely Another Name for Jesus?

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Is the Holy Spirit Merely Another Name for Jesus? (Binitarianism)

The Trinity: One God in Three Persons – Question 25

There is an ancient heresy that assumed that the Holy Spirit was not a distinct Person from Jesus Christ but rather another name for Him. This is known as Binitarianism. This teaching is found in an early work known as The Shepherd of Hermas as well as the Macedonian heresy of the fourth century.

The Reason for the Belief

The belief is derived from statements that seem to link the two together. For example, Paul wrote to the Romans and stated the following:

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9 NKJV)

It is argued that the Spirit of Christ is Christ Himself. Thus, the Holy Spirit is just another name for the Spirit of Christ.

There is a passage in First Peter that states something similar:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. (1 Peter 1:10, 11 NRSV)

Since the Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Christ” it is assumed that they must be the same person. The Holy Spirit, therefore, is merely another name for Christ Himself.

The Holy Spirit Is Not Another Designation of Jesus

From a study of the totality of Scripture we find that the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are distinct Persons. It is not two ways of describing the same Person.

How then do we explain the phrase “the Spirit of Christ?” It may just be another designation for Jesus. In other words, it is another way of referring to His Person.

It is also possible that it is another way of explaining the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit who is sent from Christ or who testifies about Christ.

Whatever the case may be, it does not mean they are the same Person. Jesus made it clear that they are distinct. He said,

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.” (John 15:26 NRSV)

The Spirit testifies of Jesus. He does not testify of Himself. Thus, He is not the same Persona as Jesus.

This View Has Never Been Popular

The idea that the Holy Spirit is merely another name for Jesus Christ, though taught by some in the early church, did not gain much popularity. Today, the belief is only found in fringe groups.

Summary – Question 25
Is the Holy Spirit Merely Another Name for Jesus? (Binitarianism)

There was an early heresy in the church known as Binitarianism. Binitarianism is a belief in the Deity of the Father and Son, but not the Holy Spirit. It taught that the Holy Spirit was actually another name for Jesus.

The evidence for this is supposedly found in the term the “Spirit of Christ.” This particular description is used twice in the New Testament. Some people mistakenly assume that the biblical references to the Holy Spirit, as well as to the Spirit of Christ, refer to the same person, Jesus. They are not two distinct Persons.

Yet there is no way that this can be sustained. Indeed, with so much evidence that the two are distinct Persons there are much simpler explanations of the meaning of the phrase. The Spirit of Christ can be another way of expression the Person of Jesus. Another possibility is that it refers to the Holy Spirit who testifies of Christ. Whatever explanation is ultimately accepted, it does not mean that the Holy Spirit is the same Person as Jesus. He is not.

As would be expected, the Binitarian heresy never gained much acceptance.

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