Where in the New Testament is Worship of the Holy Spirit?

It used to frustrate me when I would hear people begin a prayer with “Father we thank you . . .” then later in the same prayer say, “and we thank you for dying on the cross.” There was never a transition to let us know that he was now addressing the Son. We were supposed, I guess, to just figure that out for ourselves. If not, he was guilty of heresy. I say “used to” not because it wouldn’t still frustrate me today but I have not heard that in a long time.

The question of our post today is addressed by Daniel Block in his new book For the Glory of God. He says, “In true worship, the persons of the Trinity may not be interchanged without changing the significance of their work.” (50) I have abridged his discussion below.

“Remarkably, the doxologies never ascribe praise, honor, glory, dominion, or power to the Holy Spirit. This reserve is consistent with the portrayal of the Spirit generally in the New Testament. No one addresses the Holy Spirit in prayer, or bows down to the Holy Spirit, or serves him in a liturgical gesture. Put simply, in the Bible the Spirit is never the object of worship.” (50)

“However, the urge to treat the Holy Spirit as an object of worship is extrabiblical; it derives not from Scripture but from philosophical and theological deduction. It assumes that since the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally divine, they are equally worthy of worship. But does recognizing the equality of the three persons of the Trinity demand equal worship of each? On one extreme, we could argue that addressing the Holy Spirit in worship has no more biblical warrant than addressing prayers to Mary, saints, or angels. However, unlike these persons, the Holy Spirit is a part of the divine Trinity. . . . While the New Testament is emphatic in characterizing true worship as ‘in Spirit’ (John 4:24), ‘in/by the Spirit,’ and ‘through the Spirit’ (Acts 4:25), it knows nothing of the worship of the Spirit. Should Christians worship be Trinitarian or binitarian—addressing only the Father and the Son? If we agree that it should be Trinitarian, how would this look in practice? The biblical pattern suggests that this does not call for the three persons of the Triune God to receive equal and identical attention in worship. The pattern established by Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) appropriately addresses praise and prayer to the Father, though other texts demonstrate that these may also be directed to the Son. When we read Scripture, the focus will be on God the Father or Jesus Christ the Son. However, it seems that the Holy Spirit is most honored when we accept his conviction of sin, his transforming and sanctifying work within us, and his guidance in life and ministry, and when in response to his leading we prostrate ourselves before Jesus. The Spirit is also honored when we give thanks to the Father and the Son for his presence and work within us, referring to him in the third person rather than addressing him directly. . . But Trinitarian worship need not be balanced, if by balanced we mean giving the three persons of the Godhead equal time and space.” (52-53)

For the Glory of God

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2 thoughts on “Where in the New Testament is Worship of the Holy Spirit?

  1. Pingback: In the Mail | Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

  2. Daniel Block: No one addresses the Holy Spirit in prayer, or bows down to the Holy Spirit, or serves him in a liturgical gesture. Put simply, in the Bible the Spirit is never the object of worship.” (50)

    Steven Tsoukalas: Though I fully adhere to the distinction of the three persons of the Trinity, I also adhere to their unity. Thus, when the Son is prayed to, the Spirit and the Father hear the prayer; and when the Son answers He does so in union with the Father and the Spirit. Thus, as seen in my exposition above, when I state that the Son alone is prayed to, I mean to draw attention to Paul’s emphasis of the Son, not his exclusion of the Father (Knowing Christ in the Challenge of Heresy, page 112, footnote #100).

    With the above in mind I understand that in Acts 1:24-25 the singular “Lord” in this prayer primarily refers to the Lord Jesus but it is done so with the understanding that the Father and the Holy Spirit are also in view. When one prays to God all three Persons are present, fully aware and worshiped.

    Acts 1:24-25
    And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen
    to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” (NASB)
    A. Just prior to the prayer Peter stated that another should take the “office” (episkopēn) vacated by Judas (Acts 1:20). Later in Acts 20:28 Luke records Paul stating that it is the Holy Spirit who is responsible for the making of “overseers” (episkopous) for the church.
    B. “Know the hearts”: The Holy Spirit fully knows the hearts of all (Romans 8:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10). This is an attribute (omniscience) of Deity. 1 Kings 8:39 reads:
    whatever prayer…is made…then hear in heaven…for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men (NASB)
    Since the Holy Spirit fully knows the hearts of all He is able to hear/fully understand all prayers and has in the past audibly responded to them (Acts 13:2) and subsequently acted upon them (Acts 13:4).
    C. “Show”: The “showing” of the apostles is the work of the Holy Spirit. Kenneth Berding writes: Furthermore, although not stated explicitly, can there be any doubt that when believers prayed in Acts 1:24-25 – “Lord. you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place” – that in Luke’s theology, the “showing” was via the Spirit (cf. Acts 1:2, 5, 8, 16; 2:4; 10:19; 11:12, 28; 13:2 etc.)? (Who Searches Hearts and What Does He Know in Romans 8:27?, Journal of Biblical and Pneumatological Research, Volume 5, 2013, page 101)

    It should also be pointed out that according to Acts 28:25-27 it was the Holy Spirit to whom Isaiah spoke to in Isaiah 6:8-13.
    Interestingly, in Isaiah 6:8 the Lord asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (NASB). Whereas in Acts 13:4 it reads that Paul and Barnabas were “sent out by the Holy Spirit” (NASB). The Holy Spirit “sent” Isaiah and He also “sent” Paul and Barnabas. When one also compares this Old Testament section of Scripture with what is described in John 12:39-41 it isn’t at all surprising then that Isaiah 6:8 speaks of “Us”. Indeed, Isaiah 6:3 most definitely speaks of the worship that is properly rendered unto the Triune God. It reads:
    And one called out to another and said,
    “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
    The whole earth is full of His glory.” (NASB)
    Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset and David Brown (Isaiah 6:1): I saw also the Lord – here ‘Adonaay (Hebrew #136); Yahweh (Hebrew #3068) in Isaiah 6:5. Jesus Christ is meant as speaking in Isaiah 6:10, according to John 12:41…The words of Isaiah 6:10 are attributed by Paul (Acts 28:25-26) to the Holy Spirit. Thus the Trinity, in unity is implied; as also by the thrice “Holy” (Isaiah 6:3). (Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible – Unabridged)
    http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-6.html

    Andrew E. Hill: By way of worship in the early church, the Jewish Christianity of the first century a.d. facilitated the shift from the theocentric worship characteristic of Judaism to the Christocentric (and even Trinitarian) worship that is the hallmark of Christianity (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Worship – 3rd to the last paragraph).
    http://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bed/worship.html

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