2 Corinthians 3:17
Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article. The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point. If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.
. . .
In this section, the topic is 2 Corinthians 3:17, which says “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Here is the context:
You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; 3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.
12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:2-18, NASB
Kel argues that the Lord in 2 Corinthians 3:17 is the Lord Jesus and the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and that this contradicts the Trinity doctrine because in the Trinity doctrine the Holy Spirit is not the same Person as God the Son (the Lord Jesus). He goes on to say of verse 17, “here we have a passage which explicitly indicates Jesus is indeed the Holy Spirit.”
He is correct in thinking that in the Trinity doctrine, the Son (the Lord Jesus) is not the same Person as the Holy Spirit, and that if 2 Corinthians 3:17 means that the two are in every sense identical, the Trinity doctrine is thereby denied. What he doesn’t seem to appreciate, though, is that his own doctrine is equally refuted, for in his doctrine, the man Jesus is not identical in all senses to the Holy Spirit either.
The Trinity Delusion definition of the Holy Spirit is the nature of God, and its definition of Jesus is a “divinized” man – divinized, but still a created being. As such he cannot be identical in every sense to the nature of God. Although Kel devotes an entire section (The Risen Man Jesus is the Holy Spirit) to the argument that Jesus is the Holy Spirit, nothing in that section or this one explains how a mere creature which has a beginning in time can be identical to “the nature of God” which has always existed from eternity past.
Now, a created being can have the nature of God in it like a sponge can have water in it, but the created being cannot be the nature of God any more than the sponge can be water. How can something which was not created and has no beginning be identical in every way to something which was created and has a beginning? As Kel correctly observes elsewhere, “It’s absurd. It is simply ridiculous to suggest that God made someone into the God our Creator.” – quote from his Acts 2:21 article.
To resuscitate his doctrine, Kel could of course argue that the Lord is not the Spirit in every sense but only in certain senses. The problem for Kel here is that the same kind of argument could be used to defend the Trinity doctrine. For example, if it is asserted that Jesus “is” the Holy Spirit in some kind of representational way, such as “Jesus is the Holy Spirit to us in the sense that he is the manifestation of God’s nature to us,” which defends Kel’s doctrine, it could with equal logic it could be said that “the Holy Spirit is the Lord Jesus to us in the sense that he manifests Jesus to us,” which defends the Trinity doctrine.
In fact it is hard to imagine any figure of speech by which two things can be said to be the same that would not work even better as a description of two aspects of one thing (two Persons in the uncreated God) than it does as a description of two different things, one created and one uncreated. It would seem therefore that the way in which Kel interprets 2 Corinthians 3:17 is more damaging to his own doctrine than it is to the Trinity doctrine.
To make matters worse, Kel appeals to Ephesians chapter 4, saying “At Ephesians 4:4-5, we read that there is ONE Spirit in the body of Christ, the church. There is ONE Spirit, not two, not three, not four,” apparently forgetting that “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17) and that the context of the very passage he quotes implies that there is more than one person in the one Spirit (“There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism” – Ephesians 4:4-5) since there is one body of Christ but many people in that body, one faith but many faithful, and one baptism but many persons who are baptized.
Ephesians 4:4-5 actually seems to support a Trinitarian interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3:17, for if there can be more than one person in one spirit, then this can also be true of God. Though all of God is Holy Spirit, Jesus called only one of the Divine Persons by that name.
In the Bible it is extremely difficult to tell whether one spirit or several are being spoken of, and the passages we just looked at are not alone in this. Even in the realm of demonic spirits this is the case; when Jesus demanded the demon give its name, it said “My name is Legion, for we are many” – Mark 5:9. In that sense it could be said that there are only two spirits; the Spirit which is of God, and the spirit which is not of God.
2 Corinthians 3:17 is difficult to interpret because there is more than one kind of spirit in the context. Not only is the Holy Spirit mentioned, but the spirit of the law (as opposed to the letter of the law) is implied in verse 6. Perhaps when it says the Lord is the Spirit, the Spirit spoken of is “the spiritual meaning of the old covenant as seen through Jesus Christ,” as one brother puts it (http://www.studyyourbibleonline.com/bible-study/what-does-the-lord-is-the-spirit-mean-in-2-corinthians-317/). Certainly Jesus Christ gives us the spirit of the law in the sense that he alone gives us the true interpretation of the law, and I suppose one could say that in that sense Christ is the spirit of the law.
Another bone I have to pick with Kel in this section is when he says “when we read that Jesus has been raised “Life-giving Spirit” at 1 Corinthians 15:45, we know this must be the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit.” That is news to me. I always thought that it was Jesus’ human nature that became a life giving spirit in that passage. What evidence does Kel present to back up the claim that “we know” the life giving Spirit at 1 Corinthians 15:45 is the Holy Spirit? I haven’t seen any. Of course, there is a oneness of spirit between Christ’s Spirit and the Holy Spirit in the sense of 1 Corinthians 6:17, and it is in that oneness of spirit that we, too, can be one spirit with him when we are joined with him.
In conclusion, the fluidity of meaning for the biblical word “spirit” seems to defy most attempts to create highly precise definitions for passages where the meaning of the passage depends on the word “spirit” and Kel’s attempt to interpret 2 Corinthians 3:17 in a way that refutes the Trinity ends up refuting his own position as well.
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