Does the Holy Spirit’s “Searching the Mind of God” Disqualify Him as Divine?
“Some people claim that the Holy Spirit possesses the same nature (and powers) as God. If this were the case, why would it be necessary for the Spirit to ‘search’ the things of God? Would he not know these already?”
The question above is based upon a statement by Paul in 1 Corinthians. When exploring the role of the Holy Spirit in making certain elements of God’s will known to man, Paul writes: “But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). The term “searches” does not suggest a deficiency on the part of the Holy Spirit; this is evident from the subsequent facts.
In the following passage, the apostle affirms that the Holy Spirit does have innate knowledge of the “things of God.” First, the apostle asks: “For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him?”
Paul is underscoring the limited knowledge of ordinary human beings. No one can know what is in the mind of another person unless that person reveals the contents of his thoughts. In similar fashion, no one knows the mind of God [the Father], “except the Spirit of God” (v. 11; emp. added). This text emphatically affirms that the Holy Spirit does know the mind of God.
To know the “mind of God” (in the sense here used), in reality, is to know all things, for God knows “all things” (1 John 3:20).
The term “search,” when employed with reference to God, simply denotes intimate knowledge; the usage is figurative. It certainly does not suggest a “need to know” or a “limited knowledge.” Professor Thomas Edwards observed that “search” “does not mean search in order to discover, but expresses the activity of the Divine knowledge” (A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, New York: A.C. Armstrong & Son, 1886, p. 58). R.C.H. Lenski amplifies the thought.
“The verb ‘to search’ that is used with reference to the Spirit cannot mean, as it does in our case, a process of investigation such as going from one thing to another, putting two and two together, and thus making one discovery after another. The tense is a timeless present. In one timeless act the Spirit sounds the absolute depth of ‘all things’. . . " (The Interpretation of First Corinthians, Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963, p. 106).
Or, as Albert Barnes, says:
“It is not to be supposed that he searches, or inquires as men do who are ignorant; but that he has an intimate and profound knowledge, such as is usually the result of a close and accurate search” (Notes on the New Testament — 1 Corinthians, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1956, p. 36; emp. original).
God the Father himself is said to “search the hearts” of men (Romans 8:27). Would that imply that he does not know what is in the hearts of men? Such a conclusion would contradict numerous other passages of scripture. He knows all human hearts or thoughts (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 7:9; Luke 16:15; 1 Corinthians 3:20).
So, similarly, Christ also is said to “search mind and heart” (Revelation 2:23 ESV); most assuredly that does not suggest a lack of divine knowledge on the Lord’s part; rather, it affirms just the opposite (cf. John 21:17), though the language is symbolic.
There is, therefore, no problem in 1 Corinthians 2:10 that in any way nullifies the teaching of scripture that the Holy Spirit is deity (cf. Acts 5:3-4).
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.