The Holy Spirit is a PersonRecently, I have had discussions covering the personhood and personality of the Holy Spirit. Do the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is merely a force or mode, which God uses to interact with His people; or do the Scriptures teach the Holy Spirit is a unique entity with personal attributes? After hearing well capitulated arguments representing the Neo-Sadduceean view of the Holy Spirit, I was motivated to dig deeper and see if the Scriptures teach this or not. Here are a few of my findings that show the Holy Spirit is a person, and not some force or mental will by the God of the Scriptures.
Doctrine of the Trinity:
To begin, one ought to look at the doctrine of the Trinity. Everything else would be misunderstood if you didn't accept the personality of the Spirit. He is the third person of the Trinity. This fact worries an author if he wishes to discuss only the Holy Spirit, rather than write a complete systematic theology. The doctrines of the bible form such a tight-knit logical system, that every doctrine is involved in every other doctrine. Therefore, it is hard to confine oneself to just one subject. An unsatisfactory compromise must be made. While it is impossible to ignore the doctrine of the Trinity altogether, only so much will be included as is necessary to give a reasonable background for the main subject. The main subject is that the Spirit is a person.
A note on methodology is also necessary. The basis for asserting the distinct personality of the Spirit includes considerable material from the Old Testament. But because the Old Testament is only a partial revelation, this discussion will be limited to the New Testament evidence. That is not to say I do not believe the Old Testament has verses that anticipate the doctrine of the Trinity. There are obvious verses which speak of the Spirit of God, but it is my understanding that these would have only confirmed God's activity-- not the personality of the Spirit. Notice the distinction being made between the person versus the personality. New Testament evidence is more clear and, therefore, more useful in persuading the doubtful.
Since heretical attacks on the doctrine of the Spirit do not usually deny the his or "its" deity, but rather question his personality, there is no need to spend much time on the former. If one wanted to discuss the former, present two Scripture verses and let it go at that. First, 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 asserts the Spirit's omniscience -- "For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God" (NASB). Next, Hebrews 9:14 says, "...how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" But the main question here is the Spirits personality.
Example 1.) The Acts 2:33 Passage
"Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear."
How could such terms be used of a Person? Very easily: that language is figurative, and not literal; literal it cannot be for that which is spiritual is incapable of being materially "poured out." The figure is easily interpreted: as water "poured out" descends, so the Spirit has come from Heaven to earth; as a "pouring" rain is a heavy one, so the Spirit is freely given in the plentitude of His gifts.
Example 2.) The Holy Spirit is directly called the power of God in Luke 1:35
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you."
The Deity of the Holy Spirit:
Many verses in the New Testament show that the Spirit is a person. He is not merely a quality of the Father, a different role that the Father assumes, nor a mode of His appearances. The verses that are mentioned will make that clear. But many verses say more than one particular thing. They can be used to establish other points of doctrine also. For the moment, ignore these other implications. Right now, the question concerns the existence of the Spirit as a person. The issue isn't whether or not the personal pronouns referring to the Spirit are male/female, because the word "pneuma" in Greek means like "Spirit," but in English is "neuter." To claim that the Holy Spirit is an "it" is a misunderstanding of the Greek language. Nevertheless the Holy Spirit is frequently spoken of in the masculine gender.
Two Minor Scriptural Evidences for the Person of the Holy Spirit:
- "After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ' This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.' (Matthew 3:16-17, NASB)." This verse distinguishes the Son from the Father, and Father from the Spirit. Note that the heavens opened, and the voice came from heaven. This indicates that the Father was in heaven, from there He spoke. Therefore, the Spirit cannot be the Father, for the Spirit descended. Nor, obviously, can the Spirit be the Son because the Spirit descended on the Son. If now the Father and the Son are persons, it would be more peculiar if the Spirit were not.
- "Therefore I say unto you, Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come. (Matthew 12:31-32, ASB)." The matter of an unforgiveable sin may be difficult, but the personality of the Spirit is clear. One cannot blaspheme a stone or an animal--nor can one lie to a stone or an animal.
Other verses of note include, but are not limited to:
- 1 Timothy 4:1, "But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith..."
- Revelation 2:7, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
- Mark 3:29, "but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin."
- Acts 2:33, "Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear. "
Two Major New Testament Scriptures for the Person of the Holy Spirit:
- Baptismal Formula of Mathew 28:19, "and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Notice the grammatical structure, "name of the Father";"of the Son"; and "of the Holy Spirit." Each acquire personship to each governing member of the Trinity. The major point is the three names are in one category. If the Father is a person, and if the Son is a person, how could anything impersonal be the third member? No one with any intelligence would write, "In the name of the Father, In the name of the Son, and in the name of the Father's power, influence or mentality.
- Apolostolic Benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." Would any minister bless the congregation by saying, "The grace of the second person, the love of the first person, and the fellowship of the first person over again be with you all." This would be absurd.
We can confidently conclude, as J. Owen did when he said, "By all these testimonies we have fully confirmed what was designed to be proved by them, namely, that the Holy Spirit is not a quality, as some speak, residing in the Divine nature; not a mere emanation of virtue and power from God; not the acting of the power of God in and unto our sanctification, but a holy, intelligent subsistent, or Person."Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi blogspot.