How much do you know about the Holy Spirit?
This post is the beginning of a new series about the Holy Spirit.
I believe that knowing more about
who the Holy Spirit is
what the Holy Spirit does
is essential for living life as a genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Put another way, is the holy spirit a divine person or an impersonal force?
How you answer this question will make all the difference. If the holy spirit is an impersonal force or mere power such as electricity, then it is an energy or a tool to be used. On the other hand, if the Holy Spirit is a person, that speaks of a dynamic living relationship.
Those who reduce the Holy Spirit to a mere force or a personification of power use a few arguments.
One argument selects and views isolated biblical texts the way they want. Rather than seeking to understand a text within its context and the whole teaching of Scripture, they force the text to conform with their perspective. Other texts about the Holy Spirit are either forced to comply with their viewpoint or ignored altogether.
A second argument applies flawed reasoning.
Here is one example that manifests both a defective understanding of Holy Scripture and the Holy Spirit: “the Bible says that the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb leaped, ‘and Elizabeth was filled with the holy spirit.’ (Luke 1:41) Is it reasonable that a person would be ‘filled’ with another person?”
Not only does this ignore the extensive witness of Scripture to the Holy Spirit and the immediate context of Luke, but it also implies that the Spirit’s action is not “reasonable.”
This series will explore the filling of the Spirit in a later post.
Let’s consider a few biblical claims that the Holy Spirit is a person.
An attribute is an inherent part or quality of someone or something. The Holy Spirit not only has the intrinsic qualities of a person but also is divine—equal with God.
As I provide biblical evidence concerning the Spirit’s personhood, I emphasize the need to understand each text within its immediate context and the whole scope of Scripture.
Some attributes of personhood are the inherent qualities of intellect, emotion, and will. I have limited myself to two texts for each of these attributes—many more could be provided.
1. As to the intellect of the Spirit, we read:
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:27)
Not only does the Spirit have a mind, but he also intercedes for others. Those are not the attributes or actions of an impersonal force.
Furthermore, the Spirit “searches all things, even the deep things of God,” “knows the thoughts of God,” and “teaches.”
God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. … This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)
2. Emotions are manifested by the Spirit:
We encountered Romans 8:27 earlier. In the context of its companion verse, we discover that the Spirit “intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express”:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)
The Spirit can also experience grief and sorrow:
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
3. The Spirit’s will is demonstrated in this scene:
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6-11)
Did you notice the will of the Spirit exercised in directing these men? He kept them from Asia, and did not allow them to enter Bithynia.
In the next text, the Holy Spirit determines the distribution of spiritual gifts to the body of Christ.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11)
The Holy Spirit has all the attributes of personhood, including intellect, will, and emotion.
Not only is the Holy Spirit a person, he is a divine person.
1. The Spirit relates to the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ) as an equal Person.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. (Romans 15:30)
The last text includes the phrase, “the love of the Spirit.” You have to ask whether an impersonal force can love.
2. On the matter of lying to the Spirit.
In one incident, Ananias and Sapphira sold some property and donated part of the sale price to the Christian community under the pretense of it being the whole amount. Essentially, they lied.
Here is how Peter explains Ananias’ behavior.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)
In lying to the Holy Spirit, Ananias lied to God. The Holy Spirit is co-equal with God.
This post is the first small step toward discovering more about who the Holy Spirit is and how He can bless and empower you.
I conclude with the words of Millard Erickson.
“All of the foregoing considerations lead to one conclusion. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a force, and that person is God, just as fully and in the same way as are the Father and the Son.”
Take some time to consider these texts. You may have discovered more than I have space for here, or you may have questions. Either way, let me know at [email protected].
Helpful resources provided to 'living theology' subscribers.YES!