The Holy Spirit: Introduction

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
John 16:13-14

Who is the Holy Spirit?

There are many misconceptions about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force. Others understand the Holy Spirit as the impersonal power that God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit? Simply put, the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is God. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is God is clearly seen in many Scriptures, including Acts 5:3-4. In this verse Peter confronts Ananias as to why he lied to the Holy Spirit and tells him that he had “not lied to men but to God.” It is a clear declaration that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God. We can also know that the Holy Spirit is God because He possesses the characteristics of God. For example, His omnipresence is seen in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” Then in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, we see the characteristic of omniscience in the Holy Spirit. “But 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.”

We can know that the Holy Spirit is indeed a divine person because He possesses a mind, emotions, and a will. The Holy Spirit thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-27). He makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Trinity. As God, the Holy Spirit can truly function as the Comforter and Counselor that Jesus promised He would be (John 14:16, 26, 15:26).

Is the Holy Spirit a person?

Many people find the doctrine of the Holy Spirit confusing. Is the Holy Spirit a force, a person, or something else? What does the Bible teach?

The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person—that is, He is a personal being, rather than an impersonal thing. First, every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is “he” not “it.” The original Greek language of the New Testament is explicit in confirming the person of the Holy Spirit. The word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter and would naturally take neuter pronouns to have grammatical agreement. Yet, in many cases, masculine pronouns are found (e.g., John 15:26; 16:13-14). Grammatically, there is no other way to understand the pronouns of the New Testament related to the Holy Spirit—He is referred to as a “He,” as a person.

Matthew 28:19 teaches us to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a collective reference to one Triune God. Also, we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). The Spirit can be sinned against (Isaiah 63:10) and lied to (Acts 5:3). We are to obey Him (Acts 10:19–21) and honor Him (Psalm 51:11).

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.

The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.

And the personhood of the Holy Spirit is affirmed by His role as the third Person of the Godhead. Only a being who is equal to God (Matthew 28:19) and possesses the attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, and eternality could be defined as God.

In Acts 5:3–4, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as God, stating, “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 just to human beings but to God.” Paul likewise referred to the Holy Spirit as God in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, stating, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is a person, as Scripture makes clear. As such, He is to be revered as God and serves in perfect unity with Father and Son to lead us in our spiritual lives.

Is the Holy Spirit God?

The short answer to this question is, yes, the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible is fully God. Along with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ), God the Spirit is the third member of the Godhead or the Trinity.

Those who challenge the idea that the Holy Spirit is God suggest that the Holy Spirit may simply be an impersonal force of some kind, a source of power controlled by God but not fully a person Himself. Others suggest that perhaps the Holy Spirit is just another name for Jesus, in spirit form, apart from His body.

Neither of these ideas lines up with what the Bible actually says about the Holy Spirit, though. The Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a person who has been present with the Father and the Son since before time began. The Spirit is integral to all of the things that God is described as doing in the Bible.

The Spirit of God was present at and involved in the creation (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6). The Holy Spirit moved the prophets of God with the words of God (2 Peter 1:21). The bodies of those in Christ are described as temples of God because the Holy Spirit is in us (1 Corinthians 6:19). Jesus was clear that to be “born again,” to become a Christian, one must be born “of the Spirit” (John 3:5).

One of the most convincing statements in the Bible about the Holy Spirit being God is found in Acts 5. When Ananias lied about the price of a piece of property, Peter said that Satan had filled Ananias’s heart to “lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3) and concluded by saying that Ananias had “lied to God” (verse 4). Peter’s words equate the Holy Spirit with God; he spoke as if the Spirit and God were one and the same.

Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Helper, was different from Himself. The Father would send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, after Christ departed. The Spirit would speak through them about Jesus (John 14:25–26; 15:26–27; 16:7–15). All three Persons Jesus mentions are God while being distinct from each other within the Trinity.

The three members of the Trinity show up, together yet distinct, at Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus comes up from the water, the Spirit descends on Him like a dove while the voice of the Father is heard from heaven saying that He is pleased with His beloved Son (Mark 1:10–11).

Finally, the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as a person, not a mere force. He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). He uses His mind to search the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). And He has fellowship with believers (2 Corinthians 13:14). Clearly, the Spirit is a person, just as the Father and the Son are persons.

Indeed, the Bible is unequivocal that the Holy Spirit is, in fact, God, just as Jesus Christ and the Father are God.

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