Is the Holy Spirit a Person?
Oct. 2011 version
Yes. Nobody thinks the Holy Spirit is, was, or will ever be a man, a human being. Christians teach that the Holy Spirit is a person, but what is a person?
A person is a living, intelligent being, with a mind, feelings, and emotions. Science fiction stories are filled with strange beings, in solid, gas, and even a few liquid forms of sentient beings.
What is the difference between showing a person, and a literary device called personification? Personification ("nature speaks", "wisdom calls out", etc.) is a poetic hyperbole showing truth in a way that is often well-remembered. Everyone agrees some Bible verses show the Holy Spirit has characteristics of a person ("The Spirit spoke", etc.) but taken all together, the key question is, do these show the holy Spirit is a bonafide person, alive with mind, will, and feelings, or are these personifications of God's spirit? The first section are verses used to show attributes of a person; rebuttals are in italics. The next section discusses what some people think of when they think of a person, and how the Holy Spirit has some but not many of those.
REASONS FOR SAYING THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS THE ATTRIBUTES OF A PERSON
The Holy Spirit has a mind:
He knows and performs the activity of searching all things, even the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11); He possesses a mind (Romans 8:27), and he can teach people (1 Corinthians 2:13). Books and computers possess knowledge and can teach people too.
In Matthew 11:27 "...no one [person] knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." The context is earth, not heaven. Otherwise, to be consistent, the cherubim in God's direct presence do not know God either.
By the way, the Holy Spirit does in fact "know" the thoughts of God, even the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). This shows the Spirit is a part of God, and not a distinct person.
The Holy Spirit has feelings:
He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30); He can be insulted (Hebrews 10:29); He can think things are good (Acts 15:28) These are hyperbole.
He intercedes with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26) God very often uses hyperbole in talking about the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit has a will:
He chooses to give gifts to some (1 Corinthians 12:11), He directs activities of Christians (Acts 16:6-11). He intercedes (prays) for the saints (Romans 8:26)
He interacts with people as a person:
The Holy Spirit speaks (Acts 10:19; 13:2; Hebrews 3:7, Revelation 22:17; John 16:13; Romans 8:26-27; ~Matthew 10:20; ~Mark 13:11) Nature speaks, scripture speaks, and non-living things speak too.
He speaks directly, person to person (Acts 10:19-21)
He can be lied to (Acts 5:3)
He is our helper [masculine]. Things can help too, and the word for helper, Paraclete, is masculine in the Greek, so Greek grammar was being followed.
Pneuma (spirit) is neuter, yet Greek grammar was deliberately violated to talk about spirit (He) in John 14:16. Other cases of this may be John 15:26, 16:7-8, and Eph 1:14-15.
Objections to saying the Holy Spirit is not a [non-human] Person
Objection 1: Verses May Just Be a Personification
Wisdom is personified, (Mt 11:19, Lk 7:35, Pr 1:20-33; 8:7-15), so this raises the possibility that the Holy Spirit may be too. Nature teaches (1 Corinthians 11:14)
Water and blood bear witness (1 John 5:6-8). Technically not a personification; in a Law Court objects do give evidence of things.
Righteousness, dead, and blood speak (Rom 10:6; Heb 11:4; Ps 115:17; Gen 4:10; Heb 12:24)
Objection 2: The Holy Spirit Only Speaks Indirectly, Like a Book Can Speak
When the spirit "speaks", it is often through angels or humans. (Heb 3:7; 10:15-17; Ps 95:7; Jer 31:33,34; Acts 19:2-6; 21:4; 28:5; 4:24,25; 28:25) The spirit spoke directly, without anybody else, in Acts 10:19-21.
Objection 3: The Holy Spirit Does "Impersonal" Things
People can be filled with wisdom (Ex 28:3; 35:31,35; De 34:9) Filling with the Spirit of Wisdom.
People can be filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way. (Acts 6:3; 11:24; 13:52; 2 Corinthians 6:6; 1 Corinthians 2:12-14
The Spirit can be poured out (Acts 2:33; 10:45; Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28)
The Holy Spirit can be partially poured out and measured (Acts 2:17,18; Numbers 11:17,25; John 3:34, 2 Corinthians 10:13)
People can be baptized in the Holy spirit as in water and fire. (Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16; Acts 11:16)
Jehovah fills the heavens and the earth (Jer 23:24). Of course Jehovah is not just a personification.
Objection 4: There are allegedly many "holy spirits" in the Bible.
Heb 1:7,14; Zech 6:5; 1 Kings 22:21 together show that angels are holy and angels are spirits.
John 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Peter 3:18 show that Jesus is righteous, and a life-giving spirit.
John 4:24 show that God the Father is spirit.
The two words "Holy Spirit" are never used together in the Bible except to refer to a distinct person. When the two words are used together, apparently the author never conceived any believer would ask "which Holy Spirit", analogous to a believer asking "which almighty god?"
Objection 6: The Lack of a Personal Name for the Holy Spirit
It does not have a personal name, like Joe, Sam, or even Jesus or Jehovah.
Many lower class Japanese people in early times did not have a formal name. More to the point, God did not reveal His personal name (Yahweh) until Moses, a great amount of time after Adam. The Holy Spirit does not have a human name, for He is not human. Actually we are baptized in only one name, not names in Matt 28:19, and the Father, Son, and Spirit are one in name, Yahweh. Since it is not hard to show through New Testament quotes of the Old Testament that Jesus shared the name Yahweh, and the three have one name, they all have the same name, and even the Father does not have a personal name apart from Yahweh.
Name in Matt 28:19 does not have to be a personal name. People can "stop in the name of the law" Even in Aids to Understanding, they discuss this as baptizing in the name of Tom, Dick, and Harry to show the three are separate. They should have said, Tom, Dick, and the Law in their example, except that would sound kind of funny. Notice it says, "name" and not "names".
The Father gave Jesus a name above every name in Php 2:9. No problem with this. The rank among the Trinity is Father, Son, and Spirit.
Objection 7: The Holy Spirit Does Not Have a History
Psalm 90:2; John 1:14; 3:16; Colossians 1:15,16; and 1 Timothy 1:17. The history of the Father and the Son are documented. There is no documentation on the history of the Holy Spirit.
There is. The Holy Spirit is eternal (Heb 9:14), was involved at Creation (Gen 1:2; Ps 104:30), and had some activity in the Old Testament (2 Sam 23:2, Ps 51; Micah 3:8). By the way could your spirit go swimming while you stayed inside the house? If the Holy Spirit is just God's spirit, then why would the Spirit of God be hovering over the waters in Gen 1:2 instead of just God?
Objection 8: The Holy Spirit's (Lack of) Appearance
The Holy Spirit appeared only as a dove and tongues of fire, never as a human person. So? He is not a human, and He does not have a physical, viewable body.
The Holy Spirit is not in the list of Heaven in Heb 12:22. Believers will not "go to meet" the Holy Spirit in heaven; they have already met him according to Rom 8.
The Holy Spirit is not seen in Heaven anywhere in Revelation. There is nothing to see of the Holy Spirit. However, He is still prominent as a distinct being in Heaven, as Rev 14:13; 22:17 show.
Objection 9: The Holy Spirit is God's Active Force, or God's Power
Ex 8:18,19; 31:18; Lk 11:20; Mt 12:28 show the Holy Spirit is God's finger, or the force He uses.
Micah 3:8; Zec 4:6; Lk 1:17,35; Acts 10:38, 1 Cor 2:4 show an inherent connection with God's power. There is a close relationship, yet Acts 10:38 clearly distinguish between God's power and His Spirit. Luke 4:14 and 1 Cor 2:4 also distinguish between God's power and the Holy Spirit. Why not just say "God's power of the Spirit", or skip power, or skip Spirit if they are synonymous?
A Diagram to Remember the attributes of the Holy Spirit
70 Bible Teachings on the Holy Spirit
S1. Spirit of Truth Jn 14:17a; 16:13
S2. Spirit of Christ Rom 8:9
S3. Sevenfold Spirit Rev 1:4; 4:5; 5:6; Zech 3:9
S4. Spirit of Wisdom Dt 34:9; Prov 8
S5. Holy Spirit Mt 1:18; 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 1:35; 3:16; Jn 1:33; 14:26; Acts 1:5,6;
S6. Spirit of grace Heb 10:29
S7. Spirit's fire 1 Th 5:19
Mind Rom 8:27
M1. Counselor Jn 14:16,25
M2. Searches deep things of God 1 Cor 2:10-11
M3. Guides us Jn 16:13a
M4. Teaches us 1 Cor 2:13, Jn 14:26; reveals things from God 1 Cor 2:10 + 2:16
M5. Reminds us Jn 14:26b
M6. Testifies of Jesus Jn 15:26b
M7. [Jesus] gives us words to say Lk 21:15
Will Acts 15:28; Rom 8:5
W1. People can resist the Holy Spirit Acts 7:51
W2. People can try to lie to the Holy Spirit Acts 5:3
W3. The Spirit speaks Jn 16:13; Acts 10:19-21; 19:2-6; 21:4; 28:5; 4:24,25; 28:25; Rom 8:26-27; Heb 3:7, 10:15-17; Ps 95:7; Jer 31:33,34; Rev 22:17
W4. The Holy Spirit commands Acts 13:2
W5. Compels Acts 20:22; 16:6
W6. Warns Acts 20:23
W7. Led Jesus into wilderness Mt 4:1; Mk1:12; Lk4:1
Emotions Prov 8:30-31; Eph 4:30; Heb 10:29; Acs 9:31
E1. Can be grieved Eph 4:30; (partial) Heb 3:7-8
E2. Can be insulted Heb 10:29
E3. Can be blasphemed Mt 12:31; Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10
E4. Intercedes with groanings too deep for words Rom 8:26-27
E5. Not leave us as orphans Jn 14:18 but encourages us Acts 9:31
E6. Produces fruit in our lives Gal 5:23
E7. Rejoices in man Prov 8:30-31 and wants Jesus to come Rev 22:17
Is God Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 12:6,11; Acts 5:3-4
G1. Spoke Scripture Acts 1:16 and moved men to write it 2 Pet 1:21
G2. At Creation Gen 1:2; Ps 104:30; Prov 8:22-31, moved over the waters Gen 1:2, created us Job 33:4
G3. Present everywhere Ps 139:7
G4. Eternal Heb 9:14
G5. The Spirit's power Mic 3:8; Zech 4:6; Lk 1:17,35; Acts 10:38; 1 Cor 2:4; 2 Tim 1:7
G6. Dwells in all N.T. believers Jn 14:17a; Rom 8:9-11 and circumcises our hearts Rom 2:29
G7. Distinct from the Father and Son Rev 14:13; 22:17, and sent by them Jn 14:26; 15:26a
Baptized with Mt 3:11; Lk 1:23; 3:16; Jn 1:34; Acts 11:16; 1 Cor 12:13
B1. Filled with the Holy Spirit Acts 9:17; Eph 5:18
B2. Fellowship of the Spirit Php 2:1; 2 Cor 13:14
B3. Joy of the Holy Spirit Rom 14:7; 1 Th 1:6
B4. Unity of the Spirit Eph 4:3
B5. Glorifies Jesus Jn 16:14
B6. Can be poured out Acts 2:17,18,33; 10:45; Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28, Num 11:17,25; Jn 3:34; 2 Cor 10:13
B7. Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit 1 Cor 3:16 and 6:19
His Job 1 Cor 12:4-6
J1. Convicts the world of guilt and sin Jn 16:8-11
J2. Seals us Eph 1:13-14; 2 Cor 1:22. We should receive when we believe Acts 19:2-6
J3. Sanctifying work 2 Th 2:13 and pours God's love in our hearts Rom 5:5
J4. Testifies with our spirit Rom 8:16; none say Jesus is Lord except by Holy Spirit 1 Cor 12:3
J5. We are to live by the Spirit Gal 5:16 serve in the new way of the Spirit Rom 7:6b and have the law of the spirit Rom 8:2
J6. Gives gifts to believers 1 Cor 12:7-8,11; Heb 2:4; Is a gift to us Acts 1:4-5; 2:38b; 10:45; 1 Jn 4:13
J7. We pray in the Holy Spirit Jde 20
History of the Holy Spirit
H1. During the Exodus filled Bezalel ben Hur Ex 31:1-2, and on Moses and the 70 elders Num 11:17,25
H2. Spirit came on judges Gideon Jdg 6:34, Jephthah Jdg 11:29, Samson Jdg 13:25; 14:19; 15:14
H3. Spirit of God came on Saul 1 Sam 10:6,10
H4. The Spirit departed from Saul 1 Sam 16:14a
H5. Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul's men pursuing David 1 Sam 19:20
H6. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David 1 Sam 16:13b; 2 Sam 23:2
H7. David did not want the Holy Spirit to leave him Ps 51:11
H8. Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded 2 Chr 15:1
H9. Elisha received a double portion of theSpirit in Elijah 2 Ki 2:9
H10. Filled John the Baptist from birth Lk 1:15 and Jesus born of the Holy Spirit Luke 1:35
H11. Holy Spirit on Simon told him he would see the Christ Lk 2:26-27
H12. Descended on Jesus as a dove Jn 1:32-33. Also Isa 11:2
H13. Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost Acts 2
H14. Killed Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5:3-10
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