One of the most respected Bible teachers, Dr. John F. Walvoord, stated in his book, The Holy Spirit:
It is a fundamental revelation of Scripture that the Holy Spirit is a person in the same sense that God the Father is a person and the Lord Jesus Christ is a person. The Holy Spirit is presented in Scripture as having the same essential deity as the Father and the Son and is to be worshipped and adored, loved and obeyed in the same way as God. To regard the Holy Spirit in any other way is to make one guilty of blasphemy and unbelief.
In this short statement we are confronted with two important facts concerning the Holy Spirit: that He is a person like the Father and the Son, and that He is as truly God as God the Father and God the Son.
The importance of being certain of the true nature of the Holy Spirit came to me with a jolt while reading a conclusion by Réne Pache in his book The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. The conclusion reads:
Indeed, if the Spirit were merely a power coming from above, it would be at my disposal and I could use it at will. But if the Spirit is a Person, and more than that, if He is God Himself, it is I who should be at His disposal, and love and obey Him in all things. Besides, receiving into our hearts not only a blessing, but also the presence of the Almighty God is to have within us the source of all grace and of all possibility.
With this tremendous possibility facing us, let us carefully examine the Word of God and see what it has to say about the true nature of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Is A Person
The Holy Spirit has all the characteristics of personality.
Many and varied are the definitions of personality, but all of them include at least three characteristics, which are: intelligence, volition, and emotion. Intelligence is the ability to understand and reason intelligently. Volition (or will) is the ability to choose and decide. Emotion is the ability to feel inwardly—as to love, hate, sorrow, appreciate, and so forth. A fourth characteristic which is often found in definitions of personality is that of moral appreciation, or the ability to distinguish between that which is morally right or wrong, good or evil. A person is certainly a rational and moral being.
The Holy Spirit is presented in the Scriptures as having all these characteristics in the very highest degree.
The Holy Spirit has intelligence. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). The original word, which is translated “searches” means to trace carefully or to track down. The same word (with the negative added) is used to tell us that God’s judgments are “unsearchable” (Rom. 11:33). God’s judgments often baffle us, but the Holy Spirit fully understands them, and He can reveal to us the deep things of God. We also read of “the mind of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:27).
The Holy Spirit has a will (1 Cor. 12:11). A careful consideration of the context (vv. 7-11) reveals the fact that the Holy Spirit bestows different gifts upon believers, as he chooses. What stronger proof could there be that He has both intelligence and will?
The emotions or sensibilities of the Holy Spirit are clearly evident. We are told that He can be lied to (Acts 5:3); grieved (Eph. 4:30); resisted (Acts 7:51); and insulted (Heb. 10:29). The Word speaks of “the love of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:30). We are therefore not surprised that the “fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22), and that “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5).
Moral appreciation is definitely a characteristic of the Spirit. His very name is “Holy Spirit.” He is also called “the spirit of holiness” (Rom. 1:4). The basic meaning of “holy” and “holiness” in God’s Word is that of separation from all that is evil and dedication to that which is pleasing to God. This moral consciousness is so strong that any morally unclean or suggestive talk by the believer offends, or grieves the Spirit (Eph. 4:29-30).
It seems incredible that one can seriously consider the work which the Scriptures, and especially the Lord Jesus, attribute to the Holy Spirit, and still doubt or question His personality.
Jesus Christ stated that the Spirit inspired the writers of the Old Testament. “For David himself said by the Holy Spirit…Sit at my right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool” (Mark 12:36; cf. Ps. 110:1).
Concerning the Spirit’s work during this present age, Christ promised the following:
The Holy Spirit will teach (John 14:26), help you remember all things (John 14:26), convict the world (John 16:8), guide in all truth (John 16:13), speak and prophesy (John 16:13), glorify me (John 16:14), and will take of (John 16:15).
All these activities are those of an intelligent person, not of an impersonal power or influence. An impersonal power does not teach, remind, testify, reprove, guide, speak, glorify, and communicate. In this connection it is notable that on His last night before His crucifixion, our Lord used the personal pronouns “him” and “himself” at least 20 times while speaking of the Holy Spirit.
Aside from Christ’s own words, the Scriptures report abundant activities of the Holy Spirit that testify to His personality. Lack of space forbids a full treatment of this subject.
These quotations are self-explanatory and simply demand that the Holy Spirit of whom the Scriptures speak, is a person who acts as a person. The idea that an impersonal power or influence answers to this description is preposterous.
In Romans 8:26, we are assured that “The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us.” Can an impersonal power or influence pray for me? Can the power of God pray to God? Can anything but a person pray for us? If words have meaning, then the Holy Spirit of whom the Bible speaks, is a distinct person, not a mere power or influence of God.
The Deity Of The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a divine person. He is very God, one with, and equal with the Father and the Son. This means that He is equally important with the Father and the Son. The overall picture leaves no doubt about the Spirit’s deity.
The Holy Spirit is presented as God. Reading all the references of the Scripture to the Holy Spirit certainly gives one the impression that His deity is a fact that is understood and needs no special argument. However, the following passages strongly support His deity:
The Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This is the name of God, given to us by the Son. This is His definition of the Godhead. All three persons are equal, which can only mean that if one is God, the other is the same God. There is but one name. There are not three gods, but one God, who exists in three persons. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. To conclude that one of the three is less than the other two is doing violence to the meaning of language and is a denial of the inspiration of Scripture.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…and the Spirit of God was hovering upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2). It is certainly significant that in the opening sentences of God’s revelation to man, the Holy Spirit is introduced as “the Spirit of God,” who is at work with God in the creation.
Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? …you have not lied to men, but to God” (Acts 5:3-4; cf. v. 9). The very strong implication is that the Holy Spirit to whom they lied, is God.
The New King James Version renders Paul’s testimony to the deity of the Holy Spirit.:
Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Cor. 3:17-18).
A literal rendering of the Greek would read: “Even as from Lord Spirit.” We find then that the Holy Spirit is called “the Lord” twice in this passage–at the beginning of verse 17, “Now the Lord is that Spirit,” and at the end of verse 18, “The Lord who is the Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit has the attributes of God. He possesses eternity (Heb. 9:14), is omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11), has omnipotence (Zech. 4:6), and is omnipresent (1 Cor. 6:19; Ps. 139:7).
The Holy Spirit performs works that only God can perform. The activities of the Spirit are many and include those that belong only to God. All the work that the Father does, as well as all that the Son does, is also done by the Holy Spirit. The only exceptions are those activities that demanded the incarnation of the Son, such as giving His life to accomplish man’s redemption.
The Holy Spirit took part in creation in that He “was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). We read that “by His Spirit He [God] adorned the heavens” (Job 26:13). The Holy Spirit creates.
The Holy Spirit generated the humanity of Christ. This is one of the mysteries of the Incarnation. We know that the Father sent the Son (1 John 4:14), but it was the Holy Spirit who actually generated the human body within the virgin, Mary. The Word of God is very specific and precise on the matter (Luke 1:34-35; Matt. 1:18-20).
The Holy Spirit regenerates (John 3:6) and sanctifies (1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13).
Sanctification is the work of God whereby the believer is set apart from sin unto God. This divine work has three aspects, relating to the past, the present, and the future, and is part of God’s wonderful salvation through Christ. Our past sanctification took place at the time of the New Birth, when God set us aside from sin to belong to Him. Our present sanctification is a present process whereby we are delivered from the power of sin while living as children of God in the midst of a sinful world. The future aspect of sanctification will take place at the time of the second coming of Christ when the believer will be forever delivered from the presence of sin. Please observe that this great work of God is said to be the work of the Father (John 17:17; Jude 1). It is the work of the Son (1 Cor. 1:2, 30). It is also the work of the Holy Spirit as we have seen before. The more we consider the work of the Spirit, the more we see that it is the work of God and that the three persons of the Godhead work in perfect unity and harmony, each accomplishing His particular part to complete the whole.
Putting it all together, we come to the only logical conclusion, that is, the Holy Spirit of whom the Bible speaks is a person who is God and who does the work of God.
Let us therefore not fail to yield our lives to the control of this wonderful Paraclete! — by Bernard N. Schneider
Adapted from The Holy Spirit and You, by Bernard N. Schneider (BMH Books 1978 out-of-print). All scripture references have been updated to the New King James Version.
This first appeared in the Fall issue of GraceConnect magazine, the publication for the people of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches. A downloadable pdf version of this issue is available by clicking here. It also may be read online at issuu.com. If you would like to receive the magazine delivered to you at no charge via U.S. Mail, click here to subscribe.