Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 10, 1964
NUMBER 31, PAGE 1-2b

The Personality Of The Holy Spirit

Gordon Wilson

There are those who think that the Holy Spirit is some kind of abstract influence emanating from God. However, the Bible teaches that He has influence, and that He uses it, just as the Father and the Son do. In Matthew 4:1, we read that Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted. Those who are sons of God in the gospel are said to be "led by the Spirit" (Romans 8:14). Since the Holy Spirit has this kind of leading power, or influence, it is obvious that He could not be merely an influence.

It should also be made clear that the Holy Spirit is not the word of God, but that He works through the word. Jesus was the Word made flesh, or the incarnate word, and the Holy Spirit worked through Him (John 3:34). The Spirit also works through the written word (II Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 4:12).

The Holy Spirit is not a glorified "it". He is always spoken of in the Bible by the personal pronoun "He". It is true that in the King James Version the pronoun "itself" is used in Romans 8:16, 26; but this is corrected in the Revised Version to "himself".

The Spirit A Person

That the Holy Spirit is a personal being is indicated by the fact that He possesses the attributes of a person. He has mind; that is, He thinks in a rational manner (Romans 8:27). He has knowledge; that is, an awareness of truth (I Corinthians 2:11). This knowledge is very comprehensive. The Holy Spirit can love and receive love (Romans 15:30). He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30); and He can be resisted (Acts 7:51).

That the Holy Spirit is a personal being is also seen in the fact that He has the powers which indicate personality. He can speak in an intelligible manner (I Timothy 4:1). This does not mean, of course, that He speaks in just the way we do. The Spirit has the power to brood (Genesis 1:2). He can seek out or search for things and ideas. (I Corinthians 2:10). The Holy Spirit has the power to forbid, which He more than once exercised (Acts 16:6).

Qualifies Of Divinity

Not only is the Holy Spirit a personality, but He is a Divine Person. He is in fact the third Person of the Godhead. This is shown by the fact that He has the qualities of Deity. The Holy Spirit is omniscient; that is He has Divine knowledge (I Corinthians 2:10). This passage plainly teaches that He enters into all Divine counsels. The Spirit is omnipotent; that is, He has plentitude of Divine power (Romans 15:19 for example). Omnipresence, or the Divine ability to be everywhere at once, belongs to the Holy Spirit (Psalms 139:7). The Holy Spirit is eternal. He is not a created being (Hebrews 9:14).

The Holy Spirit is mentioned in connection with the Father and the Son in many passages. He is thus seen to be one with them in the Godhead. Yet in many of these same passages each of the Divine Persons is distinguished from the others. All three are at the baptism of Jesus, but are distinct, with Jesus coming out of the water, the Spirit descending in the form of a dove, and the Father speaking out of heaven (Matthew 3:16, 17). All three are mentioned in the promise of Jesus to His apostles, but are distinct (John 19:16, 17). All are referred to in the command of Jesus when He gave the great commission, still they are distinct (Matthew 28:19).

The Source Of The Spirit

The Bible teaches that the Word, or Son, is begotten of the Father, while the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (John 15:26). Yet all three are eternal. How can this be?

"Imagine two books lying on a table one on top of the other. Obviously the bottom book is keeping the other one up — supporting it . . . Let's call the underneath book A and the top one B. The position of A is causing the position of B. Got it? Now let's imagine that both books have been in that position for ever and ever. In that case B's position would always have been resulting from A's position. But all the same, A's position would not have existed before B's position." (C. S. Lewis, "Beyond Personality").

Of course the Father and the Son are not things, like books, but are Persons. Still the illustration will help us to understand how one is the result, begotten, of the other and yet both have always existed. Now where does the Holy Spirit come in?

"The union between the Father and the Son is such a live concrete thing that this union itself is also a Person. I know that's almost inconceivable, but look at it this way. You know that among human beings, when they get together in a family, or a club, or a trades union, people talk about the 'spirit' because the individual members, when they're together, do really develop particular ways of talking and behaving which they wouldn't have if they were apart. It is as if a sort of communal personality came into existence. Of course it isn't a real person: it is only rather like a Person. But that's just one of the differences between God and us. What grows out of the joint life of the Father and the Son is a real Person, is in fact the Third of the three persons who are God." (C. S. Lewis, "Beyond Personality").

Of course the Father and the Son are not things, like the Holy Spirit, has always existed too. Thus, the Father begot the Son eternally, and the Spirit proceeded f r o m them eternally.

How The Godhead Is Related

We believe that there are three Persons who are one God. In what way is this possible?

"Now space, at least as far as we can comprehend it, consists of exactly three dimensions, each equally important and absolutely essential. There would be no space, no reality, if there were only two dimensions. Three distinct dimensions exist — yet each comprises the whole of space. Yet, there is just one space. Note that one does not add the length and 'breadth and width, but to get the cubical contents of any certain confined space, rather multiplies them together. Analogously, the mathematics of the Trinity is not 1 1 1, but 1x1x1= 1." (Henry Morris, "The Bible And Modern Science").

Of course the doctrine of the Godhead is not actually subject to a mathematical formula, though this may help us to understand the matter. Perhaps the following example will help too:

"The human experience of love is not less real because it holds at its heart a mystery that turns mathematics into a mockery. A mother, for example, has three sons. She writes a letter to each one of them. She ends each letter by saying, 'I send you all my love!' And she means it. Let a mathematician try to square that!" (Paul Rees, "Stand Up In Praise To God.") Humans can never, limited as our finite minds are, completely understand the interrelations of the Godhead, but we can grasp its reasonableness and believe it. The best Scriptural example is in John 17:21, 22. Here the Lord says that the Godhead is "as" the oneness of believers; i.e., many persons yet only one body. Again, even this Bible example can only help us to dimly perceive the truth.

The three Persons of the Godhead are presented in the Bible as coordinates in the work of creation (Revelation 4:11; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13). They are coordinates in the work of redemption (Matthew 28:19). The three Divine Persons are coordinates in the work of blessing humanity (2 Corinthians 13:14).

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