The Personality of the Holy Spirit

I would agree with Gordon Fee that for many Christians, the Holy Spirit is “a gray, oblong blur.” In contrast to the ambiguity that exists in much of Christianity regarding the Spirit, the Bible clearly affirms the personal nature of the Spirit of God. Far from being an impersonal force or power, the Spirit is the personal God of Scripture through whom the Father and Son carry out their work.

One of the first references to the personality of the Spirit occurs in 2 Samuel 23:2 when David says, “The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.” Here David declares that though he is the one who is literally speaking, it is the Spirit who is speaking through him so that his words are the very words of the Spirit. Another Old Testament example of the Spirit speaking is Ezekiel 3:24, “But the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and he spoke with me and said to me, ‘Go, shut yourself within your house.’” While some scholars assert that it is God speaking in this verse and not the Spirit, this creates a false dichotomy between God and the Spirit since the Spirit is equated with God’s presence (Psa 139:7; Isa 63:14).

As the Spirit spoke through David, so too Jesus promises that the Spirit will speak through believers in times of persecution (Matt 10:20). The Spirit in John 16:13 not only hears and communicates Christ’s will to the disciples, but also declares to them what is to come. Throughout Acts, Luke reveals that the Spirit has knowledge of future events through David’s prophecy concerning Judas (1:16), Agabus’ prophecy of a great famine (11:28), and the Spirit speaking through Agabus regarding Paul’s imprisonment (21:11). Additionally, there are several places in Acts where the Spirit speaks in an audible voice such as when the Spirit tells Philip, “Go over and join this chariot” (8:29). The Spirit tells Peter about the men who are looking for him (10:19-20), speaks and chooses individuals for missionary work (13:2), tells Paul about his future afflictions (20:23), and spoke through Isaiah the prophet (28:25-27).

In Paul’s letters, the Spirit cries out “Abba! Father!” (Gal 4:6), and says that in the future false teachers will arise teaching ascetic rigorism (1 Tim 4:1). Hebrews 3:7 reveals that the Spirit spoke through the Psalmist as he wrote Psalm 95. Throughout the book of Revelation, the Spirit speaks to John and the churches (Rev 2:7; 3:6; 14:13; 22:17). What is significant is that when the Spirit speaks in Revelation 14:13, it is preceded by another “voice from heaven” which alludes to God himself speaking (Matt 3:17; John 12:28; Rev 18:4). Both the Bride of Christ and the Spirit proclaim the gospel (Rev 22:17). The Spirit was also active in inspiration through carrying along the authors of Scripture as they spoke (2 Pet 1:19-21). Since it was by the Spirit that the biblical authors wrote, it is God the Spirit who breathes out Scripture so that it is the very breath of God himself (2 Tim 3:16). Even the Jehovah’s Witnesses who teach that the Spirit is only an active force believe that Satan is personal because he speaks:

“Can an unintelligent ‘force’ carry on a conversation with a person? Also, the Bible calls Satan a manslayer, a liar, a father (in a spiritual sense) and a ruler. . . . Only an intelligent person could fit all those descriptions” (Awake!, Dec. 8, 1973).

The utter inconsistency of affirming the personality of Satan since he speaks, while denying the personality of the Spirit, even though he likewise speaks, only demonstrates the depths of unregenerate man’s depravity and capacity for self-deception.

The following chart outlines the Spirit’s work and personal nature in Scripture:

1. Speaks Ezek 3:24; 11:5; John 16:13-14; Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2-4; 20:23; 28:25-27; Gal 4:6; 1 Tim 4:1; Heb 3:7; Rev 2:7; 3:6; 14:13; 22:17
2. Speaks through Inspiration 2 Sam 23:2; Matt 10:19-20; 22:43; Acts 1:16; 11:28; 21:11; 28:25-27; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21
3. Knows the Future John 16:13-14; Acts 1:16; 11:28; 20:23; 21:11; 1 Tim 4:1
4. Can be Sinned Against Isa 63:10; Matt 12:31-32; Acts 5:3-4, 9; 7:51; Eph 4:30; Heb 10:29
5. Associated with Personality Isa 48:16; Matt 28:19; John 14:16, 26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11; Acts 5:32; 15:28; 2 Cor 13:14; Eph 2:18; 1 John 4:4; Rev 14:13; 22:17
6. Deity Implies Personality Ps 139:7-10; Isa 40:13-14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor 3:16-18; 6:16; Heb 3:7-11; 9:14; 10:15-17
7. Teaches Neh 9:20, 30; Isa 11:2; Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 16:13-14; 1 Cor 2:10-13
8. Bears Witness John 15:26; Acts 5:32; Rom 8:16; Heb 10:15-17
9. Intercedes for Rom 8:26-27
10. Active in Salvation John 3:3-6; 6:63; 16:7-11; Rom 8:11, 14, 16; 2 Cor 3:6, 18; Gal 5:18, 22-23; Eph 1:13; 2 Thess 2:13; Heb 10:15-17
11. Sovereign John 3:8; Acts 13:2-4; 15:28; 16:6-7; 20:28; 1 Cor 12:9-11
12. Glorifies Christ John 16:13-14
13. Mind and Desires Rom 8:26-27; Gal 5:17
14. Personal Knowledge of John 14:17
15. Loves Rom 5:5; 15:30; Gal 5:22
16. Use of Masculine Pronoun John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8, 13-14
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