A recent survey by LifeWay Research, as reported in Facts & Trends magazine, reveals that 59 percent of American evangelicals believe the Holy Spirit is a force, not a personal being, and another 10 percent are not sure.
This lack of understanding of the divine and personal nature of the Spirit is more at home in counterfeit forms of Christianity like the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, whose adherents are known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Our JW friends promote a “holy spirit” that is neither personal nor divine. A teaching guide called Aid to Bible Understanding explains, “The Scriptures themselves unite to show that God’s holy spirit is not a person but is God’s active force by which he accomplishes his purpose and executes his will.”
Some JWs liken the “holy spirit” to electricity – a powerful, unseen force under the sovereign control of Jehovah.
But is that truly the Holy Spirit of the Scriptures? Or does the Bible present a Holy Spirit who is personal, divine, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son?
Let’s explore two simple truths from Scripture.
The Spirit is divine
First, the Bible clearly establishes the deity of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the triune Godhead.
The Bible uses the words “Holy Spirit” and “God” interchangeably. We find a classic example in Acts 5, where Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of property and bring a portion of the proceeds to the church while claiming to have contributed the full amount.
Peter rebukes Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3) and then, in the next verse, tells Ananias he has not lied to men, but to God.
The apostle Paul uses “Holy Spirit” and “God” interchangeably as well. In 1 Cor. 3:16 he calls Christians “God’s sanctuary,” and then in 1 Cor. 6:19 he says our bodies are “a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit.”
It is the divine Holy Spirit who inhabits the temple of believers’ bodies.
In addition, the Bible ascribes the same divine attributes to the Spirit as it does to the Father and the Son. To cite just a few examples, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent (Luke 1:35); omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11); omnipresent (Ps. 139:7); eternal (Heb. 9:14); and sovereign (John 3:8; 1 Cor. 12:11).
The Spirit is the fullness of the Godhead acting upon humans, convicting the lost of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11), and guiding believers into all truth (John 16:13). He is the Author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:21). The Father sent Him into the world in the Son’s name (John 14:26). He dwells within believers (John 14:17), fills them (Acts 4:31), and confirms that we belong to God (Rom. 8:16).
We also might note that the Spirit demonstrates His deity by doing what only God can do. For example, He creates (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30) and imparts new life (Joel 2:28; John 3:5-8; Acts 2:17).
Finally, the New Testament witnesses that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal agents in baptism (Matt. 28:19-20), salvation (Eph. 1:3-14; 2:18), the distribution of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-6), and even a benediction (2 Cor. 13:13).
The Spirit is a person
The second Scriptural truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person.
In Greek, “spirit” is a neuter noun, meaning you would expect a neuter pronoun to go with it. However, Jesus and the New Testament writers consistently call the Spirit “He” or “Him” by using a masculine pronoun.
Jesus, who never refers to the Spirit as an “it,” calls the Spirit “another Counselor,” with the Greek word allos meaning “another of the same kind.” As Jesus is a divine person who comforts His followers, so is the Spirit (John 14:16).
Further, the Spirit is described in personal terms. He testifies (John 15:26); guides (John 16:13); glorifies Jesus (John 16:14); decides (Acts 15:28); prevents (Acts 16:6-7); appoints (Acts 20:28); intercedes (Rom. 8:26); speaks (John 16:13; Rev. 2:7); and is self-aware (Acts 10:19-20).
He can be blasphemed (Matt. 12:31-32); lied to (Acts 5:3-4); grieved (Eph. 4:30); and insulted (Heb. 10:29).
In short, the Holy Spirit has the same divine and personal attributes as the Father and the Son. As such, we owe Him the same honor and worship as the other members of the Trinity.
Our Jehovah’s Witness friends may contend that the Bible never calls Him “God the Spirit,” but that is an argument from silence, refuted convincingly by the Holy Spirit’s self-revelation in the Book He authored. ν