Theology: The Doctrine of God

How Do We Know That The Holy Spirit Is A Person?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Some cults, and even some modern-day evangelicals, teach that the Holy Spirit, though perhaps somehow "divine", is an impersonal force.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Some cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism, and even some modern-day evangelicals, teach that the Holy Spirit, though perhaps somehow "divine", is an impersonal force. But Scripture makes it quite clear that God the Holy Spirit is a person. It is vital for Christians to understand this truth.

The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as masculine; having the attributes of personality; doing works of personality; and engaging in interactions of personality. To seek to reinvent the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force is to deny the plain meaning of the words of the Bible.

Masculine Personality

The grammar of the Greek New Testament testifies to the personality of the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for "spirit" is pneuma, which is neuter in gender - neither masculine nor feminine. Normally, in Greek grammar, any word substituted for a neuter would also be neuter. But the human writers of Scripture consistently violate this standard rule of Greek grammar by substituting masculine nouns and the masculine pronoun (He, Him, His) for the neuter pneuma, rather than substituting the neuter (it), thus emphasizing the masculine personality of to pneuma tou theou, "the Spirit of God."

Attributes of Personality

Scripture declares the personality of the Holy Spirit in His attributes. He is an intellect (e.g., 1 Corinthians 2:10). He possesses all knowledge (1 Corinthians 2:11). God the Holy Spirit has a mind (Romans 8:27), sensibility (Ephesians 4:30), and a will (Acts 16:6-7, 1 Corinthians 12:11).

Works of Personality

Scripture also declares the personality of the Holy Spirit in His works. The Holy Spirit teaches the believer (Luke 12:12, John 14:26). He testifies of Christ (John 15:26). He guides believers into all truth (John 16:13). He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). He regenerates the believer (Ezekiel 36:25-27, John 3:6, Titus 3:5). He intercedes on behalf of believers (Romans 8:26). He commands and commissions believers (Acts 8:29, 13:2-4, 16:6).

Interactions of Personality

Scripture also declares the personality of the Holy Spirit by speaking of human actions as being done to Him. The Holy Spirit can be sinned against (Matthew 12:31-32). He can be grieved (Isaiah 63:10, Ephesians 4:30). He is spoken of as being resisted or opposed by the unbelieving (Acts 7:51). He can be blasphemed (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29-30). The Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3). The Holy Spirit can be obeyed (Acts 10:19ff). The Holy Spirit employs the personal pronoun "me" when speaking of Himself (Acts 13:2-3).

Vital Doctrine

To believe the Bible's teaching about the Trinity requires belief in the personality of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is not merely a technicality. It is essential Christian truth. To believe in the God of the Bible is to believe in the Trinity. To not believe in the Trinity is to not believe in the God of the Bible.

To believe in God the Holy Spirit is to believe in the One who is the Author of all Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21), the One who brought about the virgin birth of Christ (Matthew 1:20), the One who brings every believer to life in Christ (John 3:5-6, Titus 3:4-7), who lives in every believer (1 Corinthians 3:16), and instructs every believer in the true faith (1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

Any individual or church that denies or diminishes any person of the Trinity teaches a doctrine of God that is contrary to Scripture, and substitutes a false god. Any church that neglects the doctrine of the Trinity, or does not teach it in its fulness, robs its people of the essential understanding of the God they worship and serve and who indwells them, and places them in danger of falling into deeper error, and departure from the faith.

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