IS THE HOLY SPIRIT A PERSON, OR JUST A FORCE?
We first read about the Holy Spirit in the Bible in Genesis 1:2, where He is identified as “the Spirit of God.” He is further known as “the Spirit of the LORD” or “the Spirit of Jehovah” (2 Samuel 23:2, ASV), “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), and “the Helper” or “the Comforter” (John 14:26, KJV). Without question, the Holy Spirit is the “one Spirit” about Whom we read in Ephesians 4:4.
Should we describe the Spirit of God as a person, or simply as a force? We are not asking if He is a human being – we know that the Holy Spirit is not a human and does not take on the form of a man. But, we ask again, is God’s Spirit a person, or a thing? Should we say “He” or “It” when we speak about the Holy Spirit and His activities?
A person possesses intelligence, will/desire/ purpose, moral consciousness, and individual existence. Since the Holy Spirit meets such criteria, then He is a person. Consider the message of Acts 13:2, where it is written, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Now separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2; emphasis here and elsewhere mine, rdc). In this verse, the use of the personal pronouns “me” and “I” to refer to the Spirit clearly show that He is a person.
Some in the religious world, however, do not accept this conclusion. For example, those that call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses” do not believe that the Holy Spirit is God. In their publications, they continuously write “holy spirit” (with small letters). The following three quotes from the writings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society clearly show what they think of God’s Spirit:
“While men were used to write the Bible, they did so under the direction of God’s powerful active force or holy spirit . . . so God’s invisible active force directed the writers of the Bible . . .” [The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, page 8].
“He accomplished the creation . . . by means of his holy spirit, which is his invisible active force” [The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, page 20].
“As for the ‘Holy Spirit,’ the so-called ‘third Person of the Trinity,’ we have already seen that it is not a person, but God’s active force (Judges 14:6)” [The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 24].
As these quotations indicate, the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” consider the Holy Spirit to be God’s invisible, active force. Per their doctrine, He is not a person, but simply a force. Their claims do not harmonize with the teaching of the Bible. Numerous attributes and actions of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the New Testament, and these help us to see that He is, indeed, a person. The Spirit of God has the capacity both to teach and remind: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit . . . he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit also has the power to testify, guide, and speak: “. . . the Spirit of truth . . . he will testify of me . . . when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth: for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak: and he will tell you things to come” (John 15:26; 16:13).
We further read that the Holy Spirit was to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). That does not sound like something that a mere force could do, does it? As we already noticed, the Holy Spirit gave the charge for Saul and Barnabas to leave Antioch and go on a mission which He had for them (Acts 13:2). A force of some sort might influence, but no mere force can give commands as the Spirit did.
In Romans 8:27, we read about “the mind of the Spirit,” and 1 Corinthians 12:11 declares that the Holy Spirit worked as He “wills.” With His mind, the Spirit searches and knows “all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10,11). This truth helps us understand that not only is it the case that the Holy Spirit is a person, but it is accurate to refer to Him as a divine person, seeing that He knows all things and possesses the qualities of God. The Holy Spirit is not God the Father, just as the Father is not the Son, but each of them possesses the unique qualities of God, and together they constitute what the Bible calls “the Godhead” (Acts 17:29). In view of all the facts that we have observed from the New Testament, we properly conclude that the Holy Spirit is a person and not merely a force or influence. The Holy Spirit is not a thing. Thus, we do not ask, “What is the Holy Spirit?,” but rather, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” We do not talk about what “It” is or does, but what “He” is or does.
— Roger D. Campbell
TRUTH is published monthly by the Klang church of Christ in order to help educate, edify, encourage, and equip the saints of God.