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Doctrine of the Holy Spirit - The Personhood of the Holy Spirit Print E-mail
Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

I.  Introduction:

 Let me begin tonight by explaining what I mean by ‘personhood of the Spirit.’ We touched on this a bit last week in our discussion, but how would you answer these questions: is the Holy Spirit a power, or the power of God? Is the Holy Spirit the love of God? Is the Holy Spirit a person or a thing? To put it in terms of English pronouns: is the Holy Spirit an ‘it’ or a ‘he’? The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is the third Person of the Trinity. Thus, He is not an ‘it’ or an idea or a force or whatever. No, He is a person. Likewise, the issue of personhood also refers to the fact that the Holy Spirit is a separate Person within the Godhead. The Spirit is not the Father and the Spirit is not the Son. It is these ideas of personhood that we want to consider tonight.

II. The Baptist Faith and Message:

The Baptist Faith and Message does not explicitly affirm the personhood of the Spirit. Yet, it identifies the Holy Spirit as a ‘He’ no less than 9 times and also refers to ‘His presence.’ Likewise, in its description of what the Holy Spirit does we see numerous activities of a person and not a thing (‘inspired’, ‘enables’, ‘exalts’, ‘convicts’, ‘calls’, etc.). Thus, even though it is not explicit in the statement, surely the personhood of the Spirit is implied. Also, we see the implication that the Spirit is not the Father or the Son. No, the Spirit ‘exalts Christ,’ the Son and ‘His presence in the Christian is the guarantee that God (the Father) will bring the believer into the fullness of the stature of Christ (the Son).’ So we see the Personhood of the Spirit here.

III. Passages:

A. John 14:26 This verse teaches the personhood of the Spirit in at least three ways. First, Jesus calls the Spirit the Helper, which is a term that is usually applied to a person who helps another person. Second, the parallelism in the verse implies that the Spirit is a person just as the Father is a person and the Son is a person. Third, Jesus says that the Spirit will teach, which is an activity that is done by a person.

B. John 15:26 Once again the Spirit is called the Helper and is paralleled with the Father and the Son. Also, John uses a masculine pronoun (Greek: ekeinos) to refer to the Spirit. This is somewhat odd grammatically because the Greek term for Spirit (pneuma) is neuter and would normally receive a neuter pronoun (ekeino). John would seemingly only do this if he understood the Spirit to be a person. We should also note the distinctness of the three Persons: Son sends the Spirit, Spirit proceeds from the Father, Spirit bears witness about the Son.

C. John 16:7, 13-14 In verse 7 we see again the title Helper being applied to the Spirit and John once again uses a masculine pronoun (auton) to refer to the Spirit. In verses 13-14 we see that the Spirit will guide, speak, hear, declare, glorify, and take, all things normally done by a person. And once again the masculine pronoun (ekeinos) is used of the Spirit.

D. Acts 5:3 Peter accuses Ananias of lying to the Spirit, which is something that is only done to a person.

E. Romans 8:14, 26 Paul speaks of the Spirit leading and helping believers as well as interceding on their behalf. Again these are actions that are done by a person.

F. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 The Spirit has knowledge which is a characteristic of a person. A force or a power does not have knowledge.

G. Ephesians 4:30 Paul warns against grieving the Holy Spirit which implies that the Spirit has emotions and can be grieved.

IV. Implications (Ways the Bible teaches the Personhood of the Spirit):

A. The Bible speaks of the Spirit’s work as the works of a person. Jesus refers to the Spirit as the Helper, the One who will come to aid the followers of Christ. He has come to teach us, lead us, help us, intercede for us, and more. These are the actions of a person and not a force or a power. Thus, in this way we see that the Spirit is indeed a person.

B. The Bible distinguishes between the three persons of the Trinity. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father. We see this through the different roles that each member of the Trinity plays in the works of God. For example, as we said last week, the Father planned our redemption, the Son accomplished our redemption, and the Spirit applies our redemption. In the above passages where the Father, Son, and Spirit are paralleled, one must deny the personhood of the Father and the Son to deny the personhood of the Spirit.

C. The Bible refers to the Spirit as a person. In one sense, John disobeys the rules of Greek grammar to avoid referring to the Spirit as an ‘it’. Instead, he refers to the Spirit as a ‘he’, which demonstrates his belief in the personhood of the Spirit. We too must be careful with our language when we refer to the Spirit. We do not want to call the Spirit an it or a thing. No, He is a He. He is a person. John’s language makes this clear.

D. The Bible attributes to the Spirit characteristics of a person. Only a person can be grieved. You can only lie to a person. Knowledge is something only a person can possess. Thus, these characteristics of the Spirit point to His personhood.

V. Conclusion:

We saw last week that the Spirit is divine. He is fully God. We have considered this week that the Spirit is a person. He is not a thing or a power or a force. The Bible teaches us these truths about the Person of the Spirit: He is divine and He is a unique Person within the Trinity. With these truths in mind about His Person, we can now move to the issue of the work of the Spirit, which is where we will pick up next week, Lord willing. Yet, even in what we have seen already, I hope and pray that our understanding of the Spirit would lead us to worship and exalt Him for who He is. Amen.

~ William Marshsll ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 26 January 2009 )

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