We serve one God in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is divine. This includes the Holy Spirit. He is not separate from the Father and the Son but is sent by them to work in the world and to work particularly in the lives of Jesus’ disciples.
The Deity of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is God. In the New Testament He is called:
- The Spirit of God (Matt. 3:16)
- The Spirit of the Lord (Luke 4:18)
- The Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18)
This last point from the Apostle Paul is important. Throughout Scripture Lord is applied to the Father and the Son. Paul declares that the Holy Spirit is God too. He is of the same essence as the other two members of the Trinity.
We also see different perfections of God possessed by the Holy Spirit.
- Eternal (Hebrews 9:14). The Holy Spirit always has been and always will be. He possesses God’s perfection of eternity.
- Truth (John 14:17). Jesus said the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. Earlier in the same chapter Jesus said He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). Here in verse 17 Jesus says the same is true of the Spirit. If Jesus, the Son of God, is truth and the Holy Spirit is truth then the Holy Spirit is God.
- Omnipotence (Romans 15:19). Paul saw the work of the Holy Spirit in His ministry to the Gentiles as the Spirit worked signs and wonders to confirm the truth Paul taught.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
The reality that the Holy Spirit is God is, perhaps, easier for us to grasp than that He is a person. We struggle with this because we rarely think of God in this way. After all, as the catechism says, “God is a spirit and does not have a body like men.”
The word spirit may throw us off. When we hear the word spirit the first thing we think of, most likely, is not a person. Spirit sounds like something more akin to “the force” in the “Star Wars” movies and not a person. The reality is this is the way many Christians treat the Holy Spirit; He is seen as an “it” or a force or mainly power and not a person.
Ligonier Ministries recent State of Theology survey confirms this, it revealed that 31% of those who identified as Evangelical strongly agreed with the statement, “The Holy Spirit is a force but is not a personal being.”
What does Scripture mean when it says that the Holy Spirit is a person? How does Scripture define personhood?
Scripture identifies the personhood of the Holy Spirit in His intellect, will, and affections.
The Holy Spirit’s Intellect
First, we see the Holy Spirit’s personhood through His intellect.
Scripture reveals that the Holy Spirit has a mind (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). Because the Holy Spirit has the mind of God, He can counsel and give people wisdom (Isaiah 11:2).
He is the Spirit of truth therefore He inspired the authors of Scripture to record truth (1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:21) and He gives truth to Jesus’ disciples (John 14:17, 26). The Holy Spirit is a teacher (Luke 12:12).
The Holy Spirit’s Will
The Holy Spirit has a will. In Acts 16:6 Luke records that Paul and his missionary team were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” The Holy Spirit had a different plan for Paul (Acts 16:9-10) His will was for them to go to Macedonia.
1 Corinthians 12:11 says, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” Spiritual gifts are important for the life of the church, but the Holy Spirit is the one who distributes them according to His will. Whatever gifts a person or a church has it is because that was the will of the Spirit for them.
The Holy Spirit possesses the ability to do what He wants; He has a will.
The Holy Spirit’s Affections
Finally, the Holy Spirit has affections. He can feel. He is not driven by His affections (emotions), but He does feel them.
The most prominent affection we are familiar with is that the Holy Spirit can grieve. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)
When we do not live in the way Paul describes in Eph. 4:25-32 we grieve the Spirit. Isaiah 63:10 helps us understand this, “But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.” Our sin is an act of rebellion against our Heavenly Father and it grieves the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit can also be joyful (1 Thessalonians 1:6) and insulted (Hebrews 10:29).
The Holy Spirit feels which is evidence that He is a person and not a force. A force does not feel but the Holy Spirit does.
The Holy Spirit has an intellect, will, and possesses affections. He is a person and not a force. Because of this He works personally in this world and in our lives.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
How does the Holy Spirit work in this world and how does He particularly work in the lives of Jesus’ disciples?
First, The Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son (John 15:26) to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-10). The main sin the Holy Spirit convicts the world of is not believing in Jesus, the Messiah. He convicts the world about righteousness because Jesus is not here on earth but in Heaven. Jesus was a witness against the world concerning righteousness during His ministry on earth and He sent the Holy Spirit to do the same. The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning judgment because in Christ’s atonement the ruler of this world, Satan, was judged and so will all those who follow him.
Second, we see the Holy Spirit’s personal work in the lives of Jesus’ disciples in three ways.
- Regeneration. Titus 3:5 says, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin through the preaching of the gospel and then He regenerates us. He is the one who takes our hearts of stone and gives us a heart of flesh (Jeremiah 31:33). It is the work of the Spirit that enables us to see Christ’s beauty. We love Christ because the Holy Spirit has made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- Illumination. This is the work of the Spirit to help us understand Scripture. Without His help we would never be able to live a life in Christ that pleases God. We would not be able to read Scripture and apply it to our lives as God would have us. Paul writes to Timothy and says, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” (2 Timothy 2:7) Timothy is the one who must think, but who gives the understanding? It is the Lord. It is only by the Spirit of the Lord that we can understand and apply God’s revelation in Scripture.
- Sanctification. Earlier we referenced 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” In one verse we have a beautiful picture of the Spirit’s work of sanctification in our lives. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes us like Jesus. He lives to make much of Jesus (John 16:14). The transformation that takes place in our lives as we behold the glory of Jesus takes place because of the Holy Spirit. Day-by-day He is making us more like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity who works personally to convict the world and bring sinners to Christ, He helps us understand Scripture, and He is the one making us more like Jesus.
- John 3:1-14, The Holy Spirit and Regeneration
- Why is it important that Jesus stressed being born again with words such as unless and must?
- Why could Nicodemus not comprehend what Jesus was saying?
- How many births does Jesus reference?
- What does verse 8 teach us about the Holy Spirit? (See also Titus 3:5)
- Who is responsible for making someone born again? (See also James 1:18)
- John 14:15-20
- What promise does Jesus make to His disciples?
- How will Jesus come to His disciples if He is not physically with them?
- John 16:7-24
- How is it the advantage of the disciples for Jesus to go away?
- What work does Jesus say the Holy Spirit will do? (16:8-11) How have you seen that work in your life?
- Who does the Holy Spirit glorify?
- How is our joy and the Holy Spirit connected?
- Romans 8
- What difference does the Holy Spirit make? (Rom. 8:1-7)
- According to Paul, where does our mind need to be if we want life and peace? (Rom. 8:6)
- Can you be a Christian without the Holy Spirit? Why or why not?
- How does the Holy Spirit work in putting to death the deeds of the flesh? (Rom. 8:12-14)
- What does the Holy Spirit do for us in our weakness? (Rom. 8:26)
- Galatians 5:16-23
- What contrasts does Paul make?
- What do the works of the flesh produce?
- What does the Holy Spirit produce?
- How do you know if you are walking by the Spirit?
- Who best exemplifies the fruit of the Spirit?