Personality of the Holy Spirit
How do you think of the Holy Spirit? This is a reasonable question, when asked reverently; for many think of Him as a holy influence from God or as some good quality of God.
To clarify our thinking, we must consider the fact of Godhead as presented in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, God reveals Himself in the unity of His being, although not without reference to the plurality of persons in the Godhead: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). Thus, the unity of Jehovah as Israel’s God is set over against the numerous false gods of surrounding nations. Nevertheless, we hear the same God say: “Let US make man in Our image” (Gen. 1:26); “Let US go down” (Gen. 11:7); “Who shall I send and who will go for US” (Isa. 6:8), a remarkable combination of the singular “I” and the plural “US.”
These indirect references to the blessed Trinity take on clarity and meaning in the New Testament, when, at the outset of Christ’s mission on earth, all three Persons are brought together and are seen working in unison for the redemption of men. The Son of God in humble guise accepts the Father’s program, and is immersed by John the Baptist before the multitudes at Jordan. The Holy Spirit descends in bodily shape like a dove upon Him, anointing Him for the work to which He is committing Himself in the baptism, while the Father speaks from Heaven about the One who is thus being baptized and anointed (Matt. 3:13-17).
Our first deduction, therefore, concerning the Holy Spirit must be that He is a Person and just as truly a person as the Father and the Son, despite the fact that our acquaintance with human personality clothed in a tangible, physical frame tends to modify our appreciation of the true personality of the Divine Spirit Who can exist with or without any such concrete form.
The Holy Spirit is credited with all the powers and activities of intelligent personality. Christ declared that when He would come, He would instruct the disciples, refresh their memories, testify of their Saviour, convince men of sin, and unfold the secrets of God — none of which could be said of a mere influence or attribute. It is noticeable also that in making all these pronouncements about the Comforter, the Lord Jesus refers to “He”, “Him”, “Himself”, and places Him on equality with Himself (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7-14). When He says “another Comforter”, Christ intends “another of the same sort”; that is, One Who can fill all those needful offices and perform all those gracious ministries that the personal presence of the Lord Jesus had meant to the Disciples. The Spirit of God is rightly said to be Christ’s only “Vicar” on earth, for He alone can do those things which Christ would do if physically present, and He alone can make Christ real to believing hearts.
It is unfortunate that on three occasions, the translators of our excellent Authorized Version have connected the name of the Holy Spirit with the pronoun “Itself”. This, of course, was a strict adherence to the laws of grammar, but not to simple reasoning. The word “spirit” is a neuter noun, and normally requires the neuter pronoun (itself); but since the name “Spirit” is applied to a living Person, the neuter significance is nullified, and a masculine pronoun (Himself) is required. The devout and intelligent reader of the New Testament will want to do honour to this blessed Person in both thought and speech.
The Word of God, moreover, teaches that not only is the Holy Spirit an intelligent Person, but that He is a Divine Person, having equality as well as union with the Father and the Son. His Name is used on equal terms with that of the other members of the Godhead in the baptismal formula of Matt. 28:19, “baptizing in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Similarly, His Name appears in the words of the Apostle’s benediction in 2 Cor. 13:24, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all.” The outstanding characteristic of each Person of the Trinity is beautifully expressed. The grace of condescension and sacrifice in Christ that interpreted the love of God can only be shared by us in the communion or partnership of the Holy Spirit. The inter-relation and inter-dependence of the offices of all three must be clear to the youngest Christian.
Whatever you may have thought of the passages already referred to, there is no room for doubt regarding the title given to the Spirit in 11 Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is that Spirit” and in verse 19, “The Lord the Spirit” (New Trans.) Again in Hebrews 9:14, He is named “the eternal Spirit.” It is not surprising then to find this Divine Person associated with the carrying out of God’s manifold purposes. As the “Executive of the Godhead”, He must needs be eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient; and all of these attributes to Deity are traceable to Him in the Scriptures. He who acted in the vast work of creation, brooded over earth’s desolation, and garnished the heavens, could He be otherwise than God? (Gen. 1:2. Job 26:13. Ps. 139:7).
And who can view the mighty operations of the Eternal Spirit in redemption and salvation without having the firm conviction of His Deity and Lordship brought home to the heart? Who can convey the life of God, eternal life, to souls dead in trespasses and in sins? Who can regenerate and place one in God’s family as a child of God, but the Spirit of Sonship whereby we cry “Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:4-6)? “This is the Word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit’, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Zech. 4:6).
In conclusion, let us think very practically about this gracious, loving, holy, and Divine Person. The knowledge that He resides within, will have a revolutionary effect upon mind and character, upon thought and action. Here is One Who can be blasphemed, resisted, or done despite to by the unsaved person; Who can be lied to (Acts 5:4), quenched (1 Thess. 5:19), or grieved (Eph. 4:30) by the child of God. Therefore, let those in whose hearts He dwells, cultivate acquaintance with Him in every spiritual exercise, in the teachings of the Word of God, and in service for the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us yield ourselves without reserve to His instruction, to His impulses, and to His leadings, that He may magnify Christ in and through us, whether it be by life or by death.