The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

Donald Norbie

His Person

When we come to study the work of the Holy Spirit, we must first consider His Person. Who He is and what His attributes are will determine the extent and character of His work.

Who is this Holy Spirit of Whom we read so often in the Word of God?

First of all, He is a Person. Some would speak of the Spirit of Christ as a force, a motivating power among men, moving them to live more honourable lives. Actually, to such the Holy Spirit is only man’s spirit warmed by the example of Christ’s unselfishness and thus stimulating others to live better lives. However, the Scripture does speak of Him as a Person, a Living Being, not an attitude, or motive, or way of thought.

The personal pronoun is used of Him. In John 14:16,17 and 16:7-15 this is repeatedly emphasized. The neuter pronoun is not used although the Greek noun pneuma is a neuter noun. The Lord Jesus deliberately spoke of the Holy Spirit as a Person.

His personality is verified by the actions which are predicated of Him. Personality requires intelligence, reasoning powers. The Holy Spirit convicts the world (Jn. 16:8), teaches believers (Jn. 14:26), has thoughts (Rom. 8:27), and has complete knowledge of the things of God (1 Cor. 2:10,11).

Personality requires will, volition, the ability to make choices and decisions. The Spirit chooses men to serve God (Acts 13:2). Following this He leads these servants in their work (Acts 16:6-10). On one hand we see Him forbidding a course of action, on the other hand encouraging a different step. In the variety of spiritual gifts to the people of God the Holy Spirit is active, “dividing to every man severally as the will” (1 Cor. 12:11). Volition is stamped upon the activity of the Spirit.

Personality also requires emotion, the ability to feel and to be stirred. The Spirit of God loves (Rom. 15:30), is grieved by sin (Eph. 4:30), and can be insulted (Heb. 10:29). In His intense feeling for the people of God He intercedes “with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). Man’s emotions are like shoals compared with the ocean deeps of the Spirit’s vibrant feelings.

All of the above activities of the Spirit can only be affirmed of a Living Person. He is not merely an influence, or an impersonal motivating force for good in the world.

However, He is more than just a person; He is a Divine Person, Deity Itself. The Lord Jesus in promising the Spirit’s coming described Him as “another” (allos—of the same kind) Comforter (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit is placed by our Lord Jesus on the same level as Himself; there is no intimation that He is an inferior person. Christ speaks of Him as a Co-equal Who will carry on the work begun. In 11 Corinthians 13:14 He is placed on an equal footing with both the Father and the Son.

His various titles emphasize His Deity. He is the Holy Spirit and holiness is God’s very nature (1 Peter 1:16). He is the “Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29), the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), the “Spirit of glory” and the “Spirit of God” (1 Peter 4:14). Besides these He is called “the Lord the Spirit” (11 Cor. 3:18, A.S.V.), plainly giving Him the title of Deity. More than this, Peter states that lying to the Holy Spirit is lying to God (Acts 5:3,4). Paul refers to the word from the Lord in Isaiah 6:9,10 as being spoken by the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25).

Divine attributes mark Him out as Deity. He is the “Eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14}, omnipresent (Ps. 139:7), omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10), and able to create the heavens above and the earth beneath (Gen. 1:2; Job 26;13}. There is a seven-fold description of Him in Isaiah 11:2 which is the background for Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; and 5:6. Surely as one considers these and other Scriptures his heart must bow lowly in worship before “the Lord the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is One of the Three Divine Persons Who make up Deity. Here we embark upon deep waters and the human mind is unable to comprehend the mystery of God. It is well to be content with Scriptural terms and to be guarded in our attempts to harmonize and to systematize our knowledge of God. Man is not even able to understand completely the composition of man, how much less that of God. When the creature cannot be comprehended, how much less is the Creator capable of man’s comprehension.

The Old Testament stresses the unity of God (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:4; Is. 44:6). This was vitally necessary to counteract the polytheism of heathenism with its multitudes of gods fighting and warring against one another. However, this unity is not a unity of personality, because the plurality of Divine Persons is intimated in the Old Testament (Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Ps. 2:7,12; Is. 7:14, and 9:6). In the New Testament the work of the Three Persons of Deity is emphasized and differentiated. This is illustrated at the Lord’s baptism when He prays to the Father; the Father speaks from heaven; and the Holy Spirit descends to rest upon the Son (Luke 3:21, 22). This shows plainly that three persons are involved.

All three are co-equal in their Deity, although engaged in different aspects of the Divine work. This equality is seen in the Lord’s commission; baptism is to be in “the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The believer thus begins his public testimony identified with God.

The Three Persons likewise are called upon by Paul to continue the work of grace thus begun. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”

(2 Cor. 13:14). These passages and others clearly show that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equally God, share the Divine attributes, and merit the same honour and worship.

While there are Three, yet there is a perfect unity. They are one in essence, in love, in mind and purpose. There is no disharmony, no discord, but only perfect loving concord. What a contrast with the heathen deities, who hate, war, and act in a more confused, hateful way than the creatures who have made them.

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.
Holy, holy, holy, Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three persons, blessed Trinity!