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Who or What is the Holy Spirit?

By Gary F. Zeolla

Jehovah's Witnesses believe:
. . . the holy spirit is not a person and it is not a part of a Trinity. The holy spirit is God's active force that he uses to accomplish his will. It is not equal to God but is always at his disposition and subordinate to him . . . . to a certain extent, it can be likened to electricity, a force that can be adapted to perform a great variety of operations (Should, pp. 20, 23).

Other religious groups have similar ideas about the Holy Spirit. But are these teachings true? Is the Holy Spirit an impersonal force lacking self- consciousness? Is IT just some kind of power source like electricity or the wind? Or is HE a self-conscious being, the Third Person of the Trinity?

The way to answer these questions is to investigate the Scriptures. What follows is a systematic, ten-point, Biblical defense of the full Personality and full Deity of the Holy Spirit.

 The Personality of the Holy Spirit Dove

In Acts 13:1-5, the Holy Spirit acts as a Person. He speaks to the leaders of the church at Antioch. He instructs them, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (v. 2). Notice the personal references "to Me" and "I." The Holy Spirit, along with the Antioch leaders, sends out the missionaries (vv. 3, 4).

Throughout the rest of the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is portrayed as a Person. He had inspired Scripture which had to be fulfilled (1:16). Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit (5:3). The Spirit bears witness to Jesus (5:32). Philip is instructed by the Spirit (8:28). The early believers are comforted by Him (9:31).

The Spirit tells Peter how to act towards the men He has sent (10:19f). Peter recounts to Cornelius what the Spirit had told Him (11:12). The decisions of the Jerusalem council are confirmed by the Holy Spirit (15:28).

The Holy Spirit forbids Paul to preach in Asia and Bithynai (16:6f). He testifies about the "chains and tribulations" awaiting Paul (20:23). Paul tells the elders of the church at Ephesus, ". . . the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to shepherd the church of God . . ." (20:28).

The Holy Spirit again prophesies of the problems about to befall Paul (21:11). And finally, Paul declares, "The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers . . ." (28:25).

The Holy Spirit exhibits personal traits elsewhere in the Bible. The Spirit "hovers" over the creation (Hebrew--rahap Gen 1:2, compare Deut 32:11). He is to send Israel's Redeemer (Isa 48:16).

Jesus promises His followers that the Spirit will speak for them when they are being persecuted (Matt 10:16-20). The Spirit will teach them what they should say (Luke 12:12).

The Spirit assures believers we are the children of God. He leads us, bears witness to us, and enables us to cry out "Abba, Father" (Rom 8:14-17). He intercedes for us before the Father (Rom 8:26). He also loves us and enables us to love God and others (Rom 5:5, 15:30).

The Spirit searches "the deep things of God" and knows them (1Cor 2:10f). He distributes spiritual gifts to all Christians "as He wills" (1Cor 12:11). And we can have "communion" or "fellowship" with the Holy Spirit (2Cor 13:14; Gr. koinonia).

Further, we can grieve the Holy Spirit (Isa 63:10; Eph 4:30). He instructs us as to what will happen "in the latter times" (I Tim 4:1). He witnesses to believers as to the perfection of the sacrifice of Jesus (Heb 10:14-17). He is insulted when people reject what Christ has done (Heb 10:29). As such, the Spirit commands people to accept the free offer of eternal life (Rev 22:17).

Masculine pronouns are used in reference to the Holy Spirit despite the fact that "Spirit" (Greek--pneuma) is neuter (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:8, 13f, Greek--ekeinos, literally, that One).

Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as "another Helper" (John 14: 16). "Another" in the Greek is allos. Greek scholar Joseph Thayer states, "Allos generally denotes simply a distinction of individuals." This usage is in contrast to a similar word Jesus could have spoken but did not--heteros (different). "Heteros involves the secondary idea of difference of kind" (Thayer, p. 243). Hence, since Jesus is a Person, the Holy Spirit must be One also.

In addition, the word rendered "Helper" (Greek--parakletos) is applied to Jesus in I John 2:1 where it is generally translated as "Advocate." Thayer writes in reference to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit being called parakletos," so of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension) . . ." (Thayer, p. 483). Only a Person can take the place of a Person.

See Acts 9:31 where the early church is said to be ". . . walking in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit." "Comfort" is the verb form of the noun parakletos (i.e.. parakleses).

Dove  The Deity of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is equated with God in several places in the Scriptures. Peter considers lying to the Holy Spirit to be the same as lying to God (Acts 5:3f). Paul calls the Spirit "the Lord" (2Cor 3:17). Interestingly, the Bible of Jehovah's Witnesses (the New World Translation) renders the phrase "Jehovah is the Spirit."

The Spirit distributes gifts to Christians "as He wills" (1Cor 12:11). But it is God who sets members in the Church "as He pleases" (1Cor 12:18). In addition, the Lord directs our "hearts into the love of God" (2Thes 3:5). Yet, "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).

Christians are the temple of God because the Spirit dwells in us (1Cor 3:16). Further, Paul prays for Christians to "be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19). But later, he commands us to "be filled with the Spirit" (Eph 5:18).

The Holy Spirit possesses the attributes of God. He is eternal (Heb 9:14), omnipresent (Ps 139:7-10), and omnipotent (Luke 1:35-37). He knows "the deep things of God" so He must also be omniscient (1Cor 2:10f).

The Holy Spirit does the works of God. Genesis states, "the LORD God formed man" (2:7). But Job proclaimed, "The Spirit of God has made me . . ." (Job 33:4). The Holy Spirit calls people to be missionaries and elders (Acts 13:2, 20:28). But Jesus tells us to pray for "the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest" (Matt 9:38).

Peter states that the Scriptures were written as people "were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2Pet 1:20f) even though Paul informs us that "All Scripture is God-breathed" (2Tim 3:16; MKJV). God gives The Revelation to Jesus, but is the Spirit who is speaking to the churches (Rev 1:1; 2:7).

And most importantly, God gives eternal life, although people must be "born of the Spirit" to be saved (1John 5:11; John 3:3-8). Further, God chooses us for salvation, and the Holy Spirit guarantees our inheritance (Eph 1:3-14).

The words of God are considered to be the words of the Holy Spirit. Compare the following sets of verses: Isa 6:9f; Acts 28:25-27; /Heb 10:15f; Jer 23,33f).Dove

In light of all of the preceding information, there is only one possible answer to the title of this article--the Holy Spirit is a Person who is God. As such, HE is able to give the believer comfort and direction in life. These things, a "force" could not possibly provide (see Rom 8:14; Acts 9:31).

Suggested Reading:

The links below are direct links to where the book can be purchased from Books-A-Million.

Graham. Billy. The Holy Spirit .
Lockyer, Herbert. All About the Holy Spirit .
Owen, John. The Holy Spirit . Abridged and made easy to read by R.K.J. Law.
Sproul, R.C. The Mystery of the Holy Spirit .
Zeolla, Gary F. Scripture Workbook .

Bibliography: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.
Should You Believe in the Trinity? New York: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1989.
Thayer, Joseph. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon . Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1981.

Who or What is the Holy Spirit? Copyright 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).

The above article originally appeared in Darkness to Light newsletter in 1992.
It was posted on this Web site in July 1996.

The Doctrine of the Trinity: The Basics
The Doctrine of the Trinity

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