Without a doubt the Holy Spirit is the most misunderstood member of the Trinity. Often, because of such misunderstandings, false teachings will arise concerning Him. The Bible though, is quite clear in what it teaches concerning the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is neither an “it,” a “thing,” or a mere “influence.” The Bible teaches that the Spirit is a Person having the characteristics of personality, not some impersonal force.
Enns defines personality “as possessing intellect, emotion, and will.”1 The distinguishing marks of personality are self-consciousness and freedom. Arius was one who denied the personality of the Holy Spirit and his teachings have continued even to the present day through the teachings and beliefs of pseudo-Christian cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. What is some of the evidence we have that demonstrates that the Holy Spirit has personality?
(1) His attributes – intellect (1 Cor.2:10-11), knowledge (1 Cor. 2:11), mind (Rom. 8:27; Eph. 1:17), Emotions (Eph. 4:30), will (Acts 16:6).
(2) His works – He teaches (John 14:26), He testifies (John 15:26), He convicts (John 16:8), He regenerates (cf. Ezek. 36:25-27; Titus 3:5), He commands (Acts 13:2).
(3) His ascriptions – His to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-21), He can be insulted (Heb. 10:29), He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), He can be resisted (Acts 7:51).
(4) His designation – Ryrie states, “The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma…and it is a neuter gender word. Proper grammar teaches us that when a pronoun is substituted for a noun it must be of the same gender as the noun, but this is not always the case when pronouns are substituted for the word Spirit. In John 16:13-14, for instance, the pronoun ‘he’…is masculine. The same happens in Ephesians 1:14 where the word translated which is actually a masculine pronoun who. These are instances of bad grammar but excellent theology, for they show that the Spirit is not a neuter thing but a definite person.”2
The deity of the Holy Spirit and the doctrine of the Trinity are clearly bound together. It is obviously impossible to believe in the triunity of God if one denies the deity of the Spirit. To deny His deity is to deny the Trinity, and the denial of these will also inadvertently lead to the denial of other fundamentals such as the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
So what evidence does the Bible present for the deity of the Holy Spirit?
(1) His attributes – Omniscience (1 Cor. 2:10-12), Omnipresence (Ps. 139:7-10; John 14:17), Omnipotence (Job 33:4), Eternity (Heb. 9:14), truth (John 14:17).
(2) His works – regeneration (John 3:5-6), creation (Ps. 104:30), intercession (Rom. 8:26), generating Christ (Matt. 1:20).
(3) His titles/names – Paul referred to the Spirit as being God (Acts 5:3-4), Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11), Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:11), Lord (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
(4) His association with the Father and the Son – (2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; Matt. 28:19).
Clearly the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is as divine as the Father and the Son. As the third Person in the Godhead, He is worthy of our praise and worship and of the glory that is the Father’s and the Son’s. His deity is relevant to our spiritual life and to His ability to carry out His ministry in our lives.
The Representations of the Holy Spirit
We will briefly discuss the various representations of the Holy Spirit. These representations help portray His Person and work. They are categorized as representations even though they are identified as types, illustrations, emblems, or symbols.
Clothing (Luke 24:49), dove (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32), pledge ((2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:14), fire (Acts 2:3), oil (Zech. 4:1-14), seal (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; 4:30), water (John 7:37-39), wind (John 3:8).
The Work of the Spirit
This has to do with His work in relation to the universe. While Scripture does teach that the Son created all things, there are a number of references that indicate that the Spirit did have a part in the work of creation. The references include His part in regard to the creation of man (Job 33:4) and animals (Ps. 104:30). Job 26:13 tells us that the Spirit participated in “garnishing the heavens” and according to Gen. 1:2, in the restoration of the earth.
In Revelation and Illumination
This is His work in relation to Scripture. Although the central theme of the Bible is Jesus Christ, the Bible’s inspiration is by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21; 2 Sam. 23:2, 3; Acts 1:16; 28:25; John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10; 1 Tim. 4:1).
He is also the illuminator of Scripture. It is that ministry of the Holy Spirit in which He helps Christians understand the truth of Scripture. Our minds are enlightened and the text of Scripture becomes clear to the believer.
In the Incarnation
This is His work in relation to Christ. There are several ministries of the Spirit in reference to Christ that will be briefly mentioned here.
(1) The Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus after being conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:35).
(2) Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:18; John 1:32) which empowered Jesus for service for God (Acts 10:38).
(3) Christ was filled and led by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1; John 3:34; Isa. 42:1).
(4) The Spirit empowered Christ to perform miracles ((Matt. 12:28).
(5) It was through the “eternal Spirit” that Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice (Heb. 9:14).
(6) After His death, Christ was “made alive by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18), a reference to the Spirit’s work in Christ’s resurrection.
(7) It is the Spirit who causes the Church, the Bride of Christ, to yearn for the return of Christ (Rev. 22:17).
This is the Spirit’s work in relation to the world. John 16:8-11 tells us that the Spirit is the One who brings conviction to the world. Ryrie states, “Thus the convicting work of the Spirit is the placing of the truth of the Gospel in a clear light before the unsaved person so he acknowledges it as truth whether or not he receives Christ as personal Saviour…What truth is it that He makes clear? It is the truth about sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8 ff.).”3 This conviction is of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.
This is the Spirit’s work in relation to the repentant sinner. Unger states that regeneration is “The spiritual change wrought in man by the Holy Spirit, by which he becomes the possessor of a new life.”4 Warfield states that regeneration is “a radical and complete transformation wrought in the soul (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) by God the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; Eph. 4:24), by virtue of which we become ‘new men’ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10), no longer conformed to this world (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9), but in knowledge and holiness of the truth created after the image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; Rom. 12:2).”5 Titus 3:5 speaks of the Spirit’s work of regeneration. In this passage it refers to the new birth. It is the impartation of God’s life to those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior (cf. John 1:12, 13; 3:5, 6).
This is the Spirit’s work in relation to the Christian. Enns states, “Sanctification comes from the Greek verb meaning ‘to set apart.’ It is used in two ways: (1) the believer is positionally sanctified; he stands sanctified before God; (2) the believer grows in progressive sanctification in daily spiritual experience.” As a person receives Christ as their Lord and Savior, that person is sanctified or set apart for God (John 10:36). Sanctification is also the daily process by which the Spirit, for the rest of the person’s life, is conforming the believer to the image of Christ (John 17:17; 1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 13:12). Positional and practical sanctification are the work of the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:2), He baptizes the believer (1 Cor. 12:13), cleanses (Eph. 5:26), indwells the believer (1 Cor. 6:19; 1 John 2:27), produces fruit (Gal. 5:22-23), fills the believer (Eph. 5:18), and seals (Eph. 4:30).
1 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), 245.
2 Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine (Chicago: Moody, 1972), 68-69.
3 Ibid., 75.
4 Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody, 1988), 1070.
5 Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical and Theological Studies, 351.
6 Enns, 646.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.