When it comes to the Holy Spirit often one issue is in seeing the Holy Spirit as a person. The issue I think is that our definition of “person” is such that to be a person one needs a corporeal body, a body that one can touch and feel. However this is not necessarily true since it is certain aspects, or attributes, that make someone a person. For example a corpse is a body that you could touch and feel, if you wanted to, but one does not usually see a corpse as a person.
The primary attributes that make up a person are: mind, emotion and will. With regards to emotions some hold that God is “impassible”, has no emotions. Personally I find it hard to simply take the vast number of passages that speak of God and emotions and set them aside as anthropomorphisms. I think the desire to call God “impassible” in part comes from seeing where our emotions come from and lead to as humans. Our emotions are driven by our nature but it is not pure so our emotions are an issue. But, I find no issue in saying God has perfect emotions since His emotions are driven by His perfect nature.
So what makes the Holy Spirit a person?
Again, the primary attributes that make up a person are: mind, emotion and will so we will look at some verses that speak to these in relation to the Holy Spirit along with others that show the personhood of the Spirit.
1) 1 Cor 2:10 shows intellect (mind)
“these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”
2) Romans 8:27 speaks of the mind of the spirit
“And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
3) Eph 4:30 speaks to the emotions of the Holy Spirit
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
4) 1 Cor 12:11 speaks to the will of the Spirit
“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
5) As mentioned in the above the Holy Spirit has a relationship with others
6) John 15:26 speaks to the Spirit bearing witness of Christ and the word used is also used to describe the disciples’ testifying about Christ in John 15:27.
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
7) This concept of bearing witness is also seen in Rom 8:16
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”
8) In John 14:26; 15:26 (see above) & 16:13-14 the masculine pronoun He (ekeinos) is used as it would be for a person. Usually in Greek the word spirit (pneuma) is neuter and not masculine.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” ~ John 14:26
“ When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” ~ John 16:13-14
9) In Acts 5 we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira that shows how they lied to the Holy Spirit and you usually do not lie to an impersonal force.
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?” ~ Acts 5:3
“But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."” ~ Acts 5:9
10) Rom 8:26 – Shows the Holy Spirit interceding on a personal basis
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
11) As already seen; personal activities and actions are attributed to the Holy Spirit as in 1 Cor 2:10-11; Acts 16:6-7; and even as speaking as in Acts 8:29; 13:1-2
“these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” ~ 1 Cor 2:10-11
And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. ~ Acts 16:6-7
“And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." ~ Acts 8:29
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." “ ~ Acts 13:2
We can see in the verses above that not only is the Holy Spirit evident in scripture the Holy Spirit is also spoken of as a person. Obviously a person that acts and is decidedly different than you or I but still possess the attributes of personhood.
In the next part we will look at whether scripture refers to all three persons as God.
Doctrine of the Trinity Series:
Sermon Series on The Doctrine of the Trinity: Part 1 and Part 2
(all verses used are from the ESV unless stated otherwise)