The Holy Spirit is not an “it”: The Person and Deity of the Holy Spirit

Well I had yet ANOTHER visit from the Jehovah’s witnesses this week if you can believe it. Only this time since I was preparing to preach on the person and eternal deity of the Holy Spirit I also said a few words about the Holy Spirit in addition to defending the eternal deity of Jesus Christ. But once again this proves that we need to be prepared to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, especially around this time of year, because I have noticed that Jehovah’s Witnesses are big on canvassing neighborhoods right around Easter time. And so, I’ll bet that you’ll meet a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses between now and April 8. Which means you need to be ready to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. And so, as a follow up to my previous post on why the deity of Jesus Christ is necessary and so comforting, I thought I would share some of the content from my afternoon sermon on “The Person and Eternal Deity of the Holy Spirit.”

The Eternal Deity of the Holy Spirit

In the first place we believe and confess as Christians that the Holy Spirit is eternally God. This is proven in several places in the Bible

  1. divine names: He is called God in a number of places
    1. 1Cor. 3:16–Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
    2. Acts 5–Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit (v. 3) which is said to be lying to God (v. 4).
    3. Based on these two texts alone we have sufficient Biblical support for the deity of the Holy Spirit (remember these!). But we can consider other proofs as well.
  2. divine attributes are ascribed to him
    1. Omnipresence (Ps. 139), Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    2. Omniscience (1Cor. 2:11): no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  
    3. Omnipotence: Is. 11:2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
  3. divine works are performed by him
    1. Creation by the Holy Spirit
      1. Genesis 1:2: the Spirit (ruach) was hovering over the waters
      2. Psa. 33:6: By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath (ruach) of his mouth all their host.
      3. Job 33:4: The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
      4. Thus as the Father and the Son are said to give us life, so too does the Holy Spirit give us life.
    2. New Birth by the Holy Spirit
      1. John 3: in order to enter the Kingdom of God, you must be born again by the Spirit
      2. Titus 3:5: he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
    3. Inspiration: He is involved in the divine work of inspiration.
      1. The author of Hebrews says that the Spirit spoke to Israel in Psalm 95: Heb. 3:7  Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
      2. 2 Pet. 1:21: For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God las they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
  4. Trinitarian Statements
    1. Baptism: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19)
    2. Greetings: Rev. 1:4 Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits (a reference to the Holy Spirit, seven being a symbolic number of perfection) who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. . .1Pet. 1:1 To those who are elect exiles. . .2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.
    3. Benedictions: 2Cor. 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

There is more that we could say to prove the deity of the Holy Spirit. But I hope from this Biblical survey you can see that it’s abundantly clear in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is eternally God. It doesn’t matter that the word Trinity is not in the Bible (a common objection from Jehovah’s Witnesses). The doctrine is there and it is clear: God is one in essence and three in persons. And so, it is Biblical and right to confess as Reformed Christians do in the Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 11 that the Holy Spirit is: “the third person of the Holy Trinity; of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son; and therefore is the true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.” Not only Reformed Christians, but all Christians should and do confess this.

The Person of the Holy Spirit

We not only believe and confess the eternal deity of the Holy Spirit, we also confess that the Holy Spirit is a person. And it’s important that we realize this. It’s easy to forget this because his name, the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost in KJV language), doesn’t immediately make us think of a person like the names Father or Son do. And in fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person, but an impersonal force of God. But the Scriptures also clearly teach that the Holy Spirit is not a thing, an it, or an impersonal force. Rather, He is a self-conscious actor in the drama of creation, redemption and consummation. Persons do things and they relate to other persons. And this is true of the Holy Spirit. We’ve already mentioned some of the divine works that the Holy Spirit performs.

And in addition to this we see in the Bible that he is given personal pronouns: John 14:25  “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 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.

Furthermore, He’s given personal attributes such as a mind (Rom. 8:27), emotions (Rom. 8:27), and a will (1 Cor. 12:11). While we should understand these statements analogically, they prove that he is a person and not an “it.”

Within the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the third person. And what distinguishes Him from the other members of the Trinity, at least as the western church confesses, is that He eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son. This is what we confess in the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed and in the Belgic Confession, Article 11: “We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son; and therefore neither is made, created, nor begotten, but only proceeds from both.”

I won’t get into the historic controversy, known as the filioque (and the Son) controversy, which led to the Great Schism of 1054 between East and West. In this post, I simply wanted to prove from the Bible that the Holy Spirit is eternally God and is a person, not a thing. I hope you are better prepared to contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3), especially when Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on your door this Easter season.

You can listen to the full sermon, where I also discuss the ministry of the Holy Spirit, on our web-site here.

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