PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
HIS IDENTITY CONFIRMS HIS PERSONALITY
The problem in the minds of many people is that personality can exist only in human beings, as though personality can relate only to finite beings but not to the infinite. Since man is made in the image of God it is reasonable to expect similar characteristics between God and man. Hence, “It is possible to form some conception of divine personality by a study of the human, because man is made in the likeness of God.” Personality may simply be defined as possessing intellect, emotions, and will; then, by demonstrating that the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions, and will it will be shown that He is a person and has personality. The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as “it” or a “thing” or simply an influence. This study will demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is not simply an influence but a Person, having the characteristics of personality. Early in church history Arius denied the personality of the Holy Spirit. He said the Holy Spirit was only an influence emanating from the Father. He was condemned at the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325. His teaching has continued to the present time in Unitarianism and in the cults, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
HIS ATTRIBUTES CONFIRM HIS PERSONALITY
Intellect.The Holy Spirit has intellect inasmuch as “the Spirit
searches all things” (1 Cor. 2:10). The word “search” means to examine or
investigate a matter. The Holy Spirit examines the depths of God and reveals
them to believers. The same word is used by Christ in John 5:39 where He
states, “You search the Scriptures.”
Knowledge.No human being has an awareness or knowledge of the thoughts
of God, but the Holy Spirit understands the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11).
Mind. Even as the Holy Spirit knows the Father, so the Father
knows the mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:27). The word mind (Gk. phronema) means “ way of thinking, mind-(set); aim, aspiration,
striving” and clearly indicates that the Holy Spirit has intellect (cf. Eph.
Emotions.Emotions or sensibility means to have feelings, to have an
awareness and an ability to respond to something. Ephesians 4:30 commands, “do
not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” The context emphasizes that the Holy Spirit
is grieved when a believer sins by lying (v. 25), being angry (v. 26), by
stealing or being lazy (v. 28), or speaking unkind words (v. 29). The noun form
of the same word is used in describing the Corinthians’ sorrow after Paul wrote
them a stern letter (2 Cor. 2:2, 5). It is a Person who is grieved; a
mere influence cannot be grieved.
Will.The Holy Spirit has a will, indicating He has the power of
sovereign choice and decision. The Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts just
as He wills. The phrase “He wills” (Gk. bouletai) refers to “decisions of the will after previous
deliberation.” The idea of sovereign choice is evident in this statement. By
way of analogy, the same word “will” is used to describe the will of God the
Father (James 1:18). Just as the Father has a will, so the Holy Spirit has a
will. In Acts 16:6 the Holy Spirit exercised His will in forbidding Paul to
preach in Asia and redirecting Paul to ministry in Europe. These Scripture
passages clearly teach that the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotion, and will as
part of a genuine personality.
HIS WORKS CONFIRM HIS PERSONALITY
The Holy Spirit performs works that
are similar to the works of the Father and the Son. These works confirm the
personality of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit teaches.Before Jesus departed from the disciples He encouraged them
by telling them He would send them “another Helper” (John 14:16). “Another”
stresses that the Holy Spirit will be a Helper of the same kind as Christ.
Just as Jesus had taught the disciples (Matt. 5:2; John 8:2), so the Holy Spirit
would teach them (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit would perform and carry on the
same kind of teaching ministry as Christ did. The Holy Spirit would cause them
to remember the things Christ had taught them earlier; the Spirit would confirm
The Spirit testifies. Jesus promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit “will bear
witness of Me” (John 15:26). The word “bear witness” means to testify
concerning someone. The Holy Spirit would testify concerning the teaching of
Christ that He had come forth from the Father and had spoken the truth of God.
The same word is used of the disciples’ testifying concerning Christ in John
15:27. As the disciples would bear witness concerning Christ so also would the
Holy Spirit bear witness of Christ.
The Spirit guides.Jesus declared that when the Holy Spirit would come He would
guide them into all the truth (John 16:13). The picture is that of a guide or
escort leading a traveler into territory unfamiliar to the traveler, but
familiar to the guide.
The Spirit convicts.John 16:8 declares the future ministry of the Spirit would
be to “convict the world.” “Convict” (Gk. elegcho) means to “convince someone of something; point something
out to someone.” The Holy Spirit acts as a divine prosecutor in convicting the
world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
The Spirit regenerates.The one who experiences the new birth has been born of the
Holy Spirit; He has been regenerated by the Spirit. Just as the Son of God
gives life to believers (John 5:21), so the Holy Spirit regenerates people (cf.
Ezek. 36:25–27; Titus 3:5).
The Spirit intercedes.In the time of a believer’s weakness, the Holy Spirit takes
the believer’s groanings and intercedes on his behalf (Rom. 8:26). The Father
understands the intercession of the Spirit and answers the prayer and works all
things together for good in the believer’s life because the Spirit has
interceded for the child of God (Rom. 8:28). The same word regarding
intercession is used of Christ in His intercessory work (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25).
Just as Christ intercedes on behalf of believers, so the Spirit also intercedes
for them. One is again reminded: an inanimate entity could not intercede for
others; a person intercedes.
The Spirit commands.In Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit commanded that Paul and
Barnabas be set apart for missionary work; Acts 13:4 adds that the two men were
sent out by the Holy Spirit. In Acts 16:6 the Holy Spirit prohibited Paul and
Silas from preaching in Asia; in Acts 8:29 the Holy Spirit directed Philip to
speak to the Ethiopian eunuch.
HIS POSITION CONFIRMS HIS PERSONALITY
“Certain acts are performed toward
the Holy Spirit which would be most incongruous if He did not possess true
The Spirit can be grieved. The Holy Spirit can be grieved when a believer sins (see
earlier discussion; cf. Isa. 63:10).
The Spirit can be blasphemed. Blasphemy is normally thought of as being rendered against
God the Father (cf. Rev. 13:6; 16:9). Christ was also blasphemed (Matt. 27:39;
Luke 23:39); similarly, the Holy Spirit was also blasphemed (Matt. 12:32; Mark
3:29–30). The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consisted of attributing the
works of Christ to Satan when the Holy Spirit had borne witness to Christ’s
work as being from the Father.
The Spirit can be resisted.In his speech against the unbelieving Jews who ultimately
stoned him to death, Stephen accused them of being “stiffnecked and
uncircumcised in heart and ears...always resisting the Holy Spirit” (Acts
7:51). They stood in a long tradition of rejecting the work of God and
resisting the admonitions of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit can be lied to.When Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira concerning their
deceit, he accused them of having lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). Ananias
and Sapphira were both judged with death for their sin of having lied to the
The Spirit can be obeyed.In Acts 10 the Lord revealed most graphically to Peter that
He was also including Gentiles in the realm of His blessings. In this
connection the Holy Spirit told Peter to accompany the two men to the house of
Cornelius where this truth would become evident to the Gentiles. Peter obeyed
the command of the Holy Spirit and went to the home of Cornelius in Caesarea.
Peter obeyed the Holy Spirit.
These examples give evidence of the
personality of the Holy Spirit in that He can be grieved, blasphemed, resisted,
lied to, and obeyed. This could only be said with reference to a personality.
HIS DESIGNATIONS CONFIRM HIS PERSONALITY
The Greek word for Spirit is pneuma which is a neuter gender word. Any pronoun used to
substitute for pneuma would normally also be neuter. However, the biblical
writers did not follow this grammatical pattern; instead, they substituted
masculine pronouns to designate the Holy Spirit.
SOME MASCULINE PRONOUNS FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT
Scripture Neuter Noun Masculine Pronoun
John 15:26 pneuma (Spirit) ekeinos (He)
John 16:13 pneuma (Spirit) ekeinos (He)
John 16:14 pneuma (Spirit) ekeinos (He)
The purposeful change in grammar emphasizes the personality of the Holy Spirit. There would have been no reason to change from the neuter to the masculine unless the Spirit was understood to be a person.