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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.


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. 1:17).

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.


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 Christ’s teaching.

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.


“Certain acts are performed toward the Holy Spirit which would be most incongruous if He did not possess true personality.”

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 Spirit.

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.


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.


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.

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