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Personality of the Holy Spirit

Last time we began STIII; and specifically the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

We began by giving just a very brief introduction to some of the issues involved with this doctrine. We explained how there has been a historic divide (specifically, in the last 100 years), with regard to two major aspects:

- The first is with regard to language of baptism of/with/by/in the HS.

- The second, is with regard to the spiritual gifts.

We gave just a brief history of the new movements that have taken place within the last 100 years.

- The rise of 1st wave pentecostalism (1906).

- The rise of 2nd wave Charismaticism (60’s), in which Pentecostal theology infiltrated the mainline denominations.

- Finally, the rise of 3rd wave evangelicalism, which happened soon after 2nd wave charismaticism, in which John Wimber more or less reads the book of Acts and wonders why the church doesn’t experience what the early church experienced. This leads to a further development of certain understandings with regard to the nature of the Spirit; and much of which is still very present in churches and theology today.


With that very brief history on why the topic is so confused, and has such great disagreement, today we want to begin to develop the doctrine more formally. And specifically, we will begin with the person/personality of the HS.

Personality of the Holy Spirit

The Holy spirit is a divine person.

This is an incredibly important concept to understand. We must have a right view of God if He is to be rightly approached and worshiped. This is sometimes hard to grasp and often takes a forced shift in our thinking.

Contributing factors for why it is hard to understand the Holy Spirit in terms of “personhood:”

- The KJV rendering-- “Holy Ghost.”

This language does not help in grasping this concept of the Spirit as a person.

Our minds go to Casper the Ghost.

- Subtle influence from concepts like we see in Star Wars-- “The Force.”

We must understand the H.S. is not an ephemeral power, force, or energy field.

Rodney Howard Brown calls himself the “Holy Spirit Bartender.” We see him unleashing/doling out the Spirit and causing Him to “fall on people.”

Benny Hinn uses his “Holy Ghost Machine Gun,” knocking people over with the divine force of the H.S.

This idea gets in wrongs because:

The Holy Spirit is not a force or energy to be unleashed, but a person.

As we will see, He is also sovereign, and therefore, cannot be controlled or unleashed at the desire of human will.

Trinitiarian Concepts:

When we call God “Father” it is easy to understand the Father as possessing personhood. When we call Christ the “Son” it is easy to understand the Son as possessing personhood.

But when we call the third person of the Trinity “Spirit,” it is more conceptually difficult to grasp His personhood.

For example: Jonathan Edwards Essay on the Trinity.

The Spirit is the ‘divine energy or love” that eternally existed between the Father and Son. Believers are then brought into the eternal love between the Father and Son via the Spirit. This makes little sense if we understand the Spirit as a person.

- Some biblical data affirming the personhood of the Holy Spirit -

The Spirit is put in a coordinate relationship with the Father and the Son.

Matt. 29:19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit is put in a coordinate working with human beings.

Acts 15: 28“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these.”

The Spirit possesses personal attributes:

- Intelligence -

1 Cor. 2:10-11 “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”

- Emotion -

Eph. 4:10“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

- Volition/personal will -

1 Cor. 12:11“But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

The Spirit engages in personal activities. (Again, a power of force cannot partake in these things).

- Speaks -

Acts 8:29“Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and join this chariot.’”

1 Tim. 4:1““But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.”

- Prays -

Rom. 8:26“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

- Bears witness -

Rom. 8:16“The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.”

Can be lied to.

Acts 5:3“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?’”

The biblical data affirms the deity of the Holy Spirit.

The clearest passage is Acts 5:1-4. (Notice the parallel between God and the Holy Spirit.)

“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’”

The narrative goes on. Notice the clear OT reference. Here, the Spirit is equated as being God. And, then, in the NT, this is confirmed in 2 Cor. 3:17.

Acts 5:7-9 “Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test?’” 

2 Cor. 3:17“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

The Spirit possesses divine attributes:

- Omnipresence -

Ps. 139:7-10 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”

- Omniscience -

1 Cor. 2:10-11 “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.”

Isa. 40:13-14 “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, And informed Him of the way of understanding?”

John 16:13““But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

- Omnipotence -

Luke 1:35-37 “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.’”

- Eternality -

Heb. 9:14 - “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

*Note: This passage could be a reference to Jesus’ own Spirit, but it is best to see it as a reference to the Holy Spirit. (Graham Cole gives the best defense of this position).

The Spirit participates in divine activities:

- Creation -

Gen. 1:2 - “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”

- Sustaining in creation that which has been decreed into existence -

Ps. 104:20“You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground.”

- Regeneration (causing life from that which is dead) -

John 3:1-8 “Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”

Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”

- Resurrection of human bodies -

Rom. 8:11“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

- Receives divine honor (i.e., named alongside both the Father and Son) -

Matt. 28:19Go therefore and made disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

2 Cor. 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.”

*Note: This is an apostolic benediction/blessing from Paul. So just has divine blessing and benefits flow from both the Father and Son, so also they flow from the Spirit.

Now, these previous two points affirm the deity of the Holy Spirit (i.e., possesses divine attributes, participates in divine activities). So since the H.S. is divine (i.e., God), here is the questions: How do we treat and respond to the H.S. as a divine person? **There is much reverence and worship for the Father and Son, but the Spirit seems to be abused and treated in a careless manner all the time.

First, we revere the Spirit because He is the fullness of God.

We do not attribute false, unbiblical works to the Spirit.

We do not make jokes about the Spirit.

We do not seek to manipulate, or unleash the Spirit, either in our lives or other’s lives.

We do not interact with the Spirit however we feel we want to interact, but only in the manner which God has prescribed.

Again, the Spirit is the fullness of God, and even a cursory reading of the OT will reveal how God demands to be respected and approached as holy at all times.

Second, we should praise the Spirit for His faithfulness.

We should worship Him as God. This requires we view Him in His rightful ontological position within the Trinity. He is fully God!

We should interact with Him as Scripture has prescribed. This requires we view Him in His biblical functional position within the Trinity.

For example:

The Spirit is not the Father -- so we don’t pray to Him (Jesus’ instructions in Matt. 6:8-13 are clear).

The Spirit is not the Son-- so we don’t thank Him for dying on the cross and atoning for our sin. Rather, there are other works of the Spirit, that belong to Him alone-- and those are what He ought to be praised for. (We’ll explore those in another episode).

What is the Spirit’s relationship to the other members of the Trinity? 

** This gets a bit technical, but we’re going to enter into the deep parts of theology for a moment, so bear with us.**

Autotheos” -- He is God of Himself.

He is not dependent on the Father for His deity.

He is not dependent on the Son for His deity.

He is not dependent on the Father and the Son together for His deity.

Rather, is He autotheos-- He is self-existent and God of Himself.

Homoousios” -- He is of the same substance, essence, and nature as the Father and the Son.

Homoousios says:

The Son is what the Father and Spirit are.

The Spirit is what the Father and Son are.

All three persons of the Trinity are of the same exact nature as each other, because God is really just one.

Specifically, homoousios says:

All of the Father’s attributes (e.g., love, wrath, justice, holiness, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.) belong to the Son and the Spirit in the same way they belong to the Father.

To say it negatively:

The Spirit does not possess anything the Father and Son do not possess.

The Spirit is not deficient of anything the Father and Son possess.

This is contrasted with “homoiousios” (“of similar substance”).

Example: A daughter is of similar substance (e.g., dna, hereditary genes, etc.) as her father and mother. And yet, it is impossible for a daughter to be of the same substance as her father and mother.

This is not merely physical. This includes attributes, characteristics, and values.

So what we are saying is that the Spirit is not homoiousios(“of similar substance”), but homoousios (“of the same substance”).

How are the three persons of the Godhead different?

They are different economically (i.e., functional roles).

We affirm with Augustine that it is right to speak of the “inseparable operations” of God (i.e., what God is doing for His glory).

God is not merely Trinity, but He is Triune.

So what all three members of the Godhead are doing, they are doing in complete unity and unity for the singular purpose of bringing glory to the One God.

We also affirm that it is appropriate to speak of the differentiation of roles within the Godhead.

Primary roles:

Father -- Creator.

Son -- Savior.

Spirit -- Sanctifier.

All three are involved in all three primary roles, but it is appropriate to speak of their unique roles within those operations.


Ontologically: The One, Eternal God is by His nature “The Resurrection” (Jn. 11:25).

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

Economically: The Father raises the Son by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11).

“But if the Spirit of Him (Father) who raised Jesus (Son) from the dead dwells in you, He (Father) who raised Christ Jesus (Son) from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

The three persons of the Godhead are also different in their eternal relationships. *Again, we are going to get technical for a moment, so sit tight.**

We affirm the Father is not generated, but rather He is said to be eternally unbegotten. (*These are technical terms in theology).

We affirm the Son is generated, and is said to be eternally begotten by the Father.

John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.”

John 5:26 - "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself.”

*Note: This is a statement about the Father’s eternal unbegotteness, but also the Father granting eternal Sonship life to the Son. 

This is not speaking of the Son as being “created,” but speaking of the Son as having received His Sonship.

Specifically, in receiving this Sonship, the Son now becomes “the Son of the Father” and the Father becomes “the Father of the Son.” (The technical term is “eternal generation”).

In fact, the language of “Father” and “Son” have nothing to do with Creating and being created. Rather, they are strictly relational terms to speak of the technical relationship between the First and second person of the Trinity.

So you should understand “Father” and “Son” as titles, which clarify how the two members related to each other. Again, it has nothing to do with creating or being created. 

Both the Father and Son are eternally existence, and there was never a time in which they were not. They were eternally self-existent, as the One, eternally, non-made God.

1 John 5:18 - “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

Here, the first part of the verse is “regeneration” in reference to believers, but the second part is “generation” in reference to Christ.

*Note: This is the classical Trinitarian position. Some scholars (e.g., John Feinberg) do not hold to this. Instead, they understand the Son received His status of Sonship at the incarnation. They will struggle to give an answer to the meaning of 1 John 5:18.

Specifically, in 1 Jn 5:18, if the first part is not talking about physical birth, but spiritual birth, then a consistent hermeneutic must understand the second part as also spiritual. Therefore, it can’t be a reference to the incarnation, but the eternal granting of Sonship.

We also affirm that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

Just as the Son receives His eternal Sonship from the Father, so the Spirit receives His eternal “person of the Spirit” from the Father and the Son. (The technical term is “eternal procession”).

This was the controversy that split the East from the West (filioque [fily-o-kwee] clause).

- The East thought the Spirit proceeded only from the Father.

- The West thought the Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son.

This is an important distinction because it helps us understand that the Spirit leads a person to God only through Jesus Christ.

If the Spirit proceeds only from the Father, it is possible to have access to God apart from the Son. But since the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, there is no accessing the Father without the Son.

In fact, this is the reason Eastern Religions are so bad. 

You can access the Father through mysticism. The Spirit works through patron saints and iconoclasm (e.g., Eastern Orthodoxy). 

There is no true need for the Son. 

This is also why we speak against Christian mysticism. It has its roots in the Eastern religions, which reject the filioque clause.

This is hugely popular in the Charismatic movement.

They are looking for a deeper, more spiritual experience via the Spirit.

While it makes a person feel close to God, they are simply practicing what the Eastern mystics practice. The Eastern Mystics also think they are close to God.

This is not the biblical role of the Spirit, and the whole world of Christian mysticism is deceptively false.

It has no biblical warrant, and if you have ever been overseas and seen Eastern Religion first hand, you will understand why we call it evil.


So this lays down some of the groundwork for showing that the Spirit is fully God in every sense that the Father and Son are fully God.

As a result, we really want to really stress that the Spirit possesses “personhood.”

Again, this is a hard shift in our minds, because since we refer to the third member of the Trinity as the Spirit, the language tends to de-personalize Him.

Remember, He is not a force, energy, or power we can harness, control, unlease, or use at our beck and call.

He is not the way that we “tap into” the eternal mind of God-- that is called sorcery.

He is not a force or presence that we experience, or feel, sync up with.

Rather, He is just as much a person as the Father and Son-- and so, He should be revered and worshiped as such.

He has a unique role and function within the Godhead (e.g., economics), and He is completely equal in His essence (ontology).

The big take-away is that the third member of the Trinity is fully and truly the sovereign God of the universe, and therefore, not one to be trifled with.

It is important we get the Spirit right, lest we be guilty of poor worship at best (i.e., a lot of zeal and passion, but not in accordance to true knowledge [Rom. 10:1-3]), or idolatry and false worship (i.e., heresy) at worst.

It is very important that we elevate Him to the proper place in our minds and hearts.

Next time we’ll talk about the role of the Holy Spirit in the OT-- which is a huge, and massively important topic-- and one that many probably are not very familiar with.


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