The Personhood of the Spirit

He is a person, and not a “force” or an “influence.” He is a “he,” not an “it.” But what is a person, anyway?

Renewalists believe the Bible, and it affirms the Trinity. One way it does this is that these Scriptures demonstrate that the Spirit is a person, just as the Father and Son are.

First let’s look at the attributes of a person.

Then in the next section, we look at the Spirit’s activities, which only a person does.

The outline format is just for clarity and conciseness.

I.. Attributes of a Person

A.. Intellect or mind:

God searches the mind of the Spirit (Rom. 8:27). He is called the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (Eph. 1:17). Wisdom and revelation resides in the mind.

B.. Knowledge:

Only the Spirit knows the deep thoughts of God (1 Cor. 2:11).

C.. Emotion:

The Spirit feels grief (Eph. 4:30).

It is used of Paul when he felt grief for the stern letter he wrote to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 2:2, 5). Thus a person grieves.

D.. Will:

The Spirit distributes gifts as he wills (1 Cor. 12:4)

The same verb for “wills” is used to describe the will of the Father (Jas. 1:18). And the Spirit exercised his will when he forbad Paul and his team to go into and preach (Acts 16:6).

II.. His Activities Reveal His Personhood

A.. He teaches.

When the Advocate, the Stand-by Helper, the Comforter, the Strengthener, the Encourager—all names of the Holy Spirit—comes, he will teach us truth (John 14:26). Only a person, not a an influence or force, can do that.

B.. He hears and speaks.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will teach or speak only what he hears and will tell us what is tom come (John 16:13). There is nothing wrong with predictive prophecy, as we see with Agabus, who predicted a famine (Acts 11:28) and predicted that Paul would be bound in chains when he went to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10).

C.. He testifies about Christ.

Jesus is about to send the Advocate from the Father, and the Spirit will bear witness to or testify about Christ (John 15:26).

D.. He guides.

When the Spirit comes he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). This is not to say we need no more teachers, because God appointed them in the church (Acts 2:42; Acts 18:11; Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:11). Rather, if you are a mature believer, he empowers you to test various teachings. In prayer and study of Scripture, the Spirit will guide you.

E.. He encourages us.

A paraclete is someone who has been called (klete– or clete-) alongside (para-). He is like an attorney or advocate standing by you to plead your cause for you. He is your stand-by helper.

The verb form of the word can mean exhort, which means to stir someone up to go down the right path and not the wrong one. It can mean comfort, that is, giving support and strength during tough times. And it can mean, as noted, to encourage you, which puts courage in your heart (John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:13-14.

The next verse is one of six summary verses Luke inserts throughout Acts: “And so the church throughout all of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee enjoyed peace and was being built up and walking in awe for the Lord and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and increasing in numbers” (Acts 9:31).

Just because it is a summary verse does not mean it is empty. They really were being encouraged by the Spirit.

F.. He advocates.

It is the same as point no. E. He is our stand-by advocate, like an attorney pleading our case (John 14:16).

G.. He convicts the world of sin.

Some wrongly believe that the Spirit convicts the people of God, the church, but John 16:8 does not say that. Rather, it says the Spirit convicts the world. In any case, only a person can do that.

H.. He regenerates.

You must be born again, of Spirit and water, which probably means water in baptism, which comes second—the Spirit is the one who causes new birth (John 3:3-6).

In a very similar theology to that of John, Paul says the believer is washed from his sins and experiences new birth by the Spirit (Tit. 3:5; cf. Ezek. 36:25-27).

I.. He commands.

Paul and Barnabas were commanded to go out on the missionary journey (Acts 13:2)

J.. He prays for us.

It is comforting and encouraging that the Spirit intercedes for and with us through “wordless groans” (Rom. 8:26-27). This means that something is transpiring in the heaven realm between the Spirit and the Father that does not need words, but they communication is deep, full of compassion. I get the impression that on a human level, we participate in those wordless groans, though the Spirit. We feel the need deeply and don’t even need to pray in the Spirit.

K.. He commissions believers for ministry.

Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul were praying for direction and just seeking God’s face. The Spirit finally spoke to them, to send Barnabas and Saul for their first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-4). Expect the Spirit to speak to you, too, but please be warned of directional prophecies that come out of “left field.” Rather, they should confirm what God has already put on your heart. But if they do seem to come out of “left field,” then put them on the shelf and let God fulfill them.

L.. He can be resisted.

When Stephen was about to be martyred, he really tore into his fellow Jews. He shouted, “You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51).

M.. He can be tested.

Ananias and Sapphira contrived to test the Spirit, so they defrauded the church out of money (Acts 5:9).

N.. He can be blasphemed.

Some people with an overactive conscience believe they may have committed the unpardonable sin (Matt. 12:32; Mark 2:29-30). In context, however, the religious leaders were willful and malicious and intentional, with training to be in leadership. Jesus said, “You being evil” …. This means their conscience is gone. In contrast, the fact that some people today are concerned about it means they have not committed it because they do not have an absent conscience. And some theologians teach that Jesus is not here in his earthly ministry, so this specific unpardonable sin no longer applies.

In any case, how this idea applies to the personhood of the Spirit is seen in the parallel truth that the Father can be blasphemed (Rev. 13:6; 16:9), and Christ could be blasphemed (Matt. 27:39; Luke 23:39). So the Spirit shares the same personhood with the Father and Son.

O.. He can be lied to.

Ananias and Sapphira conspired to withhold money from the church, and Peter said, they lied to the Spirit and to God (Acts 5:3).

P.. He can be obeyed.

Both Cornelius and Peter had to listen to the Spirit guide them towards each other at the same time (Acts 10).

So how does this post help me draw closer to the Spirit?

Americans believe in trends. The web allows them to do this because everyone can post his ideas, good or bad, online, even in social media. Predictably, some want us to move away from the Triunity (also called the Trinity). They are wrong about this. We should never give up on this wonderful reality and doctrine.

For your walk with God, you can know the Spirit in all of these activities. He can encourage and call you. He can lead you into truth about God. He can guide you. You can have a personal relationship with the Spirit, just as you can with the Father and the Son. Yes, it is true that the Spirit will testify about Christ, but he can still speak and teach you.

You can pray in the Spirit, if you want this gift. It comes from God, and he gives only good gifts. But if you don’t want this gift, then you can still have intimacy with the Spirit in your spirit. Either way, develop this relationship.

Written by James Malcolm

SOURCES

Works Cited at Renewal Theology

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