Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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The Holy Spirit is a Person

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by Dennis Pollock

Laypeople do it and preachers do it. Nobody should be so ignorant, and yet ignorance abounds. And it is the simple word "it" that reveals this inexcusable ignorance. What am I talking about? I'm referring to the sad state of mind in Christians all over the world who refer to the Holy Spirit as an "it" and not a "Him." No one would ever mistakenly call their spouse or child an "it." I've never heard anybody refer to their pastor as "it." "It" is reserved for rocks and chairs and pencils and slices of bread. "Give it to me," "I want it," "pass it to me, please," "what is it?" we say when we refer to these and thousands of other inanimate objects. But persons are never called "it." Even dogs, cats, and monkeys are called by the pronouns him or her.

So why do we call the Holy Spirit an "it?" He's not a human being, of course, but He is a divine Person, just as much as God the Father is a Person and Jesus Christ is a Person. We don't call Christ an "it" or God the Father an "it." Why the Holy Spirit?

This blatant error comes from a lack of understanding of the Person and personality of the Holy Spirit. Too many Christians think of Him as a force, a power emanating from the Father that has neither mind nor consciousness. In their minds the Holy Spirit is a little boost of power given by God when we have the need for it. If we are about to preach or witness of Christ or sing a song in church or take a final exam God sends a little extra power to help us do better than we normally would do. Such an attitude mistakes the filling with the Spirit with the Person of the Holy Spirit, and assumes that they are one and the same. They are not. The Holy Spirit is a Person, and being filled with the Holy Spirit is an experience. And we need both in our lives!

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

One simple way to clear up this confusion is to read what Jesus had to say about the Holy Spirit. As He came to the end of His earthly ministry, our Lord seemed to speak more and more about the Person He called the Helper (some versions say Comforter). He never used the pronoun "it" but always spoke of Him as a "Him," declaring, "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 things that I said to you. (John 14:26). Not only is the Holy Spirit a Person, but He is a Teacher. Such a role means He must have a mind and be able to communicate. Rocks cannot teach us much; pencils or electrical power have no ability to tutor, but persons can teach. If I enroll in a college course, and when entering into the classroom see a wax dummy propped up against the chalkboard who has been appointed to teach the class, I would have serious doubts about how much I could learn from that "instructor." If I take a course, I want to see a living, breathing, talking, thinking person at the front of the classroom. Again, the Holy Spirit is not a human being. He does not have a physical body, as Christ was given. But He is a Person with a mind and a will. He thinks, He talks, and He teaches.

Later Jesus states, "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. (John 16:13). This amazing Person, the Holy Spirit is our guide into all the truth. And He reveals future events to us. Electricity or solar power could never do this, but the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit most certainly can and does.

Other Witnesses

If you have eyes to see them, there are many verses scattered throughout the New Testament that reflect the personhood of the Holy Spirit. In Romans, Paul writes, "Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:27). There is a wealth of information about the Holy Spirit in this single verse. We learn that the Holy Spirit has a mind. He thinks, He considers, He ponders things, He thinks about you and me. And then we learn that He makes intercession for the believers. To intercede is to "pray on behalf of." This is no mere power emanating from the throne of God; this is a divine Person who cares deeply about all those in Christ Jesus.

Paul writes to Timothy, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith…" (1 Timothy 4:1). Paul heard the Holy Spirit expressly saying this. What a wonderful thing! This amazing Helper has many things to tell us. To hear His voice is one of the greatest privileges ever granted to the men and women who inhabit this earth. When in college I took a course in abnormal psychology where the professor spoke about psychotic people. In an attempt to help us get a grasp on the symptoms of the truly insane, he suggested that one sure giveaway is when someone says that God speaks to them. If he was correct then multiple millions of people all over the world must be crazy, for anyone who abides in Jesus will surely hear the whispers of this wonderful divine Person, the Holy Spirit, as He speaks instructions, warnings, and encouragements into our spirits all through our lives.

The Holy Spirit can be offended. In Hebrews we read, "Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29). Paul writes to the Ephesians, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). You cannot offend or insult an inanimate object. When is the last time your recliner demanded an apology from you for spilling your drink all over it? When you hit that terrible golf shot and then threw your club at the nearby tree, did your club become insulted? No, it said, nothing, did nothing, and sat meekly in your golf bag until the next time you wanted to use it. Things don't get offended but persons sure do. That new bride will tell her husband again and again how much she loves him, but let him say the wrong thing and an icy silence may fill the air for days.

According to Scripture we can grieve, offend, and insult the Holy Spirit. By coarse language, lewd behavior, or simply ignoring and neglecting Christ, we can put the Holy Spirit in such a mood that He will have little to say to us. No, He won't leave us, but things may get pretty silent on His part for a while, and we will know little of His presence, power, and joy in our lives until we repent and put things right.

Our life in Jesus Christ is to include fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Note Paul's benediction to the Corinthian believers in his second epistle: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion (or fellowship) of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen" (2 Corinthians 13:14). To become a child of God through Christ is to enter into a divine fellowship, and that fellowship includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are to enjoy His presence, hear His voice, let Him know how much we appreciate all that He does for us. Again fellowship is reserved for persons. You cannot fellowship with ball point pens, or sticks, or salad, or broken pieces of glass. Through the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we come into a wonderful friendship with the Almighty Creator of the universe, and this friendship includes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! There are no better and no more faithful friends than These.

A Big Deal

Some may wonder, "Why is this important? I have accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord, and I know I am going to heaven. So what if I don't pay too much attention to the Holy Spirit, or recognize His personhood?" Firstly, Jesus thought it a big deal for His disciples to know about this Helper He would send. He refers to the Holy Spirit again and again. "He will testify of Me, He will glorify Me, He will lead you into all truth, He will bring to your remembrance all things I have said to you…" Jesus considered it of the utmost importance that His disciples know and understand this mighty Person He would send to them as their personal Tutor, Comforter, Enabler, Empower, and Friend.

To know and love the Holy Spirit as a person affects the way we see ministry. Too many Christians see ministry as something they do, with a little extra boost by the Spirit's power. They make the plans, they do the work, and the Holy Spirit gives them an infusion of energy to make their work more successful. To them, the Holy Spirit is a divine power they can use to accomplish great things for God. Just as we would plug our vacuum cleaner into the electrical outlet when needed and get power to help us clean our carpets, they see the Holy Spirit as a sort of power for us to use as needed and when needed.

But the Holy Spirit is more than some power for us to use. For sure, He provides power to those who would witness for Christ, but He is more than just power. He wants to share in our decisions. After debating about what to do with the Gentiles who were coming to Christ, Peter wrote, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…" (Acts 15:28). "And it is very much wrong thinking to believe that we will use the Holy Spirit to help us do the work of God. In truth He wants to use us. It is our great privilege to offer ourselves to Him, that He might use our bodies and our lives as a base of operations in His great ministry to magnify and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

Understanding the personhood of the Holy Spirit enables us to put our faith in Him. Jesus tells us that we are to have faith in God (Mark 11:22). This involves trusting God the Father to do for us and to be to us all that the Bible tells us He will do and be. It means trusting Christ likewise. And it also means trusting the Holy Spirit. When Jesus tells us that He, the Holy Spirit, will be our guide into all truth, we should trust Him for this. When we are told that He will testify of Christ, we should not fear when the opportunity comes for us to speak of our Savior. We should trust our divine Partner to faithfully testify of Jesus even as we open our mouths and speak, however feebly, about the grace of God that is ours through Jesus Christ.

We cannot afford to ignore the Holy Spirit. How grieved a wife would be if her husband were to never compliment her, never thank her, or never even recognize her presence! Although they may live together, you could hardly apply the word fellowship to their relationship.

Let us take the time to get to know our wonderful Comforter and Helper. And let us trust Him to do for us all that Jesus said He would do and to be to us all that Jesus said He would be. According to our Lord's own words, it is better for us to have the Holy Spirit within us than Jesus physically present on the earth: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).


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