(6) The Holy Spirit

In Biblical thought, to speak of the spirit of someone is equivalent to speaking of the person himself (e.g. II Samuel 13:39). It is the same with God: the Spirit of God is regarded as synonymous with God Himself (e.g. Psalm 139:7). The early Christians also evidently considered the Holy Spirit to be God: when Peter confronted Ananias (Acts 5:1-11), he said first that Ananias had ‘lied to the Holy Spirit’ (verse 3) and then that he had lied ‘to God’ (verse 4). In Peter’s mind, God and His Spirit were one and the same.

As with Jesus, the divinity of the Holy Spirit is assumed in the New Testament, rather than taught. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul not only treats the Holy Spirit as synonymous with God, but refers twice to the Holy Spirit’s temple. First he states that we are God’s temple because the Holy Spirit lives in us (I Corinthians 3:16; also Ephesians 2:22); a little later on, he says that Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). If the Holy Spirit has a temple, He must be worthy of worship – and therefore He must be divine.

The pictures used of the Spirit in the Bible – water (e.g. Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39) and fire (e.g. Luke 3:16; I Thessalonians 5:19) – help us to understand His nature and His actions, but underplay His personal nature. Perhaps this is why many of us find it difficult to comprehend the Holy Spirit as a person. Even Augustine fell into this trap; he unhelpfully equated the Holy Spirit with the love that binds the Father and the Son together. It is so much easier for us to think of Him as the power of God, or as some kind of energy or life force (a bit like ‘the Force’ in ‘Star Wars’, perhaps). There is some basis to this; the words for ‘spirit’ (ruach in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek) also mean ‘wind’ and ‘breath’ (Ezekiel 37:1-10; John 3:8; John 20:22), and the Bible speaks of prophets being “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21) – which conjures up an image of a leaf being blown along by a strong wind. “The power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:19) is probably His most obvious attribute – but He must be more than mere power, if Zechariah’s words are to make any sense: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)

Just as the human spirit carries an individual’s personality, so the Holy Spirit carries all the personality of God. He is “another advocate” (John 14:16) – a word that can also be translated as ‘comforter’, ‘counsellor’, or ‘helper’, all roles that can only be performed by someone personal. He teaches (John 14:26), guides (John 16:13; Acts 16:6,7), warns (Acts 20:23), bears witness (John 15:26), and prays (Romans 8:26). He makes His own decisions (I Corinthians 12:11),He has emotions (Isaiah 63:16; Ephesians 4:30, Hebrews 10:29), and He can be insulted (Mark 3:29). All these things are evidence that He is a Person.

This makes a difference. If the Holy Spirit is just a force like electricity, then (potentially, at least) it can be harnessed or even manipulated by us for our own ends – just as ‘the Force’ in ‘Star Wars’ could be used for evil as well as for good. (If this seems far-fetched, what about those faith healers who promise guaranteed results, effectively claiming to have the power of the Holy Spirit ‘on tap’?) But if the Holy Spirit is personal, then He will resist such attempts to control Him. If the Holy Spirit is merely God’s power or energy, if it ‘radiates’ out from God like heat and light from the sun, then God keeps His distance from us. But if the Holy Spirit is God Himself living with us – and even in us – then God is not ‘out there somewhere’, but right up close… and personal.

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7 Responses to (6) The Holy Spirit

  1. Singular says:

    Accurate and excellent synopsis of scriptural truth about God the Holy Spirit who is always referred to as HE in scriptures, thus signifying a Person.sydtemrebel@

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    • And that person is not a person in a tri-une godhead but God Himself; The word pneuma or spirit indicates the living,the being itself,the breath, the speaking, the power in a being. Like the spirit in us is not a separate being or other person which can leave our body, but our thinking and handling like God’s Spirit is His thinking and handling.

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      • Deborah says:

        Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for us” (Romans 8:26). Is God then ‘praying to Himself’?

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    • According the Webster New International Language dictionary of 1976 the Pneuma or Power spoken of can be translated in English with Power: meaning or being synonym: force, energy strength, might, puissance. Plus she gives a.o. as note: can signify the ability to exert effort for a purpose. It “signifies ability, latent, exerted, physical, mental or spiritual, to act, be acted upon, effect or be effected, sometimes designating the thing having this ability.”

      Chambers of 1977 translates and comments for the English of that word: “ability to do anything – physical, mental, spiritual, legal, etc; capacity for producing an effect: strength; energy; faculty of the mind; moving force or anything: right to command, authority; strong influence or rule; control; that in which such authority, strong influence resides; governing office; spiritual agent

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      • Deborah says:

        That’s a definition of the word ‘power’, not a definition of the word ‘spirit’! And ‘pneuma’/’ruach’ mean ‘spirit/breath/ wind – not power!

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  2. From the Old and New Testament writings we can come to understand that there is only One God and that the Pneuma or Spirit spoken of in those Scriptures is the Working Power of God, not an other identity of a so called triune godhead.

    People can come filled with the Holy Spirit which is God entering in their mind by God His Power.

    2Pe 1:19-21 The Scriptures 1998+ (19) And we have the prophetic word made more certain, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, (20) knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture came to be of one’s own interpretation, (21) for prophecy never came by the desire of man, but men of Elohim spoke, being moved by the Set-apart Spirit.

    Act 2:1-4 The Scriptures 1998+ (1) And when the Day of the Festival of Weeks had come, they were all with one mind in one place. (2) And suddenly there came a sound from the heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. (3) And there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and settled on each one of them. (4) And they were all filled with the Set-apart Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them to speak.

    Act 4:27-33 The Scriptures 1998+ (27) “For truly, in this city there were gathered together against Your set-apart Servant יהושע, whom You anointed, both Herodes and Pontius Pilate, with the gentiles and the people of Yisra’ĕl (28) to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose decided before to be done. (29) “And now, יהוה, look on their threats, and give to Your servants all boldness to speak Your word, (30) by stretching out Your hand for healing, and signs, and wonders to take place through the Name of Your set-apart Servant יהושע.” (31) And when they had prayed, the place where they came together was shaken. And they were all filled with the Set-apart Spirit, and they spoke the word of Elohim with boldness. (32) And the group of those who believed were of one heart and one being. And no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had all in common. (33) And with great power the emissaries gave witness to the resurrection of the Master יהושע, and great favour was upon them all.

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