BIBLE STUDY - THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Before one can correctly understand the work of the Holy Spirit, he must first of all know the Spirit himself. A frequent source of error and fanaticism about the work of the Holy Spirit is the attempt to study and understand His work without, first of all, coming to know Him as a person.
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship that we decide whether the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith, our love, and our entire surrender to Himself, or whether it is simply an influence emanating from God or a power or an illumination that God imparts to us. If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.
If we think of the Holy Spirit, as so many do, as merely a power of influence, our constant thought will be, "How can I get more of the Holy Spirit?" But if we think of Him in the Biblical way as a Divine Person, our thought will rather be, "How can the Holy Spirit have more of me?"
It is of the highest importance from the standpoint of experience that we know the Holy Spirit as a person. A real Person, just as real as Jesus Christ Himself, an ever-present, loving Friend and mighty Helper, who is not only always by their side but dwells in their heart every day and every hour, and who is ready to undertake for them in every emergency of life.
1. All the distinctive characteristics of personality are ascribed to the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
What are the distinctive characteristics, or marks, of personality? Knowledge, feeling, or emotion, and will. Any entity that thinks and feels and wills is a person. When we say that the Holy Spirit is a person, there are those who understand us to mean that the Holy Spirit has hands and feet and eyes and ears and mouth, and so on, but these are not the characteristics of personality but of bodily existence. All of these characteristics or marks of personality are repeatedly ascribed to the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments.
1 Corinthians 2:10, 11, "But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." Here knowledge is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. We are clearly taught that the Holy Spirit is not merely an influence that illuminates our minds to comprehend the truth but a Being who Himself knows the truth.
1 Corinthians 12:11 "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines." Here will is ascribed to the Spirit and we are taught that the Holy Spirit is not a power that we get hold of and use according to our will but a Person of sovereign majesty, who uses us according to His will.
Your relationship with the Holy Spirit will only develop when you surrender your personality characteristics of knowledge, emotions, feelings and will to the Holy Spirit and allow him to take possession of you and use you according to His own perfect will
Romans 8:27 "He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. The Greek word translated "mind" is a comprehensive word, including the ideas of thought, feeling, and purpose.
Romans 8:7 "the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so." These are the distinctive marks of personality ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:30, "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me." Here we have "love" ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
We owe our salvation just as truly to the love of the Spirit as to the love of the Father and the love of the Son.
If it had not been for the love of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in answer to the prayer of the Son (John 14:16), leading Him to seek me out in my utter blindness and ruin and to follow me day after day, week after week, and year after year, when I persistently turned a deaf ear to His pleadings, following me through paths of sin where it must have been agony for that Holy One to go, until at last I listened and He opened my eyes to see my utter ruin and then revealed Jesus to me as just the Savior that would meet my every need and then enabled me to receive this Jesus as my own Savior; if it had not been for this patient, long-suffering, never-tiring, infinitely tender love of the Holy Spirit, I would have been in hell today. Oh, the Holy Spirit is not merely an influence or a power or an illumination, but is a Person just as real as God the Father or Jesus Christ His Son.
The personality of the Holy Spirit comes out in the Old Testament as truly as in the New
Nehemiah 9:20, "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst." Here both intelligence and goodness are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit is not so fully developed in the Old Testament as in the New. But the doctrine is there.
The Holy Spirit comes out more tenderly and touchingly than in
Ephesians 4:30 "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Here grief is ascribed to the Holy Spirit - if there is anything in act, or word or deed that is impure, unholy, unkind, selfish, mean, petty or untrue, this infinitely holy One is deeply grieved by it
If we will allow those words, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God," to sink into our hearts and become the motto of our lives they will keep us from many a sin
2. Many acts that only a Person can perform are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:10, "But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God." This passage sets before us the Holy Spirit, not merely as an illumination whereby we are enabled to grasp the deep things of God, but a Person who Himself searches the deep things of God and then reveals to us the precious discoveries which He has made.
Revelation 2:7, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." Here the Holy Spirit is set before us, not merely as an impersonal enlightenment that comes to our mind but as a Person who speaks and out of the depths of His own wisdom whispers into the ear of His listening servant the precious truth of God.
Galatians 4:6, "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.” Here the Holy Spirit is represented as crying out in the heart of the individual believer. Not merely a Divine influence producing in our own hearts the assurance of our son ship, but one who cries out in our hearts, who bears witness together with our spirit that we are sons of God. (See also Romans 8:16)
Romans 8:26, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." The Holy Spirit is also represented in the Scripture as one who prays. It is plain from this passage that the Holy Spirit is not merely an influence that moves us to pray, not merely an illumination that teaches us how to pray, but a Person who Himself prays in and through us.
(Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1; John 15:26) Here the Holy Spirit is set before us as a Person who gives His testimony to Jesus Christ, not merely as an illumination that enables the believer to testify of Christ, but as a Person who Himself testifies; and a clear distinction is drawn in this and the following verse between the testimony of the Holy Spirit and the testimony of the believer to whom He has borne His witness, for we read in the next verse, "And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning." So there are two witnesses, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the believer, and the believer bearing witness to the world.
John 14:26, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." The Holy Spirit is also spoken of as a teacher. And in a similar way, we read in John 16:12-14, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." And in the Old Testament, Nehemiah 9:20, "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them." In all these passages it is perfectly clear that the Holy Spirit is not a mere illumination that enables us to apprehend the truth, but a Person who comes to us to teach us day by day the truth of God. It is the privilege of the humblest believer in Jesus Christ, not merely to have his mind illumined to comprehend the truth of God, but to have a Divine Teacher to teach him daily the truth he needs to know (cf. 1 John 2:20, 27).
Romans 8:14, "Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." The Holy Spirit is also represented as the Leader and Guide of the children of God.
Acts 16:6, 7, "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to." Here it is a Person who takes the direction of the conduct of Paul and his companions and a Person whose authority they recognize and to whom they instantly submit.
Acts 13:2, "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'" the Holy Spirit is represented as the One who is the supreme authority in the church, who calls men to work and appoints them to office.
Acts 20:28, "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood." There can be no doubt to a candid seeker after truth that it is a Person, and a person of Divine majesty and sovereignty, who is here set before us.
From all the passages here quoted, it is evident that many acts that only a person can perform are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
3. An office is predicated of the Holy Spirit that can be predicated only of a person.
Our Savior said in John 14:16, 17, "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." Our Lord had announced to the disciples that He was about to leave them. An awful sense of desolation took possession of them. Sorrow filled their hearts (John 16:6) at the contemplation of their loneliness and absolute helplessness when Jesus should thus leave them. To comfort them the Lord tells them that they shall not be left alone, that in leaving them He was going to the Father and that He would pray the Father, who would give them another Comforter to take the place of Himself during His absence. Is it possible that Jesus Christ could have used such language if the other Comforter who was coming to take His place was only an impersonal influence or power? Still more, is it possible that Jesus could have said as He did in John 16:7, "But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you," if this Comforter whom He was to send was simply an impersonal influence or power? No, one Divine Person was going, another Person just as Divine was coming to take His place, and it was expedient for the disciples that the One go to represent them before the Father, for another just as Divine and sufficient was coming to take His place. This promise of our Lord and Savior of the coming of the other Comforter and of His abiding with us is the greatest and best of all for the present dispensation. This is the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4), the promise of promises. We shall take it up again when we come to study the names of the Holy Spirit.
4. A treatment is predicated of the Holy Spirit that could be predicated only of a Person.
Isaiah 63:10, "Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them." Here we are told that the Holy Spirit is rebelled against and grieved.
Ephesians 4:30. Only a person can be rebelled against and only a person of authority. Only a person can be grieved.
Hebrews 10:29, "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" Here we are told that the Holy Spirit is "insulted." There is but one kind of entity in the universe that can be insulted and that is a person. It is absurd to think of insulting an influence or a power or any kind of being except a person.
Acts 5:3, "Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?'" Here we have the Holy Spirit represented as one who can be lied to. One cannot lie to anything but a person.
Matthew 12:31, 32, "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Here we are told that the Holy Spirit is blasphemed against. It is impossible to blaspheme anything but a person. If the Holy Spirit is not a person, it certainly cannot be a more serious and decisive sin to blaspheme Him than it is to blaspheme the Son of man, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ Himself.
Here, then, we have four distinctive and decisive lines of proof that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Theoretically most of us believe this, but do we, in our real thoughts of Him and in our practical attitude toward Him, treat Him as if He were indeed a Person?
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