IMPORTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE
One of the most characteristic and distinctive doctrines of the Christian faith is that of the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship. If the Holy Spirit is a divine person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith and our love, and we do not know and recognize Him as such, then we are robbing a divine Being of the adoration and love and confidence which are His due.
The doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit is also of the highest importance from the practical standpoint. If we think of the Holy Spirit only as an impersonal power or influence, then our thought will constantly be, how can I get hold of and use the Holy Spirit; but if we think of Him in the Biblical way as a divine Person, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely tender, then our thought will constantly be, "How can the Holy Spirit get hold of and use me?" Is there no difference between the thought of the worm using God to thrash the mountain, or God using the worm to thrash the mountain? The former conception is low and heathenish, not differing essentially from the thought of the African fetish worshipper who uses his god to do his will. The latter conception is lofty and Christian. If we think of the Holy Spirit merely as a power or influence, our thought will be, "How can I get more of the Holy Spirit?"; but if we think of Him as a divine Person, our thought will be, "How can the Holy Spirit get more of me?" The former conception leads to self-exaltation; the latter conception to self-humiliation, self-emptyings and self-renunciation. If we think of the Holy Spirit merely as a Divine power or influence and then imagine that we have received the Holy Spirit, there will be the temptation to feel as if we belonged to a superior order of Christians. A woman once came to me to ask a question and began by saying, "Before I ask the question, I want you to understand that I am a Holy Ghost woman." The words and the manner of uttering them made me shudder. I could not believe that they were true. But if we think of the Holy Spirit in the Biblical way as a divine Being of infinite majesty, condescending to dwell in our hearts and take possession of our lives, it will put us in the dust, and make us walk very softly before God.
It is of the highest importance from an experimental standpoint that we know the Holy Spirit as a person. Many can testify of the blessing that has come into their own lives from coming to know the Holy Spirit, as an ever-present, livings divine Friend and Helper.
There are four lines of proof in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is a person.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
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 and will. Any being who knows and feels and wills is a person. When you say that the Holy Spirit is a person, some understand you to mean that the Holy Spirit has hands and feet and eyes and nose, and so on, but these are the marks, not of personality, but of corporeity. When we say that the Holy Spirit is a person, we mean that He is not a mere influence or power that God sends into our lives but that He is a Being who knows and feels and wills. These three characteristics of personality, knowledge, feeling and will, are ascribed to the Holy Spirit over and over again in the Scriptures.
In 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 we read, "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." Here "knowledge" is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not merely an illumination that comes into our minds, but He is a Being who Himself knows the deep things of God and who teaches us what He Himself knows.
We read again in 1 Corinthians 12:11, R.V., "But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally as He will." Here "will" is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere influence or power which we are to use according to our wills, but a Divine Person who uses us according to His will. This is a thought of fundamental importance in getting into right relations with the Holy Spirit. Many a Christian misses entirely the fullness of blessing that there is for him because he is trying to get the Holy Spirit to use Him according to his own foolish will, instead of surrendering himself to the Holy Spirit to be used according to His infinitely wise will. I rejoice that there is no divine power that I can get hold of and use according to my ignorant will. But how greatly do I rejoice that there is a Being of infinite wisdom who is willing to come into my heart and take possession of my life and use me according to His infinitely wise will.
We read in Romans 8:27, "And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Here "mind" is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The word here translated "mind" is a comprehensive word, including the ideas of thought, feeling and purpose. It is the same word used in Romans 8:7, where we read, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." So then, in the passage quoted we have personality in the fullest sense ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
We read still further in Romans 15:30, "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me." Here "love" is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere blind, unfeeling influence or power that comes into our lives. The Holy Spirit is a person who loves as tenderly as God, the Father, or Jesus Christ, the Son. Very few of us meditate as we ought upon the love of the Spirit. Every day of our lives we think of the love of God, the Father, and the love of Christ, the Son, but weeks and months go by, with some of us, without our thinking of the love of the Holy Spirit. Every day of our lives we kneel down and look up into the face of God, the Father and say, "I thank Thee, Father, for Thy great love that led Thee to send Thy only begotten Son down into this world to die an atoning sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary for me." Every day of our lives we kneel down and look up into the face of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and say, "I thank Thee, Thou blessed Son of God, for that great love of Thine that led Thee to turn Thy back upon all the glory of heaven and to come down to all the shame and suffering of earth to bear my sins in Thine own body upon the cross." But how often do we kneel down and say to the Spirit, "I thank Thee, Thou infinite and eternal Spirit of God for Thy great love that led Thee in obedience to the Father and the Son to come into this world and seek me out in my lost estate, and to follow me day after day and week after week and year after year until Thou hadst brought me to see my need of a Saviour, and hadst revealed to me Jesus Christ as just the Saviour I needed, and hadst brought me to a saving knowledge of Him." Yet we owe our salvation just as truly to the love of the Spirit as we do to the love of the Father and the love of the Son.
If it had not been for the love of God, the Father, looking down upon me in my lost condition, yes, anticipating my fall and ruin, and sending His only begotten Son to make full atonement for my sin, I should have been a lost man today. If it had not been for the love of the eternal Word of God, coming down into this world in obedience to the Father's commandment and laying down His life as an atoning sacrifice for my sin on the cross of Calvary, I should have been a lost man today. But just as truly, if it had not been for the love of the Holy Spirit, coming into this world in obedience to the Father and the Son and seeking me out in all my ruin and following me with never-wearying patience and love day after day and week after week and month after month and year after year, following me into places that it must have been agony for Him to go, wooing me though I resisted Him and insulted Him and persistently turned my back upon Him, following me and never giving me up until at last He had opened my eyes to see that I was utterly lost and then revealed Jesus Christ to me as an all-sufficient Saviour, and then imparted to me power to make this Saviour mine; if it had not been for this long-suffering, patient, never-wearying, yearning and unspeakably tender love of the Spirit to me, I should have been a lost man today.
INTELLIGENCE AND GOODNESS
Again we read in Nehemiah 9:20, R. V., "Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not Thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst." Here "intelligence" and "goodness" are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. This does not add any new thought to the passages already considered, but we bring it in here because it is from the Old Testament. There are those who tell us that the personality of the Holy Spirit is not found in the Old Testament. This passage of itself, to say nothing of others, shows us that this is a mistake. While the truth of the personality of the Holy Spirit naturally is not as fully developed in the Old Testament as in the New, none the less the thought is there and distinctly there.
We read again in Ephesians 4:30, "And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." In this passage "grief" is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere impersonal influence or power that God sends into our lives. He is a person who comes to dwell in our hearts, observing all that we do and say and think. And if there is anything in act or word or thought, or fleeting imagination that is impure, unkind, selfish, or evil in any way, He is deeply grieved by it.
This thought once fully comprehended becomes one of the mightiest motives to a holy life and a careful walk. How many a young man, who has gone from a holy, Christian home to the great city with its many temptations, has been kept back from doing things that he would otherwise do by the thought that if he did them his mother might hear of it and that it would grieve her beyond description. But there is One who dwells in our hearts, if we are believers in Christ, who goes with us wherever we go, sees everything that we do, hears everything that we say, observes every thought, even the most fleeting fancy, and this One is purer than the holiest mother that ever lived, more sensitive against sin, One who recoils from the slightest sin as the purest woman who ever lived upon this earth never recoiled from sin in its most hideous forms; and, if there is anything in act, or word, or thought, that has the slightest taint of evil in it, He is grieved beyond description. How often some evil thought is suggested to us and we are about to give entertainment to it and then the thought, "The Holy Spirit sees that and is deeply grieved by it," leads us to banish it forever from our mind.
THE ACTS OF THE SPIRIT
2. The second line of proof in the Bible of the personality of the Holy Spirit is that many acts that only a person can perform are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.
SEARCHING, SPEAKING AND PRAYING
For example, we read in 1 Corinthians 2:10 that the Holy Spirit searcheth the deep things of God. Here He is represented not merely as an illumination that enables us to understand the deep things of God, but a person who Himself searches into the deep things of God and reveals to us the things which He discovers. In Revelation 2:7 and many other passages, the Holy Spirit is represented as speaking. In Galatians 4:6, He is represented as crying out. In Romans 8:26, R. V., we read, "And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Here the Holy Spirit is represented to us as praying, not merely as an influence that leads us to pray, or an illumination that teaches us how to pray, but as a Person Who Himself prays in and through us. There is immeasurable comfort in the thought that every regenerate man or woman has two Divine Persons praying for him, Jesus Christ, the Son of God at the right hand of the Father praying for us (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1); and the Holy Spirit praying through us down here. How secure and how blessed is the position of the believer with these two Divine Persons, whom the Father always hears, praying for him.
TEACHING AND GUIDING
In John 15:26-27, we read, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." Here the Holy Spirit is very definitely set forth as a Person giving testimony, and a clear distinction is drawn between His testimony and the testimony which those in whom He dwells give. Again in John 14:26 we read, "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you." And again in John 16:12-14, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." (cf. also Nehemiah 9:20). In these passages, the Holy Spirit is set forth as a teacher of the truth, not merely an illumination that enables our mind to see the truth, but One who personally comes to us and teaches us the truth. It is the privilege of the humblest believer to have a divine person as his daily teacher of the truth of God. (cf. 1 John 2:20, 27).
In Romans 8:14 ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God") the Holy Spirit is represented as our personal guide, directing us what to do, taking us by the hand, as it were, and leading us into that line of action that is well-pleasing to God. In Acts 16:6-7 we read these deeply significant words, "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: But the Spirit suffered them not." Here the Holy Spirit is represented as taking command of the life and conduct of a servant of Jesus Christ. In Acts 13:2 and Acts 20:28, we see the Holy Spirit calling men to work and appointing them to office. Over and over again in the Scriptures actions are ascribed to the Holy Spirit which only a person could perform.
THE OFFICE OF THE SPIRIT
3. The third line of proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit is that an office is predicated to the Holy Spirit that could only be predicated of a person.
We read in John 14:16-17, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." Here we are told it is the office of the Holy Spirit to be "another Comforter" to take the place of our absent Saviour. Our Lord Jesus was about to leave His disciples. When He announced His departure to them, sorrow had filled their hearts (John 16:6). Jesus spoke words to comfort them. He told them that in the world to which He was going there was plenty of room for them also (John 14:2). He told them further that He was going to prepare that place for them (John 14:3) and that when He had thus prepared it, He was coming back for them; but He told them further that even during His absence, while He was preparing heaven for them, He would not leave them orphaned (John 14:18), but that He would pray the Father and the Father would send to them another Comforter to take His place. Is it possible that Jesus should have said this if that One Who was going to take His place after all was not a person, but only an influence or power, no matter how beneficent and divine? Still further, is inconceivable that He should have said what He does say in John 16:7, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but, if I depart, I will send Him unto you," if this other Comforter that was coming to take His place was only an influence or power?
ONE AT OUR SIDE
This becomes clearer still when we bear in mind that the word translated "Comforter" means comforter plus a great deal more beside. The revisers found a great deal of difficulty in translating the Greek word. They have suggested "advocate," "helper" and a mere transference of the Greek word "Paraclete" into the English. The word so translated is Parakleatos, the same word that is translated "advocate" in 1 John 2:1; but "advocate" does not give the full force and significance of the word etymologically. Advocate means about the same as Parakleetos, but the word in usage has obtained restricted sense. "Advocate" is Latin; Parakleetos is Greek. The exact Latin word is "advocatus," which means one called to another. (That is, to help him or take his part or represent him). Parakleetos means one called alongside, that is, one who constantly stands by your side as your helper, counsellor, comforter, friend. It is very nearly the thought expressed in the familiar hymn, "Ever present, truest friend." Up to the time that Jesus had uttered these words, He Himself had been the Parakleetos to the disciples, the Friend at hand, the Friend who stood by their side. When they got into any trouble, they turned to Him. On one occasion they desired to know how to pray and they turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, teach us to pray" (Luke 11:1). On another occasion Peter was sinking in the waves of Galilee and he cried, saying, "Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him," and saved him (Matthew 14:30-31). In every extremity they turned to Him. Just so now that Jesus has gone to be with the Father, while we are awaiting His return, we have another Person just as divine as He, just as wise, just as strong, just as able to help, just as loving, always by our side and ready at any moment that we look to Him, to counsel us, to teach us, to help us, to give us victory, to take the entire control of our lives.
A CURE FOR LONELINESS
This is one of the most comforting thoughts in the New Testament for the present dispensation. Many of us, as we have read the story of how Jesus walked and talked with His disciples, have wished that we might have been there; but today we have a Person just as divine as Jesus, just as worthy of our confidence and our trust, right by our side to supply every need of our life. If this wonderful truth of the Bible once gets into our hearts and remains there, it will save us from all anxiety and worry. It is a cure for loneliness. Why need we ever be lonely, even though separated from the best of earthly friends, if we realize that a divine Friend is always by our side? It is a cure for breaking hearts. Many of us have been called upon to part with those earthly ones whom we most loved, and their going has left an aching void that it seemed no one and no thing could ever fill; but there is a divine Friend dwelling in the heart of the believer, who can, and who, if we look to Him to do it, will fill every nook and corner and every aching place in our hearts. It is a cure from the fear of darkness and of danger. No matter how dark the night and how many foes we may fear are lurking on every hand, there is a divine One who walks by our side and who can and will protect us from every danger. He can make the darkest night bright by the glory of His presence.
But it is in our service for Christ that this thought of the Holy Spirit comes to us with greatest helpfulness. Many of us do what service we do for the Master with fear and trembling. We are always afraid that we may say or do the wrong thing; and so we have no joy or liberty in our service. When we stand up to preach, there is an awful sense of responsibility upon us. We tremble with the thought that we are not competent to do the work that we are called to do, and there is the constant fear that we shall not do it as it ought to be done. But if we can only remember that the responsibility is not really upon us but upon another, the Holy Spirit, and that He knows just what ought to be done and just what ought to be said, and then if we will get just as far back out of sight as possible and let Him do the work which He is so perfectly competent to do, our fears and our cares will vanish. All sense of constraint will go and the proclamation of God's truth will become a joy unspeakable, not a worrying care.
Perhaps a word of personal testimony would be pardonable at this point. I entered the ministry because I was obliged to. My conversion turned upon my preaching. For years I refused to be a Christian because I was determined that I would not preach. The night I was converted, I did not say, "I will accept Christ," or anything of that sort. I said, "I will preach." But if any man was never fitted by natural temperament to preach, it was I. I was abnormally timid. I never even spoke in a public prayer meeting until after I had entered the theological seminary. My first attempt to do so was an agonizing experience. In my early ministry I wrote my sermons out and committed them to memory, and when the evening service would close and I had uttered the last word of the sermon, I would sink back with a sense of great relief that that was over for another week. Preaching was torture. But the glad day came when I got hold of the thought, and the thought got hold of me, that when I stood up to preach another stood by my side, and though the audience saw me, the responsibility was really upon Him and that He was perfectly competent to bear it, and all I had to do was to stand back and get as far out of sight as possible and let Him do the work which the Father sent Him to do. From that day preaching has not been a burden nor a duty but a glad privilege. I have no anxiety nor care. I know that He is conducting the service and doing it just as it ought to be done, and even though things sometimes may not seem to go just as I think they ought, I know they have gone right. Often times when I get up to preach and the thought takes possession of me that He is there to do it all, such a joy fills my heart that I feel like shouting for very ecstasy.
TREATMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
4. The fourth line of proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit is: a treatment is predicated of the Holy Spirit that could only be predicated of a person.
We read in Isaiah 63:10, R. V., "But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and Himself fought against them." Here we see that the Holy Spirit is rebelled against and grieved. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30). You cannot rebel against a mere influence or power. You can only rebel against and grieve a person. Still further we read in Hebrews 10:29, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, all unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Here we are told that the Holy Spirit is "done despite unto," that is "treated with contumely." (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). You cannot "treat with contumely" an influence or power, only a person. Whenever a truth is presented to our thought, it is the Holy Spirit who presents it. If we refuse to listen to that truth, then we turn our backs deliberately upon that divine Person who presents it; we insult Him.
Perhaps, at this present time, the Holy Spirit is trying to bring to the mind of the reader of these lines some truth that the reader is unwilling to accept and you are refusing to listen. Perhaps you are treating that truth, which in the bottom of your heart you know to be true, with contempt, speaking scornfully of it. If so, you are not merely treating abstract truth with contempt, you are scorning and insulting a Person, a divine Person.
LYING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
In Acts 5:3, we read, "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" Here we are taught that the Holy Spirit can be lied to. You cannot tell lies to a blind, impersonal influence or power, only to a person. Not every lie is a lie to the Holy Spirit. It was a peculiar kind of lie that Ananias told. From the context we see that Ananias was making a profession of an entire consecration of everything. (See Acts 4:36-37; Acts 5:1-11). As Barnabas had laid all at the apostles' feet for the use of Christ and His cause, so Ananias pretended to do the same, but in reality he kept back part; the pretended full consecration was only partial. Real consecration is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The profession of full consecration was to Him and the profession was false. Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit. How often in our consecration meetings today we profess a full consecration, when in reality there is something that we have held back. In doing this, we lie to the Holy Spirit.
BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT
In Matthew 12:31-32, we read, "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Here we are told that the Holy Spirit may be blasphemed. It is impossible to blaspheme an influence or power; only a Person can be blasphemed. We are still further told that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a more serious and decisive sin than even the blasphemy of the Son of Man Himself. Could anything make more clear that the Holy Spirit is a person and a divine person?
To sum it all up, THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON. The Scriptures make this plain beyond a question to any one who candidly goes to the Scriptures to find out what they really teach. Theoretically, most of us believe this, but do we in our real thought of Him, in our practical attitude toward Him, treat Him as a Person? Do we regard Him as indeed as real a Person as Jesus Christ, as loving, as wise, as strong, as worthy of our confidence and love and surrender as He? The Holy Spirit came into this world to be to the disciples and to us what Jesus Christ had been to them during the days of His personal companionship with them. (John 14:16-17). Is He that to us? Do we walk in conscious fellowship with Him? Do we realize that He walks by our side every day and hour? Yes, and better than that, that He dwells in our hearts and is ready to fill them and take complete possession of our lives? Do we know the "communion of the Holy Ghost?" (2 Corinthians 13:14). Communion means fellowship, partnership, comradeship. Do we know this personal fellowship, this partnership, this comradeship, this intimate friendship, of the Holy Spirit? Herein lies the secret of a real Christian life, a life of liberty and joy and power and fullness. To have as one's ever-present Friend, and to be conscious that one has as his ever-present Friend, the Holy Spirit, and to surrender one's life in all its departments entirely to His control, this is true Christian living.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon