Is the Holy Spirit a Person or a Thing?

It is true that the Holy Spirit is closely associated with God’s power.  But this does not mean that ‘the Holy Spirit equals God’s power’.

A number of lines of Biblical evidence show that the Spirit is a person.

First, by definition a person is a being with intelligence, emotion, and will.  The Spirit has all three:  Paul refers to the ‘mind of the Spirit’ (Romans 8 v27, intelligence); he reminds us that the Holy Spirit can be grieved (Ephesians 4 v30, emotion); and he says that the Spirit distributs spiritual gifts ‘just as He determines’ (1 Corinthians 12 v11, will).

The Spirit performs the kinds of actions a person performs.  For example, He directs (Acts 16 vv6-10), intercedes or prays for Christians (Romans 8 v 26); He does miraculous works (Acts 8 v 39),

The grammar of John 16 vv13-14 is worth noting.  Normally, a pronoun matches in gender (masculine, feminine or neuter) the noun it replaces.  The Greek noun translated ‘spirit’ is neuter.  Yet John, recording Jesus’ words, uses the masculine pronoun (He) twice.  Normal usage of the language did not include a personal identification for spirit, but John recorded what technically was gramatically incorrect in order to be theologically correct in clarifying that the Spirit is a person, not a thing.

This is important practically because we cannot have a personal relationship with a thing, only with another person.

The Spirit is both a person and fully God.

Let’s discipline ourselves to use the pronouns He, His, Him for the Spirit and not it.

Condensed from Understanding Theology by Daryl Aaron.


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