Church of God, New World Ministries

Is The Holy Spirit A Person?

We know that Jesus Christ is, was and always will be God. However, you can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and you will find no such Bible teaching with regard to the Holy Spirit. The Bible doesn’t teach that the Holy Spirit is a third member of the God Family or of a Trinity. This is not a prejudiced anti-Trinitarian opinion. It is a fact that is recognized even by Trinitarian theologians!

Discussing the evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible, Dr. W.N. Clarke, writes: “The New Testament begins the work, but does not finish it; for it contains no similar teaching (like John 1:1-18 concerning the divinity of Christ) with regard to the Holy Spirit. The unique nature and mission of Christ are traced to a ground in the being of God; but similar ground for the divineness of the Spirit is nowhere shown. Thought in the New Testament is never directed to that end. Thus the Scriptures take the first step toward a doctrine of essential Trinity, or threeness in the being of one God, but they do not take that second step by which alone the doctrine could be completed” (An Outline of Christian Theology).

Theologians have to recognize that there is no biblical proof for the divinity or personality of the Spirit. And that in order to arrive at a doctrine of the Trinity, they have to go outside of the Bible.

Karl Barth, one of the most noted theologians of the 20th century, admits that the church has gone beyond the Bible to arrive at its doctrine of the Trinity.

“The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence and therefore in an equal sense God Himself. And the other express declaration is also lacking that God is God thus and only thus, i.e., as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These two express declarations which go beyond the witness of the Bible are the twofold content of the church doctrine of the Trinity” (Doctrine of the Word of God, p. 437).

Since, as theologians recognize, the Bible is not the source of the Trinity doctrine, now can they square it with the Bible teaching that inspired Scripture should be the source of doctrine? (II Tim. 3:16). The answer is, they can’t. They must freely admit the painful facts.

The personality of Christ is thoroughly provable from the Bible, but there is no such proof for a personality of the Holy Spirit.

“The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person, neither in the strictly philosophical sense, nor in the Semitic sense. God’s spirit is simply God’s Power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly (Isa. 48:16; 63:11; 32:15).” So say the authors of the New Catholic Encyclopedia.

“Very rarely do the Old Testament writers attribute to God’s spirit emotions or intellectual activity (Isa. 63:10). When such expressions are used, they are mere figures of speech that are explained by the fact that the ruah was regarded also as the seat of intellectual acts and feeling (Gen. 41:8).Neither is there found in the Old Testament or in rabbinical literature the notion that God’s spirit is an intermediary being between God and the world. This activity is proper to the angels, although to them is ascribed some of the activity that elsewhere is ascribed to the spirit of God” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIII. P. 574).

In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit is pictured as His power. The power by which the One who became Jesus Christ, as Executive for the Father, created the entirety of the universe. These theologians also recognize that when the Spirit is spoken of as a person or in a personal way, the Bible writer is merely personifying the Spirit, as he would wisdom or any other attribute.

Now what about the New Testament? They say: “Although the New Testament concepts of the Spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the Old Testament, in the New Testament there is a gradual revelation that the Spirit of God is a person.”

But this would seem true only if you are armed with a preconceived notion that God is a Trinity. We will see there are only a few scriptures that can even remotely be construed as presenting the Spirit as a person, and in each case only as the result of a grammatical misunderstanding.

But again let’s let the New Catholic Encyclopedia continue: “The majority of New Testament texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.”

Though theologians would like for the Bible to say that the Spirit is a person, they must admit that the majority of the scriptures connected with it show that it is not someone, but something. Even the personification of the Spirit is no proof of its personality.

“When a quasi-personal activity is ascribed to God’s spirit, e.g., speaking, hindering, desiring, dwelling (Acts 8:29; 16;7; Rom. 8:9), one is not justified in concluding immediately that in these passages God’s spirit is regarded as a Person; the same expressions are used in regard to rhetorically personified things or abstract ideas (see Rom. 6:6; 7:17). Thus the context of the phrase ‘blaspheme against the spirit’ (Matt. 12:31 cf. Matt. 12:28; Luke 11:20) shows that reference is being made to the power of God” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XIII, p. 575).

After such admission, it is almost inconceivable that any theologian could still teach that the Spirit is a person, yet they do.

The one place that most theologians feel describes the Spirit as a person is resolved by a lesson in the Greek language. In the Greek language, like the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, and others), every noun has what is called gender; that is, it is either masculine, feminine or neuter. The gender of a word has nothing to do with whether it is really masculine or feminine; it is more of a grammatical tool.

The verses most Trinitarian theologians will fall back on for their proof that the Spirit is a person are in the 14th, 15th and 16th chapters of John’s gospel. Here Jesus is recorded as referring to the Spirit as “the Comforter.” The pronoun “he” is used in connection with the word “comforter” – parakletos – however, the reason for the use of the personal pronoun “he” is for grammatical, not theological, or spiritual reasons.

All pronouns in Greek must agree in gender with the word they refer to, therefore the pronoun “he” is used when referring to the Greek word parakletos. Only John refers to the Spirit as the parakletos – “Comforter.” The other New Testament writers use the word pneuma which means “breath” or “spirit.” This is the Greek equivalent of ruah, the Hebrew word for “Spirit “used in the Old Testament. Pneuma is a grammatically neuter word and is always represented by the pronoun “it.”

However, the translators of the KJV, being swayed by the doctrine of the Trinity, have generally mistranslated the pronouns referring to pneuma as masculine. One instance where they did not mistranslate is found in Romans 8:16. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

John’s use of the parakletos is no proof the Spirit is a person. For if the simple gender of a noun were the basis for the personality of the Spirit, then the Spirit changed gender from the Old to the New Testament, the Hebrew word for “spirit” in the Old Testament being in the feminine gender in a majority of cases and in a masculine sense less often.

The fact that the word “spirit” is feminine in the Hebrew did lead some to believe that the Spirit was a feminine being of the Godhead. They believed in a Trinity of the Father, the Mother and the Son. Interestingly enough, their belief was condemned by the Trinitarians who used the same kind of ploy to prove that the Spirit was a masculine being!

What is the Spirit? As we saw earlier, theologians admit that the Spirit of God is the power of God. They would have no reason to believe otherwise unless they had a preconceived idea of a Trinity.

The Spirit, or Holy Spirit, as it is called in the New Testament, was the power by which Jesus Christ was begotten (Matt. 1:18).

When Joseph was about to put Mary away because she was pregnant, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20).

Christ was begotten in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was literally born with God’s Spirit in His mind. He became the Son of God and died for us that we might have the same opportunity to become God.

Paul plainly taught this vital scriptural truth that we just read in Romans 8:16. “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Paul didn’t mean this in some sentimental sort of way, as he goes on to show in the next verse. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”

Paul goes on to point out that Jesus Christ is the heir of all things in Hebrews 1:2. We then have the opportunity, if we have God’s Spirit in our minds, to inherit all things with Jesus. The Spirit of God unites with our minds, and we are begotten (or conceived) again, this time spiritually not as we originally were, physically. We become a new person.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again into a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3). And verse 23 says, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.”

The Holy Spirit impregnates us with God’s nature. That spiritual begettal imbues us with the nature and mind of God. Throughout our Christians lives we continue to grow and develop in the understanding and mind of God until we are finally born into the God family and made immortal at the return of Jesus Christ to this earth (I Cor. 15:49-52).

How can we obtain this Spirit? The answer was given by Peter on the day of Pentecost mentioned in Acts chapter two. When Peter was asked at the end of his sermon what to do, he said: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Here again we can see why the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19.God the Father is the One who brings us to repentance; Jesus Christ - God the Son - is the one who died that we can have our past sins forgiven; and the Holy Spirit is the power by which God the Father begets us. How plain the truth of the Bible is. The Holy Spirit is the power of God. It is not a person. It is the power by which we are begotten that we might become sons of God.

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