Which member of the Trinity is most misunderstood? I think it is the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, because Christians misunderstand him, they fail to depend on the power and comfort he brings. In our battles against sin and our efforts to be faithful witnesses for Christ, we need the Holy Spirit’s help.
In order to uncover some of the mystery, let’s look at some of what the Bible says about the third person in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit is a HE
How you ever thought about what defines a person as a person? In other words, what makes someone a someone instead of a something? Even though, for example, our filthy laundry might seem ‘alive,’ the contents within our washing machines are just things and not people (hopefully!).
A person is someone who has a mind, a will, and emotions. As stubborn as some stains can be, no object of clothing ever qualifies to be a person by that description. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, qualifies to be a person on all three qualifications.
The Mind of the Spirit
Paul tells about the Holy Spirit knowing the thoughts of God. “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).
Because the Holy Spirit searches and knows the thoughts of God the Father, we understand that he too has a mind. The fact that he knows all that God knows (which is everything) also reveals his deity.
The Will of the Spirit
The will is the part of a person that makes choices. While we may say that our car has a mind of its own, as if it decides to cooperate with us on getting to the store, we are just using a figure of speech. The Holy Spirit literally makes independent decisions, which further demonstrates his personhood.
The early church had a meeting to decide if circumcision was necessary for salvation. They were obviously seeking the Lord’s direction in this important decision. In Acts 15:28, they wrote in their letter to the churches, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these.” The Holy Spirit was clearly involved in the decision.
The Emotion of the Spirit
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:30 that the Holy Spirit expresses the emotion of grief when we blow it in our communication. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Clearly the Holy Spirit has a mind, a will, and emotions.
It is wrong to think of the Holy Spirit as the impersonal force of the Star Wars movies. It is wrong to think of the Holy Spirit as simply the power of God in action. It is wrong to call the Holy Spirit an IT. HE is a person. The Bible always refers to him with masculine pronouns.
2. The Holy Spirit is God
Not only does the Bible speak of the Holy Spirit as a person, but many verses of Scripture teach that the Holy Spirit is fully God. The Bible says that God is essentially one (Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). The Bible also says that the one true God is revealed in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Great Commission puts the Son of God and the Holy Spirit on equal grounds as the Father. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus would be blaspheming God to attach a mere exalted creature and an impersonal force to the name and authority of God the Father in baptism.
The deity of the Holy Spirit is also seen in the closing benediction of 2 Corinthians. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). Even though God was not first in the list, Paul was not out of line because Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit share the same divine essence as the Father.
One of the most sobering stories in the New Testament is about Ananias and Sapphira being struck down on the spot for lying to God (see Acts 5:1-11). It is interesting to note Peter’s rebuke to Ananias for lying. Notice the identity of the Person lied to. “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God,’” (Acts 5:3-4).
In verse 3, Peter says that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, but in verse 4, notice that Peter says that he lied to God. This is yet another biblical evidence that the Holy Spirit is God.
The fact that the Holy Spirit is as fully God as the Father or the Son does not mean that there is no order within the Trinity, or that each of the persons performs the exact same functions. In a family, God has given the husband responsibility for the household. The wife is called to respectfully submit to his final decisions (Ephesians 5:22-25). The children in the home are to obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3).
Before God, which family member is most important? None of the above. All members of the family are on equal ground before God. Yet within the family there is distinction in responsibility and functions. The same is true within the Godhead. Each member of the Trinity is fully God, yet each member has his own functions.
Though the Holy Spirit is silent and invisible, the Bible has much to say about his role within the Godhead. Let me challenge you to look up as many verses as you can find about the Holy Spirit (use a concordance if you have one—either the small one in the back of your Bible, an exhaustive one like Strong’s Concordance, or through the search bar on esv.org). Find out who he is and what he does, so that your relationship with him can grow. You and I need his help and comfort. May God be pleased to keep revealing to you more mysteries about the Holy Spirit through his Word, the Bible.
By John Crotts