The Person and Identity of the Spirit of God

This article deals primarily with Old Testament Scriptures to show the Person and Identity of the Spirit of God.

Although the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the Scriptures clearly teach that there is One Triune God – three Persons in the Godhead. Although this article is not about this great fundamental truth, it is necessary to state it since our subject is about One Person of the Godhead, The Holy Spirit of God. In this article we will generally confine ourselves to the Old Testament Scriptures.

The word for ‘spirit’ in the Old Testament is “ruah” or “ruwach” (Strong) and is translated in a number of ways. In general it signifies a spirit or wind i.e. anything that moves but cannot be seen or touched. It is translated ‘wind’ ( 1 Kings 19:11), and as the wind varies and changes (so it cannot be trusted), it is used metaphorically to signify vanity or worthlessness (e.g. Job 15:2; jer 5:13). It is translated ‘spirit’ in relation to angels, both good (Psa 104:4) and bad (1 Kings 22:21-22) and in relation to men (Prov 18:14). Despite the varied ways in which this word is used, it is abundantly clear that throughout the course of the Old Testament Scriptures it is used in a distinctive way of the Spirit of God, bringing before us the doctrine of The Spirit.

The Person of the Spirit

That the Spirit is a distinct Person is clearly proved by the many passages which attribute features or properties to Him that can only belong to a person.

The Spirit spoke to Ezekiel, “He spoke unto me” (Ezek 2:1-2), and He spoke to Isaiah, “And He said” (Isa 6:910, Acts 28:25-27). Thus He speaks to individuals. We read in Psalm 106:33 that Israel provoked the Spirit and in Isaiah 63:10 that they vexed the Holy Spirit. Only a person can be provoked and vexed. David received the pattern of Solomon’s temple by the Spirit (1 Chron 28:12). Micah was empowered by the Spirit (Micah 3:8). Ezekiel was set upon his feet by the Spirit (Ezek 2:2; 3:24). The Spirit gives and empowers. “The Lord God, and his Spirit hath sent me” (Isa 48:16) clearly indicates the distinct Personality of the Spirit. He is called “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isa 11:2). Wisdom, counsel and knowledge belong to Him essentially, eternally and are infinite. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14 – see also Rom 11:34). The clear answer in the passage to these questions is, “No one,” for He is God (lsa 40:28). As to might, Micah asks, “Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened (shortened)?” (Micah 2:7) that He cannot work. No, for Micah goes on to say that he was “full of power by the Spirit of the Lord” (Micah 3:8). We also read that the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Samson (judges 14:6; 15:14).

The Identity of the Spirit

There are a number of expressions used to identify the Person of The Spirit. He is called the Spirit (Ezekiel 2:2; 3:12). This itself expresses His Godhead for we read in John 4:24 that “God is (a) Spirit” which speaks of the nature of God, indicating One who is eternal, infinite (without bounds), unchangeable and unseen. This is applicable to each Person in the Godhead (the Father, the Son and the Spirit) but the expression is used generally and particularly of the Spirit, declaring His special manner and order of existence. He is called the Spirit of God (Gen 1:2; Num 24:2), not only to distinguish Him from all other spirits, but also to indicate that He is essentially and eternally God. This title also indicates that He proceeds from God as a distinct Person and that He is given by God. Just as the Son of God stands alone in the solitary dignity of His Person as the Eternal Son, so the Spirit of God stands alone in the solitary dignity of His Person as the Eternal Spirit. He is called the Spirit of the Lord (Judges 3:10; Ezek 11:5) indicating sovereignty, and thus, as to His Person, He is called Lord (see Isa 6:8 with Acts 28:25). He is called the Holy Spirit. David refers to Him as “Thy Holy Spirit” (Psa 51:11 – see Isa 63:10-11) or “the Spirit of Thy Holiness” indicating the holiness of His nature, absolutely and intrinsically holy.

The Deity of the Spirit

There are many passages that bring before us the deity of the Spirit. In 2 Samuel 23 we read that David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue” (V 2), but he then states, “The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me” (V 3). Thus the Spirit of the Lord is also called the God of Israel and the Rock of Israel. In Deuteronomy 32:12 we read that the Lord alone did lead Israel, but in Isaiah 63:10-14 we learn that it was the Spirit that lead them and caused them to rest. Thus the Spirit is called the Lord. Psalm 78:16-18 (referring to a number of incidents during Israel’s wilderness journey) tells us that Israel provoked the most High and tempted God. Yet Isaiah 63:10, referring to the same incidents, tells us that they rebelled and vexed His Holy Spirit, showing that the Spirit is the most High and God. Being called God, He must have the nature of God. These passages clearly establish the deity of the Spirit. David asks, “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” He then makes a number of statements that show there was no place where he could escape from the presence of the Spirit (Psa 139:7-12, Isa 40:22; Jer 23:24). These emphasize the omnipresence of the Spirit. Isaiah 40:13-17, Isaiah 40:28 and Psalm 137:4 indicate the omniscience of the Spirit (see also Romans 11:3336 where the same things are said of God). The omnipotence of the Spirit is established in the passages which attribute creation to Him. “The Spirit of God hath made me” (Job 33:4). “By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens” (job 26:13 with Psa 33:6), “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit, they were created: and thou renewest the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30 with Genesis 1:2). See also Micah 2:7, Zechariah 4:6 and Isaiah 40:28. He is called the eternal Spirit in the New Testament (Hebrews 9:14) which readily links with Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” As God is called holy, “I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2), “the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 1:4), so the Spirit is called holy (Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11, Ephesians 4:30), establishing again His deity In the New Testament we learn that the Holy Spirit sanctifies (Romans 15:16), but in the Old Testament we read, “I am the Lord that cloth sanctify you” (Exodus 31:13) and, “I the Lord, which sanctify you, am holy” (Leviticus 21:8). This again indicates the deity of the Spirit. The Spirit is called good. “Thou gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them” (Nehemiah 9:20; “Thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” or “lead me by Thy good Spirit” (Psalm 143:10). He is thus called because His nature is essentially and intrinsically good, but the Lord Jesus states, “There is none good but one, that is, God” (Matthew 19:17). Thus once again His deity is established.

The only conclusion we can come to from the many passages considered is that the Holy Spirit of God is not a power or a quality but a divine, self-subsisting, selfsufficient, eternal Person, possessing all the attributes of Godhead, coequal and coeternal with the Father and the Son.