The Deity and Personhood of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit Is God

The Holy Spirit’s deity is established in the Bible in several ways, including the following:

1) Passages speak of Him as God. For example, when Peter confronts Ananias, he says, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? … You have not lied to man but to God” (Act 5:3-4).[1] Similarly, Paul uses the Spirit and God interchangeably when writing to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple?” (1Co 3:16), and then, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” (1Co 6:19).

2) Attributes that are His and God’s alone. The Spirit possesses the knowledge of God, as Paul states, “The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God …. No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1Co 2:10-11). His omniscience is also implied in Isaiah 40:13 and John 16:13. The Spirit possesses the unique power of God, doing the works of conviction (Joh 16:8-11) and regeneration (Joh 3:5-8), which only God can do (Mat 19:26). His omnipotence is also seen in His power to give life (Job 33:4; Luk 1:35). The Spirit is also present everywhere that God is present, as David recognizes, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” (Psa 139:7). Finally, the Spirit possesses eternality – Hebrews 9:14 declares Him to be “the eternal Spirit.”

3) Works attributed to God that He does. Conviction and regeneration have already been mentioned, and to these we could add His works of resurrection and glorification (Rom 8:11). Another of His divine works is inspiration: “All Scripture is breathed out by God” (2Ti 3:16), which came by means of those who “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2Pe 1:21).

4) His association with the Father and the Son. Among the many passages in Scripture that link the Spirit in an equal place with the other persons of the Trinity is our Lord’s instructions regarding baptism: “…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mat 28:19). Other clear examples include 2 Corinthians 13:14 and 1 Peter 1:2. The Holy Spirit’s names also make these links clear, as He is “the Spirit of our God” (1Co 6:11) and “the Spirit of Jesus” (Act 16:7). His equality with the Father and the Son is also seen when the Lord Jesus promised to ask the Father to send “another Helper” (Joh 14:16), using a word for “another” meaning “another of the same kind.”

The Holy Spirit Is a Person

Like His deity, there are many ways the Scriptures show the personhood of the Holy Spirit. He is not an impersonal force, like gravity, nor personification (a literary device ascribing personal characteristics to a nonpersonal thing), but He is a distinct person. This can be seen in:

1) The pronoun “He.” The word translated “Spirit” is neuter in gender in the Greek language. It would be expected grammatically that a neuter pronoun would be used to refer to the Spirit. However, the Lord Jesus stated, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you … he hears … he will speak … he will declare … he will glorify … he will take” (Joh 16:13-15). With each of the masculine pronouns, “he,” the Lord Jesus made a deliberate choice to emphasize that the Spirit is a person, not a thing.

2) His actions. In the above quoted statement from John 16, the Spirit is said to “hear” and to “speak.” He also “intercedes” (Rom 8:26). These are actions of a person rather than a mere force.

3) His attributes. It is often pointed out that personhood requires intelligence, a will and emotions. These are all true of the Holy Spirit. His intelligence is seen in what He knows (1Co 2:10-11) and in what He teaches (1Co 2:13; see also Joh 16:13). His will is evident in the choices He makes, as He “apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1Co 12:11; see also Act 15:28). And His emotions are seen in the fact that He can be grieved (Eph 4:30) and “outraged” (Heb 10:29).

4) His associations, and the fact that He can be blasphemed. The same verses noted above that establish His deity by linking Him with the Trinity and which state He is “another of the same kind” also establish that He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son. Equally, the fact that He can be “lied to” (Act 5:3) and “blasphemed against” (Mar 3:29) means that He must be a person – a divine person.

Precious Implications

We have touched only some of the Scriptures that establish the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit. And for us as believers, these truths about who He is hold many precious implications. These are developed in the other articles in this issue, but in summary, He is One with Him with whom we have come into relationship (Rom 8:16) and whose divine power and work affects all attitudes, areas and actions of our lives. May we live each day knowing Him, conscious of His holy personal presence with us and in us (Joh 14:17)!

[1] All Scripture quotations in this article are from the ESV.