THE HOLY SPIRIT: NOT A “THING” BUT A PERSON

In the Introduction to her book Jesus in Me, Anne Graham Lotz says, “I’ve heard the Holy Spirit spoken of as an ‘it,’ a feeling, a dove, a flame, a ghost, an emotion, or even an ecstatic experience…. The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a person.”[1] Not only that, we learn from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is an essential member of the Trinity—He is God.

That distinction is important because, as R.A. Torrey explains, “If the Holy Spirit is a person, and a Divine Person, and we do not know Him as such, then we are robbing a Divine Being of the worship and the faith and the love and the surrender to Himself which are His due.”[2]

Arthur Pink describes a person as “an intelligent and voluntary entity, of whom personal properties may be truly predicated. A ‘person’ is a living entity, endowed with understanding and will, being an intelligent and willing agent. Such is the Holy Spirit: all the elements that constitute personality are ascribed to and found in Him.”[3]

In future articles we will discuss and document the evidence for those personal properties. But let’s begin with one you may not have considered. Look at the following verses and notice each of the pronouns that refer to the Holy Spirit:

John 16:7, 8, 13-15:

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment;…

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

In this version (the NIV), I count 14 times the Holy Spirit is referred to as he, him, or his.

In the King James Version of the same verses we find he, him, himself 13 times:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”

Why is that important? Lehman Strauss says,

“The following quotation came to the attention of the writer several years ago, and though its source is unknown, it has been well written that ‘the use of these pronouns is the more remarkable from the fact that in the Greek language the word for Spirit is a neuter noun, and according to Greek usage, the pronouns that refer to it should be neuter, and yet in many instances a masculine pronoun is used, thus bringing out very strikingly how the Bible idea of the Personality of the Holy Spirit dominates grammatical construction.’”[4]

Strauss alludes to the fact that the Greek word translated “spirit” is pneuma, which is a neuter (not masculine or feminine) word. That means that the pronoun “it” would be presumed. But that’s not what we find. Instead, the Greek masculine pronoun ekeinos is used. What does that mean? John Walvoord explains: “Personal pronouns are used of the Holy Spirit in such a way that personality is affirmed…. The only explanation for the masculine is that the pronouns refer to a person.”[5]

The final word comes from Anne Graham Lotz as she explains, “We need to be clear that we are not speaking of an ‘it.’ We are speaking of a ‘He.’ He is a living person who has a mind, a will, and emotions. He is referred to as the third person of the Trinity not because He is the least but because He is the third person to be more fully revealed in Scripture.”[6]

Go Deeper

  1. Anne Graham Lotz, Jesus in Me (The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition), p. 7. 
  2. R.A. Torrey, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Zellerz Publishing Co., Kindle Edition), p. 3. 
  3. Arthur W. Pink, The Holy Spirit (Chapel Library. Kindle Edition). 
  4. Lehman Strauss, The Third Person (New York, Loizeaux Brothers, 1954), p. 17. 
  5. John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition), p. 10. 
  6. Lotz, p. 8 

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