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The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force. The Bible teaches that He is active in our lives, a distinct person, and fully God.
My brother Dave was the area supervisor of several gas stations. Every day he visited each of his stores. One morning he left early and started for the farthest store on his route. Dave was feeling depressed, and with no one in the car with him, he had few distractions from his feelings. The emptiness of his life troubled him. The road trip was getting miserable.
Then suddenly, Dave said he heard a voice, an audible voice! Someone in that car said, “Jesus loves you!” In shock, my brother turned to his right. He saw no one. Who was that? Was it God? “Forgive me!” Dave cried out. Then something happened in his heart. God gave him the assurance right then that he was a new creature in Christ.
Discovering that he no longer wanted the cigarettes in his front pocket, Dave threw them onto the car floor to be thrown away when he reached his destination. When he got home that night, he poured out the alcohol from the bar in his basement. He gathered his family around the dining room table and told them that things would be different in their home. And they were. That was over twenty years ago, and my brother is still a strong Christian.
Now my question is: who spoke to my brother going down the highway? Was it an angel? Was it Jesus? Was it Dave’s imagination? I believe the voice Dave heard that morning was the voice of the Holy Spirit. Why does He speak? He speaks (though usually not audibly) because He is a Person, because He is God, and because His work is to bring each of us into a delightful, personal relationship with Jesus.
The Holy Spirit can speak (Acts 8:29, 11:12, 13:2)—though some people don’t think the Holy Spirit can speak because they think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force, or simply a presence. For instance, a Jehovah’s Witness might say something like this:
“The holy spirit is not a person and it is not a part of a Trinity. The holy spirit is God’s active force that he uses to accomplish his will. . . . To a certain extent, it can be likened to electricity.”1
The Jehovah’s Witness sees the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force. Maybe you, too, have trouble thinking of the Holy Spirit as a real person. After all, He doesn’t have a physical body like Jesus does. But He is a person who has eternally lived in an intimate relationship with God the Father and God the Son. And now He invites each of us to participate in that dynamic relationship of love.
A real person has the attributes of personality, which include mind, will, and emotions. Does the Holy Spirit have a will? He distributes spiritual gifts to Christians “as He wills.”2 Does the Holy Spirit have a mind? He “searches . . . the deep things of God” and knows them.3 Does the Holy Spirit have emotions? We are told to “grieve not the Holy Spirit.”4 If the Holy Spirit can be grieved, then He has emotions. Because the Holy Spirit has a mind, a will, and emotions, we know that He is a Person.5
A real person also has the capacity to have relationships with others. That’s the primary reason we have mind, will, and emotions. According to Philippians 2:1, the Spirit is able to have fellowship with us.6 According to 2 Corinthians 13:14, the Holy Spirit can have communion with us.7 One who is able to commune and to have fellowship is capable of personal relationships. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is a person.
Understand that the Holy Spirit is a real Person, not just a force or a presence or a power. You must recognize Him as a Person. He can speak.8 He is praying for you, just as Christ is praying for you.9 He will teach you what you need to know. He will guide you in your decisions. He tells you that you are a child of God.10 He will personally clean up the “rooms” of your innermost being when you let Him. You can submit to His voice or reject His voice. If you disobey His voice, He will be grieved. Respecting the Holy Spirit as a person is necessary for your relationship with Him.
Take time to listen for the Spirit. Don’t wait for an audible voice—He rarely speaks audibly—but listen as He speaks through the Word. Learn to understand what many call “the prompts” and “the checks” of the Spirit. You can experience these because the Spirit, as a divine Person, has taken a personal interest in you. Have you ever thanked Him for that?
The Holy Spirit is the all-knowing, all-seeing, everywhere-present God. Acts 5:3–4 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is God. Remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira? Before Ananias was struck dead, Peter told him, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? . . . You have not lied to men; but to God.” From this event we can see that lying to the Holy Spirit is the same as lying to God; therefore, the Holy Spirit is God.
There is more Scriptural evidence that the Holy Spirit is God. We see from the Bible that:
The Holy Spirit is God Himself, the third Person of the divine Trinity. Why is it so important to believe in the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit? It is crucial because you cannot give Him the honor and respect that He deserves if you don’t consider Him a divine Person. In fact, I find it doubtful that someone can be saved while he denies the personhood and deity of the One who tries to draw him to salvation.14
One person I talked to declared, “The Holy Spirit is Jesus.” Some people think that the Holy Spirit is actually the same Person as the Father and the Son. But the Scriptures clearly teach a distinction between the Persons of the Trinity. For example, again and again in John 14–16, Jesus referred to a Helper (“Comforter” in the KJV) that He would send when He went back to the Father.15 This Helper would guide the disciples and teach them.16 If Jesus and the Holy Spirit were one and the same Person, Jesus’s reference to the Holy Spirit as another Helper would not make sense. Jesus must have been referring to another Person distinct from Himself.
Look at the account of Jesus’s baptism.17 Here the Son is baptized; a voice from Heaven says, “This is my beloved Son”; and the Holy Spirit, like a dove, rests upon Jesus. All of this occurs simultaneously. All three of the members of the Trinity are seen here at the same time, obviously distinct from one another.
As a distinct person, the Holy Spirit has lived in a loving relationship with the Father and Son from all eternity. God created us to participate in that love relationship. God wants us to enjoy fellowship with Him,18 as each member of the Trinity has enjoyed fellowship with each other from before the beginning of time.19
The Holy Spirit speaks to us because He is the third Person of the Trinity, sent by the Father and the Son to work in our hearts.20 The Holy Spirit was active in creation.21 He inspired the Holy Scriptures.22 So, what does He do today? He convicts the world of sin.23 He regenerates the repentant believer24 and gives assurance to those of us who are saved.25 He sanctifies us.26 He fills us with His presence.27 He gives us power to live holy lives28 and to be witnesses for God.29 He helps us understand the Bible.30 He enables us to exhibit the “fruit of the Spirit.”31 He gives gifts to each member of the church so that each of us in the “body” can contribute as the Spirit desires.32 He “seals” us for the day of redemption, guaranteeing our inheritance in heaven.33
Are you allowing God the Holy Spirit to work in your life? Are you letting Him sanctify you? Has He given you power to be an effective witness? Are you manifesting the “fruit of the Spirit?” Have you discovered the spiritual gifts that the Spirit has given you? Are you letting Him use you in the body of Christ?
The Holy Spirit wants to take up personal residence inside us. We can have a joyful life filled with the presence of the Spirit. We should listen carefully for the Spirit, for He loves to encourage and empower those who are willing to obey His voice as they study Scripture.