If you want to liven up the conversation with a group of strangers just pose the question, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” That ought to make for an interesting conversation. It’s probably no surprise to you that there’s a lot of abuse done in the name of the Holy Spirit—even within the church. At one end of the spectrum, you’ve got the Spirit-phobia crowd, and on the other end, there’s the Spirit-mania groupies. And here’s the common denominator: both operate in the extremes. One group is afraid to see the Spirit work through anything and the other group sees the Spirit working through everything. These two extremes have caused some people to check out of the conversation altogether and simply plea ignorance. Sort of like the child who referred to God as the Father, the Son, and the Other One.
Is He pure conundrum? Or can we elucidate some of the enigma? Can we make sense of some of the mystery? I think we can.
To do so, let’s go back to where we began by asking, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” Some don’t ask who; they ask what. That is the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses. To them, the Holy Spirit isn’t a Who but a powerful What—a life force, not a person, and most certainly not God. But as Christians, we believe the Holy Spirit is a Who. And who is He? He’s the third person of the Trinity. He’s God the Spirit.
Now you might ask, “How is it that Christians understand the Holy Spirit to be personal?” The Scriptures speak of Him as such. For example, the Holy Spirit can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19), blasphemed (Mark 3:29), outraged (Hebrews 10:29), and much more. A force can’t be affected that way. Now, don’t confuse person with human. The Holy Spirit is a divine Person whereas we are human persons. And by person, I’m not speaking bodily.
He’s Spirit. By person, I’m speaking relationally. God the Spirit is a relational God. And like us, as a personal God He has a mind, will, and emotions (though some philosophers would argue whether God can emote). When the Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t refer to the Holy Spirit as an “it”; rather the Scriptures use the personal pronouns he, his, and him (for example, see John 16:7-15).
But not only is the Holy Spirit a person, He’s a divine person. He’s the third person of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). He has all the divine attributes of God the Father and God the Son. The Bible depicts the Holy Spirit as all-powerful (Luke 1:35), ever-present (Psalm 139:7-8) and all-knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). And to top it all off, His name is Holy.
That’s who the Holy Spirit is in crash course fashion. Call it Holy Spirit 101.