- Category: Do we know What we worship?
1) We studied about God Almighty and Jesus Christ, and also explored questions on Co-Equality and Co-Eternity. Now let us learn more about the Holy Spirit. First of all, what exactly is Spirit?
We see the biblical root words for ‘spirit’ (Hebrew:Pneuma/Greek:Ruwach) simply mean breath - essentially an impersonal power source i.e. life force. A good example would be electricity. Just like electricity would power a TV, spirit powers our bodies. And spirit (breath) can’t exist without bodies.
Earthly beings = spirit (breath) + fleshly bodies; Heavenly beings = spirit (breath) + spiritual bodies (1Cor 15:40).
We also find Bible using the word spirit to denote the influence/power of beings. Examples:
- Spirit of Elijah = Power of Elijah: Prophets from Jericho who were watching, said, ‘The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha’ (2Kings 2:15)
- Spirit of the world = Power/Influence of the world: Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God (1Cor 2:12 KJV)
- Spirit of stupor = Influence of stupor: God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear (Rom 11:8)
2) What is the Holy Spirit then?
The Scriptures tell us the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God – 'God who gives you his Holy Spirit' (1Thess 4:8), the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30).
And why is God's Spirit called holy?
'Great and marvelous are your deeds, LORD God Almighty. For you alone are holy' (Rev 15:3-4). Yes, God i.e. Yahweh alone is holy. Sure, by serving Him we can partake in his holiness, but Yahweh alone is the sole source of Holiness. That's why the Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit.
3) If the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God, then what does that imply really?
God (Yahweh) and his Spirit won’t be two separate persons - just like Elijah and the spirit of Elijah aren't two different persons. The Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) must be the Power of God.
There's even a Spirit of Jesus - 'through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus' (Phil 1:19 NASB). Might the Spirit of Jesus be a separate person from Jesus? Not at all, it's rather the power of Jesus.
Actually Jesus makes a direct statement on what's the Holy Spirit - 'I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high' (Luke 24:49).
What’s the power from on high which the disciples got at Pentecost?
Holy Spirit! Yes, the Holy Spirit was the power from on high – the Power of God indeed.
4) In a speech he gave during the last Passover, didn’t Jesus call the Holy Spirit a ‘comforter/advocate’?
We see Jesus say that 4 times in that speech covered across chapters John 14-16. Right after speaking about the Holy Spirit as comforter/advocate, he says, 'I have been speaking figuratively' (John 16:25). We do notice rich figurative language in that speech, as he calls himself the true vine and the disciples as branches. This was not a literal speech. His disciples got that.
We see Jesus use the term comforter/advocate to depict the role of the Holy Spirit as the power of God that will comfort and guide the disciples. And at one point, he makes plain what the Holy Spirit actually is - 'When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me' (John 15:26).
Here he says the Holy Spirit goes out from the Father, meaning it is the power of the Father. He also calls it the Spirit of truth, i.e. the power/influence of the truth, not some person called truth.
It seems clear the Holy Spirit isn’t a person. And no one seems to have considered so until the Dark Ages when mystic spiritual philosophies started entering Christian beliefs (More on the history later).
5) If the Holy Spirit isn’t a person, why do John’s verses use ‘he’ and ‘him’ to refer to the Spirit?
‘When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13). ‘I will send him to you’ (John 16:7) - It does sound like a person because of the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’.
We see this is a phenomenon that surprises English speakers when they learn Greek (the New Testament’s language). Greek, like other Indo-European languages (Spanish, French, Italian etc.), has a grammatical gender for every noun. Even inanimate objects and abstract ideas can be masculine/feminine.
Eg: Wall could be masculine and door feminine. (‘He is a wall’; ‘She is a door’).
Native English speakers associate masculine to man and feminine to woman (‘natural gender’). But native Greek speakers don’t do so. For them, gender is something inherent to the noun, adjective etc. (‘grammatical gender’). The neuter spirit’s gender in John 16 is supplied by grammatical masculine Greek verbs. It could be translated to English as ‘it will guide you’.
It’s purely grammatical, not personal.
6) Is there further scriptural proof that the Holy Spirit is not a person and really the power of God?
- The Holy Spirit is poured out and shed on people as a ‘gift’ (Acts 10:45, 2:17,33, Joel 2:28, Zech 12:10). Could a person be poured/shed? – Not really. But can a power be poured out as a gift? Sure.
- Nowhere in the Bible do we see anyone worship the Holy Spirit. And at the beginning of their epistles we notice the apostles greeting only two beings, God (the Father) and Jesus. They don’t seem to mete out similar personal treatment to the Holy Spirit.
- The Bible describes God’s Holy Spirit in various places as the Spirit ofTruth, Holiness, Life, Faith, Wisdom, Grace, and Glory. Interestingly, the Scriptures also speak of an opposite spirit of Jealousy, Judgment, Burning, Heaviness, Whoredoms, Infirmity, Divination, Bondage, Slumber, Fear, Antichrist and Error. Do we suppose these are persons?
- And finally, if one needs a person's help, whom should one ask? - That person indeed. So if the Holy Spirit were a person, then whom should one ask for its help? - The Holy Spirit, right? But see what Jesus asks us to do - ‘How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’ (Luke 11:13). So, to get the Holy Spirit, we have to pray to the Father, i.e. Yahweh. This seems to confirm unambiguously that the Holy Spirit is the Power of Yahweh and not a person.
In summary, we can’t find any Scripture that says Holy Spirit is God. The term ‘God the Holy Spirit’ is not there either. And no verse says it’s a person. It’s rather portrayed all over the Bible as the powerful influence of God. God created the universe with it. He gave it to Jesus. He gives it to believers too. And it’s important for us - ‘The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD’ (Isa 11:2).