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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
John Stock, LL. D.
From A Handbook of Revealed Theology, 1883
The divine personality of the Holy Ghost is one of the vital doctrines of revelation. The Church of God cannot maintain this great truth too vigorously or too devoutly.
On the Holy Spirit we are dependent for all our success in the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, as well as for our personal holiness and comfort. The influences of the divine Spirit are the strength of the Church. How important then it must be that we should properly honour this blessed agent. Those who honour Him, He will honour.
I. WE SHALL LOOK FIRST AT THE EVIDENCES FURNISHED OF THE HOLY SPIRIT'S PERSONALITY.
1. And it is obvious that all that has been advanced in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity may be quoted here. That which proves the doctrine of the Trinity proves the personality of the Spirit. Baptism, distinctly in His name, proves His personal being; for it would be ridiculous to baptize a man in the name of the Father, and then in the name of a mere influence of the Father. The same argument applies to the presentation of a distinct prayer to the Holy Spirit in the apostolic benediction. It would be the height of absurdity to pray to a mere influence (II Cor. 13:14).
Again, at our Lord's baptism there was a distinct personal manifestation of the Holy Spirit, beside the manifestation of the Father and the Son (Matt. 3:16, 17). Moreover, there is a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, distinguished from the blasphemy of the Son and of the Father (Matt. 12:31, 32). The Holy Spirit is another Comforter, distinct from the Son, who intercedes for His coming, as well as from the Father, who sends Him in answer to His Son's intercession (John 14:16). The Father has provided us salvation; the Son has redeemed us by His blood; and the Holy Spirit regenerates us by His grace. Thus we have ample evidence of the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit.
2. There is another important class of Scriptures in which all the attributes of an intelligent agent are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. He is possessed of mind. Hence we read, "The Lord" (the Father) knoweth what is the mind (“intent, or bent,” Alford)of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for (in) the saints according to the will of God" (Rom. 8:27). The Spirit is here represented as possessed of intelligence, as knowing the mind of God Himself, and able, consequently, to make it known to others. Mind or intelligence is ascribed to the Holy Spirit in many other passages. He is said to "search all things, even the deep things of God" (I Cor. 2:10); to foreknow and to foretell future events (John 16:13). He is possessed of will. "He divideth to every man severally as He will" (I Cor. 12:11). He is like the wind, which bloweth where it listeth (willeth) (John 3: 8). He forbade Paul and Silas to preach in Asia or Bithynia (Acts 16:6, 7). If He be capable of volition or will, He must be a personal agent.
He has affections. Hence we read of "the love of the Spirit" (Rom. 15:30), that is, the love shed abroad in the soul by Him. But He who can thus move the heart must be Himself possessed of affections. Hence He regards some beings, qualities, and actions with complacency, others with displacency. "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you no other burden than these necessary things" (Acts 15:28). But a mere attribute or influence can have no affections; it can have no consciousness of pleasure or displeasure. Complacency or displacency can only exist in a being possessed of intelligence.
Thus it appears from the word of God that the Holy Spirit has all the attributes of a personal agent. He has mind, volition, and affections, and therefore must be a person, for a mere influence can possess none of these. That which has mind or perception, volition or will, and affections, must be an intelligent entity. The proof of the personality of the Spirit is as complete as that of the personality of the Father. If the Holy Spirit be not a divine person, then there is no such being in existence as a personal God, and Pantheism is the only true religion.
3. And as He possesses all the properties, so He performs all the acts of a personal agent. Among the other actions ascribed to Him, He "searches the deep things of God" (I Cor. 2:10); "He hears" (John 16:13); "He witnesses" (Rom. 8:16); "He glorifies Christ" (John 16:14); "He testifies of Christ" (John 15:26); "He speaks" (John 16:13); "He reveals the things of Christ to His people" (John 16:14); "He convinces the world" (John 16:8); "He intercedes for the saints" (Rom. 8:26); "He taught the apostles" (John 14:26); "He brought the Saviour's sayings and doings to their recollection" (Idem); "He reveals future events" (John 16:13) —and so all through Holy Scripture.
Now these are actions which imply the possession of personality by him who performs them. They are obviously not the mere passive movements of an influence emanating from some other being; they are the performances of an intelligent agent, who acts freely and with sovereignty in all his gracious operations. The continual ascription of such performances to the Holy Spirit, and that, too, in the most sober and didactic passages, appears to us unanswerable evidence of His personality. A mere influence can neither see, hear, nor search, etc., etc.; and, therefore, the Holy Spirit cannot be a mere influence.
4. And again, The Holy Ghost is said to be influenced by the actions of other personal agents, as only a personal agent can be. For example: He is said to be "lied unto" (Acts 5:3), but this implies that He is capable of examining the truth or falsehood of testimony, and consequently possesses judgment. He is said to be "grieved" (Eph. 4:30); "vexed" (Isaiah 63:10); "tempted" (Acts 5:9); and "blasphemed" (Matt. 12:31, 32); which could not be affirmed, in any sense, of Him if He did not possess the power of judging of the qualities of actions as excellent or otherwise. Certain things are said to "seem good unto Him" (Acts 15:28), which proves His power of perceiving and appreciating their moral properties.
We are well aware that God cannot be grieved or vexed, in the sense in which such states of mind apply to us. Nor do we stay here to explain the manner in which they can be affirmed of the Spirit. All that we now refer to such passages for is to remind our readers that they imply personality.
5. And it is to be observed that He is not said to do these things unconsciously or unintelligently, as Jacob's heap of stones testified (Gen. 31:48). His witness is an intelligent one, for He searcheth all things, even the deep things of God. He speaks and testifies of what He has Himself known. His agency is a voluntary one, for "He divideth to every man severally as He will" (I Cor. 12:11). Thus the Redeemer described His mission: "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 show you things to come" (John 16:13).
All efforts to explain away the ascription of personal attributes, actions, and emotions to the Holy Spirit, by instituting a comparison between such passages and those in which stones are said to bear witness, and the earth is called upon to hear, are mere quibbles. The Holy Spirit is always spoken of as a personal agent, and not merely in the language of poetry or metaphor; and the figurative application of personal qualities to inanimate objects can never invalidate the argument advanced in this chapter in vindication of the personality of the Divine Paraclete.
II. WE HAVE NOW TO PROVE THE GODHEAD OF THE HOLY GHOST.
Here, however, we shall not need to say much, for if the Spirit be a person, He must be a divine person:
1. He is repeatedly called "the Spirit of God," and "the Holy Spirit of God." If, then, He be a person, He must be a person in the Godhead (Rom. 15:19; Eph. 4:30).
2. He is called God. Peter charged Ananias with lying to the Holy Ghost; and added, "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" (Acts 5:3, 4). Saints are the temples of God, because the Holy Spirit dwells in them (I Cor. 3:16). The diversities of gifts in saints are all produced by the same Spirit, and He is said to be "the same God who worketh all in all" (I Cor. 12:4, 6). He is emphatically, The Spirit of Jehovah, or The Jehovah Spirit.
3. He performs all the actions of God. He shares in all the divine works of the Father and the Son, while there are many operations of the Godhead which are specially ascribed to Him. He participated in the work of creation, and moved over the waters of primeval chaos (Gen. 1:2). He aids in the preservation of the world; renews the face of the earth; and gives to all creatures the breath of life (Psa. 104:30). In the Christian church He is the producer, the sustainer, and the perfecter of her spiritual vitality. The virtues and gifts of Christian men and women are the effects of His divine power and grace; for "All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" (I Cor. 12:11). He, by His omnipotence, imparts the noblest form of life, viz., the religious life in the soul, for "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost" (I Cor. 12:3).
4. He is entitled to divine worship. In our baptism we perform an act of worship which is addressed equally to the Holy Spirit with the Son and the Father (Matt. 28:19). In the apostolic benediction, prayer is addressed to the Holy Spirit, as well as to the Father and the Son (II Cor. 13:14). He is the Lord the Spirit, to whom the Apostle prayed in these words, "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ" (II Thess. 3:5); for "the love of God is (ever) shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost" (Rom. 5:5).
In the Book of the Revelation He is invoked in His manifold operations as the all-perfect Spirit, conjointly with the Father and the Word, thus: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:4, 5). Ezekiel's invocation of the wind to come and breathe upon the slain in the valley of vision" (Ezek. 37:9) was intended to symbolise that prayer to the Holy Ghost by which God's ancient Israel are to be gathered in.
For Jehovah Himself thus expounds it, "I will put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live" (Ezek. 37:14). Hence it is clear that it is scriptural to pray, not only for the Spirit, but to Him. He is to be worshipped conjointly with the Father and the Son. Saints are shrines or temples reared to the glory of this divine agent, who dwells in them as their tutelar Deity, and to whom all their powers are dedicated (I Cor. 3:16).
And surely it will not be inappropriate to refer in a system of theology to the experience of God's children in this matter. Personally, then, the writer can say that he never prays with such comfort and profit as when he is enabled to address his supplications intelligently to each of the persons in the adorable Triune Jehovah. From conversation with other Christians, he has found their experience to be like his own. It is related of the great Robert Hall, that the closet and its exercises were one means of confirming him in his faith in orthodox views. When he prayed to God as a Triune Jehovah, and addressed each person distinctly, he found liberty and enlargement of soul, to which in his less evangelical state of mind he had been an utter stranger. Our experience at the throne confirms the truthfulness of the orthodox view, that it is right to address prayer and supplication to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
5. The Holy Spirit is possessed of all divine perfections. He is an infinite Spirit. His very name is the Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God. He is a pure, simple, indivisible Spirit. He is omnipresent, for His presence gives life to all animated things. Hence the inquiry, "Whither shall I flee from Thy Spirit?" (Ps. 139:7). Everywhere is He present as the life-giver and the life-preserver.
He is omniscient, for "the Spirit searcheth ALL things; yea, the DEEP things of God" (I Cor. 2:10); and He inspired both prophets and apostles to foretell future events. "He shall make known to you things to come" (John 16:13).
He is omnipotent. For all life is His creation, and all the gifts and graces of the Christian are the productions of His almighty power. "He worketh all in all" (I Cor. 12:4-6). "All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit" ( I Cor. 12:11). In the natural world the power of this beneficent agent is universally felt. "Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit; they are created, and Thou renewest the face of the earth" (Ps. 104:30).
He is infinitely wise. For He it is that giveth wisdom to the wise. The apostles were to trust to Him for guidance to teach them what to say and do in the most unexpected and trying circumstances. "When they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak," etc., "for it is not ye who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh in you" (Matt. 10:9, 20). "He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). "He will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). And also with regard to all natural wisdom (Exod. 31: 2-4).
He is immaculately holy. Hence He is constantly called the Holy Spirit. He is infinitely pure in His own nature and in all His operations. Holiness is that attribute of His being by which He is specially designated.
He is immensely good. He is called the "good Spirit." "Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them" (Neh. 9: 20). “Thy Spirit is good; lead me into the land of up rightness" (Ps. 143:10). He is the Spirit of Grace. "And hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace" (Heb. 10:29). "I will pour upon the house of David the Spirit of grace" (Zech. 12:10).
He acts with divine sovereignty in the communication of His gifts. It is said that Paul and Silas were forbidden of Him to preach the Word in Asia (Acts 16:6), and that He suffered them not to visit Bithynia (Acts 16:7). It was He who in His sovereignty called Paul and Barnabas to labour among the heathen. "The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2). In short, of the whole range of Christian gifts and graces it is said, "All these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (I Cor. 12:11).
He is unalterably true and faithful. Frequently and emphatically is He styled the Spirit of Truth. "The Spirit of Truth whom the world cannot receive" (John 14:17); and so in John 15:26, and 16:13, and I John 4:6. And even more, the Blessed Spirit is called truth itself. "It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" (I John 5:6). He is the eternal truth.
He is infinitely blessed. Himself possessed of boundless resources, He delights to communicate life and joy to the creatures of his forming. The universe is full of indications that He is infinitely blessed Himself, and takes a godlike pleasure in, blessing others (Job 26:13).
He is the end for which creation exists. "He hath formed all things for Himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil" (Prov. 16:4, compared with Ps. 104:30).
The Holy Spirit is unchangeable. He is the faithful unchangeable Comforter who is to "abide with the Church for ever" (John 14:16). It was "the Spirit of God that came upon Balaam" (Num. 24:2), and of whose words this sublime sentiment was uttered: "God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man that he should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Num. 23:19)
Thus the eternal Three in One, the Jehovah Elohim, the Trinity in Covenant, the God of our salvation, stands revealed before us. In this theme of God the Spirit, and the Father, and Christ, are hid all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom. It is a great mystery; one that overwhelms us with sacred awe. In its majestic presence it becomes us to worship and adore. We have no ground on which to reason against it, no data on which to rest our objections.
Of our own being we know but very little, and of God's being we know nothing, except what He has Himself taught in His works and word. So far, then, as our personal investigations go, our knowledge presents us with a vacuum as to any acquaintance with the mode of Jehovah's existence, whether it be a trinity or a unity, or both in one. Reason, indeed, suggests that there can be but one God, but it is utterly in the dark as to how that one God exists.
The only question with which we are concerned then is this: Has Jehovah condescended to give us any information on this sublime question? He has done so in His own word solely; for though nature testifies to the fact of His existence, it says nothing as to its mode. Those, then, who reject the doctrine of the Trinity must reject the Bible which teaches it.