Is The Holy Spirit a Person

John 14:26
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The answer of some creeds is, "Yes." But the answer of the Bible is, "No." We say some creeds, because the so-called Apostles' Creed does not say that the Holy Spirit is a person. The Nicene Creed, however (A.D. 325), says, "I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified." And the Athanasian Creed, a later production of uncertain origin and date, says, "There is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost"; "The whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal." So here at last is the Trinitarian doctrine fully developed.

God is Spirit, and knows no co-equal, nor co-eternal. "Spirit," We may say, should always be read instead of "Ghost" in the Bible; and one of the greatest services of the Revised Version to the cause of divine truth is the indication of this fact in the margin of the New Testament. The revisers ought, however, to have altered "Ghost" to "Spirit" in the text; as the American Committee said, "For 'Holy Ghost' adopt uniformly the rendering 'Holy Spirit.'" It is the Lord Jesus who says "God is Spirit" (John 4:24. R.V., marg.). And God Himself says, "I am God, and there is none else" (Isa. 46:9) ; "I am the Lord, and there is none else: there is no God beside me" (Isa. 45:5); "I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no God" (Isa. 44:6,8). And Paul says, "There is but ONE GOD, the Father, of whom are all things" (1 Cor. 8:6); "One God and Father of all, who is above all " (Eph. 4:6); "There is one God, and One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). These sayings of God, by the Holy Spirit, preclude the possibility of the Holy Spirit's being a co-equal and co-eternal Person with the Father.

The Spirit of God.— "Spirit" is a word of wide and elastic meaning, the radical idea being breath, from the Latin spiritus. And the same idea holds good in the Hebrew and Greek of the Scriptures. "Spirit," as referred to the Father by the Lord Jesus, means the divine substance and nature as opposed to flesh and blood. And Jesus himself, when raised from the dead and glorified, is called "a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45); that is, a "spiritual body," as the apostle here explains. And the angels likewise are all "ministering spirits" (Heb. 1:14), like Christ. But God speaks also of His "spirit" in the sense of His power breathed forth from His personal presence in heaven. "My spirit shall not always strive with man" (Gen. 6:3). "Thou testifiedst against them by thy spirit in the prophets" (Neh. 9:30). "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created" (Psa. 104:30). "The spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). "By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens" (Job. 26:13). "The spirit of the Lord came mightily upon" Samson (Judges 14:6), and made him stronger than a lion. "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me" (Isa. 61:1). So said "the spirit of Christ in" Isaiah (1 Pet. 1:11). In all these places there is no question of a Person, but of the Power of God sent forth and bestowed for His divine purposes.

Because God speaks by His spirit in the prophets, we have by metonymy the expression, "The Spirit speaketh," and it is a mistaken interpretation of such expressions that has transformed "the Holy Spirit" into "the third Person of the Trinity." "The Spirit speaketh expressly" (1 Tim. 4:1); that is, God by His spirit in the prophets and apostles, speaketh. "The spirit of Christ in them (the prophets) ... when it testified beforehand" (1 Pet. 1:11). "Well spake the Holy Spirit by Isaiah the prophet" (Acts 28:25). "It is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit" (Mark 13:11). "David himself said by the Holy Spirit" ... (Mark 12:36). "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:1,6,13,22); that is, hear what Christ commanded John to write. The personification is natural and effective when the divine doctrine underlying it is understood. In Proverbs wisdom is personified for similar reasons (Prov. 1:20; 4:6,7,13; 8:1,22,23).

Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.— The Lord Jesus was begotten of the Holy Spirit as the creeds truly say; but the angel Gabriel explained beforehand to Mary, his mother, how god was about to fulfil His covenant with David, saying, "I will be his father" (2 Sam. 7:14). The angel said to Mary, in answer to her enquiry how such a thing could be, "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). The power of the Highest had, ages before, caused Abraham and Sarah, in their old age, to have a son (Isaac), who was in this respect so striking a type of the Christ, that Paul does not scruple to say of him that he was born "after the spirit," and not "after the flesh" (Gal. 4:29). Not only was Jesus begotten of the spirit, but "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power" (Acts 10:38). The idea of the "First Person" of the Trinity anointing the "Second Person" with the "Third Person" is, of course, confusion. In this same chapter (verses 44, 45) we read that "the Holy Spirit fell upon them which heard the word"; "on the Gentiles was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit." "God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him" (Jesus) (John 3:34). "Give me also this power," said Simon Magus (Acts 8:19); but men cannot buy the Holy Spirit, as Peter told him.

The Promise of "the Comforter."— In Christ's promises of the Comforter (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) he uses the language of personification, as illustrated above; and it is only by literalizing the figurative that the Holy Spirit is transformed into a real Person, like the Father and the Son. The word for Comforter is Parakletos, and Christ himself is the Comforter. In 1 John 2:1 we read, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate (or Comforter, or Helper, Gr., Paraclete, R.V., Marg.) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." The word "advocate" exactly expresses the meaning of the Greek word :— "One who is called or sent to assist another." But see what happens if we make this Comforter mean a "Third, co-equal, and co-eternal Person with the Father and the Son." In the above-named passage we must be guilty of "confounding the Persons," as the Athanasian Creed puts it. Because it is written, "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). The Holy Spirit, therefore, is not a separate personal Comforter, Advocate, or Mediator between God and men.

The New Testament History.— Happily we have the history of the fulfilment of Christ's promise of "the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit" (John 14:26). After he was raised from the dead he appeared to the disciples in a room in Jerusalem, and having eaten with them and made them handle him, and see that he was really and truly alive again, "he breathed on them, and saith unto them, receive ye the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). On the day of Pentecost next following, "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4). This was not the advent of a Person, but "a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them." And they spoke with tongues and wrought miracles; and so God bore them witness with "gifts of the Holy Spirit according to his own will" (Heb. 2:4). The apostles were now in possession of the Comforter, as Jesus had promised, and remembered all things infallibly (John 14:26), and spoke and wrought accordingly. Thus the Comforter testified of Christ (John 15:26). "God," said Peter to the chief priests, "hath exalted (Jesus) with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him" (Acts 5:31,32). Other illustrations could be given, but sufficient has been said to show that the Holy Spirit is not a Person, but "the Power of the Highest," and that when men pray "O God the Holy Ghost ... have mercy upon us miserable sinners," they simply set up an idol. No such prayer can be found in all the Holy Scriptures.

Reproduced from: The Christadelphian Shield: Papers Explanatory of Wrested Scriptures