Is the Holy Spirit a person or a force?
It’s not unusual for people to refer to the Spirit as an ‘it’ but he’s not an impersonal force, he is a person. This might not seem like an important distinction but it is absolutely crucial if we are to grasp the role of the Spirit in our lives. This is about a relationship. We cannot have an intimate relationship with a force – it’s like thinking we can have a deep conversation with gravity. If we talk to gravity, it won’t talk back. If we engage with the Spirit, he will respond.
Some of the symbols of the Spirit in the Bible don’t lend themselves to our thinking of him as a person, for example: fire, water, wind and a dove. However, there are a huge number of places where we see the Spirit is doing things only a person can do. He searches all things and knows the thoughts of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). Can we imagine gravity conducting a search or knowing something? He teaches us and dwells within us (1 Corinthians 2:13; 3:16; Romans 8:11). He leads us towards God and bears witness with our own spirits (Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:16). He also strengthens believers, is grieved by our sinfulness and prays on our behalf (Ephesians 3:16; 4:30; Romans 8:26–27). Gravity, or any force for that matter, cannot be grieved, cannot bear witness, cannot teach. The Spirit is a person – he prays, he knows, he acts, he reveals and he wants an intimate relationship with us.
Where in the Bible does it say the Holy Spirit is God?
Christians believe that God is trinity. A technical way of defining this is to say that God is one divine nature subsisting wholly and completely in three distinct persons. Another way of putting it is that we believe there is one God and he exists as three persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) and that each person is fully God.
The teaching of the Trinity can be a mind-bender but if God is God we should expect there to be things about him that are outside our realm of understanding. It’s been said that trying to get an understanding of everything about God into our minds is like trying to get all the water in the world, all the rivers, lakes and oceans, into a Coke can. However, through the Bible God makes clear what he wants to reveal about himself.
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