Author: Ron Graham
Is the Holy Spirit an Impersonal Force?
—His attributes of personality
Some people believe the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force, not a Being with the attributes of personality. What does the Bible say?
This lesson is not just about technicalities. One of the great promises and blessings God gives us is the seal and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14, 1Corinthians 3:16).
This promise is so much more encouraging when we understand that the Spirit who is with us is not an impersonal force but one of the three who are God is with us personally.
In this lesson we are not concerning ourselves with the question of the divinity of the Spirit (whether He is God) but with the personality of the Spirit (whether he is a personal Being rather than merely a force).
In this lesson we look at seven attributes belonging to the Holy Spirit which an impersonal force could not possess.
The Personal Pronoun
Before we study those attributes, it's worth noting that the Bible uses personal pronouns, such as "whom" and "he", with reference to the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes people use the term "it" (the impersonal pronoun) when speaking of the Spirit, but the Bible never does that, and always uses personal pronouns (eg John 14:16-17,26).
The King James Version has "itself" in Romans 8:16, but this is corrected in the New King James Version.
Now lets look at the personal attributes of the Holy Spirit...
1 The Holy Spirit Thinks
"...it seemed good to the Holy Spirit" (Acts 15:28).
In this verse, the Holy Spirit has considered a matter, and formed an opinion. Many other passages similarly give the attribute of thought to the Holy Spirit. One other example is Isaiah 40:13-17.
The Spirit of the LORD has immense, indeed infinite understanding and knowledge. On that basis he "regards the nations as a speck of dust on the scales". This not only shows us his power, but incidentally shows us his personality.
2 The Holy Spirit Wills
"...distributing to each just as He wills" (1Corinthians 12:11).
In this verse the Holy Spirit is represented as having a will. His will is, of course, in complete unity with that of the Father and the Son. However he does exercise will just as they do, and this attribute shows him to be God just as they are.
3 The Holy Spirit Feels Emotion
"...do not grieve the Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 4:30).
If you can grieve the Holy Spirit, then he can feel grief and sorrow. It follows that he can also feel pleasure and joy. This is another attribute of personhood.
4 The Holy Spirit Knows
"...no one knows except the Spirit" (1Corinthians 2:10-11).
The Holy Spirit has infinite knowledge and is able to search even the deep things of God. This shows us not only that the Holy Spirit is God (because only one who is God can look into the mind of God) but also that he is a Person. An impersonal force cannot know anything.
5 The Holy Spirit Speaks
"...and the Spirit said to Philip" (Acts 8:29)
Here we are told that the Holy Spirit can speak a command. We find a similar thing in Acts 13:2. The Holy Spirit can "testify" (Acts 20:23).
If we say that it was a prophet speaking and not really the Spirit, we contradict Jesus who says that when the apostles or prophets spoke it was not they who spoke but the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11).
"The Spirit was giving them utterance" not the other way round (Acts 2:4). An impersonal force is not able to speak.
6 The Holy Spirit Hears
"...why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit...?" (Acts 5:3-4).
You cannot lie to an impersonal force, because it cannot hear. The Holy Spirit is able to hear. When Jesus was speaking to his disciples about the Holy Spirit's guidance for them, he said, "Whatever he hears, he will speak, and he will disclose [it] to you" (John 16:13-14). An impersonal force is not able to hear.
7 The Holy Spirit Intercedes
"...the Spirit himself intercedes for us..." (Romans 8:26)
After telling us that the Spirit intercedes for us when we pray, Paul goes on to speak of Jesus Christ "who also intercedes for us" (Romans 8:26,34). This is a marvelous promise, but how could it be true if the Holy Spirit were not God like Jesus Christ is?