By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Among Christians, there is a great deal of confusion about the Holy Spirit. In this article, we are going to begin carefully studying about the Holy Spirit to better understand Him and His work. Of course, as we begin this study, we must remember that the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:1-3), and so we will not every fully comprehend Him. Nevertheless, while the secret things belong to the Lord, the things which He has revealed belong to us (Deuteronomy 29:29). Let us turn our attention to the Word of the Spirit.
In this article, we will notice that the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Indeed, several passages of Scripture teach us that the Spirit is a Person in that He possesses all of the basic attributes of a Person. For example, notice the following characteristics of the Holy Spirit:
The Spirit Knows (1 Corinthians 2:11)
The Spirit Speaks (Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 11:12; 13:2; 1 Timothy 4:1)
The Spirit Can Be Grieved (Ephesians 4:30)
The Spirit Wills (1 Corinthians 12:11)
The Spirit Loves (Romans 15:30)
The Spirit Can Be Resisted (Acts 7:51)
The Spirit Groans (Romans 8:26)
The Spirit Testifies (John 15:26)
The Spirit Guides (John 16:13)
The Spirit Searches (1 Corinthians 2:10)
The Spirit Leads (Acts 16:6-7)
The Spirit Forbids (Acts 16:6-7)
The Spirit Teaches (John 14:26)
Someone might ask the question, “Mark, if the Spirit is a Person, why does the Bible sometimes refer to Him as an “It?”
There are, indeed, passages where the Holy Spirit is referred to in the neuter gender (cf. Romans 8:16, KJV). However, what many fail to realize is that the reason for this is because of the Greek language in which the New Testament is written. Consider the following:
“What about the neuter nouns and pronouns used of the Holy Spirit? When it comes to discussing masculine, feminine, and neuter words in Greek, we are entering a realm that many people would probably prefer to avoid. However, because the Jehovah’s Witnesses enter this realm to argue against the Holy Spirit’s personality, we must take a brief look at how we should respond. Let us begin by noting that in the Greek language, all nouns are one of three genders—masculine, feminine, or neuter. These genders are not indicators of sex. In The Elements of New Testament Greek, J.W. Wenham notes that “in Greek, gender has to do with the form of the words and has little to do with sex. There are masculine, feminine, and neuter forms, but ‘bread’ [in the Greek] is masculine, ‘head’ is feminine, and ‘child’ is neuter.” 47 Thus, simply because a term is grammatically masculine does not mean that it is actually masculine in gender. Simply because a term is grammatically feminine does not mean that it is feminine in gender. And simply because a term is grammatically neuter does not mean that the item is an “it.” One reason the Jehovah’s Witnesses say the Holy Spirit is an “active force” is that the Greek word for “Spirit” (pneuma) is neuter. However, as noted above, this is faulty reasoning, since the neuter gender of the word has to do with the grammatical form of the word and not actual physical gender. For example, one will find that in Scripture, neuter terms are used in reference to infants (Luke 1:41,44; 2:16; 18:15), children (Mark 5:39-41), girls (Matthew 9:24-25; Mark 5:41-42), unclean spirits (Matthew 12:24,27-28; Mark 7:26,29-30), and angels (Hebrews 1:14). Obviously, each of these beings have personality, even though a neuter term is used in reference to them. We can safely conclude, then, that the use of a neuter term does not indicate a lack of personality.” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning From The Scriptures With The Jehovah’s Witnesses, 212-213 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)
We should also recognize that while the Bible is clear that the Holy Spirit is a Person, it uses both masculine and feminine forms to refer to Him. We must remember that literally, God is neither male nor female; instead, both male and female genders help us to better understand different characteristics of His Being.
“”First, we have to understand that the God of the Bible, though called our heavenly Father, has no gender-He has no genitalia, no X or Y chromosomes. God is spirit (see John 4:24), and the mystery of His Person goes way beyond anything thing we humans can imagine. It is in that sense-in terms of His spiritual nature-that the Bible describes us as created “in his image” (Genesis 1:27). He is the Person from whom our “personness” is derived, both male and female. That’s not to say we should describe Him as androgynous. God created male and female genders; they don’t define Him. He created us “male and female” for a number of reasons, one of which was to express in the created universe some diverse elements that reflect His own character. So even while the Bible most often refers to God by masculine names and pronouns (such as “Father” and “he”), sometimes he is compared to a mother holding a newborn or to a hen guarding ing her chicks (see Matthew 23:37; Isaiah 49:15). (James Garlow & Peter Jones, Cracking Da Vinci’s Code, 180-187 (Kindle Edition); Colorado Springs, Co; David@Cook)
Throughout Scripture, God reminded the people not to create idols of Him as pertaining to male and female since they witnessed firsthand that He has no such distinguishing characteristics (Deuteronomy 4:15-18). Literally, the Spirit is neither male nor female (Numbers 23;19; Hosea 11:9); yet metaphorically, He reveals Himself to us as both male (Psalm 103:11-14; Luke 15:11-32) and female (Psalm 123:2; 131:2; Isaiah 42;14; 66:12-13; Hosea 13:8; Matthew 23:37) at times.
The Personhood of the Holy Spirit is clearly revealed throughout the Scriptures. Indeed, He has revealed to us through the Word that the entire Godhead desires all of mankind to be saved (Ezekiel 18:23). God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This belief is a knowledge of God’s Word coupled with both trust in in and obedience (cf. Romans 10:17; James 2:14-26). Will you not today accept the Good News that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and arose again the third day from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)? Will you not, as a believer, repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess your faith in Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 6:12), and be baptized into Him to have your sins washed away (Acts 22:16)? if you are a child of God who has left the Lord, won’t you please return to Him today in repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.