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THEOLOGY

The Personhood of the Holy Spirit

By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Regent University

Note that personal pronouns are used in regard to the Holy Spirit. There are many references in the New Testament that depict the Holy Spirit functioning as a person.

The following question was asked by visitors to CBN.com. The answer is provided by Dr. J. Rodman Williams, theology professor at Regent University's School of Divinity.

Is it proper to speak of the personhood of the Holy Spirit?

The personhood of the Holy Spirit is clearly affirmed in the Fourth Gospel where Jesus says, "The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things" (John 14:26), and thereafter adds that "the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to Me" (15:26). Note that personal pronouns are used in regard to the Holy Spirit.

There are many other references in the New Testament that depict the Holy Spirit functioning as a person. A few may be mentioned: "The Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'" (Acts 13:2); "the Spirit Himself intercedes for us" (Romans 8:26); "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:30); and "the Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come'" (Revelation 22:17). There are many other similar references portray the Holy Spirit as a person.

Hence it is important not to think of the Holy Spirit as merely an attribute of God, such as power. There are passages that might suggest the Spirit to be God's power in creation (e.g., Genesis 1:2), or in regeneration (e.g., John 3:5), or at Pentecost where the Holy Spirit is promised and the disciples receive power for their witness and ministry (Acts 1-2). The fact that they were "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4; cf. 4:31) might sound more like being filled with energy than with a person. However, in all these instances the important thing to recognize is not that the Spirit equals power, but that where the Spirit of God is there is power. Moreover, we are to understand that to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" is not simply to be filled with a substance or force but to be fully possessed by the Holy Spirit, the personal Spirit of God.

In the spiritual (or "charismatic") renewal of our time, one of the most outstanding testimonies is that of how real and personal the Holy Spirit has become to many individuals. Thus, deepening Christian experience marvelously confirms the biblical record (see Renewal Theology, 1: chapter 4, "The Holy Trinity").

Order Dr. Williams book, Renewal Theology on CBN.com.

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