Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Personal Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit has been recognized as the third person of the Trinity since the earliest days of church history. While this is understood, it is also recognized that the doctrine has not been accepted without its dissenters. The Council at Nicea articulated the doctrine of the Trinity, and Constantine banished those bishops who opposed it. While Chalcedon and Constantinople further clarified the doctrine, there were still those who refused to believe it. Even today, there are those sects who deny the personhood of the Holy Spirit. The acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity is a key watermark in determining the orthodoxy of believers. Although there are many reasons why it is important to orthodoxy to affirm the personality of the Holy Spirit, three stand out above the rest.

First, denial of the personality of the Holy Spirit is denial of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity states that God is One yet exists in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is widely accepted, yet is difficult to understand because there is no sufficient exigent analogy with which to liken it. If one were to believe the Holy Spirit was impersonal, He would stand in contradiction to the Father and the Son. Acknowledging the fact the Trinity is a mystery, it still must be understood that in order for three persons to exist as one, they must be ontologically identical. By way of illustration, the Bible declares that marriage is to be a man leaving his father and mother and cleaving to his wife, becoming one flesh. Is it possible for a man to cleave to an impersonal force? Can he become one flesh with gravity or quantum mechanics? In the same manner, God the Father and God the Son could not be One with an impersonal force. If one denies the personality of the Holy Spirit, one denies the fundamental truth of the existence of the Trinity.

Second, to deny the personality of the Holy Spirit is to deny the deity of the Holy Spirit. Throughout the 66 books of the Bible, God is recognized as personal. He has a mind, emotions, and will. The God of the Bible is not seen as an impersonal force that is to be conjured and manipulated by man. To say, as pagans throughout history have, that God is the unknowable chaos behind everything, or He is the vital principle that exists in everything is to say that a personal relationship with Him is impossible. This flies in the face of everything that is taught in Scripture. To avoid monistic or dualistic heresy, God must be a person to interact with man in a personal way. Either Jesus was an avatar as the Gnostics said, or He shared the traits of personality with the other members of the Godhead. Since it must be said that the God of the Bible is a personal God and, as argued above, exists in Trinity as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it automatically follows that the Holy Spirit is a personal God.

Finally, to deny the personality of the Holy Spirit is to deny the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s personality is evident in the work He is described as performing. The Bible declares the Holy Spirit teaches. John 14:26 quotes Jesus as saying, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” This speaks of personality on two fronts; first, it declares acts to be performed by an actor. Second, it speaks of a personal replacement for a personal being – namely Jesus. Romans 8:14 testifies that the Holy Spirit also guides. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” In American churches, we talk so often of being “led of the Holy Spirit,” it often takes on the connotation of “may the Force be with you.” Even in Star Wars, by making the Force a leader, the writer betrayed the non-personal, vitalistic, Eastern mystical principles he was trying to convey. Man can only be led by a personal being. Probably the most vivid display of the personal work of the Holy Spirit is shown by His intercession for us. This speaks of personality two ways. The first goes back to the Trinitarian argument brought forth earlier. The only being capable of standing in the gap between man and God is God. God is personal. The Holy Spirit stands in the gap between man and God. The Holy Spirit must be God and therefore must be personal. The second, more touching, way the Holy Spirit’s intercession speaks of His personality is in the intimacy it displays. Romans 8:26 proclaims, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” The sheer emotion carried by the weight of this passage’s words speak of compassionate personality. How can my weakness be helped by a non-personal force? How can a non-personal force translate my often incoherent, selfish, finite mutterings into Holy prayers, worthy of the Righteous Creator of the universe? The Holy Spirit is God and He is a person.


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