Speaking the Truth in Love

Person or Power?

Some religious people think that belief in one God is inconsistent with the concept of the Trinity. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, maintain that the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a Person. But the New Testament plainly sets forth the doctrine of the Trinity (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:5-6; 1 Pet. 1:2), and the impersonal view of the Spirit cannot be biblically sustained.

Jesus himself uses the personal pronoun “he” in reference to the Spirit. For example, the Lord tells his apostles that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13; cf. 14:26, 15:26). The first occurrence of “he” in this verse translates a masculine pronoun. This usage is significant because the original word for “Spirit” is neuter. Proper grammar calls for the pronoun “it.” That is, “when the Spirit of truth comes, it will guide you into all the truth.” Jesus intentionally violates grammatical rules to reveal that the Holy Spirit is a “he.”

Paul’s teaching in Romans gives additional testimony to the personhood of the Spirit. The apostle tells his readers that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (8:26-27). The Christian overcome by despair or ignorant of his own true needs has a Helper. The Spirit prays for him to the Father.

Comparing John 16:13 and Romans 8:26-27 reveals that the Holy Spirit has masculine gender and intelligence. He hears, understands, speaks, and prays. The Spirit certainly has great power, but he is no impersonal force.

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