The Holy Spirit

By Joel Portman



No sacred doctrine is sacred to natural men! There is likely no doctrine having to do with God that has not been assailed or against which attempts have not been made to undermine it from some point. This constant conflict indicates the inveterate hatred the prince of darkness has for that which is light. From every quarter, teachings and ideas have risen and been perpetuated that contradict the Deity and Personality of the members of the Godhead. This shows us that behind these efforts is the purpose of the Devil to affect men’s minds so as to contradict and supplant the clear truth having to do with God.  He began that work in the Garden of Eden by questioning and  expressing doubt of God and His Word (Gen.3:1-2). He continues the same effort and pattern with varying degrees of success to this present day.

This opposition is directed toward every Person of the Trinity and it is directed no less toward the Holy Spirit. Many false ideas have risen from different sources to attack many diverse aspects of truth concerning the Holy Spirit. The most deleterious teachings are twofold: those that seek to rob the Holy Spirit of His true Deity, to make Him less than God, and those that would take away the reality of His true Personality. That is to say, according to these teachings, He is not truly God and He is not truly a Person; rather,  He is said to be an influence or “breath” from God. To corrupt the truth of God may be far worse than direct denial. Corruption involving a mingling of truth with error has often been the direction taken by these; the result is that it is even more important to have an apprehension of revealed truth in the Bible.

We need not mention the names of groups involved over the centuries. It is very likely that more attempts have been made to assail the Personality of the Holy Spirit than His Deity. However, we must make clear that both truths are important. To teach otherwise is to attack the truth of the Trinity itself, the clear teaching of the Word of God and the genuine existence of the Holy Spirit.


The Deity of the Holy Spirit can be affirmed in a number of ways.  The best way to do this is to examine the Names He bears, the attributes He displays and the works in which He is involved. We will consider them in that order.


A consideration of the Names and titles of the Holy Spirit will immediately lead us to realize the place He occupies in the Godhead. A Name in scripture is more than a mere label used to identify a person. The name is an expression of some truth concerning that person.  The names of the Holy Spirit reveal His true character even as God-given names of men expressed truth about them. Notice carefully a few of the names and titles which are given to the Spirit of God.

  Spirit of God                            Gen.1:2, Mt.3:16

  Spirit of the Living God            II Cor.3:3

  Spirit of the Lord                     Lk.4:18, Jud.3:10, Isa.11:2, 40:13

  Spirit of our God                      I Cor.6:11

  Spirit of Jehovah                      Jud.3:10 (and many others)

  Spirit of the Lord God               Isa. 61:1

  Spirit of your Father                 Mt.10:20

  Spirit of Jesus Christ                Phil.1:19

  Spirit of Christ                         Rom.8:9, I Pet.1:11

  Spirit of Jesus                          Acts 16:7 (RV)

  Spirit of His Son                      Gal.4:6

  My Spirit                                 Gen.6:3

  Holy Spirit                               (numerous references)

  Holy Spirit of Promise              Eph.1:13 

  Holy Spirit of God       Eph.4:30

  Eternal Spirit                           Heb.9:14

The names and titles of this blessed Person are many and wonderful. None of His names can be divorced from some expression of Deity. All the names manifest some aspect of His position as God, His relationship with the Godhead or His functions and perfections in relation to carrying out God’s purposes.

One has said that there are 84 references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, but there are possibly more than this. These many references throughout the Scripture emphasize to us the importance God places on the Holy Spirit.

It is noteworthy that when the Name (singular) of God is used (as in Matt. 28:19) this threefold Name includes the Holy Spirit. In this way, He receives full recognition with equal position and honor as the Father and the Son. Plurality and equality in the Godhead are emphatically taught even from the beginning of the Scriptures. In the Old Testament this truth is not as clearly expressed as it is in the New. This is an example of the progress of Divine revelation in God’s Word. Not all was revealed at the beginning. Any truth was developed and more detail was given as God continued to speak to men. As a result of this expressed equality in Deity, wherever the gospel is preached and souls are saved, new believers are brought into identification with that Name of God in which the Holy Spirit shares fully.


Attributes are those characteristics or qualities that express something about a Person by means of which others can know something about Him. God has revealed Himself to men by attributes that make known to us Who He is and what He is like. To show that the Holy Spirit posseses the attributes of deity is to show that He is truly God.

The primary attributes of God are those features that are unique to Himself, not possessed by any other. We may say that these are Eternal, uncreated existence, Omniscience (unlimited and total knowledge of all things without having learned), Omnipotence (unlimited power and ability to accomplish all that is His will), and Omnipresence (unlimited presence so as to be in all places and times at the same moment). There are other attributes that can be considered such as absolute Holiness and Sinlessness (perhaps not truly attributes but essential aspects of the Divine Nature). We will study those as they emphasize the Deity of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrew 9:14 makes clear His eternity.  “. . . Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot unto God. . .” In this verse we find the three Persons of the Godhead involving themselves in the great sacrificial work of our Savior. All three are important and essential, but the point here is that the Spirit is said to be eternal, an attribute that is equally true of both Father and Son. As far as one could go back in thought, and then farther back toward an unoriginated existence, we find God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we can project our thoughts into the future, there we find the same, God continuing in His eternal existence, without an end, unchanging in His dignity. He is God in eternal character and the Holy Spirit fully shares in those attributes.

Considering His Omniscience, Scripture makes clear that He possesses all knowledge. This knowledge is seen in the various avenues of teaching He gives. It is seen in the deep things of God that He would reveal to men through chosen vessels (I Cor. 2:11-12). We also discern His omniscience in the truths given concerning God, since the Spirit is the great Teacher sent down to earth after the ascension of the Lord Jesus to comfort and encourage His own (John 14:26, 16:13-14). This knowledge is also seen in the sevenfold Spirit of the Lord Who rested on the One who was the Branch from the root of David (Isa. 11:2). Only One Who was God could fully reveal the great truths of God to His people, for He is able to fully search the “deep things of God.” Only He could communicate to His saints’ hearts the “all things” that our Risen Lord purposed to impart to our souls. He knows all things, not only the things of God, but also the hearts and minds of men. He searches the hearts, He reveals the thoughts and He makes manifest the inner being in the light of God’s Word. We read in Rom.8:26 that He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (lit., according to God). 

He is Omnipotent in His unlimited power as He works to carry out the purposes of God. We first find the Spirit of God in relation to Creation (Gen.1:2) as the first Person of the Godhead personally named. There He is found brooding over the face of the waters to initiate God’s great work to form the world.  In Job 33:4, Elihu attributes his life and breath to the Spirit of God. In I Pet. 3:18, the inspired writer makes clear the important involvement of the Holy Spirit in the resurrection of Christ. He has power to bring conviction to souls and to give life to the spiritually dead ones (John 3:5-6).  He enables the saints in their service and accomplishes toward every saint all that is the will of God for our blessing and need. The Lord Jesus stated in Matt.12:28 that He cast out devils (demons) by the Spirit of God, even as in Luke 11:20 He stated that it was with the finger of God that these deeds were done.  These simple statements should not be passed over.

Omnipresence marks the Spirit of God. One Scripture should suffice: in Ps.139:7-10 the Psalmist considers the greatness of God. In vss. 1-6 he is overwhelmed by the omniscience of God, for God knows all about him and every movement of his life. In vss. 13-16 he marvels at the omnipotence of God as God made him. But in vss. 7-10 he recognizes the omnipresence of God, emphasizing here that it is God’s Spirit from Whom he cannot flee. No matter where he might go in the earthly or the unseen spheres, he knows he will find the Spirit there, inescapable in every way. He has the attribute of God in that He is always present in all places, without limit of time or space.

We also see the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit as I Cor.6:19 clearly states that the individual believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is the continual condition of every child of God, for He is at home in and indwelling every believer.  To do so, He must be able to be in every believer at the same time. In addition, the local assembly is the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor.3:16), and since this is true of every assembly everywhere around the world, the Holy Spirit possesses omnipresence.

It is evident that the Spirit of God is holy and perfectly sinless. “Holy Spirit” is His title in the majority of the references we have, and in this way we are reminded that this is one of His personal qualities. This would be more than an attribute, for it is an intrinsic part of His nature. He possesses a perfect hatred of all forms of sin with an intolerance of evil. He has an infinite desire to set the believer apart to God from all evil and from whatever is contrary to God (Gal. 5:17, James 4:5). In this regard He possess all the qualities of Deity, for “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13). Even as God is holy and cannot look upon sin and evil,  (Hab. 1:13), the Holy Spirit is opposed to all  sin. He is Holy in His  character  and  Person,  Holy in His working  and Holy in His aim and purpose. In this perfect, intrinsic holiness we see an expression of His essence that transcends man’s highest qualities and thus displays His true Deity.


Actions of the Holy Spirit will be considered in more detail later. However, at this point we should show that the Scriptures clearly state that He is involved in every activity in which God is working whether past, present or future.

We learn of the work of the Holy Spirit in creation from Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30, Job 26:13 and His striving with men in the days of Noah, Genesis 6:3. He inspires Scripture, II Peter 1:21 and brought Christ into the world through incarnation, Luke 1:35. Concerning man today, he is convincing (convicting) the world, John 16:7-11 and restraining the full development of evil, II Thessalonians 2:6-8. He brings spiritual life through the new birth, John 3:5-6. Toward saints, He is the Comforter, John 14:16 and He intercedes for them, as in Romans 8:26. Finally,  He sanctifies, or sets apart the believer for God, II Thessalonians 2:13, a work that commences even before salvation.

Other activities of the Holy Spirit are vital and will be discussed in a later section.  However, these are given at this point so that we might see that He possesses all the attributes belonging to God and thus is God in every aspect of His Person and work.


The truth of the Holy Spirit being a genuine Person is doubted by many. There are those who speak of the Spirit as an “influence” or even as the Arians of old who spoke of the “exerted energy of God.” The error of modern-day denials by Unitarians, liberals or others who reject His personality is no less serious. We cannot take this error lightly for it impinges on the truths of the Holy Spirit that are vital and must be upheld.

Denial of personality is a denial of the actual existence of the Holy Spirit that is as serious as the rejection of many other fundamental truths. Therefore, to be Scripturally correct and to have a full appreciation of the Holy Spirit in our own souls, we must emphasize and uphold the truth of His Personality;  He is a real Person.

What defines personality? Does it require a body for one to be a person? Could this be what some think, concluding that since the Holy Spirit doesn’t take bodily form He lacks personality? A brief consideration will show that the body is not requisite for personality. Surely the rich man in hell (Luke 16) had all the qualities of personality even as did Abraham in paradise! He could observe, reason, consider his own state, experience emotions, have a will and express it, as well as remonstrate with Abraham. The Scripture indicates in other places as well that men who leave this world are still persons after the body is in the grave.

If the body does not define personality, then what does? Could this be answered by using the following criteria? Personality is indicated by the use of the personal pronoun in references made to that individual. In addition, it can be demonstrated by showing that the one being spoken of can be acted toward and will respond as a genuine person would.


Normally the pronoun used of the Holy Spirit in the original Greek would be neuter since the word for the Spirit is neuter (pneuma). Because of this, there are many places in our Bibles where the Spirit of God is spoken of as “it,” and this is a literal translation of the proper grammatical structure such as in Romans 8:16,26 and in I Pet.1:11. Because of the use of “it” some have drawn the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is not truly a Person.

However, in the ministry to His disciples in the Upper Room, the Lord Jesus always used the masculine pronoun “He” when He spoke of the Holy Spirit. Notice this in John 14:16-17, 26; 15:26, 16:7-15. In these passages the Lord Jesus exclusively used the personal masculine pronoun when speaking of the Holy Spirit and did so at least 20 times. Surely the use of this form would emphasize to us that the Lord knew and taught His disciples the Personality of the Holy Spirit as One Who was coming to them.


The Spirit of God knows all the things of God, (I Cor.2:10-11, Eph.1:17, John 16:13) and is able to guide, teach, direct, and unfold the things of God to men. He also searches the hearts of men, knowing their thoughts and ways. There is nothing hidden from His knowledge, and this is most clearly seen when we consider His work to give us the Holy Scriptures. These Scriptures are the unfolding of the mind of God as God has determined to reveal it; they manifest the depths and treasures of true wisdom and knowledge in the mind of the Holy Spirit.


In Acts 13:1-4 Paul and Silas were let go by the Antioch brethren because it was made clear to them by the Holy Spirit that this was His will. They were sent forth on that first missionary journey by the Holy Spirit and  His will directed them in their movements. Acts 16:6-7 and other references make clear to us that the Holy Spirit directed Paul in His service. He will yet explicitly guide those who are yielded to His control. Paul and his party in the missionary journey were forbidden to preach in Asia then; they were not suffered to go into Bithynia, because He was clearly directing them in His own time and way toward Greece. We read of the Holy Spirit directing the exercise of gift in the local assembly, a subject that will be considered in more detail later. We read in I Cor. 12:11 that the Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gift to every saint according to His own sovereign choice. This choice is an expression of His own will in this work.


In Eph. 4:30, we are warned not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. This means that we can cause Him deep sorrow by sins in which we might continue and which are contrary to His holy character and work in our lives. He can be resisted, such as in Acts 7:51; He can be done despite to (insulted) as in Hebrews 10:29, and He can be quenched as in I Thess. 5:19. He can be lied to as in the case of Annanias and Saphira in Acts 5:3 and tempted (put to the test, presumed upon) in Acts 5:9.

In addition, since He is truly God and possesses real personality, He can be blasphemed. The Pharisees were doing this when they attributed His powerful works in the Lord Jesus to the devil (Matt. 9:34, 12:24-32). They were insulting His blessed Name through their injurious and reproachful speech directed against Him.

Along with these characteristics that we have considered, we find that the Spirit moves and works as a real Person; He reacts as true Personality would act,  and He displays all the attributes expected of One Who is a real Person. So the only reasonable conclusion we should reach is that He is all the Holy Scriptures reveal Him to be. He is true Deity and actual Personality. Why would we want any less truth concerning Him? It is most blessed to realize that He is a Person Who can be experienced in His power and interest in the needs of men.  What truths open up to our spirits when we simply take the Divine revelation concerning Him and believe it! May  we appreciate and understand these two aspects of Himself more and seek to know more of this blessed Person.

Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathed

His tender last farewell,

A Guide, a Comforter bequeathed

With us to dwell.

He came sweet influence to impart,

A gracious, willing guest,

While He can find one humble heart

Wherein to rest.

And His that gentle voice we hear,

Soft as the breath of even,

That checks each fault, that calms each fear,

And speaks of heaven.

And every virtue we possess,

And every victory won,

And every thought of holiness

Are His alone.

Spirit of purity and grace,

Our weakness, pitying see;

O make our hearts, Thy dwelling place,

Worthy of Thee.

                        Harriet Auber   (BHB #436)