Last week, we looked at verses which show that the Holy Spirit speaks using first person singular pronouns.
Today, we look at further Bible evidence that the Holy Spirit is a person.
The Holy Spirit displays many other attributes of personality (pp. 186-189)
The Holy Spirit is a helper who will hear, speak, prophesy, and glorify Christ (these are things only a person could do): Ask the Witnesses to read aloud John 16:7-14
The Holy Spirit has a mind and knows the thoughts of God: 1 Corinthians 2:10-11: “For it is to us God has revealed them through his spirit, for the spirit searches into all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So, too, no one has come to know the things of God except the spirit of God.” (Watchtower translation).
- Ask, “How can an impersonal force search into anything? How can an impersonal force know the things of God? In fact, how can an impersonal force know anything at all?”
The Holy Spirit has a will
- He chooses spiritual gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:11 states: “But all these operations are performed by the very same spirit, distributing to each one respectively just as it wills” (Watchtower translation, emphasis added). (How can an impersonal force “will” anything?)
- He establishes requirements: Acts 15:28-29: “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements… (How can a course of action seem good to an impersonal force?)
- He intercedes with the Father: Romans 8:26: “In like manner, the spirit also joins in with help for our weakness; for the problem is that we do not know what we should pray for as we need to, but the spirit itself pleads for us with unuttered groanings.” (Watchtower translation) (How can an “it” intercede, plead, and groan?)
The Holy Spirit experiences emotions
- Grief: Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (How can an impersonal force experience grief?)
- Outrage: Hebrews 10:29: “How much greater punishment do you think a person will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God and who has esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and who has outraged the spirit of undeserved kindness with contempt?” (Watchtower translation) (How can an impersonal force be outraged?)
- Love: Romans 15:30: “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (How can an impersonal force love someone?)
Answering Watchtower arguments against the personality of the Holy Spirit (pp. 189-195)
Watchtower Argument #1: “Spirit” means “active force.” (p. 189)
The Watchtower refers to the Holy Spirit as “Jehovah’s active force” so often that Jehovah’s Witnesses simply accept it as true.
Response: (p. 189)
Point out that angels are called “spirits” (Hebrews 1:14) but they have personality. The mere use of the term “spirit,” therefore, does not disprove personality.
Watchtower Argument #2: The Holy Spirit’s supposed personality is only personification. (pp. 190-191)
The Watchtower’s explanation of the Holy Spirit being called a “helper,” issuing commands, and exhibiting other attributes of mind, will, and emotions, is that the Bible is merely using a literary device called personification. The Witnesses may use Proverbs 8 as an example. There, “wisdom” is directly quoted at length as making statements and using first person pronouns.
Response: (p. 191)
You can come back to the topic of Satan to further expand on this point. Ask the Witnesses, “What would you say to someone who made the personification argument about Satan, claiming that he isn’t really a person, that when Bible verses describe his thoughts and actions, that’s just a literary device personifying an evil, impersonal force?”
Compare what the Bible says about Satan with what it says about the Holy Spirit.
- Satan is a murderer (John 8:44); the Holy Spirit gives life (Romans 8:2, 11).
- Satan is a liar (John 8:44); the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
- Satan is a spiritual father of the wicked (John 8:44); Christians are born of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8; Galatians 4:29).
- Satan is a ruler (Ephesians 6:12); the Holy Spirit issues commands to Christians (Acts 8:29).
Point out that personification is a common literary device in poetry or in wisdom literature such as the book of Proverbs. In contrast, the book of Acts is written as historical narrative. There, an isolated occurrence of a phrase like “the Holy Spirit said” might be taken as personification, but multiple instances of the Holy Spirit not just “speaking,” but being quoted verbatim in extended conversation, cannot be explained away in such a fashion.
We agree with the Witnesses that Satan is a person. Using the identical criteria and reasoning, the Holy Spirit must also be a person.
Watchtower Argument #3: The Holy Spirit’s actions are inconsistent with personality. (pp. 191-192)
- Filling, baptizing, being anointed with
- The Watchtower states: “None of these expressions would be appropriate if the holy spirit were a person.”
- In response, ask them to read aloud Ephesians 1:23, which says that Christ “fills everything in every way.” Show them also Luke 22:3, which tells us, “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve.” Yet both Christ and Satan are persons.
- Being poured out
- Referring to Acts 2:4, the Watchtower asks in a study question, “How does the pouring out of holy spirit on Jesus’ followers prove that it is not a person?”
- In response, show them Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6, where Paul says that he is “being poured out like a drink offering.” Likewise, Messianic Psalm 22:14 says, “I am poured out like water.” Does this prove that Paul and Jesus are impersonal forces?
- How might you use these passages to show Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Holy Spirit is a person? (pp. 186-189)
- He is a helper who hears, speaks, prophecies, and glorifies Christ (John 16:7-14)? (pp. 186-187)
- He has a mind (1 Corinthians 2:10-11) (p. 187)
- He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11; Acts 15:28-29; Romans 8:26) (pp. 187-188)
- He experiences emotions (Ephesians 4:30; John 13:27; Hebrews 10:29) (p. 189)
- How would you answer these Watchtower arguments against the Holy Spirit being a person? (pp. 189-195)
- “Spirit” means “active force” (p. 189)
- The Holy Spirit’s supposed personality is only a well-known literary device known as personification, in which things like “wisdom” are quoted and said to have feelings? (pp. 190-191)
- The Holy Spirit’s actions of filling, baptizing, anointing, and being poured out are inconsistent with personality. (pp. 191-192)