Who, not What, is the Holy Spirit?

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

  • Psalm 139:7-12

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

  • John 14:25-26

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

  • Acts 6:8

“Since [the Holy Spirit] is a person, then my dealings with Him are on a person-to-person basis. By contrast, one writer has tried to describe (or define) the Spirit as ‘the mysterious power of God … as the mode of God’s activity … a force … as the mode of God’s operation in the church. …” But the Spirit is not merely a mysterious power or a mode of operation or a force. He is a person. If He is mysterious, then probably I cannot know and understand Him. If He is a mode of operation, then He may be on the same (lower) level as other modes God uses in the world. If He is a force, then He is impersonal, however powerful, and perhaps in some instances at least I could be a greater force and control Him. But since He is a person, and since He is God, and since He has been revealed to us in the Bible, then my dealings with the Spirit are with a divine person whose activities and expectations for me are clear.  David asked, ‘Where can I go from Your Spirit?’ His answer: nowhere (Psalm 139:7-12).”

  • Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit

When I first read Dr. Ryrie’s book earlier this year, I thought that if I got stuck without a topic to write about, I could just close my eyes, thumb through the book, and point.  Wherever my finger was pointing, would be a rich topic in which to write.  Then for a few months, I set the book aside and worked on other things.  Today, upon writing this, I was exhausted, and I blindly thumbed through the book and landed on the quality of the Holy Spirit being a person.  Oddly, I was in the midst of doing laundry and two other topics came to mind, but those can wait a few days.

When I was growing up, I heard all the horror stories about people watching me.  The concept of my parents having eyes in the back of their heads was driven home when I would reach for a cookie when I confirmed that my mother was not only turned the other way, but she was busy cooking something.  Maybe she was looking at the chrome trim of the stove, but just as I would lift a cookie, she would say, “No, no.  Put it back.  You will spoil your supper.”  Of course, I have proven that I can eat a cookie and still have a full meal afterwards.  That was false, but the eyes in the back of her head was still on the table.

Of course, having her angrily stare at me when I got off the school bus was simply the teacher calling her about me not doing my homework instead of having clairvoyance.  I was a good kid, but you forget on occasion, usually doing the homework but forgetting to put it with my books.  Now, how my boys went through school and never brought a book home, or their homework, was always a mystery.

As for the monsters under the bed, I heard that one, along with the closet.  I heard about the boogie man.  But to be honest, darkness only bothered me inside the house.  My night vision was always good, and I could see just fine with the moonlight or simply with a few stars shining.  But going into an inner room of the house with no lights, the thought of a crazy killer on the loose would enter my mind.  Maybe that came from my much older siblings going “Boo!” a lot.

But the one that always got me, and kept me being a good little boy, was that God was watching.  It did not matter which person of the Trinity was watching, God knew everything, even in the dark corners of my life.  Even in understanding that God has forgiven my sins, I still know today that He is watching, and I do not wish to disappoint Him.  I still slip up, but my desire is to be more like Jesus.

But Dr. Ryrie has an excellent point that if we think of the Holy Spirit as a thing, a power, or a force, we lose that intimacy that Jesus talks about in John 14 above.  The Holy Spirit teaches us.  The Holy Spirit reminds us of everything Jesus taught His disciples.  Those are personal things.

In the last twenty years of my teaching career, I did both classroom training and computer-based training (CBT).  I loved doing both.  When we sold CBT, one of the selling points was that everyone who takes the course gets the same instruction.  The teacher never has a bad day.  The training is consistent among all of those who take the course.  It is available in case someone wants to refresh their memory on a particular topic.

I could go on to other points, but CBT has one flaw.  When the trainee raises their hands to ask a question, the computer simply waits until the trainee clicks the mouse on something.  The computer only teaches what it is programmed to teach, and when you have questions, there is no human there to answer the question.

Thus, we must consider the Holy Spirit a person in order to have the Holy Spirit teach us.  He is not an impersonal force or power, but He has a great deal of power.  Note how Stephen had the power of the Holy Spirit within him.  He can give us that power when we need it.

And how many times have I heard that voice saying, “Remember, …”  The Holy Spirit reminds us of the teachings of Jesus.  We might not be listening to the Voice, but He does remind us.  And just think about that for a few seconds.  He knew what we were thinking of doing, and He gave us the warning at that moment.  If the Holy Spirit were a force or power, He could not respond just in time, as He does.  If He were a computer data base containing all the teachings of Jesus, He would have the circle of death spinning (the symbol on the computer screen that spins until it has found the answer to the question that you gave the computer).  No, the Holy Spirit is a real person (although a spirit in form) who is intimately involved in the lives of believers.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

One Comment

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  1. “but brother the gifts of the Spirit are not for today……”

    Liked by 1 person

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