Is the Holy Spirit an Impersonal Force?

Jehovah’s Witnesses adamantly deny that the Holy Spirit is God. Instead, they assert that it is simply God’s power in action; it is His active, impersonal force. However, there are numerous passages that testify to the deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit. 

One particularly compelling text is the story of Ananias and Sapphira recorded in the Book of Acts. Ananias sells a piece of property, but keeps some of the proceeds for himself. When Peter confronts Ananias, he says, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). First, Peter identifies lying to the Holy Spirit as lying to God. In fact, he uses Holy Spirit and God interchangeably. This only makes sense if the Holy Spirit is God. Second, how is it possible to lie to an impersonal force? It would be absurd to speak of lying to the force of gravity. This would be a category mistake. You can only lie to another person.

This is not the only place where a New Testament author assigns personhood to the Holy Spirit. John writes, “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). This is a significant passage because it attributes personal pronouns to the Holy Spirit. Again John writes, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). In this particular verse, John violates Greek grammar to communicate the personhood of the Spirit. The Spirit is a neuter noun, but John refers to the Spirit as a “who,” which is a masculine pronoun. So John goes out of his way to avoid calling calling the Spirit an “it.” 

Furthermore, the Spirit is said to guide, hear, speak, and declare (John 16:13). He also intercedes for us when we pray: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). The Holy Spirit has a will (1 Cor. 12:11). Finally, Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit can be grieved. He writes, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). These verses are incredibly awkward for the Jehovah’s Witness to deal with, because impersonal forces don’t hear, speak, intercede, grieve, or have a will. 

An honest reading of the New Testament demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinitarian Godhead. There is only one God, who subsists as three distinct, co-eternal Persons. The Father provides salvation, the Son achieved salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies salvation.

quick thought |
Tim Barnett