In this excerpt from Stand to Reason University, Robby Lashua examines the scriptural evidence for the divinity of the Holy Spirit and shares how we know the Holy Spirit is personal and distinct from the Father and the Son.
A few years ago, I received a call from a man at my church. He said he wanted to talk about the Trinity, specifically the Holy Spirit. We met for coffee, and he described to me that he’d received some materials from a religious group claiming that the Holy Spirit was not the third person of the Trinity. This group taught that the Holy Spirit was simply the power of God, a force that God sent out into the world to accomplish his work. This group even had verses to back up their position. They used Micah 3:8, which says, “On the other hand, I am filled with power with the Spirit of the Lord.” My friend seemed to be somewhat convinced by this teaching. I reminded him that we need to consult what all Scripture says about the Holy Spirit, not just cherry pick a few select verses.
Let me ask you a question. We’re in a situation with a friend who questioned the Holy Spirit’s deity. What Scripture would you go to? After this class, you will be prepared to defend the deity of the Holy Spirit from multiple places in Scripture. So, let’s get started.
First of all, the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. Not power. John 15:26–27 says, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” This is important to grasp. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit is a he. “He” is a personal pronoun. The Holy Spirit is a person. He also does something in this verse that only persons can do. He testifies. When was the last time a power source like electricity or gravity testified?
Acts 13:2 says, “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’“ Did you notice what that said? According to this passage, the Holy Spirit speaks. He talks. He says something and gives instructions for what he wants to be done with Saul and with Barnabas.
In 1 Corinthians 2:10–11, it tells us, “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The Holy Spirit knows things. Did you notice that? He has a mind.
Ephesians 4:30. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” This passage tells us that the Holy Spirit can be grieved, which is an emotion. So, the Holy Spirit has emotions.
1 Corinthians 12:11. “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” Now, this term for “will” is the Greek term “boulomai.” It’s only used of persons in the entire New Testament, and, interestingly enough, in Matthew 11:27, it tells us that Jesus has a “boulomai,” a will, and in Hebrews 6:17, it tells us that the Father has a “boulomai.” The Father has a will.
It’s clear from these verses that the Holy spirit is described as a person, not as an impersonal force. But Scripture has more to say about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Not only is the Holy Spirit a person, but we learn something important from his abilities. According to Scripture, the Holy Spirit has the attributes of God. Romans 8:2: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” The Spirit is a Spirit of life. Only God is the giver of spiritual life, abundant life, eternal life. That comes from God, and the Spirit is said to be a Spirit of life.
Isaiah 40:13–14. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding?” According to this passage, the Holy Spirit is omniscient, all-knowing, just like the Father and the Son.
Psalm 139:7–8. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” The Holy Spirit, according to the psalmist, is omnipresent. He’s everywhere at once. The psalmist cannot escape the Spirit no matter where he goes.
Nehemiah 9:20 says, “You gave your good Spirit to instruct them.” And Psalm 143:10 says, “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” According to these two passages, the Holy Spirit is good. Now, Jesus had something specific to say about this in Mark 10:18. “Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.’” So, according to Jesus, only God is good. The Spirit is called “good.” Thus, the Spirit is God.
In Hebrews 9:14, we read, “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The Holy Spirit is said to be eternal. Now, nothing is eternal except for God.
In 1 Samuel 2:2, we read, “There is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You.” The Holy Spirit is often described as being holy. This is one important attribute of God that is given to the Spirit—that he is holy. Now, “holiness” means God is entirely set apart. He’s distinct from his creation. It’s human sin that actually separates us from God because he is holy. The descriptor most often given to the Spirit is “holy.” This description of holiness sets the Spirit apart and signifies his divine nature.
In John 14:16–17, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth.” The Holy Spirit is and only speaks truth, just like Jesus—who is the way, the truth, and the life—and just like the Father—who cannot lie, according to Hebrews 6:18. So, the Spirit is truth.
Not only is the Spirit described as a person who shares in the attributes of God, but the Spirit is also identified with God and specifically called God by the New Testament writers. The Holy Spirit is identified and called “God” in multiple places throughout the New Testament. 2 Peter 1:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” Notice that the Holy Spirit is identified with God. It is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who gave the authors of the Bible the words of God.
2 Corinthians 3:17–18 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Multiple times in this passage, the Holy Spirit is called “the Lord.” In the Septuagint, which was translated by Jewish scholars even before the time of Jesus, the word “Yahweh,” which is the name God used of himself with Moses at the burning bush, was translated with the Greek word “kyrios.” The New Testament writers identified Jesus as “kyrios” in multiple places, but in 2 Corinthians 3:17–18, the word “kyrios” is used of the Holy Spirit. This signifies that the Holy Spirit is Lord, is “kyrios,” is Yahweh, is God.
1 Corinthians 3:16. “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Did you notice this says that the Spirit is God? It defined the Spirit as God. The Spirit indwells you. God is in you. “Spirit” is defined as “God.”
Now, the most clear passage where the Spirit is called God comes from Acts 5:3–5. Ananias and Sapphira come and they lie to the church about how much they’re giving. They say, “We’ve sold everything, and we’re giving it all to you.” But they were keeping a portion back for themselves. So, Acts 5:3–5 tells us this: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” You see, the Holy Spirit is called “God” by Peter in this passage. Peter said that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit and thus lied to God. Peter equates the Spirit with God himself. This is probably the clearest passage in Scripture where the Holy Spirit is identified as God.
So, let’s sum it all up. The Holy Spirit is described as a person, a “he.” He’s complete with a mind, a will, emotions, and communication abilities. He’s also described as having the attributes of God: life in himself, omniscience, omnipresence, goodness, eternity, holiness, and truth. Some passages identify the Spirit with God, and one specifically calls him “God.” From the brief list of verses that we’ve investigated, it’s clear that Scripture teaches the Holy Spirit is God. He’s not merely the force or power of God. He is a person distinct from the Father and the Son who exhibits the attributes of God and is called “God.”