A Complete Person
When my family and I first arrived in the Philippines, where I was to assume the direction of Immanuel Bible College, the staff and student body held a reception for us. All kinds of local delicacies were served, and the entertainment was very enjoyable. I heard one of the students say, “I really like receptions.” It was a day to be remembered.
I wonder how I would have felt if they had forgotten the purpose of the reception. But they didn’t. Someone stood and said, “We have enjoyed the food and entertainment, but this is not the main reason we are here. We have come to welcome our new president, who will be with us for the next school term.”
Later as I thought about it I was reminded of testimonies of another much more important reception—receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Many people talk about the blessing they received when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, but they fail to mention the divine Person involved.
The Holy Spirit is a complete Person. Because He is a complete Person, we can have a person-to-Person relationship with Him that is totally satisfying; one that will meet our deepest needs and prepare us for our place in the kingdom of God.
His Personal Qualities
When you think of a person you probably think of a human being much like yourself who has the ability to think and feel and make decisions. The abilities to know, feel, and choose are given to us by God, and we are made in His image. He is the ideal of what a complete and perfect person is, and we are simply the marred copies. So it is not our purpose to say that the
Holy Spirit is a Person because He is like us. Rather, our personalities are patterned after the divine model; therefore, we have the same essential qualities of Personality: the abilities to think, feel, and decide.
All of the qualities which indicate personality are found in the Holy Spirit. He is a living being. In fact, as we shall see, He is the source and giver of life, and one of His names is “the Spirit of Life” (Romans 8:2).
Because we usually think of a person as someone with a visible physical body, we miss the real meaning of the word person, which refers to the foregoing qualities of personality: the abilities to know, to feel, and to choose. Does the personality of the Holy Spirit mean more to you in your daily life than if He were merely an impersonal force? Because He is a complete Person who can think, feel, and choose, He is the perfect channel for communicating your desires to God and God’s will to you!
Let’s examine each of the qualities of personality of the Holy Spirit, and think about their significance for us.
The Ability to know
One of the primary qualities of personality is the ability to know. We associate this ability with the mind. God’s Word states that the Holy Spirit acts with intelligence and wisdom:
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:27).
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).
In this second Scripture, the apostle Paul compares a man’s ability to know man with the same personal quality in the Holy Spirit in the spiritual realm. Note that this personal quality is related to the man’s spirit, which will endure, and not to his body, which will die.
In practical terms, the Spirit’s knowledge of the will of God and the needs of people makes it possible for Him to serve as our effective Counselor. This fact is well illustrated in the book of Acts, when the early church assembled in Jerusalem to find solutions for certain problems. In the face of a crisis that could have destroyed the unity of the church, the apostles and elders found a source of comfort and direction in the Holy Spirit (see chapter 15). The Spirit’s presence brought about the compromise that was needed, and the apostles were able to write, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15:28). Here the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and His divine knowledge provided a solution for the church that satisfied Jews, encouraged Gentiles, and caused the gospel to spread even more effectively.
A person, then, is one who can know and be known. As we have seen, the Holy Spirit possesses both of these qualities. He knows you and me better than anyone else can, and He is knowable. How well you will get to know Him will depend on how much you learn about Him from your daily fellowship. He may be treated as a casual acquaintance, or as a very intimate friend. Many say honestly, “I know Him,” that is, as a casual acquaintance. Far fewer know Him as an intimate friend. Do you want to know Him better? The more time you spend with Him, the better you will know Him.
The Ability to Feel
A second quality of personality is the emotional quality, or the ability to feel. Feelings include the abilities to love and to suffer grief, pain, and hurt (including anger). We shall see from Bible accounts that the Holy Spirit has the capacity to feel all these things as He works among us.
Love, like knowledge, is expressed on a person-to-person basis. It needs an object. You must be a person to express love, and the expression of your love would be meaningless if it were not expressed toward another person.
The apostle Paul says, “God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). And in another place he talks about “the love of the Spirit” (Romans 15:30).
The Holy Spirit is a Person who can be loved, who can love us, and who can love others through us.
During my college days I had the tendency to overwork the word love. I spoke of loving good books and loving good food and loving music. My English teacher objected. Every time I said I loved something, she corrected me. I can still hear her voice, “My brother, you cannot love these things. You can only love a person. Love must be expressed to someone who can respond to it.” Her point was simply that love is a communication of one’s feelings. To be truly meaningful, this communication must be received by one who can interpret and appreciate the intent of this message and respond to it as well.
Because He is a complete Person, the Holy Spirit can and does express God’s love. The love of the Spirit is evident in His earliest dealings with the family of man. In the days of Noah, wickedness was so widespread that the Holy Spirit was “grieved” and He was pained. As a result, God said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever” (Genesis 6:3). The Spirit can be grieved by people’s sin and rebellion because He is capable of feeling. In this case, His love was rejected.
Many people have not responded to the Holy Spirit’s love, and His response to their treatment, as we shall see, is another indication of His personal, emotional capacities. He can be the object of personal mistreatment. Paul contrasts the actions of the nonbelievers with those who have come to know Christ. Nonbelievers are not under the control of the Spirit; they are controlled by their sinful natures. In contrast, believers are in the process of change, and the Spirit is in control of their lives. The degree to which the believer yields his life to the Spirit’s control appears to determine the progress he makes in putting on the new self and becoming like Christ (compare Romans 8:5-15 with Ephesians 4:17-32). However, if after a time the new believer does not respond to the Spirit’s control and continues to demonstrate behaviors characteristic of his old life, the Spirit may indeed be grieved (Ephesians 4:30).
Do you remember how you felt when someone you loved caused you grief or pain? That is how the Holy Spirit feels when we grieve Him.
The Ability to Choose
Another important quality of personality is the ability to decide. Man, who was made in the image of his Creator, is the only created being with the ability to make moral decisions— decisions that affect his eternal destiny. A person can exercise free will. The book of Acts shows the will of the Holy Spirit in action.
The commissioning of Barnabas and Saul is a good example of how the Holy Spirit works as a Person with the ability to make choices. Read Acts 13:1-4. Barnabas and Saul could not doubt that the Holy Spirit was a Person—He had called them and then He publicly singled them out for the work He had chosen them to do. His very personal message to them revealed that He was more than just a divine power coming upon them to anoint them for the job God wanted them to do. He was and is a divine Person who selects whomever He chooses according to His own sovereign will.
This truth is not new if you are familiar with the gifts of the Spirit. Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit distributes His gifts among the members of the church as He wills (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). In other words, the Holy Spirit chooses the individuals through whom the gifts of the Spirit operate This deliberate selection is the personal act of the Holy Spirit. Each time a gift of the Spirit is manifested, it is an expression of the personality of the Holy Spirit.
His Personal Offices
Can you think of an office that is set up without a plan for having it filled by a person? Offices are always held by persons. Because He is a Person, the Holy Spirit can function as a Teacher, an Administrator, and a Comforter.
The Office of Teacher
There were many things Jesus desired to teach His disciples, but they were not yet ready to receive them. Therefore He promised to send them another Teacher.
Students of the Scriptures learn that the Bible would not have a true spiritual impact if it were not for the personal teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. He illuminates its truths and applies its lessons to everyday life.
In His teaching concerning the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “The Counselor . . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). Moreover, Jesus said of the Spirit, “He will testify about me” (John 15:26). Finally, Jesus concluded His message with a further description of the Spirit’s activities in John 16:13-14:
He will guide you into all truth . . . and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.
We can expect the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word of God, bringing clarification to us in the application of Christ’s words to our daily lives. He will quicken our memories to recall Christ’s words of encouragement in times of crisis (Mark 13:11). Moreover, He will lead us toward spiritual maturity, by leading us into all truth. Finally, He will reveal the course of the future to us and help us to respond appropriately with living that will glorify Christ (Titus 2:11-14).
Sometimes the relationship between a teacher and a student becomes almost as close as that between family members. I have had students introduce me to their parents or friends. When they say, “This is my teacher,” their expression shows a special kind of closeness. How much more this is true in the One-to-one teaching relationship with the Holy Spirit. My Teacher, the Holy Spirit, is a complete Person who has a personal relationship with me.
The Office of Administrator
Although the book of Acts is called the Acts of the Apostles, a more accurate title would be the Acts of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came on the Day of Pentecost, He became the superintendent or director of the church. The book of Acts presents the Holy Spirit as the officer in charge of all of the activities of the early church. What were some of His administrative activities?
The Holy Spirit was instrumental in Philip’s ministry to a lone Ethiopian eunuch traveling across the desert. He commanded Philip to join the eunuch’s chariot and witness to him (Acts 8:26-40).
The Holy Spirit separated Barnabas and Saul from their ministry at Antioch and commissioned them for missionary service (Acts 13:1-3). He also brought unity to the council at Jerusalem so that the gospel could be proclaimed effectively to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 15), giving the gospel message a universal appeal.
When Paul tried to enter Asia and preach the gospel, he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit who would not allow him to go (Acts 16:6-7). If you will read further, you will see that the Holy Spirit had another plan for Paul at that particular time.
Paul publicly acknowledged the administration of the Holy Spirit when He reminded the Ephesian elders that it was the Holy Spirit who had appointed them and placed the church under their care (Acts 20:28). All of these administrative functions of the Holy Spirit confirm that He is a complete Person who was sent by Christ to direct the affairs of His church.
Office of Comforter
When Jesus was leaving the world to return to heaven, His disciples were distressed. They were helpless without Him, so He told them, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). This title comes from the Greek word Paraclete and is usually translated into English as comforter or helper or counselor. Greek scholars have pointed out that the word translated another means “another of the same kind.” The Holy Spirit would be a Person distinct from Christ, but He would be “of the same kind” as Christ, a complete and perfect person.
Christ promised a Person! He did not promise only comfort, and help, and counsel—He promised a Comforter, a Helper, and a Counselor!
His Personal Designations
In addition to the qualities and offices which show the personality of the Holy Spirit, the Bible assigns Him personal names and uses personal pronouns to refer to Him.
The name Holy Spirit appears over 90 times in the Bible. It is His personal name and sets forth His own essential character.
Now we will see that Jesus revealed the personality of the Holy Spirit. We will also note that the Holy Spirit designates Himself as a Person.
Revealed by Jesus
Let’s look more closely at the promise of Jesus when He speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14, 15, and 16). Jesus clearly and unmistakably assigns personality to the Holy Spirit through the use of a personal name and by the personal pronouns He uses.
“I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). “When the Counselor comes . . . he will testify about me” (John 15:26). “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come” (John 16:13).
It is obvious in these passages that Jesus wanted His disciples to know that He was sending a Person to take His place. Three times He used the personal designation Counselor, or Comforter. Then seven times in one short verse He used the personal masculine pronoun he to refer to the Holy Spirit. He might easily have omitted some of these pronouns or used the neuter designation, spirit, but he repeated the personal designations over and over. I think Jesus wanted to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and He acts as a person.
Revealed by Himself
Has it occurred to you yet that all of these Bible statements were inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21)? This means that behind all that is being said, the Holy Spirit, who is the Agent of revelation, reveals that He is a complete Person. Moreover, He gives further evidence of His personality as He refers to His activity in personal terms.
One reference we have already used says it clearly and directly. It is a statement of the Holy Spirit Himself: “. . . the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’,” (Acts 13:2).
Revealed by the Apostle Paul
In his remarkable section on Life Through the Spirit in Romans 8, verses 1 through 27, Paul uses the personal masculine pronoun Himself (vs. 16, 26) to refer to the Holy Spirit. He did not use the neuter designation itself, but instead he used the designation which indicates that the One who verifies our sonship and intercedes for us is a Person. The apostle wanted us to understand that the One who controls our minds, produces life in us, makes our relationship with Christ real, and helps us in prayer has the characteristics of personality which make it possible for us to have this personal relationship with Him.
Our Personal Relationships
There are a number of reasons why it is important for us to know the Holy Spirit as a complete Person. One of them is that such knowledge deepens our relationship with Him.
Many of the problems the church experiences in the operation of spiritual gifts could be avoided if we would seek to know the Person of the Holy Spirit before we desire to receive and exercise His gifts. The knowledge of the Person of the Holy Spirit should bring a deep desire to please Him and be used by Him. This knowledge should in no way limit the operation of the spiritual gifts; indeed, it need not.
A Right Relationship
You have reviewed evidence which shows that the Holy Spirit is a knowing Person. This knowledge should give you a solid basis for sharing your problems with Him and letting Him show you how to solve them.
You have also considered evidence that He is an emotional being. This evidence gives you insights into the things He desires. You should no longer think of using Him to fulfill your desires; rather, you should allow Him to use you to fulfill His desires. He is a loving, sensitive being, who can be grieved by your misconduct. Pleasing yourself should not then be as important as pleasing Him.
Finally, you have evaluated evidence which shows that He is capable of choosing and deciding. His knowledge is infinite and He knows what is best for you. Moreover, He has chosen you and empowered you to be His witness. I trust you will greatly value His gifts. But more than the gifts, may you ever honor and value the Giver.
A Meaningful Relationship
Another very important value in recognizing the Holy Spirit as a Person is that relationship means more to the believer than experience. Knowing the power of the Holy Spirit brings some exciting experiences, but one enters a truly meaningful relationship with Him only when he comes to know Him as a Person. Such a relationship is a developing thing. It brings with it not only the knowledge of one’s spiritual privileges, but also the knowledge of one’s responsibilities. Paul refers to the progressive nature of this relationship in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.”
A Complete Person
The way one looks at the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4) is a good illustration of this. If he is experience oriented, he will see the baptism as an end in itself. When he has received it, he feels he has achieved his goal. If, on the other hand, he views the baptism in the Holy Spirit as involving the Person of the Holy Spirit, he recognizes that each day is filled with potential for the development of this relationship. This relationship can be expanded continually as long as he lives and desires to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Remember: Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come to be with us forever (John 14:16).
If you have been experience oriented, now is a good time to recognize your person-to-Person relationship with the Holy Spirit. He wants you to be so filled with His presence that your chief desire will be to please Him and do His will.