Chapter 1: The Personality of the Holy Spirit

Printer-friendly version

by David E. West, England

 

INTRODUCTION

THE NAMES AND TITLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

THE DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

SUMMARY


INTRODUCTION

All Christians believe the foundation truth that God is One – the one sovereign, eternal, almighty and all-wise Creator and Sustainer of this whole universe; Paul says, "For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" Rom.11.36. Both the Old and New Testaments are emphatic and insistent upon this and we dare not loosen our grip upon this cardinal truth, lest we stumble into error.

God is not only One, but He is the one absolutely unique Being, "I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me" Isa.46.9. Yet in spite of the insistence of Scripture that God is One, the New Testament constantly brings us face-to-face with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and statements are made about each which can be true only of God. Consideration of many Scriptures in the New Testament will show that these Persons are distinguishable. The Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Although these Persons are distinct from each other, they are not separate; indeed the Lord Jesus spoke to His own after His resurrection, of making disciples of all nations, "baptizing them in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" Matt.28.20.

In our little, human experience, one being is one person; thus, with us, the terms "being" and "person" tend to be regarded as interchangeable, but the two must not be confused. God is absolutely unique and one aspect of that uniqueness is that in the one Being of God, there are three Persons.

The subject for consideration is "The Holy Spirit" and care must be taken lest He should unconsciously be relegated to a position of inferiority by being spoken of as ‘the Third Person of the Godhead’.

From the words of the Lord Jesus to His own, "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak" Jn.16.13, some have inferred that the Spirit never speaks about Himself, but this conclusion is clearly shown to be incorrect by reference to all the teaching in the New Testament epistles concerning the Holy Spirit, these writings being inspired by the Spirit Himself. The expression "of Himself" (or ‘from Himself’) means "of His own initiative", as the following words show, "but whatsoever He shall hear that shall He speak".

At the threshold of our study, it is good to be reminded that we are "shut up" to the Spirit Himself for, apart from Him, we should have no Bible – He is its Divine Author, "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" 2 Pet.1.21.

In addition to this, apart from His aid, we are not even able to understand the Scriptures. Indeed the human instruments, taken up by the Spirit in the writing of the Word of God, turned back to the One prompting them in order to derive light as to God’s purpose and timescale, "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify" 1 Pet.1.10,11.Whilst we are encouraged to apply ourselves diligently to the study of the Word of God, it is the Holy Spirit Who must flood the page with Divine light. Thus the Spirit must be given His rightful place and, as if to alert us to this fact, He features on the first and last pages of the Divine revelation: "And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" Gen.1.2; "and the Spirit and the bride say, Come" Rev.22.17.There are approximately 100 references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, yet in the New Testament, which embraces only about one third of the space of the Old Testament, there are some 230 references. Hence the Holy Spirit has a much more prominent place in the New Testament revelation, which is compatible with the fact that the present phase of God’s dealings with men is especially that of the Spirit. There are only three books in the New Testament where no reference is made to Him, namely Philemon, and the Second and Third Epistles of John. However, only one reference to the Holy Spirit is found in each of seven others, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, James and 2 Peter.

In this present article the following topics will be considered:

 

  • The Names and Titles of the Holy Spirit
  • The Deity of the Holy Spirit
  • The Personality of the Holy Spirit
  •  

    THE NAMES AND TITLES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

    The names and titles of this blessed Person are many and wonderful. None of His names can be divorced from some expression of Deity. All the names manifest some aspect of His position as God, His relationship in the Godhead or His functions and perfections in relation to carrying out God’s purposes.

    The Spirit

    "Spirit" is the translation of the Greek word pneuma which primarily denotes the "wind" and also "breath", e.g. "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit ("But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit" R.V.): for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God" 1 Cor.2.10.

    Perhaps it should be mentioned here that one of the reasons why men tend to think of the Spirit as an impersonal attribute, rather than a specific Person, is because this Greek word pneuma is a neuter word and in certain places the A.V. renders the corresponding pronoun neuter in apposition, e.g. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God" Rom.8.16. This is grammatically correct, but doctrinally wrong. Needless to say, the nature of the Spirit is not determined by the grammatical rules of Greek or of any other language!

    The Spirit of God

    This name emphasises His Divine nature, character and power, e.g. "Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed" 1 Cor.12.3.

    The Spirit of the Lord

    It was in the synagogue at Nazareth on the Sabbath day that there was delivered to the Lord Jesus "the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me …" Lk.4.17,18. Although the title "the Spirit of the LORD (Jehovah)" is used, e.g. in Isa.11.2, the Old Testament passage from which the Lord Jesus read has, "The Spirit of the Lord GOD (Adonai Jehovah) is upon me" Isa.61.1. This latter title is even more emphatic.

    The Spirit of the Living God

    Inasmuch as Christ is confessed by Simon Peter to be "the Son of the living God" Matt.16.16, the Holy Spirit is spoken of as "the Spirit of the living God": "ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart" 2 Cor.3.3.

    The Spirit of Christ

    This name brings out the relation of the Spirit to Christ, e.g. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" Rom.8.9. The "Spirit of God" and the "Spirit of Christ", of course, refer to the Holy Spirit and show that God the Father and Christ sustain exactly the same relationship to the Holy Spirit.

    The Spirit of His Son

    Paul writes, "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father" Gal.4.6. This is the only place where the title, "the Spirit of His Son", is used. In Rom.8.15 He is called "the Spirit of adoption (sonship)". Thus we, as believers, now possess "the Spirit of His Son" to correspond to our status as sons.

    The Spirit of Jesus Christ

    This designation is used only in Phil.1.19, "For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply (i.e. abundant supply) of the Spirit of Jesus Christ". It is Jesus Christ, the Man Who is now exalted to the right hand of the Father Who sends the Spirit. The title "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" tells us that the power that carried Him through this scene is exactly what we need to bring us safely through this world.

    The Spirit of Jesus

    Luke records, "and when they (Paul and Timothy) were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not" Acts 16.7 (R.V.). It should be noted that, in the immediate context, we read, "they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Ghost to speak the word in Asia" Acts 16.6 (R.V.). Thus "the Spirit of Jesus" is "the Holy Ghost". W. Kelly comments "‘The Spirit of Jesus’ blends the personal interest of the glorified Man Whose Name it was their heart’s desire and the great object of their life to make known … with the power of the Spirit." The thought of the relation of the Spirit to the Man Jesus is yet clearer here.

    The Holy Spirit

    This title is frequently rendered "the Holy Ghost" in the A.V., thus, "When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost" Matt.1.18. This name emphasises the essential moral character of the Spirit. He is holy in Himself.

    The Spirit of Holiness

    This title is used on only one occasion, "… declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" Rom.1.4. Some suggest that "the Spirit of holiness" refers to the human spirit of Christ, which was essentially and absolutely holy. This is distinct, and yet inseparable, from the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit of Promise

    Paul, addressing himself to the saints at Ephesus, writes "in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" Eph 1.13 (R.V.). The seal of Divine ownership is the indwelling Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit of promise. Although the Holy Spirit was (is) the promised One, as made known by the Lord Jesus prior to His ascension, "… wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith He, ye have heard of Me" Acts 1.4, nevertheless in the context of the verse quoted from the Epistle to the Ephesians, the title "the Holy Spirit of promise" seems rather to be connected with the immutable promise of our future blessings.

    The Spirit of Truth

    Three times in consecutive chapters (John chapters 14,15,16) the Lord Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as "the Spirit of truth", e.g. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me" Jn.15.26. His essence is truth, "And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth" 1 Jn.5.6. It is His work to communicate truth, "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth" Jn.16.13. All truth is from Him.

    The Spirit of Life

    Paul writes, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" Rom.8.2. There is a new law for a new life. The phrase "the Spirit of life" is not subjective, i.e. ‘the Spirit Who has life’, but rather objective, in other words, ‘the Spirit Who gives life’. The Lord Jesus said, "it is the Spirit that quickeneth" Jn.6.63, the reference being to the Holy Spirit.

    The Spirit of Grace

    This title is used on only one occasion: "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Heb.10.29. The apostate therefore despises not only the Son and the sacrifice but also the Spirit. It was grace that brought the Son of God to earth and took Him on to Calvary. In the exercise of that same grace the Spirit of God pursues a ministry of grace towards guilty men. However, these apostates have insulted the Spirit of grace.

    The Spirit of Glory

    This, of course, is the title of this very book. Peter writes: "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you" 1 Pet.4.14. We read of "The God of glory" Acts 7.2, "the Father of glory" Eph.1.17, "the Lord of glory" 1 Cor.2.8 and now "the Spirit of glory". Christ was in the glory; Peter is saying to these believers who were scattered abroad that the Spirit, Who came from that glory and that God, filled them with joy in bearing the reproach. The Holy Spirit is the administrator of a grace that culminates in glory.

    The Eternal Spirit

    This title, used by the writer to the Hebrews, "Christ … through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" Heb.9.14, will be considered later in the section dealing with ‘The Deity of the Holy Spirit’.

    The Comforter

    Three times (Jn.14.26; 15.26; 16.7) in ‘the upper room ministry’ the Lord Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as "the Comforter", e.g. "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" Jn.14.26, and once as "another (i.e. of the same kind as Himself) Comforter" Jn.14.16. The word translated "Comforter" literally means one called to another’s side, i.e. to one’s aid, the idea being one at hand to take another’s part. It is the same word translated "Advocate" in John’s First Epistle, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" 1 Jn.2.1.

    Others

    The list of names/titles of the Holy Spirit given above is far from comprehensive. Some of the additional titles found in the Old Testament are: "the Spirit of wisdom" Ex.28.3; Deut.34.9; "Thy good Spirit" Neh.9.20; "the breath of the Almighty" Job 33.4; "the Spirit of judgment" Isa.4.4; 28.6; "the Spirit of burning" Isa.4.4; "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding … the Spirit of counsel and might … the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" Isa.11.2; "a new Spirit" Ezek.11.19; "the Spirit of grace and of supplications" Zech.12.10.

    Some of the lesser used designations in the New Testament not mentioned thus far in this article are: "the Spirit of your Father" Matt.10.20; "the anointing" 1 Jn.2.27; "the seven Spirits" Rev.1.4; "the seven Spirits of God" Rev.3.1; 4.5; 5.6.

    THE DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

    In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is clearly designated as God. Peter says to Ananias, "why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost"; he then continues, "thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" Acts 5.3,4. The unmistakable deduction is that the Holy Spirit is God. The same conclusion may be drawn from 1 Corinthians chapter 3 where Paul, addressing the assembly, says "ye are the temple of God" and then adds "the Spirit of God dwelleth in you" v.16. Then the "inspiration of God" in relation to the Scriptures: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God" 2 Tim 3.16, is parallel with the "moving" of holy men by the Holy Spirit: "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" 2 Pet.1.21.

    "The Spirit of the LORD (Jehovah)", the name often given to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, is used synonymously with "the LORD (Jehovah"), e.g. "And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him (Othniel), and he judged Israel, and he went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushan-rishathaim … into his hand" Judg 3.10. Then New Testament writers, when quoting words spoken by Jehovah in the Old Testament, attribute them to the Holy Spirit, e.g. the instructions of Jehovah concerning the entrance of Aaron into the holiest within the veil once a year, Lev.16.2-34, are described by the writer to the Hebrews as "the Holy Ghost this signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" Heb.9.8.

    The attributes or essential qualities of the Godhead are absolute. Each Person of the Godhead possesses all of these attributes in their totality. The following attributes of the Holy Spirit should be observed.

    His Omnipresence

    The omnipresence of God was recognised by the Psalmist; he emphasises in Psalm 139 that it is God’s Spirit from Whom he cannot flee: "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?" v.7. No matter where the Psalmist might go, whether in the earthly sphere: "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me" vv.9,10, or in unseen spheres: "If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there" v.8, he knows he will find the Spirit there. To the Psalmist it was not only a sober reality, but also a source of rejoicing to realise he could never reach a place where he would be outside the range of His presence.

    In this present age, the individual believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit: "know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" 1 Cor.6.19. This is the continuous condition of every child of God from the moment of conversion. Likewise the local assembly is the temple of God; Paul, addressing himself to the church at Corinth, says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" 1 Cor.3.16. Since this is true of every local assembly in the world at any one time, the Holy Spirit is not limited to one location. He possesses the attribute of omnipresence.

    His Omniscience

    The Word of God makes it clear that the Holy Spirit possesses all knowledge. Paul writes, "for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." Thus the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person with omniscience. Indeed, Isaiah says, "Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being His counsellor hath taught Him" Isa.40.13.

    His omniscience may also be discerned in the truths given concerning the things of God, since the Holy Spirit is the great Teacher sent by the Father to comfort and encourage His own, consequent upon the ascension of the Lord Jesus: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" Jn.14.26; "when He, the Spirit of truth, is come. He will guide you into all truth … He will shew you things to come" Jn.16.13.

    His Omnipotence

    The Holy Spirit is seen to possess unlimited power as He works to carry out the purposes of God. The first mention of the Spirit of God in the Bible is in relation to the great work of creation where "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" Gen.1.2; indeed He is the first Person of the Godhead to be specifically named.

    Elihu suggests that the Holy Spirit imparts physical life: "The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" Job 33.4. The mighty act of resurrection is ascribed to Him, "But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you" Rom.8.11. Indeed the inspired writer clearly states the involvement of the Holy Spirit in the resurrection of Christ, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins … being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit" 1 Pet.3.18.

    The Holy Spirit demonstrates His almighty power in bringing about the new birth, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God" Jn.3.5; "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" Titus 3.5. The power of the Spirit of God is illustrated in the miracles the Lord Jesus performed. These were not only accomplished by Christ’s own Divine power but together with the Holy Spirit, "I cast out devils (demons) by the Spirit of God" Matt.12.28.

    Perhaps it should also be stated that the terms "the Holy Ghost" and "the power of the Highest" appear to be synonymous as the angel Gabriel says to Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" Lk.1.35.

    His Eternality

    A further attribute of God, unique to Himself and not possessed by any other, is His eternal uncreated existence. The writer to the Hebrews speaks of "Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" Heb.9.14. In this verse we find the three Persons of the Godhead being involved in the great sacrificial work of Christ, but the point here is that the Spirit is said to be eternal, an attribute that is equally true of the Father and the Son.

    THE PERSONALITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

    We need to be clear in our minds as to the personality of the Holy Spirit; He is not an influence. It is natural to think of God the Father as personal, manifested by the Son Who became incarnate and walked in lowly grace among men. But concerning the Spirit Who is invisible and Whose operations are secret and silent, we are disposed to think otherwise.

    The Fact of the Personality of the Holy Spirit

     
    The Use of Personal Pronouns

    It has already been acknowledged that "Spirit" is the translation of the Greek word pneuma which is a neuter word and that in certain places (e.g. Rom.8.16) the A.V. renders the corresponding pronoun neuter in apposition. It was stated that although this was grammatically correct, the fact is doctrinally wrong.

    However, in the ministry of the Lord Jesus to His disciples in the upper room, He repeatedly used the masculine pronoun "He" (ekeinos) when He spoke of the Holy Spirit, e.g. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He (‘that one’, emphatic) shall testify of Me" Jn.15.26.

    The Holy Spirit also speaks of Himself in the first person: "the Spirit said unto him (Peter), Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them" Acts 10.19,20; "the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" Acts 13.2.

    Personal Characteristics Ascribed to the Holy Spirit

     
    Individuality

    His individuality is declared in the words of the Lord Jesus, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another (Greek, allos, i.e. another of the same kind) Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever" Jn.14.15. Thus the Lord spoke of a Personality distinguishable from His own.

    Intelligence

    The Spirit possesses an active intelligence, "the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" 1 Cor.2.10.

    Knowledge

    Closely linked with His intelligence is His knowledge of the things of God, "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" 1 Cor.2.11. Paul’s prayer was "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him:" Eph.1.17. "The Spirit of wisdom and revelation" is the Holy Spirit in that particular character of revealing God and His purpose. Those to whom Paul was writing had been sealed with the "holy Spirit of promise" on believing, but here the apostle’s prayer is for their enlightenment by that same Spirit.

    Mind

    Paul writes, "And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God" Rom.8.27. The word here translated ‘mind’ is most comprehensive and includes the ideas of thought, feeling and purpose.

    Will

    In relation to the distribution of spiritual gifts, we read, "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will" 1 Cor.12.11.

    Personal Acts Ascribed to the Holy Spirit

     
    He Searches

    The relevant words have already been quoted, "the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" 1 Cor.2.10; the word translated "searcheth" means ‘to examine, to investigate’.

    He Teaches

    The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say" Lk.12.12. Paul, addressing himself to the Corinthians, writes, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual" 1 Cor.2.13.

    He Speaks

    There are several references to the Holy Spirit speaking in the New Testament Scriptures, especially in the Book of the Acts, but two examples will serve to illustrate the point: "Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot" Acts 8.20; "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" Rev.2.7.

    He Testifies or Bears Witness

    Peter makes reference to the Spirit of Christ in the Old Testament prophets, when he writes, "Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently ... Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" 1 Pet.1.10,11. Paul, speaking of the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, says, "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" Rom.8.16.

    He Commands

    When Peter is rehearsing to ‘those that were of the circumcision’ what had taken place in connection with Cornelius, he said, "And the Spirit bade (i.e. commanded) me go with them, nothing doubting" Acts 11.12.

    He Intercedes

    Paul, in the chapter of the epistle to the Romans which has so much to teach us concerning the Holy Spirit, writes, "we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" Rom.8.26.

    He Signifies

    The writer to the Hebrews when speaking of the limited access into the holiest of all in the tabernacle in Old Testament days, says, "But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood ... The Holy Ghost this signifying (i.e. making plain), that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing" Heb.9.7,8.

    He Reproves

    The Lord Jesus taught His disciples that when the Spirit would come, believers would be enlightened as to the true character of this present evil world, "And when He (the Comforter) is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" Jn.16.8. The word translated ‘reprove’ means ‘to bring in guilty, to put to shame by proving one to be wrong’. It is the actual presence of the Holy Spirit on earth which objectively reproves, or rebukes, the world.

    He Leads

    It is perhaps appropriate that this subject should be dealt with at some length because there is much misunderstanding concerning it. The ‘leading of the Spirit’ is an expression that many associate with the Holy Spirit guiding brethren as to what audible part they should take at e.g. the Lord’s supper or the assembly prayer meeting.

    However, we find that this phrase "led of (or by) the Spirit" is used only four times in the New Testament, twice of the Lord Jesus Himself:

     

  • "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil" Matt.4.1;
  • "Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into (in, R.V.) the wilderness" Lk.4.1.
  •  

    On the other two occasions, the expression is used in connection with believers:

     

  • "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" Rom.8.14;
  • "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" Gal.5.18.
  •  

    The reference in Romans chapter 8 is in the middle of a section which teaches that, though those in Christ Jesus are not under condemnation, yet in them are two conflicting powers, the flesh and the Spirit. The believer either lives "after the flesh" or "after the Spirit". Those who are "led by the Spirit" along the paths of holiness and obedience manifest the dignity of the sons of God; the Son of God was led by the Spirit and so may "the sons of God".

    The reference in the Galatian epistle occurs in a section dealing with the life of liberty. Immediately it can be seen that one who is "led of the Spirit" has abandoned "works of the law" as a means of justification. The leading of the Spirit takes us out of the realm either of fleshly desires or legal impositions – these must be dispensed with. Instead of engaging in the works of the Law, we should display the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit; this Paul deals with in the latter part of Galatians chapter 5.

    Thus in no instance is the expression "led of the Spirit" applied specifically or exclusively to the functioning of the believer at the Lord's supper or at any other meeting. Whilst there is no specific mention of the leading of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians chapter 14, it is reasonable to assume that He Who has led believers during the week, would not desert them as gathered together in assembly capacity.

    The Spirit leads in the gatherings of the Lord's people precisely as He does in everyday living. His guidance is not a supernatural prompting, not a sudden impulse. It comes not through feelings, but out of an intelligent assessment of what is suitable for the occasion; it involves an exercise of spiritual understanding.

    The Spirit's guidance at the Lord's supper will be more readily discerned if the individual has been consciously led by Him through the week, i.e. if he has not been walking after the flesh. We need to distinguish between the leading of the Spirit and the promptings of the flesh.

    Personal Treatment of the Holy Spirit

    One of the personal qualities of the Holy Spirit is His sensitivity to opposition.

    He may be Grieved

    Paul writes, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" Eph.4.30. In the context, the apostle exhorts, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth" Eph.4.29; corrupt speech is one certain way of grieving the Holy Spirit of God Who indwells the believer and by Whom he has been sealed. In the Old Testament we read, "But they (Israel) rebelled, and vexed (grieved, R.V.) His holy Spirit: therefore He was turned to be their enemy, and He fought against them" Isa.63.10.

    He may be Quenched

    One of the brief exhortations to the church of the Thessalonians is, "Quench not the Spirit" 1 Thess.5.19. In vv.19-22 of this closing chapter, there are precepts which relate more to our public ways. Here in v.19 the public operations of the Spirit in our midst are in view; we are not to hinder the free action of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must be given His rightful place in the assembly. We need to bear in mind that the Spirit will never act in a way contrary to the revealed mind and will of God in His Word.

    He may be Treated Insultingly

    The writer to the Hebrews poses the rhetorical question, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" Heb.10.29. The Holy Spirit pursues a ministry of grace towards guilty men. He creates a consciousness of God and a fear of facing eternity; He convicts of sin. To reject this gracious ministry is to insult the Spirit of grace; it is to do despite to this Divine Person.

    He may be Lied To

    Peter speaks very directly to Ananias, "Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Acts 5.3. Ananias had lied to the Holy Spirit in keeping back part of the price of the land which he had sold when professing to have given up the whole sum. He might have thought that he had lied only to man, but he had lied to God, "thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God" Acts 5.4.

    He may be Tempted (Put to the Test)

    With Ananias having then given "up the ghost" Acts 5.5, Peter subsequently questions his wife, Sapphira, "How is it that ye have agreed to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Acts 5.9. She was charged with collaborating with her husband in challenging or putting the Spirit of the Lord to the test.

    He may be Resisted

    Stephen, just prior to his martyrdom, brought the following charge to the Jewish nation, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye" Acts 7.51. They had striven against the Holy Spirit; the words "as your fathers did" confirm the fact that "the Spirit of Christ" 1 Pet.1.11, was in the Old Testament prophets.

    He may be Blasphemed Against

    The Lord Jesus, in addressing the Pharisees, says, "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men" Matt.12.31. The Lord spoke such solemn words because of the Pharisees’ blasphemous accusation, "This fellow doth not cast out devils (demons), but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils (demons)" Matt.12.24, whereas He had cast them out "by the Spirit of God" Matt.12.28. They had blasphemed (spoken injuriously) the Spirit in saying that the prince of the demons was present with Christ, and not the Holy Spirit. This they did maliciously.

    The sin, then, was to charge the Lord Jesus with doing His miracles through Satanic power and not through the Holy Spirit. This sin could only be committed as long as the Lord was here on earth.

    SUMMARY

    In summary, the use of personal pronouns in respect of the Holy Spirit, the characteristics and the acts ascribed to Him, together with His sensitivity to opposition all point to the fact that the Holy Spirit is a Person and not merely an influence. We may believe this fact in theory, but do we in our practical attitude towards Him treat Him as a real Person? Do we know anything of "the communion (fellowship) of the Holy Ghost" 2 Cor.13.14, spoken of by the apostle Paul?