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Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

The Scriptures speak of the Holy Spirit in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person.

For example, the Holy Spirit is referred to as a gift (Acts 10:45; 1 Timothy 4:14). We are told that it can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19), that it can be poured out (Acts 2:17; 10:45), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3:11). It must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1:6), and it also renews us (Titus 3:5). These are certainly not attributes of a person.

This Spirit is also called "the holy Spirit of promise ... the guarantee of our inheritance ... the spirit of wisdom and revelation ..." (Ephesians 1:13-14,17).

In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is just as consistently represented in a completely different manner. It is described as appearing as a dove (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32) and as "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3). Jesus compared it with "living water" (John 7:37-39).

The Gospels record further evidence that the Holy Spirit is not a person. In Matthew 1:20, we read that Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit (Moffatt translation). Yet Christ continually prayed to and addressed the Father, not the Holy Spirit, as His father (Matthew 10:32,33; 11:25-27; 12:50; 15:13; 16:17,27; 18:10,35). Never did He represent the Holy Spirit as His Father.

Nor did Jesus speak of the Holy Spirit as a third divine person; instead He only spoke of the relationship between Him and God the Father (Matthew 26:39; Mark 13:32; 15:34; John 5:18,22; 8:16,18; 10:30; 13:3; 17:11).

If the godhead were a Trinity, surely the apostle Paul would have understood and emphasized this in his teaching. Yet we find no such concept in his writings. Paul's standard greeting in his letters to churches, as well as individuals to whom he wrote, is, "Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." There is no mention of the Holy Spirit.

This same greeting, with only minor variations, appears in every epistle that bears Paul's name: Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; and Philemon 3. The Holy Spirit is always left out of these greetings-an unbelievable oversight if the Holy Spirit were indeed a person coequal with God and Jesus.

This is even more surprising when we consider that the churches to which Paul wrote had many gentile members from polytheistic backgrounds who had formerly worshiped numerous gods. Paul's epistles record no attempt on his part to explain the Trinity or Holy Spirit as a divine person equal with God the Father and Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul states clearly that "there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things ... and one Lord Jesus Christ ..." (1 Corinthians 8:6). He makes no mention of the Holy Spirit as a divine person.

The final book of the Bible (and the last to be written) describes "a new heaven and a new earth" (Revelation 21:1) wherein "the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them" (verse 3). Jesus Christ, "the Lamb," is also there (verse 22). The Holy Spirit, however, is conspicuously absent-another inconceivable oversight if this Spirit is the third person of a Trinity.

"God is Spirit" (John 4:24) and His Spirit is described by an angel as "the power of the Highest" (Luke 1:35). It is the same power we can receive directly from God.

Many other scriptures show this connection between the Holy Spirit and God's power. For example, Paul reminded Timothy that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). Other scriptures refer to the Holy Spirit as the power of God (Zechariah 4:6; Micah 3:8).

Luke 4:14 records that Jesus Christ began His ministry "in the power of the Spirit." Speaking of the Holy Spirit, which would be given to His followers after His death, Jesus told them, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you ..." (Acts 1:8).

Peter relates that "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, [and Jesus] went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). The Holy Spirit is here associated with the power by which God was with Him-the power through which Jesus Christ performed mighty miracles during His earthly, physical ministry. The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God's power actively working in His servants (Psalm 51:11; 139:7).

Paul expresses his desire that church members would "abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit," in the same way that Jesus had worked through him "in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God" (Romans 15:13,19).

This Spirit empowers Christians to live a life of growing and overcoming, of transforming their lives to become like Jesus Christ.

When the Holy Spirit is referred to by personal pronouns such as "he" or "himself" in the Scriptures, this does not prove the Holy Spirit is a person. The translators of the King James Version, influenced by their belief in the Holy Spirit as a third person in the Trinity, generally translated pronouns referring to the Holy Spirit as personal and masculine rather than neuter.

Translators of later English versions of the Bible, also operating from the premise of the Trinity, have gone a step further and most often translated all references to the Holy Spirit as masculine. Thus God's spirit is almost always incorrectly referred to with such personal pronouns as "he" or "him" in English Bible translations.

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