“Some 62% of self-identified born-again Christians contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence or purity,” says the latest survey from the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University. That’s an increase (4%) from a study done 12 years ago where Christians were asked about the Holy Spirit by the same group.
If you’re like me, you look at such numbers and think to yourself, “You have to be kidding me.”
Part of the Apostle’s Creed says simply, “I believe in the Holy Spirit”, and by that the authors did not mean that the Spirit is a mere symbol but rather a personal, distinct being who is a member of the Trinity. It is astounding that nearly two-thirds of people identifying as Christian believe the opposite.
If you’re one of them, or confused about the Holy Spirit in general, then please keep reading and consider the biblical evidence that speaks to who the third person of the Trinity is.
The Holy Spirit is a person
Would you agree with the majority opinion that says a person is a being, which has a mind, emotion and will? If so, then read through these verses that describe the Holy Spirit:
His mind: “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” (1 Cor. 2:10-11).
His emotion: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
His will: “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11).
The Holy Spirit is living and working
Would you agree with the puritan Jonathan Edwards who said, “the principal evidence of life is motion”, i.e., someone who is alive typically moves and acts? If so, then look at how Scripture portrays the Holy Spirit:
He teaches: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).
He guides: “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14).
He commissions: “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:4).
He commands/speaks: “Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”” (Acts 8:29).
He intercedes: “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26).
He is obeyed: “While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself'” (Acts 10:19-20).
He can be lied to: “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?” (Acts 5:3).
He is resisted: “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did” (Acts 7:51).
He is revered: "Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11).
He can be blasphemed: “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:31).
He can be insulted: “…and has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb.6:4).
The Holy Spirit is God
Would you agree that the Bible only ascribes attributes of God such as being all-knowing, all-powerful, etc., to God Himself? If so, then consider these verses about the Holy Spirit:
His omniscience: “For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Cor. 2:10-11).
His omnipresence: "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" (Ps. 139:7).
His omnipotence: "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 15:13).
His eternality: “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?” (Heb. 9:14).
His authorship of Scripture: “And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers…” (Acts 28:25).
His equality with the Father and Son: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19; note the singular use of “name” with the plurality of the Trinity that follows).
I’ve just scratched the surface with the above in regards to the Holy Spirit. If given more space, we could cover His work in the life of Christ (Luke 1), His giving birth to the Church (Acts 2), His work of regeneration in causing all believers to be born again (John 3), His ministry of indwelling each believer (1 Cor. 6), His distribution of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12), and more.
Hopefully what we have covered is enough to convince you, from a biblical perspective, that the Holy Spirit is not an “it” or just a symbol of God’s power and presence. Instead, He is a member of our trinitarian God, worthy of our respect and worship just as the Bible documents in the three-fold praise in the book of Revelation: “Holy [is the Father], holy [is the Son], holy [is the Spirit] is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (4:8).
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.