On a typical Sunday in a local church, a Sunday school class was reviewing the Apostles' Creed. The teacher asked each child to repeat one part they had committed to memory. The teacher said, "Okay, class, let's begin." The first little boy stood up and began, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth." He sat down and a little girl stood up and said, "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord." She sat down, and there was a long silence as the kids looked at each other uncomfortably. Finally one little girl stood up and said, "I'm sorry, teacher, but the boy who believes in the Holy Spirit is absent today."
We might say that those who believe in the Holy Spirit are absent today. Many believers in Jesus Christ could be described like the disciples in Ephesus, when Paul said to them, "'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' So they said to him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit'" (Acts 19:2). I think there are many believers who theoretically believe in the Holy Spirit, but for all practical purposes, He's not real to them. A.W. Tozer said, "The idea of the Spirit held by the average church member is so vague as to be nearly non-existent."
From beginning to end, the Bible mentions the Holy Spirit. From Genesis 1:2: "The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters," to Revelation 22:17: "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'" He is everywhere in Scripture. In the gospel of John, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, introduced the third person of the Trinity to His disciples (see John 14:16). Let's answer two questions about the Holy Spirit:
Person or Power?
The minute you imagine the Holy Spirit as a force or an impersonal power rather than a person, you face a problem. R.A. Torrey said, "The [concept] of the Holy Spirit as a divine influence or power that we are somehow to get a hold of and use leads to self-exaltation and self-sufficiency. One who so thinks of the Holy Spirit and who at the same time imagines that he has received the Holy Spirit almost inevitably will be full of spiritual pride and strut about as if he belonged to some superior order of Christians." God will never be used. But God will—if you allow Him—use you.
There is not one reliable version of Scripture where the Holy Spirit is referred to as an "it." For example, in John 14:26 we read, "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 things that I said to you" (emphasis added). Again, in the gospel of John we read, "When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:13-14, emphasis added). In John 14-16, Jesus used thirteen personal pronouns when He referred to the Holy Spirit. Personal pronouns are used for people—not forces.
Let's examine the issue of personality. Did you catch the names Jesus gave to the Holy Spirit? The Helper or Comforter, some translations say. Does the name Counselor sound like a power to you? John 14:26 tells us, "He will teach," John 15:26 says, "He will testify," and John 16:8 says, "He will convict"—and there are other examples.
Just for kicks, I looked up the word person in the dictionary. Noah Webster's Dictionary of the English Language said, "We apply the word to living beings only, possessed with a rational nature." In other words, to be a person, you need intelligence, you need emotion, and you need a will. The Holy Spirit exhibits all three aspects of personality:
So, the first question: Power or person? Answer: person.
Deity or Dignitary?
Second question: Dignitary or deity? Is the Holy Spirit some important being like an angel, or is He God? The qualifications of His character show that He is God Almighty.
Not only do we realize the deity of the Holy Spirit by His qualifications and attributes, but also by the validation of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:16, emphasis added). Another is a key word. Here, it comes from the Greek word allos, and means another of exactly the same sort. Jesus is the Helper, the Comforter, the Counselor, and the Friend. He was the miracle-worker. He was God in human flesh. But He was leaving to suffer death on a cross, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. So in essence, He said, "I'm going to send you a Comforter—One just like Me." An allos. Another Comforter; another divine being.
So the second question: Deity or dignitary? Answer: deity.
What Does It Matter?
Does this really matter? Does it matter that the Holy Spirit is a divine person? Jeremy Taylor put it this way: "It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent."
It matters—a lot. If you don't grasp who He is, you'll never appreciate what He does. If you don't understand His person and personality, you'll never appreciate the activities of the Holy Spirit.
In addition, if you are not aware that the third person of the Godhead—invisible, but personal and powerful—is living inside of you, it will show. You'll lose interest in spiritual things: spiritual disciplines, prayer, and worship. You'll lose your appetite for the Word of God. You'll lose your interest in church and the comfort that can be found within the body of Christ. You'll lose your appetite for God-centered preaching. You'll replace biblical instruction with human counsel and psychotherapy—because you'll think they have all the answers. You'll start replacing reliance upon God in prayer with reliance upon people's advice in your ear. A. C. Dixon wrote, "When we rely on organization, we get what organization can do. When we rely upon education, we get what education can do. When we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do. But when we rely on the Holy Spirit, we get what God can do."
Isn't it time to rely on God, the maker of heaven and earth, the Almighty? The Holy Spirit is ready to get hold of you and use you—and He's everything that Jesus is.