The Holy Spirit: He Is God!
Resource by John Piper
Two Essential Truths About the Holy Spirit
Here are two truths about the Holy Spirit that we need to have clear from the beginning.
The first truth is that the Holy Spirit is a person not an impersonal force.
The second truth is that the Holy Spirit is God not a creation of God.
1. The Holy Spirit Is a Person
The most important passage to support the first truth is John 14–16. At least three things in these chapters confirm that Jesus thinks of the Holy Spirit as a person not a mere force.
1) Jesus calls him “another Counselor” in 14:16, “I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth” (14:26; 15:26; 16:7). When Jesus calls him a Counselor or Comforter, he treats him as a person not a force. And when he calls him “anotherCounselor,” he means, “He will be a counselor like me.” The Holy Spirit is a counselor like Jesus is—he is a person.
2) In John 14:17, Jesus says, “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” Then in verse 25 he says, “I have spoken to you while I am with you.” Jesus virtually identifies the Spirit with himself. “I am with you and will be in you” is the same as saying, “I am with you and the Spirit will be in you.” “You know me now as flesh and blood Son of God. You will know me soon through the Spirit who will be given to you.” Therefore, the Spirit is no less a person than Jesus is.
3) The Holy Spirit is described not merely as the voice of God’s teaching but as a teacher in his own right. John 14:26, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things.” And in 15:26 he is a witness in his own right, “When the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.” And lest we think that the Spirit is just the extended teaching activity of the Father and the Son, John 16:13 says that the Spirit first hears and then teaches: “He will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak.” The Spirit is treated not as a force, or influence, or activity of another person, but as a person in his own right, hearing from the Father and the Son, and teaching and bearing witness to men.
It will make a great deal of difference in your own life if you believe that you are being indwelt and led and purified not by impersonal forces from a distant God, but by a person who in his essence is the love of God (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:12–13). Handley C.G. Moule, the former bishop of Durham who died in 1920, gave witness to the importance of the Spirit’s personality:
Never shall I forget the gain to my conscious faith and peace which came to my own soul, not long after a first decisive and appropriating view of the Crucified Lord as the sinner’s sacrifice of peace, from a more intelligent and conscious hold upon the living and most gracious Personality of that Holy Spirit through whose mercy the soul had got that blessed view. It was a new development of insight into the Love of God. It was a new contact as it were with the inner eternal movements of redeeming goodness and power, a new discovery in divine resources. (Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, p. 13)
2. The Holy Spirit Is God
When you add the second truth about the Holy Spirit, the first becomes even more precious. The Holy Spirit is God. The person who indwells and leads and purifies is no one less than God, the Holy Spirit. The simple evidence for this is the frequent designation “Spirit of God.” The Spirit is “of God” not because God created him, but because he shares God’s nature and comes forth eternally from God (see 1 Corinthians 2:10–12). If the Son of God is equally eternal with the Father, as John 1:1–3 makes clear that he is, then so is the Holy Spirit equally eternal with them both, because, according to Romans 8:9–11, the Spirit of Christ is one and the same with the Spirit of God. If this were not so, we would have to imagine that there was a time when the Son had no Spirit and the Father had no Spirit. But I want to try to show is that the Holy Spirit is essential to the relationship between the Father and the Son. He is, to use Moule’s words again (p. 28), “the Result, the Bond, the Vehicle, of their everlasting mutual delight and love.”
As far back into eternity as God the Father has been generating or imaging forth the Son, there has been an infinite Holy Spirit of love and delight between them, who is himself a divine Person. Therefore, as Jesus prays for the church in John 17:26, he asks his Father for nothing less than the Holy Spirit when he says, “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.” The most glorious of all truths that we will discover in the next 20 weeks is that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, he comes not merely as the Spirit of the Son, nor merely as the Spirit of the Father, but as the Spirit of infinite love between the Father and the Son, so that we may love the Father with the very love of the Son, and love the Son with the very love of the Father.
John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons.