There is great confusion today regarding the person of the Holy Spirit. Things done under the guise of the Spirit are oftentimes mere sensationalism and emotional manipulation. On the other hand, there is often such a reaction to these extremes that many believers end up ignoring the biblical teaching on the Spirit altogether.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ) recognized and lamented both extremes in his day. MLJ was a proponent for biblical doctrine and was a major influence in the rise of interest in theological study, but he noticed a trend toward “dry intellectualism.” To combat this, he emphasized an experiential view of the Holy Spirit that he believed was taught in Scripture and was needed in the Christian life. He recognized that teaching on the Holy Spirit was often either neglected or exaggerated: “The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is neglected because people are so afraid of the spurious, the false and exaggerated that they avoid it altogether” (5).
To correct this, MLJ devotes volume II of “Great Doctrines of the Bible” to a balanced and biblical understanding of the Holy Spirit. We’ll examine each chapter separately, but today we’ll focus on chapter 1, “The Person of the Holy Spirit.”
Biblical Names for the Holy Spirit
He begins his teaching by examining the names used of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. There are names that relate the Spirit to the Father: “Spirit of God” (Gen 1:2), “Spirit of the Lord” (Luke 4:18), the “Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11), and “Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor 3:3). The Father refers to the Holy Spirit as “my spirit” in Genesis 6:3.
Then, there are names used of the Holy Spirit that relate him to Christ: “Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9), “Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:19), the “Spirit of his Son” (Gal 4:6), and the “Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9). Finally, there are the personal titles, such as “Holy Spirit,” “Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4), “Holy One” (1 John 2:20), “Eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14), “Spirit of Life” (Rom 8:2), “Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17), and the “Comforter” (John 14-16).
For MLJ, the Holy Spirit is given the title holy not simply because he is holy, but also because one of his special tasks is to produce holiness by applying Christ’s work of salvation:
…the Holy Spirit is the applier of salvation. It is His work to bring to us, and to make actual in us, in an experiential manner, that great salvation which we have been considering together and which the Son of God came into the world in order to work out” (4).
A Person, Not a Force
Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. For example, in the baptismal formula the church is to baptize in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). In 2 Cor 13:14, Paul writes about the “communion with the Holy Spirit,” which is impossible unless he is a distinct person. The apostles refer to the Spirit as a person in Acts 15:28, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira are struck down for lying to the Holy Spirit, showing he is a person, not a force. The Spirit is given personal qualities such as knowledge (1 Cor 2:11), a will (1 Cor 12:11), a mind (Rom 8:27), love (Gal 5:22), and even grief (Eph 4:30). These biblical examples teach or assume the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
Recognizing the Holy Spirit as a person will affect how we view and interact with him. Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit dwells in us (if we are believers) and is a person we have communion with who provides comfort, wisdom, direction, and conviction. He is, as Jesus said, our helper who is with us forever (John 14:16).
In the next post, we’ll examine the biblical teaching of the deity of the Holy Spirit.
To see more posts in the “Great Doctrines of the Bible” series, click here.