The Holy Spirit – Power or Person? (part 1)

imageFor many years I was a Christian who did not believe in the Trinity. Instead, I believed all the teachings against this doctrine. I believed that the ancient pagans worshiped gods in groups of three beings called triads and that they originated from Babylon. I concluded that the early Christian church adopted and sanctified these pagan ideas making them become the official doctrine of the Trinity in the fourth century AD. That was the main reason I rejected it.

I began thinking otherwise when several of the top leaders of that non-Trinitarian church I was a member began to question among themselves their beliefs. Then, to the membership’s amazement, these church leaders fully reconsidered their teachings. They realized that the Bible strongly indicates that God exists as the Father, the Son AND the Holy Spirit – three persons in the One God – and taught it to the church. I was shocked.

This decision caused a major split in the church. A massive exodus from the membership occurred the likes I had never seen before and perhaps never will see again in my lifetime. Many pastors and members left the fellowship and incorporated themselves into new congregations maintaining their cherished former doctrines – one of them being that there is no Trinity.

Anyway, I once believed that Jesus Christ and the Father were the only two persons who is one God and that the Holy Spirit was a force, a power that emanated from God. I used to believe the Holy Spirit was not another person.

I now believe in the three persons in one God rather than just two. But if someone were to quote scriptures to me that, to him, indicates there is no Trinity, well, let me be frank with you, I will not be able to adequately defend my belief in the Trinity at this stage of my growth as a Christian.

Therefore, I am devoting this spring and summer 2015 on getting to know more who (or what, if need be) is this Holy Spirit.

Several verses in the Bible are used by some Christians to attempt to prove the Holy Spirit is a divine force – some sort of power that emanates from God – and not a person. Here are five of them each followed by a brief comment:

1) Luke 11:13

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit [pneuma] to those who ask him!

a) Does this verse definitely say the Holy Spirit is a person? No.

b) Does this verse emphatically say the Holy Spirit is a force? No.

The Greek word for Spirit here is pneuma. “It primarily denotes the wind (akin to pneo, to breathe, blow); also breath; then, especially spirit, which, like the wind, is invisible, immaterial and powerful.” [1]

Holy Spirit as DoveBut wait a minute! Hold it! More questions:

* I thought you receive the Holy Spirit automatically when converted? Why would anyone have to ask for it after he believes in God?

* Isn’t the Holy Spirit a gift freely given to a person after accepting Jesus Christ, repenting and being baptized (Acts 2:38)?

* If the Holy Spirit is a gift, something that is given, then the Holy Spirit seems not to be a person – yes or no? As a gift, is this Holy Spirit being treated by the Father as a thing (some spiritual thing) that has no mind, no intelligence, and no conscience?

Hmmmm.

2) Acts 7:55-56

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit [pneuma] looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

a) Do these verses absolutely prove the Holy Spirit to be a person helping Stephen? No.

b) Do they prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was a power that emanated from God to enable Stephen to see the vision?  No.

c) Does the Holy Spirit  fill  someone like a liquid fills a container? If so, does this prove the Holy Spirit is not a person? No.

When he was about to be martyred by the Sanhedrin, Stephen, a deacon in the body of Christ, only saw two persons in heaven in a vision. He did not see the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son. Does that prove that the Holy Spirit is God’s power in action, enabling Stephen to see the vision? Is that proof that the Holy Spirit is not a person? No. Is there proof here that God’s Spirit cannot here be a person as a power in a human being.

If the Holy Spirit is a person, then of course the Holy Spirit was not going to be visible in heaven if He was in Stephen inspiring both his testimony and his vision, right? Therefore, can the Holy Spirit be an individual? Yes.

3) Zechariah 4:6

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power [koach], but by my Spirit [ruach],’ says the Lord Almighty. (KJV)

a) Does this verse prove that God’s Spirit is only a power? No.

b) Are two kinds of power being discussed here – human power [koach] and God’s power [ruach] ? Possibly but not definitely. Why didn’t God just say, “Not by might nor by power but by my power…” instead? Could the meaning of the word Spirit here be a person? Possible.

The Hebrew word for spirit here is ruach. It has several meanings depending on the context of the Bible passage. It can mean wind, power and spirit. [2]
The Hebrew word for power here is koach. It has several meanings: strength, power, might
human strength [3]
a) strength (of angels)
b) power (of God)
c) strength (of animals)
d) strength, produce, wealth (of soil)

4) Micah 3:8

But truly I am full of power [koach] by the spirit [ruach] of the Lord, and of judgment, and of might… (KJV)

a) Does this verse prove the Holy Spirit is a force and not a person? No.

b) Does this verse prove the Spirit to be only a power from God? No.

When you read this verse in two other Bible translations, you get a different picture:

a) But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might…(NIV)

b) On the other hand I am filled with power — With the Spirit of the Lord — And with justice and courage… (NASB)

Was Micah parenthetically repeating himself in this verse? In other words, was he saying, ” I am full of power by the power of the Lord”? I believe not. There is indication here of the spirit being a person.

Peter telling hearers to repent on the Day of Pentecost

Peter boldly telling hearers to repent on the Day of Pentecost

5) 2 Timothy 1:7

For God hath not given us the spirit [pneuma] of fear;  but of power [dunamis], and of love, and of a sound mind (KJV).

a) This verse does seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit is a force that causes positive results when it resides in people.

b) But, one thing you will notice: the adjective holy is not used in front of the word spirit. Why?

c) If the spirit here is a person, can He be here described as powerful and loving and of a sound mind? Can this spirit, if a person, cause someone to have the fruits of being powerful, loving and of a sound mind?

The Greek word for power here is dunamis. “Power is an English logical construct referring to a variety of ideas relating to ability, capacity, authority, and might/strength.” [4]

As with the previous example (Micah 3:8) , this verse does not prove the Holy Spirit is not a person.

As you can see, I have a lot of meditating, praying and studying yet to do. But one thing I am reminded of as I do this exercise – that only through Jesus Christ and believing in Him, can a person be saved (Acts 4:12). The belief in the Holy Spirit as a person or not, will not alone provide anyone salvation.

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[1] Vine, W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1997. Print.

[2] “Spirit – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Online.” Bible Study Tools. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015.

[3] “Koach – Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon – New American Standard.” Bible Study Tools. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015.

[4] “Power – Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Online.” Bible Study Tools. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2015.

 

 

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