The deity of the Holy Spirit

This is the second in a two-part series on the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit. 

In the previous column, we examined the biblical evidence for the personhood of the Holy Spirit; that is, the Spirit is a He, not an it. Once the Spirit’s personality is established, His deity is a biblically faithful next step.

For starters, the Spirit is active in creation (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30), omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11), and omnipresent (Ps. 139:7) – qualities that establish Him as co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son.

What’s more, the Spirit shares the divine name with the other members of the triune Godhead (Matt. 28:19).

Perhaps the most-cited passage that illustrates both the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 5. After Ananias and Sapphira fraudulently claim to have given the full proceeds of a land sale to the church, Peter confronts Ananias.

“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land?” Peter asks. “Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God” (vv. 3-4).

To whom did Ananias lie: the Holy Spirit, or God? The answer, of course, is that he lied to both. To lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God since the Spirit occupies an equal position in the Trinity with the Father and Son.

An intimate relationship

The intimate relationship between the Holy Spirit and the other members of the Godhead is apparent in Scripture. As one example, note how the synoptic Gospel writers report Jesus’ promise to be with His followers when they face persecution.

Mark records Jesus’ words: “So when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say, but say whatever is given to you at that time, for it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11).

Matthew quotes Jesus as saying: “But when they hand you over, don’t worry about how or what you are to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour, because it isn’t you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father is speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19-20).

And Luke notes Jesus instructing His disciples: “Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Luke 21:14-15).

These accounts do not contradict one another. Rather, they illustrate what Christian author James White describes as the “interpenetration” of the divine persons of the Trinity. That is, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while distinct persons within the Godhead, share the same divine essence.

We further see this in the Lord’s promise to be with His people: “Jesus answered, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23).

Jesus promises that both He and the Father will dwell with those who love Him and keep His word. But how is this possible? Because both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to us.

In John 14:26, Jesus tells His disciples, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.”

And in the next chapter, Jesus says, “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father – he will testify about me” (John 15:26).

The Father and Jesus send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the human spirits of the redeemed. Just as the full deity of the Godhead is expressed in bodily form in Jesus (Col. 2:9), so the full deity of the Trinity rests in the Holy Spirit, who resides in the temples of believers’ bodies (1 Cor. 6:19).

The relationship of the three persons of the Trinity is so intimate that Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ within a single verse: “You, however, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9).

As James White notes, “The fact that the Spirit indwells all believers, and provides the ground of our supernatural unity, results in true Christian fellowship – a sharing that knows no bounds. It is divine fellowship, brought about by a divine person, the Holy Spirit of God, the eternal third person of the blessed Trinity.”

Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul and other first-century Christians included all three persons of the Godhead in their praises: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:13).