The personhood of God
This is the 11th in a series of articles on the Trinity, excerpted from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.
The Bible tells us there is one true God, who exists as three distinct but inseparable persons. So, let’s briefly consider a few ways in which the personhood of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is expressed in Scripture.
God the Father displays personal attributes. To name a few, He is:
Loving: “And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him” (1 John 4:16).
Gracious: “He did not even spare his own Son but offered him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything?” (Rom. 8:32).
Made known through the Son: “No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side – he has revealed him” (John 1:18).
Merciful: Jesus tells His followers, “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
In addition, the Father knows (Matt. 6:8); speaks (Matt. 3:17); sees (Matt. 6:4); wills (Matt. 7:21); gives or does not give (Matt. 7:11); reveals or hides (Matt. 11:25); is or is not pleased (Mark 1:11); forgives or does not forgive (Matt. 6:14-15); sends (1 John 4:14); and much more. These are the activities of a person and, as such, there should be no doubt about the personhood of God the Father.
Jesus of Nazareth is a real historical person. At the same time, He is unique in that His conception in Mary’s virgin womb is not the beginning of His existence. The Bible reveals Jesus as the eternal Son of God. His deity and personhood extend from eternity past to eternity future. In becoming a man, Jesus adds sinless humanity to His deity, yet He does not become a different person.
For example, the New Testament teaches:
Jesus is the Word who created all things (John 1:1-3). He becomes flesh – that is, He adds sinless humanity to His deity (John 1:14). He exists before Abraham as the eternal I AM (John 8:58). He shares the glory of the Father before the world exists (John 17:5). He is equal with God the Father (John 10:30; Phil. 2:6). He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of God’s nature (Heb. 1:3). He is the First and the Last, the Living One (Rev. 1:17).
In His earthly ministry, Jesus exhibits all the qualities of human and divine personhood: He knows (John 2:24); speaks (Matt. 5:1); sees (John 1:48); loves (Mark 10:21); wills (Matt. 26:39); gives or does not give (John 17:2); reveals or hides (Matt. 11:27); is pleased (2 Cor. 5:9); forgives (Mark 2:5); sends (John 20:21); dies (1 Cor. 15:3); and much more. The human authors of Scripture use “He,” “Him,” and “His” to point to the personhood of the Messiah.
The Holy Spirit
The Bible clearly reveals the Holy Spirit as both divine and personal.
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God hovers over the waters and is active in the creation of all things, giving us an early indication of the deity and personhood of the Spirit (Gen. 1:2). When the children of Israel rebel against God, they grieve the Holy Spirit; only a person may be grieved (Isa. 63:10). The prophet Micah asks, “Is the Spirit of the Lord impatient?” (Mic. 2:7). This reveals that ancient Jews believed the Spirit was a person capable of becoming annoyed with their sins. King David testifies on his death bed, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me, his word was on my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2).
Other Old Testament examples could be cited, but these illustrate the truth that the Holy Spirit is both divine and personal – a truth that carries forward into the New Testament. Consider:
The Spirit convicts unbelievers of sin, Christ’s righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11). Followers of Jesus have fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13). The Spirit ensures our adoption as children of God (Rom. 8:14-17). The Holy Spirit may be lied to, and grieved (Acts 5:3; Eph. 4:30).
In addition, the Holy Spirit hears (John 16:13); searches everything (1 Cor. 2:10); speaks (Mark 13:11); testifies (John 15:26); counsels (John 16:7); guides (John 16:13); glorifies Christ (John 16:14); declares (John 16:14); forbids (Acts 16:6-7); intercedes (Rom. 8:26); separates and sends out people (Acts 13:1-4); sets elders over the church (Acts 20:28); distributes spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11); and much more.
Next: Distinct, not separate