The Personality of the Holy Spirit


The Personality of the Holy Spirit

June 27th, 1965 @ 10:50 AM

Acts 15:28

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 15:28

6-27-65    10:50 a.m.


And this is the pastor.  And I would rather be pastor of this church than to be the king of a kingdom, or the emperor of an empire, or to be president of the United States, or to be anything else that mind could imagine in the whole wide world.  Proud to be, this is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And may the Lord forgive my humility.

In these days and for some time, maybe a year, I have in my own soul never been blessed more than in preparing these messages, these sermons.  I am preaching on the Holy Spirit of God.  This will be the sixth one.  And there are many more as God shall speak to our souls.  And the title of the message today is The Personality of the Holy Spirit.  Not as a text, by that I mean I am not going to expound or exegete on this passage.  But as a background, I read a sentence in the fifteenth chapter of Acts, verse 28.  After the Jerusalem conference, the disciples, gathering together, sent letters to the Gentile churches.  And in that letter they wrote, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” [Acts 15:28].  Then they write some things there to the Gentile Christians [Acts 15:29-30].

But the thought and it seemed so incidentally adventitiously expressed; not learnedly, not thoughtedly, they just seemed to have written this way; and seemingly almost without purpose or without thought of its character, they wrote, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” [Acts 15:28].  There is deity.  There is God with these apostles and disciples, who is thinking along with them, deliberating along with them, following their thoughts, speaking His own mind, coming to an ultimate decision.  And when they write it out, they write it as though an assembly of persons there, including God.  “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us” [Acts 15:28]; as though the great deity was just one of their number, a fellow person present.  Isn’t that remarkable?  Isn’t that remarkable that men made out of the dust of the ground, made out of clay––that men should so fellowship with God, and that God should so condescend to fellowship with them, that when they come to a conclusion in the church, they say, “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, alike? [Acts 15:28].”  What a remarkable thing.  And yet this is the pattern throughout the whole Word of God.  The Lord without exception is presented in the Holy Scriptures as a “somebody”; as a personality.

For example, God the Father in Exodus 33:11, “And the Lord God Jehovah spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”  The Lord and Moses, the great Jehovah God and His servant, talking together, face to face as two friends speak [Exodus 33:11].  Our first introduction to the Lord God was like that.  “And Adam heard the voice of the Lord God as God walked in the garden in the cool of the day…And the Lord lifted up His voice and said, Adam, where art thou?” [Genesis 3:8-9]  A person, somebody, walking, talking, visiting, face to face.

When I turn the Scriptures of course it is obvious the personality of the second Person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus.

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.

And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

And they worshiped Him—

And that is idolatry if the Lord Jesus is not God—

And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:

And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.”

[Luke 24:50-53]

A person, a somebody the Lord Jesus; bowing before Him; prostrating their souls in adoration and reverence [Luke 24:52].

Now the third Person of the Trinity, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” [Acts 15:28], a “somebody,” a person; not an affluence, not an energy, not a mode of expression, but God, a person––and I repeat what an astonishing situation they portray here among themselves!  Men made out of the dust and God deliberating and coming to a like conclusion.  For I repeat again, there is no other thing in the Word, in the Bible, that the presentation that the Holy Spirit is deity.  He is God.  God has a name.  “Baptizing them,” in the baptismal formula, “Baptizing them in the name of,” singular, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 28:19].  The name of God, the name, singular, of God, singular, is:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As the beautiful benediction which is so oft times repeated, the concluding words in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.  Amen” [2 Corinthians 13:14]––God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; a personality, a person.

And there is not anything that can be said about God that is not also said about the Holy Spirit.  He is the eternal Spirit, the eternal God.  He is omniscient.  He is omnipresent.  He is here.

Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?  And whither shall I flee from Thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in Sheol, in the grave, if I fall into the netherworld in death, behold, Thou art there.

If I rise on the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea.

[Psalm 139:7-9]

Behold there, there is no place where He is not.  And all of Him, all of Him is here, all of Him is there; all of Him is wherever a man might lift up his voice in praise to God; omnipresent.  He is omniscient.  All the things that God knows, He knows.  He is to be adored, invoked, reverenced, called upon.

One of my fine men, after the service this morning, came to me and said, “Pastor, is it correct and is it right that we pray to the Holy Spirit?”  Oh, pre-eminently so.  Anytime a man would bow his knees and say, “O Spirit of God, fall upon us,” or, “O Spirit of Jesus, come into my soul anew,” or, “O Spirit of God, visit us in power.”  To pray to the Spirit of God is praying to the person of God Himself.  They are one in essence, one in consubstantiality, one in being; the Eternal One, God Father, God Savior, God Holy Comforter and Keeper.  And that’s why I say it is such a remarkable thing; deity and common clay together.  “It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us” [Acts 15:28].

For the Holy Spirit is a person, just as you are a person, and you, and you, this is you, this is you, this is you, somebody.  “Oh, but pastor, I stagger at that.  That’s beyond my comprehension that the Spirit is a person.”  Well, my friend, you don’t just stagger at that, you stagger at the idea and the reality in itself, even in you, you.  For example, suppose I come and I ask you, “You are somebody.  You are a person and you have personality, now what are you and what is that?  What is that?”

  Well, I must think, I must think, you are that house I see you live in.  You are that body I see.  That’s your personality.  That’s you, ah, sure enough!  And then when I conduct the memorial service over you, and I stand up there behind that casket and people come by, and look down into your still and silent face, is that you?  Are you real sure?  Is that you?  Corrupting?  Decaying?  Disintegrating?  Going back to the dust of the ground?  Is that you?  You mean to tell me that you believe that what you are and your personality, the essence of your being, that that’s you, going back to dust, food for the worms?

Oh, it would never occur to me.  I would never think of it.  I would never be persuaded of it.  There’s something else, there’s something other, there’s something over and beyond, and beside.  Well what is that?  That’s you––the personality, the person of you.  You’re not dirt, and dust, and clay, and worm food.  There is something else.  There is you.  Well, what is that something else, and something other?  “Well, pastor, that’s hard for me to define.  It’s me.  That’s me.”  Yes, but it’s spirit, it’s soul, it’s heart, it’s the being, it’s the principal of and the essence of life itself.  That’s it!  It is spirit.

So when I’m speaking of the personality of the Spirit, I’m not entering a metaphysical, and a theological, and a strange, and a fantastic world.  I’m talking about the world to which we belong.  And the same definition that would delineate us is the same definition that would delineate the Holy Spirit of God; a person, somebody.  The word is never used in the Bible.  It only came to be used in 200 AD, when the churches were in their violent conflict with Sabellius.  Sabellius was a learned theologian, who flourished around 200 AD, who said, “The Holy Spirit of God is not a personality.  He is not somebody.  The Spirit of God is an it,”  he said, “The Spirit of God is an energy.  It is a modal manifestation of deity.  It is an expression of God.  It is the out-flowing of God.  It is the influence of God, but it’s not God Himself.”  That’s what Sabellius said.

And in those days there were two words coined in that controversy around Sabellius.  The first one was “trinity.”  And that was coined by a great lawyer in Carthage, Africa, by the name of Tertullian; one of the greatest apologists and exponents of the Christian faith that ever lived.  And Tertullian used the word “trinity” for the first time.  God is triune, not uni-personal but tri-personal.  There is God the Father, a person.  There is God the Son, our Redeemer, a person.  There is God the Holy Spirit, our Paraclete, and Comforter, and Guide, who is a person.

Then they used the word “person”; a trinity and person.  The first time the word was ever applied to God was when the churches did it in their controversies with Sabellius.  “The Holy Spirit is a person,” said those early churches, “just as Jesus is and just as Jehovah God is.”  Well, when we come to describe personality, if the Spirit is a person, if He is somebody, now what do you mean?  Now I’m not proposing that I can––it’s inscrutable, all of these things, you, the Spirit of God, the eternity and the life, all of it is inscrutable––but some things we can say and some things we can understand.  And here’s one of them.

If you were to describe a full-orbed personality––this is somebody, the Holy Spirit is somebody; you are somebody––if we were describing a full-orbed personality, I would say there would be four constituent component parts of the full-orbed personality.  One: he could think.  He would have mind and understanding.  Second: he could feel.  He would have emotional sensitivity and response.  Third: he could choose.  He could will.  And fourth: he could do.  He could act.  Those four things would comprise the four walls, or the four sides, or the four corners, or the four foundations of a full-orbed personality.

Now all four of those things are in the Holy Spirit of God.  First, He can think.  He has mind and understanding.  In the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, verses 10 and 11, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as searching the deep things of God.  “For no man could knoweth the spirit of man save the man himself, and no man can know the Spirit of God save the Spirit of God Himself” [1 Corinthians 2:10-11].  Everything that God knows, the Holy Spirit knows––and an example of His thinking, of His deliberation of His mind, “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us” [Acts 15:28], thinking, mind understanding.

All right, second:  sensitivity, emotional response.  In the fourth chapter of the Book of Ephesians, Paul says, “Grieve, grieve not the Holy Spirit” [Ephesians 4:30]; He can be hurt.  He can be grieved.  He can be in sadness and cast down.  All right, third:  to will,  to choose, to purpose.  In the twelfth chapter of the first Corinthian letter, Paul says, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are “sovereignly bestowed; according to Him” [1 Corinthians 12:7- 8], His choice.  The Holy Spirit of God chooses.  And He gives to one this gift, and to another, another gift; and to another, another gift.  They are all sovereignly bestowed; He chooses.

Do you remember in the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul and Silas his companion are going along?  And by that time they have Timothy to their ministry.  And they assay to go and preach the gospel in Asia.  And the Holy Spirit forbad them; choosing.  And they finally came to Mysia, and when they assayed to go into Bithynia, turning eastward, the Holy Spirit suffered them not.  And finally coming into Troas [Acts 16:6-8], finally the great Christian movement turned westward to Europe and to America.  All that was in the sovereign choice and elective purpose of the Holy Spirit of God––He has purpose and choice.

And fourth: He not only has mind, understanding; He not only has emotions, will, sensitivity; He not only has purpose and choice; but He also does.  He acts.  Whatever you can describe as being the marvelous works of the Almighty God, you can describe as being the marvelous works of the Holy Spirit.  I have one of His works in my hands.  I have one of His marvelous works in my hands.  What a marvelous, miraculous thing!

This Book I hold in my hand, the Holy Scriptures was written over a period beyond one thousand five hundred years, one thousand five hundred years.  These authors lived, who wrote down that Book, and they number more than forty.  Over one thousand years separated the first author from the last author.  And it comprises sixty-six different volumes.  Yet there is a unity, and there is a cohesiveness, and there is a oneness in purpose and revelation in the Holy Spirit of God that is incomparable, miraculous.

Why is that and how did that come?  Well the Scripture itself says in [2 Timothy 3:16].  Paul says, “For all Scripture from the first to the last, all Scripture is theopneuste, it is God-breathed” [2 Timothy 3:16].  And in 2 Peter 1:20-21, the apostle writes, “For no Scripture is of its own origination.  For the Scripture came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were born along, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” [2 Peter 1:20-21].  The author of the Book lying back beyond the actual hand that writes that word, the Holy Spirit of God is the author.  And He put together and put into it that great unifying purpose and revelation moving toward the ultimate and final and glorious consummation.  So the authors who write are moved by the Spirit of the Lord.  He is the author [2 Peter 1:20-21].  This is one of the works of the Holy Spirit.

Let me read just for example: “Now these be the last words of David.  David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel said”—now, what did he say?  Look how he builds up to that.  What did he say?  He said, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue.  The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me” [2 Samuel 23:1-3].  How emphatically and how marvelously did it come to pass!  For example, the twenty-second Psalm.  Had you written the twenty-second Psalm standing there at the foot of the cross and watching Jesus die, you could not have described the death, the suffering, the passion, the agony of our Lord more poignantly, and more poetically, and more purposively.  Yet David wrote it one thousand years before Calvary [Psalm 22:1-8].  Well, did David experience those things?  Was he ever crucified?  No!  Well, how did he write then?  He wrote by the Spirit of God.  That’s what he meant; “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue” [2 Samuel 23:1-2].  This is one of the works of the Spirit of God, the Holy Scriptures.  He is the ultimate and final author.  All Scripture is theopneuste, God-breathed [2 Timothy 3:16].

What are the works of the Spirit of the Lord?  He is our great Guide, and Teacher, and Revealer.  For the Lord Jesus said, “But the Comforter, the Paraclete, the One alongside, whom the Father will send in My name; He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” [John 14:26].

What are the marvelous works of the Holy Spirit?  He is our along-side Walker.  He is our Paraclete.  He is our Encourager, and our Helper, and our Teacher, and our Guide; along-side.  If Jesus were here with us, we’d have no need of Him.  Every time a question arose, every time we faced a problem, every time a situation developed, we could go to the Lord Jesus and say, “Now Lord, what ought I to say?  And what ought I to do?  And what is the choice I ought to make?”  But the Lord is not here.  So He went away and now our Teacher, and our Guide, is the Paraclete; the One who walks along side of us [John 14:16].

I want to illustrate that from the life of our Lord.  Renan said the most beautiful story in the world is the one recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Third Gospel, the Gospel of Luke.  And the story is this.  There are two disciples who are making a journey from Jerusalem, back to their home in Emmaus.  And as they walk along, they are bound in an indescribable sadness.  And talking to one another, they are speaking in words that are heavy, punctuated with tears falling on the ground.  And as they walk along, as they walk along, a stranger, somebody, a stranger is in step with them [Luke 24:13-16].

And He asks them the question, “Why do you walk along so sad, so sad?” [Luke 24:17].  And they replied, “Our hope has died, crucified, been buried.  Every dream, the light of the whole world has gone out.”  And the stranger says, “Why, why surely not.  What is it?  What has happened?”

“Oh,” they said, “Jesus, Jesus; He has been crucified, He has been buried [Luke 24:19-23].  Beyond, some women came and said they’d seen Him, but it was an old wife’s tale [Luke 24:24].  It was an hallucination, in the fragment of imagination, because He is dead.  And our hope is destroyed.”

And the Lord said, “Oh?  Oh?”  And beginning at Moses, and through the Prophets, and through the hagiographa, the Writings, the whole Bible, He began to show them the things concerning Himself; how He should suffer, and how He should die, and how the third day He should be raised from the dead; and how He should be glorified; and how remission of sins should be preached in His name; and the glorious good news of the gospel of the Son of God.  He began to show all through the Bible these marvelous things to those two men so sad [Luke 24:25-27].

And as they walked along, the sun began to set.  And they said, “Stranger, stranger, the sun is setting.  Come and abide with us.  It is late.”  And He turned in thither and sat down [Luke 24:28-29].  And when they bowed their heads and the Stranger said grace, their eyes were opened, and they knew Him.  And it was the Lord.  It was the Lord.  It was the Lord, exactly [Luke 24:30-31].  And we walk along, “What shall I do, and what shall I say, and what decisions shall I make?  And I don’t understand.”

That is the parakletos, the One walking along side that He may abide with you forever [John 14:16].  That is the work of the Holy Spirit of wisdom, of Jesus, of God who knows and understands.  And bring it to Him, “and the parakletos will guide you into all truth and into all wisdom” [John 16:13].

What are the marvelous works of the Holy Spirit?  He regenerates us [Titus 3:5].  It is He who does it.  Regeneration, being born again, something we cannot do for ourselves.  You never find any such idea in the Word of God as you get yourself born.  You get yourself born.  You couldn’t do that.  God, it is unthinkable.  You could not get yourself born.  You could not.  Being born is something that comes from beyond us and above us.  So when we are born “anothen, from above, again; when we are born, we are born of the Spirit.  As Paul says in Titus 3:5: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done,” not something that we could elect or choose, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy hath He saved us by the washing of regeneration, by the washing of regeneration, and by the renewing of the Holy Ghost in our souls” [Titus 3:5].

We are born again by the Spirit of God [John 3:3-8].  Something that we could not do for ourselves, it is something God does for us.  Like our little children, when they come into our church.  Oh, I do everything I know how to make it plain to those little children: “Now listen.  Now you understand.  I don’t have one hand.  I have two hands; see my two hands.  Now this hand represents what it means to be born again, to be saved.  And this hand represents what it means to make your confession before the church to be received by the church, and to be baptized.  Now this is something we can do for you.  I can receive you down here at the front.  I can present you to the congregation.  The congregation can elect to receive you, and I can baptize you.  That’s something man can do.  But sweet little child, first there is something that only God can do.  And you must understand that.  First, you must be saved.  And that’s something between you and the Lord.  Your mother can’t be saved for you.  Your daddy can’t be saved for you.  Some of these days you’re going to die for yourself.  Your mama can’t die for you.  Your father can’t die for you.  Some of these days you’re going to stand the judgment bar of God [2 Timothy 4:1].  And your mother can’t stand for you and your father can’t stand for you.  You must stand for yourself.  And this is one place where you must stand before God; between you and the Lord.  Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, must come into your heart; and give you repentance and faith to accept Him as your Savior [Romans 10:17].  That’s first; something of heaven, something of God, something from above, anōthen,  except a man be born, anōthen, from above, and that’s something the Holy Spirit does for us [John 3:5-6].  And the little child, when he has accepted the Lord and he’s saved, that’s this hand.  Now, we can receive you into the church, and I can baptize you.”

We are regenerated, we are saved by the Holy Spirit of God [Titus 3:5].  He is our Comforter [John 14:26].  Oh, how precious are some of these passages in the Bible.  Oh, “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities,” says Paul in Romans 8:26, He “helpeth our infirmities [Romans 8:26].”  And there’s no one of us that doesn’t fall into oh so many pains!  Heart, mind, life, He “helpeth our infirmities.”  “We do not know what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which we could not utter” [Romans 8:26].

The Spirit of God, His works––I haven’t time even to begin to delineate the works of the Spirit of God in creation [Psalm 104:30].  In the life of our Lord, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit [Matthew 1:20-21].  The Holy Spirit formed the body in which His spirit lived, in which Jesus came.  The Holy Spirit of God formed the body in the womb of the virgin Mary [Matthew 1:20-21].  The Holy Spirit of God came upon Him to anoint Him for His baptism [Matthew 3:16].  The Holy Spirit of God offered His body as sacrifice as atonement for our sins [Hebrews 9:14].  The Holy Spirit of God raised Him from the dead [Romans 1:4].  And in the power of the Holy Spirit He commissioned and sent out His disciples [John 20:22]––the work of the Holy Spirit of God.

Now I must conclude for our time is done.  May I point out there is a great monotheism in the Holy Scriptures, in the New Testament.  There is not another God but one.  First Corinthians 8:4, “There is none other God but one.”  First Corinthians 8:6, “But to us there is but one God, there is one God.”  But we know God in the person of the great Jehovah Father; in the person of our blessed and adorable Redeemer; and we know God in the person and power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts [1 Corinthians 6:19].  The Father sends the Son [1 John 4:14].  The Son sends the Spirit [John 15:26] and the Spirit empowers Jesus, and us.  The Son reveals the Father [John 1:18].  The Spirit reveals the Son [John 15:26].  One God, but in human experience we know Him as our Father, and as our Savior, and as the Lord who lives in our hearts.

And I close with this little reminder:  remember that in all practical religion––I’m not speaking metaphysically, philosophically, theologically––but in all practical religion, there is no difference in your heart and in your experience between Jesus in your soul and the Holy Spirit in your soul.  Sometimes Paul will say, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” [Galatians 2:20].  It is Jesus in my heart, Christ liveth in me.  Then you turn the page and Paul will say again, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you” [1 Corinthians 6:19].  What is that?

It is this.  There are more than two hundred names for Jesus here in this Bible, but only one name for the Spirit of God.  “For He shall not glorify Himself, He shall not speak of Himself; but He shall glorify Me” [John 16:13-14], says the Lord.  And when the Holy Spirit is in your heart, what He is doing, He is presenting Jesus unlimited, Jesus transcendent, Jesus all glorious, Jesus all precious, Jesus all adequate and all sufficient.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit in your soul; magnifying, glorifying, lifting up the precious Lord Jesus.  There is no God but one God, and that is Jehovah the Father.  There’s only one God you will ever see and that is Jesus Christ on the throne of heaven.  And there is only one God you’ll ever feel and that is the Person of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete presenting Jesus before your mind, and eye, and soul; the love, and adoration, and the worship of our lives [John 16:13-15].

Now while we sing our song of appeal; somebody you, give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13].  A couple you coming into the fellowship of the church [Hebrews 10:24-25], however the Lord shall say the word and lead in the way; out of this balcony round on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front; a family, a youth, a child; however God shall say the word today, shall make appeal today, “Here I am pastor and here I come.  I open my heart to the presence of Jesus, and I look in faith to Him in the forgiveness of my sins, in the saving of my soul, and the blessing of my life [Ephesians 2:8].  I come now.  I come now.  And here I am.  Here I am,”  while we stand and while we sing.