Is the Holy Spirit a Person
or an Impersonal Force?

© Spotlight Ministries, Vincent McCann, 2003

The Watchtower Society teach Jehovah's Witnesses that the Holy Spirit is not a Person but rather "God's active force". It is taught that this force is impersonal and is often likened to electricity.

"Consider the far-reaching effects of an electric power plant. A power plant has a certain location in or near a city. But its electricity is distributed over all that area, providing light and power. It is similar with God. He is in the heavens. Yet his holy spirit, which is his invisible active force, can be felt everywhere, over all the universe. By means of his holy spirit God created the heavens, the earth and all living things. ... He can send out his spirit, his active force, to do whatever he wants even though he is far away." (You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, (1982), p. 37).

But despite the claims of the Watchtower, the Personality of the Holy Spirit is clearly threaded throughout the Bible:

Jesus used personal pronouns when referring to the Holy Spirit:

"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. "(John 16:7-15).

Scripture uses many terms that are used when speaking of a person and applies them to the Holy Spirit:

He helps (John 16:7).

He comforts (John 14:16).

He convicts of sin (John 16:17).

He gives testimony of Jesus (John 15:26).

He teaches and brings to remembrance (John 14:26).

He guides (John 16:13).

He restrains (2 Thess. 2:7).

He speaks and instructs (Acts 8:29; 10:19; John 16:13).

He interprets our prayers (Rom. 8:26).

He sets apart/sanctifies (2Thess. 2:13).

He hears (John 16:13).

He seals us (Eph. 1:13).

He knows and communicates (1 Cor. 2:11; Rom. 8:27).

He sends (Acts 13:4).

He brings forth life (John 3:6 compare Gen. 1:3).

He is a witness (Acts 5:32).

He reveals (Eph. 3:5).

He prevents/stops (Acts 16:6-7).

He wills/separates (Acts 13:2).

He has a will by which He decides, chooses and distributes (1 Cor. 12:11).

He can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4).

He can be tested (Acts 5:9).

He can be grieved (Eph. 4:30).

He leads (Matt. 4:1).

The Spirit "said" to Philip. (Acts 8:29).

The Spirit "said" to Peter. (Acts 10:19-20).

Peter said he was "told" by the Spirit (Acts 11:12).

The Holy Spirit "solemnly testifies" (Acts 20:23).

The Holy Spirit "made" some of the early Christians "overseers to shepherd the Church". (Acts 20:28).

The Holy Spirit "spoke" (Acts 28:25-27).

Acts 15:22 states that "it seemed good to the apostles and the elders." Nothing particularly striking about this as it is just stating that something was good to certain people, in this case the apostles and the elders. However, in verse 28 we see an interesting parallel: " seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Acts 15:28). Obviousely, this is similar to the earlier verse. But what is significant with both of these parallel verses is that the writer of Acts includes the Spirit along with various people as though he is just listing another Person. The casual way that this is presented makes this even more striking. The Apostles, elders, and the Spirit recognise something as being "good". Now if the Spirit were not a Person, but rather an impersonal force, as the Watchtower claim, it would be like saying "it seemed good to the wind and to us." Obviously, such a statement would make no sense.

In addition to this, it is incredible that that the Watchtower recognise other spirits as being personal but still deny the personality of the spirit:

The Watchtower Society tells us:-

1) That God is a Spirit and a person.
2) The angels are spirits and persons.
3) The demons are spirits and are persons.
4) Jesus is a spirit and a person.
5) Satan is a spirit and a person.
6) The Holy Spirit of God is a spirit but is NOT worthy of being a Person!!! *

In an article about the Devil, the Watchtower list some requirements of what qualifies one to be a person:

"You will note, too, that these accounts relate conversations between the Devil and God, and between the Devil and Jesus Christ. Both Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are persons. Also, the Bible calls Satan a manslayer, a liar, a father (in a spiritual sense) and a ruler. Only an intelligent person could fit all these descriptions." (Awake!, December 8, 1973, p.27)

It is incredible that the Watchtower is even willing to acknowledge the Devil to be a person because of the characteristics he possesses, yet they deny the Personhood of the Holy Spirit even though the same characteristics are possessed by Him also!

Some Jehovah's Witness Objections Considered

In the light of the above Scriptural references, it is incredible how the Watchtower can still continue to deny that the Holy Spirit is not a Person. The Watchtower's general response to such Scriptures is to say that whenever the Spirit is spoken of in personal terms it is simply using personification, as it does in other instances of other non-personal things. Of the Holy Spirit, the Watchtower`s Aid book says:

" is not unusual in the Scriptures for something to be personalized or personified that is not actually a person." (Aid to Bible Understanding, p. 1543).

The above article then goes on to point out the personifications of such non-personal things as wisdom, sin and death, etc. Although this is true, what the Watchtower tend to do here is isolate certain Scriptures when comparing them to the Spirit in an attempt to deny His personality. Rather than taking the whole testimony of Scripture about what the Bible says about the Spirit they have to isolate lots of different texts which speak of unrelated inanimate objects to make their point. Robert Bowman calls this "The divide and conquer method of Biblical interpretation."

Another main objection to the Personhood of the Holy Spirit that the Watchtower bring fourth is that the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is "poured upon" (e.g. Isa. 44:3) and can "fill" people (e.g. Acts 2:4). It is then argued that a person cannot do these things, so the Holy Spirit must not be a person.

In response to this the following Scriptures need to be highlighted:

The apostle Apostle Paul (a real person!) said: "I am already being poured out as a drink offering" (2Tim. 4:6).

David said: "I am poured out like water" (Psalm 22:14).

Peter said: "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart?" (Acts 5:3).

God is spoken of as one who "fills all in all" (Eph. 1:23)

Christ is spoken of as the one who might "fill all things" (Eph. 4:10).

Paul speaks of being "filled with the fullness of God" (Eph 3:19).

A final objection to consider is the reasoning that Jehovah's Witnesses employ by using Matthew 3:11 where John the Baptist is speaking about Jesus:

"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."

From this verse, Jehovah's Witnesses reason that just as water is impersonal in this verse the Holy Spirit is likewise impersonal. We are baptised into both, as both are impersonal.

Despite the apparent logic employed by this reasoning its flaw becomes apparent when one compares the same reasoning to the following texts:

"Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3)
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (Gal. 3:27)
Obviousely, Jesus is not impersonal just because we can be baptized into Him, and neither is He impersonal just because we are also baptized into His death and clothed with Him. The same is so for the Holy Spirit.

*A list by J. Simpson. Used with permission.

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