5 Min Read


The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, and He is a personal being rather than an impersonal force. He is the same in substance and equal in power and glory with God the Father and God the Son. Each person of the Godhead possesses a unique personal property. The personal property of the Spirit, who is the third person of the Godhead, is that He “proceeds” from the Father and the Son. God the Holy Spirit functions as the life-giving agent of creation and new creation. The Spirit is the principal agent of biblical revelation, illumination, and persuasion. He also brings about the conviction, regeneration, and transformation of the hearts of sinners. In the economy of redemption, the Spirit applies the saving work of the Son to the hearts and lives of the elect. The Spirit unites believers to Christ, imparting all the benefits of Christ’s person and work to them.


The Bible teaches that there is one true and living God. God subsists in three distinct yet inseparable persons. The members of the Godhead fully indwell one another, and together They are the one true and living God. All of the members of the Godhead are of the same divine essence, and are, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” Theologians have commonly referred to the Holy Spirit as the “third person” of the Godhead. This does not entail any subordination as to being or authority; rather, it indicates a personal distinction between the three members of the Godhead. “Procession” or “spiration” is the personal property of the Spirit that distinguishes Him from the Father and the Son. Scripture refers to the Spirit by a variety of names—“the Spirit,” “the Spirit of God,” “The Spirit of the LORD,” “the Holy Spirit,” “the Spirit of holiness,” and “the Spirit of Christ” (Gen. 1:2; Ex. 31:3; Judg. 3:10; Matt. 1:18; Rom. 1:4; Eph. 4:30; 1 Peter 1:11).

In the early church, debates about the Holy Spirit centered on the personhood of the Spirit rather than His deity. As Herman Bavinck explained: “With reference to the second person, the crux of controversy was almost always his deity—generally speaking, his personhood was not in dispute—in the case of the Holy Spirit it was his personhood that primarily sparked the polemics. If his personality was acknowledged, his deity followed naturally” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:311).

Scripture teaches the personhood of the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways. The Apostle Peter testified to the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit in his confrontation with Ananias, when he said, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? . . . You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:3–4). This is clear evidence of the deity and personality of the Spirit. When the Apostle Paul gave his departing speech to the elders in the church of Ephesus, he reminded them that the Holy Spirit had personally made them overseers of the church of God (20:28). The personhood of the Spirit is also revealed in the way that the New Testament attributes authorship of the Old Testament to the Spirit. Quoting Psalm 110, Jesus said, “David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying . . . ” (Matt. 22:43, emphasis added). The writer of Hebrews noted the Spirit’s personal authorship of Psalm 95, saying, “As the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice’” (Heb. 3:7, emphasis added). Only persons speak, so these verses demonstrate that the Spirit is a communicative, divine person.

In the Old Testament, the Spirit hovered over the waters of the newly created and unformed world. He acted as the immanent agent of creation, bringing order out of chaos and life and beauty into the world. Psalm 104:30 speaks of the way in which the Spirit produces and sustains life in the created world: “You send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” Similarly, the Spirit is the agent of life, sustenance, and power in the work of the new creation. In the work of the new creation, the Spirit imparts all the graces of God to the redeemed. Herman Bavinck highlights the activity of the Spirit of God in the Old Testament in the following way:

The spirit of God is the principle of all life and well-being, of all the gifts and powers in the sphere of revelation: of courage (Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 13:25; 1 Sam. 11:6), of physical strength (Judg. 14:6; 15:14), of artistic skill (Exod. 28:3; 31:3–5; 35:31–35; 1 Chron. 28:12–19), of the ability to govern (Num. 11:17, 25; 1 Sam. 16:13), of intellect and wisdom (Job 32:8; Isa. 11:2), of holiness and renewal (Ps. 51:12; Isa. 63:10; cf. Gen. 6:3; Neh. 9:20; 1 Sam. 10:6, 9), and of prophecy and prediction (Num. 11:25, 29; 24:2–3; Mic. 3:8; etc.). (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:263)

In both the Old and New Testaments, the Spirit is the agent of the revelation of Christ on the basis of His person and work. The Spirit is also the agent of the believer’s union with Christ. The Old Testament prophets foretold the role of the Spirit in the life and ministry of Christ (Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1). They also anticipated the work of the Spirit as the agent of the application of the saving work of Christ among the nations (Isa. 32:15; 44:3; Ezek. 36:26–27; 39:29; Joel 2:28–29; Zech. 12:10).

The New Testament Scriptures explain that the Holy Spirit supported Christ in His carrying out the work of redemption. The Spirit acted as the agent of Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary's womb; He filled Christ for His holy growth and development; He empowered Christ to do miraculous works; and He led Christ into and supported Him during His temptations and sufferings. Moreover, by the Spirit, Christ offered Himself up to God (Heb. 9:14). The Spirit was the agent of the resurrection and glorification of Christ. A denial of the work of the Spirit in the miraculous works of Christ is equivalent to blasphemy against God.

After His ascension, Jesus sent the Spirit to His people in order to empower them to bear witness to Him throughout the world. During the Apostolic age, the Spirit worked extraordinary gifts in His people to attest to the coming of the kingdom of God. Those gifts ceased with the closing of the canon. The Spirit of Christ gives power and efficacy to the message of the gospel preached by those whom God has appointed to bring good news to a lost and perishing world (1 Peter 1:11–12). Having convicted the elect of sin and of their need of the Savior, the Holy Spirit regenerates them, indwells them, and becomes the seal of their everlasting inheritance. Believers may, by embracing sin, grieve and quench the Spirit. However, the Spirit sanctifies believers, leading them into paths of holiness while producing hope, joy, and assurance in their souls.


[The Spirit] is spoken of as a person. The personal [demonstrative] pronoun ‘he’ (ἐκεινος) is used with reference to him (John 15:26; 16:13–14); he is called ‘Paraclete’ (παρακλητος, John 15:26; cf. 1 John 2:1); ‘another Paraclete’ (John 14:16), who speaks of himself in the first person (Acts 13:2). All kinds of personal capacities and activities are attributed to him: searching (1 Cor. 2:10–11), judging (Acts 15:28), hearing (John 16:13), speaking (Acts 13:2; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 14:13; 22:17), willing (1 Cor. 12:11), teaching (John 14:26), interceding (Rom. 8:27), witnessing (John 15:26), and so on. He is coordinated with the Father and the Son (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4–6; 2 Cor. 13:13; Rev. 1:4). None of this is possible, we think, unless the Spirit, too, is truly God.

Herman Bavinck

Reformed Dogmatics

The Bible is the Holy Spirit’s book. He is involved not only in the inspiration of Scripture, but is also a witness to Scripture’s truthfulness. This is what we call the ‘internal testimony’ of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit provides a testimony that takes place inside of us—He bears witness to our spirits that the Bible is the Word of God. Just as the Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16), He assures us of the sacred truth of His Word.

R.C. Sproul

The Spirit’s Internal Witness

Tabletalk magazine

The result of the Spirit working with the Word of God to illumine and transform our thinking is the development of a godly instinct that operates in sometimes surprising ways. The revelation of Scripture becomes, in a well-taught, Spirit-illumined believer, so much a part of his or her mindset that the will of God frequently seems to become instinctively and even immediately clear—just as whether a piece of music is well or badly played is immediately obvious to a well-disciplined musician. It is this kind of spiritual exercise that creates discernment (see Heb. 5:11–14).

Sinclair B. Ferguson

Spirit of Light