Apart from the Trinity, is the Holy Spirit a "person" or a "spirit"? A minister friend of mine said that the Holy Spirit is a "spirit" and should never be referred to as a "person." I am sure he was insinuating that the Holy Spirit has never been a person (in body), however it had me searching the Scriptures. I always thought the statement "God in three persons" was scriptural, and took it literally. Where is it stated in the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit is a person, or a spirit and not a person?


We at Third Millennium are staunch Trinitarians -- we believe and affirm the doctrine of the Trinity. As it has traditionally been formulated, the doctrine of the Trinity is that there is only one God who has only one "essence" and who exists in three "persons" (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). We believe very strongly that the Bible teaches the facts summarized in this doctrine: each of the persons of the godhead is distinct from the others; each is fully God; and there is only one God.

The word "Trinity" does not appear in Scripture, nor do the words "person" or "essence" appear in descriptions of God with the force intended in the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity. These words are theological shorthand intended to summarize many facts which the Bible presents about God. It is easier and more useful to use such shorthand rather than to repeat everything this shorthand represents whenever we want to talk about the doctrine. This is similar to the fact that we refer to the collected writings of holy Scripture as "the Bible." The term "Bible" does not appear in Scripture with such a meaning, but it is certainly much easier to refer to "the Bible" than it is to list all the books contained therein.

In the statement of the doctrine of the Trinity, the term "person" does not exactly correspond to our idea of a human "person," but it does share meaningful points in common with a human "person." For example, the term "person" when applied to God does not denote the idea that the persons of the godhead each have a body. Rather, it indicates that each divine "person" possesses, among other things: a distinct self-awareness; rationality; and volition. These characteristics can be seen in the Holy Spirit through things like: his intercessory activity (Rom. 8:26-27; John 14:16-18); his interaction with other persons of the godhead (1 Cor. 2:10-11); his teaching and testimony (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Acts 1:16; 5:32; 20:23; 28:25; Rom. 8:16); the obligation due to him (Acts 5:3-4,9); his active personal interaction with people (Acts 13:2,4; 15:28; 16:6-7; 20:28; 21:11; Gal. 4:6); his explicit volition (1 Cor. 12:11); and his emotions (Eph. 4:30).

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.