What the Holy Spirit is not?


Here goes #3 in this blog series on the Holy Spirit. May these bless you as you continue to better understand the glorious Holy Spirit!

Because it is so easy to misunderstand the Holy Spirit, many people have unbiblical views of Him that need to be addressed and rejected for the proper biblical view of who He is.

Here are 6 views that are NOT the Holy Spirit.

not a lesser God

As explained in "Who is the Holy Spirit", the Holy Spirit is fully God, co-equal in nature and characteristics with the Father and the Son, yet distinct as the third member of the Trinity. Being in essence God, there is no “less than” amongst the Trinity. As a member of the Trinity, He is willingly subordinate in duties to the Son and the Father. We see this exhibited in John chapters 14-16. To quote one of my classmates from college, Christina Rupp, she wrote,

“God is a God of order. Even in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit) we see an example of equality, hierarchy of authority, but differing responsibilities.”

So, the Holy Spirit is not a lesser God simply because He submits to the order within the Godhead, nor is He His own separate God. He is God the Holy Spirit.

not a simultaneous manifestation of God in spirit form

This is known as modalism. Modalists call themselves Christians but they deny the Tri-union of God. They teach that the Trinity is three different yet simultaneous manifestations of the same God. They say it's just like one man can be manifested as a father, a son, and a husband or brother all at the same time. Hence, we believe in two different Gods. The modalists have their oneness god, and Christians have their Triune God.

Modalism denies the individual divine personhood of each member of the Trinity. (Click here for more on this). This then means Jesus was not really fully God and fully man. Instead, Jesus was merely a manifestation of God as man but not truly God-incarnate.

The Holy Spirit is not a mere simultaneous manifestation of God. He is God revealed as a distinct member of the Trinity through His own divine personhood.

Not an impersonal force or some type of inanimate power

This is what Jehovah Witnesses and other false Christian spin-off religions teach. These false religions don’t simply deny the individual personhood of the Holy Spirit, they deny the deity of the Holy Spirit as well.

"But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”" (Acts 5:3-4, ESV)

  • You can’t lie to a non-person. Lying implies deceiving something that can be deceived. Impersonal things can’t be deceived. And more so, you can’t sin against a non-person.

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matt. 12:31-32, NKJV)

  • That word, “therefore”, indicates what Jesus is now sharing is a result of something He previously shared. In the earlier verses of this passage Jesus gave context to what He meant by this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It was accrediting the work and power of the Holy Spirit which one clearly sees to Satan or a false deity. As long as a person remains in this state of rejection and denial they are guilty of this blasphemy and thus forfeit the forgiveness of God, but if they should repent, like the Apostle Paul, forgiveness and salvation is received. But you can’t do this type of blasphemy against an impersonal force or inanimate power, only against God.

The Holy Spirit is fully God not merely the inanimate power of God. The Holy Spirit is the third divine person of the Trinity, not merely an impersonal force.

not The Spiritual Gifts

I only mention this because of the abuse of some with the gifts of the Spirit. Tongues are a gift of the Spirit, not the characteristic or essence of the Holy Spirit. Prophecy is a gift of the Spirit, not the characteristic or essence of the Holy Spirit. Words of knowledge and wisdom are gifts of the Spirit, not the characteristic or essence of the Holy Spirit. Healing is a gift of the Spirit, not the characteristic or essence of the Holy Spirit. And so goes the rest of the gifts.

The Holy Spirit is the giver of the gifts. The gifts are not Him.

“4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them…. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” (1Cor. 12:4, 7-11, NIV, emphasis added)

not the words in/of the Bible

Just as there are some who take the spiritual gifts to the extreme, there are some who go to the other extreme. So, don’t read the Bible and think, "This IS the Holy Spirit". It is not.

The Holy Spirit is the divine author of the Bible who inspired the human authors to perfectly write the content it possesses (1Pet. 1:10-12, 2Pet. 1:19-21). He is the source and the power of Scripture, but He is not Scripture. On the contrary, the only reason Scripture is the divine Word of God is because of the Holy Spirit. 

You can’t read the Bible to get or utilize the Holy Spirit. Instead, it is the Holy Spirit that draws you to the Word, illumines you to understand the Word, empowers you to apply the Word, and transforms you by the Word.

Not non-existent or non-active

The Holy Spirit is eternal (Ps. 139:7-8, Jn. 14:16, Heb. 9:14). Thus, He is always presently active and working in all of our lives and in the world for God’s glory (Jn. 16:7-15). He starts with our regeneration, then our sanctification, and finally our glorification. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is unto the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan in the world!

Final Word

I'm glad to know what the Holy Spirit is not, because it reveals how glorious He truly is. We cannot put Him in a box or reduce Him to second-class.

He. IS. God.