The Holy Spirit in The Book of Hebrews

Is the Holy Spirit a “Person”, as the Father and Jesus Christ are, or simply “an active force of God”, His “impersonal power”, as some teach?

In Zechariah 4:6, we read, “'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says Yahweh of hosts”. Where it is clear, that the Holy Spirit is distinguished from God’s “Might” and “Power”.

It is clear that the Holy Spirit is a “Person”. By this term, it is meant:

“PERSONALITY. In the first place, we endeavor to establish the personality of the Holy Spirit. By this we here mean that the Holy Spirit is a real being, possessing intelligence, and performing personal actions; not, however, a being distinct and separate in essence from the Father. We understand the one undivided essence or being in the Godhead to exist in three distinct persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. We would prove the personality of the Holy Ghost, 1. By the appellations; 2. By the actions; 3. By the honors, ascribed to him. If these be such as can only be applicable to a real and personal existence, then the inference will be clear that the Holy Spirit is a real and personal being, and not a mere abstract attribute, energy, or influence.”

(Thomas Ralston - Elements of Divinity, p.40)

In chapter 2, verse 4, we read, “the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will”; 3:7, “the Holy Spirit says”; 6:4, “partners of the Holy Spirit”; 9:8, “the Holy Spirit indicating this”; 10:15, “the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying”; 10:29, “and insulted the Spirit of grace”.

It is very clear from these passages, and others in both the Old and New Testaments, that the Holy Spirit is “Personal”, as the language used for Him, cannot be attributed to mere “things”.

Jesus says of God in John’s Gospel, “pneuma ho theos”, which is “God is spirit”, this does not mean that God is a “power”, or “force” and impersonal, but that He cannot be seen by the human eye. God is referred to as “invisible” (Colossians 1:15, etc)

Those, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who teach that the Holy Spirit is a mere “active force” of God, and “impersonal”; say that when the Holy Spirit is referred to as “He”, and in other “Personal” terms, it is like calling a city “she”, and a car, “he”, etc. While it might be true, that we do use personal language for inanimate objects; yet, it is equally true, that we will never say that a car has “a will”, or that a city is “a witness”, or that either can be “insulted”! These are PERSONAL terms, which are impossible to be used for impersonal objects or things!

There are three passages in Hebrews, that clearly teach that absolute Deity of the Holy Spirit. In two of these passages, they are quotations from the Old Testament, referring to Yahweh, which are used by the Holy Spirit for Himself. It is evident that the Holy Spirit Himself says that He is YHWH, the uncreated, Eternal God.

In New Testament quotations from the Old, only the actual words that are quoted, are relevant to the passage in the New. Not the words before, or after. For example, in Hebrews 1:5, God the Father, in speaking about Jesus Christ, quotes 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son”, which is the complete quote for the purpose. The other words of this verse cannot refer to Jesus Christ, as they say, “If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men”. Impossible to refer to Jesus Christ, Who is sinless (1 Peter 2:22; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5, etc). Also, in Matthew 2:15, “Out of Egypt I called My Son”, quoted from Hosea 11:1. Again, the whole verse cannot refer to Jesus Christ, which also says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him”. It is very important to understand this in Prophecy.

In Hebrews Chapter 3, verses 7-11:

“Therefore, even as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you will hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, like as in the day of the trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me and tried Me, and saw My deeds for forty years. Therefore I was displeased with that generation, and said, ‘They always err in their heart, but they didn’t know My ways.’ As I swore in My wrath, ‘They will not enter into My rest.’”

There are many quotations from the Old Testament in the Book of Hebrews, that are introduced in different ways. For example, in chapter one we have a few quotes, which are introduced by, “For to which of the angels did He ever say” (ver. 5). The “He” refers to God the Father. Then, in 2:6, it says, “But one testified in a certain place, saying”; 4:3, “He has said”, 7, “as it has been said”; 5:5, “but it was He who said to Him”, 6, “As He also says in another place”; 7:17, “For He testifies”, 21, “by Him who said to Him”, etc, etc. In both the passages, 3:7-11, and 10:15-17, they do not say, “He also says”, or “it is testified in a certain place”, or “He testifies”, etc; but clearly, “kathōs legei to pneuma to hagion”, literally, “according as says the Spirit the Holy”, in 3:7, and “marturei de hēmin kai to pneuma to hagion meta to eirēkenai”, which is, “The Holy Spirit bears witness to us after having said”. It is clear that the Speaker in both places, is The Spirit The Holy. The words in both passages, are what the Holy Spirit speaks of Himself, and the Lord, another Person, distinct from Himself.

The passage in Chapter 3:7-11, is a quotation from Psalm 95:6-11:

“Oh come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker, for He is our God. We are the people of His pasture, and the sheep in His care. Today, if you hear His voice! Don’t harden your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tempted Me, tested Me, and saw My work. Forty long years I was grieved with that generation, and said, “It is a people that errs in their heart. They have not known My ways.” Therefore I swore in My wrath, “They won’t enter into My rest.””

The reference to “Meribah” is to the passage in the Book of Exodus, chapter 17, where the Isra, lites were extremely thirsty, and quarreled with Moses about the lack of water. It was here that they “tested” the Lord, and thereby enraged Him. In this passage it is Yahweh Who is tested. The Holy Spirit, in Hebrews says, that they, “tested Me and tried Me, and saw My deeds for forty years”, making Himself the Yahweh of this passage in Exodus!

The same is seen in Hebrews Chapter 10, in verses 15-17:

“And bears Witness to us the Spirit the Holy; for after saying, this is the Covenant which I will Covenant towards them after those days,  says the Lord, giving My Laws into their hearts, also into their minds I will inscribe them, and their sins and their lawlessness, in no wise will I remember any more”

Here also, as in chapter 3, the Holy Spirit is the Speaker. In the Greek, the words, “after saying”, is written, “meta to eirēkenai”, where we have the definite article, “to”, here in the neuter. This is usually left untranslated into English, but is there for a purpose, which refers to “the Holy Spirit (to pneuma to hagion)”, and to the words that follow, which also belong to the Holy Spirit.

The fact that the Holy Spirit “bears Witnesses to us”, is clear testimony that the Spirit cannot be an “it”, but must be “Personal”. No “impersonal thing”, is capable of “bearing witness” to people!

The words are from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 31:31-34:

“Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says Yahweh. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Yahweh; for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says Yahweh: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more”

It is also clear from this passage in Hebrews 10, that the Holy Spirit says that He is Yahweh, Who is seen in the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Clear self Witness to His own Deity.

In Chapter 9:14, we have testimony to the Holy Spirit as being “Eternal”, which means that He cannot be “created”, and is Almighty God, Who is Eternal.

“how much more will the blood of Christ, Who by means of the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”

The words, “dia pneumatos aiōniou” (through the eternal Spirit), do not refer to “Christ’s spirit”, as some claim. There is not a single verse that says anything about Jesus offering His blood “through His human spirit”, nor does this make any sense.

Interesting, that here we have a variant reading, where there is textual evidence, that does not have “aiōniou”, but “hagiou”, “Holy”. Found in the 5th century Greek manuscript, the Codex Bezae. Also in a number of Greek manuscripts in the Byzantine text-type. Before this time, is was found in the quotes of the Greek Church Fathers, Athanasius (293-373); Didymus the Blind (313-398); John Chrysostom (died 407); Cyril of Alexandria (375-444); John of Damascus (675-749). In the Old Latin (2nd cent); Latin Vulgate (4th cent), Coptic (3rd-4th); Georgian (5th); Syriac (6th) [Dr Scholz, Novum Testamentum graece]. We could read here, “dia hagiou pneumatos aiōniou”, “through the eternal Holy Spirit”, as there is strong evidence for this.

The Conception of the Lord Jesus Christ, was by the Power of the Holy Spirit, Who caused the Virgin Mary to conceive the human nature of Jesus Christ in her womb, without any participation of a human father. This Operation by the Holy Spirit, also caused the derived human nature from Mary, to be without any sin.

“The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child out of the Holy Spirit (ek pneumatos hagiou)” (Matthew 1:18)

“And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born out of you, will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35)

Again, at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit was Active

1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (zōopoiētheis de pneumati)”

It is clear that The Holy Spirit is meant here, and not Jesus’ “human spirit”, which He actually “gave up” when He died on the cross, as in Luke 23:46, etc. This is clear from Romans 8:11;

“if now the Spirit (to pneuma) of the One having raised up Jesus out of the dead

It is very clear from what we read in the Book of Hebrews, that the Holy Spirit is a Person, and not just an impersonal power of God. It is also clear that the Holy Sprit is Himself Yahweh, the Eternal uncreated Almighty God of the Bible, Who is very much Active in the Old Testament.