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What the Bible says about Personification
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Psalm 19:1

Imagine David out in the fields one night, tending his flock, looking up at the starry mass in the sky, seeing the shadowy outlines of the hills in the distance and the moon reflecting the light of the sun, and considering what an awesome Mind it took to create all these things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Psalm 23 (Part 1)

Acts 5:3

Trinitarians presumptuously use Peter's question as "proof" that the Holy Spirit is a divine being. They say, "One cannot sin against an attribute. One cannot lie to something that is not sentient. Thus, the Holy Spirit must be a personality within the Godhead." But in their attempt to find "proof" for their theory, they ignore the plain meaning of Peter's words and the overwhelming evidence of other scriptures.

When writing about the Holy Spirit, the apostles had no reservations about interchangeably using verbs associated with things rather than people. For example, Paul tells Timothy "to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear . . ." (II Timothy 1:6-7). We usually stir liquids and mixtures, not people. Several writers use the verb "pour" to describe God's use of the Spirit (see Proverbs 1:23; Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10; Acts 2:17-18, 33). A person cannot be poured.

On the other hand, many verses show that the Holy Spirit "speaks," "tells," "declares," "convicts," "guides," "hears," and others. By themselves, these verbs can give us no conclusive proof that the Holy Spirit is or is not a divine being.

To understand what Peter meant by "to lie to the Holy Spirit," we must see if the context explains what he meant. At the end of Acts 5:4, Peter makes a parallel accusation: "You have not lied to men but to God." "God" is translated from theos, the general Greek word for deity. In the broadest sense, Peter accuses Ananias of sinning against God (see Genesis 20:6; 39:9; Leviticus 6:2; Psalm 51:4).

When he speaks to Sapphira later on in the scene, Peter repeats the accusation in a slightly different way: "How is it that you have agreed together to test [tempt, KJV] the Spirit of the Lord?" (Acts 5:9). Here, Peter uses "Lord" from the Greek kurios, meaning "master" or "lord." In this verse the Holy Spirit is shown to be the possession of God.

Thus in these three parallel verses, Peter clarifies what he meant: Ananias and Sapphira had tried to deceive God, who was present in them and in the apostles by the power of His Spirit. Did they not realize, Peter asks, that through His Spirit God knew not only what they were doing, but also their hearts?

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit

Acts 5:3

But why did Peter make it seem as if the Spirit had personality? Because as the means, the power, the vehicle, the agency, by which the Father and the Son accomplish their will (for example, creating—Genesis 1:2), the Spirit takes on properties that they have. We do this in our own speech and writing: Money talks. Power corrupts. Words bite. To describe actions of things, we often use verbs that more accurately describe human actions. Wind moans or shrieks. Fire licks wood. Rain dances. Water runs. These words do not make the things human.

In Romans 5-7, Paul personifies death, law, and sin. "Death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Romans 5:14). "The law has dominion" (7:1). "Sin . . . deceived me, and by it killed me" (7:11). We know that none of these things has personality, and we think nothing more of it. The same applies to the Spirit of God. Just because we use verbs that normally describe the actions of a person does not mean that the subject is a person. It is a non-argument; it means nothing.

More important is how the entirety of the Bible treats the concept of God's Spirit. Using one verse like Acts 5:3 to "prove" a doctrine is called "proof texting." This method violates two of the paramount points of biblical understanding: 1) Always use clear verses to explain unclear verses, and 2) gather all of the pertinent verses from the whole Bible and study them completely before reaching a conclusion on a doctrine.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Lying to the Holy Spirit


Find more Bible verses about Personification:
Personification {Nave's}
 




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