The Holy Spirit Is Not An It

I have heard the Holy Spirit called “it” more times that I’d like.  It’s usually in the form of, “We must rely on the Holy Spirit.  It can help guide you.”  It’s usually in those terms and I want to tell you something.  It drives me absolutely crazy!  Consider this.  How would you feel if someone said following?

  • You have a cute child.  What’s its name?
  • I met your spouse yesterday.  What does it go by again?
  • I can’t wait to see your new born baby.  What did you name it?
  • Sorry about your father’s passing.  Are you having a wake for it?
  • Do you believe in Jesus and that it died for your sins?
  • You can rely on God for it is always faithful.

I’m going to guess that this type of talk doesn’t and wouldn’t sit well with most people.  Not only would the first three phrases be personally offensive, but the last two very much so.  Can you imagine calling God the Father or Jesus “it”?  I don’t think most Christians can imagine that, however, that’s exactly what is happening when addressing the Holy Spirit as such.

Who is the Holy Spirit then?

He is the third Person of the Trinity. He is God as we see in Acts 5 in the NASB, emphasis mine.

3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4 “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

He is not an it!

Of course the above quote from Acts is enough to show who the Holy Spirit is since God isn’t an it.  Jesus said as much in John 15 in addressing the Holy Spirit.

16″ I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. [NASB, emphasis mine]

He is active in salvation

Salvation is by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit plays a key role in our salvation.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Titus 3:5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, [NASB, emphasis mine]

It’s clear that the Holy Spirit is not an “it.”  Please remember this when addressing Him.  There is so much more that could be said from both the Old and New Testaments.  I wanted to briefly touch on this topic.  I’m tired of hearing the Holy Spirit referred to as “it.”  He seems to often forgotten aside from the passing reference to listen to Him when looking for guidance.

So the next time you hear this type of statement stop the person and ask, “What do you mean by ‘it’?”

For what it’s worth…


Let's connect!

tagged as , in Gospel,theology

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ronnie November 26, 2008 at 12:15 pm

The Gospels!!

Keep us straight buddy!!


2 MarieP November 26, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Great post, Mark!

Why do you think that people are so prone to calling the Holy Spirit “it”?

I have some ideas, but I want to hear yours first!

3 johnMark November 26, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Thanks, Marie.

This is a tough one. There are probably numerous reasons that could be fleshed out. Many churches probably don’t concentrate strongly (at all?) on doctrinal teaching. Neither biblically, systematically nor historically.

Similar to the reason why Jesus can be found to be a blonde haired, blue eyed white guy who sips frappuccinos. 😉


4 MarieP November 26, 2008 at 4:24 pm

I think that’s a big part of it…and I think it stems from both sides of the spectrum. There are those who don’t take Scriptural teaching into account and instead think of the Spirit as a force that is manipulated and gives people ooshy-gooshy feelings apart from truth and makes them fall down and laugh like hyenas. They don’t see Him as the third Person of the Trinity who can be grieved and who is the Spirit of order, not of disorder.

And then there are those on the other end who over-react and depersonalize Him by ignoring His work in our lives. They don’t deliberately seek His presence in prayer, Bible study, corporate worship, preaching, witness, etc. These things can become “mechanical,” and we forgot the Spirit is just as much real and divine as the Father and the Son. Just Who do we think it is who inflames our hearts with love for Christ and gives boldness to proclaim the Gospel?

BYW, I am glad Jesus is not blonde-haired, white, and a barista at Starbucks. We are “the ends of the earth,” and we often forget that the majority of God’s people have not been white. In fact, even right now, if trends continue as they are, the number of non-white Christians will exceed white Christians in our lifetime!

5 Paul November 26, 2008 at 4:49 pm

I think that the issue is more that English doesn’t have a neuter/sex-undetermined pronoun. I have, in fact, used “it” of a baby when the sex was unknown. One would have to have a better knowledge of Greek and Aramaic than I have, but I suspect that the “He” in the first quote above is simply the default pronoun used when sex is unknown. “Father” and “Son” are pretty definite, but “Holy Spirit” isn’t.

6 Ronnie November 27, 2008 at 11:54 am

I agree with MarieP. Everyone assumes the 2nd Person of the Trinity is a person because of the incarnation. Likewise everyone assumes the 1st Person of the Trinity is a person, because He is the *Father*. However, the Holy Spirit does not translate as easy to a person without the biblical witness forming our thoughts about who He is.


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