The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person

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The Holy Spirit Is Not a Person

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In the chapter, Is God a Trinity?, we saw that the teaching of the Trinity originated well after the New Testament was written rather than with the Bible writers themselves. How, then, do we define the Holy Spirit if it is not a person?

Rather than describing the Holy Spirit as a distinct person or entity, the Bible most often refers to it as and connects it with God’s divine power (Zechariah 4:6 Zechariah 4:6Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, said the LORD of hosts.
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; Micah 3:8 Micah 3:8But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin.
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). Jewish scholars, examining the references to it in the Old Testament Scriptures, have never defined the Holy Spirit as anything but the power of God.

In the New Testament, Paul referred to it as the spirit of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
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). Informing Mary that Jesus would be supernaturally conceived in her womb, an angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you …,” and he defined this as “the power of the Highest,” which “will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35 Luke 1:35And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.
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).

Jesus began His ministry “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14 Luke 4:14And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
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). He told His followers, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
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).

Peter relates that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38 Acts 10:38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
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). This was the same power that enabled Christ to perform many mighty miracles during His ministry. Likewise, Jesus worked through the apostle Paul “in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:19 Romans 15:19Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about to Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
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).

The Holy Spirit is the very nature, presence and expression of God’s power actively working in His servants (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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; Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
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). Indeed, it is through His Spirit that God is able to be present everywhere at once throughout the universe and affect it at will (Psalms 139:7-10 Psalms 139:7-10 7 Where shall I go from your spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
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).

Again and again the Scriptures depict the Holy Spirit as the power of God. Furthermore, it is also shown to be the mind of God and the very essence and life force through which the Father begets human beings as His spiritual children. The Holy Spirit is not God, but is rather a vital aspect of God—the divine substance of the Father and Christ as well as the agency through which They work.

Divine inspiration and life through the Spirit

In its article about the Holy Spirit, The Anchor Bible Dictionary describes it as the “manifestation of divine presence and power perceptible especially in prophetic inspiration” (Vol. 3, 1992, p. 260).

Repeatedly the Scriptures reveal that God imparted divine inspiration to His prophets and servants through the Holy Spirit. Peter noted that “prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 2 Peter 1:21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
).

Paul wrote that God’s plan for humanity had been “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5 Ephesians 3:5Which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
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) and that his own teachings were inspired by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13 1 Corinthians 2:13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
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). Paul further explains that it is through His Spirit that God has revealed to true Christians the things He has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9-16 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 9 But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
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). Working through the Spirit, God the Father is the revealer of truth to those who serve Him.

Jesus told His followers that the Holy Spirit, which the Father would send, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26 John 14:26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
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). It is through God’s Spirit within us that we gain spiritual insight and understanding. Indeed, we come to receive the very “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16 1 Corinthians 2:16For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
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)—also referred to as the “mind of the Spirit” (Romans 8:27 Romans 8:27And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
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).

Christ had this spiritual comprehension in abundance. As the Messiah, He was prophesied to have “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2 Isaiah 11:2And the spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
American King James Version×
).

As the Son of Man on earth, Christ portrayed in His personal conduct the divine attributes of Almighty God through completely living by His Father’s biblical standards through the power of the Holy Spirit (compare 1 Timothy 3:16 1 Timothy 3:16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
American King James Version×
).

Now returned to the spirit realm, Christ wields the omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit along with the Father. The Holy Spirit, we should understand, is not only the Spirit of God the Father, for the Bible also calls it the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9 Romans 8:9But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
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; Philippians 1:19 Philippians 1:19For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
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). By either designation, it is the same Spirit, as there is only one Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13 1 Corinthians 12:13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
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; Ephesians 4:4 Ephesians 4:4There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
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).

The Father imparts the same Spirit to true Christians through Christ (John 14:26 John 14:26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.
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; John 15:26 John 15:26But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me:
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; Titus 3:5-6 Titus 3:5-6 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior;
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), leading and enabling them to be His children and “partakers of the divine nature” (Romans 8:14 Romans 8:14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
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; 2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
American King James Version×
). God, who has eternal life in Himself, gives that life to others through the Spirit (John 5:26 John 5:26For as the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself;
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; John 6:63 John 6:63It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.
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; Romans 8:11 Romans 8:11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
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).

Impersonal attributes of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is spoken of in many ways that demonstrate that it is not a divine person. For example, it is referred to as a gift (Acts 10:45 Acts 10:45And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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; 1 Timothy 4:14 1 Timothy 4:14Neglect not the gift that is in you, which was given you by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
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). We are told that the Holy Spirit can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19 1 Thessalonians 5:19Quench not the Spirit.
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), that it can be poured out (Acts 2:17 Acts 2:17And it shall come to pass in the last days, said God, I will pour out of my Spirit on all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
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, Acts 2:33 Acts 2:33Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear.
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), and that we are baptized with it (Matthew 3:11 Matthew 3:11I indeed baptize you with water to repentance. but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
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).

People can drink of it (John 7:37-39 John 7:37-39 37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. 38 He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
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), partake of it (Hebrews 6:4 Hebrews 6:4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
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) and be filled with it (Acts 2:4 Acts 2:4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
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; Ephesians 5:18 Ephesians 5:18And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
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). The Holy Spirit also renews us (Titus 3:5 Titus 3:5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
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) and must be stirred up within us (2 Timothy 1:6 2 Timothy 1:6Why I put you in remembrance that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the putting on of my hands.
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). These impersonal characteristics are certainly not attributes of a person.

It is also called “the Holy Spirit of promise,” “the guarantee of our inheritance” and “the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Ephesians 1:13-14 Ephesians 1:13-14 13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
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, Ephesians 1:17 Ephesians 1:17That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
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).

In contrast to God the Father and Jesus Christ, who are consistently compared to human beings in Their form and shape, the Holy Spirit is consistently represented, by various symbols and manifestations, in a completely different manner—such as wind (Acts 2:2 Acts 2:2And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
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), fire (Acts 2:3 Acts 2:3And there appeared to them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat on each of them.
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), water (John 4:14 John 4:14But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
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; John 7:37-39), oil (Psalms 45:7 Psalms 45:7You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
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; compare Acts 10:38 Acts 10:38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
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; Matthew 25:1-10 Matthew 25:1-10 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: 4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 6 And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom comes; go you out to meet him. 7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. 9 But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go you rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
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), a dove (Matthew 3:16 Matthew 3:16And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, see, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting on him:
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) and an “earnest,” or down payment, on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:22 2 Corinthians 1:22Who has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
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; 2 Corinthians 5:5 2 Corinthians 5:5Now he that has worked us for the selfsame thing is God, who also has given to us the earnest of the Spirit.
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; Ephesians 1:13-14 Ephesians 1:13-14 13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
American King James Version×
, KJV). These depictions are difficult to understand, to say the least, if the Holy Spirit is a person.

In Matthew 1:20 Matthew 1:20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, you son of David, fear not to take to you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
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we find further evidence that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct entity, but God’s divine power. Here we read that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus continually prayed to and addressed God the Father as His Father and not the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:32-33 Matthew 10:32-33 32 Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
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; Matthew 11:25-27 Matthew 11:25-27 25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank you, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hid these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight. 27 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
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; Matthew 12:50 Matthew 12:50For whoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
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). He never represented the Holy Spirit as His Father. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was the agency or power through which the Father begot Jesus as His Son.

Paul’s example and teaching

If God were a Trinity, surely Paul, who recorded much of the theological underpinnings of the early Church, would have comprehended and taught this concept. Yet we find no such teaching in His writings.

Moreover, Paul’s standard greeting in his letter to the churches, as well as individuals to whom he wrote, is “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet in each of his greetings he never mentions the Holy Spirit. (The same can also be said of Peter in the salutations of both his epistles.)

The same greeting, with only minor variations, appears in every epistle that bears Paul’s name (see Romans 1:7 Romans 1:7To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
; 1 Corinthians 1:3 1 Corinthians 1:3Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
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; 2 Corinthians 1:2 2 Corinthians 1:2Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
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; etc.) The Holy Spirit is always left out of these greetings—an unbelievable and inexplicable oversight if the Spirit were indeed a person or entity coequal with God the Father and Christ.

This is even more surprising when we consider that the congregations to which Paul wrote had many gentile members from polytheistic backgrounds who had formerly worshipped numerous gods. Paul’s epistles record no attempt on his part to explain the Trinity or Holy Spirit as a divine person equal with God the Father and Jesus Christ.

In all of Paul’s writings, only in 2 Corinthians 13:14 2 Corinthians 13:14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.
American King James Version×
is the Holy Spirit mentioned along with the Father and Christ, and there only in connection with the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (NIV) in which believers share—not in any sort of theological statement on the nature of God. God’s Spirit, says Paul, is the unifying agent that brings us together in godly, righteous fellowship, not only with one another but with the Father and Son.

Yet here, too, God’s Spirit is not spoken of as a person. Notice that our fellowship is of the Holy Spirit, not with the Holy Spirit. As 1 John 1:3 1 John 1:3That which we have seen and heard declare we to you, that you also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×
tells us, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” The Holy Spirit is not mentioned.

Paul states that “there is one God, the Father, … and one Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:6 1 Corinthians 8:6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
American King James Version×
). He makes no mention of the Holy Spirit as a divine person.

Other biblical perspectives

Jesus likewise never spoke of the Holy Spirit as a divine third person. Instead, in numerous passages He spoke only of the relationship between God the Father and Himself (Matthew 26:39 Matthew 26:39And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.
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; Mark 13:32 Mark 13:32But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
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; 15:34; John 5:18 John 5:18Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
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; John 5:22 John 5:22For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son:
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; etc.). The Holy Spirit as a person is conspicuously absent from Christ’s teaching in general. Of particular interest in this regard are His many statements about Himself and the Father, especially when He never makes similar statements about Himself and the Holy Spirit.

We should also consider that, in visions of God’s throne recorded in the Bible, although the Father and Christ are seen, the Holy Spirit is never seen (Acts 7:55-56 Acts 7:55-56 55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
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; Daniel 7:9-14 Daniel 7:9-14 9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
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; Revelation 4-5; Revelation 7:10 Revelation 7:10And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.
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). Jesus is repeatedly mentioned as being at the right hand of God, but no one is mentioned as being at the Father’s left hand. Nowhere are three divine persons pictured together in the Scriptures.

Even in the final book of the Bible (and the last to be written), the Holy Spirit as a divine person is absent from its pages. The book describes “a new heaven and new earth” (Revelation 21:1 Revelation 21:1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
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) wherein “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them” (Revelation 21:3 Revelation 21:3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
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). Christ, the Lamb of God, is also present (verse Revelation 21:22 Revelation 21:22And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.
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). The Holy Spirit, however, is again absent—another inexplicable oversight if this Spirit is the third person of a triune God.

Clearly, the Holy Spirit, from the evidence found in the Bible, is not a person in a supposed Trinity. Regrettably, the unbiblical doctrine of the Trinity obscures the scriptural teaching that God is a family—a family which, as we will see, is our ultimate destiny!

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