One of the chief objections that Jehovah’s Witnesses have toward orthodox Christianity is a denial of the personhood or personality of the Holy Spirit (along with a denial of Christ’s deity and a host of other fundamental beliefs). Because JW’s deny the Trinity, by default they must deny that the Holy Spirit is a divine person at all, instead depersonalizing Him to a power or force.
Conversely, orthodox Christianity recognizes and has always recognized that the Spirit is God, the third member of the Trinity. In John 16, Jesus offers great comfort to His disciples by assuring them that His departure is for their good because He will send another “Helper” or Paraclete.
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
Twist and turn as they may, there really is no consistent way to interpret this passage other than that the Holy Spirit is indeed a person and member of the Triune God-head. Interpreting this passage to represent the Spirit of God as an inanimate force or power simply violates the entirety of the context and meaning. That said, there are even clearer passages on the operation of the Spirit that make an even stronger argument that He is more than a mere power or force, but instead does indeed operate as God.
In the book of Acts, perhaps more than any other book, the operations of the Holy Spirit are recorded in abundance. No coincidence that this book contains the “giving” and “filling” of the Holy Spirit, so it makes sense that we would find a variety of operations by the Spirit on display in this book. Note below a sample of passages that assert clearly that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is indeed a person, not just “a person”, but indeed God.
- Acts 5:3-4, 9 “3 But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 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.’” “9But Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’”
In this passage we have the familiar account of Ananias and Sapphira, the husband and wife team that had promised to give the money from the sale of their land to the apostle’s (a vow they were free to NOT make), but instead lied and withheld some of the funds. If the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force, as the Jehovah’s Witness contends, then how can Ananias lie to Him? Furthermore, in the very same passage, Peter connects his accusation, “lie to the Holy Spirit” with “you have not lied to man but to God” giving a clear indication of the “personhood” and deity of the Holy Spirit. In verse 9, where Peter is now confronting the wife, Sapphira, we see that she and her husband have tested the “Spirit of the Lord”. In this passage the Spirit has been lied to and tested, clearly asserting that the Spirit is not simply an impersonal force or power.
In the New World Translation, the false and apostate translation that the Jehovah’s Witness use, the translation is nearly identical, so this would be a case where you could use their own translation to disprove their beliefs.
- Acts 5:32 “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Again, we see briefly in this passage that the Holy Spirit is a “witness” along with the apostles. Try using the fact the Holy Spirit is the True witness of Jehovah in your next encounter with the JW’s!
Acts 8:29 “And the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over and join this chariot.’”
The Spirit is speaking to Philip in this passage, instructing him to join the Ethiopian in his chariot for the purpose of testifying the death and resurrection of Christ to him (using Isaiah 53!). In the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witness, you’ll find the same wording, however the word “spirit” is lower case. That should not distract or deter you from the truths of this passage. The capitalization of the word in the ESV or some of the more reliable translations is simply and interpretive clue to alert you that the context regards the Spirit as God.
- Acts 10:19 “And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you.”
- Acts 13:2-4 “2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
- Acts 21:11 “And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’.’”
- Acts 28:25 “And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: ‘The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:’”
Pretty straightforward in these four passages, once again we have communication from the Spirit to a man. Communication that could not (and did not) come from an impersonal force or power, but from a member of the God-head. Additionally, in the second passage from Acts 13, we find that it is the Holy Spirit Who has sent out the apostles to Seleuicia and Cyprus. Once again, the NWT affirms this reading.
- Acts 15:28 “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements”
- Acts 16:6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
In the first passage above we find that the Holy Spirit has communicated approval of the Apostle’s actions, while in the second the Holy Spirit has restrained Paul from speaking the word in Asia.
To assert that the Holy Spirit is a force or power violates not only the meaning and context of the passages listed above, but indeed the English language and the Koine Greek language in which Acts was originally written. If you kindly, but boldly walk a Jehovah’s Witness through several of the key passages highlighted above, it’s likely they will stare blankly at you with incredulity. Do not back off. I’ve talked to JW’s who have been in the cult for decades and they simply have no response to these verses. Nevertheless, the truth will be presented to them.
It’s not your job to convince or convict them of their heresy, it is the Spirit’s. He will do it, if and when He sees fit to lift the scales from their eyes, giving them a heart of repentance, and opening their ears to receive the words of truth. Be faithful in your witness and always be prepared to give a defense to anyone that asks for a reason for the hope that is within you.