Characteristics of the Holy Spirit


The following is excerpted from R.A. Torrey’s article The Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit, available as one of the many free text commentaries at the Blue Letter Bible.


In the previous post, we stated that there are four lines of proof in the Bible that the Holy Spirit is a person (distinct from the other persons of the Trinity). Today, we will discuss the first:

All the distinctive characteristics of personality are ascribed to the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

What are the distinctive characteristics or marks of personality? Knowledge, feeling and will. Any being who knows and feels and wills is a person. When you say that the Holy Spirit is a person, some understand you to mean that the Holy Spirit has hands and feet and eyes and nose, and so on, but these are the marks, not of personality, but of corporeity.

When we say that the Holy Spirit is a person, we mean that He is not a mere influence or power that God sends into our lives but that He is a Being who knows and feels and wills. These three characteristics of personality, knowledge, feeling and will, are ascribed to the Holy Spirit over and over again in the Scriptures.


In 1 Corinthians 2:10,11 we read, “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” Here “knowledge” is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not merely an illumination that comes into our minds, but He is a Being who Himself knows the deep things of God and who teaches us what He Himself knows.


We read again in 1 Corinthians 12:11, R.V., “But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally as He will.” Here “will” is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere influence or power which we are to use according to our wills, but a Divine Person who uses us according to His will. This is a thought of fundamental importance in getting into right relations with the Holy Spirit. Many a Christian misses entirely the fullness of blessing that there is for him because he is trying to get the Holy Spirit to use Him according to his own foolish will, instead of surrendering himself to the Holy Spirit to be used according to His infinitely wise will. I rejoice that there is no divine power that can get hold of and use according to my ignorant will. But how greatly do I rejoice that there is a Being of infinite wisdom who is willing to come into my heart and take possession of my life and use me according to His infinitely wise will.


We read in Romans 8:27, “And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Here “mind” is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The word here translated “mind” is a comprehensive word, including the ideas of thought, feeling and purpose. It is the same word used in Romans 8:7, where we read, “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God. neither indeed can be.” So then, in the passage quoted we have personality in the fullest sense ascribed to the Holy Spirit.


We read still further in Romans 15:30, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me.” Here “love” is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere blind, unfeeling influence or power that comes into our lives. The Holy Spirit is a person who loves as tenderly as God, the Father, or Jesus Christ, the Son. Very few of us meditate as we ought upon the love of the Spirit. Every day of our lives we think of the love of God, the Father, and the love of Christ, the Son, but weeks and months go by, with some of us, without our thinking of the love of the Holy Spirit. Every day of our lives we kneel down and look up into the face of God, the Father and say, “I thank Thee, Father, for Thy great love that led Thee to send Thy only begotten Son down into this world to die an atoning sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary for me.” Every day of our lives we kneel down and look up into the face of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and say, “I thank Thee, Thou blessed Son of God, for that great love of Thine that led Thee to turn Thy back upon all the glory of heaven and to come down to all the shame and suffering of earth to bear my sins in Thine own body upon the cross.” But how often do we kneel down and say to the Spirit, “I thank Thee, Thou infinite and eternal Spirit of God for Thy great love that led Thee in obedience to the Father and the Son to come into this world and seek me out in my lost estate, and to follow me day after day and week after week and year after year until Thou hadst brought me to see my need of a Saviour, and hadst revealed to me Jesus Christ as just the Saviour I needed, and hadst brought me to a saving knowledge of Him.” Yet we owe our salvation just as truly to the love of the Spirit as we do to the love of the Father and the love of the Son.

If it had not been for the love of God, the Father, looking down upon me in my lost condition, yes, anticipating my fall and ruin, and sending His only begotten Son to make full atonement for my sin, I should have been a lost man today. If it had not been for the love of the eternal Word of God, coming down into this world in obedience to the Father’s commandment and laying down His life as an atoning sacrifice for my sin on the cross of Calvary, I should have been a lost man today. But just as truly, if it had not been for the love of the Holy Spirit, coming into this world in obedience to the Father and the Son and seeking me out in all my ruin and following me with never-wearying patience and love day after day and week after week and month after month and year after year, following me into places that it must have been agony for Him to go, wooing me though I resisted Him and insulted Him and persistently turned my back upon Him, following me and never giving me up until at last He had opened my eyes to see that I was utterly lost and then revealed Jesus Christ to me as an all-sufficient Saviour, and then imparted to me power to make this Saviour mine; if it had not been for this long-suffering, patient, never-wearying, yearning and unspeakably tender love of the Spirit to me, I should have been a lost man today.

Intelligence and Goodness

Again we read in Nehemiah 9:20, R. V., “Thou gavest also Thy good Spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not Thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.” Here “intelligence” and “goodness” are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. This does not add any new thought to the passages already considered, but we bring it in here because it is from the Old Testament. There are those who tell us that the personality of the Holy Spirit is not found in the Old Testament. This passage of itself, to say nothing of others, shows us that this is a mistake. While the truth of the personality of the Holy Spirit naturally is not as fully developed in the Old Testament as in the New, none the less the thought is there and distinctly there.


We read again in Ephesians 4:30, “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” In this passage “grief” is ascribed to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a mere impersonal influence or power that God sends into our lives. He is a person who comes to dwell in our hearts, observing all that we do and say and think. And if there is anything in act or word or thought, or fleeting imagination that is impure, unkind, selfish, or evil in any way, He is deeply grieved by it.

This thought once fully comprehended becomes one of the mightiest motives to a holy life and a careful walk. How many a young man, who has gone from a holy, Christian home to the great city with its many temptations, has been kept back from doing things that he would otherwise do by the thought that if he did them his mother might hear of it and that it would grieve her beyond description. But there is One who dwells in our hearts, if we are believers in Christ, who goes with us wherever we go, sees everything that we do, hears everything that we say, observes every thought, even the most fleeting fancy, and this One is purer than the holiest mother that ever lived, more sensitive against sin, One who recoils from the slightest sin as the purest woman who ever lived upon this earth never recoiled from sin in its most hideous forms; and, if there is anything in act, or word, or thought, that has the slightest taint of evil in it, He is grieved beyond description How often some evil thought is suggested to us and we are about to give entertainment to it and then the thought, “The Holy Spirit sees that and is deeply grieved by it,” leads us to banish it forever from our mind.

  • Toby

    Thank you , I seem to forget this so easily. Thank you Holy Spirit in Jesus Name. Toby

  • Donna Sharp

    Never to grieve the Holy Spirit, wonderful goal however I find
    to capture my every thought and keep them in line with the Word of God is far easier said than done especially for this kingdom builder and land conquerer. I have to fight to keep from giving up sometimes. My flesh is worn and weak !!!

    My current battle or testing, maybe it’s a little of both, maybe it’s not even about me, I may just be the sacrafice. However it has stretched this soul beyond it’s ability to handle it to the point all I can do is cry for My Comforter, My Teacher, My Daddy, and My Savior, to help hold me up, be my strength, give me the grace to continue, and not loose my hope. Trust me my Hope is almost gone!

    Moving forward pushing toward the prize and victory is what we do and I must say today I am worn, sick, and ready to give up on this particular battle. This battle which is called the life I live for My King, My Daddy, His Spirit, and His Kingdom here on Earth.

    It is my choice, that I know, however for me it’s not a choice I will change, I agreed to it, he asked, I accepted…

    However, there is something & someone one in my inner most being in my heart that just doesn’t let me, The Holy Spirit Living In me ! When I fall He helps me to get up, when I waiver He says Stop it, When I cry He hugs me. When I am wrong He convicts me. When I just can’t take anymore He calms me.

    I (Donna) want to throw in the towel, say forget this current battle, I will just stay here and find the grace it takes to cope until I have my home in heaven.

    I can’t though, everytime I start to literally throw the towel in and say it’s over I am done and walk away something in me
    ( The Spirit Of God ) (The Holy Spirit) seems to call me to press on, take more land, try harder, believe more.

    He reminds me of the promises, shows me how far I have come, 40+ years in the wildreness makes it truly to hard to turn back. He has me on that one just as the word says…..

    He asks me if not you then who ? The Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

    I can tell you if I was not infilled with His Spirit I would give up on my current battle because it’s just to hard, to long, to complicated, to much to bear, to many tears, to many obsticles, and I could go on without it completed. Or could I ?

    But really it’s not about me at all is it ?

    It’s about Him and what He does and will do for me in his purpose for my life. I prayed for that purpose and plan. I aksed for Him to lead me, I just wouldn’t have chosen this path, guess thats why He is GOD and I am but dust, isn’t

    It’s about His Glory Shining through in my life, my circumstances, my battles, my victories, and my tears….. His promises being fullfiled with victorous results in my battles, my situations, and my feelings.

    Just like written above,I Donna would have given up and just walked through this life unaware, dazed, hard hearted, and missed the whole point….. What point one might ask.

    His unfailing Love, Mercy, and Grace.
    His Promise, The Person ( His Spirit)
    He sent to help me succeed in overcoming this world……

    For that I continue to press on, battered, broken, tired and today even sick. The Spirit, My Holy Spirits’ Love Keeps me going….even when Donna can’t and doesn’t really want to, I do though. Because of His Love and my Love for Him.

    For it is written The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?
    In God I have put my trust,I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

    I pray today Father you bring me into your Truth

    Your Child

    • Mark Hayes


      Thank you God for Chris’ sharing of Mr. R Torrey AND thank you too for Donna.

      Blessed are you O’child of God who weeps, for you shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4.

      Thank you Tess for your encouraging words also. I give thanks to God that He has transferred you each from Satan’s dominion into the glorious light of His Son, Jesus Christ.

      Many a time do my valley’s seem deep and dark, yet in the dark of darkness, there is One who is swift to my side, and especially of recent. It is the Good Shepherd and His Counsellor, the Comforter.

      Though my will oft be stubborn, He is there to break me and bring me to that helpless state [sometimes quite frightful getting there I might add, realisation of self nature] where my one dependence is the Lord Jesus.

      It is a special place to be in, that we may come as one with our Lord in prayer, being still in heart and mind to receieve the sweetness of our God’s heart.

      It is a cherishing state to be in, to know that our God is Love, and that He will never depart. We who once were orphan’s have now been adopted into the house of God, and into His abounding Love, by Jesus Christ.

      “Made Alive” is our new being, when once we were dead in trespasses and sins. Ephesians 2:1.

      It is to the Mount that our dearest Lord and Saviour is calling us. The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:1-12 is the blessing we receive when we await patiently at His feet, feeding off God’s exceedingly great and precious promises, through which we share in His Divine nature 2 Peter 1:4.

      This can only be received through the Holy Spirit who indwells and reveals.

      “Praise God I am satisfied, for me He bled and died”

      Thank you God for Christ’s workmanship in Mr Charles S. Price, writer of “Made Alive”. Truly there is grace to be received from Jesus Christ through His servants.

      This I often speak to my Lord, and the reminder to me is not my own I think but most certainly from He who dwells within…

      “With my own eyes and in my flesh I shall see my Redeemer standing on this earth” [somewhere in the Holy Scriptures spoken by Job].

      I yearn for this time….it is my hope!

      Blessings in Christ & in His love
      Mark Hayes

  • Tess

    Amen Donna and so beautifully said.

    Life can be harder on some of us than others. I know it has been for me. But the more I mature in Christ and hand control over to the Holy Spirit the more I realize that when trials and tribulations come my way my Lord is there to comfort, to guide, to navigate troubled waters and I’ve come to view my trials as opportunities that those with a lighter load don’t get blessed with. They are special events that God gives me for His glory and for my future glory.

    During times that test the soul I get to rise above what human reason would be able to do without the Holy Spirit. I get to love the unlovable. I get to forgive the unforgivable. I get to know first hand how to comfort those in the most pain because I’ve traveled that road. I get to reach out to the sinner with love and compassion because, after all, the sinner is me and they are as loved by Him as I am.

    I get a huge delight at catching satan attempting to hurt me with his tricks of, “you’d be justified to do this or that or not take this or that or etc”.

    God has me here for a reason and in every trial the more like Him I strive to be the deeper and more meaningful my relationship with Him becomes. If my life were easy I dare say He and I would not have such a close relationship. No one after all needs to call on the Lord when there pockets are full of money and they are in Macey’s for every shoe sale and having a lovely time.

    We don’t remember our Lord when we have every earthly comfort. Funny, you’d think those most blessed would be the most thankful but it doesn’t work that way for most people. It always seems that those with the least are the most grateful. I think it’s just human nature that when the going is easy we just go with the flow and forget to thank the Lord.

    When the going is hard we fall to our knees and seek help from our Savior and in so doing we develop such a precious relationship with Him. My human instinct is to ask God for ease, money, health and happiness but I wouldn’t trade my relationship with God for those things now. He’s met and comforted me too many times and I wouldn’t trade those moments for all the worlds silver and gold or all the easy life brings. He blessed me when he made my closet a prayer closet, not a closet full of shoes.

    To me that’s His special favor. Someday when I stand before Him and my life is reviewed there will be events that with the help of the Holy Spirit I had the opportunity to give love where there was hate, comfort where there was distress, a smile where there was a frown, a kind word where there was hostility. Those were opportunities God gave me to be more than I ever thought I could be. To be more like Him and less like me.

    Thank you Lord and thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t make it without Him.

  • Donna Sharp

    Tess, Thanks for the word from the LORD reminding me I am not my own ! In my current suffering my flesh has been crying out why and with your words I am reminded and convicted of the why, Because He was, Because I am His, Because He has chosen this for me at this time. Dying to self, purified by fire, and learning to really be Led by the Spirit and Truely submitting my self will, at least for me is certainly fleshly painful at times. Gloriously exciting at others and at the end of the battle, always an honor with graciousness and love.

    I am reminded of this verse by My teacher, The Holy Spirit as I write.

    James 1:2-3
    Consider it all joy, my brethern, when you encounter various trails,
    knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

    Tess, You are correct that it is an honor to be tested and tried. How easily we forget speaking of my flesh

    He must make sure we are not only willing but prepared for this walk or battle depending on our specific calling.

    Humbly I thank you LORD for the direction you are about to give me when you lead me in the way in which I should go concerning my present trial ans testing. In Yeshua’s Name

  • Tess

    Amen Donna and Mark,
    You know when I think about the trials of Job some things occurs to me. God is omniscient: “having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.” Because He knows the end from the beginning it’s really not a test at all. It may be a trial for us but God uses it as a testimony to others and to angels. God knew before Job was even born every step Job would take and every outcome. He was simply proving something to satan.

    God can’t play dice. If He did He’d win. God allows His beloved children trials for many reasons but He always knows the end result and we are always safe.

    The only question then is how much glory can we give back during those trials? I know through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and because of all God’s promises that the trial is just a proof of something that my little mind can’t quite grasp totally yet.

    You’d think satan would have known that hedge or no hedge God can’t loose. Satan tries so very hard to get us to believe we’ve been abandoned by God, or it’s the anger and wrath of a mean God but we know that God is love and that the hurts of life are satan’s doings. Satan attempts to sabotage the glory of God in order to steal as many from God as he can but a well tried saint like a many faceted diamond glitters much in the Kings crown and brings many to Christ.

    We may admire successful people in a worldly way but a more sure witness is God’s child, who despite hardship continues and overcomes and allows the Holy Spirit’s brilliance to shine as a witness to the world.

    I confess I would rather not have trials and tribulations but if it’s got to happen I wanna shove the glory of my God back in satan’s ugly face. 🙂

  • buhle

    I literally feel like you have opened a part of my mind and spirit that I did not know existed. I cannot begin to tell you how many pieces of my puzzles your blog has put in place for me. Truly grateful I came across your blog.

    • Thanks for sharing, buhle. I’m glad it was an encouragement to you.

  • shoma

    Hi, the blog is absolutely nice. I had many questions regarding Holy Spirit , but when I read this article, many doubts were cleared