Who or what is the “Spirit of the Lord” in Isaiah Chapter 40:13-14

“Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? 14 With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14 )

It is believed by many that the Holy Spirit is a separate distinct, personal being not unlike how God the Father and His Son are individual beings. The reason being, that the Scriptures refer to the Holy Spirit as “He” and is said to be displaying all the attributes of a “person” and is seemingly doing things that a real person would do.

Thus, for those who believe that the Holy Spirit is a separate being, they conclude that the “Spirit of the Lord” mentioned in Isa 40:13-14 is another being, distinguished from Father’s own spirit, who has his own independent mind and cognition, etc.

But Let’s compare Isa 40:13-14 with Roman 11:33-36

33 “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For WHO HATH KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD? OR WHO HATH BEEN HIS COUNSELLOR?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 FOR OF HIM, AND THROUGH HIM, AND TO HIM, ARE ALL THINGS: to whom be glory for ever. Amen. (Roman 11:33-36-KJV)

Amplified version bares this out a little more clearly:

33 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways!
34 FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO HAS BEEN HIS COUNSELOR?
35 Or who has first given to Him that it would be paid back to him?
36 For from Him [all things originate] and through Him [all things live and exist] and to Him are all things [directed]. To Him be glory and honor forever Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36-AMP)

Note: It is evident that Roman 11:33-36 makes clear allusions to Isaiah 40:13-14 and also defines for us who or what the “Spirit of the Lord” is in Isa 40:13-14… It is the “MIND OF THE LORD” where the wisdom and knowledge of God resides.

What the passage in Isa 40:13-14 therefore is saying is that God’s mind is “unsearchable” and “his judgments, and his ways past finding out”. “Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?” In other words, no one has taught nor counseled him “knowledge, nor “shewed to him the way of understanding;” His Wisdom and knowledge does not come from anyone or anywhere else but that God Himself is the source. “FOR OF HIM, AND THROUGH HIM, AND TO HIM, ARE ALL THINGS.” (Rom 11:36)

IT MIGHT BE HELPFUL HERE TO COMPARE HUMAN’S SPIRIT WITH GOD’S SPIRIT

Notice the following passage by apostle Paul to the believers in Corinth:

“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. (1Co 2:10, 11)

Some (trinitarians) regard this passage as another example to prove and to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit has his own mind and therefore conclude that he is an independent individual not unlike God the Father and the Son searching the “deep things of God”.

What does Paul mean when he stated, “for the spirit searchesth all things, yea, the deep things of God”? Is Paul saying that the Holy Spirit is a separate being who is searching “the deep things of God”, Who is another individual altogether?

What does Paul mean when he stated, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him”? Is the “man” and the “spirit of man” two separate individuals?

Further questions are then raised… Can a man’s own spirit search his own mind? And how does the spirit of a man know the things of a man?

Let’s take a look at how David’s own spirit “MADE DILIGENT SEARCH” of his own mind, as he pondered the “works of the Lord”:

“I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and MY SPIRIT MADE DILIGENT SEARCH. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? 8 Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? 9 Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah. 10 And I said, This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. 11 I WILL REMEMBER THE WORKS OF THE LORD: SURELY I WILL REMEMBER THY WONDERS OF OLD.” (Psalm 77:6-11)

Here we find that David communed with his own heart in that David’s own spirit “made diligent search” of his own heart/mind.

Is David’s spirit “another person,” a separate individual, searching deep things of David’s own mind? Obviously not! We can agree then that the spirit of a man belongs to the man and is an integral part of the man and yet can search his own mind, seemingly independent of the person himself.

Therefore, what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 2:11 (“For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him”) is that, a person’s spirit knows its owner and it searches and remembers his own thoughts and knows what is in his own mind; a person’s “spirit” therefore knows himself better than anyone else.

Now let’s examine how Paul draws a comparison between God’s Spirit and man’s spirit when he stated, “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.” (1Cor 2:11)

Paul says, “EVEN SO”. Greek phrase “houtous kai” literally means “and in this way” or “in this same manner.” Which is to say, IN THE SAME MANNER that the man’s spirit knows the things of a man, God’s OWN Spirit searches His own thoughts and knows what is in His mind. No one else knows, except God Himself. Suffice it to say, the Spirit is not another person but rather it is God’s own Spirit.

Now I want you to notice something important from this following statement:

“When Adam came from the Creator’s hand, he bore, in his physical, mental, AND SPIRITUAL NATURE, A LIKENESS TO HIS MAKER. ‘God created man in His own image’ (Genesis 1:27), and it was His purpose that the longer man lived the more fully he should reveal this image–the more fully reflect the glory of the Creator. {Ed 15.1} 

Why is this important? We are
told here that man’s “spiritual nature” has a “likeness to his Maker”. Not unlike how Adam had a likeness of form/shape that was similar to God, man also has a spirit just as God has a Spirit-a mind to reason, to think and to be self-ware.

Thus, Paul’s writing in Rom 11:33-36 and 1Cor 2:10-16, clearly explains what the Spirit of God is in Isaiah 40:13,14. According to Paul, it is evident that not unlike how human spirit belongs to a man and is integral part of who that person is and therefore knows his own self, Spirit of the Lord is no different (though it functions like a “person” outside of Himself) that it also belongs to God and knows His own self.

But apparently, we can know of God or of His “hidden wisdom”(1 Cor. 2:7) by having the mind of Christ…. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16)

Further Comparison between God and Man’s Spirit

God’s Spirit can talk and direct (Acts 8:29; 10:19,20; 13:2-4), can forbid (Acts 16:6,7), can teach (John 14:26; 16:13), can comfort (John 14:16,18), can author prophecy (2 Pet 1:21), has a will (1 Cor 12:11), has a mind (Romans 8:27), has intellect (1 Cor 2:11), can love (Rom 15:30), can be grieved/vexed (Eph 4:30, Isa 63:10), can be tempted (Acts 5:9), can be lied to (Acts 5:4,5).

While we had already come to the view that the Spirit is the mind of God/Christ, let’s further look at what the Bible says about man’s spirit and how it correlates with God’s Spirit:

Can have joy (Col 2:5, Luke 10:21; 1:47), can behold (Col 2:5), can be troubled (2 Cor 2:13, John 13:21, Dan 2:1, 3, Psa 143:7, Job 21:4, Gen 41:8), can be refreshed (1 Cor 16:18, 2 Cor 7:13, Luke 8:55, 1 Sam 30:12, Jdg 15:19, Gen 45:27), can bless (1 Cor 14:16), prays (1 Cor 14:14), judges (1 Cor 5:3), can be fervent (Rom 12:11, Acts 18:25), serves God (Rom 1:9), purposes/makes decisions (Acts 19:21), can be stirred (Acts 17:16, Hag 1:14, 2 Chron 36:22, 1 Chron 5:26), can groan (John 11:33), has will (Mark 14:38, Matt 26:41, Exo 35:21), can be poor (Matt 5:3), can be grieved/vexed (Dan 7:15, Isa 65:14; 54:6, Eccl 1:14,17 etc), can faint (Eze 21:7), can be haughty/prideful or humble/patient (Isa 66:2; 57:15, Eccl 7:8, Pro 29:23, 16:18-19, Psa 34:18), can err (Isa 29:24), can search (Isa 26:9, Psa 77:6), can be hasty (Eccl 8:8, Pro 14:29), can be controlled (Pro 25:28, 16:32), can be broken/wounded (Pro 18:14; 17:22; 15:13, Psa 51:17), can be faithful (Pro 11:13), can be overwhelmed (Psa 142:3, 143:4), can be steadfast (Psa 78:8), can have anguish (Job 7:11, Exo 6:9), can be sorrowful (1 Kings 21:5, 1 Sam 1:15)

Now… This further supports the earlier notes thus far that what man’s spirit is to man, God’s Spirit is to God – with the exception that God’s Spirit is not confined to His body. Therefore, God’s Spirit presents itself and is spoken of as a third manifestation (or a “third person”).

Salient point here is that each respective spirit (man or God’s) both convey a sense of having its own individual, personal attributes and yet we know that the man’s spirit or God’s Spirit respectively are not another separate individual beings.

Spirit extends beyond the bodily form

According to 1 Corinthians 2:11, we see another parallel between God and His spirit compared to the man and his spirit. Your spirit is who you are, and God’s spirit is who He is. But if you read the text carefully you will notice that when talking about man’s spirit the Bible says “which is in him”, but it does not say so when talking about God’s. The reason being, God’s spirit is not confined to His bodily form.

However, it is interesting note that even though Paul makes this comparison and says that man’s spirit is “in him”, in chapter 5 of the same letter, Paul talks of his own “spirit” being “present” where he is not bodily located.

“For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1Corinthian 5:3,4

Paul presents this within the context of a same letter where the comparison is made between man’s spirit and God’s Spirit. Paul says, being “present in spirit” was as though he was present in Corinth when the church came to judge. In Paul’s mind, he was present because he (1) had KNOWLEDGE of the issue (“It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you”-1Cor. 5:1) and (2) had given his WORDS of judgement to influence their decision. Thus the idea of God’s “spirit” and “presence” can be extended from His bodily form can be compared with human spirit. God can also extend his presence via his omniscience-He sees and He knows:

“‘The Lord’s throne is in heaven’ (Psalm 11:4); YET BY HIS SPIRIT HE IS EVERYWHERE PRESENT. He has an intimate knowledge of, and a personal interest in, all the works of His hand.” { E. G. White, Education , p. 132}

And not unlike how Paul’s presence was felt by having given his “words” of Judgement to influence the decision of the church at Corinth, we can also experience the presence of God through having his Word abiding in us:

“THE CREATIVE ENERGY that called the worlds into existence IS IN THE WORD OF GOD. THIS WORD IMPARTS POWER; IT BEGATS LIFE. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, IT BRINGS WITH IT THE LIFE OF THE INFINITE ONE. IT TRANSFORMS the nature and RE-CREATES THE SOUL in the image of God.” — Education, p. 126

“WHEN HIS WORDS OF INSTRUCTION HAVE BEEN RECEIVED, and have TAKEN POSSESSION of us, JESUS IS TO US AN ABIDING PRESENCE, CONTROLLING OUR THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS. We are imbued with the instruction of the greatest Teacher the world ever knew. A sense of human accountability and the value of human influence gives character to our views of life and of daily duties. Jesus Christ is everything to us,–the first, the last, the best in everything. Jesus Christ, his Spirit and character, colors everything; it is the warp and the woof, the very texture of our entire being. THE WORDS OF CHRIST ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE. We can not then center our thoughts upon self; it is no more we that live, but Christ that liveth in us, and he is the hope of glory. Self is dead, but Christ is a living Saviour. Continuing to look unto Jesus, we reflect his image to all around us. We can not stop to consider our disappointments, or even to talk of them; for a more pleasant picture attracts our sight,–the precious love of Jesus. HE DWELLS IN US BY THE WORD OF TRUTH. — ST, September 3, 1896 par. 6

While the Bible does draw an analogy to man and the spirit of man with God and the Spirit of God, this analogy is not exact
nor exhaustive as a comprehensive comparison. In other words, God’s Holy Spirit is vastly different than man’s spirit and the “NATURE” (NOT THE IDENTITY) of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. The one main difference is the source of the Spirit, one being the infinite God and the other being merely finite human. God’s Holy Spirit can be omnipresent, functions as His representative, works independently, can be shed abroad, gives life and vitality to the soul, creates new heart and that it can also be conferred onto others wherein He/It can dwell in a person’s heart, etc.

Spirit vs. Mind

“And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit [Strongs G4151: pneuma] that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?” (Mark 2:8)

Jesus perceived [Strong’s G1921: epiginwskw – epiginosko “to know, that is to understand”] in His Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus is where He knew and understood things. The Spirit of Jesus is the mind of Jesus.

“And the Spirit [ruwach H7307] of the LORD fell upon me, and said unto me, Speak; Thus saith the LORD; Thus have ye said, O house of Israel: for I know the things that come into your mind [ruwach H7307], every one of them.” (Ezekiel 11:5)

Note: In this verse ruwach was translated “spirit” in one place, and “mind” in another.

Clearly you can see that the spirit of an individual is the mind or thinking of that individual. (See Gen 41:8, Psalm 77:3, Daniel 2:1-3; 7:15, John11:33, John 13:21, Isaiah 40:13, Romans 11:34)

Paul also said in the letter to the Romans,

“The Spirit itself beareth witness WITH OUR SPIRIT, that we are the children of God:” Romans 8:16

Question: How does God’s Spirit beareth witness with our spirit? How does God communicate with us? It is through our mind!

“But THERE IS A SPIRIT IN MAN: and the inspiration of the ALMIGHTY GIVETH THEM UNDERSTNDING.” Job 32:8

For further comparison, below are some examples of how the Bible describes the human spirit:

“And it came to pass in the morning that HIS SPIRIT WAS TROUBLED; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.” Genesis 41:8

“But Jezebel his wife came to him, and said unto him, WHY IS THY SPIRIT SO SAD, that thou eatest no bread?” 1 Kings 21:5

“As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, WHY SHOULD NOT MY SPIRIT BE TROUBLED?” Job 21:4

“In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and MY SPIRIT WAS OVERWHELMED. Selah.” Psalm 77:2-3

“A new heart also will I give you, and a NEW SPIRIT [ruach] will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT [ruach] within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26 -27

Notice two things happening here! One is that God renews our spirit and the other is that He puts His Spirit (the Holy Spirit) within us.

When visiting Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist), Mary the mother of Jesus said, “And MY SPIRIT REJOICED in God my Saviour.” Luke 1:47

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD STIRRED UP THE SPIRIT OF CYRUS KING OF PERSIA, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,” 2 Chronicles 36:22

Note: we would not say that Cyrus and his spirit make two entities would we? Cyrus’s spirit would not form “another” Cyrus but it belongs to Cyrus .

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, HE GROANED IN THE SPIRIT, AND WAS TROUBLED.” John 11:33

Note: Jesus experienced His emotions in His spirit.

Thus, the Bible writers depict human spirit as displaying all the attributes of a person yet strange to relate, our spirits are never regarded as a separate personage other than ourselves so why should we believe differently regarding God’s Spirit (the Holy Spirit)?

Looking at this in another way, because we regard our spirit as belonging to us “Spirit of man” (separate but integral part of the person), why should we not regard “Spirit of God” as belonging to Him (separate but integral part of His Personhood)?

Holy Spirit is a Person

One thing to keep in mind here is that while holy Spirit is the actual Spirit of God and He/It personifies the Man Christ Jesus (that is, it is the very experiences of Jesus in humanity that the Holy Spirit now conveys to us as the Comforter). It is also true that the holy Spirit, the “third person of the Godhead” functions as a distinct personality.

The Word of God reveals clearly that the attributes of life and personhood are applied directly to the holy Spirit. Why should it be a surprise to any of us that God has a living Spirit and that It operates throughout the universe as a living “person”, interacting with angels and men on His behalf? Even the human spirit has amazing abilities that we cannot fully explain so then how much more so God’s Spirit, especially since He can project It or Himself outside of His bodily presence. And especially since It is more than just Himself but also the Spirit of His Son? The point here is that the Bible evidence clearly affirms Mrs. White’s direct statements and shows that referring to It (or Him) as one of “three living persons of the heavenly trio” or “the third person of the Godhead” (DA 671) is correct. Let us now look at this evidence in God’s Word.

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come (John 16:13)

Here we see that the Spirit can hear for Jesus said “He shall hear.”

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils (1 Tim 4:1)

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:2)

Here we see that the Spirit can speak (albeit this might always be internally and never externally and audibly) but it is speaking nonetheless and expressly so.

“John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirit
s
which are before his throne (Rev 1:4)

Here we see that the Spirit (aka: 7 Spirits) sends “grace and peace” to the 7 churches equally with the Father and Son. This is inclusion in an apostolic greeting which is usually two-fold but here it is a trio!

“For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; (Acts 15:28)

“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will (1 Cor 12:8-11)

Here we see that the holy Spirit can be a deciding agent.

“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. (Rom 8:27)

Here we see that the holy Spirit has a “mind” or thoughts.

“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption (Eph 4:30)

Here we see that the Spirit can be grieved, which is an emotive capability.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. (2 Cor 13:14)

Here we see that the holy Spirit has “communion” or fellowship that can be with us all.

As the verses above demonstrate, we have a clear cognitive and emotive capability associated with the holy Spirit. What else would you call an entity that can hear and speak? And the Bible evidence shows that the Spirit does this even in relationship to God and Christ! This should be no surprise because the spirit of man actually relates to man similarly but that’s another topic. Yet this same Spirit also does this outside of the bodily forms of God and Christ and does so in relationship to us. I could pull up some verses on this matter too but I’ll hold off for now. What else is an entity that has cognitive and emotive capabilities? In fact there can even be a visible manifestation of this mysterious Spirit (i.e. the dove manifestation seen at the baptism). Do you have any word better to describe all of this than person? If so what? Now all of this is not to say that the Spirit is a Person in the exact same way that God the Father and His only begotten Son are Persons but there is not Biblical reason to deny that the Spirit is the “third person”, “a living person of the heavenly trio”.

Masculine pronoun is not always used to refer to the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word pneuma, translated as “spirit” (but also translated “wind” and “breath” in the New Testament) is a grammatically neuter word.

So, in the Greek language, pronouns equivalent to the English “it,” “its,” “itself,” “which” or “that” should have been used in referring to this word translated into English as “spirit.”

Yet we usually find personal rather than neutral pronouns when referring to the Holy Spirit in English (i.e. John 16:13-14; Romans 8:26).

However, this isn’t always the case. Notice that in some passages in the King James Version the translators did use the proper neuter pronouns.

For example, Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit itself [not himself ] beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

Similarly, Romans 8:26 says “the Spirit itself [again, not himself ] maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

In these cases the translators correctly used neuter pronouns because the Greek word pneuma, translated “Spirit,” is neuter in gender.

Another example is Matthew 10:20, where Jesus says: “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which [not who ] speaketh in you.”

Another is 1 Peter 1:11, which refers to “the Spirit of Christ which [again, not who ] was in them.” The King James Version translators did use the proper neuter pronouns in these verses.

*Regrettably, later English translators of the Bible have gone further than the King James translators in referring to the Holy Spirit with masculine rather than neuter pronouns. Thus the Holy Spirit is almost always referred to as “he” or “him” in the more modern versions. This reflects not linguistic accuracy, but the doctrinal bias.

Having said this, Holy Spirit is a “person” in the sense that it is the very presence of the Father and the Son and functions like a person imbued with the Father and Son’s personality but in a spiritual form… thus, “He” designation is also appropriate.

Additional notes:

If the spirit of Christ is a separate being, who is the spirit of Man?

“Every day feel that YOUR SPIRIT is to assimilate to CHRIST’S SPIRIT. Let your heart go out wherever you are in earnest supplication
for help from God;” Ellen White {Ms8-1886}

“The SPIRIT OF CHRIST IS GRIEVED when you say things that are severe.” Ellen White {Lt260-1908}.

“Day and night MY SPIRIT IS GRIEVED, as I see so little real devotion, so little earnest, determined effort to rise to a higher standard. O how much precious time is trifled on unimportant lines of work.” Ellen White {Lt19-1905}

Notes: Just because “spirit” is given a personal attribute (“grieved”) does not necessarily mean that it is an entirely separate individual.

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