Some months back I heard a pastor refer to the Holy Spirit as “she.” Hearing the Holy Spirit addressed in the feminine gender seemed odd, almost irreverent, so to settle my own spirit, I did a little digging.
It turns out the Hebrew word for “spirit” (ruach) is feminine
But in Aramaic this same word for “spirit” (rûacḥ) is masculine.
In Genesis 1:26-28 we read, “God created man in his own image. In the image of God created him. Male and female created them.”
God created Adam in his image.
God created Eve in his image.
Both reflect the image of God and yet both are distinctly different.
So is God male? Female? Both?
Grammatical pronouns do not change the biology of a person, nor does calling the Holy Spirit “she” or “he” change the nature of God. We know that the Holy Spirit reflects God’s character (2 Corinthians 3:18). We also know that God’s character does not change (Malachi 3:6).
Yet when Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit, he refers to God’s spirit as “he” and “his.”
“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (John 16:12-14)
In calling the Holy Spirit “he” did Jesus diminish the Spirit’s feminine qualities? God forbid.
If grammar does not change the biology of a person and grammar cannot change the nature of a spirit, does it matter which pronoun we use when addressing God and others?
First, let’s look at the issue of authority. If Jesus called the Holy Spirit “he,” and Jesus is the son of God — by his very nature God in the flesh — then by what authority do we disregard the words and example of Jesus?
Second, there is the issue of authenticity. If a slight grammatical change alters the perception of God’s holiness and unchanging nature, then some might conclude that God affirms our desire to rearrange the furnishing of his temple — to remake his temple into our image. And that’s dangerous business.
God’s temple is holy, and we are that temple. If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Third, there is the issue of agenda. God has an agenda. He desires that all will come to him. Satan has an agenda. His agenda is to sow seeds of confusion, steal the words of God planted in hearts, destroy our faith in Jesus, and leave us dead in our sins.
Consider these words Jesus:
“When he (God’s spirit) comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin, and prove the world to be wrong about righteousness and judgment.
“Wrong about sin because people do not believe in me.
“Wrong about righteousness because I am going to the Father.
“Wrong about judgment because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
“When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears.” (John 16:8-13)
Like Jesus, believers are called to speak what we hear from the Spirit, what we read in God’s word, and what we can testify to be true based on God’s character.
Perhaps the lesson of the sermon is for us to pay close attention to the fruit of the spirits we hear. If that fruit leads to righteousness, repentance, and lives lived as persons redeemed by the blood of Jesus, count that as a good harvest.
If the fruit is rotten, dead, and sown in corruption, leave it and walk on.