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Paul Melton

John Augustus Williams in his biography The Life of Elder John Smith recounts,

While the young Buckner Payne was preaching at Ohio Locust in 1827, everyone marveled at how one so young could preach with so much power…During his discourse, he occasionally spoke of the “Holy Ghost” but “Raccoon” John Smith who sat behind him promptly corrected him before the people more than once, “Say the Holy Spirit, my brother” (The Life of Elder John Smith by John Augustus Williams)

Brother John Smith’s public correction of this young preacher’s phrase should serve as a lesson to us all. The Holy Spirit is not a ghost or an ethereal energy. In the KJV, “Holy Spirit” and “Holy Ghost” translate the same Greek expression.  The Greek word for “ghost” (phantasma) is never used to refer to the Holy Spirit. A ghost is the spirit of a deceased human.  Instead, in reference to the Holy Spirit, the Greek word pneuma  is invariably used. Modern translations have corrected the unfortunate rendering in the KJV of “Holy Ghost”.

Referring to Him as a “ghost” has contributed to the erroneous notion of him being an apparition or nebulous energy as the “Jehovah’s witnesses” teach. In fact, to refer to the Holy Spirit using the impersonal neuter pronoun “it” is highly disrespectful, for He is a distinct personality in the Godhead.  In Acts 5:1-4, he is referred to as the God who was lied to. He is a “He”. This is clear by the use of the personal pronoun “he” used in reference to Him in John 14:16-17. 

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

So I join with “Raccoon” John Smith and encourage you to “Say ‘Holy Spirit’, my brother” for He is God, not a ghost. He is not an “it”, but the holy personality who revealed the Sacred Scriptures of the New Covenant, the precious writings whereby we must be saved. 


Additional comments regarding John 14:16, 17 which was mentioned in the above article:


These words were spoken to the eleven apostles on the night of Christ’s betrayal.  Jesus would soon be crucified and ascend into heaven.  In Christ’s physical absence, who would give the apostles spiritual guidance?  Jesus would ask the Father to send the “Comforter” (lit. Advisor/Counselor/Advocate), who would dwell in them and be their Counselor.

John 14:26  “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But 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, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

This is not a universal promise, but a one specifically directed to the apostles at “The Last Supper” (John 13).  This is particularly evident at the conclusion on this Farewell discourse (John 14-17) in our Lord’s high priestly prayer which He spoke in John 17:20.  In this verse, Jesus distinguishes between “these” (the apostles) and “them” who shall believe on Him through their word.

Thus, the Holy Spirit would become the apostles’ Counsellor and speak from within them.

Mark 13:11  “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” 

They required these supernatural revelations from the Holy Spirit during the interim in which the New Testament Scriptures were being completed. Just as the Spirit of Christ was “in” the Old Testament prophets (1 Peter 1:11), so the same Spirit would be “in” the apostles (John 14:17), and in those upon whom they laid their hands (Acts 8:18).  It is through them, that today we have in our possession the “perfect” or “complete” revelation of God.  We have “all Scriptures” that we may be “thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (1 Timothy 3:16,17).  We need no additional revelations from Him.  Today, the Holy Spirit continues to counsel us through His living oracles recorded by those apostles and prophets whose pen He guided. Thanks be to God the Holy Spirit for His inspiration and superintendence in the production of the Bible to provide us with original manuscripts which were both inerrant and infallible.

[Note: The original manuscripts penned by the apostles and prophets are no longer in existence, probably to prevent people from worshiping them. However, thousands of copies of those original manuscripts exist, many very ancient, copied with the greatest of care and exactitude, thus demonstrating God’s astounding preservation of His written revelation.]

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Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”