Who or what is the Holy Spirit?
Currently we are working through a series of tough questions submitted by members of our congregation. We have chosen six topics to address on Sunday mornings. However, we received many more than six questions! We will be answering several additional questions here on the website in a blog format.
Who or what is the Holy Spirit?
It’s important to understand that the Holy Spirit is a person, not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is the third person of the Trinity and always existed before time and will continue to exist into eternity.
He was present at creation: “…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:2). There are many evidences of his existence throughout the Old Testament. In Exodus 31:3, we read that God filled Bezalel with his Spirit. At the end of his life, David acknowledges in 2 Samuel 23:2 that it was the Spirit of God that spoke through him. Isaiah proclaimed that the Spirit of God was upon him to preach the good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to release the prisoners from darkness and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. And in Joel 2:28, we read that God will pour out his Spirit on all people. These are but a few of the Old Testament examples that speak of the work and role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people who followed God.
In the New Testament we read in each of the four gospels (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33) that Jesus will baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit. Jesus confirms these words when he states, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:16-18).
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity who lives within the true followers of Jesus Christ and testifies about Jesus (John 15:26). He speaks into people’s hearts about the truth of Jesus Christ and teaches the believers how to hear and do God’s will. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). Jesus told his disciples that: “But 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” (John 16:13).
The Holy Spirit is a gift that believers have been given to live a life that reflects the character of Christ. In Galatians 5:22, we read that the fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” As we listen to the voice of the Spirit in our lives, he produces these qualities in us; we aren’t able to practice these characteristics without him.
Another aspect of the Holy Spirit is the capacity and power to give us gifts that build up the body of Christ. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them” (1 Corinthians 12:4), and, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11).
So, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” He is a guide, a helper, a teacher, a counselor, a giver of good gifts. But he can only be these things in our lives if we let him. He will not force himself on us, but as we take time in our daily lives to listen to his voice, he will change us from the inside out to become more and more like Christ, and live a life of love as Jesus did when he lived on earth. The deep ministry of the Holy Spirit is stated in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11: “these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
(All Scripture references are from the New International Version.)