Who is the Holy Spirit?
If God had not revealed Himself to man, man would be oblivious to his own existence. Despite God’s general revelation in the natural world, and special revelation in the Bible, many remain blinded to God’s revelation (2 Cor 4:4). This was evident when the Son of God was sent from heaven to reveal God the Father. Some believed in Him, and others did not believe in Him. Immense and innumerable are the obstacles in the way of man knowing God in truth. If God wills for a person to know Him, God will do what is required to accomplish His will.
When God allows a person to know Him, she discovers there really is only one God. Growing in grace and knowledge allows the illumined soul to see that God is in community. In other words, there is more than one person. In fact, God reveals there are three persons in the triune Godhead. They are one God, co-eternal and co-equal. Although they all participate in the works of God, at times it is revealed that subordination takes place between them. The Bible refers to them as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The name of God the Father is Yahweh, which is translated, “I am.” The name of God the Son is Jesus, which is translated, “Yahweh saves.” God the Spirit is not identified by name.
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Many titles are given to the Holy Spirit on the pages of Scripture: Helper (Jn 16:7); Comforter (Jn 14:16); Teacher (Jn 14:26); Spirit of truth (Jn 16:13); Lord (2 Cor 3:17); Spirit of God (Rom 8:14); Spirit of the living God (2 Cor 3:3); Spirit of His Son (Gal 4:6); etc. To clarify that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, the Bible also distinguishes His personality by using the pronouns “He” and “Him” (Jn 15:26; Jn 16:7–8; Eph 1:13–14). His personality is also observed in how people treat Him. People lie to (Acts 5:3); insult (Heb 10:29); grieve (Eph 4:30); blaspheme against (Mk 3:29); resist (Acts 7:51); and quench (1 Thess 5:19) the Spirit.
Jesus gave the baptismal formula to His disciples, just before His ascension into heaven, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19).” The deity of the Holy Spirit and the affirmation of the Trinity is given by Jesus Christ. When someone reads the Bible and wishes to observe the key Trinitarian passages, a word search for “Spirit” will help immensely. This same study will reveal that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, especially in the lives of God’s chosen people (Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13).
God the Father (Jn 14:16) and God the Son (15:26) sent the Spirit into the world (1 Cor 2:12) following King Jesus’ enthronement in heaven. The Holy Spirit knows everything (1 Cor 2:10–11) and is present everywhere (Ps 139:7). He is the eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14), who is holy (Rom 1:4) and all-powerful (Ps 104:30).
The Holy Spirit was the direct agent in Creation (Gen 1:2). He empowered many of the Old Testament saints to accomplish God’s will for Israel. He conceived Jesus in the womb of the virgin girl, at Nazareth (Lk 1:35–37). He anointed Christ and others for ministry (Mt 3:16; Acts 20:28). He is the intimate agent creating people as living creatures (Gen 2:7; Job 33:4); and He is the intimate agent causing spiritual birth (regeneration).
By indwelling those He made alive in Christ, the Spirit appropriates the life of God in the Christian. Paul said, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20b).” In both testament eras, it was the Holy Spirit who carried along prophets and apostles to write the books of the Bible (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 3:16). The Bible is said to be, “God-breathed,” which has the same Greek root as “Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit fills the man of God to preach the Bible (1 Pet 1:10–12). This was true of the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and preachers in every generation. If the Spirit gave us the Bible, then it is the Spirit that causes a man to study and know the Bible, so he can preach in the Spirit. Preaching should be powerful, as a demonstration of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:4).
The Holy Spirit also gifts and equips the saints, for the works prepared for them, from the foundation of the world (Gal 5:21–22; Eph 2:10). When one does a doctrinal study of the Holy Spirit, it is often amazing how much is revealed about the person and work of the Spirit. Still, most Christians are deficient in their knowledge because the Spirit is always pointing to Christ, bearing witness of Christ (Acts 1:8). We must learn Christ from the Spirit, even as we learn of the Spirit from the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit causes each one of God’s elect people to be born again (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3), born of God (Jn 1:13). This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13), a washing of regeneration and renewal (Titus 3:5), and a fire of purification (Mt 3:11). He takes up permanent residence in the regenerate believer (Jn 14:16–17; Rom 8:9, 11). He makes us alive in Christ (Eph 2:5) and empowers our Christian living (Jn 6:63), by filling the believer (Eph 5:18–21).
The Holy Spirit guides the believer into all truth (Jn 16:13). He employs the Word of truth as His instrument of sanctification (Jn 17:17). The Christian responds to God the Spirit by yielding (Rom 6:13, 19; 12:1–2), especially in obedience to God’s Word (Eph 6:17; Col 3:15–17). The Holy Spirit ensures the believer’s perseverance through life and death, by sealing the saint until the day of redemption (Eph 1:13; 4:30). This is God’s guarantee of eternal life (2 Cor 1:22).
God commands His people to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), but the Holy Spirit is an ever present, internal help in doing God’s will and good pleasure (Phil 2:13). As the Psalmist says, “I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me (Ps 57:2).” The prophet Isaiah saw God at work, “Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly, I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it (Isa 46:11).” The Father and the Son are transcendent in the heavens, but the Holy Spirit is quite immanent and active in the world. We might say that the Holy Spirit is the most faithful doer of the Word.
By representing the kingdom of God in this world, the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (Jn 16:8); while giving God’s people righteousness, peace, and joy (Rom 14:17). The Spirit of God is bringing the eternal decree of God to fruition in space and time. The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17), but the Holy Spirit is restraining evil (2 Thess 2:7), while empowering God’s people for service, giving them gifts. God’s regenerate elect receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Jn 20:22; Acts 1:8; 2:33, 38). He leads them (Eph 6:17), guides them, intercedes for them in prayer, giving the children of God access to the Father (Eph 2:18), building up the body of Christ, the church, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:22).
Union with Christ is the believer’s delight (Jn 17:23). We are seated with Christ in the heavens (Eph 2:6). At the same time, Christ is in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). The Spirit of Christ is the indwelling Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), who is at work conforming us to the image of God’s Son (Rom 8:29).
The Son of Man came not be served, but to serve, and the greatest of His followers will be servants of all. Service comes in many gifted positions: apostles; prophets; evangelists; shepherds; and teachers (Eph 4:11). These are Spirit appointed positions, with Spirit apportioned gifting, to perform works of service (1 Cor 12:28). God’s people possess a diversity of God’s gifts, often manifested according to their faith (Rom 12:6). All of the Spirit’s gifts are important to the body of Christ, although some offices and gifts have become obsolete.
The Holy Spirit is daily renewing Christians (2 Cor 4:16), sanctifying them (2 Thess 2:13) over their lifetimes (2 Cor 3:18) and toward glorification (Rom 8:30). Every dimension of the Christian’s life is dominated by the Holy Spirit, for the benefit of the believer. No self-help plan or program or power could ever accomplish the will of God. Only God working, as the potter forms the clay, does the glory of God manifest, according to the eternal purpose of God (Jer 18; Rom 9:20–21; Eph 3:11).
The means of grace or spiritual disciplines of the Christian are all works of the Holy Spirit. When a Christian prays, she does so in the Spirit (Eph 6:18). When she cannot pray, the Spirit prays for her (Rom 8:26). She sings in the Spirit (1 Cor 14:15). We worship in Spirit and truth (Jn 4:23). We have fellowship in the Spirit (2 Cor 13:14; Phil 2:1). The man of God preaches in the Spirit (Lk 4:18; Rom 15:19). We receive the Word and sacrament (baptism and Lord ’s Supper), by His gracious Spirit.
Who is the Holy Spirit? We have learned a few things in our concise study. First, He is God, the third person of the Trinity. Second, He represents the Godhead’s working in the world, today, restraining evil and empowering God’s people. Third, He is the source of God’s Word of revelation to man. Fourth, He is the primary agent of preaching Christ, through empowered witnesses. Fifth, He is the active agent in the spiritual birth, spiritual life, and perseverance of every believer. Sixth, He fills every Christian, thus the whole church, with His glorious indwelling presence. Seventh, everything accomplished in the will of God, as it pertains to our union with Christ, is done by the Holy Spirit. Eighth, because everything is attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit, it is the Spirit that ensures all honor, and glory, and praise are given to the Son and to the Father.
My dear reader, you have learned of the Holy Spirit. People daily resist, grieve, quench, and even blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work is to bear witness of Jesus Christ to you. It is the Holy Spirit, enlightening your understanding and warming your heart to the knowledge and love of Christ. Is He opening your heart to respond? Life in the Spirit of Christ is far superior to your life of sin. If you hear in your soul, the call of the Spirit of Christ, to repent of sin and to believe in Christ, then come to the only Savior of sinners. God’s elect, redeemed, regenerate receive new life, a far better way, forgiveness of sins, guidance, leading, hope, help, comfort, teaching, gifts, and empowerment to live for Christ and serve God all the rest of their days.
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
November 26, 2020