In This Series|
The Holy Spirit
Gifts of the Holy Spirit | Ministry of the Holy Spirit | Baptism of the Holy Spirit | Breath of the Almighty
In This Lesson
Who or What Is the Holy Spirit? | The Person of the Holy Spirit | His Names/Titles | His Work in Christ's Life
The Bible Calls Him "God" | His Work in the Old Testament | His Work in the New Testament
The Promise | The Promise Delayed | The Promise Fulfilled | Conclusion
Who or What Is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is often neglected and perhaps even forgotten as a member of our triune God. We know He is a member of the Godhead, but how much do we really know about Him? Is the Holy Spirit a "force" like radar or electricity? Is He alive? Is He a person like the Father and Son? Is He a "he" or an "it"?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Like God the Father and God the Son, the Holy Spirit is also eternal, omnipotent [all-powerful], omniscient [all-knowing], and omnipresent [everywhere at the same time]. He works together with the Father and the Son and was with them at creation. Let's look at some verses that tell us about the Holy Spirit.
"And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?' Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.'" (Genesis 41:38-39)
"The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life." (Job 33:4)
10"...these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God." (1 Corinthians 2:10-12)
"...how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Hebrews 9:14)
Like God the Father, the Holy Spirit is not actually visible in the Bible because His primary ministry is to bear witness of Jesus. "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." (John 15:26 emphasis added)
He is not merely a "force" or a "male personage", as some cults teach, nor are the Holy Ghost and Holy Spirit separate entities. Surprisingly, many Christians believe, as some cults do, that the Holy Ghost is a god and the Holy Spirit is the presence of God the Father. Scripture, however, teaches that He is an actual distinct Person:
- He Speaks: Acts 8:29
- He Loves: Romans 15:30
- He Has a Will: 1 Corinthians 12:11
- He Has a Mind: Romans 8:27
- The Bible Refers to Him as a Person: Romans 8:11
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:7-8 emphasis added)
- Can Sin against Him:
Is it possible to sin against a thing or a "force"? The Bible talks specifically about sins against the Holy Spirit, making the point, again, that He is a distinct Person, the third Person of the holy Trinity.
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- Blaspheme against
Jesus said we can blaspheme against God and even against Christ, but that blasphemies against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
"...whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3:29)
"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." (Luke 12:10)
- Resist/Refuse to Believe
Do trees care if a blind person refuses to believe they exist? What about an automobile? Do you think it knows or cares when someone in a remote tribal village, who's never seen a car, refuses to believe?
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you." (Acts 7:51)
"But they could not withstand [resist, stand against] the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking." (Acts 6:10)
Can you insult the sun or the moon? Can you insult electricity? No. You can only insult another person, not a "force".
"How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29)
Living beings, including animals, can and do grieve. But nothing we ever do or say can cause a waterfall or electricity to grieve, for they are mere forces of nature.
"But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them." (Isaiah 63:10 emphasis added)
- Lie to
I suppose you could lie to your computer or a book. But would they care? Do they have their own minds and feelings? Can anything acknowledge a lie or be deceived or angry about it?
"But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?'" (Acts 5:3 emphasis added)
The Bible teaches that we can actually stop or restrain the Holy Spirit by our actions or inactions. The King James Bible uses the word "quench", as in quenching or putting water on a fire. Here, I am providing three versions of 1 Thessalonians 5:19, as they each mean the same thing but phrase it differently.
KJV: "Quench not the Spirit."
NIV: "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."
GNB: "Do not restrain the Holy Spirit."
Just as the Bible uses many names and designations for Jesus Christ, so the Bible also uses different names or titles for the Holy Spirit.
- Spirit of God/Spirit of the Lord/God's Spirit: Genesis 1:2b
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me..." (Isaiah 61:1a)
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)
1 Peter 1:11
Spirit of Christ/His Son:
"You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him." (Romans 8:9)
Spirit of Glory:
"If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." (1 Peter 4:14)
Spirit of Grace:
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10 KJV emphasis added)
"How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29)
Spirit of Adoption: Romans 8:15
Holy Spirit: Psalm 51:11
"But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit." (Isaiah 63:10-11)
"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever." (John 14:16)
"And when the Comforter has come, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He shall testify of Me." (John 15:26 MKJV)
Spirit of Holiness:
"...and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 1:4)
Spirit of Life:
"For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2)
Spirit of Truth:
"...even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." (John 14:17)
Notice in all of the above verses where Jesus was speaking, He referred to the Holy Spirit as "He" or "Him", not "it".
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His Work in Christ's Life
Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit was actively engaged in every detail and action concerning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. And it speaks of Him being a distinct separate Person from God the Father or God the Son.
The obvious conclusion we can draw from all of the examples above is that the Holy Spirit has self identity is aware and is not merely a "force" like electricity because a force doesn't speak, love, grieve, or have a will or mind.
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- Conceived of:
"...before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:18b)
"Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20b)
- Anointed by: Matthew 3:16
- Led by:
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." (Matthew 4:1)
- Cast out Demons by:
"But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." (Matthew 12:28)
- Filled with Power by:
"And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country." (Luke 4:14)
"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness . . ." (Luke 4:1)
- Supported by:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19 ref. Isaiah 61:1-2)
- Resurrected by: Romans 1:4
"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11 emphasis added)
- Justified/Vindicated by:
"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory." (1 Timothy 3:16 KJV)
- Glorified by: John 16:14
He Is God
This is a difficult concept for some to grasp and rightly so, since most of the affairs and attributes of God are too vast and unimaginable to be comprehended by the finite, mortal mind. "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34 ref. Isaiah 40:13, Jeremiah 23:18a)
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard," nor has it entered into the heart of man, "the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9 MKJV ref. Isaiah 64:4)
- The Bible Calls Him "God" and "LORD":
When the Apostle Peter questioned Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, about the money they received from selling their property, he said: "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." (Acts 5:3-4 emphasis added)
"Then the LORD said, 'My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.'" (Genesis 6:3 emphasis added)
He is Omnipresent [Everywhere All the Time]:
7"Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11If I say, 'Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,' 12even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139:7-12)
He Is Omniscient [Knows All Things]:
"...these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
He Is Omnipotent [All-Powerful]:
Joined with, but Separate from, the Father and Son:
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19)
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." (2 Corinthians 13:14 emphasis added)
"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:8 emphasis added)
"...how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Hebrews 9:14 emphasis added)
"...and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. . . . All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (1 Corinthians 12:6, 11 emphasis added)
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His Work in the Old Testament
Although the Holy Spirit has always existed with God the Father and God the Son, He did not indwell every godly person in the same way as He now indwells all Christians. He selectively chose individual men and women to whom He would reveal Himself and through whom He would accomplish His work.
For example, He made Himself known, not only to Abraham, but about Abraham when He prevented Abimelech, king of Gerar, from having sexual relations with Sarah, Abraham's wife. Genesis 20:7
He also worked through Moses to bring the children of Israel safely out of bondage in Egypt and to the Promise Land. Numbers 12:8
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His Revelations to Old Testament Prophets
He was especially active among the prophets of the Old Testament, as the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:21
He revealed Himself and the triune God's objectives through:
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- The Spoken Word
"And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever...." (Exodus 19:9)
"And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, 'Samuel! Samuel!' And Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant hears.' Then the LORD said to Samuel, 'Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which the two ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. And I declare to him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.'" (1 Samuel 3:10-14)
"And he said, 'Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.'" (Numbers 12:6)
"And Micaiah said, 'Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left.'" (1 Kings 22:19)
His Empowering Work for Special Service
God's Word says that the Holy Spirit often "came upon" various people to accomplish His will through them.
- "And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him." (Numbers 24:2)
- "When he [Samson] came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands." (Judges 15:14)
- 1 Samuel 10:10
- 1 Samuel 19:9
- 1 Samuel 19:20
- 2 Chronicles 15:1
- "And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly." (2 Chronicles 20:14)
The Bible also tells us He indwelt, or "anointed", certain people for a specific service.
- "...I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship" (Exodus 31:3)
- Exodus 35:31
- 1 Samuel 16:13
- "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;" (Isaiah 61:1)
- Micah 3:8
It is important to note that this "indwelling" in the Old Testament was not the same as that which all New Testament believers receive at the time of their conversion. In the Old Testament, it was primarily a special call for a specific task. Also, as we're told in the Biblical records of both King Saul and King David, this indwelling could be removed.
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- 1 Samuel 16:14
- Psalm 51:11
His Work in the New Testament
The disciples knew Jesus was going away. He had told them so. At first it didn't sound like good news and their hearts were troubled. They loved Jesus; they had walked three years with Him. How could they live without Him?
Jesus read their hearts, and He assured them it was best for them that He return to His Father in heaven. His Father would send the Holy Spirit and they are never left alone.
God's Spirit would no longer be felt in just one country, or minister to just one race of people, or be confined to a select few as was the case with the Old Testament saints. Since the day of Pentecost, He has indwelt all believers. On that day, Peter spoke to the crowd representing at least 15 different language groups. "...this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.'" (Acts 2:16-18 quoting Joel 2:28-29)
In the Old Testament, God's chosen leaders the prophets, priests, and kings were anointed with oil to set them apart for God. The oil symbolized the Holy Spirit, which He gave to them to enable or help them to do whatever He called them to do.
Through the prophet Joel, God gave a wonderful promise of a time in the future when He would pour out His Spirit on all His people, not just on their leaders.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit." (Joel 2:28-29)
Several centuries later, God sent John the Baptist as His special messenger to prepare the way for the Messiah and to introduce Him publicly. God revealed to John that the Messiah would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. A great many people gathered to hear John preach and be baptized in water to show they had repented of their sins and now belonged to God.
"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (Matthew 3:11)
Jesus' Promise Specifically for His Disciples
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Not only did the followers of Christ have the Old Testament promises, but Jesus Himself gave them specific promises about the Holy Spirit's work in their lives. He promised the Holy Spirit would...
- ...give them words to say.
"When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." (Matthew 10:19-20)
- ...help them remember Jesus' teachings. John 14:26
- ...be a Helper to them.
"But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you." (John 16:5-7)
- ...guide them in all needful truth. John 16:13
The Promise Delayed
During Jesus' public ministry, His disciples must have wondered when or even if He would baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus would refer to this experience as "the promise of the Father" (cf. Luke 24:49).
Before He could be their Baptizer, however, He had to fulfill His mission as the Lamb of God the Savior of the world. He had to die, rise again, and ascend back to Heaven, after which He would send the Holy Spirit to them.
The night before Jesus died, He told His disciples many things about the Holy Spirit, and what He would do.
- "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)
- "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." (John 15:26)
- John 16:7,13
After Jesus' resurrection, He told the disciples that the promise of the Father was soon going to be fulfilled in them. Before He went back to Heaven, He told His followers to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them, and to go and tell everyone everywhere the good news of salvation that had come to all men.
"And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, 'you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.' . . . 'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.'" (Acts 1:4-5,8)
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The Promise Fulfilled
As Jesus had instructed them, His followers went back to Jerusalem and waited. Ten days later during the festival of Shavu'ot [Feast of Weeks or Harvest Festival], on the day of Pentecost [50th day following the Passover] it happened! Jesus baptized 120 believers with the Holy Spirit and with fire, just as the Prophet Joel and John the Baptist had prophesied.
1"When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.
2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.
4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.
6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.
7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, '"Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?
. . .
11b...we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.'
12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, 'What does this mean?'" (Acts 2:1-7, 11b-12)
Full of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter stood up in front of the crowd and explained they were seeing God fulfill Joel's prophecy. He told them they had refused God's Messiah and crucified Him, but God had raised Him from the dead and now had sent the Holy Spirit to His followers to prove that Jesus was the Messiah
Did the people remember what John the Baptist had prophesied about Jesus that He would baptize people with the Holy Spirit (cf. John 1:33)? We don't know. What we do know is that Peter's message deeply touched their hearts. The King James Bible says: "they were pricked in their heart." The ESV and NIV say: "they were cut to the heart."
John's message was true: Jesus was the Son of God (cf. John 1:34) . . . the Lamb of God (cf. John 1:29) . . . the Baptizer (cf. John 1:33) . . . the Messiah (cf. John 1:31) and they had crucified Him! Could God forgive them?
37"Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'
38And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'
40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, 'Save yourselves from this crooked generation.'
41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:37-41)
From that point on, the book of Acts tells us how these and many more Spirit-filled believers were witnesses for Jesus wherever they went.
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After a thorough study of God's Word concerning the names, personality, works, and deity of the Holy Spirit, can any continue to doubt that He is indeed a separate and distinct Person, just as are the Father and the Son? In fact, as we will study later, they are each unique Individuals who comprise the one God: what we call the Trinity or Godhead.
If you still doubt that the Holy Spirit is a separate Person from God the Father and God the Son, I encourage you to obtain a Biblical Encyclopedia and Concordance, pray for the Spirit of God to guide and instruct you, and conduct your own study. Indeed, this is a mystery too marvelous for us to grasp in our human reasoning; yet, Scripture clearly reveals it to be true.
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