When Paul, the Apostle, met some of the disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus, he asked them, “ ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 19:2 NIV). Today most professing Christians have heard of the Holy Spirit but they do not know much about Him or the ministries which He performs. Likewise the Lord’s disciples had little understanding of the Holy Spirit. The Lord introduced the Holy Spirit to them in a startling way. “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you” (John 16:7). This Comforter or divine Helper, was none other than the Holy Spirit (John 7:39). The Lord Jesus considered that the Spirit’s coming would more than make up for the Savior’s departure in physical presence.
At the very outset, the Bible tells us, “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The “Spirit of God” is more than a generalized expression for God, even in the Old Testament, where often the Spirit of the Lord is seen as distinct in His ministries. Admittedly, the New Testament is the place where the one true God is seen more clearly as three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Luke 3:21-22; Ephesians 4:4-6; John 14:16). We must repeat the teaching of Scripture in this regard.
1. There is one God (1 Timothy 2:5; Mark 12:29; Ephesians 4:6).
2. There is plurality within the one God (Genesis 1:26). He speaks of Himself in the plural. One of His names in the Old Testament is the plural Elohim, used about 2600 times.
3. The plurality of God is shown in three distinct Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:2; Jude 20-21). Each of these Persons is fully God. The Father is God (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Peter 1:17). The Son is God (John 1:1,14; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Hebrews 1:8). The Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 3:17).
Picture this relationship as a triangle, representing the triune God. The triangle represents the one God. The three sides represent respectively the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Each side differs from the other, yet each is part of the triangle representing the one God. Amazingly, the Scripture reveals that the three Persons interact with one another in personal address (Hebrews 1:8). Our finite minds may have difficulty with such a Being who has no parallel in our experience or observation. But we must accept what God has revealed concerning Himself, whether we can understand it fully or not.
The Deity of the Spirit
Further proof that the Holy Spirit is God is evidenced below:
1. He Has The Names Of God, being also co-identified with Him. He is called God (Acts 5:3-4). He is the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18), the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14), and the Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20). He is identified with the Old Testament names of God, Jehovah and Adonai (Compare Acts 28:25 and Isaiah 6:1-13; also Hebrews 10:15-17 and Jeremiah 31:31-34). He is also the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) and the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:19), showing the oneness of the Godhead, as well as the distinction of Persons.
2. He Has The Attributes Of God. He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), possesses inherent life (Romans 8:2), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10-11), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-10) to name those most obvious divine traits.
3. He Has Full Honor As God. To speak against Him is to speak against God (Matthew 12:31-32). To sin against Him is to sin against God (Acts 5:3-4). To defile the temple where He resides is to defile the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
The Personality of the Spirit
The word “person” when applied to the Father, the Son and the Spirit means that each has the three qualities of personality. The Holy Spirit has intellect (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He knows certain things. He has emotion (Ephesians 4:30). He can be grieved. He has personal feelings. He has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11). He decides what spiritual gifts to give believers. “Person” also means that each possesses an inner distinction from the other within the unity of the one God. It does not mean that each is a different Person in the sense that there are three Gods. Keep in mind the triangle illustration given previously.
It is important to note that personal pronouns are used in referring to Him (John 15:26; 16:13-14). The Spirit is “He,” not “it” (as if He were simply an influence or impersonal force).
Our relationship with the Spirit is very important. We should be conscious of Him in a thoughtful way, not slighting, ignoring or resisting Him. He is to be cherished (Psalm 51:11). We are not to sin against Him (Isaiah 63:10). He is to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-21). We need to wait upon Him, submit to Him and be observant of His leading.
What Is He Like?
Various symbols or emblems of the Spirit are used in Scripture which help us understand and appreciate His ministry.
1. Wind suggests to us the effect of His mighty, invisible power. The Lord Jesus referred to Him in this way as His explanation of the new birth (John 3:8). God is a spirit (John 4:24) and no man can see Him in the essence of His being (John 1:18) for He is invisible. The great power of the Spirit is seen in His manifestation in Acts 2:2 as the sound of a rushing mighty wind. The power of the Spirit working is inconceivably greater than all other power (Zechariah 4:6).
2. Fire is both purifying and consuming (Hebrews 12:29). The Spirit came to the disciples in the appearance of tongues of fire which separated and rested upon each of them (Acts 2:3-4). The symbol is also associated with the judgment of God (Isaiah 4:4; Matthew 3:12). The purifying effect of fire is seen in connection with the testing of believers, manifesting true faith (1 Peter 1:7; Revelation 3:18). The Spirit of God cleanses and judges in His ministry.
3. Water expresses the thought of the flowing of abundant life like a river (John 7:37-39; Revelation 22:1). There is the quenching of thirst, particularly that which is spiritual (John 4:14). Water is life-giving and hence symbolizes the giving of new life in the new birth of believers (Titus 3:5; John 3:5). Water is also a symbol of judgment and death to the old man (1 Peter 3:20-21). The ministry of the Spirit can result in either life or death, depending on our response to God.
4. Oil is associated with the word “anointing” which comes from the word meaning “to rub.” The Spirit is the anointing of the believer in Christ (1 John 2:20,27; 2 Corinthians 1:21). Oil provided fuel for the lamps of the Old Testament Tabernacle of God and was used in consecrating priests for the service of the Lord. It symbolizes gladness (Hebrews 1:9; Psalm 104:15) and healing (James 5:14). Consecration for service and testimony is the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
5. The Dove is even today symbolic of peace and purity. The Spirit descended like a dove upon the Lord Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). It suggests the harmless (Matthew 10:16), the gentle, the heavenly. All these virtues should characterize the Spirit-controlled believer.
What Does He Do?
Certain ministries seem to be associated with each of the persons of the Godhead. The Father purposes and wills. The ministry of the Son was to take upon Himself humanity and be the visible manifestation of God. The invisible Spirit apparently has the ministry of empowering or enablement. We note the following general ministries which He performs.
1. By His power, all things are accomplished, whether it be creation (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30) or the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11). All divine miracles are by His power (Matthew 12:28, Luke 4:14-18). His omnipotence is able to overcome any obstacle.
2. He is the Revelator of God to man and the One who inspired the written Word of God (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Samuel 23:2). Further, He is the Teacher and Illuminator of the mind of man in spiritual understanding (John 16:13). He is the True Guide to a correct pathway in any situation (Isaiah 48:16; Romans 8:14).
3. He is the One who brings spiritual life to sinful men. He convicts them of sin (John 16:8), enables them to see spiritual truth and regenerates them (John 3:5). There is no saving work apart from His ministry.
4. He alone was the agent of conception in the incarnation of the Son of God (Luke 1:35). The Lord Jesus was saturated with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in every aspect of His life.
The Dividing Line of Pentecost
The Holy Spirit, being God, is changeless in His person, deity and character. However, He does alter the manner of His ministry from time to time. A most significant change in the ministry of the Holy Spirit is evident after the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This change came upon the day of Pentecost, a Jewish agricultural festival which was one of the seven feasts of Jehovah (Leviticus 23). Pentecost, from the Greek word for “the fiftieth day,” is so named because it came fifty days after the Passover sabbath.
Many believers are plainly confused in their understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit because they do not pay attention to the plain statements of the Lord Jesus. Note carefully these verses which show the change in the Spirit’s ministry and the precise point where that change occurs:
1. JOHN 14:16. The Lord Jesus said He would ask the Father to give believers the Spirit to abide with them forever. Obviously this had not previously occurred.
2. JOHN 14:17. He said that the Spirit was then with them but later would be in them.
3. JOHN 7:39. He said that the Spirit was not yet given (in the sense of being in believers) and this would not be accomplished until Jesus was glorified (i.e., after His death, resurrection and ascension).
4. LUKE 24:49. Just before His ascension, He told them to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. This reflected the promised coming of the Holy Spirit to dwell in them.
5. ACTS 1:4-5. He again commanded them to wait for the Spirit’s coming “not many days hence.” He said they would be baptized in (with) the Holy Spirit.
6. ACTS 2:1-4. Precisely on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the death of the Lamb of God on the cross (Christ, our Passover), the Spirit descended, indwelt the believers and filled them with His fullness.
Before Pentecost the Spirit “came upon” believers (Judges 3:10; 11:29; 1 Samuel 16:13) and, when displeased, departed from them (1 Samuel 16:14). Thus David could pray, “Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm 51:11), because the Spirit did not yet dwell permanently in believers. The Spirit empowered for certain tasks, as in the workmanship of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:3; 35:30-35). He also gave strength or power to such men as Samson (Judges 13:25; 14:6,19; 15:14) or Jephthah (Judges 11:29). This empowering was not necessarily related to spiritual qualities of those empowered. Men were filled with the Spirit, but none is recorded as being indwelt in an abiding way, nor was there baptism or sealing by the Spirit. Thus, we note the significance of the words of the Lord Jesus in John 7:39 and 14:17.
After Pentecost the Spirit came to live within believers (1 Corinthians 2:12; 6:19-20). Without this indwelling, a person is not a child of God (Romans 8:9; Jude 19). Further, believers are sealed until the day of redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). Moreover, all believers are baptized into, or incorporated into, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). No such thing as the “body of Christ,” the “church of Christ” or the “bride of Christ”—three equivalent expressions—was known prior to Pentecost. Clearly the day of Pentecost was a significant dividing line in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, pre-Pentecostal verses like Psalm 51:11 and 1 Samuel 16:14, should never be applied to prove doctrine about the Spirit after Pentecost, as so many have sought to do.
One may be very well informed on the doctrine of the Spirit and still know very little about the reality of His inner working in a powerful way in daily life. We want to be spiritually intelligent about the Holy Spirit. But we also need to be completely yielded to His strong moldings as clay in the hands of the Potter (Jeremiah 18:6). The Lord is that Spirit and we need to be open in every area to His mighty work. The result will be Christ-like character and life, not frenzy and unstable behavior. It is God Himself who lives within, and He is not the author of confusion.
The Spirit Of God: His Person And Work
1. The Holy Spirit is not just a force or influence. He is a person having the attributes of personality: intellect (ability to know), emotions (ability to feel), will (ability to do). How are these characteristics of personality demonstrated in the following verses?
1 Corinthians 2:10-12
1 Corinthians 12:11
2. How would you use the following verses to show that the Holy Spirit is God?
2 Corinthians 3:18
3. The Holy Spirit possesses the characteristics of Deity. Match the following verses with the attributes listed below: Hebrews 9:14; Psalm 139:7-9; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12.
Everywhere present ____________________________
4. The Bible sometimes uses “pictures” (called “emblems”) such as the wind (John 3:8), fire (Acts 2:3-4), water (John 7:37-39), oil (Leviticus 8:12; Acts 10:38), and a dove (Matthew 3:16; Luke 3:22) to show us what the Holy Spirit is like. From your general knowledge of the characteristics of these emblems, what does this tell you about the Holy Spirit? (Example: The Holy Spirit, like the wind, is invisible).
5. Pick one of the emblems above and explain how you can apply the related characteristics to your own life.
6.Identify the various activities of the Holy Spirit in the world:
Genesis 1:2 John 16:13-4
John 3:5-6 2 Peter 1:21
7. Has the Spirit always worked in the same way in every age, or are there distinctions in His mode of operation from age to age? Look up the verses on the graph below. Under “Comments” indicate the central thought of each verse as it relates to the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Note specifically any change from one age to another.
OLD TESTAMENT PERIOD
(Creation to John the Baptist)
(John to Pentecost)
(Pentecost to Present)
1 Samuel 16:14
John 14: 16-17
1 Corinthians 6:19
(Law of Moses) (Birth of Christ) (Cross)
1 Samuel 16:14
1 Corinthians 6:19