The Holy Spirit
This article appeared in the June 22, 2006 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle.
© 06.19.06 By D. Eric Williams
It seems that the Holy Spirit is a misunderstood personage in the Church these days. Often He is ignored; just as often, it seems, He is treated like a form of entertainment. I think the problem is we don't take the time to get to know Him as we should.
Compared to what is written about Christ Jesus or the Heavenly Father, the Bible has little to say about the Holy Spirit. Yet there is much we are able to gather from the biblical record.
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit (called the Spirit of God), is seen as a participant in the work of creation, hovering over the face of the deep (Gen. 1:2). He is expressed as an extension of God, a manifestation of His power. So it is throughout the Old Testament (Judges 14:6f, 1 Sam 11:6, 1 Kings 8:12 and so on). The Spirit of God is also portrayed as the creative agent of God, the life giving breath of both men and animals (Gen. 2:7, 6:17, 7:15, Job 33:4).
One might say the primary work of the Holy spirit in the old covenant era was acting as the source of prophetic utterance. In those days the Holy Spirit was not poured out on every Believer but was given to select individuals known as prophets or seers and sometimes placed upon certain leaders (Num. 11:24-30). Thus the prophets spoke not from their own resources, but as they were "moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). A prophet may be called a "man of God" (1 Sam. 2:27, 1 Kings 12:22) or a "man of the spirit" (Hosea 9:7), in any case the prophets were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.
In the New Testament the person of the Holy Spirit becomes more apparent. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20, Luke 1:35). The Holy Spirit settled upon Jesus after His baptism and empowered Him during forty days of testing directly afterward (Luke 3:22, 4:1f). Jesus confirmed the personality of the Holy Spirit when He called Him the Paraclete - the comforter and counselor - who would come to take Jesus' place (John 14:6, 26, 15:26, 16:7). Jesus testified that the Holy Spirit would dwell in Believers and led them into the truth, reminding them of what Jesus had taught (John 14:17, 16:13).
The Holy Spirit was made manifest in a powerful way on the day of Pentecost not long Jesus' ascension. Peter interpreted the phenomena of tongues on that day as a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy and a herald of the new age in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:16f). Then, throughout the early first century, we see the expansion of the kingdom of God is a work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:31, 6:5, 7:54, 9:31, 11:27-28, 13:1-2, 15:28-32, 16:6-7 and so on).
Even today, the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts the world of sin (John 16:9) and illuminates our minds, creates new life in us and seals our adoption as children of God (Rom. 5:5, 8:9, 12-17). Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit it is impossible to belong to Christ and He bears witness with our spirit these things are true.
It is the Holy Spirit that brings unity to the body of Christ, building us together as a single dwelling place for Him (Eph. 2:22). Also, the Holy Spirit matures God's own and produces fruit in them pleasing to the Father as they live lives empowered by the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25).
Moreover, the Holy Spirit bestows a diversity of gifts upon the children of God and helps us to pray - even prays for us - when we are at a loss of what to say (1 Cor. 12:4, Rom. 8:26).
The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us there "are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory." As Trinitarians we must be careful we do not slight the Holy Spirit. We cannot think of Him as merely a force which issues from God, but must recognize Him as fully and truly God. Amen.