The Holy Spirit
© June 2006 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 that 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 that 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 that 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 that 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 that is 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).

Notwithstanding, it seems that the more miraculous gifts of the Spirit (such as speaking in tongues), are given to the local Church during it's infancy (1 Cor. 13:11). Thus, when the Gospel first penetrates a culture (as in the first century), the manifestation of miraculous gifts is given as a validation of the message preached and as encouragement to the new members of Christ's body. However, as the Church matures (1 Cor 13:10 - the Greek term teleios does not refer to moral perfection, but to a "grown up" condition, i.e., when adulthood comes, childhood is done away with), these things should fall away and be replaced by the orderly, mature ministry (including healing), of the mature church (James 5:13-18, 1 John 5:14-15).

As a part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is to be obeyed as God. We see no distinction between the obedience of Believers to the Spirit and obedience to another Person of the Godhead. The Jerusalem Council acknowledged the direction of the Holy spirit in their letter to the Gentile Christians (Acts 15:28). Paul and Barnabas were ordained to the ministry at the command of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit directed Paul and his companions away from Bythynia during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:7). In every way, the Holy Spirit was recognized as God and obeyed.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us that 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 that 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.

4 C Doctrinal Papers
Jesus Christ
Holy Spirit