Who Is the Holy Spirit?
Invisible, perhaps, but real. The Holy Spirit is probably the least understood person of the Trinity. Among the myths and the mistaken concepts that are shared, He has been described as a force, a ghost, and a second-class or replacement god. He is confused with the manifestations themselves, and has even been presented as an incidental figure that appears momentarily. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is vital for the church to know the Spirit, learn to relate to Him, and understand how He manifests Himself.
The Holy Spirit is a person
1. Being a person, the Holy Spirit has feelings. He can become sad or angry, and others can insult Him and blaspheme against Him (Is 63:10; Mt 12:31; Ac 7:51; Eph 4:30; Heb 10:29).
Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them. - Isaiah 63:10
And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. - Matthew 12:31
“You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! - Acts 7:51
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. - Ephesians 4:30
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? - Hebrews 10:29
2. He has intentions, shows willfulness and discretion, loves, communicates, testifies, teaches, and prays (Neh 9:20; Jn 15:26; Ac 13:2; Rm 8:26,27; 15:30; 1Co 12:11). These are qualities that distinguish Him as a person.
You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. - Nehemiah 9:20
When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. - John 15:26
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” - Acts 13:2
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. - Romans 8:26-27
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. - Romans 15:30
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. - 1 Corinthians 12:11
The Holy Spirit was present during Jesus’ life on earth
The Holy Spirit was present during each stage of Christ’s life. When the angel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus, he declared: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).
Later on, at the baptism of Jesus, which marked the beginning of His public ministry, the Holy Spirit was present and, on this occasion, could be seen in material form. “When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him” (Mt 3:16). During His ministry, Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit and had a relationship with Him. Furthermore, He urged His disciples to receive Him in their lives.
The Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers
Jesus put a lot of emphasis on the Holy Spirit. He was the subject of intense prayer: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him. But you do know him, because he remains with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:16-17). The Lord mentions two points: the Holy Spirit was already real and He was about to come. At that time, the Spirit dwelled with the disciples, but they lacked having Him in them. If the Spirit of God was so important to the life of Jesus, how much more so for the lives of the believers!
The Holy Spirit is an important figure throughout the Bible. In Genesis 1:2, we find Him moving about the surface of the waters, and in Revelation 22:17, He and the bride cry with one voice. From beginning to end, the Holy Spirit has always been active: In the beginning, creating, and at the end of the story, tending to us. He comforts us, helps us, guides us, reminds us, teaches us, comes along side us, counsels us, and intercedes and advocates for us. There is no area of life in which the believer does not need the help of the Holy Spirit.
"Without a life full of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to build the body of Christ."
A gospel with no emphasis on the Holy Spirit is flat. In certain moments, when there was a special manifestation of God, the New Testament emphatically states that the partakers were filled with the Holy Spirit. This was the experience of many: John the Baptist was full of the Spirit in his mother’s womb (Lk 1:15); Elizabeth, when Mary greeted her (Lk 1:41); and Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, when he prophesied (Lk 1:67). Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, was led by the same Spirit into the desert (Lk 4:1). The disciples were filled with the Spirit in the upper room, and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood up to preach on the day of Pentecost (Ac 2:14). The young Stephen, full of the Spirit, saw the glory of God when he was stoned (Ac 7:55-56); and Paul, inspired by the Spirit, rebuked a sorcerer (Ac 13:9-11).
There is no doubt that in the church a life filled with the Holy Spirit should be the norm. The filling of the Holy Spirit was even a requirement for serving in the church. Without a life full of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to build the body of Christ, and we end up limiting God’s work in our lives.
The Holy Spirit works in the world through evangelism
Referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus affirmed in John 16:8: “When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.” The Lord used the legal term “convict” in order to highlight that, even if man can point out an error, it is the Spirit that brings conviction of sin. He shows the offense, reveals the foolishness of the sin, points out the consequences, convinces of guilt, and leads the sinner to repentance. He is the church’s greatest ally in its evangelizing effort. Without the help and the filling of the Spirit, the evangelistic task of the church will fail.
The emphasis on the Holy Spirit does not come from any religious organization in particular, but from Christ Himself. When the disciples asked the Lord about the future, Christ’s answer was emphatic: “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” (Ac 1:7-8).
"In order to receive the power of God, one does not need a religious formula, but rather a relationship with a person."
In Acts 1:7, Jesus points out what the disciples are not to know, but in verse 8, the emphasis is placed on what they are to know. With the adversative word “but,” Jesus brings the off-track attention of the disciples to the primary concern at hand: they would “receive power.” However, this depended on the Holy Spirit’s coming to them. Perhaps they did not know this person of the Trinity very well, but the idea of receiving power must have caught all of their attention. For over three years, these men had been witnesses of the continual manifestation of God’s power through Jesus, and now the doors were being opened for them to access this power that they had so admired.
In order to receive the power of God, one does not need a religious formula, but rather a relationship with a person. When a farmer grows crops, his desire is to receive its fruit, but his relationship is with the plant. It is the plant that the farmer sows, waters, and takes care of, even though he is waiting for the fruit. He knows that, without the plant, there will be no fruit. The disciples also desired the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but for that, it was necessary for them to relate to Him as a person. Before seeing the divine manifestation, the believer will learn to love, serve, adore, and respect the Spirit, wait in Him and form a relationship with Him.
The power of the Holy Spirit changes lives
Acts clearly states how to recognize someone that is full of the Spirit: “You will be My witnesses” (1:8). Love is a distinguishing mark of the disciples, while being a witness distinguishes those who are full of the Spirit. It does not matter how many spiritual experiences one may have, whoever does not testify of Christ does not show evidence of being filled by the Spirit.
If we analyze what Paul says in Galatians 3:2—“I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard?”— we realize that this is a rhetorical question; no one receives the Holy Spirit based on what they do. We experience salvation freely; there is no reason to relate to God differently in our experience with the Holy Spirit. It is also a grace-based experience. In the same way that we receive Christ without doubting whether He will enter our lives or not, we should receive the Holy Spirit by faith and believe that He will respond to our requests without delay.
Jesus skillfully expresses the essence of this experience: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:13).
Luis Ángel Díaz-Pabón (*)
Reprinted from the CSB Fisher of Men Bible (copyright © 2018 by Luis Ángel Díaz-Pabón) with permission of Holman Bible Publishers.
(*) Luis Ángel Díaz-Pabón serves as president of the Global Missionary Society, Pastor of La Capilla del Rey (The King’s Chapel) in Miami, Florida, and General Editor for The Fisher of Men Bible (Holman Bibles).