For many people who are introduced to Christianity, the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit can be one of the most bewildering topics they face. Jesus is entirely relatable. The idea of an all-powerful, heavenly Father we get. But the Holy Spirit is tougher to get your head around. And the older translations that called Him the Holy Ghost only made things harder. Until we understand who He is, it’s difficult to relate to Him. It’s like when you get a call from someone. They may have your best interest at heart. They may have called to help you. But until you understand who it is on the other end of the line, it’s hard to trust them or really hear what they’re saying. There are three things you should know about the Holy Spirit.
1. The Holy Spirit isn’t just a part of the Father or the Son.
We say things like, ‘I can feel it in my spirit.’ When we do that, we’re talking about the part of us that’s not physical. When the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of God, that’s not what’s happening. The Holy Spirit isn’t just a part of the Father or the Son. We’re first introduced to Him in the opening verses of Bible. After saying that, “God created the heavens and the earth,” (Genesis 1:1) and describing the condition of the unformed earth, it says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). As a reader, we’re left wondering who or what this might be. When Jesus was baptized, he hears the voice of the Father from heaven, but it says, “he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him” (Matthew 3:16). Here, the Father is in heaven, Jesus is in the water and the Spirit comes down from the sky. They each seem to be working in harmony, but they’re distinct persons. This is at the start of Jesus’ ministry. At the end of His ministry, Jesus commissions the apostles and commands them to make disciples, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). A phrase like that would be ridiculous if it was talking about the Father, Son and part of the Father or part of the Son. So, we have to take the Holy Spirit on His own terms. He’s not a part of someone else.
2. The Holy Spirit isn’t just a mystical force.
Because the Bible often associates the Holy Spirit with power to accomplish things for God, power to grasp God’s will and power to live a life of holiness, people often think of Him as some kind of mystical force. People think that He’s like the electricity of God. But He’s a person. The Bible says that He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and outraged (Hebrews 10:29) – hardly the kind of things that you would say of a force or an energy. The Holy Spirit is a person.
3. The Holy Spirit is fully God.
It’s easy for people to think of the Holy Spirit as less than God. Or that He’s somehow lesser than the Father or the Son. But when Ananias lies about his offering, Peter accuses him of lying to the Holy Spirit but then says, “You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:3-4). And when Paul calls the gathering of believers, “God’s temple,” it’s because, “God’s Spirit dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Holy Spirit is fully God, the third person of the Trinity. He’s not a junior divinity.
Understanding the Holy Spirit is the first step toward experiencing His work in your life. We don’t just need more direction. We don’t just need more rules. We need more of God in our lives. And the Holy Spirit is just that. He’s the One who came to fill us and empower us to be all that we were created to be. Next time, we’ll consider how He does that.
In awe of Him,