Theological Foundations: The Holy Spirit

by Cliff McManis

In a previous article, Derek Brown gave an overview of the Trinity. I’d like to follow up with a survey about the Holy Spirit—who He is and what He does.

Christians have a personal relationship with God, which means they have a relationship with the Holy Spirit, who is God. The more we know about the Holy Spirit, the deeper our relationship with God will be. Everything we know about the Spirit comes from the Bible. The Spirit is introduced to us in the first chapter of the Bible (Gen 1:2) and the last chapter (Rev 22:17).

Who is the Holy Spirit?
Let’s start with who the Holy Spirit is. First, the Spirit is deity, or God (Acts 5:3-4). He is the third Person of the Trinity, but He is not the Father, nor is He Jesus. He is equal to the Father and Jesus in glory, power and essence, but He is a distinct person from them both and has different roles. He is not “part” of God, but with the Father and the Son, the three Persons together constitute the one true, Triune God of the universe—one God in three Persons (Matt 28:19). This divine reality defies human thinking, but it’s true because this is what God has revealed about Himself (Job 42:3).

Second, the Holy Spirit is a person. The Bible talks about Him using personal pronouns. Jesus always referred to the Spirit as a Person (cf. John 14:26). The Spirit is not an impersonal force, a created thing, or an “it” as some false religions want us to believe. Neither is He a phantom or a ghost. The Spirit is composed of all the attributes that define a person—intellect (Rom 8:27), self-awareness (1 Cor 2:11), emotions (Eph 4:30), volition (Acts 13:), morality (John 16:8-11), and the ability to relate to other persons (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, but is an infinite and eternal spirit (Ps 139).

Now let’s look at a few of the many things the Holy Spirit does, which is point number three: the Holy Spirit complements the work of the Father and the Son. The Spirit was present at the time of creation and was working alongside the Father and the Son in fashioning everything. Job said, speaking of God the Creator, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens” (Job 26:13), and Elihu asserted, “The Spirit of God has made me” (Job 33:4).

The Spirit’s Role in Producing Scripture
The Spirit had a special role in producing Scripture. It was the Holy Spirit who actually guided the biblical authors to write down exactly what the Father wanted recorded, thus guaranteeing its inerrancy and infallibility. King David, who wrote much Scripture, testified, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Sam 23:2). And Peter said, “no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Pet 1:20-21).

The Spirit’s Role in Our Salvation
The Spirit also has a complementary role in the work of salvation. The Father sent the Son to be the Savior (John 3:16); the Son is the One who died as the sacrifice and propitiation for sin (1 Cor 15:3); and the Holy Spirit applies the work of the Father and Son’s salvation to all who believe. Paul said, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5). Further, it was the Holy Spirit who empowered and led Jesus throughout His three-year ministry when He was on earth. Jesus declared, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me” (Luke 4:18).

The Spirit’s Role in Your Walk with the Lord
In addition to complementing the work of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit has a unique multi-faceted ministry toward believers. The main ministry the Spirit has with Christians pertains to His indwelling presence—the Spirit lives in every believer (Rom 8:9). He takes up residence in every person who believes in the gospel the moment they are converted, and He remains there. He will never leave the child of God.

The Christian thus becomes the Temple of the Holy Spirit of God (1 Cor 3:16)—everywhere you go, so goes the Spirit of God. The indwelling presence of the Spirit is the promise of the New Covenant that was foretold in the Old Testament (Ezek 36:27), ratified by Jesus (Luke 22:20) and applied by the Spirit after Pentecost (1 Cor 12:13). Since the Spirit is always with us, He is our constant supernatural Comforter (Acts 9:31), Guide (John 16:13), Advocate (John 16:7), Teacher (John 14:26), Encourager (Rom 8:16), Mediator (Rom 8:26), Sanctifier (Rom 8:13) and Enabler (Acts 1:8; 1 John 4:4).

Much more could be said about the amazing Holy Spirit. In the meantime, as a child of God, be thankful and aware of the Spirit’s presence in your life.

Photo by Daniel Páscoa on Unsplash