The Holy Spirit

What we need to know about the Holy Spirit:

As has been stated by many (at least prior to the onset of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement), the Holy Spirit has often been the forgotten person in the Trinity. God the Father and God the Son tended to get more attention, while the Spirit tended to be somewhat ignored or minimised.

Even if the HS is much more discussed – and lived – in recent times, the view that many have of the Spirit is often quite biblically defective. One recent example of this comes from an annual worldview survey conducted by George Barna. In his research he found that 58% of self-identified “Christian” adults contend that the Holy Spirit is not a real, living being but is merely a symbol of God’s power, presence, or purity. www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/CRC_AWVI2021_Release06_Digital_01_20210831.pdf

So it is time I pen a very brief introductory piece looking at the orthodox Christian view of the Holy Spirit. Biblical Christians have always held that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. To understand the Holy Spirit one needs to understand the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. See these pieces for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2018/07/03/the-trinity-for-dummies/

billmuehlenberg.com/2017/04/23/thinking-about-the-trinity/

Here I will focus on three main areas: the deity of the HS, the personality of the HS, and the various activities of the HS. In order to keep this piece from getting too large, I will mainly just provide biblical references, which interested readers can check out on their own.

The deity of the Holy Spirit

There are various ways the eternal deity of the HS can be ascertained from Scripture. One obvious way is to look at texts where this is clearly stated. In Acts 5:3-4 for example we read this:

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”

And 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 says this: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Another way is to compare the Spirit to the other two members of the Trinity. Divine attributes are ascribed to all three. Like the Father and the Son, the HS is said to be eternal (Hebrews 9:14); omniscient (John 14:26; 16:12ff; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11); omnipotent (Romans 8:2; 15:19); omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-8); holy (Acts 1:8; Ephesians 4:30); and true (John 16:13; 1 John 5:6).

And the same activities are ascribed to all three as well. For example, the HS is said to be involved in creation (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30); inspiration (1 Corinthians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 1:20-21); salvation (John 3:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:15); baptism (Matthew 28:19); sanctification (1 Peter 1:2); and raising Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11).

The personality of the Holy Spirit

As the survey above revealed, many Christians have an unbiblical view of the HS. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, as in Star Wars. The Holy Spirit is presented in Scripture not only as personal but also as a person, distinct from the persons of the Father and the Son. There are several lines of biblical evidence for this.

One is the fact that personal pronouns are often used of the HS. See for example John 15:26; 16:13-14; Acts 10:19-20; 13:2, and so on. Also, personal properties and activities are ascribed to him:

He has will or volition: John 3:8; 1 Corinthians 12:11
He speaks: Mark 13:11; Acts 13:2; Hebrews 3:7-8
He teaches: Luke 12:12; John 14:26
-He reveals: Luke 2:26; 1 Peter 1:10-11
He guides into all truth: John 16:13
He encourages: Acts 9:31
-He warns: 1 Timothy 4:1
-He may be grieved:
Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30
He may be lied to: Acts 5:3-4
He may be resisted: Acts 7:51
-He may be blasphemed: Matthew 12:31-32
-He has
wisdom and understanding: Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
He has power: Micah 3:8; Romans 15:13; Ephesians 3:16
He comforts, counsels, and helps the believer: John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Romans 8:26-27; 15:30; James 4:5
He appoints to office: Acts 13:2; 20:28

And the personal nature of the Holy Spirit can also be seen in other verses, such as: Matthew 28:19; Acts 15:28; 2 Corinthians 13:14.

The work of the Holy Spirit

In addition to the actions mentioned above, according to Scripture the HS does many things and is involved in many activities. For example:

He is involved in creation: Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13
-He is involved in the work of the prophets: 1 Samuel 10:6-10; Ezekiel 2:2-3
-He empowers believers and equips them for various tasks: Genesis 41:38; Exodus 31:2-5; Acts 1:8
He declares and glorifies the Son: John 16:14
-He guides them in truth: John 14:26; 16:13
-He helps them to live a holy and victorious life: Romans 8:11, 26

Quotes

The above is a very abbreviated look at the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Any one of these areas could be expanded at length. But let me finish with a few relevant quotations about the importance of and need for the HS, and then finish with a recommended reading list.

“When the great promise of the Spirit was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, it was fulfilled not in reference to the apostles only.” Charles Hodge

“Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing. We are as ships without wind or chariots without steeds. Like branches without sap, we are withered. Like coals without fire, we are useless. As an offering without the sacrificial flame, we are unaccepted.” Charles Spurgeon

“How little chance the Holy Ghost has nowadays. The churches and missionary societies have so bound him in red tape that they practically ask Him to sit in a corner while they do the work themselves.” C. T. Studd

The Church is the Body of Christ, and the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He fills the Body, directs its movements, controls its members, inspires its wisdom, supplies its strength. He guides into truth, sanctifies its agents, and empowers for witnessing. The Spirit has never abdicated His authority nor relegated His power.” Samuel Chadwick

It is the signature of the Holy Ghost upon our work and witness that makes all the difference.” Duncan Campbell

All outward means of grace, if separate from the spirit of God, cannot profit, or conduce, in any degree, either to the knowledge or love of God. All outward things, unless he works in them and by them, are in vain.” John Wesley

Do not misunderstand me, but I have a feeling that the Christian Church today is dying of dignity, dying of decorum. Services are beautiful, and perfect, but where is the breath of the Spirit?” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.” A. W. Tozer

Image of He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Foundations of Evangelical Theology)
He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Foundations of Evangelical Theology) by Cole, Graham A. (Author), Feinberg, John S. (Series Editor) Amazon logo

For further reading

These 27 titles tend to be more academic, theological and scholarly in nature, and are mainly penned by evangelicals of various stripes.

Bloesch, Donald, The Holy Spirit: Works and Gifts. IVP, 2000.
Brand, Chad, ed., Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views. Broadman and Holman, 2005.
Bruner, Dale Frederick, A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Eerdmans, 1970.
Burke, Trevor and Keith Warrington, eds, A Biblical Theology of the Holy Spirit. Cascade Books, 2014.
Carson, D. A., Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Baker, 1987.
Cole, Graham, He Who Gives Life. Crossway Books, 2007.
Dunn, James, Baptism in the Holy Spirit. SCM, 1970.
Fee, Gordon, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994.
Ferguson, Sinclair, The Holy Spirit. IVP, 1997.
Green, Michael, I Believe in the Holy Spirit. Eerdmans, 1975.
Hamilton, James, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. B&H, 2006.
Holmes, Christopher, The Holy Spirit. Zondervan, 2015.
Horton, Michael, Rediscovering the Holy Spirit. Zondervan, 2017.
Karkkainen, Veli-Matti, Pneumatology. Baker, 2002.
Keener, Craig, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today. Baker, 2001.
Keener, Craig, The Spirit in the Gospels and Acts. Hendrickson, 1995.
Keener, Craig, Three Crucial Questions about the Holy Spirit. Baker, 1996.
Levison, Jack, A Boundless God: The Spirit According to the Old Testament. Baker, 2020.
Montague, George, The Holy Spirit: Growth of a Biblical Tradition. Hendrickson, 1994.
Pache, Rene, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. Moody, 1954.
Packer, J. I., Keep in Step with the Spirit. Revell, 1987.
Pinnock, Clark, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. IVP, 1996.
Sproul, R.C., The Mystery of the Holy Spirit. Tyndale House, 1994.
Storms, Sam, Understanding Spiritual Gifts. Zondervan, 2020.
Stott, John, Baptism and Fullness: The Work of the Holy Spirit Today. IVP, 1975.
Thiselton, Anthony, A Shorter Guide to the Holy Spirit: Bible, Doctrine, Experience. Eerdmans, 2016.
Warrington, Keith, Discovering the Holy Spirit in the New Testament. Hendrickson, 2005.

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7 Replies to “The Holy Spirit”

  1. Since I had an awakening some time ago of the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I have seen more answers to prayers.
    Just yesterday in Melbourne I sat in a cafe with a bible tract written by Max Lucardo called “This Is What He Did For You”, on the Crucifixion of Christ”. The young barrista had many tattoos and I said my nephew who is a Christian Pastor also has many tattoos and gave him the above tract with my name and mobile on it and told him Jesus loved him and died a shocking death and that if he repented of his sins he too could have eternal life.
    He was so appreciative of the small gift. I’m sure he’ll read it but it’s up to the Holy Spirit to move on his life now.
    This occurred as I pray and believe the Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Trinity, and I continually pray that He would guide and direct me, every day, and He does, praise God!
    Terry Hill, New Gisborne

  2. The quote by Studd is pretty much what we have been for at least 60 years as we think we have to draw people to church with pop/rock music and a concert atmosphere when it is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw people.

    Lloyd-Jones’ quote shows us that yes formal worship and the old hymns are great but can lead to rigid formulation worship that is totally devoid of life. Fiery preaching under the Spirit used to be a bulk ward against this but so much preaching has become all about you and what God can do for you if you just ask him like Aladdin’s genie rather than what can we do for God and why we need Jesus.

    If the church disappeared tomorrow no-one in the modern world would care. If the church had disappeared 2000 years ago everyone in the modern world would care!

  3. Thanks for this Bill. It will be very useful when the time comes for me to address the issue of Sabellianism which is close to home for us.

  4. Many thanks Alister. Yes that is an excellent volume, and I should have included it in my brief biblio. I did include one of his books. His 1996 Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God is really a 200-page short version of his 1994 1000-page God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (both from Hendrickson Publishers). Thanks for the reminder.

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