Who is the Holy Spirit of God?
By Joe Keim
May 1, 2016
WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come (John 16:13).
During one of his missionary trips, the Apostle Paul met up with some church members in Ephesus, and when the conversation turned to the Holy Spirit, they replied, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost (Acts 19:2).
The reply of the Ephesian disciples concerning the Holy Spirit illustrates the sad and shameful treatment often given Him, even in our day. Far too often the Holy Spirit’s existence has been ignored and His ministry misunderstood. Therefore it is my passionate desire to shed some light on the Holy Spirit. Who is He, what does He do in our world, and how does He fit in our everyday Christian lives? It is very important for us to understand that whenever the Holy Spirit does something, it is God at work, creating, speaking, transforming us, living within us, and working in us. Although, the Holy Spirit can do this work without us knowing, it is helpful for us to know more. Otherwise, we end up in the same place Israel did: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
Whenever the Holy Spirit speaks, it is God speaking. Take for example Ananias when he lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). Ananias was not lying to a representative of God; He was lying directly to God.
When a lost hell-bound sinner calls upon the name of the Lord to be saved (Rom. 10:9-13), many wonderful things take place. For example, that individual is instantly forgiven of all his sins, translated from death to life, and removed from the kingdom of Satan and placed into God’s kingdom. But here’s the most amazing part of all of this: The Father and Son in the person of the Holy Spirit move in and dwell inside every believer. The moment we confess our sin and ask Jesus to come into our lives, we are born again, become members of God’s family, and the Spirit immediately takes up residence inside of us. We become a living, walking, breathing temple. Jesus said, ...even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:17). Later the Apostle Paul wrote: Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you (1 Cor. 3:16)? In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God would come upon people and anoint them for service. He inspired the Old Testament prophets to write the Scriptures, but this was temporary.
In the New Testament, the Lord indwells people through the new birth, and they become His permanent abode.
THE EMBLEMS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Most people think of the Holy Spirit as being an invisible force. They think of Him as being untouchable and some type of powerful energy that rules the universe. However, in Scripture the Holy Spirit is referred to as a Dove (Jn. 1:32), Fire (Acts 2:3), Oil (Lk. 4:18), Cloud (Ex. 33:9), Voice (Ps. 95:7, Mat. 10:20), Water (Jn. 7:37-39), Wind (Jn. 3:8) and Breath (Jn. 20:21-23).
THE DEITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit is omnipresent, meaning He is everywhere at all times. David writes: Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence (Ps. 139:7)?
He is omniscient, meaning He is all-seeing and all-knowing. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10, 11).
He is omnipotent, meaning He is all-powerful and unstoppable. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2).
He is eternal, meaning He has no beginning and has no end. How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14)?
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON AND HAS FEELINGS
The Holy Spirit can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), lied to (Act 5:3), and quenched by believers (1 Thess. 5:19). He can also be resisted (Acts 7:51), blasphemed (Matt. 12:31), and insulted by unbelievers (Heb. 10:29).
THE HOLY SPIRIT AUTHORED THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT
David wrote: The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue (2 Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah wrote: Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth (Jer. 1:9). Peter wrote: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost (2 Pet. 1:21). John wrote: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7). Paul wrote: Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor. 2:13).
THE HOLY SPIRIT’S MINISTRY
The Holy Spirit was present and active during creation (Genesis 1:1-3). If you go to the very beginning of the Bible and start reading in Genesis, you will find that by the time you get to the second verse, the Holy Spirit shows up as being present and active in the work of creation. The truth is He played a very important part in all six days of creation.
The Holy Spirit was involved throughout Jesus’ life on earth. The Spirit placed Jesus in Mary’s womb (Matt. 1:20), He descended on Jesus at baptism (Matt. 3:16), led Jesus into the desert (Luke 4:1), and anointed Jesus to preach the gospel (Luke 4:18). It was through the Spirit of God that Jesus drove out demons (Matt. 12:28), and by that same Spirit, Jesus was raised from the dead (Romans 8:11).
The night Jesus met with Nicodemus, He taught Nicodemus that no man would enter the kingdom of God except he was born of water [first birth] and the Spirit [second birth] (John 3:5).
Jesus also taught: If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). Concerning rivers of living water, John adds: But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive.
The Holy Spirit took over when Jesus returned to the Father. At age thirty, Jesus went into full-time ministry. People began to follow Him and listen to His teachings. Many of His followers thought Jesus was the one who would deliver them from the Roman government and be their next king. What a surprise, when Jesus said in John 14:28: Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away. . . because I said, I go unto the Father (John 14:28).
Jesus’ disciples were dumbfounded. In one short moment, their whole world turned upside down. They had given up everything and followed Jesus. He had taught them for three years. They knew no other master. Peter said he would give his own life for Him. Thomas asked Jesus to let them go with Him.
I share all this to bring you to John 16:6-7, where Jesus makes a powerful statement about the coming Holy Spirit: It is expedient for you (meaning to your advantage or for your own gain) that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [Holy Spirit] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.
Jesus is telling His disciples: “Hey, it is for your own gain that I leave, because as soon as I leave, I’ll send the Holy Spirit in my place.”
It was to our advantage that Jesus left and sent the Holy Spirit, because Jesus was fully human and could only be at one place at a time. However, the Spirit could be everywhere at the same time. Also, Jesus ministered to people from the outside in, whereas the Holy Spirit ministers to people from the inside out.
When the Spirit finally showed up in Acts chapter 2, more happened in a few hours than happened in all of Jesus’ three years of ministry. Since that time, tens of thousands of Holy Spirit empowered missionaries have been sent throughout the world. As a result, millions of lost souls have been brought into the kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit was involved in the new birth. We are, by nature, children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). David says in Psalm 51:5, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. We come into the world, and from the beginning, are bent on being independent from God and running after the things of the world. Something has to happen to us if we are to be saved from the wrath of God (1 Thes. 1:10). We must be changed. Therefore, the Holy Spirit reproves [convicts] the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8).
The new birth is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit enabling us to see our sin as God sees it and to see our desperate need for a Savior. The work of the Holy Spirit quickens [makes alive] a spiritually dead person (John 6:63). Paul writes: the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life (2 Cor. 3:6).
When a spiritually dead person is made alive (born again), the Holy Spirit: seals the believer (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2nd Tim. 2:19-21; Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:6), empowers the believer (Acts 1:8; Rom. 8:2; 9-11; 12-13), is the earnest (guarantee) of the believer (Eph. 1:13-14), and becomes the believer’s partner in prayer (Rom. 8:26-28).
The Holy Spirit gives supernatural gifts to every believer. Gifts of the Spirit are special abilities given by the Holy Spirit to believers for the purpose of building up the body of Christ. The list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 includes wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Similar lists appear in Ephesians 4:7-13 and Romans 12:3-8, and include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
The gifts of the Spirit are simply God enabling believers to do what He has called us to do. Ephesians 4:12-14 says: For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
The supernatural gifts have long been the subject of controversy in Christian circles. They have caused family members to turn against each other and churches to divide. Some Christians believe and teach that certain gifts (speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, healings and miracles) ceased after we received the New Testament in written form (1 Cor. 13:10). Others believe and teach that all the gifts are in operation, just like they were in the early church.
Some believers have become so caught up in the supernatural gifts that they have thrown out the foundational doctrines of the Bible. Additionally, they have made a religion out of the God-given gifts and become worshippers of the gifts rather than the Giver of the gifts. For these sad reasons, other believers have chosen to walk in the opposite direction and have quenched and suffocated the power and supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. For that reason, let me add the following portion of scripture:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity [love], I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
The Holy Spirit speaks directly to and through believers. It is quite clear from reading the scriptures that the Holy Spirit is able to speak like a human being. When He speaks, the Bible commands us to listen to His voice. Consider the following instances when the Holy Spirit shows up and speaks to mankind in the flesh:
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, go near, and join thyself to this chariot (Acts 8:29).
As they (the church) ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2-4).
...take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit (Mark 13:11).
The Holy Spirit adds a second nature. Before we were born again we had only one nature—the flesh nature. Our decisions and choices were based on our own flesh and desires. After the new birth we have two natures—flesh and Spirit. This simply means that as born-again believers, we wake up in the morning and have to choose which nature we want to walk in. If we choose to walk in the flesh nature, we will often appear to others as one who has never been born again. If we choose to walk in the Spirit, we will appear as one who has experienced the new birth.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (Gal 5:16-17).
Walking in the Spirit means walking in harmony with God and others. We must guard our heart and tongue from bickering, bitterness, and conflict. We must learn to rest in Him, and let Him fight our battles.
Those who truly walk in the Spirit will find the following list of fruit appearing in their every-day life: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23). The fruit spoken of in these verses cannot be faked or manufactured by the believer. Our part is to yield and trust; God’s part is to produce the fruit. (See John 15:4-5).
WHAT I WAS TAUGHT GROWING UP
In the next couple of paragraphs, I would like to share some of my background and how I understood the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I was born and raised in an Old Order Amish community in Ohio. My parents took me to church every other Sunday and there I learned a lot about the Father in heaven. By the time I reached 15 years of age, I knew a great deal about God the Father. In my mind, He was rigid and ruled from heaven with an iron hand. As far as I could tell, He never smiled, nor did anything slip through His fingers. I was taught to obey Him or else He would punish me like He did the children of Israel when they turned their backs on Him and went their own way.
I also learned about Jesus. I learned that He was God’s only Son, and that He died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the grave three days later. To some degree, I was taught to believe that the Son was of lesser value and not to be held to the same level as the Father. For this reason, I focused more on the Father and who He was than I did the Son.
As for the Holy Spirit, He was hardly mentioned at home during prayer times or in church. Truthfully, about the only time I remember hearing about Him is the day I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. As far as I was concerned, the Holy Spirit was of little to no value in our everyday lives. It may have been because He is most often numbered as the third person in the line up.
Like most families in our community, we read our morning and evening prayers from a book, written by our forefathers. The German words, which were often difficult to understand, were spoken directly to the Father. And just like our church services, family prayer times seemed mostly boring and had little to no impact on my life. It was not until later in life, after I was born of the Spirit, that I realized the missing ingredient in many of our church services and family prayer times. It was the Holy Spirit and His power. I did not know that the Holy Spirit took Jesus’ place at the end of Jesus’ ministry. I did not know that the Holy Spirit played a very active role in one’s second birth. I did not know that the Holy Spirit dwelt in the body of the believer, empowering and equipping the believer to overcome sin and lead him in all truth.
It was not until I became a born-again believer that I began to see my desperate need to understand who this Holy Spirit is and how He plays a huge role in my daily life as a Christian. After much seeking and praying, the Scriptures began to open up to me like never before.
Real prayer in the Spirit is getting with God and speaking from your heart, from the deepest parts of your soul, and not reading from a prayer book. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18). But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost (Jude 20).
Christians—those who have been born of the Spirit—have been given divine and supernatural power from above. You can feel the holy presence of God when you are around them. Consider the following words from Acts 4:31-33:
And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul…with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:31-33).
Today, many church-going people have given up the idea that anything like this could ever happen in our generation. That is the very reason it is not happening. Church-goers do not believe! In fact, it is my honest belief that there are two reasons why churches in America have never experienced Holy Ghost power and continued revival in their midst: they refrain from talking too much about the Holy Spirit and His power, lest someone in their denomination might mistake them as being part of the health, wealth, and prosperity crowds, and because God has blessed America with an abundance of financial gain, we have learned to run churches and ministries like businesses. In other words, why wait on the Spirit when we have money to get the job done our way?
As we come to the end of our study on the Holy Spirit, let’s consider the situation that took place in Acts chapter 8, where a man named Simon tried to buy Holy Spirit power.
And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:18-21).
Jim Cymbala once said, “Whatever God is doing in our world today, He is doing through the Holy Spirit. He has no other agent on this planet.”
Dear Lord, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in our bodies. Thank you for the many times he has comforted our hearts, led us in all truth, protected us from evil, and empowered us to do the ministry. We stand in awe!
My utmost and passionate prayer is that You, Oh God, would use this study to start a fire in the reader’s soul. Awake the reader from his/her heavy slumber and dead religion and send a Holy Ghost revival.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
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