God the Father is clearly revealed throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament places the focus on our Savior Jesus Christ. So often it is easy to forget that the Holy Spirit is here with us now on earth. He baptizes us, indwells us, and guides us. In effect, the Holy Spirit is be the most real person of the Godhead that we interact with and experience. Let’s take a look at the third member of the Godhead: the Holy Spirit.
Photo Credit: Photo Credit: “Holy Trinity” by Hendrick van Balen
The Holy Spirit
I. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD[ref]This outline on the Holy Spirit is adapted from some notes I received from J. Scott Horrell while I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary[/ref]
A. Direct Evidence in the Old Testament
1. Specific Mentions of “Holy Spirit”
There are three specific mentions of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. There are many other references to him as “the Spirit of God,” “God’s Spirit,” or “the Lord’s Spirit”, but the words “Holy Spirit”, only occur three times in the Old Testament. Those three occurrences are in Psalms and Isaiah. In Psalm 51 David acknowledged his sin with Basheba. In the process of confessing that sin to God he asked God,
Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. (Psalm 51:11, NLT)
David asked for the Holy Spirit not to leave him because in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit would come and go as God directed him to do so. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit did not permanently indwell believers like he does now (2 Cor 1:22; John 14:16-17; Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 6:19).
Isaiah’s prophecy about the restoration of the the nation of Israel after punishment contains the other two Old Testament direct references to the Holy Spirit.
But they rebelled against him and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he became their enemy and fought against them. Then they remembered those days of old when Moses led his people out of Egypt. They cried out, “Where is the one who brought Israel through the sea, with Moses as their shepherd? Where is the one who sent his Holy Spirit to be among his people?” (Isaiah 63:10–11, NLT, emphasis added)
While there are three occurrences of the name “Holy Spirit” in the Old Testament, there are many other mentions of him by his other names: “Spirit of God” (Gen 1:2; Job 33:4), “His Spirit” (Job 26:13), “Spirit” (Num 11:25-29; Neh 9:20; Pss 104:30; Isa 32:15; 48:16; Ezek 36:27; 37:14; Joel 2:28), “spirit of the gods” (Dan 5:14), “Spirit of the Lord” (Judg 13:25; Isa 11:2; 63:14)
2. Active in the Creation of Everything
In Genesis Moses recorded,
The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2, NLT, emphasis added)
This “Spirit of God” is the Holy Spirit. In his commentary on the book of Genesis Allen Ross writes, “It was by his Spirit that God sovereignly created everything. . . In the darkness of the deep the Spirit hovered, preparing for the effectual, creative word of God” (Ross, “Genesis” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 32). Other examples of how the Old Spirit was active in creation can be seen in Job 26:13; 33:4; Pss 104:30; Ezek 37:9.
3. Gives Wisdom, Special Skills, and Leadership
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came to temporarily anoint people and give them wisdom, skills, and leadership.
This ministry of the Holy Spirit was very clear in the book of judges where the Holy Spirit came upon Othniel (Judg 3:10), Gideon (Judg 6:34), Jephthah (Judg 11:29), and Samson (Judg 13:25). The Spirit of the Lord came upon all of these judges for the purposes of leadership and service to the nation of Israel.
In the Old Testament when Saul had been chosen to be king of Israel, “the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul” (1 Sam 10:10, NLT). Later, when David was chosen to be king, “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on” (1 Samuel 16:13, NLT). Yet, the Holy Spirit could leave people too. Towards the end of Saul’s kingship “the Spirit of the Lord had left Saul, and the Lord sent a tormenting spirit that filled him with depression and fear” (1 Samuel 16:14, NLT).
Other examples of the Holy Spirit giving wisdom, special skills, and leadership can be seen in Pss 51:11; Isa 32:15; Dan 5:14.
4. Granting People Special to Prophesy
The king of Israel, Saul, was given the ability to prophesy, even though he was not considered a prophet.
When Saul and his servant arrived at Gibeah, they saw a group of prophets coming toward them. Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he, too, began to prophesy. (1 Samuel 10:10, NLT).
Saul was not a prophet, yet when the Holy Spirit went to him he began to prophesy. Also see Judg 13:25; Num 11:25; Ezek 2:2.
5. Poured Out on Israel in National Restoration and Cleansing
The prophecies in the Old Testament contain a lot of predictions for the future restoration of the nation of Israel. One of my favorite prophecies for the future restoration for the nation of Israel is in Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a priest in Judah who was taken to Babylon in the second of three groups of captives taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. This second group was taken to Babylon in 597 BC. Ezekiel delivered prophecies about future judgments of the nation of Israel as well as the future restoration by God. One of my favorite prophecies from Ezekiel is when he predicts the “Spirit” that will be placed into the hearts of people.
For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.” (Ezekiel 36:24–27, NLT, emphasis added)
The Holy Spirit is given to the nation of Israel in the future so that they can follow God and carefully obey him.
Other examples of the Holy Spirit being given to Israel in national restoration and cleansing can be seen in Isa 32:15; 44:3; Ezek 39:29; Joel 2:28.
B. Direct Evidence in the New Testament
The clearest example that the Holy Spirit is God is in the book of Acts. A husband and wife named Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1) sold some property. They gave some of the money to the church but claimed that they had given it all (Acts 5:2). The apostle Peter, the leader of the church at the time, confronted them.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (Acts 5:3–4, NLT, emphasis added)
According to Peter, lying to the Holy Spirit (v. 3) was the same as lying to God (v. 4). Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God! There are several other passages in the New Testament that directly say the Holy Spirit is God in Matt 12:31-32; 28:19; 2 Cor 3:17-18.
C. Indirect Evidence from the Old Testament and New Testament
In addition to the direct evidence that the Holy Spirit is God I’ve shown above, there are various “hints” that the Bible gives us that the Holy Spirit is God.
1. Divine Attributes
The attributes of the Holy Spirit that the Bible describes leads us to conclude that the Holy Spirit is God.
- Omniscience. The Holy Spirit knows everything (Isa 40:13-14; 1 Cor 2:10-13).
- Omnipotence. The Holy Spirit is all-powerful just like God the Father (Isa 40:15-17).
- Omnipresence. The Holy Spirit is everywhere (Pss 139:7-19).
- Holiness. Living as Christians requires holy living; otherwise it grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30).
- Truth. The Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into God’s truth (John 14:17).
- Life. The Holy Spirit is the member of the Godhead who works in the life of an unbeliever and draws him or her to God (Rom 8:2).
- Grace. There is grace, forgiveness, and mercy on those who disobey the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:29)
- Glory. When we suffer for being a Christian, the glory of God’s Spirit comes on us (1 Peter 4:14).
2. Divine Activities and Works
The things that the Holy Spirit did in the Bible also testify that he is God.
- Creation of the World. With God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Holy Spirit was active in creation of the world (Gen 1:2; Pss 33:6; Isa 40:12).
- Inspiration of Scripture. The Holy Spirit gave the New Testament authors spiritual truth and led them to record it accurately (2 Cor 2:13; 2 Tim 3:16).
- Generation of Jesus. Mary was a virgin, and Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:20).
- Convicting of Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit came to earth he (the Holy Spirit) would convict the world of sin, God’s righteousness, and the coming judgment (John 16:8-11).
- Regenerates the Christian. His role in the “rebirth” of someone into the Christian life is required (John 3:5-7).
- Baptizes. It is through the Holy Spirit that we participate in the spiritual baptism of death to this life and birth to a new life (1 Cor 12:13).
- Indwells. The Holy Spirit lives in us and guides our lives (Rom 8:13-14).
- Makes Us Sons and Daughters. We are heirs to God and his kingdom because the Holy Spirit has made us sons and daughters of God (1 John 3:9).
- Makes Us Temples of God. The Holy Spirit, who is God, lives in us and makes us holy temples (1 Cor 3:16).
3. Divine Titles
The titles the Bible gives the Holy Spirit reveals that he is God.
- Another Advocate. Jesus was on earth but was going to send “another advocate” similar to Jesus (John 14:16).
- Spirit of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is called “God’s Spirit” (Judg 3:10). You can also see my other examples above in II. A.
- Spirit of the Father. The Father’s Spirit is the Holy Spirit (Matt 10:20).
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A PERSON
In addition to the Holy Spirit being God, he also is a unique person just as God the Father and Jesus the Son are. By “person,” I mean he has intelligence, emotions, will and desire which all are aspects of a person. He is not simply a force.
A. He Has Intelligence
In Paul’s rich and deep letter to the Romans he talks about the Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (Romans 8:26–27, NLT, emphasis added)
In these two verses it is clear that the Holy Spirit knows our weaknesses and knows what to pray for (when we don’t know what to pray for). Other examples of the Holy Spirit having intelligence can be seen in John 14:26; 15:26; 1 Cor 2:10-13.
B. He Personally Interacts with Us
The Holy Spirit ministers to us, interacts with us, and shows us various emotions. These are signs of a person who has intelligence and can respond to things done or said. Examples of this are:
- Called “counselor,” “comforter,” and “advocate” (John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7; 1 John 2:1)
- Encourages (Acts 9:31)
- Helps in Our Weaknesses (Rom 8:26)
- Grieves When We Sin (Eph 4:30; Isa 63:10)
- Can Be Insulted (Heb 10:29)
Only a person can be encouraging, help someone in his or her weaknesses, grieve, and be insulted.
C. Has a Will and Desire
The Holy Spirit’s will and desire are most clearly seen in the beginning of the church in the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit wanted the new Christians to live in harmony with each other and not to deceive each other. And when Ananias and Sapphira tested the Holy Spirit’s will (Acts 5:9), they were killed for it (Acts 5:3-5).
Later in Acts when a group of men worshipped at the church at Antioch, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2). The Holy Spirit seemed to select these men out of the others for a specific task.
In Acts 15, a decision was made that Gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised. The Council of Apostles in Jerusalem made the decision and sent a letter back to Antioch to tell people about the decision. In the letter, they said “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay no greater burden on you than these few requirements” (Acts 15:28, NLT).
In these passages here in Acts the Holy Spirit expressed a will and desire to guide and help the early church. These are activities of a person. Also see 1 Cor 12:11.
D. Parallel to the Son as the Other “Advocate”
When Jesus Christ was telling his disciples that he would soon leave them, he told them that he would send “another helper” like him. This is revealed in John 14:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. (John 14:16–17, NLT, emphasis added)
The Advocate described here is the Holy Spirit. The first important thing to notice from the passage is that the Holy Spirit is “another.” Jesus Christ was a person as the first, and the Holy Spirit is the “another.”
Therefore; the Holy Spirit is a person like Jesus Christ because he is “another” of Jesus Christ. The second important thing to notice from the passage is that the Holy Spirit is an Advocate. Other translations use the words “Comforter” (ASV, AV, KJV, YLT), “Helper” (ESV, GNB, NASB, NCV, NKJV), “Counselor” (HCSB, RSV), “Advocate” (LEB, NET, NIV, NLT, NRSV), “Friend” (The Message), or “Paraclete” (D-R). Whichever translation you use states that this is a another person in the Godhead who will come to earth to assist the disciples after Jesus leaves.
Also take a look at Rom 8:26; 1 John 2:1.
E. Blasphemy Against Him Cannot Be Forgiven
The last point about the Holy Spirit being a person can be seen in Matthew.
So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. (Matt 12:31–32, NLT, emphasis added)
This is one of the more difficult parts of Scripture to interpret because it’s a little unclear what it means to “blasphemy” the Holy Spirit, but keep what is clear is that it is against a person: the Holy Spirit.
III. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. The Holy Spirit is fully, distinctly, and personally God.
A key part of Christianity is the belief that the Holy Spirit is a fully, distinct, unique person who is also God. The Holy Spirit is not a “force” or magical thing. He is a unique person who is the third member of the Godhead.
B. I will trust the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God and I will trust him. He knows my thoughts and feelings, and he prays for me.