Who is the Holy Spirit?

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  • As he passed through Ephesus, the Apostle Paul met several believers. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit since they believed. “No,” they replied, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2).

    In a real sense, this was my testimony for many years.

    Sure, I had heard of the Holy Spirit. And I believed in the Holy Spirit. But I did not know who the Holy Spirit was.

    There was not much talk about the Holy Spirit in the church I grew up in. But there was a lot of talk after services. If someone “shouted” in the service, people said that he or she “got the Holy Ghost.”

    And that was another issue for me. The Spirit was called the “Holy Ghost,” when I was a boy. A ghost was definitely not a good thing to me. And putting the word “holy” before it didn’t make it better!

    I walked home from school with an “Apostolic” boy. And at least once a week, he would try to win me to Christ. He knew that I was not saved because I had not experienced the baptism of the Holy Ghost. And he knew that I did not have the baptism because I did not speak in tongues.

    Later, in the early years of my first pastorate, Charismatic phenomena began to break out in the services, after a group read a best-selling but doctrinally empty book on the Holy Spirit. This was a turning point for me. I had to get to know the Holy Spirit for myself. And I wanted to teach my people how to relate to the Holy Spirit.

    I started a process of getting to know the Holy Spirit. I did not pray for an experience. I studied the scriptures. My first goal was to understand who the Holy Spirit is. And I discovered that the Bible teaches two essential facts about the Person of the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit is a Real Person

    The Holy Spirit is not it. The Holy Spirit is who. He is a person. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he speaks he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:12-13, emphasis added). There are two basic reasons why we believe the Holy Spirit is a real person:

    The Holy Spirit has the attributes of personality. The Spirit thinks (Acts 15:28; Romans 8:27). The Holy Spirit chooses or decides (Acts 16:6-7; 1 Corinthians 12:11). And the Holy Spirit feels (Romans 15:30; Galatians 5:17; Ephesians 4:30).

    The Holy Spirit performs the actions of a person. The Holy Spirit does things that persons do. The Holy Spirit teaches (John 14:26), leads (Romans 8:14), prays (Romans 8:26-27), commands or directs (Acts 8:29), and chooses (Acts 13:2). An impersonal force or representation of the power of God or higher power cannot do these things.

    The Holy Spirit is the Living God

    There are four reasons why we believe the Holy Spirit is God.

    The Holy Spirit is called God. In the early days of the Christian church, there were believers who sold their possessions and brought the money to the apostles to distribute to meet the needs of their fellow-believers. But there was a couple that wanted the credit without the sacrifice of generosity. They only gave a portion of the proceeds and lied about it. Peter rebuked the husband for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3), which Ananias could not do if the Spirit is not a person. And Peter said to him, “You have not lied to man but to God” (Acts 5:4).

    The Holy Spirit is associated with God. In the Great Commission, Jesus commands that disciples be baptized in the name of each member of the Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Likewise, the Hymn of Grace (Ephesians 1:3-14) praises the redemptive work of God the Father (vv. 3-6), God the Son (vv. 7-12), and God the Holy Spirit (vv. 13-14). And Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians concludes with a benediction that appeals to each member of the Trinity: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

    The Holy Spirit has divine attributes. The Holy Spirit is omnipotent – all-powerful, which is demonstrated by his participation in creation (Genesis 1:1-2; Job 33:4). The Holy Spirit omnipresent – fully-present everywhere (Psalm 139:7). The Holy Spirit is omniscient – all-knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). And the Holy Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14).

    The Holy Spirit performs divine acts. The Holy Spirit was at work in creation (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 104:30). The Holy Spirit was at work in the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:34-35) and the resurrection of Jesus (Romans 1:4). The Holy Spirit was at work in the revelation and writing of scripture (2 Peter 1:20-21). And the Holy Spirit is at work in salvation (John 3:5-8).

    Whatever else you learn about the Holy Spirit should start here. The Holy Spirit is a divine person. The Holy Spirit is a real person who is to be worshiped as a member of the eternal and undivided Godhead.

    Did you find this article helpful? What scripture passages or books have you found helpful in understanding the Holy Spirit? Feel free to comment. 


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.