What the Bible Teaches About the Holy Spirit

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The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is widely misunderstood. In this post, we look at what the Bible teaches about who He is and some crucial ways He assists believers in Christ.

WHO IS THE SPIRIT?

The “third person” of the Trinity is God the Holy Spirit.

He is equal with the Father and Son in every way. 

  • He was there at Creation, “[moving] upon the face of the waters.” Ge1:2
  • He was directly involved in creating the world and in bringing every human being into existence. Job 33:4 The Spirit of God hath made me, And the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.
  • He possesses all the attributes of God – present everywhere (Psalm 139:7-8), all-knowing (Isa 40:13), all-powerful (Zech 4:6), eternal (Heb 9:14), holiness (Rom 1:4).
  • He is given titles that belong only to God:
    • God Acts 5:3–4  3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
    • Lord 2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
    • Also called “the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11), “the Spirit of the LORD” (Judges 3:10), “the Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9), and “the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7).

Just as God the Father and God the Son are personal spirits so the Holy Spirit of God is a “person”.

  • This does NOT mean that He has a physical body like a man.
  • But it does mean that He is more than just an energy or a force; He possesses all the qualities of personality – intellect, sensibility (emotion/feeling), and will.
  • This is demonstrated in so many ways in the Bible that it should almost go without saying
    • Personal pronouns such as “He” and “Him” are often used.
    • We read about Him doing very personal actions: interceding (Rom 8:26), testifying (John 15:26), appointing (Acts 20:28), guiding (John 16:13), teaching (John 14:26).
    • We also find the Spirit reacting: can be grieved (Eph 4:30), blasphemed (Mark 3:29), resisted (Acts 7:51), tempted and tested (Acts 5:9).

As God, the Holy Spirit is eternal. “the eternal Spirit’ (Heb 9:14)

  • Just as the Father and Son, He has always existed and has always been at work.
  • All through the Old Testament, we find the Holy Spirit coming upon men to do a particular work:
    • Samson to deliver the people from the Philistines Judges 13:24–25 And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
    • David to be the new king. 1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.
  • But in the OT the Spirit of God was not given to every man, not even every believer on God and having the Spirit come did not necessarily mean that the Spirit would stay.
    • Through sin, Saul caused the Spirit of the Lord to leave. 1 Samuel 16:14 But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him.
    • David asked that the Spirit not leave him as a result of his sin.  Psalm 51:11 Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy spirit from me.
  • With the coming of Christ, a new arrangement came into being.
    • The prophets had foretold that one day, the Spirit of God would be poured out on all flesh. Acts 1:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh:
    • Jesus promised that after he left the Spirit would come and on the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the crucifixion of Christ He did come and the world has never been the same. Acts 2:1–4  1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
  • Now since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes on every believer at the moment of salvation, in-dwells them, teaches them, guides them, and empowers them to witness for Him. 1 Corinthians 12:13  13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

THE TEACHING OF JESUS ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT (JOHN 14-16)

  • There is much more we could say about the Holy Spirit, but we are going to focus our time on things Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit and how He would minister during this present church age.
  • The following verses from John are all set during what we called “The Upper Room Discourse” – the things Jesus taught His disciples at the last supper just prior to His crucifixion.
  • The coming of the Holy Ghost, called “The Comforter” dominated His teaching because He would fill the gap that Jesus would leave when He ascended back to the Father.

1. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR DIVINE HELPER (John 14:16-17).

The Holy Spirit is another Comforter like God the Son sent by God the Father to permanently in-dwell and assist every believer.

John 14:16-17 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 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.

  • 13:33 Jesus tells the disciples that He is only going to be with them a little while longer and then He is going to go away and they are not going to be able to come with Him.
  • 13:36-37 Peter wants to know where He is going and why he can’t go with Him.
  • 14:1-3 This news no doubt made all the disciples very troubled, so Jesus says trust me, I am going to prepare a place for you can then come back for you.
  • 14:4-11 He elaborates more on the way they can get to where he is going (heaven) – the way to the Father is through believing on Jesus the Son.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter,

  • 14:16 Then He gives them some incredibly encouraging news – I am going to pray to the Father that He will give you another Comforter (helper, advisor, intercessor, counsellor, advocate)  just liked I have been to you.

that he may abide with you for ever;

  • 14:16 And this Comforter who is of the same sort/nature (“another”) as me will be with you for ever.

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him:

  • 14:17 This Comforter is the Spirit of truth. Those who reject me – the way, the truth, and the life – will not receive this Spirit because they will not open their hearts to Him nor do they want to get to know Him.

but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

  • 14:17 This Spirit of truth will be given to all who believe the truth and will be known of them because to know the Son is to know the Father and the Spirit.
  • 14:17 He will dwell with you and be in you.
  • One of the great things about the Holy Spirit is that he was sent by the Father to be a permanent comforter and helper to ever one who believers the truth.
  • If you have not believed on Christ, then you are really missing out.
  • If you have believed, then rely upon your comforter and helper.

2. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR TEACHER (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit teaches us all things and reminds us of all things God has said in His Word.

John 14:26  26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

  • 14:18 Jesus was not abandoning them; He promised to return.
  • 14:25 Jesus taught them some things, but then He said 14:26 there are other things which the Comforter (the Holy Ghost/Spirit) whose the Father will send in my name will teach.
  • 14:26 The Holy Spirit will come to teach all things and bring all things to our remembrance that I said unto you.
  • For the disciples, this meant that after Jesus left and the Spirit came, lots more things would make sense to them. John 12:16 These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
  • The Holy Spirit enabled them to write down the things that happened and the meaning behind them in the gospel records and the other New Testament books – Matthew, Mark (Peter), Luke (witnesses), John’s gospel and epistles, James the less, Peter’s epistles.
  • The Holy Spirit enables us to under the things that are written. 1 Corinthians 2:9–12 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 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. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
  • 14:27 This was written to bring them peace. There was no need to be afraid or troubled.
  • God has given you a teacher. You don’t need to remain afraid, troubled, or confused. Open the book and let Him teach you and comfort you and give you peace.

3. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS OUR POWER TO WITNESS (John 15:26-27).

The Holy Spirit testifies to the truth about Jesus and empowers us to testify about Jesus.

John 15:26-27 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

  • The Comforter (The Holy Spirit) is sent by the Father and by the Son.
  • Again He is called the Spirit of truth which proceeds from the Father.
  • He is the Spirit of truth because He testifies about Jesus who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
  • The main message the Holy Spirit wants to get out is who Jesus is. There is no truth apart from Him.
  • 15:27 One big way that the Holy Spirit testifies to who Jesus is by helping and empowering those who have believed on Christ and know Christ to bear witness to who Christ is.
  • This is what was promised in Acts 1:8  8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
  • And the Spirit did empower them. Acts 4:33  33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
  • And the Spirit will empower us to be witnesses for Him as well.

4. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS VERY BENEFICIAL TO US (John 16:7).

The Holy Spirit benefits believers in a way that is even better than having Jesus physically present here on earth.

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

  • 16:1 Jesus was trying to prep them for what was ahead so they would not get offended and fall away.
  • 16:6 Sorrow had filled their hearts thinking of how much they were going to be a loss by His departure
  • 16:7 But he says the truth is that my going away is actually “expedient” (more advantageous, profitable) for you.
    1. If I don’t go away, the Comforter will not come unto you.
    2. But if I do go away, then I will send Him not you.
    3. And that is actually going to be much better for you.
  • The “going away” of Jesus was talking about His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and sending the Spirit who would apply the work of Christ on the cross to their life and to everyone who believed.
  • The Spirit of God is the One who births us into the family of God. John 3:5–7 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
  • He comes to assist and equip all who believe on Christ to do the will of God.
  • What a good God to not only give His Son but then give His Spirit!
  • Are you getting the picture that He loves us very much!

5. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE WORLD’S CONVINCER (John 16:8-11).

The Holy Spirit works to convict the whole world of their sin and to convince them of their need to believe on Jesus.

John 16:8-11 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

  • Do your job of preaching and trust the Holy Spirit to convince them.
  • This does not mean they will necessarily believe, but He will show them, which is why many do believe when they hear and why others are angry because they know they are wrong. Acts 7:54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
  • We simply preach the message of the coming and cross of Christ and He will convict them. Acts 2:36–37  36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
  • What this means is that we don’t have to try to convince men or convict men – that is the job of the Holy Spirit.
    1. of sin (v.9) – the Spirit works to show men that the greatest sin is to reject Jesus Christ
      John 3:18  18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    2. of righteousness (v.10) – the Spirit shows men that Jesus was truly righteous because He was resurrection and went to His Father.
    3. of judgment (v.11) – through His death and resurrection Christ judged and condemned Satan and the Spirit tries to convince men that one day they will face judgement if they don’t believe on Jesus
  • The Spirit of God will work to “reprove” (convince, convict) the world:
  • Not only is it good for us that the Spirit come, but it is good for the world.

6. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A GUIDE FOR THE CHRISTIAN AND A GLORIFIER OF CHRIST (John 16:12-14). 

The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus by teaching believers all the truth they need to know about Jesus.

John 16:12-14 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 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 shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

  • 16:12 Jesus had many more things He wanted to say to them, but they were not able to bear them at that time.
  • 16:13 But the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who uses the Word of God, will come and guide them into all truth.
  • 16:13 His main focus will be not to speak of Himself but to speak what He hears from the Father and to show them things to come.
  • 16:14 His main focus will be to glorify Jesus. He knows all about Jesus and will show others all about Him.
  • As we get into the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, He will guide and direct us and teach us all that we need to know.
  • The Word of God’s grace taught by the Spirit is able to build us up and is all that we need. Acts 20:32 And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.
  • And the main focus of the entire ministry of the Holy Spirit is to put the spotlight not on Himself but on Jesus Christ. And so real Spirit-filled people and a real Spirit-filled church is going to make much of Jesus, to talk about Him all the time, glorifying Him, and proclaiming His message to all the world. 1 John 4:1–2  1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:

CONCLUSION

Gordon Brownville’s SYMBOLS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT tells about the great Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird’s cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen’s wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, “He’s alive! My husband is still alive!”

So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dove-like Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit’s message. – Thomas Lindberg

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