The Holy Spirit
Every religion acknowledges spiritual realities. They tell us that the world we inhabit includes much more than what we can touch or see.
Even those who question the existence of God can’t escape feeling that his or her life is about something more than the daily grind. That’s because, as those made in the image of God, we are essentially spiritual beings.
But “spiritual” can mean different things to different people. Some of us love “spirituality” but not “religion.” Others view spiritual matters as mystical rather than practical.
Christianity, by contrast, teaches that human beings are made in the image of a God who is Spirit. To understand human spirituality, therefore, requires exploring three claims Christians make about a person the Bible calls The Holy Spirit.
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THE HOLY SPIRIT IS GOD
He is the third person of the Trinity.
Christians believe in one God who eternally exists in three persons: Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Holy Spirit. This teaching is known as the doctrine of the Trinity, a “mystery” because it has been revealed to us but can’t be fully understood. Many analogies have been used trying to explain the Trinity, but none are really adequate, so we won’t explore those here. But the doctrine of the Trinity tells us one very important truth about the nature of reality: God is an eternal communion of loving persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). So, as those made in His image, we yearn for a similar communion with God and our fellow image-bearers.
The Bible describes the Holy Spirit in terms that tell us He is God. For example:
The Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and Son – In Matthew 29:19, Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In 2 Corinthians 13:14, the Apostle Paul referenced this three-in-one God when he wrote, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” Throughout church history, whenever this teaching came under attack, orthodox Christian churches have consistently reaffirmed the belief that the Holy Spirit is co-equal with God the Father and God the Son.
The Holy Spirit is the Creator – Several passages of Scripture reference the Holy Spirit as present and active during the act of creation including Genesis 1:2 (“the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”) and Job 26:13 (“By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens.”).
The Holy Spirit is everywhere at once – The Bible describes God as “omnipresent” which means He is everywhere at once. This same description is used when referring to the Holy Spirit such as in Psalm 139 where David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” This is possible because, unlike human or angelic beings, the Holy Spirit is not a spirit but the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit conceived Jesus Christ – We read it every Christmas season, but we rarely consider the profound implications of the words found in Matthew 1:18: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Jesus Christ is the Son of God because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit of God rather than by a human father.
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ACTIVE
He is a personal companion, not an impersonal force.
The Holy Spirit is not a “force” like in Star Wars, but a caring person who wants to be actively involved in our lives. Active how?
He teaches us – Jesus taught His disciples while on earth. Just before leaving them He said, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) The Holy Spirit guided the apostles when they wrote the scriptures and when they clarified key Christian doctrines. He continues to teach anyone willing to learn.
He helps us – Jesus said that if we love Him, we should keep His commands. But we can’t do that on our own. So, He promised that the Holy Spirit would help us. “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” (John 14:16)
He guides us – Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would guide our spirits to know what is right and what is wrong. “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment.” (John 16:8)
THE HOLY SPIRIT DRAWS US TO JESUS
Jesus said, “the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)
This is very important in a world filled with different voices making a variety of “spiritual” claims. The Holy Spirit doesn’t point to a vague, generic spirituality. Nor does He make Himself the star of the show. He gently, lovingly draws us to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the Apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)
How will we know the difference between the Holy Spirit and false spirits?
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God; Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” (I John 4:2-3)
So, the next time you yearn for a deeper spirituality, remember that the Spirit of God Himself is eager and ready to guide your spiritual journey. Consider praying this simple prayer:
“Dear Holy Spirit, I invite you to guide me as I seek to understand and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”