As Jesus was preparing His followers for His death and ultimately His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, they were understandably quite sad to see their Lord and dear friend depart. But Jesus said in John 16:6-7, “You are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.”
Elsewhere, in John 14:16-17, Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.”
In these passages, Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity. The Trinity is one of the most central mysteries of our faith, and we understand to the best of our human abilities that God is one God in three distinct Persons. It is incorrect to think that we worship three gods (Scripture is abundantly clear in its instruction of a monotheistic worship of God), and it also incorrect to think that ours is a god simply represented in different “modes” (a doctrine called Modalism, which was deemed heretical at the first general council at Constantinople in 381 in canon VII and the third general council at Constantinople in 680 in canon XCV). No, each Person of the Trinity is unique and entirely distinct from the other two, yet are all unquestionably one God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit has always existed into eternity past, independent of being created, and will forever exist. Augustine may have said it best when he said that one must believe before one can understand. I find the following image of the “Shield of the Trinity,” a widely accepted and traditional interpretation of the Trinity, to be helpful in explaining this theology well.
Perhaps I will blog later on the theology of the Trinity. Today I want to focus on the Holy Spirit.
As previously stated, the Holy Spirit was not created but has always existed – yes, even in Old Testament times (see Genesis 1:2, Genesis 6:3, 1 Samuel 16:14, Job 33:4, Nehemiah 9:20, Psalm 104:30, Haggai 2:4-5, Isaiah 63:10-14, and Zechariah 7:11-12; this fantastic article also outlines and explains notable references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament).
Being part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is a friend and guide to be welcomed and honored in our lives, not some impersonal force to be ignored or feared. Like Jesus, He has all the characteristics of God the Father, so He is patient, kind, and loving. We would be right to invite His presence to fill us regularly (Ephesians 5:18’s original Greek language indeed denotes a continual filling; D.L. Moody once said in response to why he needed a continual filling: “Because I leak!”) and embrace who He is and what He intends to do in us and through our willingness.
The Holy Spirit’s role and mission differs, though, from the roles of God the Father and God the Son. For as many references as there are to the Holy Spirit in the entirety of Scripture, there could probably be drawn the same number of comments as to His role and mission, but I want to focus on a few main ones.
The Holy Spirit exalts Jesus.
“[The Holy Spirit] will glorify Me” (John 16:14). Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the ultimate expression of mercy, and the Holy Spirit is purposed to enlighten us to this truth. The Holy Spirit is such a humble gentleman, too; He will not draw attention to Himself but rather to Christ. He opens unbeliever’s eyes to Jesus, He fills believers with power to stand for Jesus, He reminds us of the love of Jesus… Friends, this is the Holy Spirit’s desire, that Christ is increased in us and that we are decreased.
The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of the sin in their lives.
“When [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). Well, Jesus is never one to mince words! Without the understanding of how great our offense is against God, we would never have comprehended the need for a Savior. It was important, then, that the Holy Spirit, in His most loving way, confronted each of us with the repulsion of our sin, in order to bring us to salvation.
(I want to take a quick moment and address a common misunderstanding here. Once you have fully committed your heart to following and loving Jesus Christ, you receive the wonderful benefits of His sacrifice on the cross. All of your sins and shame are paid for completely! Many Christians mistakenly identify guilt, condemnation, or regret as the Holy Spirit. This is not so. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is to bring unbelievers to repentance and salvation. Then, to receive Christ’s far-reaching atonement is to have every single sin, past and future, accounted for. There is no longer anything for which to be condemned or feel guilty for – and praise God! 1 John 3:19-21 says, “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God” [emphasis mine]. John 3:17-18 declares, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” [emphasis mine]. Believers, the next time you feel condemned or made to feel less-than, identify that as an attack from the devil, for that is what it is.)
The Holy Spirit leads people to salvation.
Did you know that you could not have come to God until you were prompted by the Holy Spirit (John 6:44,65, Acts 16:14, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)? Why? Simply put, friends, we were dead in our sin – and a dead man has no feeling. The Holy Spirit must first come and awaken the desire within us for God and His beauty and truth. He has perfect timing; He knows exactly when and how to draw us toward the cross and break down our walls to the warm, inviting love of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit teaches and speaks to us, especially by illuminating God’s Word.
Part of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to bring a special depth of understanding when studying God’s Word (John 14:25-26). No longer are they mere words on a page, but they become life and spiritual food for us. The Holy Spirit will, in His impeccable timing, emphasize certain passages or words to us, for the purpose of our development as Christ-followers (or “sanctification”) and putting into proper perspective our view of Christ. There are times, too, that the Holy Spirit will whisper directly to our hearts, and we must train ourselves to listen for and respond to His voice.
The Holy Spirit comforts and strengthens believers.
The Holy Spirit is our comforter. He will minister to the wounds and grief that strike us throughout this up-and-down adventure called life (Psalm 34:8). He will also strengthen us! When we have no more stamina, when we are fearful, or when we have spiritual apathy, the Holy Spirit will grace us with His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). In fact, God desires that we operate not in our own strength, but in the strength He provides through the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 4:11)!
The Holy Spirit fills us with supernatural power.
This list can certainly run on for many more bullet points, but I want to lastly point out that the Holy Spirit desires to imbue us with supernatural power and authority. There is a range of spiritual gifts that are available to everyone in the family of God (noted primarily in 1 Corinthians 12), each for the general purpose of edifying the Church and reaching the world for God. These gifts include speaking in and interpretation of tongues, healing, prophecy, and even the gifts of helping (1 Corinthians 12:28) and encouragement (Romans 12:6-8). Even in Old Testament times, these gifts were distributed to and utilized by a select group of God-followers (note the large number of recorded prophets, see also 1 Samuel 19:23-24), but notice that the Spirit’s supernatural power was made available to all believers after the Pentecost experience in Acts 2, as instructed and prophesied by Christ (Luke 24:29). Look, the apostle Peter said in Acts 2:38-39, “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” This is us! I encourage you, in your personal and even public times of prayer and worship, to maintain a heart that is available and willing to be used by the Holy Spirit to accomplish His purposes – and I believe you’ll find that the Holy Spirit will place His power on you manifested through supernatural means.
Friends, I pray that this (certainly not exhaustive) study and explanation of the Holy Spirit impacts you. Allow His presence to flood your everyday life, and listen for His guidance and instruction.
Maybe you are reading this and you feel a leap in your heart.. an interest in Jesus. That’s the Holy Spirit at work even now! Why don’t you check out another blog post of mine called The Cross of Christ? That would be a great next step.
Questions? Thoughts? Please share below so we can all benefit.
From my heart,