There is much confusion in the religious world today about the Holy Spirit. For some people, the Holy Spirit represents speaking in unknown tongues; for some, the Spirit means miraculous healings; and for still others the presence of the Spirit means comfort, assurance, and assistance in Christian living.
In all of the confusion, we hear the voices of many people asking, from a simple desire to know the truth, "Who is the Holy Spirit?" As with any question of a religious nature, our best course of action is to go to the Bible so that we can find an answer that truly comes from God.
From the Bible we learn many things about the Holy Spirit. In the time of the early church, the Spirit did cause many wonderful and miraculous things to happen. However, the Scriptures also demonstrate to us that the need for those miracles, such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healing, has stopped working in the lives of God's people.
Among the many truths we learn from the Bible about the Holy Spirit, five things stand out as being "timeless." That is, these are things which the Spirit does, or is, in all times. We want to emphasize three things that the Spirit "is", and then two important things that the Spirit "does".
The Holy Spirit is God
"Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:11).
These are words we understand to have been written by King David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba. David's greatest fear was that God would leave him as He had left King Saul. Therefore, he prays, "Do not cast me from your presence."
An interesting feature of ancient Hebrew poetry is its use of "parallelism" in which an idea in the first phrase or line is restated with different words in the second phrase or line. The second line of Psalm 51:11 is a request that God not take His Holy Spirit from David's presence. We understand from this verse that for God to take His Holy Spirit from a person is the same thing as God Himself leaving that person. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is God Himself. We must recognize, then, that the Spirit "is" everything that God "is", and that He "does" only what God Himself would "do".
The Holy Spirit Is a Gift
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Speaking to the crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost following Jesus' resurrection, Peter tells of two things that happen when a person is baptized. Assuming that true repentance has occurred, that person receives forgiveness of sins and "the gift of the Holy Spirit." Some would interpret this last expression to mean "a gift given by the Holy Spirit." However, it is more natural to understand this as "a gift which is the Holy Spirit."
This passage assures us that when a person becomes a Christian he immediately receives the Holy Spirit. It is not necessary to seek additional "experience" as proof of the Spirit's presence in the life of a Christian. God has placed Himself, in the form of the Holy Spirit, into every person who has been baptized into Christ. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to us.
The Holy Spirit Is a Seal of Ownership
"Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance..." (Ephesians 1:13,14).
Have you ever written your name inside a book cover? Why did you do that? It was to indicate the fact that you own the book, that it belongs to you. God does the same thing with a Christian -- He writes His name on that person to indicate His ownership. But God does not do His writing with pen and ink as we would. Rather, He marks us with His Holy Spirit. So Paul speaks in the above passage from the book of Ephesians, telling Christians that their belief in Jesus as the Son of God has caused God to mark them with the Spirit, to write His name on them.
We also learn from this passage that the Holy Spirit is the Christian's guarantee that he will receive the promised inheritance, which is eternal life in heaven with God. God has left the Spirit with us as a deposit which proves that He will keep His promise to us.
The Holy Spirit Helps in Prayer
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us..." (Romans 8:26).
Every Christian has at some time experienced the feeling that his or her prayers were not being heard by God. But the Word of God teaches very clearly that God is listening any and every time a Christian approaches Him in prayer. In fact, God Himself is present within us in the form of the Holy Spirit, and He understands our needs and desires. The Spirit of God takes our prayers before God, and this happens whether or not a person "feels" right about his prayer. This knowledge should be a great source of comfort to a Christian. God hears every prayer!
The Holy Spirit Helps Us Grow
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).
The desire of every Christian should be to become more like Jesus with every day that passes. Every characteristic demonstrated in the life of Christ should be reflected in the life of every believer. But this is no small task, and many have given up their Christian walk in discouragement over their failure to be like Jesus.
Paul's words in Galatians 5:22 should give the encouragement we need to continue striving for spiritual perfection. These characteristics are the result of the Spirit's presence and work in the life on a Christian! God has not given us a difficult task to accomplish all by ourselves. He has given us the task, and He has given us the perfect helper: the Holy Spirit.
God did not send His Holy Spirit to confuse man-kind. He sent the Spirit to help, to guide, and to comfort those whose desire is to follow Christ.
All we need to know about the Holy Spirit is presented in the Bible. Search the Scriptures so that you can understand who the Spirit is and what He does for a Christian. This knowledge will strengthen you.