Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God: “The Lord is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17). He is a member of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was there before creation hovering over the face of the deep. (Genesis 1:2) He inspired the Kings and prophets of Israel. But most especially he participated in the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus is the bearer of the Spirit. The Spirit created Jesus’ body in the womb of Mary. The Spirit appeared to him at his baptism. By the power of the Spirit Jesus cast out demons and healed the sick.
Jesus is also the giver of the Spirit. He breathed on his disciples after Easter and declared to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who follow him. To be a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the defining mark of a true faith. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3) He is the life of God residing in the human soul.
Yet even before we believe, the Spirit is active in our lives. Jesus said,”And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment...(John 16:8-10) His first work in your life is to awaken you to the danger of your sin and your urgent need for redemption. He makes us hunger and thirst for God. The first personal experience of the Holy Spirit is often a sharp twinge of guilt or perhaps a frightening sense of emptiness--an awakening to the painful reality of our self-centered living.
The Holy Spirit then leads you into the truth about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth,.... He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14) The Gospel is just so much firewood until the Holy Spirit ignites the pages and lights up the truth of salvation before your very eyes. It’s never enough to just read the Bible, we must call upon the Spirit who inspired the writing to also inspire our reading.
Baptism in particular is the work of the Holy Spirit. What the water does on the outside--namely cleansing our bodies--the Holy Spirit does on the inside--cleansing our souls. Jesus possesses the exclusive power to baptize us in the Holy Spirit. Only he can reach into the human soul and cleanse it from the guilt and power of sin.
But there’s more! The Holy Spirit guides and empowers the Christian life. Christians no longer live their lives according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:4) “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13) The Holy Spirit is the only means by which Christians can overcome temptations and all sinful desires. Many people experience an instantaneous breakthrough in overcoming a bad habit. For others the Holy Spirit leads them through a longer progression of growth to victory. A good short-hand motto for the Christian life is simply: Keep in step with the Spirit! (Galatians 5:25)
Many Christians neglect the Holy Spirit. He is present but only as the tiny flame of a pilot light. The majority of these Christians keep themselves in the driver’s seat of life. O that these Christians knew the adventure of the Spirit-filled life that they are missing! How do we turn on the gas and bring the fire of the Spirit to bear on our lives? The answer is prayer.
What were the disciples doing on Pentecost just before the Spirit filled them all? They were praying fervently in the Upper Room. Jesus put it this way, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?...If you then who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11, 13)