The Person of The Holy Spirit

Who or what is the Holy Spirit? 

  • The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead.
  • With respect to the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. God the Spirit is distinct from God the Father and God the Son. 

Why is the Holy Spirit considered to be God?

  • The Holy Spirit has the divine attributes of God. 
  • The Holy Spirit is equated with God. 
  • The Holy Spirit does work that only God does. 

What are some of the divine attributes that the Holy Spirit has? 

How is the Holy Spirit equated with God in the Bible? 

  • Paul puts the Spirit in a parallel construction with the Father and the Son … in a discussion of spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians12:4-6) and the closing of one of his letters (2 Corinthians 13:14).
  • Peter used a similar 3-part construction at the beginning of one of his letters. (1 Peter 1:2)
  • In Matthew 28:19, the Holy Spirit shares the one, same name with the Father and the Son, indicating one essence and one being.
  • These passages present the Holy Spirit as being equally divine as the Father and the Son.
  • When Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, he was lying to God

What does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit doing things that only God can do? 

When the Holy Spirit spoke, God was speaking. (Acts 13:2)

  1. When the Holy Spirit does something, God is doing it.
  • Acts 13:2 “The Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
  • When the Holy Spirit speaks, God is speaking.
  • Hebrews 3:7-11 The Holy Spirit says that the Israelites “tested and tried me”; the Holy Spirit says that “I was angry…. They shall never enter my rest”
  • Here, the Holy Spirit speaks as God.
  • Acts 5:3-4 When Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, he lied to God.
  • As Peter said, Ananias did not merely lie to God’s representatives, but to God himself.
  • People do not “lie” to an impersonal power.
  • To speak to the Holy Spirit is to speak to God.
  1. Christians are the temple of God, the Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul says Christians are a temple of the Holy Spirit;
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul says that Christians are God’s temple.
  • A temple is for the worship of a divine being, not an impersonal power.
  • When Paul writes “temple of the Holy Spirit,” he implies that the Holy Spirit is God.
  1. The Holy Spirit does the work of God in our lives.
  • John 1:12 We are born of God.
  • John 3:5 We are born of the Spirit.
  • 2:22 God lives in us.
  • 1 John 3:24 God lives in us.
  • 1 John 4:13 God lives in us.
  • 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16 The Holy Spirit lives in us.
  • Because the Spirit lives in us, we are able to say that God lives in us.

The Spirit is Personal

But the Holy Spirit is not just another name for God.

The Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son, as shown in Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:16-17).

The three are distinct, but not separate … distinct, but one.


Scripture describes the Holy Spirit as having personal characteristics.

The Spirit lives (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 3:16)

The Spirit speaks (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 21:11; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7; etc.), sometimes using the personal pronoun “I” (Acts 10:20; 13:2).

The Spirit may be spoken to,

The Spirit may be tested.

The Spirit may be grieved.

The Spirit may be insulted.

The Spirit may be blasphemed.

(Acts 5:3, 9; Eph. 4:30; Heb. 10:29; Matt. 12:31).

The Spirit guides.

The Spirit intercedes.

The Spirit calls and commissions

(Rom. 8:14, 26; Acts 13:2; 20:28).

The Holy Spirit has a mind Rom. 8:27

The Spirit makes judgments – a decision “seemed good” to the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28).

The Spirit “knows” and “determines” (1 Cor. 2:11; 12:11).

This is not an impersonal power.

Jesus called the Holy Spirit the parakletos – translated as the Comforter, the Advocate or the Counselor. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17).

The Holy Spirit teaches.

The Holy Spirit testifies.

The Spirit convicts.

The Spirit guides.

The Spirit reveals truth (John 14:26; 16:26; 16:8, 13-14).

These are personal roles.

John uses the masculine form of parakletos; it was not necessary to make the word neuter. In John 16:14, masculine pronoun (he) is used … even after the neuter word “Spirit” is mentioned.

It would have been easy to switch to neuter pronouns (it), but John does not.

POINT: The Spirit may be called he.

However, grammar is relatively unimportant; what is important is that the Holy Spirit has personal characteristics.

The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal power, but the intelligent and divine Helper who lives within us.

The Spirit in the Old Testament

Scripture does not have a section titled “The Holy Spirit.” We learn about the Spirit a little here and a little there, as Scripture happens to mention what the Spirit does. The Old Testament gives us only a few glimpses.

The Spirit was involved in creating and sustaining all life (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4; 34:14).  

The Spirit of God filled Bezelel with skill to build the tabernacle (Ex. 31:3-5).

He filled Moses and came upon the 70 elders (Num. 11:25).

He filled Joshua with wisdom and filled leaders such as Samson with strength or ability to fight (Deut. 34:9; Judg. 6:34; 14:6).

God’s Spirit was given to Saul and later taken away (1 Sam. 10:6; 16:14).

The Spirit gave David plans for the temple (1 Chron. 28:12).

The Spirit inspired prophets to speak (Num. 24:2; 2 Sam. 23:2; 1 Chron. 12:18; 2 Chron. 15:1; 20:14; Ezek. 11:9; Zech. 7:12; 2 Pet 1:21).

The Spirit in the New Testament

In the New Testament, too, the Spirit caused people to speak, including Elizabeth, Zechariah and Simeon (Luke 1:41, 67; 2:25-32).  

John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit even from birth (Luke 1:15).

His most important work was announcing the arrival of Jesus, who would baptize people not simply with water, but with “the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16).

The Spirit and Jesus

The Holy Spirit was involved throughout Jesus’ life.

The Spirit caused his conception (Matt. 1:20),

descended on him at his baptism (Matt. 3:16),

led him into the desert (Luke 4:1) and

anointed him to preach the gospel (Luke 4:18).

Jesus drove out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28).  

It was through the Spirit that he offered himself as a sacrifice for sin (Heb. 9:14).

It was by that same Spirit, that He was raised from the dead (Rom. 8:11).

Jesus taught that the Spirit would speak through his disciples in times of persecution (Matt. 10:19-20).

He told them to baptize followers in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).

He said that God was certain to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:13).

Jesus’ most important teachings about the Holy Spirit come in the Gospel of John.

First, people must be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).

People need a spiritual renewal, and this does not come from inside themselves: it is a gift of God.

Although spirit can’t be seen, the Holy Spirit does make a difference in our lives (v. 8).

Jesus also taught, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).

John adds this explanation: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (v. 39).

The Holy Spirit satisfies an internal thirst.

He gives us the relationship with God that we were created for.

We receive the Spirit by coming to Jesus, and the Spirit can fill our lives.

John also tells us, “Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified” (v. 39).

The Spirit had already filled various men and women before Jesus, but the Spirit would soon come in a new and more powerful way – on Pentecost.

The Spirit is now given on a far larger scale: to all who call on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:38-39).

Jesus promised that his disciples would be given the Spirit of truth, who would live in them (John 14:16-18).

This is equivalent to Jesus himself coming to his disciples (v. 18), because he is the Spirit of Christ as well as the Spirit of the Father – sent by Jesus as well as the Father (John 15:26).

The Spirit makes Jesus available to everyone and continues his work.

The Spirit would teach the disciples and remind them of what Jesus had taught (14:26).

The Spirit taught them things that they could not understand before Jesus’ resurrection (16:12-13).

The Spirit testifies about Jesus (15:26; 16:14).

He does not promote himself, but leads people to Jesus Christ and the Father.

He does not speak on his own, but only as the Father wants (16:13).

And because the Spirit can live in millions of people, it is for our good that Jesus left and sent the Spirit to us (16:7).

The Spirit works in evangelism, convicting the world of their sin, their guilt, their need for righteousness, and the certainty of judgment (vs. 8-10).

The Holy Spirit points people to Jesus as the solution to guilt and the source of righteousness.

The Spirit and the Church

John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize people in the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).

This happened on the day of Pentecost after his resurrection, when the Spirit dramatically gave new power to the disciples (Acts 2).

This included speaking that was understood by people from other nations (v. 6).

Similar miracles happened on a few other occasions as the church grew (Acts 10:44-46; 19:1-6).

As a historian, Luke reports the unusual as well as the more typical events.

There is no indication that these miracles happened to all new believers.

Paul says that all believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit into one body – the church (1 Cor. 12:13). Everyone who has faith is given the Holy Spirit (Rom. 10:13; Gal. 3:14).

Whether miracles happen to them or not, all believers have been baptized with the Holy Spirit.

It is not necessary to seek any particular miracle as proof of this. 

The Bible does not command any believer to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

Instead, every believer is encouraged to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18) – to be fully responsive to the Spirit’s lead.

This is a continuing duty, not a one-time event.

Rather than seeking a miracle, we are to seek God, and leave it to God’s decision as to whether miracles happen.

Paul often describes the power of God not in terms of miracles, but in inner strength – hope, love, patience, serving, understanding, suffering and preaching boldly (Rom. 15:13; 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 3:7, 16-18; Col. 1:11, 28-29; 2 Tim. 1:7-8).

As we can see from a survey of Acts, the Spirit is the power behind the church’s growth. The Spirit gave the disciples power to testify about Jesus (v. 8). He gave the disciples great boldness in preaching Christ (4:8, 31; 6:10). He gave instructions to Philip and later transported him (Acts 8:29, 39).

The Spirit encouraged the church and set leaders in it (9:31; 20:28). He spoke to Peter and to the church at Antioch (10:19; 11:12; 13:2). He inspired Agabus to predict a famine and Paul to pronounce a curse (11:28; 13:9). He led Paul and Barnabas on their journeys (13:4; 16:6-7) and helped the Jerusalem council come to a decision (15:28). He sent Paul to Jerusalem and warned him what would happen (20:22-23; 21:11). The church existed and grew only through the Spirit working in the believers.

The Spirit and believers today

God the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in the life of believers today. He leads us to repentance and gives us new life (John 16:8; 3:5-6). He lives in us, teaches us and leads us (1 Cor. 2:10-13; John 14:16-17, 26; Rom. 8:14). He leads us through Scripture, prayer and other Christians. He is the Spirit of wisdom, helping us look at choices with confidence, love and self-control (Eph. 1:17; 2 Tim. 1:7).

The Spirit circumcises our hearts, seals us and sanctifies us, setting us apart for God’s purpose (Rom. 2:29; Eph. 1:14). He produces in us love and the fruit of righteousness (Rom. 5:5; Eph. 5:9; Gal. 5:22-23). He puts us into the church and helps us know that we are God’s children (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 8:14-16).

We are to worship God “by the Spirit,” with our minds set on what the Spirit wants (Phil. 3:3; 2 Cor. 3:6; Rom. 7:6; 8:4-5). We strive to please him (Gal. 6:8). If we are controlled by the Spirit, he gives us life and peace (Rom. 8:6). He gives us access to the Father (Eph. 2:18). He helps us in our weakness, interceding for us (Rom. 8:26-27).

The Holy Spirit also gives spiritual gifts, including leaders for the church (Eph. 4:11), basic functions within the church (Rom. 12:6-8), and some abilities for extraordinary purposes (1 Cor. 12:4-11). No one has every gift, nor is any gift given to everyone (vs. 28-30). All gifts, whether spiritual or “natural,” are to be used for the common good, to help the entire church (12:7; 14:12). Every gift is important (12:22-26).

Now, we have only the firstfruits of the Spirit, only a deposit that guarantees much more in our future (Rom. 8:23; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is God at work in our lives. Everything God does is done through his Spirit. Paul therefore encourages us: “Let us keep in step with the Spirit…. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire” (Gal. 5:25; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Be attentive to what the Spirit says. When he speaks, God is speaking.

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