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Who the Holy Spirit Really Is (and Why It Matters to You)

  • Rachel Dawson
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  • 2017 May 12
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It often feels like we forget a member of the Trinity. We talk a lot about God, focus a lot on Jesus, and seem to ignore or neglect the Holy Spirit. It makes sense, as a spirit can be a lot more abstract and harder to get hold of than Jesus as a man, or than God, even… but the Holy Spirit (or the Holy Ghost) is crucial to our Christian faith.

If there was one word best used to sum up the role of the Holy Spirit, it would most likely be “helper.” In John 16:7, Jesus tells his disciples: “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” Other translations say “Advocate” instead of “Helper,” but the intention and heart of the word in the original Greek is the same-- the Spirit is moving and working on our behalf, helping us to grow closer to the Father through Christ, advocating for us and speaking to us.

Alistair Begg recently wrote “Five Truths About the Holy Spirit” for Ligonier.org, and he shares several convicting and helpful thoughts that will help us better understand this neglected member of the Trinity.

Here are three things from Begg’s article that we should remember about the identity and importance of the Holy Spirit:

  1. “The Holy Spirit is a unique person and not simply a power or an influence.” I remember thinking as a child that the Holy Spirit was more like a ghost than a real, concrete being, but that kind of thinking can damage how we relate to the Spirit and interact with him. “We have to understand that the Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity, is personal,” Begg writes.
  2. “The Holy Spirit is one both with the Father and the Son.” This is the most powerful and baffling thing about the Trinity -- each third is unique, but all three are united. “In theological terms,” Begg explains,” we say that He is both co-equal and co-eternal. ...So the activity of the Spirit is never given to us in Scripture in isolation from the person and work of Christ or in isolation from the eternal will of the Father.”
  3. “The Spirit is the author of the Scriptures.” We read in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is God-breathed” and in 2 Peter 1:21 that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” These verses illustrate the divine work of the Holy Spirit through men to record what we know now as the Bible-- “this is a book that exists as a result of the out-breathing of the Holy Spirit,” Begg says.

The more I study Scripture and discover who the Holy Spirit is, the less I think of him as some abstract or flighty ghost character and the more I come to see him and believe him to be a living, breathing, personal helper and advocate in my life and in the world around me. The Spirit has become much more real to me, much more powerful, dynamic, and intimately near, and it’s changing how I live out my faith day to day when I see him and encounter him as such.

In an article on Crosswalk.com called “Why Believe the Holy Spirit is a Person,” Tim Barnett explains that the Holy Spirit “has a will,” “has a mind,” and “has emotions.” Barnett writes: “If the Holy Spirit has a will that decides (1 Cor. 12:11), a mind that thinks (Rom. 8:27), and emotions that feel (Eph. 4:30), how can anyone rationally claim the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force?”

The Holy Spirit, part of the Trinity with God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son, is as personal as it gets. He is as near to us as our breath, and he is alive and at work, advocating for us, helping us, and drawing us nearer to the heart of our Creator.

The best way I’ve found to grow in my relationship with the Holy Spirit is to read Scripture itself-- I encourage you to read the many passages throughout the Bible that will help all of us come to know and understand the Holy Spirit better as we see him at work.

The ministry of the Spirit, like Begg writes, “is both permanent and personal.” Let’s not neglect him any longer.

Photo credit: Unsplash

Publication date: May 12, 2017

Rachel Dawson is the design editor for Crosswalk.com.