There are many misconceptions about the identity of the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a mystical force (like in Star Wars). Others see the Holy Spirit as an impersonal power that God makes available to followers of Christ. What does the Bible say about the identity of the Holy Spirit? Simply put, the Bible declares that the Holy Spirit is God. He is the third person of the Trinity; Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The Bible also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, a being with a mind, emotions, and a will.
The Holy Spirit is God
Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit, the Helper, was different from Himself. The Father would send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, after Christ departed. The Spirit would speak through the disciples about Jesus (John 14:25–26; 15:26–27; 16:7–15). All three Persons Jesus mentions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are God while being distinct from each other within the Trinity.
The three members of the Trinity show up, together yet distinct, at Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus comes up from the water, the Spirit descends on Him like a dove while the voice of the Father is heard from heaven saying that He is pleased with His beloved Son (Mark 1:10–11).
“Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – Ephesians 1:13-14
A Personal Being
The Bible provides many ways to help us understand that the Holy Spirit is truly a person—that is, He is a personal being, rather than an impersonal thing. First, every pronoun used in reference to the Spirit is “he” not “it.” The original Greek language of the New Testament is explicit in confirming the person of the Holy Spirit—He is referred to as a “He,” as a person.
The personhood of the Holy Spirit is also affirmed by His many works. He was personally involved in creation (Genesis 1:2), empowers God’s people (Zechariah 4:6), guides (Romans 8:14), comforts (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8), teaches (John 16:13), restrains sin (Isaiah 59:19), and gives commands (Acts 8:29). Each of these works requires the involvement of a person rather than a mere force, thing, or idea.
The Holy Spirit’s attributes also point to His personality. The Holy Spirit has life (Romans 8:2), has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), is omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7). A mere force could not possess all of these attributes, but the Holy Spirit does.
What Does the Holy Spirit Do?
The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is a comprehensive one that can be summarised by Jesus’ words; The Helper. He is the one who convicts us of our sin, guides us into all truth, comforts us and empowers us to live a Christian life. He is the one who helps us to understand the Bible and to apply its truths to our lives. As the Holy Spirit lives in the believer, He brings about some life-changing results:
- The Spirit comes to a soul dead in sin and creates new life (Titus 3:5). This is the new birth Jesus spoke of in John 3:1–8.
- The Spirit confirms to the believer that he belongs to the Lord and is an heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ (Romans 8:15–17).
- The Spirit installs the new believer as a member of Christ’s universal church. This is the baptism of the Spirit, according to 1 Corinthians 12:13.
- The Spirit gives spiritual gifts (God-given abilities for service) to the believer to edify the church and serve the Lord effectively for His glory (1 Corinthians 12:11).
- The Spirit helps the believer understand and apply the Scripture to his daily life (1 Corinthians 2:12).
- The Spirit enriches the believer’s prayer life and intercedes for him in prayer (Romans 8:26–27).
- The Holy Spirit empowers the yielded believer to live for Christ to do His will (Galatians 5:16). The Spirit leads the believer in paths of righteousness (Romans 8:14).
- The Spirit gives evidence of new life by producing the fruit of the Spirit in the believer’s life (Galatians 5:22–23).
- The Spirit is grieved when the believer sins (Ephesians 4:30), and He convicts the believer to confess his sin to the Lord so that fellowship is restored (1 John 1:9).
- The Spirit seals the believer unto the day of redemption so that the believer’s arrival in the Lord’s presence is guaranteed after this life (Ephesians 1:13–14).
“I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.” – John 1:32
When / How Do I Receive the Holy Spirit?
The apostle Paul clearly taught that we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we receive Jesus Christ as our Saviour. First Corinthians 12:13 declares, “For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” Romans 8:9 tells us that if a person does not possess the Holy Spirit, he or she does not belong to Christ. Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the seal of salvation for all those who believe. These three passages make it clear that the Holy Spirit is received at the moment of salvation.
The ministries of the Holy Spirit are often confused. The receiving/indwelling of the Spirit occurs at the moment of salvation. The filling of the Spirit is an ongoing process in the Christian life. We hold that the baptism of the Spirit also occurs at the moment of salvation. Some other Christians do not, believing that the baptism of the Spirit comes subsequent to salvation.
In conclusion, how do we receive the Holy Spirit? We receive the Holy Spirit by simply receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour (John 3:5-16). When do we receive the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit becomes our permanent possession the moment we believe.