The Holy Spirit: An Introduction


Of the three persons in the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit is doubtless the least known and understood. Yet He is most vitally and intimately involved in our initial conversion and birth into the family of God and in our ongoing development as Christians. Our awareness of His work in our lives as Christians can ripen into a relationship with Him that brings us power, joy and hope.

Of primary importance is the truth: the Holy Spirit is as much a person as God the Father and God the Son. He is not an impersonal “it,” nor an influence, a phantom or an apparition.1

The Holy Spirit is God. The Bible identifies Him as one of the three Persons existing as one God that is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. 2

In Christian theology the study of the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology, from two Greek words, pneuma meaning "wind," "breath," or "spirit" and logos meaning "word," or "logic." Generally this includes such topics as the personality of the Spirit, the deity of the Spirit, and the work of the Spirit as presented in the Bible.3

The Person and work of the Holy Spirit

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets. “4

How, therefore, can we come to a right knowledge, as revealed by God, of the Holy Spirit? First, we must accept that the truth of the existence of the third person of the Trinity is at the heart of the most impenetrable divine mystery. Certitude about the existence of the Holy Spirit and His activities can never be found in the realm of speculative or positive theology. 5 It can only be found in God’s self-revelation in the Scriptures.

A. The Holy Spirit

The Old Testament calls it Ruach (Hebrew). The New Testament calls it Pneuma (Greek). We get the word Pneumatic (of, relating to or of using air or wind, Webster) from the New Testament Greek word. The English Bible however doesn’t translate either one as air. Usually, its breath. “God breathed into man the breath of life.” Or its called wind. “Like a mighty wind”. Or it is translated spirit – as in the “spirit of man” or “the Holy Spirit.”

A number of synonyms are used for Spirit – words like helper, advocate, comforter, convicter, restrainer, exhorter, and reprover.6

B. The Holy Spirit is a Person

1. John 14:14-17 depicts Him using pronouns like “He” or “Him” are used to refer to the Holy Spirit rather than “it.”

2. The Holy Spirit exhibits attributes of personality

  1. Intellect. The ability to know and understand reality. (Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11)

  2. Emotion. The ability to experience emotion. (Ephesians 4:30)

  3. Volition. The ability to determine or act decisively. (1 Corinthians 12:7,11; Acts 13:2 ; 15:28-29)

C. The Holy Spirit is God

1. The Holy Spirit exhibited divine attributes

  1. Omniscience – (Isaiah 40:13-14)

  2. Omnipresence – (Psalm 139:7)

  3. Eternality – (Hebrews 9:14)

  4. Truth – (1 John 5:6-8; John 16:13)

2. Statements of His Deity

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:17

  2. Acts 5:3-4

D. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The Holy Spirit – Holy “Ghost,” from the Old English gast, meaning “spirit” – is the Third Person of the Trinity. In the Old Testament, the Spirit was active in creation (Gen.1:2 ; Psalm 104:30; Psalm 33:6; Job 33:4), in the lives of the Judges (Judges 3:10; 14:6), in the lives of the kings (1 Sam. 16:13-14), and in the lives of the prophets (Isaiah 61:1) 7

Furthermore the Holy Spirit also gave wisdom and skill for particular works including those of a non-spiritual nature (Exodus 31:2-5).

The work of the Spirit also inspired the prophets. Which can be noticed whenever a prophet would proclaim “Thus saith the Lord!” (Numbers 11:29; Ezekiel 2:2; Acts 28:25)

E. The Holy Spirit in the New Testament

1. The earthly ministry of Christ

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was the creative agent in the conception of Jesus (Luke1:35), was present in Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:22), and was active in the lives of the apostles (Acts 2:4). 8

2. The Holy Spirit Bears Witness of Christ

The Holy Spirit attests that Jesus is the Christ (John 15:26). He also discloses or reveals Christ (John 16:14). He will not speak of Himself but of Christ (John 16:13).

The Holy Spirit Working among the Disciples

When Christ left the world, He committed His cause to His disciples. He made them responsible for going and making disciples of all nations. “Ye… shall bear witness,” He told them in the upper room (John 15:27 KJV). “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth,” were His parting words to them on Olivet, before He ascended (Acts 1:8). Such was their appointed task. But what sort of witnesses were they likely to prove? They had never been good pupils; they had consistently failed to understand Christ and missed the point of His teaching throughout His earthly ministry; how could they be expected to do better now that He had gone? Was it not virtually certain that, with the best will in the world, they would soon get the truth of the gospel inextricably mixed up with a mass of well-meant misconceptions, and their witness would rapidly be reduced to a twisted, garbled, hopeless muddle?

The answer to this question is no – because Christ sent the Holy Spirit to them, to teach them all truth and so save them from error, to remind them of what they had been taught already and to reveal to them the rest of what their Lord mean them to learn. “The Counselor… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when the Spirit of truth, comes He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears” (that is He would make known to them all that the Father had instructed Him to tell them: see John 12:49-50; 17:8,14) “ and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to Me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:12-14). In this way “He will testify about me” (to you, my disciples, to whom I send Him); and (equipped and enabled by His testifying work.) “you must also testify (15:26-27)

The promise was that, taught by the Spirit, these original disciples should be enabled to speak as so many mouths of Christ so that, just as the Old Testament prophets had been able to introduce their sermons with the words, “Thus saith the LORD Jehovah,” so the New Testament apostles might with equal truth be able to say if their teaching, oral or written, “Thus saith the Lord Jesus Christ.” 9 (2 Peter 1:20-21)

As Chuck Swindoll interestingly points out:

Let me pass along something I hope you never forget. If you get involved in a ministry that glorifies itself instead of Christ, the Spirit of God is not in that ministry. If you follow a leader that is getting the glory for that ministry, instead of Christ, the Spirit of God isn’t empowering his leadership. If you’re part of a Christian school or a mission organization or a Christian campaigning ministry in which someone other than Christ is being glorified, it is not being empowered by the Spirit of God. Mark it down: THE SPIRIT GLORIFIES CHRIST.” 10

Our proper response

Do we honor the Holy Spirit by recognizing and relying on His work? Or do we slight Him by ignoring it, and thereby dishonor not merely the Spirit but the Lord who sent Him?

In our faith: Do we apply the authority of the Bible, the prophetic Old Testament and the apostolic New Testament, which He inspired? Do we read and hear it with the reverence and receptiveness due to the Word of God? If not, we dishonor the Holy Spirit.

In our life: Do we apply the authority of the Bible and live by the Bible, whatever anyone may say against it, recognizing that God’s Word cannot but be true, and that what God has said He certainly means, and He will stand behind it? If not, we dishonor the Holy Spirit, who gave us the Bible.

In our witness: Do we remember that the Holy Spirit alone, by His witness, can authenticate our witness, and look to Him to do so, and trust Him to do so, and show the reality of our trust, as Paul did, by eschewing the gimmicks of human cleverness? If not, we dishonor the Holy Spirit.

Can we doubt that the present bareness of the church’s life is God’s judgment on us for the way we have dishonored the Holy Spirit? And, in that case, what hope have we of its removal till we learn in our thinking and our praying and our practice to honor the Holy Spirit? “He shall testify…”

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”11

Recommended readings

Paul Little – Know What You Believe, Chapter 6: The Holy Spirit

John McArthur – Fundamentals of the Faith, Lesson 7: The Person & Ministry of the Holy Spirit

J.I. Packer – Knowing God, Chapter 6: He Shall Testify

John Schwarz – A Handbook of the Christian Faith, Chapter 7: Christian Beliefs

Charles Swindoll – Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Chapter 10: The Spirit Who is Not a Ghost


1 Little, Paul – Know What You Believe p.79

2 McArthur, John – Fundamentals of the Faith p.47


4 The Nicene Creed,

5 Maloney, George A. – The Spirit Broods Over the World p. 6

6 Swindoll, Charles – Growing Deep in the Christian Life p. 177

7 Schwarz, John, - A Handbook of the Christian Faith, p.198

8 Ibid

9 Packer, J.I. – Knowing God p.70

10 Swindoll, Charles – Growing Deep in the Christian Life p.188

11 loc cit

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