Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit appears in
Towards the end of his life, Jesus prepared his disciples for his impending crucifixion. They’d already had to confront the idea that Jesus was God as well as human; now, he began introducing the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit. He was anxious not to leave them bereft, or as ‘orphans’, after he was gone.
“If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father,” said Jesus in John (NT), “and he will give you another helper, that he may abide with you forever… he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you…”
Indeed, not long after Jesus’ death, his followers got together at Pentecost (a Jewish festival). Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came like a rushing wind, and a tongue of fire appeared on the head of each of them, and they were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ and began to speak in different languages—ones they’d never learned!
Does this mean the Holy Spirit was ‘born’ after Jesus died? That he was some kind of invisible successor? No—because we find many instances of the Holy Spirit at work, right from the very beginning of the Bible.
The second verse of the Bible, in Genesis (OT), tells how ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters…’ as the world was being created. The Hebrew version uses the name ‘Elohim’ for God—a plural—so we infer that all three persons of the Holy Trinity worked together.
As God begins to establish his relationship with his people, the Holy Spirit begins to ‘fill’ certain individuals, empowering them to perform extraordinary tasks. In an early reference in Exodus (OT), Bezalel is filled ‘in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship’. Much later in Isaiah (OT), we also read, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me…”.
Moving into Paul’s teachings in the NT, years after Jesus’ death, we learn that Christians can receive gifts of the Spirit: “To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given…”
Paul’s letter to the Galatians (NT) tells that the Holy Spirit within us produces ‘fruits’: good attitudes and behaviour: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
The Filioque Clause was inserted into the Nicene Creed in 325AD, stating that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son—thus dividing the Western from the Eastern Orthodox Church, which maintains that he proceeds from the Father alone.
Christians are encouraged to seek the gifts of the Spirit, and to have his fruit in our lives. Why not seek the Holy Spirit for yourself? In Luke (NT), Jesus says, “If you… know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
Pray: Father, help me not to forget that there are three persons in the Holy Trinity—I find it easier to get to grips with God and Jesus than to understand the Spirit. Please stay with me on this journey of learning, and of getting to know you. Amen.
Listen to Thomas Tallis’ choral work If Ye Love Me, performed by Chanticleer
See Bernini’s stained-glass window of the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, in St Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Look up the Holy Spirit in Wikipedia
Read the book of Acts (NT) and discover the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the early Church
Read the book One Holy Fire by Nicky Cruz
Read the book I Believe in the Holy Spirit by Michael Green
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