Who is the Holy Spirit? He's been called "the forgotten God" and "the shy member of the Trinity." My guess is, even many Christians would acknowledge they don't know a lot about the Holy Spirit.
And then there are some truths about the Spirit's work that we won't know and can't quantify - at one level, there will always remain some mystery surrounding the Spirit's activity. Even Jesus seems to teach this in a passage like John 3:8: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You heard the sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
None of this, though, should keep us from pressing into Scripture and discovering what we can about the Holy Spirit.
The area of Christian theology that deals with the study of the Holy Spirit is called "pneumatology." Two of my favorite Christian books that deal with this area are (the more academic) Graham Cole's He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit and (the more accessible, popular) J.D. Greear's Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You.
For a brief overview - and perhaps to whet your appetite to dig in further - keep reading to see how I (very briefly!) orient people at a high level to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit 101 should include at least these four truths:
The Holy Spirit is a Person.
The Spirit isn't some impersonal force like in Star Wars, nor is the Spirit an energy we can manipulate. When Jesus talks about the Spirit in John 14-16, He uses the personal pronoun “He,” and not the impersonal “it” (see John 14:17; 15:26; 16:7-15).
Additionally, the Spirit has the qualities of a person: He can be lied to (Acts 5:3) and grieved (Ephesians 4:30). This is a big deal - it means we relate to the Spirit; we don’t use the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is fully God, the third Person of the Trinity.
Christians believe that there is one God who eternally exists in three Persons. This isn’t tritheism because they’re all one God. But at the same time it shows us the distinctions within the Godhead among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Looking for some verses that reinforce the deity of the Spirit? Check out Matthew 28:19; Acts 5:3-4; Romans 8:9-10; 2 Corinthians 13:14.
We’re not going any further into the mystery of the Trinity right now, but if your ears are smoking a little bit because it’s hard to fully grasp - that’s OK. We’re talking about the infinite, eternal Triune God and trying to understand Him as His creatures. Our ears should smoke a little bit.
A fully-orbed view of the Spirit must include at least His presence, His power, and His produce.
The Spirit's presence adopts us into God's family, giving us confidence as His children and sealing our inheritance (see Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:13). His power includes distributing spiritual gifts (e.g. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31) and faith-fully advancing God's mission (e.g. Acts 13:1-3). His "produce" is best encapsulated in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.
Too often people can emphasize one aspect of the Spirit's Person and work, while neglecting other areas of His activity. A fully-orbed view of the Spirit will find the biblical balance between all three of these things - His presence, power and produce.
Perhaps this is even hinted at in the words Paul tells Timothy: "For the Spirit of God does not make us timid, but gives us power [power], love [presence], and self-discipline [produce]" (2 Timothy 1:7).
The Holy Spirit makes a difference.
In John 16:7 Jesus actually says it’s to our advantage that He’s leaving, because that means the Holy Spirit is coming. The only way Jesus can say that is if the Spirit’s presence makes a HUGE difference!
I love how this quote helps us see this:
But then when we DO factor in the Holy Spirit, look at how that quote gets flipped on its head. (Here's my riff on the quote.)
So there you have it! Holy Spirit 101. By way of review, here are the main points:
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