Before Jesus left his disciples, he promised that he would send the Holy Spirit to them when he returned to heaven. The Holy Spirit would come to them, live within them, and help them live the kind of life Jesus wanted them to live. He would also serve as their counselor and guide, bringing to their minds everything Jesus had taught them while he was on earth.
Through the Holy Spirit, the disciples and all other believers would be able to produce spiritual fruit that would glorify God. The Spirit would purify their motives, fill them with joy and help them to be all that Christ taught them to be. The Holy Spirit would also enable them to witness to others with such power that many people would be attracted to Christ and to the fellowship of believers.
1. Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God, just as the Father is God and the Son is God. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament make frequent references to the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament he is usually referred to simply as the Spirit of God, while in the New Testament he is often referred to as “the Holy Spirit.” Christians refer to the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. . . . no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. (Galatians 4:6)
2. Does this mean that there are three separate Gods called the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?
No. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes that there is only one true God. However, the Bible also teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Believers therefore refer to the one true God as the Holy Trinity (Tri-Unity or three-in-one). Though we cannot fully understand this teaching, we accept it as a truth which God has made known to us in the Bible. When we honor and worship the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are worshiping the one true God.
Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
3. Is the Holy Spirit a divine Person or simply a spiritual influence?
The Holy Spirit is a divine Person as the Father and the Son are. The Holy Spirit thinks, loves, feels and acts. He also comforts us, prays for us, hears our prayers, teaches and guides us, purifies us and lives within us.
Jesus said, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
The Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand. (Acts 1:16)
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13)
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:4)
The apostle Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit . . . You have not lied to man, but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
4. When do we first read about the Holy Spirit in the Bible?
We first read about the Holy Spirit in the second verse of the Bible. The Holy Spirit was involved in the creation of the world and continues to be involved in the creation of all new life in the world.
The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:2)
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104:30)
5. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual life?
The Holy Spirit is the creator and source of spiritual life just as he is the source of natural life. He produces spiritual fruit in us, leads us into the truth, gives us victory over temptation, comforts us in times of sadness and sorrow, encourages us in times of weakness, assures us of forgiveness when we sincerely confess our sins, empowers us to be faithful witnesses to Jesus, and helps us to become more like our Savior Jesus.
Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:5-6)
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)
Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:8)
They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31)
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. (Romans 8:9)
6. How can we receive the Holy Spirit into our own hearts and lives?
We must repent of our sins, trust in Jesus for forgiveness, and ask our Father in heaven to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)
7. What kind of spiritual fruit does the Holy Spirit produce in the lives of believers?
The Holy Spirit enables us to produce spiritual fruit that glorifies God and blesses others. Without the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives, we would never be able to become the kind of people God wants us to be.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. . . . to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6)
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
8. How does the Holy Spirit help us resist and overcome temptation?
When we humbly follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be victorious over temptations of every kind. The Holy Spirit actually lives within us, helping us to focus on things that are pleasing to God and enabling us to resist the temptations of our flesh (sinful nature). The Holy Spirit may also bring to our minds truths that we have forgotten. He helps us to remember that we belong to God and that we are not our own masters. And he creates a renewed desire in our hearts to live for the Savior who died for us.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
You . . . are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. (Romans 8:9)
Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
9. Is it possible for believers to disobey the Holy Spirit and lose the blessing and joy of living for Christ?
Yes, at least temporarily. When we deliberately choose to sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit and lose the peace and joy he gives us when we obey him. But if we have truly been born again, the Spirit will bring us back to the way of life after we have wandered away from it.
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
10. How does the Holy Spirit help us in our prayer life?
The Holy Spirit not only helps us to pray but he also prays for us.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us . . . And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)
Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6:18)
11. What are some of the spiritual gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to believers?
The Holy Spirit gives a wonderful variety of gifts to believers. He distributes these gifts to believers in a way and at a time that he himself chooses.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6-8)
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge . . . to another faith . . . to another gifts of healing . . . to another the working of miracles . . . to another prophecy . . . to another the ability to distinguish between spirits . . . to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11)
12. Is the Holy Spirit concerned about the unity of believers?
Very much. The unity of the church is of great importance for the spiritual growth of believers and also for their witness to the unbelieving world.
(Be) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace . . . until we all attain to the unity of the faith . . . and mature manhood. (Ephesians 4:3, 13)
Jesus prayed: “[May they] all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me . . . I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21, 23)
13. Why should we always follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and use our bodies to honor and glorify God?
Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. We are not our own masters. We belong to God!
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
We are the temple of the living God. (2 Corinthians 6:16)
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
14. What promise is given to believers concerning the future resurrection of their bodies?
When Jesus returns to earth again, our earthly bodies will be raised as new glorious bodies that will never die.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:54)
15. Can we be sure that we are truly saved?
Yes. When we trust in Jesus as our Savior and seek to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit assures us that we are children of God.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God . . . The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:14-16)
By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:13)
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
1. Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God just as the Father is God and the Son is God. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the “third person” of the Holy Trinity. When we speak of three “persons,” the word “persons” does not refer to three independent beings who exist totally independent from each other. There is only one true God. Neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit existed before the others, and none has more power or honor than another. However, within the divine Trinity, different “activities” are often associated with one or another of the three “persons.” For example, the Father sent the Son into the world. The Son came to earth and took on human form. The Holy Spirit gave life to the baby Jesus in the womb of Mary and also gives new spiritual birth to people and sanctifies them. It is impossible for us to fully understand the one eternal God, but we humbly accept what the Bible teaches us about him.
2. Since the Bible never uses the word “Trinity,” why do Christians use that word when referring to God?
The word “Trinity” essentially means “three (tri) in one (unity).” The Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that there is only one true God. However, it also clearly teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. The word “Trinity” in this context therefore refers to the “unity” of the three persons referred to in the Bible as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. People have tried to find some analogies or parallels to this profound concept of “three-in-one” in the world of nature, but all analogies are insufficient to describe the unique oneness of God. Though many books have been written about God and many sermons have been preached about him, we will always have to acknowledge that as human beings it is impossible for us to fully understand everything God has revealed to us about himself in the Bible. At the same time, we may confidently say and believe that there is only one true God who exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. What difference would it make if we believed that the Holy Spirit was simply some kind of divine “influence” rather than a “Person?”
First of all, we would be denying many of the things that the Bible teaches us about the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit of God was not truly personal, we would not be able to have fellowship with him, pray to him, or ask him for guidance, comfort, courage, wisdom, and strength. Also, the Holy Spirit could not pray for us. We cannot pray to an influence, and an “influence” cannot pray for us! Further, if the Holy Spirit is only an influence of some kind, it would be rather meaningless for us to baptize believers in the name of the Father and the Son and an influence. Also, Paul’s final greetings in 2 Corinthians 13:14 would seem very strange, since it refers to the grace of Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is definitely a very strong “influence” in our lives, but he is able to influence our lives in so many positive ways precisely because he is both divine and personal.
4. According to the Bible, what are some of the things that the Holy Spirit does?
The Bible states that the Holy Spirit speaks, teaches, loves, comforts, enlightens, understands, communicates, leads, guides, unites believers, gives spiritual gifts to believers, and is grieved when we sin. The Holy Spirit was an agent of creation in the beginning and continues to create new spiritual life in the hearts of believers. He prays for us, cares about us, knows our needs, responds to our prayers, gives us spiritual gifts, comforts us, and works in our hearts and lives to make us more like Christ. The Holy Spirit also empowered Jesus for his ministry on earth. In fact, the Spirit’s main activity is to reveal Jesus and glorify him.
There are very many passages in the Bible that tell us about the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in both Old Testament and New Testament times. Among them are the following: Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30; Matthew 1:18, 20; Matthew 3:13-17; John 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:5- 11; Acts 2:1-6; Romans 8:1-11, 26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 12:1-13; Galatians 5:16-25; Ephesians 4:3-4.
5. How can we receive the fullness of the Spirit’s blessings in our lives?
We receive the Holy Spirit as a gift of grace and not because of our personal goodness or spiritual activities. However, we may (and should) pray for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in our lives, keep us from sin, help us to resist and overcome temptation, lead us to repentance, strengthen our faith, increase our understanding, and enable us to be more like Christ. If we choose to resist the work of the Spirit in our lives through deliberate disobedience or indifference or selfish living, we will not enjoy the special gifts of the Spirit or experience his life-changing power. God often responds to our earnest prayers by giving us special spiritual blessings, so we should continue to pray that we will be filled with the power and presence of the Holy Spirit so that we may continually live in a way that honors and glorifies him.
6. What are some of the special gifts that the Holy Spirit gives to believers?
1 Corinthians 12 gives us a list of many of the special gifts of the Spirit. Some people are given special wisdom to know and understand the Scriptures and to discern the will of God. They may also have wisdom to know how to respond to a specific need or to a difficult or challenging situation. Some are given a special knowledge of another person’s needs, concerns, and problems, and even their thoughts. They may also have knowledge of a situation far removed from where they are at the moment and know how best to respond to that situation. Others are given the gift of exceptional faith to deal with a special need or concern. Others are given the ability to perform healing miracles and, in some cases, even to raise the dead. Others are able to work miracles of one kind or another, foretell the future, or discern the truth or falsehood of what others are saying or teaching. Some are able to speak (at least temporarily) in languages which they have not studied or learned. Others are able to interpret things which others are saying in a language they have not learned. Some also seem to be given the gifts of compassion and love and patience and generosity, though these are not specifically mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12.
Believers who place a strong emphasis on these special gifts are sometimes referred to as Pentecostals, since the Holy Spirit came upon the church on the day of Pentecost in power and with special gifts of various kinds. One does not have to be a member of a Pentecostal church, however, in order to receive these gifts or to believe that the Holy Spirit still gives very special gifts and powers to believers today.
7. Do all Christians have the same spiritual gifts? Will the Holy Spirit give us whatever special gifts we ask for?
The answer to both questions is NO. The Holy Spirit does not give the same gifts to everyone. In 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul writes that the Spirit gives gifts to each one “as he determines” and not as we request. He re-emphasizes this again in verses 27-30 of this chapter where he indicates that not all are teachers, not all work miracles, not all have gifts of healing, and not all speak in tongues or interpret them. At the same time, he urges his readers to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” It is interesting, however, that Paul does not indicate which of these gifts might be “greater.” Earlier in the chapter he emphasizes that the church needs all the gifts and that we should not disparage any of the gifts, even though they might seem to be “less important.” (See his discussion of this subject in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.)
Believers should be very careful not to esteem certain gifts above others in such a way that people exalt some believers over others because of the specific gift(s) they have received.
8. Galatians 5:22-23 refer to “the fruit of the Spirit.” What fruit is referred to in this passage? Do all faithful believers bear the same fruit?
According to Galatians 5:22-23, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Paul mentions these specific things as important examples of the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in the lives of Jesus’ followers. However, this should not be considered a complete or exhaustive list. For example, one could also mention such other fruit produced by the Spirit as holiness, generosity, thoughtfulness, and perseverance.
Regrettably, not all believers exhibit all the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:23. Some, for example, may demonstrate much love and kindness in their lives, though they may not always be patient or joyful. Others may be patient and joyful but still have some significant moral weaknesses in their lives. The reason for this lack of fruit in our lives is because of our sinful nature and our willful pursuit of certain things which do not please God. Regrettably, no one is perfect and no one is totally free from sin in his life. However, if there is little or no spiritual fruit in a person’s life, there is good reason to question whether Christ truly lives in that person’s heart.
9. Ephesians 4:3 and 4:12-13 refer to the unity of the Spirit. Is the church of Christ united today? If it is, how does that unity manifest itself? If it is not, how should we pursue the unity that these passages refer to?
All born-again believers, no matter whether they are Jews or Gentiles, men or women, young or old, educated or uneducated, are united together as one in Christ Jesus. Christ is the sole Head of this church, and all believers are equally members of it. They have the same spiritual life, enjoy the same blessings of salvation, and receive the same promises from God. In that sense the church of Christ is definitely united.
Christians manifest this unity in Christ in various ways. One very significant way is by confessing the same basic truths—such as those in the Apostles Creed and other historic Christian creeds. Sincere Christians all recognize and acknowledge that they have been saved through their faith in Jesus who gave his life for them. They also share a heartfelt conviction that they will spend eternity with each other in joy and glory in the presence of their Lord and Savior.
Further, Christians of different denominations worship together on special occasions and also join with other believers in working together to minister to the poor and needy in the name of Christ. They also share in such activities as Scripture translation, distribution of the Scriptures, and in promoting the Bible’s teachings regarding moral or social issues. Examples of this are found in the efforts to promote pro-life activities or to promote Biblical teachings on marriage, drug use, sexuality and other moral issues. Christians of different congregations and denominations may also love one another in personal friendships and fellowship groups. However, the church is regrettably and obviously very divided into a great number of denominations throughout the world. Starting a new denomination is often very easy. Many times a person with special gifts of speaking, fund raising or persuasion will begin his own church and gain a number of followers who appreciate this person’s gifts or abilities. As a result, the number of denominations in the world is distressingly large. In many instances, members of different denominations agree on many basic issues, but they disagree on certain practices or beliefs or organizational matters. When that happens, it makes it more difficult to convince non-believers that the church is truly united as one in Christ.
To promote the kind of unity Ephesians refers to, Christians should pray for one another, encourage each other, work together in sharing the Gospel in various meaningful ways, support non-denominational organizations that promote Bible translation and Bible distribution, join together in helping to meet the needs of the poor and others in the name of Christ, and unite with others in promoting Biblical teachings on social and moral issues where they are in agreement. And, without giving up their own understanding of the Scriptures, they should seek to understand the views of others so that they can deal with them patiently, lovingly, and fairly.
10. What are some of the practical implications of the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within us?
The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives should provide us with courage, comfort, wisdom, confidence, spiritual boldness and a strong desire to witness to others about Jesus.
The indwelling Holy Spirit will also help us to remember that we should always use our bodies, our minds, and our personal resources in ways which please and honor our Lord. Through the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will also be able to grow in grace, resist and overcome temptation, be sensitive to the needs of others, and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We do not have to face life’s trials, problems, challenges, or difficulties in our own strength, but we can depend on the One who dwells within us who is all-knowing and all-powerful. What a tremendous blessing it is to be filled with the Spirit as we presently live our lives on this earth and as we prepare for our eternal life with Christ in glory!