The Holy Spirit

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"The Spirit-filled life is not a special, deluxe edition of Christianity. It is part and parcel of the total plan of God for His people.” A.W Tozer, The Pursuit of God

If there’s one area that has caused some degree of confusion in church and theology since the New Testament was assembled all those years ago, it’s the role and person of the Holy Spirit. 

Who is He, what is He, and what does He do?

Pneumatology, which means the study of the Holy Spirit, is a fascinating area of theology and an incredibly important part of the life of a follower of Jesus. To help you get to grips with understanding and developing a relationship with the Holy Spirit, we’ve put together a Biblical outline of His role, nature and purpose.  

1.     WHAT: Co-eternal, co-existing 

Placing the Holy Spirit within His role in the Trinity is a little tricky. Whilst the Holy Spirit works on behalf of the Father and is commissioned by Jesus, there is no implication in scripture that He is subordinate to either of those. He is co-eternal, co-existing with the Father and the Son as an equal substance of in the Trinity. Those are the theological terms worth remembering; rather than being a ‘part’ of God, He actually IS God! For more of a historical-theological placing of the Holy Spirit, have a look at the Nicene Creed here (https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/nicene-creed). Notice the use of the word ‘proceed’ from the Father, which means derives from the same substance, followed by the use of the word ‘and with the Father and Son is worshipped and glorified’, indicating that the Spirit is constantly cooperating and co-existing on the same level.

2.     WHO: A person

One of the common myths about the Holy Spirit is that He is a ghost or mythical creature.

The Holy Spirit is a Person! Let’s get technical for a moment. John 14:26 and John 16:13-14 refer to the Holy Spirit (agios pneuma - ἅγιος πνεῦμα) using a masculine personal pronoun, ‘he’ (ἐκεῖνος) and demonstrating the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

Moreoever, the Biblical presentation of a ‘person’ is a substance that is able to relate to mankind; speaking, thinking, feeling and acting upon. Given that Jesus leaves the Holy Spirit on His behalf, and Jesus was able to do all of the above, we can assume that the Holy Spirit is also a person! This helps us when considering our role and relationship to the Holy Spirit.

3.     WHY: Comforter, advocate, helper  

The Holy Spirit’s role and function in our lives is to witness to the living Jesus, to advocate for us and to comfort and help us.

Firstly, to witness to Jesus: the Holy Spirit reveals the truth of Jesus to us, which results in the repentance of sins and turning away from old ways of living into new life. This joy-filled experience results in receiving the Holy Spirit to live inside you and is a necessary part of salvation. See Acts 2:28 for more: “Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit.”

Secondly, to advocate for and help us: the Holy Spirit is called ‘advocate’ by Jesus in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit is absolutely for you. He’s your supporter, your pleader and will be with you from the moment you receive Jesus for the first time. He’ll teach us all the necessary things we need to know to live a life to the full (John 10:10), to know peace that goes beyond understanding, to comfort us in times of trouble and be a steady, constant reminder that because Jesus has overcome, nothing can stand against you (Romans 8:31). He also enables us to do things we wouldn’t be able to do in our own strength. Think of it like this; the Holy Spirit works on your behalf with the Father. When we are weak and have nothing left to do or say according to Romans 8:26: “The Spirit Himself pleads with God for us in words that we cannot express.”

Thirdly, to comfort us: though in Christ we are a new creation and we live in hope of all that is and is to come, the Holy Spirit comforts us when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would. Another way to translate ‘advocate’ is, ‘helper and comforter.’ In the same way that Jesus comforted and helped people during His life on earth, so the Holy Spirit (who is sent to represent Jesus), comforts us and fills us with peace now.  

4. HOW: Developing A Relationship with The Holy Spirit 

We see examples of the Holy Spirit’s power in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 4:31, the Holy Spirit filled worshippers in the temple causing it to shake and enabling them to ‘proclaim God’s message with boldness.’ An important thing to remember is that when the Holy Spirit moves in power, He does so with one primary mission; to reveal the Father and establish His Kingdom. Though manifestations of the Holy Spirit appear dramatic and violent in the New Testament, bear in mind that His purpose is always to reveal a loving Father, and so with the great reverence and trembling, comes increased boldness and love for the world.

You might be thinking, how can I engage with a Spirit in my relationship with Jesus and with others? Well, firstly, believers have been engaging with the Holy Spirit since the Old Testament. In Job 33:4, the OT believers such as Elihu acknowledge the Spirit as their ‘creator and sustainer of their natural life.’ Secondly, Psalm 139:7-10 talks about the constant presence of God’s Spirit, ‘where can I flee from your Presence?’.

Another important aspect of how the Holy Spirit moves is through baptism. Jesus commissioned his disciples through the Gospels to go and ‘make disciples’, or ‘followers’ by baptising them under the authority of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore He is an essential part of salvation and being ‘born again’ into the family of God.

5. Our response and role:

Recognise, yield and partner.

These three key words enable us to understand our role in relationship to the Holy Spirit. There’s one clear thing that the Bible tells us not to do in relation to the Holy Spirit and that’s to ‘grieve’ Him. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul instructs the church to ‘not quench the Holy Spirit,’ and Ephesians 4:31 he says ‘do not grieve the Holy Spirit.’ In other words, avoid ignoring the Holy Spirit or living in a way that causes Him grief. Sounds unusual! Essentially though, it is a reminder that the Holy Spirit - the power of the Living God - lives inside you! In the epistles, Paul explains that recognising, yielding to and partnering with the Holy Spirit is essential to the growth of both individual and community life.

 Practically responding to the Holy Spirit:

 Recognising the Holy Spirit means identifying His work on Earth in revealing the Father, which manifests in various ‘fruits’ listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We recognise the Holy Spirit at work wherever these characteristics truly appear.

 Yielding means submitting to His work and over our own. Sometimes people call this ‘surrender,’ as it can involve letting go of yourself and even sacrificing some things. There’s an encouraging end though, read on for more!

 Partnering with the Holy Spirit means building something together that reveals the Father to the world and illuminates the good news and truth of Jesus. Whether this is choosing to show the fruits of the Holy Spirit to the person in front of you, or asking to be filled with boldness (Acts 4:31) to preach the Gospel - whatever you do, the Holy Spirit is your secret power that enables you to do things that you would not have been able to do otherwise. Remember that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 4:31 which gave them the boldness to tell people about Jesus (i.e. they couldn’t have done it with being filled/partnering with Him). The Spirit of God has been at work since the beginning of time, enabling followers of Jesus to do things that are considered impossible by natural standards, with the purpose of revealing and witnessing Him to the world - see back to point 3 for more. (Judges 3:10, 1 Chronicles 12:12-18)

Remember that as you develop your relationship with the living Jesus, His Holy Spirit will accompany you and live within you. This is so that you are reminded of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28:20 which is as true for us today, as it was for the disciples then: “very truly I am with you, even until the end of the age.”


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Nadia

Originally from London and currently studying at ministry school in North California, Nadia graduated with a degree in Theology at Durham University in June 2017.  Only a few months after being introduced to More Precious, Nadia joined the team as Projects Manager, using her love of writing and theology to pioneer a number of our most popular series. Nadia has loved the opportunities that MP brings and is always praying that girls would be changed and pointed to Jesus. 

 

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