The Holy Spirit is found throughout the Bible, but His role in the life of God’s people develops significantly from the Old Testament to the New as all God’s good promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is introduced in the creation narrative of Genesis 1:1, 2: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
These verses begin the day-to-day account of creation when God said, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (v. 3). God is the Creator, but when He gave this command, His Spirit produced light! Job said, “By his breath [Spirit] the skies became fair.” Regarding the climax of creation — humanity — these words are added: “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (26:13; 33:4).
Later, after the Exodus, the Tent of Meeting, or tabernacle, was built by Bezalel and his workmen with the aid of God’s Spirit. They were given the skills and artistry necessary to use many pieces to construct the tabernacle and produce its ornate furnishings (Exodus 31:1-11).
Israel’s judges and kings were well acquainted with the Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord was the source of Gideon’s courage and Samson’s strength (Judges 6:34; 14:6). Judges 11 relates the fascinating account of Jephthah’s ancestry and how the Lord used him, by His Spirit, to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Ammonites (vv. 29, 32). And when Samuel anointed David king of Israel, “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David” (1 Samuel 16:13).
The Scriptures, from Genesis to Malachi, were written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Therefore, when the prophets addressed Israel, they conveyed messages from God by the Spirit:
But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin (Micah 3:8).
While the prophets declared God’s judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem, God also used them to invite Israel to seek God’s forgiveness: “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18).
The prophets spoke with divine authority, acted as Israel’s conscience, reminded her of the many great acts God had performed on her behalf, and pleaded with her to repent of her sins and remain faithful to the Lord. Israel needed the prophets’ ministry because her people had not been given the Spirit as a helper, or permanent companion. But these very prophets also prophesied of this coming gift of the Spirit (Isaiah 44:3; Ezekiel 36:27; Joel 2:28).
The ministry of the Holy Spirit differs greatly in the Christian era. For Israel, it was often a temporary clothing of outward power. But the Spirit’s ministry to Christ’s disciples is more of a permanent indwelling presence. He plays an essential role in the spiritual life of every believer, as Paul verified: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9).
Like the prophets before him, John the Baptist foretold that Jesus would give His disciples the Holy Spirit (John 1:33). As Jesus was preparing to ascend to heaven, He promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (14:16, 17a, HCSB).
Through the Spirit, Jesus and His Father become our constant companions. Jesus told His disciples regarding the Spirit, “for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans” (vv. 17, 18). Further, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them” (v. 23). The Holy Spirit is God with us!
The fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets, John’s prediction, and Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit occurred on the Day of Pentecost, following Jesus’ ascension to heaven. Peter proclaimed, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32, 33).
Pentecost marked the beginning of the Spirit’s outpouring in the lives of all believers. Peter invited, “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” (v. 38). Peter assured his audience that this “promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (v. 39).
New creation people
The Holy Spirit convicts sinners of sin (John 16:8), leading them to be converted. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (3:5). Jesus was referring to spiritual renewal, conversion. Paul called it a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And Peter compared it to participation “in the divine nature” of Jesus (2 Peter 1:4).
Conversion is an absolute necessity to living a Christian life. Paul contrasted an unconverted life to a converted life:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed . . . You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things. . . . Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive . . . as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:5-8, 12, 13).
Paul advised the Ephesians, “Be filled with the Spirit” (5:18). The present tense construction of this short sentence in Greek means to “keep on being filled with the Spirit” or “always be yielding to the leading of the Spirit.”
This indwelling Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit that composes a Christian’s character. “Live by the Spirit,” Paul wrote, just before and after he identified the Spirit’s fruit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23, 25).
Peter teaches that through the possession and exercise of the gifts of His divine power, we can “participate in the divine nature,” by which saints escape the world’s corruption (2 Peter 1:3, 4).
But possessing a Christian character is not effortless. Peter wrote to work hard at adding goodness to our faith and pointed out, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 5, 8).
A church equipped
The Holy Spirit distributes different gifts of service to members of the church for their common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). They facilitate the function of the church in preaching the gospel of Christ. A partial list of gifts includes apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles (which may include healing), helpers of others, administrators, and those who speak in different tongues. He instructed members to use their gifts in proportion to their faith, generously, diligently, and cheerfully (Romans 12:7, 8).
The Holy Spirit is to receive our utmost reverence and respect. We are not to lie nor test or resist the Spirit (Acts 5:3, 9a; 7:51). We are to be careful not to grieve, insult, or quench the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 10:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). We must not blaspheme the Spirit. Jesus warned, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:32). He said this in the context of the Pharisees accusing Him of healing a demonic man by the power of “Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (vv. 22-24).
Three great promises
Three groups of texts inform us of God’s great promises that He acts and preserves our spiritual welfare by His Spirit.
First, His Spirit helps us in all kinds of temptations and trials to remain faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Peter 1:5;
1 Corinthians 10:13).
Second, His Spirit seals us as His adopted own, His very sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13).
Third, His Spirit is the guarantee of our resurrection and hope of a home in the eternal kingdom of God at the return of Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).
Only a God of great love for His children would give Himself to them as our God has done through His Spirit! Our constant companion. Hallelujah!