The Holy Spirit is often misunderstood. Is the Holy Spirit an “it”? A “He”? Is the Holy Spirit a mystical energy, like “the force” in the Star Wars franchise? Or is it just another name for God?
The Holy Spirit is God, a Person, not an energy or a force, just as much as the other two members of the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit in the Trinity
You won’t find the actual word “Trinity” in the Bible. This is not because the Trinity isn’t biblical; it’s because “Trinity” is a word we have developed to succinctly express the unique nature of God.
Christians believe that one God exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are each God, equal in power, nature, and attributes, and worthy of the same worship.
This doesn’t mean that there are three gods; there is only one. It also doesn’t mean that these are just different forms of God; each is His own Person.
It is perhaps the most difficult Christian doctrine to wrap one’s head around, but this is to be expected. If we could fully understand God, what sort of God would He be? As C. S. Lewis points out in Mere Christianity, “We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course, anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.” Lewis also notes that it only makes sense that a Higher Power would exist on a higher plane of being than we would, likening God to a three-dimensional figure in our one-dimensional world.
The Trinity is an incredibly complex topic. You can learn more from an excellent article here.
The Holy Spirit in the Bible
We can point to where God the Father is active in the Bible, and certainly to God the Son in the Person of Jesus. But where is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit appears in both the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 1:2 at the creation of the world, the Bible records, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make mankind in our image.” God wasn’t talking to Himself like a weirdo; He was creating man in the image of all three members of the Trinity, each of whom was present at creation.
The Old Testament also shows that the Holy Spirit has power and emotions and is active among His people. Isaiah 63:10 says, “Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.” Nehemiah 9:20 records, “You gave your good Spirit to instruct them.” Various figures in the Old Testament were also temporarily filled with the Holy Spirit for certain tasks, such as Bezalel for building the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-5).
The Holy Spirit is all over in the New Testament. This is because once Jesus had resurrected and returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to reside with the believers (John 16:7). In the Old Testament, the Glory of God was separated from a sinful people, residing among the people in the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the temple, only to be visited by the high priest once a year. But once Jesus paid the penalty for sin, the curtain to the Holy of Holies was torn. There was no longer a separation between God and man.
The Holy Spirit famously alighted upon the believers like a fire at Pentecost (Acts 2). The book of Acts tells numerous stories of the apostles performing miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. The writers of the epistles (the New Testament books comprised of letters), constantly reference the Holy Spirit, His power, and His importance.
The Early Creeds
In the early centuries of Christianity, church leaders wanted to be certain they had a correct understanding of God. Thus, they held councils of the wisest leaders from across the Christian world to discuss the Bible and determine the truth. They often wrote up their determinations as creeds. These early creeds show that Christians have always believed in the Holy Spirit as God.
The Nicene Creed, adopted in AD 325, says this about the Holy Spirit: And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets.
The Apostle’s Creed, an oft-used creed in churches today, was already in use around the third or fourth century: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary… I believe in the Holy Spirit.
The Athanasian Creed, dating to the fourth or fifth century (depending on historical opinion), states the following: That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has… And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being. So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being… Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
What the Holy Spirit Does
The Holy Spirit dwells with the believer, leading and guiding Christians, and empowering them with spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). He teaches, comforts, and even helps us pray (Romans 8:26). This article explores 10 ways the Spirit interacts with us.
We can praise God that He, as the Holy Spirit, is always with us and worship Him in awe of the glory of the Holy Trinity.
The Role of the Holy Spirit in Our Life
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/patpitchaya
Alyssa Roat studied writing, theology, and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., the publicity manager at Mountain Brook Ink, and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing Services. She is the co-author of Dear Hero and has 200+ bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Find out more about her here and on social media @alyssawrote.