Just for Catholics

THE HOLY SPIRIT

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, was sent by the Son, from the Father, as the Comforter to help and empower the church throughout her pilgrimage on earth.

The Spirit is a Person

The Holy Spirit is a person. This does not imply that he has a physical body like ours. In this context, a ‘person’ is equivalent to ‘someone’ (rather than ‘something’) who is self-conscious -- who thinks, speaks, loves, feels and makes willing choices. Thus human beings and angels are persons because they are endowed with these personal qualities, whereas a mere ‘force’ or ‘energy’ is not personal. Angels are persons, even though they are spirit beings without a material body. They are persons because they think, speak and so forth. Similarly God is spirit; he does not have flesh and bones as we have. Nevertheless God is a person because he thinks, speaks, plans and loves. The same applies to the Holy Spirit. He does not have a physical form, but it is evident from Scripture that he is not simply a force since he manifests all the personal attributes.

The Spirit is powerful, but he is not simply ‘a power’. Just as the Bible mentions the power of God (Matt 22:29), it also speaks of the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13). Power is one of his qualities.

The Spirit is intelligent: he knows and seeks the things of God (1 Cor 2:10, 11); he has a mind (Rom 8:27); he is able to teach men (1 Cor 2:13). He also has a will, and gives different gifts to the redeemed according to his good pleasure (1 Cor 12:11). He guides Christians in their activities (Acts 16:6-11). Like any other person, the Holy Spirit has emotions (he feels). The Bible therefore warns us not to grieve the Spirit of God (Eph 4:30).

The Holy Spirit performs personal actions. He leads us into the truth. He speaks (John 16:13), convicts (John 16:8), performs miracles (Acts 8:39), and intercedes for believers (Rom 8:26). A mere force cannot hear, speak or pray. Human beings also relate personally to the Holy Spirit. Christians hear and obey him (as did Peter, Acts 10:19-21), but sometimes they lie to him (Acts 5:3). Others insult and even blaspheme the Spirit (Heb 10:29; Matt 12:31).

The Lord Jesus shows us that the Spirit is a person because he calls him ‘another counsellor’ like himself. ‘And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever’ (John 14:16). Just as Jesus is a person, even so is the Spirit whom he has sent to take residence in the church.

The Spirit is God

Once the Spirit is recognized as a person, it is relatively easy to recognize that he is a divine person. The Holy Spirit is God. He is called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of the Lord, and God calls him ‘my Spirit’. The Scripture also calls him ‘the Lord’ (2 Cor 3:17).

The Spirit has all the divine attributes: he knows all things (1 Cor 2:12); he is omnipresent (Ps 139:7); he is eternal (Heb 9:14). He performs such work as only God is able to do. For instance, he creates (Gen 1:2; Job 33:4) and gives life (John 6:63).

The apostles were convinced that the Holy Spirit is God. In a particular instance, the Apostle Peter warned one of the disciples: ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit ... You have not lied to men but to God’ (Acts 5:3, 4). What is done to the Spirit is done to God.

The words of the Lord in the Old Testament are quoted in the New Testament as the words of the Spirit. For example, in the book of Isaiah, the Lord commands: ‘Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’’ The apostle Paul quotes that sentence and attributes it to the Spirit, ‘The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers’ (Isa 6:9; Acts 28:25). So the words of the Lord God are the words of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, what ‘says the LORD’ is actually the Holy Spirit speaking (compare Jer 31:31-34 with Heb 10:15).

If the Spirit is not God, than God does not truly dwell in our hearts. But we, Christians, are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit dwells in us. ‘Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you ... do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?’ (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). Thus we confess that the Spirit is God, the Lord and Giver of life. Unbelievers deny the deity of the Holy Spirit, indeed they do not know him (John 14:17);

The Spirit’s Work

The work of the Holy Spirit permeates redemption history as recorded in the pages of Scripture. In creation the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters, and at the very end, the Spirit is seen assisting the bride of Christ before she meets her Beloved.

The Spirit is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, particularly when he strengthens leaders and prophets, and endows them with heavenly wisdom. The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon the Messiah (see Joel 2:28, 29; Isa 11:2). The Old Testament also predicted a day when the Spirit would be poured upon all God’s people.

Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. During Christ’s baptism, the Spirit was made manifest in the form of a dove, to mark out publicly Jesus of Nazareth as the promised Messiah. From the very beginning of his ministry Jesus was led by the Spirit (Mark 1:12) until finally ‘through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God’ (Heb 9:14). Through mighty works and miracles the Spirit testified that Jesus is truly the Son of God (Matt 12:28).

The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture. ‘Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Pet 1:21). The same may be said of the apostles’ doctrine, which ‘God has revealed … to us through His Spirit’ (1 Cor 2:10). Furthermore, the Spirit confirmed the gospel and all the teachings of the apostles by various wonders, such as speaking in other languages and miraculous healing (Heb 2:3, 4). Besides giving us the Word, the Holy Spirit also teaches God’s children (1 Cor 2:12). Otherwise the message of the Bible will fall on deaf ears (1 Cor 2:14).

The Holy Spirit is the author of the Christian life, which has its beginning in regeneration, the new birth (John 3:5, 6). The Holy Spirit resides in all believers – indeed one cannot be a Christian if he does not have the Spirit (Rom 8:9).

As Christ had promised, the Holy Spirit was given to the first members of the New Testament church at Pentecost; they were all baptised in the Holy Spirit. From then onwards, every convert is baptised in the Spirit from the first moment of genuine faith in Christ. In the words of Paul, ‘For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit’ (1 Cor 12:13). It is inconceivable that someone could be a member of the body of Christ without being baptized by the Spirit. There are no Christians who are not baptized with the Spirit.

The Spirit grants us a diversity of gifts so that we may edify and help one another as members of the church. He empowers us to be Christ’s witnesses (Acts 1:8), and to live in holiness and righteousness (Rom 8:14). As we walk day by day in the Spirit, he transforms our lives. ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Gal 5:22, 23). Finally, the Holy Spirit is our guarantee that we will persevere to the very end (Eph 1:13, 14).

The central ministry of the Holy Spirit is to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, and make him known. Jesus said, ‘He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you’ (John 16:14). Where the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted, worshipped and obeyed from the heart, there the Holy Spirit is present with his manifold blessings.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi. 2008. Permission is given to reproduce and distribute this article in any format provided that the wording is not altered and that no fee is charged. Please include the following statement on distributed copies: Copyright Dr Joseph Mizzi. Website: www.justforcatholics.org. Used by permission.