Who is the Holy Spirit?

“We’ve got spirit, yes, we do! We’ve got spirit how ‘bout you?”

That cheer used to bounce back and forth across the gym during high school basketball games. The cheer comes to mind as we talk about the Holy Spirit, because there are those who confuse “spirit,” that is, the emotion or enthusiasm talked about in the cheer, with the Holy Spirit who is spoken of in the Bible. Still others think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal power or energy flowing from God.

The Bible, however, teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, not merely an impersonal force or emotion. It shows this by ascribing to the Holy Spirit intelligence, emotions and will; the key components of personality.

  • In Romans 8:27, for example, the apostle Paul speaks of “the mind of the Spirit,” and adds that the Holy Spirit “intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” Such a description fits a personal being, but does not fit an impersonal force.
  • The prophet Isaiah says that when the people of Israel rebelled against God they “grieved his Spirit” (63:10). Paul also describes the Holy Spirit as a personal being with emotions when he warns Christians not to “grieve the Spirit of God” by their behavior (Ephesians 4:30). Paul also speaks in Romans 15:30 of “the love of the Spirit.” A person can have emotions, but we could hardly talk about an emotion having emotions.
  • In speaking of spiritual gifts given to God’s people by the Holy Spirit, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit “gives them to each man, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:11). In other words the Holy Spirit is a being with a will, who distributes spiritual gifts as he decides to or wants to. Being able to make decisions is a characteristic of a personal being.

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity—true God with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is called God in the Bible; when the apostle Peter accused a man named Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit, he told him that he had lied to God (Acts 5:4). The Holy Spirit does things only God can do. The Bible says the Holy Spirit was active in the work of creating the universe (Genesis 1:2).

It’s good to know who the Holy Spirit is, but it’s also important to know what the Holy Spirit does. The special work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in Jesus in the hearts of people who could not and would not believe in him on their own. Paul writes: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

The Holy Spirit does his vitally important work of creating faith in human hearts through the Gospel, the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life on earth, died a terrible death on a cross and rose from the dead to take away the sins of the world and give eternal life to all who believe. In fact, right now the Holy Spirit is at work through these words, inviting you–yes, pleading with you–to believe in Jesus as your Savior and giving you that faith as a free gift.

There was a group of believers in the city of Rome in Paul’s day. When that apostle wrote to them, he reminded them that the Holy Spirit had made his home in their hearts, and gave them this wonderful promise: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

School spirit is great, but the Holy Spirit and his work are absolutely essential. May God grant us a rich measure of his life-giving Spirit!