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This series offers an overview of the chief teachings of the Christian church.

Jesus, just hours away from His suffering and death, promised to send to His disciples what He described as “the Comforter,” namely, the Holy Spirit. “He will glorify Me,” Jesus said, “for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14) The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Godhead, and is an intimate Partner in our relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit

But Who is the Holy Spirit? How is it that God, who “is spirit” (John 4:24) can somehow have a Spirit? We admit right off that we have no way of knowing or understanding the nature of the Holy Spirit apart from what Scripture reveals to us. So, we may not get all our questions answered, but we can learn from God’s Word all that we really need to know about Him.

For the present, we’ll emphasize just two great truths about Him. The first is that the Holy Spirit is God, since qualities are applied to Him that are also applied to the Father and to the Son . The Holy Spirit, for instance, is omnipresent (present everywhere), as we learn from Psalm 139:7: “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Likewise, the Spirit is omniscient (all knowing), as Paul says in I Corinthians 2:10: “The Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” Christ, Hebrews 9:14 says, offered Himself through the “eternal Spirit” of God. Nothing is eternal but God.

The Holy Spirit is said to participate in divine works: Genesis 1:2 says the Spirit was there at the beginning of creation, and in Titus 3:5 we hear that “according to His mercy [God] saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” These are tasks that only God can do, and they are ascribed to the Holy Spirit.

The other great truth we’ll focus on here is that, as with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is a person of the Godhead. The Bible does not speak of the Spirit merely as some sort of energy or activity of God. The Spirit has a personality and a will all His own. When we are baptized, we are baptized in the name of “the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), thus He is intimately present in the saving effect of Baptism. In the section of John mentioned above, John 16, Jesus repeatedly speaks of the Comforter as “He,” not “it.”

That the Holy Spirit is a divine person, acting in concert with the Father and Son for our salvation, leads the believer to appeal to Him in prayer. There is a whole series of Pentecost hymns that do just that. Thus we pray to the Holy Spirit:

“Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord!
Be all Thy graces now out poured
On each believer’s mind and heart;
Thy fervent love to them impart.” (TLH 224:1)

“Come, oh, come, Thou quickening Spirit
God from all eternity!
May Thy power never fail us
Dwell within us constantly.” (TLH 226.1)

And the lovely

“We now implore God the Holy Ghost
for the true faith which we need the most
that in our last moments He may befriend us
and as homeward we journey attend us.
Lord, have mercy!” (TLH 231:1)

It might occur to the reader that we’ve made the case that the Holy Spirit is truly God, but we haven’t said much about what He does. The work of the Spirit, and how He operates, will come in future articles. But these hymn stanzas should give us a good idea of that work: He “quickens” (makes alive) those who are dead in sin; He works “the true faith” within us; He comes to “dwell” in us as a very personal extension of the living God and “attends” us in our heavenward journey. What a Comfort He is in this present life!

Peter Reim is a former pastor who now teaches English at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. He makes his home in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.