the holy spirit

The Holy Spirit in Christianity

Being a follower of Jesus Christ is the beginning of an exciting adventure. God does not promise an easy and uncomplicated life. Life is difficult and impossible to live in our own power. Living it means depending on the Holy Spirit who indwells in us. Let the Holy Spirit control and fill us with joy so we can persevere through the challenges and trials as we follow Jesus.

The Holy Spirit and Trinity

For most Christian denominations, the Holy Spirit is an integral part of their belief. The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity which is one of the central doctrines in Christianity. Christians believe that there is only one God who exists in three persons- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These persons are fully God and have different roles: the Father creates a plan, Jesus Christ implements the plan, and the Holy Spirit administers the plan. It is crucial to keep in mind that although these three persons of God are co-equal, they are completely distinct from each other- the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Remembering this belief would help us realize the importance of each person in the Trinity.  

Being a persona, the Holy Spirit is to be equal with God the Father and Jesus Christ, or God the Son. For Christians, the Holy Spirit also possesses the attributes of the Father and the Son. These attributes include omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. This unique role implies the Holy Spirit’s relevance in Christianity. The Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the believers is a huge deal in the Christian religion. The study of the Holy Spirit is formed to know more about its character. This study is known as Pneumatology. 

Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

Holy Spirit and Creation

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is involved in the creation of the universe. The most common text they used to prove their point is found in Genesis 1:1-2.

The term “Spirit” used is the Hebrew word “ruach” (breath). Christians believe that the “Spirit” mentioned in Genesis 1:1-2 pertains to the Holy Spirit. The image of the Spirit of God hovering on the earth’s surface is similar to a mother bird caring for and protecting its young. The Spirit of God was actively involved in the creation of the world.

This was further strengthened by Genesis 1:26 which says “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness”. The plural pronoun used hints that there is more than one creator involved in the creation. One view says this is a reference to the Trinity, another view is that the plural wording is used to denote majesty. 

Holy Spirit and God’s People

The Holy Spirit is also involved in empowering people. Exodus 31 narrates how the involvement of the Holy Spirit in bestowing gifts to the people. It is about Bezalel and Oholiab and how the Holy Spirit enables them to do the task of building the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle, or Mishkan in Hebrew, is a place where Israelites commune with God. Its construction involved detailed and skilled craftsmanship. God chose Bezalel and Oholiab to create crafts and designs for the Tabernacle. We could also see that they were “filled with the Spirit of God” before the start of work in the Tabernacle. This reminds Christians that it is God who enables them to fulfill their missions.

The Holy Spirit is also seen working to the lives of Israelites’ leaders. Numbers 11:4-17 narrates how seventy Israelites’ leaders help Moses lead the people in the wilderness. This happened when the Holy Spirit also filled the seventy leaders whom Moses chose. The Holy Spirit also empowered Judges. Judges are the leaders of the Israelites before the anointing of kings. They are appointed during the spiritual and political unrest in Israel. Kings, like Saul and David, were also anointed and chosen through the help of the Holy Spirit. 

Holy Spirit in the New Testament

The Holy Spirit is also working in the New Testament. Jesus Christ mentioned that after he ascends into heaven, he will send “helpers” to the Christian believers (John 14:15-28, Romans 8:26-27). This “helper” is believed to be the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is also described as the one who convicts the sin of the world. This role implies that the Holy Spirit is also involved in the lives of people outside Christian belief (John 16-7-8).

Pentecost and Speaking in Tongues

Britannica.com defined Pentecost as a celebration to “commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and other disciples”. Pentecost (from the Greek word pentecostē) is known as a Jewish Feast of Weeks that is celebrated exactly fifty (50) days after the Feast of the First Fruits. During Pentecost in Acts 2:1-13, the Holy Spirit descends, in the form of tongues of fire, to the disciples. This caused them to speak in tongues. It is a bizarre event to watch during those times because disciples, who are Galileans, were able to speak different languages. 

The phrase “speaking in tongues” could mean two things, speaking in languages known to men and speaking “angelic language”. Acts 2:8-11 is an example of speaking in tongues in the language of men. Megan Sauter in her article Speaking in Tongues in the Bible: What happened at Pentecost? explained speaking in tongues as speaking in “angelic language” or glossolalia”. Sauter noted that glossolalia is described as a spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians 12–14. Webster’s dictionary defines glossolalia as prayer characterized chiefly by incomprehensible speech, originating in primitive Christianity and now practiced by Pentecostal groups in ecstatic forms of worship. 

Baptism of the Spirit

Acts 2 is also an example of “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. According to Svein Gilbu, baptism of the Spirit is an “immersion of the Spirit”. It is when one would receive “strength, power, and boldness from God to accomplish your work and overcome sin in your own life. John Piper noted that “the essence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit is when a person, who is already a believer, receives extraordinary spiritual power for Christ-exalting ministry.” Baptism of the Holy Spirit is connected with the indwelling and being filled with the Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit is a one-time permanent event. On the other hand, being filled with the Spirit is a daily journey of submission to God and actively “walking” in the Spirit.

holy spirit

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

The New Testament also discusses one common concept in Christianity – the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31). 

What is blasphemy against the Spirit and why is it a big issue in Christianity? Blasphemy against the Spirit is a constant denial of the power of the Holy Spirit. According to Bibleinfo.com, “if we turn our backs on the voice of the Holy Spirit we begin to silence His convictions, and eventually, we cannot hear His convicting power. This effectively blocks the working of God in our lives because we have reached a point where we are unable to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.” It is the Holy Spirit who administers the plan of salvation. If a person denies the conviction of the Holy Spirit, “he withdraws forever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven”.

How to be Filled and Empowered by the Holy Spirit

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

The indwelling of the Spirit happened when one receives Jesus Christ. In Christianity, it is when the Holy Spirit takes “permanent residence” in the life of a Christian. Christians believe that when a person places his faith in Jesus Christ and accepts Him as Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit will indwell in the person’s life (Ephesians 1:13-14). The moment a person receives Christ, he surrenders full control of his life to God. This includes surrender in decision-making in major aspects of life. Christians believe that they do not own their lives, thus they focus on doing God’s will, through the help of the Holy Spirit.  

The emphasis here is God’s will and not our will. For Christians, we don’t demand what we want, rather we communicate with Him what He wants for us. We should align our prayers to His will so we could be certain that He will listen and give us a definite answer. This might mean trusting in God even when we receive answers different from what we expect. Another important doctrine regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that it is permanent. Contrary to other beliefs that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit depends on one’s capability to do good, Christian believes that the Holy Spirit will reside in Christians’ lives regardless of the actions they do. Good deeds are a fruit of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives. This belief is liberating since this removes pressure in doing good things. 

Filling of the Holy Spirit

Being filled with the Spirit is a day-to-day choice to adhere to the teachings of Christianity. It is done by faith in God alone. It is believed that since the Holy Spirit is already in the life of the Christian believers, they will be empowered to choose obedience to God’s word rather than committing sinful acts. Moreover, part of being filled with the Holy Spirit is the ability to discern what would be the best decision in different circumstances. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, used the term “spiritual breathing” to refer to the act of being filled with the Holy Spirit. Spiritual breathing involves confession of sins (exhaling) and trusting that God’s promise of forgiveness and the Holy Spirit’s control in the Christians’ lives (inhaling). 

Obey God’s Command

In Ephesians 5:18, Paul contrasts getting drunk with wine and being filled with the Holy Spirit. Getting drunk with wine produces a temporary “high” and is associated with the old way of life and its selfish desires. While being filled with the Holy Spirit produces higher and long-lasting joy to cure our depression, monotony, or tension. 

Christians believe that we should focus by submitting continually to the Holy Spirit’s leading and draw constantly on His power. This can be done in several ways. One of which is choosing to love even those who are viewed as “unlovable”. Another way to be in line with Holy Spirit’s leading is by choosing forgiveness. Choosing to forgive people even if they are not asking for it is a difficult, yet powerful way to show submission to God.

Surrendering your life to Jesus

The Christian life began when a person becomes one with Christ. If we choose to believe in Christ, we agree that we have been crucified with Christ, and reconciled with God. We are free to grow in Christ’s likeness for we have Christ’s resurrection power to fight sinful desires that keeps us from following Him. Only Jesus can live the Christian life in and through us. 

Holy Spirit and Christianity

What, then, is its relevance to Christianity? Knowing the Holy Spirit gives Christians accountability and encouragement to live by Christian beliefs. The doctrine of walking with the Holy Spirit gives a challenge to Christians to choose to submit to God and follow the conviction of the Holy Spirit to fulfill their mission.

Knowing the character of the Holy Spirit brings encouragement to Christians in terms of living a prayerful life. Romans 8:26 encourages Christians to pray, especially in times when they are not sure what to pray for. The promise of the Holy Spirit interceding on behalf of them means that they could come to God not worrying what to say for Him to hear and answer their request.

In Summary

Galatians 5:16 is a reminder that being led by the Holy Spirit entails the eagerness to hear, the willingness to obey God’s Word, and the sensitivity to discern between our feelings and His promptings. Live each day controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit as the words of Christ in mind, Christ’s love will be behind every action and help control selfish desires through the power of Christ. Experience the abundant and joyful life now filled with the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ promised! God will use each one to transform lives and depend on the Holy Spirit moment by moment for His kingdom and His glory. 

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