Who is the Holy Spirit?

Many Christians have difficulty in speaking about the Holy Spirit. The Bible gives us a picture of God as Father and Jesus as Son, but the images which the Bible gives for the Holy Spirit are difficult to imagine.

Spend a moment sharing together some of the ways in which the Bible describes the Holy Spirit.

Whilst many of us have difficulties in thinking about the Holy Spirit we cannot deny that the denominations and 'new churches' which place a particular emphasis on the Holy Spirit are the fastest growing branch of the church. They are also the branch which makes many traditional Christians feel uneasy.

Share together any difficulties and unease which you personally may have in thinking or speaking about the Holy Spirit.

It is quite clear that there is much confusion and not a little ignorance about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We need to examine the Bible again to get our thinking straight.

1. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as a Person

Look at John 15:26, John 16:7&8, Eph 4:30. Notice that the Holy Spirit is called 'he' not 'it'. We cannot grieve things, only people. The Holy Spirit is not a thing; he is a Person. This is important because it means that the Holy Spirit is One with whom we can have a relationship. We cannot have a relationship with things, only people.

2. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as God

Look at Acts 5:3&4. The Holy Spirit is God's Spirit. That's why Christians affirm that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Faith and Life - Headway's Chairman - Rev. Paul Smith has produced a set of 12 easy-to-use housegroup studies on Christian belief and behaviour (ISBN 0 86071 562 0 price £3.50). If you would like to order a copy for use in your church then send a cheque payable to Headway for £3.50 to: Richard Iball, 33, Old Hexthorpe, Doncaster DN4 0JD

We have included three samples of the material in this book to give you an idea of the content.

What is God Like?

Who is the Holy Spirit?

What is the Church

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Many Christians have difficulty in speaking about the Holy Spirit. The Bible gives us a picture of God as Father and Jesus as Son, but the images which the Bible gives for the Holy Spirit are difficult to imagine.

Spend a moment sharing together some of the ways in which the Bible describes the Holy Spirit.

Whilst many of us have difficulties in thinking about the Holy Spirit we cannot deny that the denominations and 'new churches' which place a particular emphasis on the Holy Spirit are the fastest growing branch of the church. They are also the branch which makes many traditional Christians feel uneasy.

Share together any difficulties and unease which you personally may have in thinking or speaking about the Holy Spirit.

It is quite clear that there is much confusion and not a little ignorance about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We need to examine the Bible again to get our thinking straight.

1. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as a Person

Look at John 15:26, John 16:7&8, Eph 4:30. Notice that the Holy Spirit is called 'he' not 'it'. We cannot grieve things, only people. The Holy Spirit is not a thing; he is a Person. This is important because it means that the Holy Spirit is One with whom we can have a relationship. We cannot have a relationship with things, only people.

2. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit as God

Look at Acts 5:3&4. The Holy Spirit is God's Spirit. That's why Christians affirm that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

3. There is a variety of different titles for the Holy Spirit

Sometimes he is called the Spirit of God, sometimes the Spirit of Jesus, sometimes the Holy Spirit, sometimes the Spirit of truth, sometimes the Counsellor, and so on. It is really important that we don't get bogged down with the doctrine of the Trinity. If the Christian faith is primarily about a relationship with God this may be a helpful way of thinking about the Trinity. God the Father is Creator - God above us. Jesus is the Redeemer - God beside us. The Holy Spirit is the Enabler - God within us.

Ask yourself 'How can we know God today?' We may be aware of God as Creator, for we see his handiwork all around us; we may be aware of Jesus the Redeemer, for we read his story in the Bible; but if we are to have a living experience of God today it will be God the Holy Spirit whom we encounter.

Take a moment to think about occasions when you have been aware of the presence of God. Share with the rest of the group your experiences of meeting with God today.

4. What does the Holy Spirit do?

So far we have tried to answer the question 'Who is the Holy Spirit?' Now we must discover what the Holy Spirit does. Once again we rely on the Bible as our source book. Take a look at the following verses and make a note of what the Holy Spirit is doing alongside each one:

  • Genesis 1:2&3
  • Exodus 31:1-5 (if you are using the GNB look at the footnote!)
  • Numbers 11:24-30
  • Numbers 24:1-3
  • 2 Chronicles 15:1
  • Ezekiel 2:1&2
  • Joel 2:28&29
  • John 1:29-34
  • Acts 1:4&5
  • Acts 2:38&39

The Holy Spirit of God, active at creation, enabling different people to fulfil the ministry which God gave to them, present in the life and ministry of Jesus, has been given to every Christian believer. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would dwell within every disciple (John 14:16&17), he would enable us to see the truth clearly and point us to Christ (John 16:12-15) and he would bring power (Acts 1:8).

5. The Holy Spirit's ministry is to make us more like Jesus

Look at Galatians 5:22-23

The qualities listed here are all descriptive of the character of Jesus. Yet they are spoken of as being the 'fruit' of the Spirit; the result of the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian's life. It is the Holy Spirit's task to make us more like Jesus. This spiritual transformation of our character is not brought about by trying harder but by surrendering our lives entirely to God, so that his Spirit can fill us.

How far does that statement agree with your own experience?

6. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to every Christian

In the New Testament there are several lists of the 'gifts of the Holy Spirit'. Below you will find the references to two such lists. The group could split into two at this stage with one half taking each list.

Look up the two lists in Romans 12:6-9 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 and list the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in them. How do we interpret them for today?

We have not only learned that there are a variety of different gifts listed in the New Testament. We have also learned that:

  1. The lists do not entirely correspond. This suggests that there is no exhaustive list, so we can never look at something which another Christian does for Christ and his Church and say that their ability is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The gifts are given not for personal glory or gain, but for the glory and honour of Christ and the strengthening of his Church.
  3. Paul's picture of the Church as a body helps us to remember that we are all different, so we can expect to have different gifts. We should not necessarily seek what God has given to someone else.
  4. The body works in harmony, with each part serving the good of the whole. This is a wonderful picture of the Church, each Christian using the gifts which God has given to him in a way which serves all the other believers. The gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to his Church are complementary, not in competition with each other.
  5. If the Church is to be 'the Body of Christ' we need to identify the gifts which God has given to each believer and set them free to fulfil their own particular, distinctive ministry. If we do not, they are frustrated and every other Christian is impoverished. If we do, they are fulfilled and every other Christian is enriched.

Take a moment to look around your group and identify the gifts which God has given to the other people present. Go round the group sharing what you have observed in each other (we are much better at seeing this in others than we are at seeing it in ourselves - so miss yourself out!). Affirm them and in your prayer time thank God for each other and the rich variety of gifts which he has given to even a small group like yours. It's all the Holy Spirit's work!

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