Who is the Holy Spirit?
By Tim Burns
In a crowded room, if you asked me to point out my wife, I would say something like, “She is the beautiful woman wearing a blue skirt and white top over near the library doors.” However, in a crowd, a number of people might obscure my beautiful wife. In that case, I would start by saying, “She’s not the blonde one, or the really tall one in front. No . . . behind them . . . there she is.” I would weed out the imposters, and then continue with a description. In the spiritual sense, the world has become overcrowded with ideas regarding the Holy Spirit. So it’s equally helpful to start out identifying who the Holy Spirit is not.
The Holy Spirit is not an ambient force flowing from the presence of God like an esoteric mist. The Holy Spirits presence is not defined as a state of heightened emotionalism, or excitement. Neither is the Holy Spirit a life force, flowing in and through all living beings, plants and animals, an construct derived from the a blend of science fiction and eastern mysticism. The bible describes the Holy Spirit as having powerful force, comparing it to the wind. The wind cannot be seen. A person can see and feel the effects of the wind blowing through the trees, but the tree movement is not the wind, only evidence of the wind’s presence.
The Holy Spirit is neither a passive presence nor emotional excitement. The Holy Spirit comes from God’s presence, but he is not God’s pervading divine fog floating over the world. The Holy Spirit is a person, separate and distinct from whom Christians identify as God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ. Together these three separate and distinct persons form a triune godhead, or trinity that Christians refer to as God. Each separate and distinct personage has their own role in the Godhead and their own personality, if you will. In the bible, each is identified as an individual, separate and distinct from the other.
For example, the creation account in the book of Genesis says that ‘God’ created, the ‘Word of God’ spoke, and the ‘Spirit of God’ was hovering over the waters. Together, the Trinity was active in creating our world. This is the first example of the triune godhead acting individual and corporately. When Jesus, the son of God was on earth, his baptism was another event during which all three members of he Godhead were present. Jesus was baptized in the river, the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove, and The Father spoke from Heaven that this man was indeed his beloved son.
Triune aspect of nature
When discussing this with friends, I’ve often been told that this concept of three individuals being one, yet remaining three separate and distinct persons was hard to comprehend. How can one person be three, and still be one? While I agree that this construct is hard to wrap your head around, this idea is not entirely foreign. Maybe God left us with the following examples for the very reason of helping us understand his nature.
If I were to pour ice and water into a glass, and then put plastic wrap over the top, I would have water, in three states in the same glass: solid water or ice, liquid water, and water vapor trapped between the surface of the liquid and the plastic. All are water, yet they act differently. The three states appear different from one another; yet all are atomically water. Most of nature’s elemental building blocks, gasses, liquids and metals, can exist in a solid, liquid or gaseous state while remaining fundamentally unchanged. So we are not without examples one individual element taking three forms, while remaining identical to the other. If water can be three forms and remain water, I can take a step towards understand a God who is the same.
In summary, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity which Christians refer to as God. He is no more, no less God than the person referred to in the bible as Jehovah: God the Father, or Jesus Christ: God the son. He is fully divine, a distinct individual, and active in the world to convict us of our need for God, as well as comfort, teach and lead us in the direction of God’s will. (Bible references related to this article: Genesis 1.1-2 & 26-27, Luke 3.21-22, Acts 5.3-5)
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