Who Is the Holy Spirit, and Why Does It Matter?

Who Is the Holy Spirit, and Why Does It Matter? Selected Text, Preached by Michael Gunn @ Harambee Church on May 4th, 2008

“The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted; the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not there before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged.”
B.B. Warfield

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8

“…but I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the deeds of the flesh…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, against such there is no law.”
Galatians 5:16, 22-23

The Holy Spirit may be the most misunderstood in all of scripture! Is He an energy force? Is He a manifestation of power much like Kali is a manifestation of Shiva in Hinduism? Is the Holy Spirit God, and what does He do? God’s mysteries are amazing, and I think a reminder of His infinite being and our finite minds. The concept of God as three yet one is mind rattling. It is important to understand what theologians mean by the Trinity. The Trinitarian teaching does not say that God is both one and three since that would be contradictory. The doctrine teaches that as a being (Essence) God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), yet he is also three in person. While this is hard to understand, it is not a contradiction, since he is one of one thing (Essence), but three in another (Person). These are some of the things we will explore in today’s study on the Holy Spirit.

From the Head…

Who Is the Spirit?
1. The Spirit is Power
Hebrew = Ruach – Breath, Wind
Greek = Pneuma – Breath, Wind
“Breath of life” (Genesis 2:7)
The usage of these terms are not implying an impersonal wind, not an immaterial being, but that of “Power,” especially as the power of God behind much of what God is said to have accomplished in the world (Creation, redemption, etc.). We see this emphasis in Isaiah 31:3 is power and not immateriality. The point here is God’s power is far above anything that man can muster. Sometime that power is witnessed through physical things like a storm, or the amazing regenerating power bringing forth spiritual life in a spiritually dead person (See Titus 3:5).

2. The Spirit is a Person
He can be “Grieved” (Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10; Ephesians 4:30), which is an interpersonal activity. You can’t grieve a door, or a rock, or an energy force.

3. The Spirit is God (Third person of the godhead)
Trinitarian language in the Old and New Testaments (Genesis 1:26; 11:7; Psalm 45:6-7; 110:1; Isaiah 6:8; 48:16; 61:1; Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:1-2). What we see in these verses is the three persons mentioned as God. Acts 5:3-4 more specifically refers to the Holy Spirit as God. Psalm 139:7-8 attributes a divine attribute (Omnipresence) with the Holy Spirit. Also 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 does similarly (Omniscience). We also see works attributed to God (Creation – Genesis 1:1-2) and redemption (John 3:5-7; Titus 3:5) attributed to the Spirit.

What Does the Spirit Do?
The basic purpose of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world, through and in the church (Genesis 41:38; Psalm 104:29-30; 139:7; Ezekiel 39:29)
1. The Holy Spirit Creates
a. He Creates Physical Life (Genesis1:2, 2:7; Palm 104:30; Job 33:4; 34:14-15)
b. He Creates Order and Beauty (Genesis 1:2; Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-35)
c. He Creates Community (Joel 2:28-32 cf. Acts 2:16-18, 44-47; 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 13; 2 Corinthians 13:14)

2. The Holy Spirit Redeems
a. He Convicts the World of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment (John 16:8-11)
b. He helps us confess Christ (1 John 4:2)
c. He Baptizes Believers Into The Body (1 Corinthians 12:13)
d. He Regenerates (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Titus 3:5; John 3:3-8; 6:63; Acts 10:44-47; Romans 1:4, 8:11; 2 Corinthians 3:6)
e. He Sanctifies (Galatians 5:16-24; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 cf. Romans 8:4, 13)
f. He Seals (Ephesians 1:12-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22)

3. The Holy Spirit Reveals
a. He Reveals to the Biblical Authors (Jeremiah 1:2, 8, 9, 15, 19; 2 Samuel 23:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 1:20-21)
b. He Reveals Evidence of God’s Presence (Ezekiel 39:29; Psalm 104:29-30)
c. He Reveals a Godlike Atmosphere
– He Pours Out Love in Our hearts (Romans 5:5; Colossians 1:8)
– He Brings Forth Peace (1 Corinthians 14:33; Romans 14:17)
– He Brings Joy (Romans 14:17; Acts 13:52; 1 Thess. 1:6)
– He Brings Truth (John 14:17; 15:26)
– He Brings Comfort (Acts 9:31)
– He Brings Freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)
– He Brings Righteousness (Romans 14:17)
– He Brings Hope (Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:5)
d. He Reveals Assurance (Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13)
e. He Teaches, Guides and Illumines (John 14:26; John 16:13; Luke 12:12)

4. The Holy Spirit Empowers
a. He Empowers For Service (Numbers 27:18; Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 1 Samuel 11:6; 16:13; Acts 1:8; 4:8, 31; 6:5-8, 10; 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
b. He Empowers the Church to Be a Witness To the World (Acts 1:8).
c. He Empowers People For Ministry (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

5. The Holy Spirit Restrains Evil (2 Thessalonians 2:6-7)

6. The Holy Spirit Intercedes In Our Prayers (Romans 8: 26-27)

7. The Holy Spirit Is Our “Helper”/Counselor (John 14:16, 26)

What is Baptism in the Spirit?
The Pentecostal tradition maintains that there is a second blessing, subsequent to salvation /regeneration.
There are 7 times it’s mentioned in the bible:
• Matthew 3:11
• Mark 1:8
• Luke 3:16
• John 1:33
• Acts 1:5
• Acts 11:16
• 1 Corinthians 12:13
Even though all 7 verses have similar construction, our English translations translate the 1 Corinthian verse ”by one Spirit we were all baptized,” instead of “In” the Spirit like the other verses. To be baptized “By” someone in the New Testament, the word “hupo” is used in the Greek and not “En,” which is most often translated “in” as it is in the other 6 incidents. Subsequently being baptized in the Holy Spirit is done as an act at the beginning of our faith in Christ, and not subsequent to our conversion.

Then what about Acts 1:5 and 11:16, which definitely seem to be post conversion? Both of these relate to Pentecost, which was promised in the Old Testament (Joel 2; Ezekiel 36). It appears apparent that the Spirit’s role in the Old Testament was different than it is in the new covenant (Numbers 11:29; Jeremiah 31:31-33). In the OT the Holy Spirit empowered men and women for service (Exodus 31:3; 35:31; Deuteronomy 34:9; 1 Samuel 16:13), but He also took it away as it was in the case of Saul (1 Samuel 16:14).

The fact is Ephesians 1:3 says we have been blessed with “…every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” We can’t get “More” of an infinite being, like He is withholding His blessing from us. Ephesians’ command to “Be filled” (Ephesians 5:18) is not a command for more, but a contrast with being “drunk” (Controlled). This is similar to Romans 8:13; Galatians 5:16, where we are called to “Walk” in the Spirit, not get more of Him.

…to the Heart
The Holy Spirit enables us to be transformed from the inside out, so that we can live in the holiness that we are called to (See Ephesians 4:1). The Holy Spirit is the power that created this universe and raised Jesus from the dead, and it is that power in us, which is greater than any power in the world (1 John 4:4).

Books for further study: Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem; The Holy Spirit, Sinclair Ferguson; The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit, John Stott; The Work of the Spirit in Our Salvation, Thomas Goodwin

Next Weeks Verses: Selected Text (Mother’s Day)


10 comments so far

  1. Downtown Julie Brown on

    Hey Mike…great sermon as usual. I have a question regarding the Spirit being the restrainer (of 2 Thess. 2). Are there any other scripture passages that you are aware of that would indicate that the Spirit restrains, and in what kinds of circumstances?

    One reason I’m asking is because I have a different theory as to who the restrainer of this passage is. Contextually, the restrainer is restraining specifically the man of lawlessness (commonly understood to be the antichrist also spoken of in Revelation 13 and Daniel 7:25 and 9:27, a few passages among many). According to Daniel 12:1, it is Michael the great prince who protects Daniel’s people, but he “arises” (good word study opportunity here), and after he arises, a time of great distress comes. In the same way, according to 2 Thess 2, when the restrainer no longer restrains the man of lawlessness will be revealed (probably by the act of the abomination of desolation; see 2 Thess 2:4 and Matt 24:15). Interestingly, I think Revelation 12:7 supports that the restrainer is Michael the archangel. In that passage a war takes place, which I believe is still yet future (not past as is commonly believed) between Michael and the dragon, in which Michael defeats the dragon and casts him to the earth, where he promptly begins to pursue the “woman” (Israel) and her children (the church), an event that could easily be interpreted as a time of great distress or great tribulation, see Matt 24:21.

    So, what do you think? Do you think that this passage (2 Thess 2:7) speaking of the restrainer can only be interpreted as being the Spirit, or cross-referencing it with other passages regarding the same subject matter, could it be better to consider the possibility that it’s Michael the Archangel?

  2. sermonrant on


    Great point! You could very well be right. However generally the restraint here is seen as the Holy Spirit working through the “Elect” (Church). Using the Revelation 12 passage is problematic for 2 reasons. First Revelation appears to be talking about a defeat and not a restraint, and secondly you have to read the text through a dispensational lens (Which may be right or wrong), and even then there doesn’t appear to be a direct application.

    Anyway, good thinking, and I appreciate your insight. Let me think on it more! God bless!


  3. Doug Birkebak on

    Very good teaching on the Holy Spirit.
    Question concerning the “baptism” on the Holy Spirit.
    I understand your notes concerning the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that you believe Pentacost was a one time event and that we recieve the Holy Spirit on belief in Jesus.
    What are your thoughts on Acts 8:12-17. The people Philip preached to believed, were and baptized. Later Peter and John came, layed hands on the believers and they recieved the Holy Spirit.
    In this passage being baptized and filled with the Spirit seem to be two separate events.

  4. sermonrant on

    First we need to note that every one who is Christian has the Spirit. Romans 8:9 says that “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ, He does not belong to Him” (See also 1 Corinthians 12:13). The “Spirit of Christ” is the Holy Spirit, because Christ sent Him (John 16).

    Then what about verses like Acts 8? The plethora of biblical evidence seems to point to the Spirit coming as a result of salvation (See too Acts 10:44), so we must be careful with a few verses in a transitional book like Acts. In this book we see the Holy Spirit coming on to the disciples (Acts 2) as they waited, and it is quite possible in Acts 8 that since these people were the hated Samaritans that the sending of Peter and John was a way for these two Jewish believers to see with their own eyes baptism of the Spirit on these people. The other verse most referred to by those that advocate a second blessing is Acts 19:1-6, but there they clearly had not heard of the gospel of Jesus yet, and were trusting their “Repentance” from John’s baptism.

    Not only do I believe that there is scant biblical evidence for a “Second” blessing, I think it is usually attached to experiences more than scripture, and it often leads to a hierarchy of spiritual blessing, and potentially a self righteous division of the Haves” and “Have nots.” Hope this helps! Thaks for the question, it is a good one!

  5. Sandy Smith on

    I’d like to discuss this further. What do you think it means in Acts 4:8, 13:9, and 13:52 when Peter, Paul and the disciples, who were already believers, were described to be filled with the Holy Spirit on particular occasions? Why was it necessary to note that these people were filled with the Spirit since it happens to all believers when we’re saved? Also, Jesus, Stephen and Barnabas are described to be full of the Spirit at particular moments in time in Luke 4:1, Acts 6:3, 6:5, 7:55 and 11:24. Is there some aspect of being filled with the Spirit that is to be an on-going part of a believer’s life. Yes, we are sealed in the Holy Spirit when we become believers and He lives in us from then on but are there times when we operate more fully or more obviously under His control and could those times be described as being full of the Spirit or filled with the Spirit? Also, what is it to “pray in the Holy Spirit” as written in Jude 1:20?

  6. Michael Smith on

    Well, I guess if you want to find out if people are reading the web site; just preach on the Holy Spirit. Once again, this sermon was a barn burner. Thanks for you service to our hearts and minds.

  7. mike on

    Great question Sandy! Statements like Stephen is filled with the spirit does not assume a second blessing, especially as it is usually taught . Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit in Acts 4, but there is no mention of an extra filling. It is a statement of the fact of Acts 2 in the lives of the disciples, which was a fulfillment of Joel 2, and God’s promised Spirit on all mankind. I don’t think any of these verses or the verses that I answered above prove the “Second Filling” teaching that divides believers into the haves and have nots. I do think that we act on the filling in different degrees. When we are walking fleshly, we are obviously not being empowered/controlled or directed by the Spirit of God, but an infinite God isn’t to blame because He hasn’t given us enough of His Spirit. We simply are not yielded fully to God’s Spirit.
    As for praying in the Holy Spirit, it is praying in the power of the Spirit from a heart transformed by the Spirit. It is similar to Jesus’ statement that His followers would worship Him in “Spirit” and truth. Spirit here is that they have been transformed by the Spirit of God, and nothing more. This is similar to Ephesians 6:18 too. Hope this helps!!

  8. Sandy on

    Thank you for your response. I guess I want to clarify my thoughts though. The verses I referred to were not to prove a concept of a “Second Filling”. I just wanted to explore the thought that there may be times when the Spirit is more evidently in control of our lives – times where we actually feel the power of His presence to a greater degree than usual and others also see Him in us. (Acts 6:15) Perhaps this has happened to you while you were preaching or speaking with someone about God and His greatness. I don’t think that means that the rest of the time we’re walking in the flesh necessarily but walking in the flesh most certainly quenches the Holy Spirit’s expression in our lives.
    As for the “haves and have nots”. I’m sorry you had an unfortunate experience with some believers who made you feel as if you couldn’t pray as well as they because you didn’t pray in tongues. (You mentioned this in a recent sermon). I do not feel like a “have not” because I can’t preach. I recognize according to 1 Corinthians 12 that there are many gifts that have been disbursed to God’s people and we don’t each have all of them. But I believe all of them are needed for the Body of Christ to function optimally in this world. Is encouragement being given for every manifestation of the Spirit for the common good in the church?
    Thank you for this opportunity to express some thoughts and questions that I have been thinking about and praying about. I appreciate the opportunity to find out what our leadership teaches regarding these areas of the Christian life.

  9. sermonrant on

    Great post Sandy, and with the clarification, I’m with ya! Yes I do believe there are times when the Spirit is controlling us in a way that appears evident in our lives, and we can experience the Spirit differently. Good point!

  10. sermonrant on

    Also re: speaking in tongues; I have always agreed the way you approach tongues and definitely believe what you wrote, but the Pentecostal teaching usually sees it differently. I don’t think that the phrase “Praying in the Spirit” means tongues. There are other more obvious verses in 1 Corinthians that express the point more clearly! Thanks again!

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