The Holy Spirit is probably the most misunderstood person in the Trinity. As the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit is not to be misconstrued as an impersonal force, power, influence, or ghost, and it’s definitely improper to refer to Him as “it.” He has a mind, emotion, and will. Scripture clearly shows that He is God, and the most obvious reference is found in Acts 5:3-4. Here, Peter reprimanded Ananias for lying to the Holy Spirit and said that he has not “lied unto men but unto God.” The Holy Spirit has been mentioned more than 90 times in the Old Testament and more than 260 times in the New Testament. That means it is essential to the Christian faith to know Him more deeply.
Throughout Scripture, the Holy Spirit has been known through various symbols and metaphors such as:
- Fire. This means that He mentally, emotionally, and spiritually purifies us from ungodly things, and He also stirs up passion in us to worship and serve God (Matthew 3:11, Acts 2:4)
- Dove. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove (Matthew 3:16), which may have been an echo of the Spirit hovering over the waters of creation (Genesis 1:2). In doing so, He symbolized the new creation being brought about by Jesus Christ
- Oil. In the Old Testament, olive oil has been used for anointing kings (1 Samuel 16:1,13) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16), anointing and ordaining priests (Exodus 28:41), and purifying the altar. These are merely foreshadowing of the anointing of the Holy Spirit on Jesus as the head of the Church (Luke 4:18). Consequently, we are also anointed by the Holy Spirit for ministry empowerment (Acts 1:8)
- Wind. A metaphor used by Jesus to signify that though the Holy Spirit cannot be seen, we can observe His activity and influence (John 3:8)
- Water. Symbolizes the Holy Spirit as the source of everlasting life; as refreshing living water that flows eternally (John 7:38-39)
- Seal. The Holy Spirit marks us spiritually as people owned by God (Ephesians 1:13)
The aforementioned symbols are not to be misunderstood as the Holy Spirit’s natural appearance but merely metaphors according to what He wills to purpose at those points.
We cannot refer to the Holy Spirit as another separate God but as one with the Father and the Son. The Hebrew name of God “YHWH” or “Yahweh,” has been used to refer to the Father and the Son. That same name has also been used to refer to the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:2 and 61:1. This means that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one and the same LORD or “Yahweh” but three distinct persons. The Holy Spirit also has the same divine attributes, such as:
- He is Eternal. Without beginning or end, He is referred to as the eternal Spirit in Hebrews 9:14
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit…”
- He is Omnipresent or all-present. The Spirit is very much present everywhere in all creation, as the psalmist states in Psalm 139:7-10
“ Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?  If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;  Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
- He is Omniscient, or all-knowing, as referred to in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11
“ But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.”
- He is also Omnipotent, or all-powerful, as He was involved in the power behind the creation of the world in Genesis 1:2 and the same power that raised Jesus from the dead in Romans 8:11.
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Since the Holy Spirit is a person, we can find in Scripture that He also exhibits emotions and personal interactions. Ephesians 4:30 shows that He feels grief as Paul tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. We grieve Him when we harbor unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment in our hearts and revert to our old lives even after regeneration. He can also feel insulted as revealed in Hebrews 10:29. As to personal interactions, the Holy Spirit has been lied to by Ananias (Acts 5:1-4), been blasphemed by the Pharisees (Matthew 12:31-32), can be resisted (Acts 7:51), and can be quenched (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
To our benefit, the Holy Spirit does a plethora of actions for us. He teaches and reminds people of Jesus’ commandments (John 14:26), comforts and helps us (John 16:13), testifies that we are children of God (Romans 8:16), convicts or corrects us (John 16:8), guides us (John 16:13), calls us to service (Acts 13:2), commands and forbids some actions, leads us (Galatians 5:18, 25), intercedes for us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), produces fruits that bring about life change (Galatians 5:22-23), gives gifts to people according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:11), and speaks to us (1 Timothy 4:1).
The Holy Spirit is also responsible for various divine works such as:
- The creation and sustenance of all created things (Genesis 1:2, Psalm 104:30)
- Divine inspiration of Scriptures (1 Corinthians 2:13)
- Believers’ spiritual regeneration and renewal in salvation (John 3:3-8)
- Believers’ ever-increasing glorious transformation into God’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- Bringing the resurrection life to the believers’ mortal bodies like that of Christ (Romans 8:11)
He has various names in the Bible (18 in the Old Testament and 39 in the New Testament), which describe the relationship between His work and the believer. Thus, we will know the Holy Spirit better through His revealed names if we are to understand His role. Jesus said:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;”
(John 14:16 KJV)
The Greek word here for comforter is parakletos and is translated in English as counselor or helper. Parakletos is often referred to as a legal assistant in another context, an advocate, or simply a helper (like a witness or a representative in court). Its verbal form, parakaleo, literally means “one who comes alongside.” We will also take a look at His title, Comforter, in other translations. In the English Standard Version, it is translated as “Helper;” in the New International Version 1984, it is translated as “Counselor,” and in the New Living Translation, it is “Advocate.” These translations give us a good picture of who the Holy Spirit is to us. As a Comforter, He is our greatest and most-compassionate encourager in our time of need. As a Helper, He enables us to be strong as we follow Christ. As an Advocate, He gives reminders that God will be there to defend and support us. And as Counselor, He is the one who teaches us about the Word of God and how we may apply it to our lives.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit made himself available to some of the biblical characters in limited ways and durations, mostly in visitations. But in the New Testament, He now takes permanent residence in us when we receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. God has become not just “God for us” or “God with us” but also “God in us.” Such a great privilege for us, as every believer now becomes the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19). The greatest message God has ever given us through the Holy Spirit’s ministry is that we don’t have to face the Christian life alone and with our own ability. That’s probably the reason why Jesus told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit to come before they left Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-8). We become victorious Christians and passionate witnesses to Christ for the world through the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that we have the most powerful, loving, and compassionate being living in us.
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.”
(1 John 4:4 KJV)