Ask Steve: Who is the Holy Spirit?

Question: Steve, who or what is the Holy Spirit? What role does He play in the believer’s life?

Answer: The Holy Spirit is essentially God. He is not an impersonal force, a glob of energy or merely an attribute of God (ex. love). He is a living divine Being like the Son and the Father, with attributes of personality. He is the third Person in the Godhead, being equal to the Father and the Son ontologically, but subordinate economically. That means the Holy Spirit submits to both the Father and the Son in His particular role, responsibility, and ministry, but He is co-equal with the Father and the Son in essence, since the Holy Spirit is not partial God, but fully God.

The Holy Spirit is omnipotent, omnipresence, omniscient, loving, holy, righteous, just, faithful, and gracious as is the Father and the Son. He has an intellect (1 Cor 2:10-13), emotions (Eph 4:30), volition (1 Cor 12:11). He has all the eternal attributes of God, since the Holy Spirit is fully and irreducibly God in His essence. Yet He is a distinct Person from the Person of the Father and the Son. God exists eternally through the Holy Spirit as much as through the Father and Son. Yet they are one God, attested by Deuteronomy 6:4 to the fact that only one God exists and that the one true God is the God of believers.

The Holy Spirit’s divinity and personhood can be attested to the fact that He thinks and knows (1 Corinthians 2:10), He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), He makes decisions according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The Holy Spirit is said to interact like a person by being able to be grieved (Eph. 4:30), obeyed (Acts 10:19-21), blasphemed (Mark 3:28-29), resisted (Acts 7:51), lied to (Acts 5:3), and insulted (Heb. 10:29). This Person of the Godhead is send by both the Father and the Son to be the Christian’s Counselor and Comforter (John 14:16, 15:26). As such, the Holy Spirit is heavily involved in the Christian’s sanctification process and ministers the word to the believer’s heart by illuminating Scripture, bringing conviction, and producing fruit in his life.

The Father is the One who planned the regeneration, sanctification, and glorification of all believers, but it is the Holy Spirit who applies these to the believer (Titus 3:3-7). This is the Holy Spirit’s primary ministry in the life of a believer, contrary to the misconception by charismatics that He is mainly an instrument that causes believers to speak in tongues, heal, prophecy, cast out demons, or bring about uncontrollably euphoric praise sessions. Since God is a God of harmony (1 Cor 14:33) and truth (Jn 4:23; 14:6), He does not create chaos within church services or do anything that is out of accord with what He has inspired the biblical writers to record in Scripture. Since Scripture is complete, the Spirit’s ministry is complete in regards to apostolic sign gifts, His predominant ministry now is to regenerate and sanctify the believer, leading him away from sin and into obedience to God in truthful and holy worship. 

 God the Spirit has multiple roles in the life of believers. As previously stated, He is generally responsible for applying the regeneration, sanctification, and glorification to the believer. When the sinner repents, the Holy Spirit applies the finished work of Christ to his life, takes up permanent residence in the sinner’s heart (Romans 8:9). He baptizes the heart of the sinner in that He deadens their sin nature and regenerates them onto newness of life and desire. The Holy Spirit justifies the sinner and seals them (2 Cor 1:21:22) until the day of glorification. Until glorification, He works to brings about progressive change in the believer’s life.

There are many ways that the Holy Spirit serves to conform the believer to Christlikeness. The Holy Spirit functions in the believer’s life as a Comforter, Counselor, and Guide according to John 14. One of God the Spirit’s main functions is that He reveals truth to the believer, enabling them to understand, interpret, and apply God’s truth in their lives (John 16:13). He reveals to believers the whole counsel of God as it relates to worship, doctrine, and Christian living. To each individual believer, the Holy Spirit endows certain spiritual gifts (Rom 12:16; 1 Cor 12:14; 1 Pet 4:10-11), empowers them to serve God (both in evangelism and in the church) (2 Cor 3:6; Acts 1:8), helps them to pray God’s will with strength (Rom 8:26-27; Eph 6:18), convicts them to abandon sin (Rom 8:12-13), produces spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22-23), and leads by “filling” (Rom 8:14).

An understanding of the Holy Spirit plays an important role especially in the counseling process much in the same way as the doctrine of perseverance. The Holy Spirit grants not only perseverance, but also the comprehensive ability for believers to worship God, resist sin, desire the things of God, and follow His counsel. Counselors can have assurance that if a counselee has the Holy Spirit dwelling within his heart, the counselee will be receptive to God’s Word and will apply God’s truth to his life. The Holy Spirit uses God’s truth in His Word to convict a sinner and conform him to Christlikeness (Jn 14:26; 1 Jn 2:20, 27).

However, if the Holy Spirit does not dwell within a counselee, biblical counseling will not be effective in the counselee’s life. This is the counselor’s cue for understanding the condition of his counselee and to devote the session to pre-counseling evangelism instead. Since the work of the Holy Spirit is crucial to biblical counseling, much prayer and dependence on His Word is necessary, since the Spirit and the Word are inseparable in bringing change to a person’s life (Eph 6:11-18). No biblical counseling can ever be impact, successful, and effective without acknowledge of and dependence on God the Spirit during the entire process of a counseling term, since sanctification is, first and foremost, the work of God.