The one person that distinguishes the Old Testament from the New—and Christianity from every other religion in the world—is the Holy Spirit. You’ll notice that we said “the one person.” It’s important to recognize that the Holy Spirit is a person. The Holy Spirit is not some sort of nameless force in the universe, but He is one person of the Trinity, along with the Father and the Son.
An interesting passage of Scripture in the book of Acts demonstrates the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Luke, the writer of the book of Acts, records in chapter 4 that the disciples were in the midst of worshiping the Lord and fasting. Suddenly the Holy Spirit spoke:
“One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the
Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work
to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2 NLT).
Once we understand that the Holy Spirit is a person who is loving, kind, and gentle, then we will no longer fear or misunderstand His work in our lives.
As we pointed out before, God’s intention was always to live with mankind and to have fellowship with His people. He does that through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Isaiah prophesied the coming of Immanuel:
“The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will
conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him
Immanuel [which means God is with us]” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV).
A good way to look at the work of the Holy Spirit is to see that our Heavenly Father sent Jesus to save the world; then Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fill us with power, to guide us, to give us wisdom and boldness, and to empower us to be His witnesses on earth. As you become sensitive to His leading, you will see that just as the Father sent the Son, and the Son sent the Holy Spirit, now the Holy Spirit will send you to demonstrate God’s love to other people.
It’s also wonderful to know that the Holy Spirit doesn’t only send you, but He goes with you. In fact, He is always with you. Jesus promised this in the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel:
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17 ESV).
As we shared in Chapter 2, the Holy Spirit is referred to as the “Paraclete.” In fact, the apostle John used the word Paraclete five times in the New Testament to describe the Holy Spirit. The word signifies to be “called to one’s side.” The word can also be used to describe a counsel for the defense, advocate, an intercessor, or a helper. The Holy Spirit is all these things at different times in the life of the believer.
John conveys the words of Jesus regarding the Holy Spirit as He is about to ascend to heaven in chapter 16 of John’s Gospel:
“It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away, the Counselor [Paraclete] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (v. 7 WEB).
God desires that we all follow in the footsteps of Jesus and live a life that is directed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach us and guide us into all truth.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send
in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your
remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26 NASB).
“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into
all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but
whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose
to you what is to come” (John 16:13 NASB).
The apostle Paul called on the Ephesians to be led by the Spirit in prayer:
“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and
with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and
petition for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18 NASB).
This is the Spirit-filled, Spirit-led life that God desires for each of us.
The Holy Spirit as Our Guide
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul wrote that the Spirit of God has been sent to guide His children (see Romans 8:14). Life in the Spirit is supposed to be the norm for New Testament Christians. Scripture tells us that our steps are to be led by the Spirit:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He
delights in his way (Psalm 37:23 NKJV).
Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,”
whenever you turn to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:21 NASB).
God is spirit, and He communicates with us through our spirit. So we must learn to tune our spiritual ears to recognize His voice. Every believer needs to “learn to discern” God’s voice for himself/herself. The writer of Hebrews tells us that this discernment comes from practice.
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those
who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern
both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14 NKJV).
In His earthly ministry, Jesus continually modeled Spirit-led prayer—especially at key moments of decision. When He was preparing to choose from the large group of His followers the men who would be His 12 apostles, the Bible tells us that He first inquired of the Father in prayer:
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to
pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day,
He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve
whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13 NKJV).
In fact, Jesus taught that He did nothing without asking His Father:
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I
say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something
He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things
the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19 NASB).
The Holy Spirit Gives Wisdom
So many times in life, we are faced with difficult choices. One of the great advantages of the believer is that God has promised to give us wisdom if we ask Him:
“If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be
given to you. God is generous and won’t correct you
for asking” (James 1:5 CEV).
The apostle Paul writes of the wisdom we can receive from God by the Holy Spirit:
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV).
Everyone needs God’s wisdom to navigate the challenges of this world. This wisdom can only come from Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Gives Power to Live for God
In the Old Testament, the prophet Zechariah speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit to empower His people: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (4:6 ESV).
As human beings, our strength and resources are limited. But with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we are able to accomplish the plans that God has for each and every life.
As we explained in chapter one, every person is created to do good works in order to serve God and show his love, grace, and mercy to other people. We can only accomplish the plan of God for our lives if we are empowered by the Holy Spirit. Jesus made this promise just before he ascended into heaven:
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NASB).
The power of the Holy Spirit working in us enables us to be God’s witnesses on the earth.
- The Holy Spirit gives us divine energy to complete His will (Colossians 1:29);
- The Holy Spirit gives us boldness to share our faith with others (Acts 4:31, 2 Corinthians 3:12);
- The Holy Spirit gives us gifts to be used to demonstrate God’s love and power to others (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
Paul declares that the gift or “manifestation” of the Holy Spirit is given to every believer:
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there
are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. … But to each
one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the
common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NASB).
Paul speaks of many gifts that are available to the people of God through the working of the Holy Spirit. But then he points out that the “manifestation” or work of the Holy Spirit is given to every believer for “the common good.” So you can have faith that God has not only a calling or plan for your life, but that He will also equip you with His gifts so you can see that plan fulfilled.
In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul encourages believers to “eagerly desire” the gifts of the Holy Spirit. “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1 NASB).
God wants to give you the gifts He speaks of in the Bible in order to reach others with the Good News of salvation. But as Paul writes in this verse, operating in these special gifts should always be motivated by love for God and love for other people.
The Holy Spirit Helps Us Become Like Jesus
As we mentioned in chapter 2, our goal as believers is to become more like Christ. As frail and sinful human beings, we simply cannot do that on our own. We need the Holy Spirit to:
- Lead us to salvation through Christ (Romans 8:15-16);
- Guide into the truth from Scripture of God’s plan for our lives and His desire for us to live holy lives (John 16:13);
- Strengthen us to resist temptation to sin and disobedience to God (John 16:8);
- Comfort and encourage us when we miss the mark in life (John 16:8);
- Give us wisdom and discernment in our choices of friends, entertainment, hobbies, etc. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14); and
- Encourage us through ongoing Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers (1 Corinthians 14:12).
The Holy Spirit Reminds Us We Are God’s Children
In Romans 8, the apostle Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of adoption.”
“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (vs. 15-16 NLT).
Again in his letter to the Galatians, Paul affirms that the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are children of God.
“God sent him [Jesus] to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the
law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because
we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our
hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are
no longer a slave but God’s own child” (4:5-7 NLT).
These verses show us the deep, personal, and intimate nature of our relationship with God by using the Aramaic name for “Father,” which is “Abba.” The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of adoption—enables us to know God not only as Father, but also as an intimate “Daddy.”
Now that you know about the love of the Father, the wisdom of the Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit, let’s go on to explore God’s revelation to you, which is found in the Bible.