The subject of the Holy Spirit is extremely important. Many people today find it difficult to understand this mystery, and this has led to different views of the Holy Spirit, even among Christians. In some circles, the Holy Spirit is seen only as the character or mind of God.1 Other denominations consider the Holy Spirit to be an “active force.”2 Others teach what is known as the “Twinity” (two), as opposed to the “Trinity” (three).3 They all agree that the Holy Spirit is not co-equal to the Father and the Son. But, who is the Holy Spirit and what role does this member of the Trinity play in our salvation?
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
A. Attributes: The Bible is unequivocal about the nature of the Holy Spirit: He is eternal (Heb. 9:14); omnipotent/all powerful (Luke 1:35); omnipresent/able to be everywhere at all times (Ps. 139:7); and omniscient/all knowing (1 Cor. 2:10, 11). He is able to communicate (Acts 13:2); intercede (Rom. 8:26); testify (John 15:26); guide (John 16:13); command (Acts 16:6, 7); appoint (Acts 20:28); lead (Rom. 8:14), expose sin and foolishness (John 16:8); shape people’s lives for Christ (Rom. 8:1-17); and seal the promises of God in our hearts (Eph. 1:13, 14).
B. Transcendence: As such, the Holy Spirit is transcendent. He is Spirit and not matter (cf. John 4:24). And, consequently, He is completely distinct from what He created. Unlike human beings who rely on pre-existing materials to create and make things, the cosmological function of the Holy Spirit is selfexistent. For the Spirit of God possesses the ability of creatio ex nihilo—to create out of nothing. Thus, in the beginning, the Holy Spirit moved upon the face of “nothingness” (the earth was “formless” and “empty”), and creation began to unfold (Gen. 1:2, 3-31).
C. Imminence: The Trinity also played a collaborative role in the creation of human life (Gen. 1:26). Adam was simply a pile of dust, empty and lifeless, until God “breathed” into his nostrils the “breath” of life (Gen. 2:7). Here, “breath,” from the Hebrew Ruah (also translated as “Spirit”), suggests the imminent operation of the Holy Spirit in human existence. The “Spirit” is the “active source of life.” Without it, man ceases to be a living soul. Only human beings on earth have the privilege of communicating with the Holy Spirit. Without the Spirit of God, man has no hope of eternal life (compare Rom. 8:16, 26; John 14:26, 27; 1 Cor. 6:18-20); he is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-3).
WHAT DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT DO?
Let us consider only three roles of the Holy Spirit:
A. In relation to sinful man:
1. Sin ushered severe consequences into the world. Man became evil before God (Gen. 6:12) and yielded to their evil passions (Gen. 6:2). But the Spirit “contends” with man (Gen. 6:3). And, a period of 120 years was extended to the people of Noah’s time before the flood (1 Peter 3:20).
2. The “Spirit” continues to strive with man today. He convicts man of sin (John 16:8), leads (Ps. 143:10), teaches (Luke 12:12), directs (Acts 13:2), inspires (2 Peter 1:21), and sanctifies (1 Peter 1:2).
3. While the “flesh” drives us toward acts of “immorality, impurity, selfish ambition, dissension, and the like” (Gal. 5:19- 21), the “Spirit” leads to “faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (verse 22). As we see in the case of Saul, conviction turns more and more painful over time (Acts 26:14). And, eventually, persistent refusal to heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit leads to the unpardonable sin (Mark 3:29).
B. In relation to the righteous
1. The incalculable force of the Holy Spirit upon the righteous enables them to carry out the will of God. This is illustrated frequently in the Old Testament by such verbs as “came upon him” (Judges 3:10; compare 6:34; 11:29; 14:6, 19), “stir” (Judges 13:25), “lift” (Ezek. 3:12, 14; 11:1), “pour” (Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28), and “fill” (Micah 3:8).
2. The Holy Spirit was also given for specific tasks—courage for Gideon to fight the Midianites (Judges 6:34), strength for Amasai to defend David (1 Chron. 12:18), boldness for Zechariah to challenge wayward Israel (2 Chron. 24:20), skills for the craftsman of Israel to build the tabernacle (Exod. 31:1-7)—and for justice and might (Micah 3:8).
3. The ultimate manifestation of God’s ruah in the Old Testament was through prophecy (1 Sam. 10:6; Ezek. 11:5, 24; Joel 2:28, 29). Through inspiration the prophets gave a sharper focus to God’s life-changing ruah and directed it to those who needed it (2 Sam. 23:2, 3; Acts 21:4; 28:25; 2 Peter 1:21).
4. The Spirit imparts life (Ezek. 37:9, 14; Rom. 8:11), hope (Rom. 15:13), joy (Rom. 14:17; 1 Thess. 1:6; Gal. 5:22), love (Rom. 5:5), physical strength (Judges 14:6, 19; 15;14, 15), victory over the flesh (Rom. 8:4, 13; Gal. 5:16, 25), and inner strength (Eph. 3:16).
C. In relation to the finishing of the gospel work
1. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The day of Pentecost marked the fulfillment of this promise (Acts 2:23). And, a great spiritual revival was experienced by the early church. The gospel was preached with power (Acts 2:1-4, 5-41), miracles were performed (Acts 2:43), members of the church became more caring (Acts 2:44-46), and church membership exploded (Acts 2:47).
2. A marked manifestation of the presence and leadership of God was evident in the early church. The role of the apostles was subservient to the authority of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:26). The Holy Spirit influenced the rational decisions (on doctrine, policies, and organization) made by the church and the expansion from local church organization to the mission fields (i.e., to the Gentiles; see Acts 8:29, 40), and also in the ministry of the apostles (Acts 13:2f; 16:6f).
3. The Holy Spirit is associated with incomputable power (Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:13, 19) for the church, the same power which raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19, 20). This power takes residence in the hearts of the believers (Eph. 2:19-22; Rom. 8:11; 2 Cor. 1:22) to anoint each member of the body of Christ with wisdom, illuminate with understanding, guide the church (1 John 2:20, 27; Rom. 8:14), and build spiritual stamina against the attacks of Satan (Eph. 3:16).
4. The Holy Spirit equips the church with a variety of gifts: teaching, ministering, administration or leadership, evangelism, pastoring, exhortation, giving, showing mercy, helps, faith, apostleship, and prophecy (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10, 27- 31; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Eph. 4:8-13). All these gifts were to contribute to building up the body of Christ (the church) to the measure of the fullness of Christ.
What more can a person ask of God? All of heaven’s resources have been given to us in the Holy Spirit. The greatest need of Adventists today is for an authentic revival of godliness.4 There is much talk and boasting among us, but a lack of spiritual power in our lives and in the Church! We all need to experience a “daily” and “fresh baptism” of the Holy Spirit,5 for God Ruah to “move to and fro” upon us just as He did in the beginning, and to recreate anew out of the “emptiness” of our hearts a triumphant body of believers, prepared and adorned for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in great measure and the completion of the Gospel Commission. What a solemn privilege! What excuse will we give if we neglect such an immense offer of salvation (Heb. 2:3, 4)?
1 This view is held by the Christadelphians, otherwise known as Brothers in Christ from the Greek. See “The Christadelphian view of the Holy Spirit,” retrieved March 8, 2010, from: http://www. carm.org.
2 Jehovah’s Witnesses subscribe to this view of the Holy Spirit. See “Is the Holy Spirit a Person?” retrieved March 8, 2010, from the official Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Web site: http://www.watchtower.org.
3 This was the teaching of the Worldwide Churches of God, under Armstrong. See “Worldwide Church of God: Christian or Cult?” retrieved March 8, 2010, from http://www.rapidnet.com.
4 Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 22, 1887, cited in Selected Messages, vol. 1:121.
5 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, 139.
Limoni Manu O’uiha, Ph.D., writes from Palmerston North, New Zealand.