A.W. Tozer, the popular preacher and Christian author of the early-to-mid 20th century, was known to be a man of God. During his 44 years of ministry, he served as pastor in several churches, including a three-decade stint in Chicago before finishing up at his final church in Toronto. Speaking from all of his experience, Tozer observed, “The idea of the Spirit held by the average church member is so vague as to be nearly nonexistent.”
That was true in Tozer’s day and it remains true today. Many people—even those who regularly attend church—get confused when it comes to the Holy Spirit. Some view the Holy Spirit as a form of energy (like the “force” in Star Wars) that must be manipulated. Others consider the Holy Spirit to be the personification of all good things (much as Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather). Still others think that the Holy Spirit is the consciousness of everything in the universe.
What the Bible actually says about the Holy Spirit, however, is very different. The Holy Spirit is not any of those things, because the Holy Spirit is not a thing at all. The Holy Spirit is a person. Theologically, we refer to Him as the “Third Person of the Trinity”. The Bible teaches that there is one and only one God, but this one God has three centres of personhood: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. One God, not three, existing as three persons, not one. The Holy Spirit, being one of these Persons, is fully divine in His very essence.
The Holy Spirit is a person. He’s an all-powerful, everywhere-present, all knowing, eternal and divine person, but a person nonetheless. Indeed, He displays all the attributes of personhood. The Holy Spirit…
- Possesses intellect (1 Corinthians 12:11)
- Experiences emotion (Romans 15:30)
- Has a will (1 Corinthians 12:11)
- Can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4)
- Lives within believers (John 14:16-17)
- Provides guidance for believers (John 14:16-17)
- Teaches and comforts (John 14:26)
- Experiences sorrow (Ephesians 4:30)
- Is referred to as “He”, never “it” (John 15:26)
Scripture paints an incredible picture of who the Holy Spirit is. He’s the Breath of Life, the Breath of the Lord, and the Advocate sent by God in the name of Jesus. He’s the Eternal Spirit—the Wind that comes and goes as He wishes. He’s the Fire that refines us and the Spirit that rains down on His people. He’s the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, and the Spirit from whom streams of living water flow.
Misconceptions abound when it comes to the Person of the Holy Spirit, even among believers. Because of this confusion, many shy away from talking about Him or trying to understand Him at all. Yet the Holy Spirit has been active throughout the course of human history, and He continues to be engaged in our lives today. He produces spiritual fruit in us, empowers us for holy living, and transforms us from the inside out. In fact, Jesus Himself said that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives would be superior to His own physical presence with us (John 16:7).
The Holy Spirit is the eternal, transcendent God, yet He is intimately at work within us. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and in His grace, He is intent on making us the people God meant for us to be. We may not be able to fully comprehend who He is or detect His handiwork, but we can always trust that He cares for us and is relentlessly working toward God’s perfect will in our lives.