Who is He?

Some groups have tried to make a distinction as if “Spirit” is different than “Ghost,” however, both the Old Testament Hebrew and the New Testament Greek each has only one word for “Spirit/Ghost.” Over the centuries, Christian writers have favored “Spirit” or “Ghost” at different periods of time, attempting to avoid confusion with whichever term is currently in use for the disembodied dead.
Some have tried to demote the Holy Spirit/Ghost to merely an instrument of God’s activity. Yet He has all the qualifications which describe a Person: a separate Entity Who is self-conscious and acts by His own will, Who has feelings and sensibilities. He has comprehension [I Corinthians 2:10-11], He talks [Acts 8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2; Revelation 14:13] (speaking in the first person singular “I”), He can be grieved [Ephesians 4:30] (The impersonal force of gravity cannot be grieved), He can be lied to [Acts 5:3-4] (One cannot lie to a thing, such as an electric current), He pleads for us [Romans 8:26-27], He teaches [John 14:26] (How is one taught by the wind?). Even though the word for “Spirit/Ghost” is a neuter noun, the Holy Spirit is referred to by the masculine singular pronouns “He, Him,” not the neuter “it,” for instance, in the Greek of John 16:7-11, 13-15.
Some have ridiculed the idea that the Holy Spirit/Ghost can inhabit us and our hearts. Yet, on even a creature scale, demons have possessed people, demons who could speak as personalities and even be sent into a herd of swine (therefore they weren’t merely the person’s own psychotic manifestation) [Mark 5:1-13; Mat 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-37]. It is not likely that demons can do something that God cannot do.
Ultimately, the Bible describes the Holy Spirit/Ghost as a Person, and since we are merely the creatures who in no wise can comprehend our Creator, even our reasoning ability must humbly bow before His self-description: He is as much a Person as the Father and the Son are and, with a seamless unity between Them, is part of the One God.

What does He do?

A window, if it does its job, shows you what you would otherwise not see, yet without drawing attention to itself. That is a description also of the Holy Spirit’s work: He is to reveal Jesus to us and to connect us to Him [John 15:26; 16:13-15]. Jesus died for our sin, but we would never know without the Holy Spirit. It is by this Spirit of God that the HIS-Story now becomes personal to us. The Spirit brings wisdom, revelation and knowledge [Ephesians 1:!7]; He brings understanding [I Corinthians 2:12] and then the ability to confess, “Jesus is Lord” [I Corinthians 12:3]. Without Him, one may have extensive knowledge of the Bible, yet his understanding glances off the significance of the message.
In prayer, as we cry out to our God (“Abba! Father!”), it is the Holy Spirit confirming and pressing home to us that through His work in Baptism, we are indeed children of God [Romans 8:14-16; Galatians 4:6]. “From the Lord Who is the Spirit … beholding the Lord’s Glory, [we] are being changed into His likeness from one degree of Glory to another” [II Corinthians 3:18] – we are being changed into the Image of God toward the goal of being the humans we were created to be – although it is a sobering thought to realize that when people look at us, how they finish the sentence “If that’s what a Christian is, then …” or “If that is what God is about, then …” will depend on whether God’s Glory (as described earlier) is indeed reflected in us.
The concept of the Spirit cannot but have the keynote of excitement. As the Holy Spirit strengthens and empowers us, so we are now gifted to be Jesus’ hands and heart and voice and His everything else in this cosmos. Important in this task is to strengthen and empower the Church according to the gifts that He has chosen to give us [I Corinthians 12:4-11; I Peter 4:10-11]. His presence galvanized the band of cautious believers to erupt from the “house” (some think it was “the House of the Lord” – the Temple, their “church building”) into the world [Acts 2] with a dynamic which faced persecution and death, ridicule and disappointment, to win a world – this has been going on (despite the humanness of Jesus’ followers) for two thousand years and still has not run out of energy. The excitement is to see just how He has used the hands, feet, tongue and heart of these followers to touch yet another generation with a message that puts Life – eternal Life – into other people’s existence.


A critical step for anyone who desires to participate in “the Image of God” through Jesus is the necessity of faith, which (as mentioned) comes from the Holy Spirit Who alone brings knowledge and understanding, along with the ability to confess the Lordship of Jesus.

Yet “faith” presents a mystery to many people. If someone tells you that you ought to have more faith, what should you do? How do you do it? Confusion comes when “faith” is explained as “to believe” or “to trust,” yet when those words are challenged, many end up at a loss to describe in their own words the meaning. In other words, many really don’t know what “faith” is, and with “religious” faith, often it is thought to be simply so mysterious that it is basically unknowable.

Actually “faith” is quite simple. It is to “take someone at his word”, or, to expect that something promised will happen. It is no different from what we do constantly throughout our lives, mostly without realizing how much of our day involves faith, from using money (which should have value…) to making appointments to expecting others to stop at a red light. It involves the everyday transactions at the store, the food we buy, the car we drive, the theatre tickets in hand, and the newscaster on TV – all fully expecting that we will receive what is promised.

What makes spiritual faith different is not the mechanics of faith but the object of faith. Our nature doesn’t trust God, in fact doesn’t want to trust or depend on God. This is where the Holy Spirit is essential in order to create in us both the desire and the ability to trust that the Lord will do as He promised. Once that is started, then to “have more faith” is to set before us the nature and the promises of God – to learn more about what He is like, and to learn more about what He wants and is working toward for us.

However, faith cannot help but be put into action, as St James tells us in his letter [2:17-22], or rather, if you expect that a promise or someone’s word is going to happen, it will affect your life. A voice on the phone from the doctor’s office tells you that you have an appointment next week and your life is changed. Transportation may need to be arranged, the day’s schedule will be altered, how you will dress may be different, what you eat may be affected, and many other adjustments rise out of this simple promise. No less happens when God makes a promise – attitudes, perspectives, feelings, methods, schedules, and many other things in our lives now become different through the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Repentance and Forgiveness

Another task of the Holy Spirit is to make repentance and forgiveness a reality in our lives. Often in our worship traditions, it seems that our repentance causes God to forgive. Actually it is the other way around: we need the security of His forgiveness in order to repent. Each of us has forbidden areas in our lives where we not only are reluctant but even afraid to look at in any detail or to spend much time in. If we really paid attention to some of our attitudes and behaviors and focused on what we are really like, it would be devastating. If we were to bring out into the sunlight these things, such as a betrayal of others or even of our own selves, or a good intention gone horribly wrong, or a fit of anger, or an addiction, or whatever it may be, if we were then to discover that there is no forgiveness for us, it would put us into utter despair. Nobody wants to be in that place.

Judas Iscariot is a prime example of this. When he realized that what may have started as a good intention turned sour, and that his betrayal of Jesus would culminate in Jesus’ death, he really was sorry. Since he didn’t see Jesus as a Source of forgiveness, the only other place to which to turn would be the priests in the temple. The priests, however, were negligent in their duty as they shrugged off his confession, “What is that to us? See to it yourself!” But there was no other place for him to turn, nowhere to find hope, nowhere to find forgiveness. Sadly, it is no surprise that to ease the pain, he resorted to suicide.

The Holy Spirit makes us know that forgiveness is already in place, and then walks with us as we look at the little and the big sins of our lives, even the “untouchable” areas, and truly bring them out to where we allow God to deal with them. As we repent, we hand them over to Him, knowing that He will respond instantly with the forgiveness which He has shown is already prepared on Jesus’ cross. Although repentance means that we desire to turn away from our sins, still the forgiveness is such that it will still be there ready every time when we stumble [I John 2:1-2].