Our God Who Helps
The Jewish Scriptures present the first glimpse of God’s creation of the earth by saying, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). There were not two Gods involved in creation; Moses’ affirmation about God’s Being is clear: “Hear, O Israel: The Lᴏʀᴅ our God, the Lᴏʀᴅ is one!” (Dt. 6:4). Then who is the Spirit of God?
Although Christians cannot fully understand the doctrine of the Trinity, we believe God is one in His essence and three in His Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This triunity is implied in the Old Testament and clarified in the New Testament. Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and divine Interpreter of the Jewish Scriptures, revealed that the Holy Spirit is divine and that His primary role is to help God’s people.
The Divine Spirit
The Bible clearly teaches the deity of the Holy Spirit. First, certain passages refer to Him as deity. In the days of the early church, when Ananias withheld the truth about his offering, the apostle Peter condemned the deceit as being against God: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?…You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3–4). The apostle Paul explained that the Spirit’s transforming work in the hearts of Christians “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18, literal translation and ESV).
Second, the Holy Spirit is included with the Father and Son in four trinitarian passages:
- When Jesus Christ commissioned His followers to make disciples from all of the nations to which they would travel, He instituted water baptism to be performed “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19).
- When Paul concluded his second letter to the Corinthians, he prayed, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).
- Peter characterized the Christians to whom he wrote as “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:2).
- When the apostle John wrote to the seven churches, he mentioned the three persons of the Trinity: “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come [the Father], and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne [the Holy Spirit], and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth [the Son]” (Rev. 1:4–5).
A third evidence of the Spirit’s divinity is that He shares the attributes of God. In response to the question, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” King David replied that there is nowhere to hide from God (Ps. 139:7–10). Jesus called Him “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 16:13); and Paul said that the Spirit, like God, knows everything: “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:10–11).
In addition to being omnipresent and omniscient, He is called “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14). He also shares the characteristic of being sovereign, as Jesus pointed out: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8).
The Personal Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not merely a divine influence or godly force. He is a distinct person in the same way the Father and Son are unique persons of the godhead. This marvelous truth is revealed by the masculine personal pronoun He that is consistently used for the Spirit: “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (Jn. 15:26, emphasis added; see also John 14:26; 16:7–8, 13–14). The Spirit’s self-awareness is also seen in His use of the first-person pronoun: “The Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2, emphasis added).
Since the Holy Spirit is a personal Being, it is no surprise He personally speaks to Christians in whom He lives. Throughout the history of the early church, as recorded in the book of Acts, the Spirit regularly communicated God’s will to believers. He told Philip the evangelist to approach the Ethiopian eunuch’s chariot (8:29). He told Peter about the three men Cornelius sent to him (10:19; 11:12). He called out specific men for missionary service (13:2).
Later, Paul and his companions “were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (16:6). In fact, in town after town, Paul consistently heard the Spirit warn him about impending imprisonments (20:23). Clearly, believers indwelt by the Spirit of God experience His person and presence intimately.
Although it may be difficult to describe the precise ways the Spirit continues to speak to Christians, His words impressed on our hearts will never contradict His words written in Scripture. That is why Christians elevate the Bible to the highest level of authority. The Scriptures alone contain God’s inerrant Word, uniquely given through holy men by the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. Wrote Peter: “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20–21).
The Bible alone speaks as the supremely authoritative voice of the Spirit. This conviction is reflected in the book of Hebrews. When the author quoted from Psalm 95, he prefaced the quotation with an important phrase about God’s written Word: as the Holy Spirit says (Heb. 3:7). The Spirit continues to “say” God’s truth through the Bible to those willing to listen: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mk. 7:16).
The Holy Spirit’s personal ministry to believers is most fully described as “Helper.” Jesus gave this name to the Spirit in His farewell discourse to His disciples, as recorded in John 14—16. The Greek word paraclete has been translated in various ways: “helper,” “counselor,” “advocate,” and “comforter.” All explain that the Spirit helps believers in their spiritual lives, taking the place of the personal presence of Jesus on Earth.
Looking ahead to His ascension to heaven, Jesus promised to send the Spirit to mediate His presence to us: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever….I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (Jn. 14:16, 18).
The Spirit was also sent to help the apostles write the New Testament: “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 things that I said to you” (v. 26). The Spirit was given to shed light on Jesus Christ: “But when the Helper comes…He will testify of Me” (15:26). The Holy Spirit never draws attention to Himself but only to Jesus Christ, the Messiah and Lord of all.