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The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

Theology deals with the 'logos' and with logical matters, and so the Holy spirit became the stepchild of theology. People who have experienced the dynamic operations of the Spirit, have therefore looked in vain to theology for explanations. Rather, it is realized that a vital truth long almost lost to the church is being recovered.

Let's explore what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit under the following headings: i) His Person; ii) His work. We also look at iii) The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues; iv) The effect of the baptism in the Holy Spirit on a congregation; and v) The fullness of the Spirit.

1. The Person of the Holy Spirit

The Holy spirit, as the third Person in the Trinity, is co-eternal with the Father and the Son. Scripture quite clearly ascribes to Him both 'personality' [1] and deity. [2] Jesus Himself promised His disciples "another Counselor" [3] where "another' is 'allos', i.e. "of the same sort, not 'heteros', different." He is thus distinguished from Jesus, but yet on the same plane, so that He is Christ's Successor but also His presence. The Greek word for 'counselor', 'paraklētos', means literally "called to one's side, i.e. to one's aid" [4]


The first controversy regarding the deity of the Holy Spirit arose late in the 4th century, and resulted in an expanded form of the Nicene Creed. Since the third Council of Toledo in 589, the credal statements concerning the Holy Spirit read as follows:
"We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified."
(as in the Anglican Prayer Book)

Whereas Christ is the Life of the believer, [5] the Holy Spirit is the Giver of that life. [6] His procession from both the Father as the "Spirit of God," [7] and the Son as the "Spirit of Christ," [8] denotes an eternal relationship within the Trinity and not a coming into being.

Scripture uses several symbols for the Holy Spirit:
i) Fire, [9] because fire warms, spreads, illuminates and purifies.
ii) Wind, [10] as in His regenerative work, the Spirit giving birth to spirit.
iii) Water, [11] which refreshes, purifies, quenches thirst and leads to fruitfulness.
iv) A seal, [12] with the thought of ownership and security.
v) Oil, [13] which heals and soothes the soul.
vi) A dove, [14] which speaks of gentleness, innocence, peace and patience.

2. The work of the Holy Spirit

Here we need to distinguish between the functions of the Holy Spirit in relation to five different areas: Christ, the Scriptures, nature and the world of men, the church and the individual. Only in this way can we get a picture of the whole.

i) In relation to Christ: As the divine Executor of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit was involved in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus started His ministry "in the power of the Spirit," [15] offered Himself "through the eternal Spirit," [16] and by His resurrection "through the Spirit of holiness was declared ... to be the Son of God." [17]

In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is referred to as "the Spirit of Christ." [18] As the Son started a new phase of existence when He became flesh, so the Holy Spirit came as the Spirit of the glorified Jesus at Pentecost when the earthly mission of the Son had been completed. [19] As the Spirit of Christ, He brings glory to Christ by reminding men of His words, [20] testifying about Him [21] and making known what is His. [22] As "another Counselor," He makes Christ's presence so real that He brings about a new immediacy between God and man, resulting in the love, joy and peace of God.


ii) In relation to the Scriptures: As the Inspirer of the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets and other human authors of the Word, [23] so that all Scripture is "God-breathed." [24] The Spirit of Christ in the prophets of old revealed to them the future ministry of Jesus. [25] As the Interpreter of Scripture, He teaches men "all things;" [26] as the "Spirit of truth," He guides men "into all truth" and tells them "what is yet to come." [27] He reveals God's thoughts to men so that they can "understand what God has freely given" them. [28]

iii) In relation to nature and the world of men: As the Divine Executor, the Holy Spirit was involved in the creation of the world [29] and of men. [30] As sent by Christ He is responsible for "convict(ing) the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement." [31]

iv) In relation to the church: As "another Couselor" the Holy Spirit is present in the church, not in the place of Christ, but to make the presence of Christ real. [32] He gives men power to be witnesses of Jesus [33] and thus to fulfill His commission to the church. [34] The gifts of Christ to His church, for the purpose of "preparing God's people for service," [35] are different gifts given by the one Spirit "just as He determines." [36] The Holy Spirit baptizes all believers into one body, [37] and builds them together "to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." [38]

v) In relation to the individual: The Holy Spirit is operative in every aspect of the sinner's regeneration and the believer's walk. The sinner must be "born of the Spirit" [39] and be renewed by Him, [40] so that he becomes "a new creation." [41] The Spirit then lives in him and gives him life. [42] The Spirit washes, sanctifies and justifies the sinner, [43] and adopts him into the family of God. [44] He guides [45] and leads believers; [46] He helps them to pray and intercedes for them. [47]

3. The baptism in the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues

On Resurrection Sunday, Jesus "breathed" on His disciples and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." [48] What actually happened was that the Holy Spirit imparted eternal life to them, and that they passed from 'Old Testament salvation' to 'New Testament salvation'. Before His ascension, Jesus told them that they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, [49] and this is what happened on Pentecost Sunday. [50] The two different experiences can be summarized in the following way:

On Resurrection Sunday it was -
the resurrected Christ; the inbreathed Spirit. The result: life.

On Pentecost Sunday it was -
the ascended Christ; the outpoured Spirit. The result: power.

That the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a second experience, following the new birth, can be seen from two further scriptural examples: the people of Samaria [51] and the disciples at Ephesus. [52] There are two aspects to this baptism: i) Outwardly, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit comes down from above upon the believer and surrounds him. This is what happens when the Scriptures refer to the Spirit being "poured out," [53] "falling upon" [54] or "coming upon" people. [55] ii) Inwardly the believer receives the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit within himself. This is described by Jesus in John 7:37-39, and by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:13.

Although the Spirit Himself is invisible, the effects which He produces can often be seen and heard. [56] The initial effect He produces when people are baptized in the Spirit is usually the speaking in tongues. [57] At the house of Cornelius, Peter and the other Jews were convinced that the Gentiles had received the Spirit when they heard this manifestation. [58] Apart from being the initial evidence for the baptism in the Spirit, there are also added benefits to the speaking in tongues, so that Paul could thank God for it. [59] Speaking in tongues is speaking to God so that the speaker is edified. [60] Praying in a tongue is prayer with the spirit [61] and thus forms part of worshipping God "in spirit in truth," which is "true" worship. [62]

4. The effect of the baptism in the Holy Spirit on a congregation

A congregation of Spirit-baptised believers will differ from the 'traditional' congregation in two main ways:

i) Liberty under control. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there will be freedom or liberty. [63] However, he also exhorted them that this liberty must be controlled by the people themselves, as "God is not a God of disorder but of peace." Prophets should prophesy in turn so that "everyone may be instructed and encouraged." Moreover, whatever teaching is brought must be weighed carefully by the audience to determine whether it is consistent with the teachings and examples of Scripture. [64]

ii) Participation of all the members. "When you come together, every one has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church." [65] "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others ..." [66] Believers should therefore not get together with the idea of receiving, but of contributing. When all the members function in their individual ministries, the congregation can be built up as part of the body of Christ.

5. The fullness of the Spirit

"Be filled with the Spirit" [67] is a command, and the Greek word for "be filled" ('plēreō') means to be filled "to the full." [68] Nothing less can enable the child of God to live the life he has been redeemed for: abiding in Christ, keeping His commands, and bearing much fruit.

Although the gifts of the Spirit were operative in the Corinthian church, Paul told the members that he could not address them "as spiritual but as worldly - mere infants in Christ." [69] Therefore the baptism in the Spirit does not guarantee the fullness of the Spirit, In the book of Acts we see the same people being "filled with the Holy Spirit" on successive occasions, [70] proving that this is not a one-time experience. When Jesus gave the promise of an ever-springing fountain to those who believe in Him, He did not speak of a single act of faith, but rather, of a life of faith that would possess His gifts in living union with Himself.

There are a few conditions for being "filled to the full" with the Spirit: First the believer must be ready, for the Spirit will not be given where He is not wanted, asked for or resisted. In addition to this readiness, there must be a total surrender of all that one is and has. There must be an emptying of ourselves, in which the work of the flesh and the reign of self is surrendered. It is the offering of self "as a living sacrifice" [71] so that the Spirit of God may have full and overflowing possession. But to continue in the fullness of the Spirit requires a fresh anointing every day, in fellowship with Christ and in waiting on the Father.


1. John 14:26; Acts 11:12
2. Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14
3. John 14:16
4. Vine, p.210
5. John 11:25; 14:6
6. John 6:63; Galations 5:25
7. Romans 8:14
8. Romans 8:9
9. Isaiah 4:4; Matthew 3:11
10. Ezekiel 37:7-10; John 3:6-8
11. Ezekiel 36:25-27; John 4:14
12. Ephesians 1:13; 2 Timithy 2:19
13. Psalms 23:5; Isaiah 61:3
14. Matthew 3:16
15. Luke 4:14
16. Hebrews 9:14
17. Romans 1:4
18. 1 Peter 1:11
19. John 7:38-39
20. John 14:26
21. John 15:26
22. John 16:14
23. Acts 1:16; 2 Peter 1:21
24. 2 Timothy 3:16
25. 1 Peter 1:11
26. John 14:26; 1 John 2:27
27. John 16:13
28. 1 Corinthians 2:9-12
29. Genesis 1:2
30. Job 33:4; Psalms 104:30
31. John 16:8
32. Matthew 18:20
33. Acts 1:8
34. Matthew 28:18-20
35. Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-12
36. 1 Corinthians 12:4, 11
37. 1 Corinthians 12:13
38. Ephesians 2:22
39. John 3:8
40. Titus 3:5
41. 2 Corinthians 5:17
42. Romans 8:11
43. 1 Corinthians 6:11
44. Romans 8:14-16
45. Acts 8:29; 10;19 11;12
46. Romans 8:14; Galations 5:18
47. Romans 8:26-27
48. John 20:22
49. Acts 1:5
50. Acts 2:4
51. Acts 8:12, 14-17
52. Acts 19:1-6
53. Acts 2:17
54. Acts 8:16
55. Acts 15:6
56. Acts 2:33
57. Acts 2:2-4; 10:44-46; 19:6
58. Acts 10:45-46
59. 1 Corinthians 14:18
60. 1 Corinthians 14:2-4
61. 1 Corinthians 14:14-15
62. John 4:23-24
63. 2 Corinthians 3:17
64. 1 Corinthians 14:29-33
65. 1 Corinthians 14:26
66. 1 Peter 4:10
67. Ephesians 5:18
68. Vine, p.436
69. 1 Corinthians 3:1
70. Acts 2:4; 4:31
71. Romans 12:1


1. Dake, F.J. God's Plan for Man, Georgia, U.S.A.: Dake Bible Sales, Inc., 1977

2. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968

3. Lockyer, H. Everything Jesus Taught, San Fancisco, U.S.A.: Harper and Row Pub., 1984

4. Murray, A. The Spirit of Christ, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.: Whitaker House, 1984

5. Pearlman, M. Knowing the Doctrines of the Bible, Part III, Roodepoort, R.S.A.: Gospel Pub. House, 1937

6. Prince, D. Foundation Series, Chichester, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 1986

7. Torrey, R.A. The Holy Spirit, New Jersey, U.S.A.: F.H. Revell Co., ?

8. Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Pub., ?

9. Williams, J.R. The Era of the Spirit, New Jersey, U.S.A.: Logos International, 1971


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Posted in: Bible by on January 30, 2011 @ 9:26 pm

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