The Holy Spirit part 1
Who Is the Holy Spirit?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
May 31, 2009

That passage in that video is about what we celebrate today in the Christian Church as the Day of Pentecost. It’s the day we recognize as the birthday of the Church… the day the Holy Spirit descended on that group of Christ followers who were meeting together.

But actually, the day of Pentecost goes back much further than that. In the Jewish Community, the Day of Pentecost is celebrated as the day Moses met with God on Mount Sinai and was given the Ten Commandments. From the day of the Passover, when God freed the Israelites who had been living in slavery in Egypt, until Moses met with God at Mount Sinai covered a span of 50 days. Thus, the Day of Pentecost… Pentecost literally means “fiftieth day”.

Well, you may remember that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus took place during the Jewish celebration of the Passover. Then the resurrected Jesus spent 40 days with His followers and appeared to hundreds of people before He ascended back to Heaven. Well, 10 days after that, the events we talked about earlier took place.

It was the Jewish celebration of Pentecost, and the followers of Jesus were all gathered together in one place, and they were talking about everything that had taken place over the past 50 days, they were praying, they were ordering take-out, they were trying to figure out what was going to happen next, and then it happened…

Acts 2:2-4 (NLT)
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…

From there, these followers of Jesus… about 120 of them… went out into the streets, and they started telling everyone they met about Jesus. And even though this was a celebration and there would have been a lot of people from other nations and other languages visiting Jerusalem at that time – here on PEI we call them CFAs or Come-from-awayers – even though all these foreigners were there, everyone understood in their own language what these Christ-followers were telling them.

Pretty amazing, really. And we’re told that on just that one day, 3000 people placed their faith in Jesus Christ.

That’s why we call it the birthday of the Church… it’s the day the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus and empowered them with the ability and the courage to proclaim the Good News about Jesus – the forgiveness and life that is only available through Him.

So it’s fitting for us here at Sunrise, on this Pentecost Sunday, to kick off our new message series talking about the Holy Spirit.

And as we start into this, I want to try something. I want you to turn to the person you came with, or turn to the person sitting next to you, and answer this question: What comes to mind when you hear the words “Holy Spirit”? It might be one of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit, it might be something you believe about the Holy Spirit, it might be something you don’t believe but you’ve heard someone else say. Just take a little bit of time and talk about the Holy Spirit.


Okay, so we are talking about the Holy Spirit, and what I think some of you just discovered is that there’s lot of ambiguity… a lot of mystery… a lot of misunderstanding about just exactly who or what the Holy Spirit is. And that’s been the case for quite a while.

Several decades ago, in the first half of the 20th century, there was a man named A.W. Tozer who was a very godly man and a popular preacher. He wrote more than 40 books, including the Christian classic, “The Pursuit of God.” He pastored in several churches including a long stint in Chicago and his final church in Toronto. And his tombstone simply says… “A.W. Tozer – a man of God.”

Of course, I’ve told you before that I want my tombstone to say – “Get off of me.”

Well, speaking from all of his experience, this is what A.W. Tozer observed about our understanding of the Holy Spirit…

“The idea of the Spirit held by the average church member is so vague as to be nearly nonexistent.”
~ A.W. Tozer

Pretty sad, isn’t it? And I think that’s still true today. Many people… even people who regularly attend church… get confused about who or what the Holy Spirit is. So this morning we’re going to talk about some pretty basic things. And we're going to talk today about things we've discussed here before, and then build on that over the next few weeks. So let’s start with that very basic question: Is the Holy Spirit a “Who” or a “What”?

Now, a lot of people get the idea that the Holy Spirit is just some kind of energy or an impersonal force like you might find in Star Wars, and you’ve just got to learn how to manipulate that power. Other people think that the Holy Spirit is the personification of all good things, kind of like Jack Frost is the personification of cold weather. Not really real, but symbolic. Still others think that the Holy Spirit is the consciousness of everything in the universe.

But when you look at what the Bible actually says about the Holy Spirit, you quickly discover that the Holy Spirit is not any of those things, because the Holy Spirit is not a thing. The Holy Spirit is not a “What”, He’s a “Who.” (And not the kind of Who that comes from Whoville.) No, the Holy Spirit is a person. That’s in your notes…

1.    The Holy Spirit is a person.

He’s an all-powerful, everywhere-present, all knowing, eternal and divine person, but He’s a person. In fact, He’s who we know as the “third person of the Trinity.”

The reason I know He’s a person is that He possesses all the attributes of personhood. The Holy Spirit…

•    Possesses Intellect (1 Cor. 12:11)
•    Experiences Emotion (Romans 15:30)
•    Has a Will (1 Cor. 12:11)
•    Can be lied to (Acts 5:3-4)
•    Lives with believers (John 14:16-17)
•    Provides guidance for believers (John 14:16-17)
•    Teaches and Comforts (John 14:26)
•    Experiences sorrow (Eph. 4:30)
•    Is referred to as “He”, not “it” (John 15:26)

In fact, in just three chapters… John 14, 15, and 16… Jesus talks a lot about the Holy Spirit and uses refers to the Spirit using words like He or Him or Whom at least 24 times. Never “it”… always referred to as a person.

Now, the Bible paints an incredible picture of who the Holy Spirit is. And He’s in both the Old and the New Testament. The difference is, in the Old Testament it’s as if He was making guest appearances and in the New Testament He was added to the cast. Just a few of the references to Him describe Him this way... the Bible says…

He’s the Breath of Life, He’s the Breath of the Lord, He’s the Counsellor, He’s the Eternal Spirit, He’s like the Wind that comes and goes as He wishes, He’s the Fire that refines us, He’s the Spirit that Rains down on His people, He’s the Spirit of Truth, He’s the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, He’s the Spirit from whom streams of living water flow… He’s described as God Himself.

Now, I already mentioned that we know Him as the third person of the Trinity. The Bible teaches that there is only One God, but that this One God has three centers of personhood… God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. That means that the Holy Spirit really is God.

We talked specifically about the Trinity during our recent message series on The Faith, so we’re not going to get into it this morning. But if you missed that message, you can find it on our website.

But what we do understand is, as the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit has played a pivotal role in history and He continues to do so in the life of the believer today.

2.    The Holy Spirit has acted in history.

How? How has the Holy Spirit acted in history? What are some of the things He has accomplished? Well, let’s cover some of the highlights…

A.    He created the entire universe.

Actually, the Bible teaches that all three Persons of the Trinity were involved. The world was created out of the Father, through the Son and by the Holy Spirit. In fact, we encounter the Holy Spirit in the opening scene of the Bible, the very second verse, which says…

Genesis 1:2 (NLT)
The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

That’s the Holy Spirit, present right there at the beginning. The Holy Spirit took part in the creation of everything that exists, partnering alongside God the Father and God the Son.

And then in the Old Testament book of Job… believed by many scholars to be the oldest book in the Bible…

Job 26:13; 33:4 (NLT)
His Spirit made the heavens beautiful… For the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.

So the Holy Spirit is responsible for all of Creation, from the very beginning right up to today. He made the earth, the moon, the stars, He made the trees, the birds, the flowers, and He made you and He made me.

B.    He enabled a virgin (Mary) to give birth.

Now there’s something that doesn’t happen everyday. The Holy Spirit made it possible for God the Son to be born as a baby, and by doing so He set in motion a course of events which ultimately led to the crucifixion and the resurrection, which enables us to be forgiven, to know God, and to receive eternal life.

Matthew 1:18 (NLT)
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.

C.    He raised Jesus from the dead.

Actually, once again the Bible teaches that the entire Trinity was involved. There are verses that talk about how God the Father raised Jesus, there are verses about how Jesus raised Himself from the dead, but since we’re talking this morning about the Holy Spirit…

Romans 1:3-4 (NLT)
[Jesus] was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There you have it… the greatest event in all of human history… and the Holy Spirit was responsible. And we still reap the benefits and feel the repercussions of it to this very day.

D.    He inspired the writing of the Bible.

Notice that I don’t say “He dictated the writing of the Bible.” Because He didn’t. He didn’t dictate it; instead He allowed the people who were writing the books that are now compiled in our Bible to write from their own perspective, and with their own stylistic flair, and even with their own emotions coming into play. The Holy Spirit didn’t dictate Scripture, but He did guide the writing of it. He did inspire it.

The word “inspire” literally means “to breath life into”. By contrast, if you expire, you’re dead. Well, the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture. He breathed life into a variety of writers and He guided them… enabling them under His direction to create the most important, the most profound, and the most practical Book ever written… a Book that introduces us to God Himself. Paul’s wrote…

1 Corinthians 2:13 (NLT)
When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.

E.    He birthed the Church.

This is what we’ve already talked about. Jesus had risen from the dead, and He spent 40 days with His followers. And then in Acts chapter 1, just before He ascended, He instructed His followers…

Acts 1:4-5, 8 (NLT)
“Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” … “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…”

And then on the day of Pentecost, it happened. The followers of Jesus were all together and waiting. And then…

Acts 2:2-4 (NLT)
Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm in the skies above them, and it filled the house where they were meeting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit…

And because of that event, the church was born and began to thrive. The believers spread out onto the streets, and thousands of people came to faith in Jesus, and the Church has continued to grow and expand ever since.

Okay, so the Holy Spirit is a person… the third person of the Trinity… and He has acted in a variety of ways throughout history.

But what does He do today? How does He work in your life and mine? We’re going to talk a little bit about that right now, and then over the next three weeks we’re going to go a little deeper, talking about what He does in your life and my life and the life of any Christ-follower today.

Because the truth is, this very same Spirit of God who created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead takes up residence inside every single follower of Jesus Christ where He does an inside job of recreating them over time to become more and more like Jesus.

In your notes…

3.    The Holy Spirit works in the lives of Christ-followers today.

VIDEO – PC/Mac Parody – Holy Spirit

Okay, maybe having the Holy Spirit in your life isn’t quite like that. So how does the Holy Spirit work in our lives? Well, as I said earlier, we’re going to explore how He does that over the next few weeks. So let’s just talk in basic terms today. First of all…

A.    He shows me my need for God.

In other words, He shows us just how depraved we are and how sinful we are and how lost we are without God. He shows us just how desperately we need to turn to God for forgiveness and hope and stop relying on ourselves. Referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus said in John 16…

John 16:8 (NLT)
“And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.”

For the person who is far from God, for the pre-Christian, this means He’s there to show you your sinfulness so that you realize that you need God… so that you recognize that you’re not perfect and that you need to experience the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of your Creator. For the Christian, the Holy Spirit shows you your sinfulness not to condemn you, but to challenge you to change, to receive God’s forgiveness, and to live the way He wants you to live. And the Holy Spirit is there to help you do just that.

B.    He enters my life to make me more like Jesus.

This is actually what we’re going to talk about next week… what we call being “filled with the Spirit” or the “indwelling of the Spirit.” That’s kind of a churchy phrase and we’ll explore what it means next week, but you can see it right here in these verses…

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NLT)
Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? … For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

So in the most profound sense a follower of Jesus Christ is never alone. The Holy Spirit takes up residence in the life of every believer. He enters your life to support you and encourage you and guide you and direct you. His purpose in you is to help you become the person you were meant to be, transforming you into the likeness of Jesus. To help you act more like Jesus would act, to respond more as Jesus would respond, to make choices as Jesus would make.

C.    He gives me guidance and comfort.

This is reflected in some of the terms used to refer to the Holy Spirit… He’s our Counsellor, He’s our Advocate, He’s our Comforter, our Helper, our Guide. Jesus promised His followers…

John 14:26 (NLT)
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

In fact, believe it or not, it was actually a good thing that Jesus left and ascended back to Heaven so that the Holy Spirit could come. Listen to what Jesus said when He told His disciples that He would be leaving them…

John 16:7 (NLT)
“But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you.”

What Jesus was saying was that the Holy Spirit would come to stay and would carry on Christ’s ministry in an amplified way. When Jesus was physically with His disciples, they could talk with Him and interact with Him. But because he had come in a physical body, He was always exterior to them and they could only get so close. But He said that when He was gone, the Holy Spirit would take up residence inside of them and enter their hearts and relate to them in a much closer, much more intimate way without any barriers. Jesus was promising that they would get to know Him even more closely by the Spirit within them than they could by His own physical presence among them. And the same is true today for you and me.

D.    He develops “spiritual fruit” in my life.

The Bible promises that He will produce nine specific qualities inside of us that human beings could only experience on a superficial level without the Holy Spirit. This is referred to in the Bible as the Fruit of the Spirit. You see it described in Galatians 5… read this with me…

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those are the very qualities we need most in life, aren’t they? And He’s there to help them develop in your life. And we’ll be talking more specifically about these qualities a lot more in two weeks.

E.    He equips me with spiritual gifts.

What are spiritual gifts? They are special abilities given by the Holy Spirit to every believer to accomplish things for God that we could never do by our own talents or our own abilities.

1 Corinthians 12:4, 7 (NLT)
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. … A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

So He gives every follower of Jesus a special gift. It could be a spiritual gift of administration, helping you to organize and lead ministries. Some receive the gift of administration, some don’t. Some can’t even organize their sock drawer. For you, it may be a gift of leadership and He’s going to equip you to lead a small group, to lead a church, to lead a ministry. Or it may be the spiritual gift of mercy where God gives you a divine ability to reach out with compassion and love and encouragement and comfort to hurting people. Or maybe the gift of helps, which enables you to minister in important ways behind the scenes.

The Bible actually says there are a number of different gifts. And they are all distributed by the Holy Spirit as He sees fit. Every believer receives at least one. And when you use your God-given spiritual gift in ministry you will discover that you will be both effective and fulfilled.

Watch for more on spiritual gifts in three weeks.

But that’s all I really wanted to get into this morning… The Holy Spirit is a person… the Third Person of the Trinity… and that means He is God… and He has taken part in the most significant events in all of history, going all the way back to Creation itself straight through the redemptive plan of God accomplished through the crucifixion and resurrection. And even today, He is alive and active in the world, drawing people to Christ, and working in the lives of Christ-followers making them more like Jesus.



Copyright © 2009