Roles of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is probably the most misunderstood person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the “Holy Ghost”, though it is not an apparition wearing a sheer bedsheet, wandering the earth. Instead, the Holy Spirit is God himself, working in the world. In fact, there are many roles of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. Therefore, it is important for every follower of Jesus to understand who the Holy Spirit is, and how he works in the world.   

Who is the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the essence of God’s power and presence in the world. Basically, the Holy Spirit references God’s active work on earth. In the Old Testament God’s spirit was referred to as “breath” or “wind”. The New Testament refers to him as “spirit” or “Holy Spirit”. Each reference is built on the Holy Spirit representing God’s movement amongst men and women.

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The Holy Spirit is mentioned all through the Old Testament. In fact Genesis 1:2 says, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The term “Spirit of God” is mentioned 28 times in the Old Testament. The roles of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament mostly revolve around the expression of God’s power.

The “Spirit of the Lord” was mentioned when God empowered individuals for mighty acts. For example Judges 14:6 says, “The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him (Samson) so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.” the Spirit of the Lord also came upon Gideon before battle (Judges 6:34). In the book of Exodus Pharaoh described Moses as a man filled with the “Spirit of God” (Gen. 41:38).

In the Old Testament God’s spirit was present in certain individuals, mostly for prophesying. God’s spirit was the motivating force and inspiration for the prophets of Israel. These were men and women who spoke for the Lord to the Israelites. In the book of Numbers God says, “I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you (Moses) and put it on them (the elders).

The actual term “Holy Spirit” is mentioned 3 times in the Old Testament. First, king David asks that God not take his Holy Spirit from him after committing adultery with Bathsheba (Ps. 51:11). The other two references are from the book of Isaiah where the author the Spirit of God is used as an expression of God himself.

Finally, the prophet Joel prophesied there would come a day when God’s spirit (power and presence) would not be kept for the prophets and leaders, but be poured out on “all people” (Joel 2:28-32). The fulfillment of this prophecy happens in the book of Acts.          

The Holy Spirit and Jesus

There are multiple times where Jesus references the “power of God”, a reference to the Holy Spirit. After healing a blind and mute demon-possessed man, Jesus explained to the Pharisees that he was able to drive out the demon by the “Spirit of God” (Matt. 12:28).

The Holy Spirit played a role in the baptism of Jesus. The book of Mark chronicles how the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove when coming up out of the baptismal waters (Mark 1:10). Luke shares how Jesus left his baptism in the Jordan river “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). The Spirit of God then sent or led Jesus into the wilderness (Mark 1:12).      

Jesus understood various roles of the Holy Spirit. In the book of Matthew, Jesus warns the apostles that they would eventually be arrested. He says, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:20-21).

Later as Jesus comforted his disciples while predicting his death, he spoke about the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that after he returned to the Father he would send the “Spirit of truth”. This Spirit will live with and in the believer (John 14:17). Jesus called the Spirit an “advocate”, which can also be translated “comforter” or “counselor”. Jesus says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Jesus saw the Spirit as the power of God to heal and reveal God in the world. God’s Spirit was not only powerful, but would eventually be extremely personal. The Holy Spirit would live inside the believer, leading her, giving her words to say in challenging circumstances, teaching and reminding her of the words of Jesus.  

The Holy Spirit and the Church

The book of Acts begins with Jesus reminding his disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5). On the day of Pentecost all the disciples were together when they heard what sounded like the “blowing of a violent wind” (Acts 2:2). Scripture says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:4).

The disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus had promised, poured out into the street speaking other languages. Peter stands up and addressed the confused crowd witnessing this event. He explains that God was fulfilling the prophecy given by the prophet Joel; one day God would pour out his Spirit on all people (Acts 2:14-21).

Roles of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit played a major role in leading  the early church. His role continued through the New Testament and plays an important role in the life of every believer today. Here is a list of other roles of the Holy Spirit:

Pours out God’s Love into Man’s Heart (Romans 5:5)

The Spirit Gives Life and Freedom (Romans 8:2)

Communicates God’s Ideal Life to the Believer (Romans 8:6)

Lives Inside the Believer (Romans 8:11)

Marks You as a Child of God (Romans 8:15-16)

The Spirit Helps us Pray (Romans 8:27)

Shares Knowledge about God with the Believer (1 Cor. 2:10-12)

Serves as a Sign Ensuring Heaven (2 Cor. 1:22)

The Spirit of the Lord Brings Freedom (2 Cor. 3:17)

Produces Good Fruit in the Follower of Jesus (Gal. 5:17)

There are clearly many roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Overall the Holy Spirit is God’s presence and power in the world. He represents God’s activity among and in mankind.