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Who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit gets a bad rap.

He’s often referred to as it.

He’s mistaken for the force from Star Wars.

He’s confused with a ghost in paranormal activity.

Oftentimes, he’s just ignored or forgotten, and this makes sense. 

Since he is an invisible spirit, it can be hard to relate to him and his work in our lives. 

You may know him by name and know that he’s mentioned during a baptism but have no idea who he is, how he is at work in your life, or whether or not you should even care. 

Let’s agree this isn’t a good thing. 

Here, I want to help clear the air about the Holy Spirit and his work in your life. 

In this post, I’m going to talk about:

  • Who is the Holy Spirit?

  • The Holy Spirit’s divine characteristics

  • The Holy Spirit’s personal characteristics

  • 9 ways the Holy Spirit is at work in your life

13 divine characteristics of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Trinity. 

This means the Holy Spirit is God, co-equal with God the Father and God the Son and is of the same essence. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct from one another in terms of their personal relationship. But they are co-equally God, meaning they are all the being of God. In other words, they do not exist independently one from the other. So, you cannot remove one of the three persons of God and still have God as revealed in the Bible. 

Here are a number of references that point to the Holy Spirit’s divine characteristics: 

  1. He’s called God (Acts 5:3-4).

  2. He’s called the Spirit of God (Gen. 1:2; Judg. 3:10).

  3. He’s considered God (Acts 28:25–27; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 3:7–9).

  4. He’s treated as equal to God the Father and Son (Matt. 3:16; 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:4–6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 4:4–6; 1 Pet. 1:2).

  5. He’s eternal (Heb. 9:14).

  6. He’s self-existent (Rom. 8:2).

  7. He’s omnipresent (Psa. 139:7–8).

  8. He’s omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10–11; John 14:26; 16:13).

  9. He’s sovereign (Zech. 12:10).

  10. He was involved with creation (Gen. 1:1–2).

  11. He enabled the writing of the Bible (2 Pet. 1:21).

  12. He helps us to recognize the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:4).

  13. He enables us to call upon Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 12:13).

Make no mistake, the Holy Spirit is so much more than an it or impersonal force—he’s God.

God—as revealed in the Bible—is one and eternally exists in three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From what we see above, this means each person within the Trinity shares the same divine attributes. In other words, one person within the Trinity is not more God than the other.

11 personal characteristics of the Holy Spirit 

As the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is a Person and is also personal. 

We see this in a few different ways.

First, in the Old and New Testament books the Holy Spirit is referred to as “he,” and throughout the New Testament, he’s referred to as a person (John 6:63; 14:26; Rom. 8:11, 16, 26; 1 John 5:6). What we’ll see in the references below, the Holy Spirit can be grieved, resisted, and even insulted. An impersonal force cannot do these things. Only a person can. 

Second, before ascending to heaven, Jesus said he was going to send the Holy Spirit to be a counselor like him (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is also capable of teaching (Luke 12:12). Unlike gravity—an impersonal force—that can neither counsel nor teach people, the Holy Spirit can do both.

In these two ways, we can see that the Holy Spirit is WAY more than a force—he’s the third member of the Trinity. 

To place a nice bow on this topic, here are multiple references to the personal characteristics of the Holy Spirit:

  1. He’s referred to as a Person (John 6:63; 14:26; Rom. 8:11, 16, 26; 1 John 5:6).

  2. He speaks (2 Sam. 23:2; Acts 1:16; 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 21:11; 28:25–26; 1 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 3:7–8; Rev. 2:7; 14:13; 22:17).

  3. He witnesses (John 15:26).

  4. He searches (1 Cor. 2:11).

  5. He can be grieved (Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30).

  6. He loves (Rom. 15:30).

  7. He has a mind (Rom. 8:27).

  8. He has intelligence (1 Cor. 2:10–11).

  9. He can be tested (Acts 5:9).

  10. He can be resisted (Acts 7:5).

  11. He has a will (1 Cor. 2:11; 12:7–11).

At this point, you’re probably thinking: 

“This is great and all, but what in the world does the Holy Spirit do today?”

That’s a great question, and I’m glad you asked. 


9 ways the Holy Spirit works in your life today

The Holy Spirit isn’t an idle spectator within the Trinity. 

He’s been involved from the beginning in redemptive history, and here are nine ways he’s at work in your life today.

1. He makes known the presence of Jesus

The Holy Spirit is not a rogue member of the Trinity doing his own thing.

His primary work in our life and the world today is to mediate the presence of Jesus Christ. (This is theological shorthand describing the role of the Holy Spirit in making known to us the personal presence of Jesus Christ.)

All of his works are rooted in his aim to bring glory to Jesus Christ (John 15:26; 16:14; Acts 5:32; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 4:2)—not himself or us.

The Holy Spirit redirects our pursuits from aiming on ourselves to glorifying Jesus. He will lead us away from loving ourselves to loving God and others. He gives us a new purpose to love God and enjoy him forever.

2. He makes us more like Jesus

There’s one important point to make about the Holy Spirit: He’s holy.

In a general gist, the Holy Spirit produces holiness within us. 

He will convict us of sin (John 15:8–11) and lead us to become more like Jesus.

As we walk with the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and stay in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), he will strip away our love for sin and make us more like Jesus (Gal. 5:16, 18).

3. He helps us understand the Bible

The relationship of the Holy Spirit with the Bible is twofold.

He inspired the writing of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20–21) and helps us to understand the Bible (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:9–11; Heb. 3:7; 10:15).

When it comes to understanding a passage from Scripture, the Holy Spirit will help you to understand what it means and how it changes your life.

The Holy Spirit will work through your personal reading of the Bible, family and friends, and especially through the proclamation of the gospel and the Bible (Rom. 1:16; 10:14–16).

So ask for the Holy Spirit to help you understand the Bible as you read and study its message.

Also, if you’re in a position of teaching the Bible to your family, friends, small group, or church, it’s a good idea to ask for the Holy Spirit to help your listeners understand the passage you are sharing.

4. He calls you to work

The Holy Spirit not only calls people to faith in Jesus Christ, but he calls us to a specific vocation or task.

This means that the God of the universe will guide you into the vocational decisions you make. Sometimes our life will appear to be a random hodgepodge of loosely connected events tied together, but this is not the case at all. God is directing your steps and guiding your life—even when it comes to work.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The Holy Spirit asked for Barnabas and Saul to be set apart “for the work to which [he] called them” (Acts 13:2).

  • The Holy Spirit led Philip to help an Ethiopian eunuch understand the Old Testament (Acts 8:26–40).

  • The Holy Spirit even forbade Paul from entering specific regions to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 16:6–7).

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will supernaturally guide us in the decisions we make. But normally, the Holy Spirit guides us through the ordinary ebbs and flows of life. As you trust God (Prov. 3:5–6), read the Bible (Rom. 12:1–2), and seek godly counsel (Prov. 11:14), the Holy Spirit will guide you into the work he has called you to.

5. He empowers you for service

The Holy Spirit also empowers us for service.

This means he enables us to do what we’ve been called to do.

From the pages of the Old Testament we observe the Holy Spirit’s empowering presence in the lives of Joshua (Num. 27:18), Saul (1 Sam. 11:6), David (1 Sam. 16:13), and many others, to accomplish what they were called to do.

In the New Testament, we see that he empowered Jesus’ earthly ministry (Luke 4:14), the early disciples (Acts 1:8), and the preaching of the gospel (Acts 4:8, 31; 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5).

The Holy Spirit is capable of empowering our natural abilities and improving upon them for a special task or purpose. This explains how God is capable of accomplishing his work through your average, ordinary, and even rejected members of society, which I’m personally thankful for. For example, Peter and John, two of the most important men in church history, were considered “unschooled, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13), yet God powerfully worked through their lives.

So take heart and be humble if you’re reading this today.

For “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).

6. He helps you pray

The Holy Spirit is active in aiding us in our prayer life (Rom. 8:26–27).

There will be times—not maybe—in your life as a Christian when you feel inadequate in your prayer life or have no idea what to pray for. In these moments the Holy Spirit will help us when we do not know how to pray for God’s will in a particular situation.

When you find yourself in these moments, remember to ask for the Holy Spirit to help you in your weakness.

7. He guides you

The Holy Spirit also guides us (Gal. 5:16, 25; cf. Acts 8:29; 13:2; 15:7–9; 16:6; Rom. 8:14).

He led Jesus into the wilderness (Matt. 4:1), provided direct guidance to Philip (Acts 8:29), and even later physically transported him (Acts 8:39–40).

Though the Holy Spirit is at work guiding us on a deep, personal level, the Scriptures do suggest that we are responsible to cooperate in his guidance by “walking according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4; Gal. 5:16).

Don’t just pray and wait for a particular feeling. 

Pray and prepare for action.

8. He empowers you for building the church

Jesus is alive and he is building his church.

His church isn’t built through political engagement or military might. 

His church is built through the proclamation of the gospel.

Thankfully God hasn’t left us alone in his work. 

He sent the Holy Spirit to empower our evangelistic efforts.

The Holy Spirit empowers us to be a witness (Acts 1:8), directs our evangelistic efforts (Acts 8:26, 29), and empowers our evangelistic efforts (Acts 4:38, 31; 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:5; 1 Pet. 1:12).

The Holy Spirit’s aim in glorifying Jesus Christ is fulfilled by him enabling, guiding, and empowering our proclamation of the gospel.

9. He gives you spiritual gifts

The Holy Spirit also works through us by giving us spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11).

He doesn’t give us these gifts for our personal benefit, either.

He gives us gifts for the common good of the church (1 Cor. 12:7). This means that we receive spiritual gifts for building up the church. He also gives us gifts so we may serve others (1 Pet. 4:10).

God also gives some spiritual gifts, such as tongues and prophecy, as a sign for unbelievers (1 Cor. 14:22). At times God will reveal his glory to unbelievers through a supernatural display of spiritual gifts.

There are multiple spiritual gifts listed in the Bible (Rom. 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12; 1 Pet. 4:10–11). We don’t get to choose what gifts we receive. They’re given to us by the Holy Spirit for his glory and our good.

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