Just as the first chapter of John teaches us that Jesus was with God and was God in the story of Creation, so also the first verses of Genesis tell us the Holy Spirit was there, as well.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 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.” (Genesis 1:1-2 NLT).
Make no mistake; there is only one God. Yet, we see God reveal Himself through the Scriptures in three persons. Though we are made in God’s image, we must concede that His thoughts are much higher than ours. In an attempt to explain a mystery that is incomprehensible to the human mind, we use the word “trinity.” In the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28, Jesus instructs His followers.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19 NLT).
“Seeing God the Spirit” is only possible as the Holy Spirit permits us to recognize His works. Jesus was seen by many people as He walked the earth. In John 14, Jesus stated clearly that seeing Him was the same as seeing the Father. Nevertheless, in John 3, Jesus explains to Nicodemus that discerning the Spirit was like hearing the sound of the wind, while never seeing it.
The Spirit is a “Who” Not a “What”
It’s easy to make the mistake of envisioning God’s Holy Spirit as just a “force” or “influence” of God. After all, we can picture both the Father and the Son in physical forms. Understanding the nature of the Holy Spirit, however, requires that we carefully follow His role in Jesus’ ministry.
In His last words to His disciples prior to the Crucifixion, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17 NASB).
The role of the Holy Spirit changes with Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. At His death, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom, (Matthew 27:51). With Christ’s resurrection, a new Holy place is cleansed in believers’ hearts. This permits the Apostle Paul to exhort the church at Corinth, “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” (I Corinthians 6:19 NLT).
On the evening of His resurrection, Jesus appears in the midst of His followers. He shows them the wounds of His hands and side. All of their fears, sorrows, and disappointments subside as they sense the power they are witnessing. As He leaves He comforts them.
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ” (John 20:21-22 NASB).
As He prepares to ascend to the Father, Jesus explains to His disciples that they will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister. Though He had imparted the Spirit on the day of His resurrection, they will be baptized with the Holy Spirit as He returns to the Father.
“Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ ” (Acts 1:4-5 NASB).
Even as Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father, the Holy Spirit remains with us to this day for our empowerment. As God permits in the weeks to come, we’ll examine His role in our lives and ministries. Scripturally, we’ll see that the Holy Spirit is known as the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Truth, the Comforter, the Teacher and much more. It is by the Spirit that we can say “Jesus is Lord.” He makes the ink and paper of our Bibles come alive with God’s Truth. It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the words to say when we are called upon to defend the Faith. He empowers; He transforms; it is the Spirit that works Christ in us, “the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27 NASB).
Most importantly of all… the Holy Spirit is given to believers as a “down payment” of our spiritual inheritance in Christ Jesus.
“It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.” (II Corinthians 1:21-22 NLT).
The Holy Spirit is the assurance of our acceptance to God, through Christ Jesus. The Spirit in us is the confirmation of the words Jesus spoke to Mary on the day of His resurrection, “but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17 NASB).