Who is the Holy Spirit?

  • Today I am launching the new Sermon series on the Holy Spirit – and I should warn you that whenever I have asked people in the past to speak on this subject, they have always produced their longest sermons.  One was 35 minutes, a second was 45 minutes and one curate who normally spoke for 20 minutes on this occasion spoke for over an hour! 
  • Which reminds me of the time that a little girl asked her mum one day as she was looking over at the Remembrance Plaque, “What’s that over there, mummy?”  “That’s the plaque remembering people who have died in the services!”  To which the little girl replied, “I am not surprised given the length of this one!”
  • Fortunately, Richard has helpfully broken down ‘all you know about the Holy Spirit’ into sections – my section today is ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’  So – you might get home for lunch!


First thing to be clear about is that the Holy Spirit is not a force or a power and although in old service books and prayers, we used to speak about the Holy Ghost rather than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is definitely not a spectre, an ethereal image or for that matter a make-believe character.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and shows all the characteristics of personhood.  The Spirit thinks (Acts 15:28), speaks (Acts 1:16), leads (Romans 8:14), and can be grieved (Eph 4:30).  The Spirit is sometimes referred to as the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7) and the Spirit of God.

The Spirit, like God the Father and God the Son has been around since the beginning of time.  Like Jesus, the Spirit was involved in the creation of the world.  We see evidence of the activity of the Holy Spirit in the opening verses of the Bible.  ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  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.’ Gen 1:1-2

The Spirit in the Old Testament

However, the Spirit in the OT came at specific times and came on particular people, for particular tasks.  The Spirit came for a purpose

e.g. Ex 31:3-5 the Spirit filled Bezalel ‘with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts’.  The Spirit alighted on King David to enhance his gifts of music and poetry to inspire many of the Psalms we now enjoy.  The Spirit also filled individuals for the task of leadership e.g. Gideon to successfully defeat the Midianites in battle.  The Spirit filled Samson to be given great strength to escape from the chains of his captors to physically set him free.  Amongst the prophets we see the Spirit coming upon Isaiah to enable him ‘to preach the good news to the poor…to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoner and to comfort all who mourn.’ (Isaiah 61:1-3).  Do you notice the way that the Spirit came upon individuals, for a particular purpose and at a specific time?

But it is in the book of Joel, written around 800 or so years before Christ that the Jews received a prophecy about the Holy Spirit.

    I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your old men will dream dreams,
    and your young men will see visions.
 In those days I will pour out my Spirit
    even on servants—men and women alike.

And this prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

Although the Jews had received a prophecy that the Spirit would fall upon all people, one of the Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus, a man called Nicodemus, was unclear as to what the teaching meant and so came to ask Jesus by cover of darkness, and it was to Nicodemus that Jesus began speaking to about the need to be born again.  When Nicodemus asked the question “How can a man be born when he is old?” Jesus responded “no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

So, what does it mean to be born of the Spirit?

I think the answer to this question may be different for different people but what I propose to do is to share my testimony as to what happened to me – this is almost 50 years now when I was a 14 year old teenager.  I had grown up as a child of Christian parents, I had spent a couple of years away from church and then began attending our local youth group and on one night our youth leader shared an experience he called a ‘baptism in the Spirit’ that he had experienced on a recent weekend conference.  So, when I got home and was saying my prayers, I knelt by bedside which wasn’t usual and asked God to fill me with his Spirit.  As I finished saying the prayer, I felt a gentle flow of air on my neck and made a mental note to close the window when I got into bed.  As you may have guessed, when I went to close the window, I discovered that it was closed already.  Looking back that was probably the first time that I had asked Jesus to take control of my life, in other words, the night I truly became a Christian so let’s not get too worried about what we call that experience but the important thing for me is that from that time on my whole life changed.  My prayer life, desire to read the Bible, confidence in sharing faith with my friends and strangers, my motivation and ambitions, and my confidence in God.

However, I have also discovered that we are ‘leaky’ people.  A bit like when you puncture a balloon with a pin, it slowly lets out air, when we do things against God’s will, when we experience difficult times, when we go down wrong paths, we ‘leak’ a bit more of God’s Spirit and so I have regularly needed to come back to God and ask him to refill me with his Spirit.  When Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:18 “Do not get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit, the verb ‘be filled’ means to keep on being filled with the Spirit.  That’s what I propose we do right now.

{The talk concludes with the opportunity for people to pray a prayer asking God to fill us or refill us with His Spirit!}

Category: Sermons , The Bridge

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