Throughout our study of Galatians, the Holy Spirit’s ability to convict and to enable us to persevere and to overcome the temptations of sin was emphasized. Because we have the Holy Spirit, there is no need for the Old Testament dietary and ritualistic requirements spelled out in the Law.
And yet, a Christian apologist friend trained at BIOLA, Lisa Quintano, posted a comment recently that was revelatory about the American church’s understanding of the Holy Spirit. She wrote:
“Delving into how to walk in the Spirit is SO essential to the Christian life. I can’t tell you how many believers don’t know where to begin with this, and, sadly, a study recently came out that showed many church-going folk don’t even know what the Spirit is, or seem to believe in the Holy Spirit (see the Christian Post’s article called ‘Most adult US Christians don’t believe Holy Spirit is real: study,‘ published Friday, Sept. 10, 2021).”
Study by The Gospel Coalition: Majority of Self-Identified Christians Don’t Believe the Holy Spirit is Real.
The significance of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity is contained in Jesus’ post-resurrection instruction to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in [into] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 ESV).
To learn more: Click to see one hundred ten uses of “Holy Spirit” in the Bible.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law“ (Galatians 5:16-18 ESV).
“When we walk by the Spirit, we follow the Spirit’s leading with his empowerment. We don’t seek to gratify our own flesh, for our flesh is at war against the Spirit and against our desire to serve the Lord with obedience and a heart full of love.
“Our sinful natures war against the Spirit, for these two are opposed. Yet our sanctified self is captivated by the Spirit. He empowers us to call out to him as we attempt to serve the Lord, relying not on our own abilities, but on the power of the Holy Spirit himself.
“This is the only way we can serve consistently and in a way that is pleasing to God. The flesh (sarx – our human nature) is at war with the Spirit. It is a lifetime battle, requiring us to learn that we must rely upon the Spirit who dwells within us.” (Living in Freedom, by Melinda V Inman).
God is Three in One — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is spirit and yet often visible in prophetic visions. Only Jesus, God the Son, is embodied. The first hint of the Trinity is seen in the opening verses of the Bible.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. . .Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion. . . ‘” (Genesis 1:1-2, 26 ESV).
There are two places in the Scriptures where “Holy, holy, holy,” is stated in worship and praise of God. One is in Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, and the other is in Revelation 4:8.
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3 ESV).
“And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:6-8 ESV).
There is one God, and he is Trinitarian, Three in One, so this praise in triplicate makes sense. Throughout the New Testament, we see this interplay of God as Trinity as God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit — Author of Scripture, the One who convicts us of sin and brings us to Christ.
“For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:11 ESV)."Who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Corinth.2:11). To know God's thoughts, the #HolySpirit must be God. #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
“You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9-10 ESV).
“The Holy Spirit also possesses attributes reserved for God alone. An example is 1 Corinthians 2:11, [above] which says that the Spirit of God knows the thoughts of God. Any being who knows the thoughts of God must be God.
“Finally, the Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of equality with God the Father and God the Son. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19 that his followers are to baptize and make disciples in the name (singular) of the ‘Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.‘” (These two paragraphs — Gospel Coalition article.)The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of equality with God the Father and God the Son. Jesus' followers baptized and made disciples in the name (singular) of the Father, of the Son, and of the #HolySpirit. #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
The Godhead interacts with humanity through the Holy Spirit. When Jesus returns, we will see him again in the flesh, but until then, we must grasp the purpose of the Holy Spirit, the role he plays in our lives, and how he helps us daily.The Godhead interacts with humanity through the #HolySpirit. #Faith #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
“There is only one place in Scripture where God is said to speak in a ‘still small voice,‘ to Elijah after his dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40; 19:12). Told that Jezebel, the wife of Ahab, king of Israel, was seeking to kill him, Elijah ran into the wilderness and collapsed in exhaustion. God sent an angel with food and water to strengthen him, told him to rest, and then sent Elijah to Horeb. In a cave there, Elijah voiced his complaint that all of God’s prophets had been killed by Jezebel and he alone had survived. God instructed Elijah to stand on the mountain in His presence. Then the Lord sent a mighty wind which broke the rocks in pieces; then He sent an earthquake and a fire, but His voice was in none of them. After all that, the Lord spoke to Elijah in the still small voice, or ‘gentle whisper.’”
(This paragraph’s source: Got Questions, org. It’s worth reading the entire article.)
What is the Holy Spirit’s role in this?
First, the Holy Spirit instructed Elijah in his actions against the prophets of Baal. Elijah received his commission to do so directly from God. “After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, ‘Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.'” (1 Kings 18:1 ESV). Additional instructions were also given by the Holy Spirit. “The word of the Lord came to Elijah.” We know from the New Testament that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).
God’s voice was calm and tender, a gentle whisper. His actions showed his power, and his voice showed his nature to his prophet Elijah, who served God during a time of exhaustion, hardship, and fear.
Whispering, speaking gently, a small voice, breathing forth the words from God — all of these are ways that God speaks. If you’re feeling led by a harsh and condemnatory voice, that is not God. The Holy Spirit urges us tenderly, gently, patiently, and in whispers of conviction, help, and kindness.
Never be afraid to cry out to our loving and gentle God.If you're feeling led by a harsh and condemnatory voice, that is not God. The #HolySpirit urges us tenderly, gently, patiently, and in whispers of conviction, help, and kindness. Never be afraid to cry out to God #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
We aren’t ancient prophets, yet, as believers, we are God’s ambassadors. Obviously, our experiences with the gentle comfort of the Spirit aren’t like Elijah’s confrontation with the pagan prophets of Baal who, coupled with Jezebel, could have simply killed Elijah, rather than converse with him.
However, persecution is often a common experience for people who do ministry in American churches and for those who minister abroad.
What role does the Holy Spirit play in this?
The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper, the Advocate. Before Jesus departed, he said this to his disciples: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16 ESV). We can cry out to him during any trial, be it the heckling and gossip of church persecution, or when facing down a mob of angry pagan prophets. More verses here.The #HolySpirit is the Comforter, the Helper, the Advocate. Before Jesus departed he said: "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever" (John 14:16). #bgbg2 Click To Tweet
To learn more about the Triune God, I recommend: “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine” by Wayne Grudem, Inter-Varsity Press and Zondervan. There are many other systematic theology books (see the bottom of the above pile), but Wayne Grudem’s text is particularly easy to comprehend. Move at your own pace, one section at a time. Learn more about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — the Trinity.
Systematic Theology Video Lectures: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, on Amazon here.
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, hardback, on Amazon.
- ESV Study Bible, Note, Genesis 1:26, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, IL, 2008.