[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: V. God the Holy Spirit

Lesson: A. Attributes of the Holy Spirit

Just as we have described God the Father and God the Son, we will discuss in some detail what it means when we say that the Holy Spirit is God.

Objective: To understand the essence and character of the Holy Spirit, to be able to describe the Holy Spirit.

"The eternal Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of the same substance and equal in power and glory with the Father and the Son." (Bible Fellowship Church Article of Faith 5-1) The Roman Catholic and the varieties of Protestant Churches have all agreed on this statement. Orthodox churches say that the Holy Spirit proceeds only from the Father, not from the Son, but agree on the rest of the statement. We will use nine descriptive words to describe the attributes of God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit is a person, eternal, spirit, all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, loving, and good.

1. The Holy Spirit is a Person

The Holy Spirit is personal, alive, having a will, and a unity. He is a person, not a force. Because we think of the power of the Spirit, or perhaps the gifts and fruits of the Spirit, we tend to think of the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force. This is far from the truth. The Holy Spirit has a personality and a will. He thinks, acts, and communicates. He plans and makes decisions. He is also a single entity, not make up of parts.

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."(Ephesians 4:30) While the command is to NOT grieve the Holy Spirit, it implies that our bad behavior DOES grieve the Holy Spirit. He sometimes responds emotionally (is grieved) by our actions or our thoughts. "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."(1st Corinthians 12:11) Paul wrote that the Holy Spirit gives the 'gifts of the Holy Spirit'. We will discuss these more in another lesson. But the Holy Spirit determines which gifts to give to which believers. This is a thinking process and also a decision of the will. In these ways, we see that the Holy Spirit is a person and not an impersonal force. One application is that we should seek spiritual gifts from the Spirit who gives them.

2. The Holy Spirit is Eternal

Just as God the Father and God the Son existed before creation, in eternity past, God the Holy Spirit has existed from eternity past. He has always existed and always will. He does nto change in his character or essence, although he does act in a different way in the present Church age than he did under the Old Testament age. He is transcendent, that is, he does not depend on the universe or any created thing for his existence. If the universe was destroyed, the Holy Spirit would still exist.

"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."(Genesis 1:2) While this verse does not tell us that the Holy Spirit existed in eternity past, it does tell us that the Holy Spirit existed and was there when the earth was made. "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse us ..."(Hebrews 9:14) Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins 'through the eternal Spirit.' The Holy Spirit is called eternal, as well as being the means by which Jesus sacrificed Himself. The word eternal here means the same as when we call the Father 'eternal'.

3. The Holy Spirit is Spirit

Since we are discussing the Holy Spirit, it is easy to understand that He is a Spirit. But what does this mean? The Holy Spirit is a spirit, and is invisible. We cannot detect him with our physical senses (touch, see, smell, taste, hear). No laboratory instrument can detect Him. We cannot scientifically measure or 'prove' his presence.

"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."(John 3:6-8) Jesus compared the Holy Spirit to the wind. In both Hebrew and Greek, the words for 'spirit' and 'wind' or 'breath' are the same. This is easy to understand if we remember that until very recent times, people determined that someone was dead when they stopped breathing. Later we went by the heart beating, and most lately by whether or not brain waves can be detected. In this way, the breath or wind from a person showed life, and that life force (not the breath) is the person's spirit.

Jesus said, 'You must be born again'. But in saying that we do not know where the wind comes from or where it goes, and that we cannot control where it blows, Jesus was talking about the Spirit. People without the Holy Spirit cannot understand Christians who have the Spirit. And we cannot prove that He exists to an athiest or a Jehovah's Witness by showing the Spirit, since he is not seen or felt with the physical senses.

4. The Holy Spirit is All-Present

He is immanent (all-present), immense and infinite. The Holy Spirit exists throughout the entire universe, yet he is present at each particular place. He is immense and infinite in all his qualities, he is not 'spread thin' (like butter on bread) throughout the universe. Rather, all of His being is present here and how.

The Holy Spirit is everywhere at the same time, yet He is right now personally involved with each Christian. This is true of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but it is not true of other spirits or souls such as departed people, Christian saints, angels, or even Satan. All of these except for God are localized spirits. Being 'all-present' is something only God (in all three persons) can be.

In the book of Daniel, the angel Michael said he was prevented from coming to Daniel sooner. Apparently he moves from place to place and can even be stopped or delayed by demons or Satan. Satan goes back and forth, seeking whom he may devour, but Satan can only be in one place at a time. Perhaps he can move fast, and he certainly has demons or fallen angels helping him, but Satan is not everywhere at once like God is.

In terms of departed believers or even Roman Catholic saints, we cannot assume that they are right here with each one of us. That is an attribute of God. So don't assume that a particular saint is there to listen if you pray to one! Even if saints (or the Virgin Mary) did listen prayers, they could only be at one place, presumably listening to one prayer, at a time, and to do this they would have to be here on earth instead of in heaven. As far as Saint Joseph, the patron saint of travelers, even if he was protecting travellers from car accidents and plane crashes (I don't believe he is), he could only be at one accident site at a time! The earth is a big place, with millions of potential accidents happening every day. God (Father, Son, adn Holy Spirit) can be fully present to care for every need of every believer. No one other spirit or being is able to do this.

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to be everywhere? It means we cannot escape from Him, we cannot do our sinful deeds in any way that He does not see. No matter where we go, or what we do, or how dark it is, the Holy Spirit is there and knows what is going on. He is also there in every circumstance to guide and comfort us.

5. The Holy Spirit is All-Knowing

The Holy Spirit knows all things and all things that are possible. He knows the past, present and future. This includes knowledge of all facts and of what is best (wisdom). He is alway true to his character and word (faithful).

The Holy Spirit knows all things, and also what is best. While the greatest financial experts have tried to figure out which stocks to invest in on the Stock Market, each has some failures. But the Holy Spirit knows the future, and knows what will happen tomorrow even on the stock marktet. No, He hasn't given me any Stock tips. But the Holy Spirit always knows what is best, and that is the type of counselor we need.

"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God."(1st Corinthians 2:10) These are things that we cannot comprehend. But the Spirit understands God's plans and purposes, including the good works that God planned for us to do from before the creation of the world. "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."(1st Corinthians 2:12) One purpose of the Holy Spirit is to help us understand what God has given us! The Spirit understands, and helps us to understand.

"And it is the Spirit who testifies. because the Spirit is the truth."(1st John 5:6) The Holy Spirit knows all things, but in particular he knows and is the truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life ..." There is some overlap here as we learn that the Spirit is the truth. It means that the Spirit always tells the truth and acts according to the truth, He is faithful to God's purposes and plans and to his own character. "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever ... the Spirit of truth."(John 14:16-17)

6. The Holy Spirit is All-Powerful

God the Holy Spirit has infinite power. He is supreme in power and position, sovereign of all things. He is fully capable of carrying out His holy will. His power is not simply measured like we measure energy. For instance, I may have an 180 horsepower engine in my car, but if I have four flat tires, I cannot drive it to the other end of the State. The power of the Holy Spirit is not only greater than any created power or energy, it is also sufficient to do and complete anything the Spirit decides to do. Of course, the Spirit always acts in accord with God the Father's desires. The Holy Spirit may not give me tomorrow's closing stock prices, but He certainly can help me to share what money I have with the needy.

"I will not venture to speak anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading hte Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit ..."(Romans 15:18-19) The Apostle Paul said that the miracles he performed were done through the Holy Spirit, and they brought many Gentiles to faith. This is important, because Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."(Acts 1:8) This powerful Spirit lives in every believer!

7. The Holy Spirit is Holy

The Holy Spirit is holy, that is, he is consistent with his own purposes. He is a GOd of peace and order. He is righteous and just in all His thoughts and actions. But He is full of zeal (jealous) for the Father's glory, and his justice includes wrath upon sin and disobedience.

"...who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God ..."(Romans 1:4) Paul refers to the Spirit of holiness, this is a different way of saying the Holy Spirit. and shows that the Spirit is characterized or even owned by or dedicated to holiness. That means the Holy Spirit is totally given to acting in step with God's plans and purposes.

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace."(Romans 8:6) Paul said the mind of sinful man is death. Sin leads to death, and our sinful minds would take us that way. But the mind controlled by the Holy Spirit is life and peace. Life is the opposite of death, and the Comforter also gives us peace. Sometimes, after considering the Bible and friends, we make a difficult decision and feel at peace with it. This is the peace of the Holy Spirit. We must test the spirits to make sure that it is the Holy Spirit leading us, but when we have read the Scriptures and considered carefully and prayerfully, we may have the Spirit's peace.

8. The Holy Spirit is Loving

The Holy Spirit constantly and eternally gives of himself to others. He is active in applying salvation to man, showing love, forgiveness, mercy and grace to sinful people. He is patient, and rewards those who seek Him. Paul struggled greatly when he wrote, "I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me."(Romans 15:30) The love 'of' the Spirit is that love belonging to the Holy Spirit (it is not our love directed toward him, our love 'for' the Spirit). This simply shows that the Spirit has love and he loves believers.

9. The Holy Spirit is Good

The Holy Spirit is infinitely good in all that he is and does. His glory is exceedingly magnificent, his beauty unimaginable. He is blessed and the source of all blessings. (Blessed includes the idea of happy or glad,)

"Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert ... You gave your good Spirit to instruct them."(Nehemiah 9:19-20) Nehemiah remembered when God led Israel out of Egypt. Although the Israelites rebelled against God, He sent his 'good Spirit'. The Spirit is called good, and all that he does is good.

"If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you."(1st Peter 4:14) We are blessed when we are persecuted, because the Spirit of Glory rests on us. We do not see the glory of the Holy Spirit, but it is there! He is also a source of blessing for us when we need comfort.


God the Holy Spirit is a person, eternal, spirit, all-present, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, loving, and good.

Written Assignment:

No written assignment for this lesson.

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 59-61 and BFC Article 5

Key Verses:

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. "(Acts 1:8)

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."(2nd Corinthians 13:14)

"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God."(1st Corinthians 2:10)

Additional References:

"The eternal Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of the same substance and equal in power and glory with the Father and the Son." (BFC Article of Faith 5-1)

All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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