What comes to mind if you hear the words ‘Holy Spirit’?
Perhaps your response will depend on how familiar you are with Christian faith? Or maybe it will depend on what church background you come from (if any)!
I chose the photo of the dove with skyscrapers behind to hopefully provoke our being open to a connection between the Holy Spirit and life now in 2023.
On the night before being crucified, Jesus spoke with his followers about the Holy Spirit. Some of his words recorded by John are:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.”
John 14:16 New International Version
If we dig down into the text behind what is in English, the word we have as ‘another’ means another of the same kind. Jesus was going to be killed yet come through death (which of course before the resurrection didn’t make any sense to the disciples). Yet after this, Jesus was not going to be with them much longer, directly in person, limited to one place. Instead he promised for One to be with them, just like him. One who would be with them wherever they went.
Christians embrace that the Holy Spirit is God – part of the mystery of there being One God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word ‘Trinity’ is used to try and capture this. I realise for some reading that maybe hard to get your head around. NT Wright comments in one of his books –
“The doctrine of the Trinity, properly understood, is as much a way of saying ‘we don’t know’ as of saying ‘we do know.’ To say that the true God is Three and One is to recognize that if there is a God then of course we shouldn’t expect him to fit neatly into our little categories. If he did, he wouldn’t be God at all…”
NT Wright – ‘For All God’s Worth – True Worship and the Calling of the Church
On the 4th June, it is Trinity Sunday – Cor will say something more about God as Trinity then.
Before then, on the 28th May, it is Pentecost Sunday. This is the day that Christians around the world particularly think about the giving of the Holy Spirit to the first followers of Christ. You can read about this in Acts 2. It took place during a festival – the Feast of Weeks (celebrating the start of the wheat harvest). In Jerusalem there would have been pilgrims from all over the Roman Empire and beyond (see Acts 2:9-11). An appropriate day for the Holy Spirit to be poured out and as a result an international crowd to be drawn and hear the good news about Jesus.
This same Holy Spirit continues to be given to Christ followers today. Not an ‘it’ – so don’t think of an impersonal force – sorry to all Star Wars fans! Instead God’s presence in people’s lives. Really? Well it is what the Bible claims and many Christians would affirm. For instance, in giving assurance of the work of Christ in someone’s life, the apostle Paul wrote,
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Romans 8:16 New International Version
Or as Paul wrote elsewhere,
“You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians 1:13-14 New International Version
Do you know the Holy Spirit in your life affirming you are a child of God?
You might be thinking all this ‘Spirit- talk’ seems a bit otherworldly – disconnected from realities like war in Ukraine and Sudan. Let me try and dispel such a thought. Prophecies in Isaiah, for instance, speak of the Spirit of the Lord being at work in the Messiah to come. For instance, we can read,“with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”
Isaiah 11:4 New International Version
Elsewhere in Isaiah 61 (words Jesus said he fulfilled – see Luke 4:14-21): “the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bring up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…”
“the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bring up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…”Isaiah 61:1-2 New International Version
The giving of the Holy Spirit is very much connected to the realities of life and seeing the good news of Christ making a difference in the issues of the day. This is not just a ‘church thing’! There is not the space here to further develop about the Holy Spirit and the world. Yet I encourage us all though to think on this – beginning first with our own lives and where we live, work, study.
There is so much to say concerning the Holy Spirit. If you would like to read a bit further, below are some more points and relevant Bible verses that you might want to look up.
Some more about the Holy Spirit –
Please note this is not covering everything that can be said about the Holy Spirit – see it more as a taster list!
The Holy Spirit is a Helper/Counsellor (John 14:26), testifies about Christ (John 15:26) and guides to what is true (John 16:13).
This same Holy Spirit is involved in anyone coming to know Christ (John 3:6, Titus 3:4-7) and affirms Jesus followers belong to him (Ephesians 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit empowers people to be witnesses about Christ (Acts 1:8).
This same Holy Spirit convicts about what is wrong (the Bible uses the word ‘sin’ -John 16:7-8) and helps us to say no to wrongdoing and live a different way (Romans 8:5, Galatians 5:16). This connects with what is described as the Holy Spirit’s role in ‘sanctification’ (you can look that up online!)
The Holy Spirit aids us in our weaknesses and even intercedes in prayer (Romans 8:26-27)
This same Holy Spirit works to bring about more Christ-likeness in us – such as ‘fruit’ like love, joy, peace and patience (Galatians 5:22-23). Christ-likeness does not mean we all become clones of Christ or one another. There is still rich diversity amidst the unity to be found in Jesus Christ.
This same Holy Spirit gives ‘gifts’ for serving one another (check out Romans 12:1-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 for example).
The Holy Spirit is able to give us overflowing hope – even in tough circumstances (Romans 15:13).
All who are followers of Jesus are called to “be being filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18) Are we responding to that call?