Holy Ghost? Who or what is he?

“Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost . . . ”

Many churches sing the “Doxology” as a part of their service. As a child, I could understand the idea that God was like a father in his love and care for us all. And it made sense that if God was a father, he’d have to have at least one child. But the idea of a “Holy Ghost” gave me the creeps. After all, ghosts are intent on scaring the daylights out of people.

When I was older, I attended a tent crusade where it became clear that the Holy Ghost’s job–as well as the preacher’s—was to scare the devil right out of a person. And so, people were being “filled” with the Spirit and having “evil spirits” cast out of them.

In the second verse of Genesis we find “the Spirit of God” hovering over the yet to be formed earth (Genesis 1:2). Throughout the Old Testament, we find references to God’s prophets or messengers being inspired and empowered by his Spirit. But it’s not until the New Testament that the Spirit of God is called by name as “The Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:35).

The Holy Spirit fills Jesus Christ at his baptism. The Spirit empowers and emboldens the early disciples–who were previously hiding behind locked doors. And, He is promised to fill each future believer.

In Jesus Christ’s last major message to his disciples, he promises that the Holy Spirit will take His place on earth.

1. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence on earth

    Jesus tells His disciples, “I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

2. The Holy Spirit will convince us of our need for God

    “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).

3. The Holy Spirit will live within us

    “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever . . . . He lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16, 17).

4. The Holy Spirit will teach us God’s truth

    “‘But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you'” (John 14:26).

The early disciples give us other insights into the work of the Holy Spirit.

5. The Holy Spirit assures believers that they have been made children of God

    The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16).

6. The Holy Spirit prays on behalf of believers

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27).

7. The Holy Spirit transforms obedient believers into Christ-like people

    You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (Romans 8:9-11).

I’ve lost my fear of a ghostly Holy Spirit and have found his presence to be both a comfort and a challenge to be all that God has created us to be.

From The Why Files (Concordia Publishing House, 2000)

Copyright © 2000 James N. Watkins


Author and speaker

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