Uncovering the secrets of this mysterious entity
The words “Holy Spirit” have mesmerized and puzzled scholars for centuries. This Biblical concept has been the subject of debate and controversy throughout the ages. It has even been the cause of persecution and genocide. But what is the “holy spirit”? Can it actually be understood, or is it too profound for humans to fathom? Enigmatic and powerful, ever since the term was first written, thousands of years ago, people have pondered what it actually means. There are many interpretations as to it's meaning. Some say it is another aspect of God, part of the “trinity”, others say that it is something more mysterious, a “ghost”. Many avoid speculating and do not comment on it's nature.
It is vital that sincere believers understand the real meaning of the term because the “holy spirit” is inseparable from Almighty God and his purposes. All through the pages of the Bible we read accounts where the “holy spirit” performs incredible feats, miracles.
It is very important to point out that the original languages of the Bible never use capital letters when describing the “holy spirit”. This indicates that it is not a name. Indeed, most occurrences of the term “holy spirit” are of dynamic action where the spirit is said to be “Poured out” (Titus 3.6) and used to empower people (Judges 15.14). People are said to be “Baptised in holy spirit” (Acts 1.5). In one account, God takes some of the spirit from Moses and gives it to others. These are all obviously not references to a person.
Is This God?
When describing the set date of Armageddon, Jesus informs his followers that, “Not the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father knows the day and the hour” (Matthew 24.36). Note that the holy spirit does not know the date either, only the Father. This would not make any sense if the spirit were God, equal to the Father. The holy spirit is often described using the pronoun “it”. For example, at Romans 8.26, Paul tells us “But the spirit itself pleads for us with groanings unuttered.” It would be very disrespectful to call Almighty God, or even his son, “it”.
But, some references to this term are not quite so clear and have been used as a claim that the “holy spirit” is actually God, in another form, a part of the “trinity”. They point to scriptures such as where it says “In heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” found in older translations at 1 John 5:7. These words though were not part of the original Bible but were added much later, as acknowledged by scholars and the churches.
On certain occasions, Jesus and others spoke of the “holy spirit” as “he” and “him” but, this is not to be understood as an actual application of identity. Those scriptures are personifications such as those where the Bible personifies other objects or qualities. For example, at Matthew 11.19, Jesus describes wisdom as having “works” and “children”. Likewise, the Apostle Paul describes sin, death and kindness as “kings”. Furthermore, the “holy spirit” is not always described using the definite article “the”. It is often simply described as “spirit” ( Acts 6.5). Where the gospels say “In the name of the holy spirit”, it does not mean a literal name but, rather, authority and importance. This kind of wording is often applied to other aspects of life such as “In the name of the law”. To prove that this is not an actual name, consider the names of the other two mentioned in that scripture, the Father and the son. The Father's name,,"Yahweh" or "Jehovah", is given in the Bible over 7,000 times (although many translators have replaced it with the word “LORD”). The son's name is clear, “Jesus”. But what is the name of the “holy spirit”? None is ever given. “Comforter” is a description, not a name.
Sometimes the Bible says that the spirit “spoke,” but elsewhere in the Bible it is clarified that this was done through angels or humans (Acts 4:24,25; 28:25; Matthew 10:19,20; compare Acts 20:23 with 21:10,11). At 1 John 5:6-8, not only the spirit but also “The water and the blood” are said to ‘bear witness.’ So, this does not mean that the holy spirit is a person.
The Mystery Solved
The actual words “holy spirit”, used in the Bible are Hebrew “qo′dhesh” and “ru'ach”. “qo′dhesh” conveys the thought of separateness, exclusiveness, or sanctification to God, “holy”. “Ru'ach”, in it's strictest sense, means “breath” but can also mean “life-force” or “wind”. When God creates, he speaks (“and God said let there be light, and there was light” - Genesis 1.3). It is God's breath that causes creation. Similarly, the actual Bible itself is described by Paul as “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3.16).
The scripture at Job 41:15,16 gives us a better understanding of this word. It says of Leviathan’s closely fitting scales that “Not even air (weru′ach) can come in between them.” Here, as in many other places in the Bible, “ru′ach” represents air in motion. So here the thought of an invisible force is described.
Up until the fourth century, the early followers of Christ never believed that the “holy spirit” was a person or God. Justin Martyr, of the second century, taught that the holy spirit was an ‘Influence or mode of operation of the Deity’; Hippolytus likewise ascribed no personality to the holy spirit.
Almighty God is often quoted in the Bible as saying “By my spirit” (Zechariah 4.6), and this is the key to understanding what the “holy spirit” actually is. It is the means by which God accomplishes all things. It is the most powerful thing in the universe. It was used to create the universe and all other things. But is is more than just power, it is dynamic and active. It was “Moving to and fro upon the surface of the waters” at the creation of the earth (Genesis 1.2). It is an intimate part of God, something that is ultimately his expression of supreme power (Acts 1.8) yet, it can also be gentle and creative as it is used to inspire the writers of the Bible and to assist those that are weak (2 Peter 1.21; 2 Corinthians 1.22).
The Holy Spirit and Us
Once we understand the nature of this incredible force, we can then begin to identify it in our lives. God encourages humans to ask for his “holy spirit”, in fact Jesus urges his followers to “Keep on asking” and he promises that “Holy spirit will be given to you” (Luke 11.13). The spirit can mold us into better people. The holy spirit is limitless and it is a dynamic force on a scale that we cannot fully comprehend.