What is the Holy Spirit Like?

Evangelical Christians are Trinitarian, affirming the existence of one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Throughout Church history, much time has been spent discussing and debating the nature of God the Father and God the Son. But God the Holy Spirit doesn’t get quite as much ink (or as many pixels). The only mention of the Spirit in the Apostles Creed is brief: “I believe in the Holy Ghost.”  The confession about the Spirit is more developed in the Nicene Creed, but he is still only given four lines.

This is understandable, for at least two reasons. First, the Spirit’s ministry is a “spotlight” ministry. (See John 14:26 and John 16:13–15. See here for a brief explanation.) It is His job to point us to the Father through the Son. This should give us hesitation about ministries and churches that speak only about the Spirit. Wouldn’t it be strange to find opera-goers staring up at the ceiling and speculating about wattage and lumens instead of marveling at the voice of the illuminated actress on stage?

spotlight1

But the second reason we tend not to think much about the Spirit is that there simply are not many passages in the Bible that tell us what He is like. So, when we run across such descriptions, we should pan and sift repeatedly until we can hold the gold nuggets in our hands.

We find one such passage in Isaiah, chapter 11.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist,
and faithfulness the belt of his loins. (Isaiah 11:1–5, ESV)

Read this quote carefully and you’ll find a description of the Holy Spirit in verse 2. We read that the Spirit will rest upon this future king and judge, and then we have a virtual avalanche of detail about the Spirit. The commentator Motyer categorizes these descriptors for us.

  • the Spirit of wisdom and understanding — these are primarily for the king in his capacity as a ruler
  • the Spirit of counsel and might — these are practical abilities that the Spirit gives
  • the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord — these are spiritual attributes that the Spirit gives

So, Christian, I ask you: Do you lack wisdom or understanding? You need the Holy Spirit!

Do you lack counsel or might? You need the Holy Spirit!

Do you lack knowledge or the fear of the Lord? You need the Holy Spirit!

But don’t focus on your lack or your need, because if you trust in Jesus to bring you to the Father, you HAVE the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9)! Ask God to help you walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16), keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25), and grow in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22,23).


Disclosure: the link to Amazon.com in this post is an affiliate link, meaning that I get a small percentage of any purchase you make on Amazon if you make that purchase after clicking through this link.

Photo Credit: ChrisGoldNY, Creative Commons License

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