The Holy Spirit—Nature, Work and Gifts

Recognition of the Holy Spirit as a member of the Godhead is a major part of our doctrine. This recognition is tied to the doctrine of the Trinity that says that God is one God, expressed as three distinct persons; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The scripture clearly shows the Holy Spirit to be a multifaceted, dynamic part of the Godhead. It is critical for us to understand Him, as much as anyone can under God.

Throughout the Bible it is made clear that the Holy Spirit is God due to the attributes that are ascribed to Him. (Being God, it would be inappropriate to call the Holy Spirit “it” as some do. We refer to Him as Him.)


The Holy Spirit is omnipotent. This means that He is “all-powerful”. Only God can legitimately make that claim. “You send out your Spirit, and they are created. You renew the face of the earth.”. (Psalm 104.30)


The Holy Spirit is omnipresent or everywhere at all times. Again, an attribute of God. David asked,  “Where can I go to get away from your Spirit?” then he listed some places that would be very hard to for him to reach such as heaven, hell and the depths of the sea. In all of these places God was there. David knew that the Holy Spirit was God.  (Psalm 139.7)


That the Holy Spirit is all-knowing or omniscient is brought out in a number of scriptures. The apostle Paul was inspired to write “the Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God.” (1 Corinthians 2.10) In John 14.26 Jesus said that the Comforter (another name for the Holy Spirit) will teach us all things and bring to our recall all that we need to know.


In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 we are shown many abilities that the Holy Spirit bestows on believers, yet it is brought out that this is the same Spirit. The Spirit’s immutability is compared to that of Jesus in these verses. The same Jesus of whom it is written He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”


And finally, the Holy Spirit is eternal. The writer of Hebrews uses a word in the Greek that is full of deep meaning. He says that the Holy Spirit is not just never ending, but never beginning, never ending and always continuing to exist. (Hebrews 9.14)

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

The very first mention of the Holy Spirit is in Genesis chapter one. In the second verse it says, “The Spirit of God was hovering over the water.” This is a good way to introduce Himself. The original words used here could well be translated as “the life of God.”

While He is so much more than that, as we will see later, He is also the life of God. (Please take this only as a metaphor. As humans it is not really possible for us to understand the make-up of God, so we use metaphors and examples.) There are many instances in the Old Testament that show the Holy Spirit’s work and power.
Later, also in Genesis, Pharaoh needed some answers so he was searching for “a man who has God’s Spirit in him”. (Genesis 41.38) Even then we see the Holy Spirit as One who answers the needs of God’s people. In this case Joseph was the man and we all know the story of how he saved the Jewish people by following the Holy Spirit’s leadership.

The Holy Spirit in the New Testament

Most of us have read where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus when He was baptized and how the Holy Spirit came upon the believers in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. These are just two of the many times the Holy Spirit is mentioned in the New Testament.  The apostle Paul said that “Every scripture passage is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3.16). God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, is the source of that inspiration.  Since the only scripture Paul had was the Old Testament, this is a New Testament look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

In his famous Pentecost sermon, Peter said that we, as believers, would receive the Holy Spirit as a gift. Jesus promised that this would happen, even as it was foretold by the prophet Joel in the Old Testament (Joel 2.28).

The gift of the Holy Spirit is God’s presence in His people today, to give us the courage and ability to spread His Word to the world. Without this, we would be weak and ineffective. Too many times the world opposes the Word of God, often quite violently. We need God’s power to see us through.

A number of Christian denominations claim that some of the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit, most notably tongues, are at best for the first century. They claim that passed away with the apostles. I would like to point out that God, not the apostles, gave believers the gift. Also there are many Biblical recordings of people other than the apostles who spoke in tongues as an evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

I will cite one example here, but there are many. Peter was lead by the Spirit to the home of a Gentile named Cornelius.  He witnesses to them and all of the household was saved.  Acts 10 verses 44—47 records that all who heard Peter were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages. No one could deny that even Gentiles were being filled. God used this filling to show that everyone could  be saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit.

It is the same today.  God uses the outward manifestations of the Holy Spirit to show that everyone, without regard to race, gender or past history, can be saved and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Purpose of the gifts

Some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed by the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. These are the commonly accepted gifts, and I hesitate to add to this list. On the other hand I don’t want to say that God doesn’t gift as He chooses. We need to recognize that God is Sovereign, and if He chooses to present a gift that is needed for a specific situation that is not in this list, but meets the definition of spiritual gifts, then we need to accept that as His prerogative.

Before we list the gifts, I want to point out a few things about all spiritual gifts. Paul said that, “There are different spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served. There are different types of work to do, but the same God produces every gift in every person.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) Spiritual gifts ALWAYS point to and glorify Jesus. The deceiver can duplicate and counterfeit gifts, and often does, but look at who gets the glory.

The giver of gifts

All true spiritual gifts come from God. We are all part of the Body of Christ, and it is Jesus Christ Who sent the Holy Spirit. (John 16.17) In 1 Corinthians 12.15-22 Paul explains that as one body we have many parts (or functions) and that even though these parts are different they are all needed.  Each gift is given as needed in the church.

Gifts of the Holy Spirit

The gifts of the Spirit are listed as words of wisdom, words of knowledge,  courageous faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. As soon as he lists these he says,  “There is only one Spirit who does all these things by giving what God wants to give to each person.” (1 Corinthians 12.11) There are many gifts, but only one gift giver. And He gives “what God wants” to individuals. Not what we think we need.

Using the gifts

We  will take a closer look at the use of the individual gifts later, but there are two overriding concerns that cannot be said too many times.

“There are different ways of serving, and yet the same Lord is served.” and “ Everything must be done in a proper and orderly way.“ (1 Corinthians 12.6 and 14.40) The focus of the Holy Spirit is to bring glory to Jesus. This is not done when we are in total disarray. The desire to serve one another is good, but we need to remember that the goal is to glorify Jesus. He is glorified when we serve others, even as He served.  God wants us to use the gifts He gives us to glorify His Son as we are serving others.

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