"The Spirit of God is God in Action"
The Spirit of God is God in action within us, upon us, or
around us. Godís Spirit is God at work, making things happen in the
We cannot see the Spirit, but we can see the results of its
power. The Spirit of God was present when the world was created. God sent his
Spirit to do powerful things among his people, Israel. Later, God sent his
Spirit when Jesus lived on earth, and the Spirit has been present with
Christians ever since.
THE SPIRIT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
There are three different ways in which the word "spirit" is used in
the Bible. It is a wind from God, the breath of life, and a spirit that fills
a person with strong emotion or power.
In the book of Genesis, the wind from God was what caused the waters of the
Flood to stop rising (Genesis 8:1).
This same wind from God blew locusts all over Egypt (Exodus 10:13) and
sent quail for the Israelites to eat (Exodus 14:21).
God blew wind from his nostrils to part the waters of the Red Sea so that the
Israelites could walk across on dry land. In Genesis 2:7, we read that
God created man by breathing his Spirit into him. Human beings only have life
because of the breath of life, or the spirit, that is within
God, through his Spirit, is the source of all life, whether animal or human.
In the Old Testament the Spirit of God would sometimes fill people,
causing them to say or do things that they normally could not do, in order to
fulfill Godís purposes.
People who were filled with the Spirit were given a great responsibility to
fulfill because of the Spirit that was within them. Leaders were recognized
by the Spirit within them.
In Judges chapter 3, Godís spirit filled a man named
He became a judge and was able to win a war and keep the peace in Israel for
forty years. Godís spirit also filled other judges such as Gideon and
Because of the Spirit of God, they were able to conquer their enemies.
Sometimes, as in the case of Saul, God would send an evil spirit to fill
someone in order to carry out his plans (see 1 Samuel 16:14-16;
Judges 9:23; 1 Kings 22:19-23).
THE SPIRIT AT WORK AMONG THE PROPHETS
The prophets in the Old Testament had the job of giving messages from the
Spirit of God to the people. It was important for the people to know the
difference between a false prophet and a true prophet of God.
The term "Holy Spirit" is used in the Psalms and in Isaiah to set
apart the Spirit of God from any other spirit, whether human or from God
(Psalm 51:11; Isaiah 63:10-11). A false prophet would not have
the Holy Spirit.
A prophet that had a message from the Holy Spirit would have the character of
a person who was obedient to God. The people could recognize a false prophet
by evaluating the prophetís character as well as the message he was
delivering. The prophets wrote about the Spirit in two significant ways.
The Spirit inspired prophecy, and it would be known again in the age to come,
when Jesus would be on earth. The later prophets, such as Ezekiel,
Haggai, and Zechariah, claimed that the Spirit was the inspirer
of prophecy. This means that the Spirit gave them the words that they
proclaimed and wrote down.
The Spirit of God was responsible for everything that the writers of
the Bible wrote down. The prophets also wrote that God would show his power
through the Spirit in the age to come. Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit
would come again to anoint a man who would bring salvation to all people
(Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1).
He was talking about Jesus, the Messiah. The Messiah was the king the Jews
were waiting for. Through Jesus, the Spirit would be given freely to all of
Israel (Ezekiel 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 12:10) as
part of a new covenant between God and man (Jeremiah 31:31-34;
Ezekiel 36:26-27). The covenant was a promise from God that he would
send his Spirit to deliver his people.
The Israelites had broken their old covenant with God because they continued
to disobey him. Under the new covenant, God promised to forgive them. Between
the time of the Old Testament and the New Testament, it was believed that the
Spirit was no longer present in Israel.
During that time the Spiritís voice was no longer heard through the voices of
the prophets. But the Spirit was known again when the Messiah, Jesus Christ,
came to the earth.
THE SPIRIT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT CONNECTING THE OLD AND NEW
We cannot fully comprehend the New Testamentís teaching on the Spirit without
reading and understanding the use of the Spirit in the Old Testament.
John speaks of the Spirit as a "wind" (John 3:8), and Paul
writes of it as "breath" (2 Thessalonians 2:8). In
Revelation 11:11 the Spirit is described as a "breath of life."
These same descriptions of the Spirit are found in the Old Testament. Also,
the New Testament writers agreed with the prophets of the Old Testament in
that the Spirit inspired Scripture (see Mark 12:36; Acts 28:25;
Hebrews 3:7; 2 Peter 1:21).
The Spirit that the Old Testament writers looked forward to was realized in
the New Testament. Just as Isaiah had prophesied, the Spirit came again
during the time of Jesus. This "new age" was one in which the Spirit
was once again present on earth. Jesus was the anointed, or specially chosen
one, who came to give salvation. Jesus came and gave his Spirit to those who
believed in him. This was the beginning of the Christian faith.
THE SPIRIT IN JESUSí MINISTRY
An important aspect of Jesusí ministry (his work on earth) and the
message of his followers was that the Spirit was already with them, that this
"new age" was the present. No other Jews of that time, except for a
group called the Essenes of Qumran, believed in the presence of the Spirit
among them. The prophets and the rabbis of the New Testament were still
looking to a future time when a messiah would come.
They did not realize that Jesus was the Messiah. Even John the Baptist spoke
of one who would come and of the Spiritís work in the future (Mark
1:8). For Jesus and his followers, the Spirit-filled life was a reality.
The first Christians believed they were living in the "last days"
because the prophecies of the Spiritís return had come true in their time.
Jesus knew that his teachings and healings were fulfilling the prophecies of
the Old Testament (Matthew 12:41-42; Matthew 13:16-17).
He also knew he was the one that was specially chosen by the Spirit to bring
salvation to mankind (Matthew 5:3-6; Luke 4:17-19). Jesus
understood that the power to perform miracles came from God. God displayed
his power through Jesus, just as he will in the end times (Matthew
12:27-28; Mark 3:22-26).
The Spirit of God was with Jesus as he lived among men. Because so many
people were still looking to the coming of the Spirit in the "end
times," the writers of the Gospels (the first four
books of the Bible) emphasized the role of the Spirit in the birth of
Jesus (Matthew 1:18; John 3:34), in his baptism (Mark
1:9-10), and in his ministry (Luke 4:1, 14; Luke
They wanted to show people that the Spirit was with them, that
they were already living in the "end times," and that Jesusí life was
proof of that.
THE SPIRIT AT WORK AMONG THE FIRST CHRISTIANS
The Christian church began with Jesusí resurrection. Christians believe that
Jesus died to save them from their sin and that he rose again from the dead.
Following the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and breathed the
Holy Spirit on them (John 20:22). After Jesus was taken back up into
heaven, the Spirit was given to the disciples on the day of Pentecost.
At Pentecost, the believers were overwhelmed with visions, and they spoke in
tongues when the Spirit entered them (Acts 2:2-5, 17-18). They
believed that they were entering into the "new age" that was
prophesied by Joel. This new age was one in which the Spirit was present on
earth, living and working in the lives of Christians.
The gift of the Spirit was seen as the power of this new age (Hebrews
6:4-5). The apostle Paul understood the presence of the Spirit in the
believerís life to be a certain sign that that person had been saved from his
sins. The believer could be assured that God had granted him eternal life in
heaven (2 Corinthians 1:22).
Paul taught that it was necessary for a believer to have the Spirit in order
to enter Godís kingdom (Romans 8:15-17). The Spirit changes their
believersí lives to become more like Jesus.
Becoming more like Jesus is a lifelong process, because every believer is
caught in the daily conflict between living in the Spirit or according to
sinful desires. The process does not end until the person is brought
completely under the Spiritís power (Romans 8:11, 23).
THE SPIRIT GIVES SALVATION AND LIFE
John the Baptist had spoken of Jesus as one who would come and baptize with
the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus referred to this
in Acts 1:5 and 11:16, and it was fulfilled on the day of
Pentecost (2:17, 33). When the Spirit was poured out on the disciples
at Pentecost, they were given salvation from God because they believed in
One of Lukeís most important messages in the book of Acts is that a person
must have the Spirit in order to be a Christian (Acts 2:38-39). Even
though Jesus had followers while he was on earth, they were not saved until
they received the Spirit. Peter recognized that when the Spirit entered the
personís life, God had accepted that person.
An example of this is Apollos. He did not know all about who Jesus was, but
because he was filled with the Spirit (18:24-26), he was effective in
spreading the Gospel. Paul emphasizes in his letter that believing in Jesus
and receiving the Spirit go hand in hand.
When a person receives the Spirit, he or she begins the Christian life
(Galatians 3:2-3). When one is baptized in the Spirit, that person
becomes a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). A person
belongs to Christ and is a child of God upon receiving the Spirit (Romans
The Spirit is the life-giver. When a person believes in Christ, he or she
becomes a new creation (John 20:22). The Spirit is the power of God
that brings about this new birth in believers. Christians experience new life
because of the Spirit living in them.
EXPERIENCING THE SPIRIT
There are many ways that the Spirit works among his people. When the first
Christians referred to the Spirit, they were thinking of experiences of
divine power. They used the word "Spirit" to explain the experiences
of new life, freedom from the law, and spiritual renewal. They wrote of
experiences of extreme joy and moral transformation brought about by the work
of the Spirit.
Paul wrote about spiritual gifts such as inspired speech (1 Corinthians
12:8-10), miracles and healings (Galatians 3:5), acts of service,
counseling, administrating, helping others, and showing mercy (Romans
12:7-8). These are all gifts from the Spirit.
While there are many experiences and gifts of the Spirit, individual
believers cannot expect to encounter every one of them in their own lives.
The Spirit gives different spiritual gifts to different people. Yet all
believers receive gifts of the Spirit. It is important for individual
believers to recognize the gifts and experiences of the Spirit in their own
lives. These gifts and experiences serve as a sign of a believerís salvation
and new life.
GROWING IN THE SPIRIT
Christians shared their experiences of the Spirit, and through this the early
church began to grow. The Spirit brought people into the body of Christ
through the ministry of Paul and the other apostles. Paul traveled to many
different places such as Samaria and Caesarea, and it was the Spirit that
enabled him to preach the truth about salvation and bring people to belief in
Jesus. The apostles were given many gifts of the Spirit, including healing
and miracles, in order to better proclaim the message of salvation.
Because of these gifts of the Spirit, the early church grew and unified. Even
today we can see how the members of the body of Christ are unified through
the different gifts of the Spirit. A person who preaches is just as important
as the person who helps an elderly person do his laundry. Preaching and
helping others are both very important gifts from the Spirit and work
together to help build the church.
Other Pages on the Holy Spirit Can Be Found Below
Spirit 1 Holy
Spirit 2 You are Here Holy Spirit 4 Holy Spirit 5 Holy Spirit 6