The Holy Spirit – Part of the Trinity

Getting To Know The Holy Spirit

We believe that the Holy Spirit is a divine person; equal with God the Father and God the Son and of the same nature; that He was active in the Creation, and in His relation to the unbelieving world, He restrains the Evil One until God’s purpose is fulfilled; that He convicts of sin, or judgment, and of righteousness; that He bears witness to the truth of the Gospel in preaching and testimony; that He is the agent in the New Birth; that He seals, endues, guides, teaches, witnesses, sanctifies, and helps the believer. Someone once called the Holy Spirit, “the forgotten person of the Trinity.”

While that may have been true throughout much of church history, we are living in a generation that has rediscovered the important role of the Holy Spirit in our life. One of the most significant consequences of this awakening is many Christians’ interest in discovering and using their spiritual gifts in ministry. Understanding who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, how we relate to Him, and what He expects of us in our life is important for Christians. As we look at what we believe about the Holy Spirit, we will consider the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit, His ministry in bringing us to Christ and salvation, what He does when we become a Christian, how the Holy Spirit has equipped us for ministry, how we can be empowered for ministry through the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual fruit the Holy Spirit produces in our life.

The Work of The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit accomplishes the work of God, demonstrating his deity. At creation, “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2; also job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30). The Holy Spirit is also active in the work of regeneration. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Both Peter and Paul saw the Holy Spirit involved in the work of sanctification and spoke of the “sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13).

The Holy Spirit was involved in much of the work of God during the life and ministry of Christ. As we saw earlier, he was involved in the virgin birth of Christ (Luke 1:35). The ministry of Christ began with the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him (Matt. 3:16) and continued by the presence of the Holy Spirit on him (Luke 4:14, 15). He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). Even as Christ prays for us in heaven today (Heb. 7:25), so “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). An additional work of the Holy Spirit relates to the Scriptures. The Scriptures were written by “holy men of God [who] spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21).

As men wrote the Word of God, they did so as the Holy Spirit guided them and gave them the message from God, so they made no mistakes (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit who inspired Scripture uses Scripture today to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). For the Christian, the Holy Spirit has a ministry whereby he helps us understand the Bible. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Con 2:12). The ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, does not end at conversion, but continues beyond. He fills Christians as they yield to him and allow him to control their lives. He also sheds light on the Scripture, helping the Christian to learn better the things of God.


Paul commanded the Ephesian Christians: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18). God has given men and women the opportunity to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit for effective service. Rather than allowing alcohol to control the mind of the Christian, it is God’s desire that his Holy Spirit be in control. As we establish our fellowship with God through confession of sins (1 John 1:9) and yield to him (Rom. 6:13), we can be filled with the Holy Spirit as commanded in Scriptures.

Some sincere Christians today seek spectacular signs to accompany the fullness of the Holy Spirit in their life. Actually, the Bible does not teach these should be expected today. The Holy Spirit’s fullness within us is primarily to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). The evidence in the Book of Acts of the fullness of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus was power to witness (Acts 1:8). On some occasions (but not every occasion) when Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit sometimes the building shook (Acts 4:31), sometimes they spoke in tongues (Acts 10:44-46), but always the gospel was preached and people were saved.

These occasional outward occurrences were often tools God used at that time to accomplish the main objective of witnessing. These outward signs were similar to the purpose that miracles had in the early church, they were an objective authority for the message of God. But when God provided the full revelation of the Word of God as the authoritative message, the outward signs or authorities passed off the scene.


Jesus promised, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). While part of that promise relates primarily to the apostles who recorded Scripture by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it also has application to Christians today as the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture today. The Holy Spirit has a present-day ministry in the life of a Christian, “that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Cor. 2:12).” Illumination is one of the many present-day ministries of the Holy Spirit to Christians. He can reveal to us important spiritual truths we could not otherwise know. While we normally think of illumination in terms of helping the Christian understand the Bible, it occurs as conviction to the unsaved.

Conviction to the Unsaved

Conviction is clearly the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “When he is come, he will reprove (convict) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). The word “convict” means “to rebuke or to cause to see.” Before a person receives Christ as Savior, the main work of the Holy Spirit is to help that individual to see his need for the Savior. The Holy Spirit convicts by causing the sinner to see his sin, to see the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and to see the sin judgment of the cross (John 16:9-11). When the sinner is convicted of (sees) his sin, he is rebuked or convicted. Then he is motivated to seek salvation.

Understanding to the Saved

The other aspect of this ministry of the Holy Spirit is in helping the Christian to understand the Bible. As a Christian reads his Bible, the Holy Spirit causes that man to understand God’s plan for his salvation. The same man without the Holy Spirit would be unable to uncover spiritual truth from the passage, “but he that is spiritual judgeth all things” (1 Cor. 2:15). As we seek to interpret and apply the Bible to our lives, we realize that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher (John 14:26; 16:13, 14). Spiritual illumination is also called the anointing of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20, 27).

The next two sections examine the principles which must be obeyed when we come to study the Bible. Both are important. The man who is spiritually right with God, yet fails to give attention to the normal rules of language interpretation will miss out on the message of Scripture. The man who follows these principles of interpretation exactly but is not walking in fellowship with God will also miss important lessons when he attempts to interpret the Bible.

The Holy Spirit Imparts Knowledge

The Holy Spirit helps us focus on the important truths we need to know. Actually, our spiritual illumination is more than an aid to natural understanding; the Bible describes our problem as hardness of heart. Hardness is the inability or the unwillingness to understand the spiritual message of the Scriptures. Some men have known more of the Bible than some Christians in terms of actual content, but they did not understand the spiritual truth of redemption, repentance, and regeneration. The Bible speaks of three occasions when spiritual discernment was not possible.

Israel’s Hardness of Heart

The Bible speaks of a partial and temporary insensibility of the nation of Israel. The Jews, who had the Scriptures and should have welcomed their Messiah, rejected him and called for his crucifixion. “He (Jesus) came unto his own (the Jews), and his own received him not” (John 1:11) Paul spoke of “blindness (hardness)” as happening to Israel (Rom. 11:25). Israel’s rejection is temporary. The time is coming when many Jews will turn to Christ (Rom. 11:26; 2 Cor. 3:14, 15). God’s temporarily setting aside the nation he loves so much ought to be a warning to Christians not to reject the teaching of the Scriptures.

The Blindness of Unbelief

The Bible also identifies a type of blindness of unsaved people. John wrote, “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not where he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11). This blindness is overcome with the light of the gospel. Writing of the birth of Christ hundreds of years before the event, Isaiah wrote, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isa. 9:2). From the Fall of man to the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles, Gentiles knew nothing but spiritual darkness.

Unsaved heathen today are still in this blindness. Jesus told Nicodemus that, apart from a spiritual rebirth, he could not “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Writing to the Corinthians (primarily Gentiles) Paul wrote, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3, 4). Satan has imposed a blindness upon both unsaved Jew and Gentile to prevent them from seeing (understanding) the gospel and believing in Christ.

Even after salvation, it is possible for a Christian to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit by allowing sin to continue in his life. Paul exhorted the Colossian Christians to “walk worthy of the Lord” in order to be “increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10). If we try to interpret the Bible knowing there is unconfessed sin in our lives, the Holy Spirit will not be able to show us all we need to learn.

The Sealing of the Holy Spirit

You asked about the sealing of the Holy Spirit as found in Ephesians 4:30: “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” “Sealed with God’s stamp, marking you as God’s purchased possession and destined unto the day of complete redemption, when final redemption is realized and we are transformed into His (Christ’s) likeness (see Philippians 3:20-21; 1 John 3:2).” (Liberty Bible Commentary, Vol. II, p. 554) “The time of sealing coincides with the time of believing (salvation). A seal indicates possession and security.

The presence of the Holy Spirit, the seal, is the believer’s guarantee of the security of his salvation.” (Ryrie Study Bible, footnote for Ephesians 1:13, p. 1780) “… by whom you were sealed (marked, branded as Goo’s own, secured) for the day of redemption–of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin.” (The Amplified Bible, p. 301) “The Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner (saved one). “Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (II Corinthians 1:22). “… The presence of the Holy Spirit himself seems to be the seal here, who is given by the Father to assure the believer of his eternal salvation.”

The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? (I Corinthians 3:16) In Christ’s prayer to the Father on the believer’s behalf, John 17:23 says, “I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one….” Jesus promised in John 14:16 that the Holy Spirit would come to abide in the Christian: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. The words abide and dwell come from the same root meaning, “to stay in a given place” (live).

This is a promise to every believer and a ministry of the Holy Spirit which cannot be lost. Nowhere in God’s Word are we told to pray to receive the Holy Spirit. He comes to live in us at conversion (See John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 2:12, 3:16, 6:19; I John 3:24). The “gift of the Spirit” promised in John 14 became a reality in Acts 2:2-3. The purpose of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to control the believer (II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 5:16-18; Ephesians 3:16), guide the believer (John 16:13; Romans 8:14), teach the believer (I John 2:27), empower the believer (Acts 1:8), impart the love of God to him and through him (Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22), strengthen the believer (Ephesians 3:16), and give assurance of salvation (I Corinthians 2:10; I John 3:24).

Some people view the Holy Spirit mystically, considering Him to be some kind of force or emanation from God. But the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is far more than this. He is not merely a force but a person with all the attributes of personality. But neither is the Holy Spirit only a person. Scripture makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is also God.

Personality involves intellect, emotions, and will.

The Holy Spirit knows things that only God knows (1 Cor. 2:11). He is also identified as loving (Rom. 15:30) and subject to grief (Eph. 4:30). He also acts on the basis of decisions He makes (1 Cor. 12:11). He is described in Scripture as teaching (John 14:26), testifying (John 15:26), guiding (Rom. 8:14), speaking (1 Cor. 2:13), enlightening (John 16:13), striving (Gen. 6:3), commanding (Acts 8:28), interceding (Rom. 8:26), sending workers (Acts 13:4), calling (Rev. 22:17), comforting (John 16:7), and working (1 Cor. 12:11).

The early church recognized the personality of the Holy Spirit and responded appropriately.They obeyed Him (Acts 10:19), followed His leading (Acts 8:39), and warned others against resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). They associated the Holy Spirit with the other two persons of the Trinity when they baptized converts (Matt. 28:19) and blessed one another (2 Cor. 13:14).

The Holy Spirit is God

Scripture also describes the Holy Spirit as God. Many of the more than one hundred names and titles of the Holy Spirit in Scripture describe Him in divine terms (God, Acts 5:4; Spirit of God, Gen. 1:2; and Spirit of the Lord God, Isa. 61:1). Other names such as Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14), Spirit of Truth (John 16:13), and Holy One (1 John 2:20) describe the Holy Spirit as possessing attributes belonging to God. Also, the Holy Spirit is described as accomplishing the work of God in creation (Job. 26:13), regeneration (John 3:5), and inspiration (2 Peter 1:21).

There is little question concerning the deity of the Holy Spirit. Not only is the Holy Spirit a person, he is also God. As God, he is worthy of our worship and obedience. His deity is demonstrated in part by the names of God which are attributed to him. It is further understood through a correct understanding of the Trinity. The Bible ascribed the attributes of deity to the Holy Spirit and, finally, the Holy Spirit accomplishes that which only God can do.

Names of the Holy Spirit

When God identifies his name in Scripture, it is not without meaning. The first mention of the Holy Spirit in Scripture identifies him clearly as God. “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). Early in the history of civilization, the rebellion of man grieved God. “And the Lord said, My Spirit shall not always strive with man” (Gen. 6:3). The most common name for the third Person of the Trinity is “Holy Spirit.” While not a strong proof, thus name associates him with deity because holiness is a reflection of his attributes, while “Spirit” is a reflection of his nature.

His deity is also implied by the titles “Comforter” (John 16:7; 2 Cor.1:3), “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13), and “Holy One” (1 John 2:20). Most of the names ascribed to the Holy Spirit in Scripture either relate him directly to deity, as “the Spirit of the Lord God” (Isa. 61:1), or to some attribute of God such as the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14) or “the spirit of judgment and … the spirit of burning” (Isa. 4:4).

Member of the Trinity of God

When we speak of the Trinity of God, we are speaking of one God in three distinct persons, each being God. The Holy Spirit is a part of the Trinity and is therefore God. Peter asked Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” (Acts 5:3) and charged, “Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God” (Acts 5:4). Later Peter charged Sapphira with involvement in the conspiracy “to tempt the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9). No one challenged Peter in his inter. change of titles identifying the Holy Spirit as God.

Further evidence that the early church recognized the deity of the Holy Spirit is evidenced in the equal recognition given him in the Pauline benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14). Jesus gave equal recognition to the Holy Spirit with the other two members of the Trinity in the baptismal formula of the New Testament: (Matt. 28:19). The teaching of Jesus, Peter, and Paul formed the basis of the doctrine taught and believed in the early church and each of these recognized the deity of the Holy Spirit.

Even in the Old Testament, where the Trinity is not as clearly taught as in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is identified as God. Jeremiah revealed that the new covenant: came from the “Lord [Jehovah]” (Jer. 31:31), but the writer to the Hebrews identified the same as from “the Holy Ghost” (Heb. 10:15). Apparently the name Yahweh was used sometimes in the Old Testament to identify the Holy Spirit. The same thing seems to have happened in Isaiah’s life. Isaiah “heard the voice of the Lord” (Isa. 6:8ff.). John identified the one on the throne as Christ (John 12:41), but Paul identified the voice as “the Holy Ghost” (Acts 28:25ff.).

Attributes of The Holy Spirit

Both the absolute and comparative attributes of God are possessed by the Holy Spirit. His holiness and justice are identified in his titles “Holy” (Ps. 51:11) and “Spirit of judgment” (Isa. 4:4), The apostle Paul spoke of “the love of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:30). The goodness of the Holy Spirit is seen in Psalm 143:10. Jesus identified the Holy Spirit as a good gift from God (Luke 11:13). The comparative attributes of God, omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, are also attributed to the Holy Spirit. His omnipotence is seen in his ability to accomplish what could not be otherwise accomplished. Zerubbabel recognized the work of God was done “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6).

David recognized the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit when he asked, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?” (Ps. 139:7). Paul taught that the Scriptures could not be understood without the aid of the omniscient Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:10-16). The degree of the omniscience of the Holy Spirit is seen in the statement “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).

The following two tabs change content below.
Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

Latest posts by Dr. Elmer Towns (see all)