Theology of the Holy Spirit



1. Structure of the Module

2. Learning Outcomes

3. References

4. Assessment

5 Theological and Experiential

Why Study this Topic?

In this short course, we will emphasise a mix of theology and experience. In the words of one writer:


What is your understanding of the Holy Spirit?


Is the Holy Spirit a “power” or a Person?

Unless we understand this issue we will never appreciate the eternal and functional relationship between Father, Son and Spirit.

He is sometime referred to impersonally, eg breath, gift, anointing – however, these describe His operations.

The Holy Spirit has “personal” attributes:

He is able to do things that only a “person” can do:

He is distinct from God the Father & Jesus Christ the Son – Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2; Acts 10:38; 15:28.

Implications for Us

If the Holy Spirit is a PERSON we can approach Him knowing that He hears and understands us; He is not a formula, or a concept. He will extend his love and strength to us in time of blessing or need. He is able to guide us throughout the Christian life. We can (and should) get to know Him. He meets with us; demands obedience, offers fellowship, intimacy; guidance, responsiveness; flexibility to listening hearts (eg Hebrews 3:7, 8).


The names and titles of the Holy Spirit describe His character and attributes.

Spirit of God – Exodus 31:3

Has the attributes and performs the works of God:

The Scriptures describe the Trinity (term coined by the church much later):

He proceeds from the Father – John 15:26; John 14:16; through Christ – Acts 2:33.

Implications for Us

The same Holy Spirit brings us to Christ (John 6:44); supernaturally reveals the truth of Christ to us (John 16:13); lives in us (individually and corporately), energizing, directing, empowering us as the children of God.

We need to submit to His authority and will and be led by Him; kept by Him (cf Jude 20, 21).

Spirit of Christ - Romans 8:9

Spirit of Glory

Reflects the glory of God in us and in the Church – 1 Peter 4:14. Helps us glorify God.


Described as such in John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7.

Parakletos = one who is called to come along side of us (Latin uses “Advocatus, or advocate, a term used in 1 John 2:1 in reference to Jesus Christ.)


He is our teacher: John 16:12, 13.

Implication for Us

We need to be teachable.

Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Holiness – Luke 11:13; Romans 1:4

Spirit of the Holy One. Spirit of God.

He is the one who “sets us apart” to God, transforms us, makes us holy.

Sanctifies the church – Romans 15:16; makes us “saints”.

Spirit of Wisdom – Exodus 28:3; Ephesians 1:17.

Wise, sensitive, imparts the wisdom of God to us.

Holy Spirit of Promise

The Holy Spirit is promised in various places in the Bible, eg

Spirit of Truth

John 14:17, 27; 16:13 He is the personification of Truth. He:

Distinguished from the “spirit of error” (1 John 4:6) in the world, inspired by Satan.

Spirit of Grace

Referred to in Hebrews 10:29; Zechariah 12:10. Imparts God’s grace to us:

If we drive away the spirit of grace we arguably cut ourselves off from God’s mercy.

Spirit of Life

Makes us free from the “law of sin and death”. Gives us abundant life. Romans 8:2; Revelation 11:11. He also gives us life as the Creator, the “breath of God”, Psalm 104:30; Isaiah 42:5.

The letter of the law “kills”, but the Spirit gives life – 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Spirit of Adoption

The “agent” of our adoption, or incorporation in the family of God as His legal heirs- Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:5, 6. Confirms our sonship in our hearts.

Spirit of Burning – Isaiah 4:4

Searching out, refining, burning dross, illuminating the believer.


Symbols “speak” to us of the work of the Holy Spirit – John 7:38

Wind – Job 33:4

Spirit means: ”breath” or “wind:” Hebrew “Ruach”; Greek “Pneuma”. Ezekiel 37:7-10; Acts 2:2 Jesus used the illustration of wind to signify the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion – John 3:8. He subsequently “breathed” on the disciples and imparted the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

Fire - Isaiah 4:4; Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16

The Holy Spirit gives us burning zeal, boldness. Speaking of the power of our witness, someone once said, “If you are on fire for Christ, people will come to watch you burn”.

Water – Isaiah 44:3, 4

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (type); John 4:14; 7:38, 39.

Water in the Bible symbolizes life, renewal. The Holy Spirit is the source of life. Much of the church is like “clouds without water” (Jude), promising but not delivering. Water:

The water of the Spirit continues to flow through willing believers.

Seal - Ephesians 1:13; 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22

Oil – Hebrews 1:9; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38

Oil was used for anointing (priests, kings, one prophet). Jesus was anointed (Acts 10:38). Also used for food, light, balm for healing. The Holy Spirit in us produces these things.

He who anoints us is God – 2 Corinthians 1:21.


Speaks of grace, gentleness, purity, peace, patience. The Holy Spirit “brooded” over the waters in Genesis 1:2. In form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16 and the 3 other Gospels).

Earnest - Ephesians 1:14

Down-payment, deposit, token, pledge, guarantee of balance of payment to come.


Some Incorrect Beliefs about the Holy Spirit



Christian Science

The Holy Spirit is Divine Science.


Denies the personality of the Holy Spirit; some believe the Holy Spirit is the spirit of a person who has died.

Jehovah’s Witness

The invisible active force of Almighty God.


The influence of deity, the light of Christ, a divine liquid.

Unification Church (“Moonies”)

Holy Spirit is a female Spirit (cf Gnostics believed the Holy Spirit to be a “female principle”). Cleanses sins.


Teaches the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same person.

Oxford Movement

Denied the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of Scripture. Replaced the Bible’s claims of supernaturalism with theories of naturalism and humanism. Denied the role of the Holy Spirit in salvation.

Liberalism, Neo-orthodoxy

Denies the personhood of the Holy Spirit. Reduces the Holy Spirit to “an allegorical way of speaking of ‘the possibility of a new life which is opened up by faith”. The work of the Holy Spirit is replaced with “human behaviour”.


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