Holy spirit

what is he and what does he do?


It is hard to imagine how the disciples felt between the ascension of Jesus and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. They had spent years following Jesus and growing closer to him, watching him die and rise from the dead, only to have him taken from them and ascended to heaven. But the departure of Jesus from the earth gave way to the arrival of another, the Holy Spirit.

As we approach Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit is at the forefront of our thoughts. Christians around the world pray to know the presence of the Holy Spirit, but what do we know about the Spirit himself?

Who is the Holy Spirit?
Many of us experience confusion when trying to understand or explain the Holy Spirit. Analogies like clover or water in different states that serve to make the understanding of the Spirit more accessible often end up distorting it and misleading us.

Somehow, knowing what the Spirit is not is an important step in the process of improving our awareness of what is is. The Holy Spirit is not a feeling or form of God as a number of analogies suggest. To think of the Holy Spirit in this way undermines him and causes us to think of him in a way that reduces his power and importance.

When Jesus told the disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit, he said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” The Greek word for another, as used in this context, is allos. Allos translates to “another of the same kind”. When we study the language of Jesus in reference to the Holy Spirit, we can see why analogies that group the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in different forms do not allow us to grasp the full picture. The way Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit reveals that they are like the others. We should consider the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity, a distinct and divine personality. The Holy Spirit is God, as are the Father and the Son, but He is not the Father or the Son in another form.

What does the Holy Spirit do?
In addition to Jesus’ reference to the Holy Spirit as another like him, he also describes the Spirit as an advocate. The Greek word for advocate, paraclete, is defined as “he who is called to his side and helps.” Just as the disciples had Jesus physically as a teacher and guide to follow and learn as he ministered during his earthly life. In His place on earth, the Holy Spirit is our guide (John 16:13), physically present with us throughout our journey in life. But the Holy Spirit is not just a presence, he is our comforter and counselor. While the Bible is a resource we can study to learn what Jesus taught, the Holy Spirit is a source that reminds us of his commandments and teachings. He equips us with the tools (fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:13-25) to act virtuously and instills in us spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12). Often the way we talk about the Spirit may suggest that we only experience it temporarily, or at intervals, but Jesus told his disciples that the Spirit would be with them forever. He stays with us.

For the disciples, the thought of no longer having Jesus physically with them was something that troubled and intrigued them (John 14:1-5). Jesus reassured them with his promise of the Holy Spirit. From this promise, as well as from the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were able to draw comfort and so can we. Knowing the way without Jesus here to physically follow would be impossible without the Holy Spirit. But with the Spirit as our helper and advocate, we are able to determine truth because He upholds the same principles that Jesus did during His earthly ministry (John 16:14).