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 (Q and A on Biblical Doctrines)
Chapter 3: The Holy Spirit
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Q1 Who or what is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is God Himself, for “God is Spirit” (Jn 4:24). In the Old Testament, God spoke of a time when He would give His Spirit to man: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” (Joel 2:28). These words were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when 120 disciples received the promised Holy Spirit for the first time (Acts 2). Today, this same promise is being fulfilled in the true church. 

Q2 How does the Bible refer to the Holy Spirit?

It refers to the Holy Spirit by various titles:

• “Spirit of God” (Gen 1:2; 1 Cor 3:16)

• “Spirit of the Lord” (Isa 11:2; Lk 4:18)

• “Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor 3:3)

• “Spirit of [the] Father” (Mt 10:20)

• “Spirit of Christ” (Rom 8:9) 

• “Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7)[1] 

• “Spirit of His Son” (Gal 4:6)

• “Spirit of truth” (Jn 16:13)

• “Spirit of glory and of God” (1 Pet 4:14)

• “Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4)

• “[God’s] good Spirit” (Neh 9:20)

• “Helper” or “Comforter” (Jn 14:16)[2] 

• “eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14)

• “spirit of judgment” and “spirit of burning” (Isa 4:4)

• “seven Spirits” (Rev 1:4)

The Holy Spirit has many titles, but He is one Spirit (Eph 4:4).

Q3 When did the Holy Spirit’s work begin?

The Book of Genesis records the Holy Spirit’s work from the time of creation (Gen 1:2). Hence, a psalmist writes, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). Also, Job testifies, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens…” (Job 26:13); “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). 

In the Old Testament, the work of the Holy Spirit was to inspire prophets and righteous men to speak God’s words, perform miracles and predict future events (e.g. Judg 15:14; 1 Sam 16:13). In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit made possible the conception of Jesus (Lk 1:31, 34–35) and empowered Him for God’s work (Lk 4:18; Jn 3:34). After Jesus ascended to heaven, the Spirit came down upon the believers from the day of Pentecost and began working mightily with the early church (Acts 2).

Q4 Has the Holy Spirit remained with Christians ever since Pentecost?

No, He has not. The Holy Spirit came down at two different times, for the Bible speaks prophetically and symbolically about two distinct dispensations: the early (autumn) rain and the latter (spring) rain (Deut 11:14). The early rain refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early church, beginning at Pentecost (Acts 2), while the latter rain refers to the outpouring of the Spirit on God’s church in this end time. In between the two dispensations was a winter period when the skies withheld their rain—signifying the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit from the post-apostolic church. This was due to the infiltration of heresies, causing the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth—to depart. It was not until the early 1900s that the Holy Spirit came down once again, in tandem with the revelation of the truth of salvation.

Q5 Where in the Bible is it prophesied that the skies would withhold their rain?

The prophecies are in the following passages:

• “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you” (Deut 11:16–17).

• “They do not say in their heart, ‘Let us now fear the Lord our God, who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.’ Your iniquities have turned these things away, and your sins have withheld good from you” (Jer 5:24–25).  

• “…And you have polluted the land with your harlotries and your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain...” (Jer 3:2–3).         

These words were originally directed at the ancient Israelites and describe the conditions under which God would withhold the rain in a literal sense. They came true, for example, during the time of King Ahab, after he led the nation to commit idolatry. The consequence was the stoppage of rain for three and a half years (1 Kgs 16:32–33; 17:1). However, these words were also fulfilled much later in a spiritual sense, during the time of the post-apostolic church. This time, God withdrew the rain—His Holy Spirit—when the church departed from the truth.

Q6 How can we receive the Holy Spirit today?

The Bible teaches the following:

• To receive the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17), we need to believe and obey God through the perfect gospel of salvation (Acts 5:32). Prophet Hosea says, “Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hos 6:3). Here, the prophet assures us that God will come to us as surely as the dawn and the rain. All that He requires is that we pursue to know Him through His word and to obey it.

• We need to ask God for His Spirit (Lk 11:9–13). Zechariah says, “Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone” (Zech 10:1). The Bible also encourages us with the example of Elijah who prayed for rain during a time of spiritual and physical drought and was answered by God (1 Kgs 18:41–45; Jas 5:17–18). Elder James reinforces the importance of asking by saying, “...Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (Jas 4:2).

• To receive the Holy Spirit, we need to remove any impurities from our hearts, such as indifference, complacency and pride. This is because they will act as obstacles in our communication with God (see Lk 18:9–14). The Book of Proverbs exhorts, “Turn at my reproof; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you” (Prov 1:23).

Q7 Why did the Holy Spirit not come down until after Jesus ascended to heaven?

The Holy Spirit did not come down until then because Jesus had yet to be glorified (Jn 7:39; Acts 2:32–33). Jesus told the disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (Jn 16:7).

Q8 What work did the Holy Spirit accomplish for Jesus?

After Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit continued His work in different ways. For example, He testified for Jesus (Jn 15:26; Acts 5:32), glorified Him (Jn 16:14), taught the disciples and reminded them of His words (Jn 14:26; Jn 16:15). The Holy Spirit was Jesus Himself, now living in the hearts of the believers (Jn 14:16–23).

Q9 What similarities exist between the work of the Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus?

From the Bible, we see the following similarities:

• During His ministry, Jesus called the people to repent (Mk 1:15). Likewise, the Holy Spirit now convicts people of sin and brings them to repentance (Jn 16:8; Acts 11:15–18).

• Jesus preached the truth (Jn 8:45–46). In the same way, the Holy Spirit now guides believers into all truth (Jn 16:13).

• Jesus came to give life to those willing to obey Him (Jn 10:10). The Holy Spirit now gives life to whoever repents and believes in Jesus (see Acts 11:18) and enables them to live and walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25).    

• Jesus says, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn 10:9). Today, we enter into Jesus by the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:2–3), for Paul says, “...No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).

• When we believe in Jesus, He grants us the right to become the children of God (Jn 1:12). Likewise, the Holy Spirit lives within our hearts and enables us to call God, “Abba, Father” (Rom 8:15–16; Gal 4:6).

• God revealed His love to us through Jesus (Jn 3:16; Rom 5:8). Also, by sending His Holy Spirit, God has poured out His love into our hearts (Rom 5:5).

• Jesus is our Advocate who intercedes for us in heaven (1 Jn 2:1; Heb 7:25), while the Holy Spirit is our Counsellor who intercedes for us on earth (Jn 14:16 RSV; Rom 8:26–27).

• When Jesus was ministering on earth, He sent His disciples out  to preach (Mt 10:1–42). Today, the Holy Spirit sends out workers to do His work (e.g. Acts 13:2–3). On the last day, Jesus will come again to take us with Him (Jn 14:3). At that time, the Holy Spirit will lift us into the clouds so that we “meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess 4:17).

Q10 How does believing in Jesus relate to our receiving the Holy Spirit?

The purpose of believing in Jesus is to belong to Him; and the mark of belonging is baptism in the Spirit. Paul explains that the Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–17). He describes the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a “sealing” from God (Eph 4:30)—a sign that “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim 2:19). Those without this seal can be likened to the foolish virgins who had lamps that were devoid of oil. On the last day, Jesus will say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Mt 25:12).

Q11 How does the baptism of the Holy Spirit benefit us?

The baptism of the Holy Spirit benefits us in a number of ways:

• The Holy Spirit effects our spiritual rebirth. Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:5–6; see also Ezek 37:14).

• The Holy Spirit seals us for salvation. Paul says, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:13–14).

• The Holy Spirit sets us free. Paul says, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2); “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17).

• The Holy Spirit teaches us the truth. Jesus says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn 14:26). Elder John says, “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him” (1 Jn 2:27). Also, Paul tells us, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Cor 2:12).

• The Holy Spirit strengthens us. Paul’s prayer for the church was that the members “be strengthened with might through [God’s] Spirit in the inner man” (Eph 3:16). And, should we experience persecution for the sake of our faith, we can take heart from Peter’s words: “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you…” (1 Pet 4:14).

• The Holy Spirit empowers us to witness for Jesus. The Lord has promised, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). According to Paul, our testimony for Jesus is not “with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4).

• The Holy Spirit helps us to bear fruit. The Book of Galatians says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...” (Gal 5:22–23).

• The Holy Spirit helps us to pray. The Bible encourages us to “[pray] in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20), and to “[pray] always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph 6:18). The benefit is that “the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom 8:26).

• The Holy Spirit bestows spiritual gifts. Paul says, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4); “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor 12:11).

• The Holy Spirit comforts us. The early Christians were comforted by the Holy Spirit during trials: “Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Also, Paul’s earnest prayer for the church was that she “abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13).

• The Holy Spirit sanctifies us. Paul says, “...But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11; cf. Rom 15:16; 1 Pet 1:2).

• The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual life. Paul says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11).

Q12 What is the nature of the Holy Spirit?

Some people regard the Holy Spirit as merely the power of God, failing to grasp that He is God Himself, with all His divine attributes and personality. The Bible states that the Spirit searches all things (1 Cor 2:10); has His own will (Rom 8:27; 1 Cor 12:11); loves (Rom 15:30); is gracious (Heb 10:29); can be grieved (Eph 4:30); instructs (Neh 9:20); speaks (Acts 8:29); forbids (Acts 16:6–7); appoints and sends out workers (Isa 48:16; Acts 13:2, 4; 20:28); witnesses (1 Jn 5:7); gives revelations (Eph 3:5). The Bible therefore warns us against offending or blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mt 12:31–32).

Q13 How can we experience the Holy Spirit?

Jesus says that we cannot see the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17), for He is without shape or form. However, like the wind, we can perceive Him: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn 3:8). Jesus’ words aptly describe the experience of the disciples on the day of Pentecost: they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a way that could be seen and heard (Acts 2:33; 8:18). The primary sign was the speaking of spiritual tongues (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6). In their particular case, they also saw tongues of fire and heard the sound of rushing wind (Acts 2:1–4).

The promise of the Holy Spirit continues to hold true for believers today (Acts 2:38–39). The only condition is that we accept the complete gospel of salvation and obey it (Acts 5:32). When we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we, too, will speak in tongues, like the early Christians (Acts 2:1–4; 10:44–46; 19:6).

Q14 What symbols does the Bible use for the Holy Spirit, and what do they signify?

The Bible uses a variety of symbols or descriptions to highlight the nature of the Holy Spirit and His work:

• Wind—dynamism and renewal (Ezek 37:9–10; Jn 3:8; Acts 2:2)

• Fire—warmth and refining power (Isa 4:4; Acts 2:3)

• Water—abundance and life (Jn 4:14; 7:38–39)

• Oil—light and joy (Mt 25:4; Heb 1:9)

• Rain—mercy and grace (Hos 6:3; 10:12; Zech 10:1; Mt 5:45) 

• Dove—goodness and peace (Mt 3:16; 10:16)

• Seal—promise (Eph 1:13; 4:30; 2 Tim 2:19)

• Guarantee—assurance (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14)

• Sword—discernment and severity (Gen 3:24; Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12)

Q15 Can anyone receive the Holy Spirit?

God promises the Holy Spirit to every person He calls through the gospel (Acts 2:38–39; 15:7–8; Gal 3:5). However, Jesus says that some people will not be able to receive Him: “...The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him...” (Jn 14:17). Specifically, God will not give His precious Spirit to those who refuse to believe or obey Him (Acts 5:32).

Q16 What attitude should we have towards the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is vital for salvation, and we should:

• open our hearts to let Him in (Gal 4:6; Rev 3:20).

• pray to God for His Spirit (Lk 11:13; Acts 1:4).

• be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18).

not grieve Him (Eph 4:30).

not quench Him (1 Thess 5:19).

endeavour to walk and live by the Spirit (Gal 5:16, 25).

earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 14:1).

Q17 How might a person offend the Holy Spirit, and what are the consequences?

It is a serious matter to offend the Holy Spirit, and we risk doing this if we:

• Resist Him. This means hardening our heart and refusing to believe in Jesus Christ, or persecuting those who preach His gospel (Acts 7:51–60).

• Deceive Him. The Book of Acts warns against lying to the Holy Spirit by recording the incident of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11).

• Sin wilfully. The Bible warns against sinning deliberately after we have received God’s salvation: “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb 10:29).

• Blaspheme. Jesus warns us about the gravest of sins, which is to attribute the work, manifestation, or gifts of the Holy Spirit to the devil (e.g. Mk 3:20–22). This constitutes a mortal sin—one that can never be forgiven (Mt 12:31–32; Mk 3:28–29).


© 2012 True Jesus Church.


[1]      NU Text.

[2]      Counsellor (RSV).

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