|Chapter 5: GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
Seventh-day Adventists Believe...
God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the
Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired
the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ's life with
power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who
respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent
by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He
extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear
witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads
it into all truth.--Fundamental Beliefs, 5
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT
Though the crucifixion had bewildered, anguished, and
terrified Jesus' followers, the resurrection brought morning
to their lives. When Christ broke the shackles of death, the
kingdom of God dawned in their hearts.
Now unquenchable fire burned within their souls.
Differences that a few weeks earlier had erected nasty
barriers among the disciples melted. They confessed their
faults to one another and opened themselves more fully to
receive Jesus, their ascended King.
The unity of this once-scattered flock grew as they spent
day after day in prayer. One unforgettable day they were
praising God when a noise like the roar of a tornado ripped
through their midst. As though the burning in their hearts
were becoming visible, fiery flames descended on each head.
Like a rampaging fire, the Holy Spirit descended upon them.
Filled with the Spirit, the disciples could not contain
their new ardent love and joy in Jesus. Publicly, and
enthusiastically, they began to proclaim the good news of
salvation. Alerted by the sound, a multitude of local
citizens along with pilgrims from many nations flocked to
the building. Filled with amazement and confusion, they
heard--in their own language--powerful testimonies to God's
mighty works spoken by unsophisticated Galileans.
"I don't understand," said some, "What does this mean?"
Others tried to pass it off with, "They're drunk." "Not so,"
Peter cried above the noise of the crowd. "It's only nine
o'clock in the morning. What you have heard and seen is
taking place because the resurrected Jesus Christ has been
exalted to the right hand of God and is giving us the Holy
Spirit now" (Acts 2).
Who Is the Holy Spirit?
The Bible reveals that the Holy Spirit is a person, not
an impersonal force. Statements such as "It seemed good to
the Holy Spirit, and to us" (Acts 15:28) reveal that the
early believers viewed Him as a person. Christ also spoke of
Him as a person. Christ also spoke of Him as a distinct
person. "`He will glorify Me.'" He said, "`for He will take
of what is Mine and declare it to you'" (John 16:14).
Scriptures referring to the triune God describe the Spirit
as a person (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).
The Holy Spirit has personality. He strives (Gen. 6:3),
teaches (Luke 12:12), convicts (John 16:8), directs church
affairs (Acts 13:2), helps and intercedes (Rom. 8:26),
inspires (2 Peter 1:21), and sanctifies (1 Peter 1:2). These
activities cannot be performed by a mere power, influence,
or attribute of God. Only a person can do them.
The Holy Spirit Is Truly God
Scripture views the Holy Spirit as God. Peter told
Ananias that, in lying to the Holy Spirit, He had lied not
"`to men but to God'" (Acts 5:3,4). Jesus defined the
unpardonable sin as "`blasphemy against the Spirit,'"
saying, "`Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man,
it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy
Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or
in the age to come'" (Matt. 12:31,32). This could be true
only if the Holy Spirit is God.
Scripture associates divine attributes with the Holy
Spirit. He is life. Paul referred to Him as the "Spirit of
life" (Rom. 8:2). He is truth. Christ called Him the
"`Spirit of truth'" (John 16:13). The expressions "love of
the Spirit" (Rom. 15:30) and "the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph.
4:30) reveal that love and holiness are part of His nature.
The Holy Spirit is omnipotent. He distributes spiritual
gifts "to each one individually as He wills" (1 Cor. 12:11).
He is omnipresent. He will "`abide'" with His people
"`forever'" (John 14:16). None can escape His influence (Ps.
139:7-10). He also is omniscient, because "the Spirit
searches all things, yes, the deep things of God" and "no
one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God"
(1 Cor. 2:10,11).
The works of God are also associated with the Holy
Spirit. Creation and resurrection both involve Him. Said
Elihu, "`The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of
the Almighty gives me life'" (Job 33:4). And the psalmist
said, "You send forth Your Spirit, they are created" (Ps.
104:30). Paul claimed, "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).
Only an omnipresent personal God, not an impersonal
influence, nor a created being, could perform the miracle of
bringing the divine Christ to one individual, Mary. At
Pentecost the Spirit made the one God-man, Jesus,
universally present to all willing recipients.
The Holy Spirit is considered equal with the Father and
the Son in the baptismal formula (Matt. 28:19), the
apostolic blessing (2 Cor. 13:14), and the spiritual-gifts
discourse (1 Cor. 12:4-6).
The Holy Spirit and the Godhead
From eternity God and Holy Spirit lived within the
Godhead as the third member. The Father, Son, and Spirit are
equally self-existent. Though each is equal, an economy of
function operates within the Trinity (see Chapter 2 of this
The truth about God the Holy Spirit is best understood as
seen through Jesus. When the Spirit comes to believers, He
comes as the "Spirit of Christ"--He does not come in His own
right, carrying His own credentials. His activity in history
centers in Christ's mission of salvation. The Holy Spirit
was actively involved in Christ's birth (Luke 1:35),
confirmed His public ministry at baptism (Matt. 3:16,17),
and brought the benefits of Christ's atoning sacrifice and
resurrection to humanity (Rom. 8:11).
In the Godhead, the Spirit seems to fulfill the role of
executor. When the Father gave His Son to the world (John
3:16), He was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18-20).
The Holy Spirit came to complete the plan, to make it a
The Holy Spirit's intimate involvement in creation is
seen in His presence at Creation (Gen. 1:2). Life's origin
and maintenance depends on His operation; His departure
means death. Said the Bible, If God "`should gather to
Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish
together, and man would return to dust'" (Job 34:14,15; cf.
33:4). We can see reflections of the Spirit's creative work
in His re-creative work within each person who is open to
God. God carries out His work within individuals through the
Creator Spirit. So in incarnation, creation, and
re-creation, the Spirit comes to bring God's intention to
The Promised Spirit
We were intended to be dwelling places of the Holy Spirit
(see 1 Cor. 3:16). Adam and Eve's sin separated them from
both the Garden and the indwelling Spirit. That separation
continues--the enormity of wickedness before the Flood led
God to declare, "`My Spirit shall not strive with man
forever'" (Gen. 6:3).
In Old Testament times the Spirit equipped certain
individuals to perform special tasks (Num. 24:2; Judges
6:34; 1 Sam. 10:6). At times He is "in" persons (Ex. 31:3;
Isa. 63:11). Undoubtedly genuine believers have always had
an awareness of His presence, but prophecy predicted a
pouring out of the Spirit "`on all flesh'" (Joel 2:28)--a
time when a greater manifestation of the Spirit would usher
in a new age.
While the world remained in the hands of the usurper, the
pouring out of the fullness of the Spirit had to wait.
Before the Spirit could be poured out upon all flesh Christ
must carry out His earthly ministry and make the atoning
sacrifice. Pointing to Christ's ministry as a Spirit
ministry, John the Baptist said, "`I indeed baptize you with
water'" but He "`will baptize you with the Holy Spirit'"
(Matt. 3:11). But the Gospels do not reveal Jesus baptizing
with the Holy Spirit. Just hours before His death, Jesus
promised His disciples, "`I will pray the Father, and He
will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you
forever, even the Spirit of truth'" (John 14:16,17). Was the
promised baptism of the Spirit received at the cross? No
dove appeared on crucifixion Friday--only darkness and bolts
Not until after His resurrection did Jesus breathe the
Spirit on His disciples (John 20:22). He said, "`Behold, I
send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the
city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on
high'" (Luke 24:49). This power would be received "`when the
Holy Spirit has come upon you,'" making believers His
witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
John wrote, "`The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because
Jesus was not yet glorified'" (John 7:39). The Father's
acceptance of Christ's sacrifice was the pre-requisite for
the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The new age broke in only when our victorious Lord was
seated on heaven's throne. Only then could He send the Holy
Spirit in His fullness. After "`being exalted to the right
hand of God,'" Peter said, He "`poured out'" the Holy Spirit
(Acts 2:33) upon His disciples, who, anxiously anticipating
this event, had gathered "with one accord in prayer and
supplication" (Acts 1:5, 14). At Pentecost, fifty days after
Calvary, the new age burst forth with all the power of the
Spirit's presence. "And suddenly there came a sound from
heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole
house where they [the disciples] were sitting....And they
were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:2-4).
The missions of both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were
totally interdependent. The fullness of the Holy Spirit
could not be given until Jesus had completed His mission.
And Jesus, in turn, was conceived of the Spirit (Matt.
1:8-21), baptized by the Spirit (Mark 1:9,10), led by the
Spirit (Luke 4:1), performed His miracles through the Spirit
(Matt. 12:24-32), offered Himself at Calvary through the
Spirit (Heb. 9:14,15) and was, in part, resurrected by the
Spirit (Rom. 8:11).
Jesus was the first person to experience the fullness of
the Holy Spirit. The astounding truth is that our Lord is
willing to pour out His Spirit on all who earnestly desire
The Mission of the Holy Spirit
The evening before Christ's death His words about His
impending departure greatly troubled His disciples. He
immediately assured them that they would receive the Holy
Spirit as His personal representative. They would not be
left as orphans (John 14:18).
The Origin of the Mission
The New Testament reveals the Holy Spirit in a unique
way. He is called the "Spirit of Jesus" (Acts 16:7, NIV),
"Spirit of His Son" (Gal. 4:6), "Spirit of God" (Rom. 8:9),
the "Spirit of Christ" (Rom. 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11), and the
"Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:19). Who originated the
Holy Spirit's mission--Jesus Christ or God the Father?
When Christ revealed the origin of the Holy Spirit's
mission to a lost world, He mentioned two sources. First, He
referred to the Father: "`I will pray the Father, and He
will give you another Helper'" (John 14:16; cf. 15:26,
"`from the Father'"). The baptism with the Holy Spirit He
called "the Promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). Second,
Christ referred to Himself: "`I will send Him [the Spirit]
to you'" (John 16:7). Thus the Holy Spirit proceeds from
both the Father and the Son.
His Mission to the World
We can acknowledge Christ's Lordship only through the
influence of the Holy Spirit. Said Paul, "No one can say
that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).
We are given the assurance that, through the Holy Spirit,
Christ, "the true Light," illuminates "every man who comes
into the world" (John 1:9). His mission is to "`convict the
world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment'"
First, the Holy Spirit brings to us a deep conviction of
sin, especially the sin of not accepting Christ (John 16:9).
Second, the Spirit urges all to accept the righteousness of
Christ. Third, the Spirit warns us of judgment, a powerful
tool in stirring up sin-darkened minds to the need of
repentance and conversion.
When we have repented we can be born again through the
baptism of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). Then ours
is a new life, for we have become the dwelling place of the
Spirit of Christ.
His Mission for Believers
The majority of texts concerning the Holy Spirit pertain
to His relationship with God's people. His sanctifying
influence leads to obedience (1 Peter 1:2), but no one
continues to experience His abiding presence without meeting
certain conditions. Peter said God has given the Spirit to
those who continuously obey Him (Acts 5:32).(*1) Thus,
believers are warned about resisting, grieving, and
quenching the Spirit (Acts 7:51; Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19).
What does the Spirit do for believers?
1. He assists believers.
When introducing the Holy Spirit, Christ called Him
"`another Parakletos'" (John 14:16). This Greek word has
been translated as "Helper" (NKJV), "Comforter" (KJV),
"Counselor" (RSV), and can mean also "Intercessor,"
"Mediator," or "Advocate."
The only other Parakletos mentioned in Scripture is
Christ Himself. He is our Advocate or Intercessor before the
Father. "My little children, these things I write to you,
that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an
Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"
(1 John 2:1).
As Intercessor, Mediator, and Helper, Christ presents us
to God and reveals God to us. Similarly, the Spirit guides
us to Christ and manifests Christ's grace to us. This
explains why the Spirit is called the "Spirit of grace"
(Heb. 10:29). One of His greatest contributions is the
application of Christ's redeeming grace to people
(see 1 Cor. 15:10; 2 Cor. 9:14; James 4:5,6).
2. He brings the truth of Christ.
Christ called the Holy Spirit the "`Spirit of truth'"
(John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). His functions include bringing
"`to your remembrance all things that I said to you'" (John
14:26) and guiding "`you into all truth'" (John 16:13). His
message testifies to Jesus Christ (John 15:26). "`He will
not speak on His own authority,'" Christ said, "`but
whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things
to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is
Mine and declare it to you'" (John 16:13,14).
3. He brings the presence of Christ.
Not only does He bring the message about Christ, He
brings the very presence of Christ. Jesus said, "`It is to
your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the
Helper [Holy Spirit, John 14:16,17] will not come to you;
but if I depart, I will send Him to you'" (John 16:7).
Cumbered with humanity, the Man Jesus was not
omnipresent, which was why it was expedient that He depart.
Through the Spirit He could be everywhere all the time.
Jesus said, "`I will pray the Father, and He will give you
another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the
Spirit of truth.'" He gave the assurance that the Spirit was
to dwell "`with you and will be in you. I will not leave you
orphans; I will come to you'" (John 14:17,18). "The Holy
Spirit is Christ's representative, but divested of the
personality of humanity, and independent thereof."(*2)
At the incarnation the Holy Spirit brought the presence
of Christ to a person--Mary. At Pentecost, the Spirit
brought the victorious Christ to the world. Christ's
promises--"`I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Heb.
13:5) and "`I am with you always, even to the end of the
age'" (Matt. 28:20)--are realized through the Spirit. For
this reason the New Testament gives the Spirit a title never
used of Him in the Old Testament--"the Spirit of Jesus"
Just as it is through the Spirit that both the Father and
the Son make believers Their home (John 14:23), so the only
way believers can abide in Christ is through the Spirit.
4. He guides the operation of the church.
Since the Holy Spirit brings the very presence of Christ,
He is the true Vicar of Christ on earth. As the abiding
center of authority in matters of faith and doctrine the
ways in which He leads the church accord fully with the
Bible. "The distinctive feature of Protestantism--without
which there would be no Protestantism--is that the Holy
Spirit is the true vicar or successor of Christ on earth. To
depend on organization, or leaders, or wisdom of men, is to
put the human in place of the divine."(*3)
The Holy Spirit was intimately involved in administrating
the apostolic church. In selecting missionaries the church
obtained His guidance through prayer and fasting
(Acts 13:1-4). The individuals selected were known for their
openness to the Spirit's leading. The book of Acts describes
them as "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:9, cf. 52).
Their activities were under His control (Acts 16:6,7). Paul
reminded church elders that they had been put into their
position by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).
The Holy Spirit played an important role in resolving
serious difficulties that threatened the unity of the
church. Indeed, Scripture introduces the decisions of the
first church council with the words "It seemed good to the
Holy Spirit, and to us..." (Acts 15:28).
5. He equips the church with special gifts.
The Holy Spirit has bestowed special gifts on God's
people. In Old Testament times "the Spirit of the Lord" came
"upon" individuals, giving them extraordinary powers to lead
and deliver Israel (Judges 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; etc.) and the
ability to prophesy (Num. 11:17,25,26; 2 Sam. 23:2). The
Spirit came upon Saul and David when they were anointed as
rulers of God's people (1 Sam. 10:6,10; 16:13). To some
people, the infilling of the Spirit brought unique artistic
skills (Ex. 28:3; 31:3; 35:30-35).
In the early church, as well, it was through the Holy
Spirit that Christ bestowed His gifts on the church. The
Spirit distributed these spiritual gifts to believers as He
saw fit, thus benefiting the whole church (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor.
12:7-11). He provided the special power necessary for
proclaiming the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8;
see chapter 16 of this book).
6. He fills the heart of believers.
Paul's query to the disciples at Ephesus, "`Did you
receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'" (Acts 19:2), is
a crucial question for every believer.
When Paul received a negative reply he laid hands on
those disciples, and they received the baptism of the Holy
Spirit (Acts 19:6).
This incident indicates that the conviction of sin
brought about by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's infilling
of the life are two different experiences.
Jesus pointed out the necessity of being born of water
and of the Spirit (John 3:5). Just before His ascension He
commanded new believers to be baptized "`in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'" (Matt.
28:19). In harmony with this command Peter preached that
"`the gift of the Holy Spirit'" is to be received at baptism
(Acts 2:38). And Paul confirms the importance of the baptism
of the Holy Spirit (see chapter 14 of this book) with an
urgent appeal that believers "be filled with the Spirit"
The infilling of the Holy Spirit, transforming us into
the image of God, continues the work of sanctification begun
at the new birth. God has saved us according to His mercy
"through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the
Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through
Jesus Christ our Saviour" (Titus 3:5,6).
"It is the absence of the Spirit that makes the gospel
ministry so powerless. Learning, talent, eloquence, every
natural or acquired endowment may be possessed; but, without
the presence of the Spirit of God, no heart will be touched,
no sinner won to Christ. On the other hand, if they are
connected with Christ, if the gifts of the Spirit are
theirs, the poorest and most ignorant of His disciples will
have a power that will tell upon hearts. God makes them
channels for the outflowing of the highest influence in the
The Spirit is vital. All of the changes Jesus Christ
effects in us come through the ministry of the Spirit. As
believers we should be constantly aware that without the
Spirit we can accomplish nothing (John 15:5).
Today the Holy Spirit directs our attention to the
greatest gift of love God proffers in His Son. He pleads
that we not resist His appeals, but accept the only way
whereby we can be reconciled to our loving and gracious
1. See Arnold V. Wallenkampf, New by the Spirit (Mountain
View, CA: Pacific Press, 1978), pp. 49,50.
2. White, Desire of Ages, p. 669.
3. LeRoy E. Froom, The Coming of the Comforter, rev. ed.
(Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1949), pp. 66,67.
4. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA:
Pacific Press, 1948), vol. 8, pp. 21,22.