What is Holy Spirit: Who is he? - I

What does the name ‘Spirit’ signify? The words translating Spirit from the original languages in the Bible are ambiguous, signifying a movement of air (wind, breath, breeze).

John Owen in The Holy Spirit answers:

“…It is sufficiently evident that there is in the Scripture, a full and complete revelation of the Spirit of God, as one singular, and every way distinct from every thing else denoted by that name; and that whatever is affirmed of this Holy Spirit, relates either to his person or operations.” (p. 55).

Though often simply called “the Spirit” in the Bible, in regard to his properties he is named the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of holiness and the Spirit of grace. And regarding his relations he is called the Spirit of God and the Spirit of the Son. And in regard to his person he is called the Holy Spirit.

His Relations: Persons of the Godhead

Throughout Scripture the Spirit is called either the Spirit of God or Spirit of the LORD (including in reference to God, “your good Spirit” or the “Spirit of your Father”), speaking of his relation to God the Father.

In the New Testament the Spirit is also called the Spirit of God’s Son, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of the Lord, speaking of his relation to God the Son.

Just as the Son is called the Son of God, the Spirit is the Spirit of God. And just as the Spirit has eternally been God’s own Spirit, the Spirit has eternally been the Spirit of the Son who himself has eternally been one with the Father. Speaking of the Prophets in the Old Testament, before the coming of Christ, the Apostle Peter refers to the “Spirit of Christ in them” because the Holy Spirit has eternally existed as both the ‘Spirit of the Son’ and the ‘Spirit of God’ (1 Peter 1:10-11).

His Person: Name and Nature

The Spirit is also called the Holy Spirit, not only because his work relates to sanctification, but also more eminently, because his nature is holy. Just as God is himself ‘holy’ and is called the ‘Holy One’, so too God’s Spirit is called the Holy Spirit. Since he is God’s own Spirit he has God’s own nature, God’s own holiness.

God may command his holy ones (angels) to execute his commands, whether in mercy or in righteous judgment. But also in his righteous judgment there are some actions brought about by God’s decree that are not brought about by him directly; that is, they are not brought about by God’s own Spirit, but by evil spirits.

By God’s permission these actions are opposed to the Holy Spirit and are carried out by evil spirits acting upon persons or things, often decreed by God as punishment for wickedness, though not always (cf. Job 1). A famous example is in 1 Samuel 16:14-15, 19:9; an evil spirit is appointed and commissioned by God to punish Saul (cf. 1 Samuel 10:6, 9). This is explained more in God, Evil and Sovereignty.

But there is no good that God works that is not done by God directly; that is, God does it by the Holy Spirit. All spiritual benefits come through the Spirit. Whether mercy or grace, whatever good God works in us is by his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.


Owen, John. The Holy Spirit--His Gifts and Power. Christian Focus Publications 2004, p. 55-60.

1 comment:

Mark Sherring said...

thanks for your informative & readable series on pentecostalism,
especially the important historical background. In regard to this present article, I would like to add some comments about the term 'Holy Spirit' and its history as well.
As far as I know, the scripture never ascribes the title 'Holy Spirit', the word 'holy' (hagios, hagion, etc) instead always being an adjective when used this way (i.e. a descriptor of character). The roots of this practice seem to be back in Wycliffe's english version of 1380 - and thence carried thru' into the first King James translation - with the distinction between 'Ghost' and 'Spirit' (even tho' this created an obvious problem in Acts 16:6-7).
Prior to about the mid-1500s, there was no distinction between 'spirit' and 'Spirit'; from then, printers introduced the practice of capitalising to 'Spirit' (contrary to the Gk & Hebrew practice) apparently as a theologicaldoctrinal safeguard against confusion with 'spirits' (evil). While the motivation for this practice is understandable (yet is applied variably across translations), it can also have the unfortunate side-effect of dividing off the Spirit as a separate entity (conceptually) from the spirit of God/Christ, and, if the logic is taken to the extreme, of producing a polytheistic view of the Godhead.
Perhaps this contributed to Janet Lancaster's teaching on the Spirit ?
Thanks again for your good work, Mark.