One of the most comforting prophecies found in the Bible involves the promise of Jesus to send His followers the Holy Spirit. The very Spirit of God Almighty, the Holy Spirit’s origins far predate those of mankind, having been present from the very beginning:
“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters” (Genesis 1:2, NLT).
In fact, even though Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His disciples, the Old Testament provides evidence that those of faith prior to Christ’s coming could also enjoy the comfort and powers of the Holy Spirit. Several ancient figures, including those who penned the various books of the Old Testament, were said to have been filled with this Spirit. As the Scriptures say of Othniel in Judges:
“The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he became Israel’s judge” (Judges 3:10,NLT).
The New Testament confirms this, citing that the origin of all prophecy in Scripture is the result of God’s Holy Spirit:
“Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20–21, NLT).
But what’s most intriguing about this indwelling of the Holy Spirit is that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ paved the way for all of us to experience this gift from God:
“Then John testified, ‘I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, “The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God’” (John 1:32–34, NLT).
John testified that Jesus of Nazareth would baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Prophesied the Coming of the Holy Spirit
Just as John prophesied, Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit. His ministry, murder, and resurrection changed the course of human history forever. Jesus promised His disciples that, in His absence, He would send them the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of truth:
“But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry” (John 15:26–27, NLT).
This Spirit is easily identifiable, as He always testifies on behalf of, and about, Jesus Christ.
The Arrival of the Holy Spirit
This prophecy of Jesus was fulfilled on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven and filled the believers who were meeting together:
“On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability” (Acts 2:1–4, NLT).
Peter then goes on to explain that this experience was also prophesied by the prophet Joel long ago:
“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on servants—men and women alike” (Joel 2:28–29, NLT).
This fulfillment of prophecy occurred because of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ:
“God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today” (Acts 2:32–33, NLT).
Peter could make the above statement with authority, not just because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, but because he was a firsthand witness of the resurrected Jesus and His promise. Chirst promised His disciples the arrival of the Holy Spirit, a helper who would provide them with the power to witness to the world on His behalf:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NLT).
The Purpose of the Holy Spirit
So what is the purpose of the Holy Spirit?
The presence of the Holy Spirit in your life will lead to great transformation. Being “born again,” you will become a new creation, meaning the sinful desires of your old life will now yield to the desires of Christ. This process doesn’t require a bolt of lightning or a dramatic Hollywood epiphany. The transformation is sometimes gradual, but it’s nevertheless quite noticeable:
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT).
Power Over the Sinful Lifestyle
This baptism by the Holy Spirit is not for the purpose of the cleansing from sin, but for the purpose of empowering us for His service. The blood of Christ on the cross is what washes away the sin of our past life, but acceptance of this gift results in the believer ceding authority over his personal life from himself to the Holy Spirit:
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8:5–6, NLT).
A person directed by the Holy Spirit is truly a new creation! The ways of the old life are discarded in favor of a new life of peace and reassurance based upon hope and trust in the person of Jesus Christ.
A New Life
Paul reminds us that to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, to have Him directing your life, is the same as to have the Spirit of Christ living within you. Those who claim to love Him but lack His Spirit do not belong to Him at all. If they did, He would give them new life:
“You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:9–11, NLT).
Paul reiterates this concept in His letter to Titus and reminds us that the Holy Spirit comes not as a result of our own great deeds, but solely as a result of the kindness and love of our great God and Savior:
“When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4–5, NLT).
The Holy Spirit Spreads the Gospel
In addition, Paul testifies to the power of the Holy Spirit to lead people into a life of belief:
“They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit” (Romans 15:19, NLT).
The Holy Spirit plants the initial seed of the gospel in the heart of every person. The more a person listens, the more the Holy Spirit reveals to that person—so much so that those who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ are completely unable to understand God’s spiritual truths. They see it all as foolishness:
“But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others. For, ‘Who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to teach him?’ But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10–16, NLT).
Human wisdom cannot understand the Spirit of God. To the human mind, the gift of Christ and His sending of the Holy Spirit is foolishness. Humans living apart from the Spirit cannot make sense of it! But despite their inability to understand, the Holy Spirit is equally available for every person, for the Holy Spirit individually testifies to every person:
“I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true” (John 18:37, NLT).
To be born again and be filled with the Holy Spirit, one must first acknowledge the Spirit of truth, and the Spirit of truth testifies that everything Jesus Christ said is true. He is the Son of the Living God!
Lifelong rejection of this truth only leads down the road to destruction:
“So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come” (Matthew 12:31–32, NLT).
The Holy Spirit as Counselor
The Holy Spirit is also an advocate for the teachings of Jesus Christ. Since the Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of Christ, we are never without His counsel:
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26, NLT).
The Holy Spirit provides wisdom and counsel to those who listen, and the Holy Spirit gives glory to Christ. This is how you will know if the Holy Spirit is your advisor:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me’” (John 16:13–15, NLT).
The Holy Spirit will always glorify Jesus and the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will always remind a person that he is a sinner in need of Christ’s saving grace. The Holy Spirit, if you listen, will continually speak to you, directing you to follow God’s commandments and love your neighbor as yourself. In these ways and more, the Holy Spirit is the constant presence of Jesus Christ, teaching and instructing us in all manner of godly living.
How Do You Receive the Holy Spirit?
To truly belong to God, a person must be born again. Jesus explained this concept to Nicodemus long ago:
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ ‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Nicodemus. ‘How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied, ‘I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, “You must be born again.” The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit’” (John 3:3–8, NLT).
When a person believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, accepting His blood as a sacrificial payment for his sin, that person is filled with the Holy Spirit. He then becomes a part of the body of Christ, the very children of God:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God” (Romans 8:14, NLT).
As the very Spirit of Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is the means by which God identifies those who belong to Him:
“It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22, NLT).
As Peter explains, to receive the Holy Spirit, a person must repent of his sins and turn to God, relying upon the blood of Jesus Christ as payment for his sins:
“Peter replied, ‘Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles—all who have been called by the Lord our God’” (Acts 2:38–39, NLT).
This is the way to receive God’s Holy Spirit.
During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ prophesied the coming of the Holy Spirit. Before He made this promise, John the Baptist told his disciples the same thing. In fact, he pointed to Jesus as the One who would baptize with “the Holy Spirit and fire”:
“John answered their questions by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’” (Luke 3:16, NLT).
Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled John’s prophecy, and He spread His blessings of hope and salvation to the ends of the earth, not just to the benefit of the Jewish people, but to all people who are born into this sinful world:
“Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14, NLT).
As a result of Christ’s work, all who believe in Him receive the promised Holy Spirit through their faith, and this Spirit empowers and guides them to holy living. As such, those who are filled with God’s Spirit are empowered to spread this good news to all people who remain ignorant of the blessings that await them, for the Holy Spirit is freely available in great abundance to all who are willing to seek it and ask for it:
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:9–13, NLT).
If you haven’t yet asked God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, ask Him today. Do so with a sincere heart, and He will give you a new life beyond that which you could ever dream possible!