Better Understanding the Holy Spirit

Last Updated: July 10th, 20210 Comments638 words19.3 min readBy

The Holy Spirit is a difficult topic. We can see many places in Scripture – Old and New Testaments – that document something about the Holy Spirit. However, organizing all of those references in a meaningful and productive way can be a challenge.

Nevertheless, it seems that understanding the Holy Spirit can be shaped and defined around four aspects:

Just as Peter reminds Christians in the first century (

1 Peter 1:14-16
), God’s desire has always been to have a people holy and set apart. Paul also makes this point in his letter to the church in Corinth (
2 Corinthians 6:16-18
) where he echos the statements made by several Old Testament writers and prophets (Exodus 4:22, 2 Samuel 7:8, Isaiah 52:11, Jeremiah 31:9, Ezekiel 20:34, Hosea, 1:10, Zephaniah 3:20).  

Peter, in the first gospel sermon, tells us that the “gift of the Holy Spirit” was God’s promise to “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (
Acts 2:37-39
). God’s desire led to His promise — a promise to have His Spirit dwell again among His people. We first see God’s promise delivered through his prophet Ezekiel during the Babylonian captivity — a time when there was no temple and therefore no dwelling of God among His people.

God’s dwelling is a major theme through the entire Bible story — from the Garden of Eden in Genesis to the New Jersalem in Revelation. It’s closely connected with – really the fulfillment of – God’s desire and His promise. We know that this is what Jesus was summing up when he cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:37-38 with John’s interpretation that he was speaking about the Holy Spirit in vs 39).

During the tabernacle (Moses) and temple (Solomon) years, the sin that separated man and God in the garden could be set aside through animal sacrifice to allow God to once again dwell among His people. Ultimately, Jesus was the permanent sacrifice for God to dwell in those that “put on Christ” (

Galatians 3:23-29
). Paul makes this clear in
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
among other places.

God’s power in the physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit has always served to confirm His messengers (Balaam, Elisha, etc.) and His word (Jesus, Apostles, etc.).  This aspect explains the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as well as the miraculous spiritual gifts we see in the New Testement.

We see each of these Holy Spirit “threads” carried through Scripture and fullfilled ultimately in the New Testement. God’s desire for His people to be holy remains today. His promise to dwell again with His people is fullfilled in the New Covenant and freely given to all baptized believers.

God’s power and His direct intervention into the affairs of mankind served two purposes:

  • A physical, visual demonstration of the ushering in of His promised “new covenant” and the gospel of Christ to the Jew first (Acts 2) and also to the Gentiles (Acts 10).

  • The need to confirm His word ended since His full and final word had been given to all mankind.

The tapestry of Scripture is a constant reminder of the “breadth and length and height and depth” of His knowledge and wisdom. The Holy Spirit is just one topic in this vast well of understanding. Hopefully these four aspects help your understanding of the Holy Spirit.

Understanding the Holy Spirit

important scripture blocks

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

On the last day of the feast, Jesus stood up and yelled, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture says, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.  He said this referring to the Holy Spirit which was to be given to all those who believed in him after his glorification.

Jesus has begun his public ministry and is beginning to stir up Jerusalem with his controversial teaching and popularity.

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.

When they heard these words, they were pierced in the heart and asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do [to be saved].  Peter told them that they each should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and they would then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This “gift” was the promise made for all that the Lord calls to himself, even those far off.

Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost where he recalled several prophetic statements from Joel and David (vss 16-36). By divine inspiration, Peter interpreted these statements to apply their fulfillment to Jesus and the ushering in of the “last days.”

On believing his message (that Jesus was the Christ), they asked what they needed to do to be saved. More were continuing to be saved and they began meeting together as the Lord’s church (

vss 41-47
).

God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

God has exhalted him [Jesus] at His right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and foregiveness of sins.  We [apostles], together with the Holy Spirit – whom God has given to all that obey Him – are witnesses to these things.

In the early days of the Christian movement and God’s establishment of His “new covenant,” the apostles are carrying the message of the gospel across Jerusalem and Judea.  Being confronted by the Jewish leadership, as often they were, Peter tells them, “We must obey God rather than men” (vs 29) and witnesses to them about the things he and the others have seen with their eyes.  In this case, Peter may be specifically referring back to witnessing the transfiguration of Jesus documented in Acts 1.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit that’s within you who God gave you?  You are not your own since you were bought with a price.  Therefore, use your body to glorify God.

Paul is very clearly speaking here about sexual immorality and the Christian’s need to “flee” from it (vs 18).  Therefore, in this context the “body” is the individual Christian’s body.

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About the Author: D Brackett

I have lived most of my life as a Christian but admittedly not a serious Bible student until mid-life. I don't hold any theological degrees nor is my profession related to the church or ministry, but firmly believe that God has given us His word to be understood by a layman like myself.

Authors are free to express their conclusions about Bible topics and others are free to offer their thoughts through public comment at the bottom.

In keeping with the mission of this site, all commentary is expected to be based on and backed up by Scripture that is – to the best of the person’s ability – used as Scripture itself would interpret it.