What, Or Who, Is the Holy Spirit?


You have, no doubt, heard such expressions as “I’ve got the spirit,” “I’ve got the Holy Ghost feeling,” etc. But what, or who is the Holy Spirit? Why is it even important? We will explore these questions in this article.


The English word, spirit, first appears in the Old Testament in Genesis 1:2, if reference to “the Spirit of God.” The Hebrew word means, “Wind, breath, mind, spirit” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). It refers to the Spirit or spirit 232 times in the Old Testament. The first time spiritappears in the New Testament is in Luke 1:17. The Greek definition is “A current of air, that is, breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figuratively a spirit, that is, (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, daemon, or (divine) God, Christ’s spirit, the Holy spirit” (Strong). It is always used in the New Testament as “spirit,” either the spirit of God, Christ, or man, or the Holy Spirit.

That the Hebrew and Greek words mean both “wind” and “spirit” results in some problems understanding what/who the Holy Spirit is. Is the Holy Spirit a what or a who?

Is the Holy Spirit a What or a Who?

We can determine whether the Holy Spirit is a what or a who, that is a living being or inanimate, by a study of Bible references to the spirit.

The Spirit Speaks

When Zachariah the high priest succeeded his father Jehoiada and led the people to sin, the text tells us, “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the Lord, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the Lord, he hath also forsaken you” (2 Chron. 24:20).

When Jesus gave instructions to the Limited Commission, He told them in Mark 13:11:

But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…”

So the Spirit has the ability to speak.

The Spirit Is An “I

In Acts 13:1-2, there were certain “teachers and prophets” at Antioch. Luke writes, “…the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Here, the Holy Ghost (Spirit) speaks and refers to himself in the first person pronoun, “I.”

The Holy Spirit Is a Comforter/Helper/Advocate Who Dwells in Men

Jesus told the Apostles in John 14:16, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” The word translated, comforter, in the King James Version is from a Greek word meaning, “An intercessor, consoler” (Strong). Robertson writes, “This old word (Demosthenes), from parakalew, was used for legal assistant, pleader, advocate, one who pleads another’s cause…” The word is translated, “helper,” in the New King James and English Standard Version. It is the same word translated, “advocate,” in 1 John 2:1 (KJV, NKJV, ESV, etc), where John writes (KJV):My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.Jesus identifies the comforter/advocate in John 14:17 as:

the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

So, the Holy Spirit is a comforter/helper/advocate who can be known and dwells in human beings.

The Holy Spirit Can Be Grieved

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:30, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Obviously, the Holy Spirit can be grieved or Paul would not have warned the Ephesians against doing it!

The Jews of Isaiah’s day “vexed” the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10).

The Holy Spirit Is a Teacher

Jesus says in John 14:26:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The Holy Spirit was to make sure that what the apostles taught was the truth, and that no important truth was missed. It reminded them of what they already knew from their time with Jesus, and it taught them new things that they had not already learned.

This is what Paul was talking about in 1 Corinthians 2:13. It is the process of inspiration that Paul would later write about in 2 Timothy 3:16. It is also what Peter was referring to in 2 Peter 1:21 when he wrote, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (See also Eph. 3:5). This is how we got the Bible. This is how we can be sure that what we read is the truth and all of the truth 2 Peter 1:3:

According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.


The Holy Spirit comforts and helps us and serves as an advocate for us to the Father. He speaks, and we can grieve Him. He is a teacher. He guided the biblical writers by reminding them of what they had learned from them while Jesus was on the earth and teaching them new truths they had not before known. Can these things be applied to a force, power, or any inanimate object? Certainly not. The Holy Spirit is a living being.

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, or Triune Godhead. John writes about this in John 1. God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1John 1:1-3). The “Word, the “only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14), was present and participating in the creation, John 1:1-3). The “Spirit of God moved upon the waters” at the creation (Genesis 1:2). The Spirit of God came upon Jesus at His baptism (John 1:23-33). These passages show that all three, God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God, the Holy Trinity, three divine persons in one. All three of these divine persons are one in purpose and one in agreement.

Do you follow the teachings of the Holy Spirit? Please do not grieve the Spirit. Obey Him today.

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