The Holy Spirit Explained
Part 1 – The Wind in Your Sails
Anyone who’s associated with a Christian Church is privy to the concept of The Holy Trinity. Catholic or Protestant, Cessation or Spirit Filled, we have all become familiar with the terms: The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.
My experience is a little different from most because I am from a Catholic upbringing and got involved with a Pentecostal Church at a young age. Many of you are scratching your head because you understand this experience ranges from one side to the other in Christian Theology. You can also understand at that time, much of my belief was not met with approval during family discussions.
The reason for this divide came not from my views on The Father or His Son, Jesus Christ, but more so on my new-found assessment of the Holy Spirit. And here several years later I can attest that both sides of the argument were not completely accurate. And the reason is simple; The Holy Spirit has not been served well in the branding of His image.
Where It Started
From its birth, the Christian Church has experienced a misunderstanding of The Holy Spirit. When God filled 120 with His Spirit on the day of Pentecost, confusion was present immediately as an outside observer asked, “What does this mean?” which was answered by a quick mock, “they had too much wine.” (Acts 2: 12-13)
Now perhaps it’s not surprising for the crowd to be perplexed about the first outpouring of God’s Spirit, but we find decades later, devout followers of Jesus Christ did not have a firm understanding of the Holy Spirit either!
Acts 19:1-2 1While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Today, as was the case with my family and me, we see the same confusion. People have received either no information or bad information. Others have witnessed something weird.
Words Have Meaning
The designations “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost” appear over 800 times in the Bible. These titles refer to God’s presence in a situation, a geographic location, or in a believer. They also represent God just as much as the names Jesus or Jehovah. But in discussions on the subject between believers, you often get different viewpoints – some being negative.
Perhaps if we go back to the basics, we might find where much of this confusion began.
Ruwach – (Old Testament)
In the Old Testament, the English words “spirit” or “ghost” are translated from the Hebrew word ruwach.
Ruwach – a wind, breath, a violent exhalation, blast of breath.
If you look at this definition, you might agree the English translators didn’t serve the meaning well. Personally, I would rather not come into the presence of a ghost, but we encounter the wind almost every day. Let’s plug that into the translation:
Genesis 1:2 2Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Now in keeping with the actual meaning of the Hebrew word Ruwach, it is a more accurate translation to say:
Genesis 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Breath/Wind of God was hovering over the waters.
So, in creation, the Wind came out of the Breath of God, hovered over the waters, and turned chaos into order. When God spoke, He exhaled, and things happened.
Pneuma – (New Testament)
Let’s look at the New Testament. In Greek, we see another problem with translation. Here the Greek word pneuma is the word translated.
Pneuma – a current of air (wind), blast of breath, a strong breeze.
If we were to review the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus explains what it means to be born again.
John 3:8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
Here we see the translators do a better job of defining God’s Spirit. It compares the born-again experience as an encounter with Wind. We see this confirmed on the Day of Pentecost in Acts Chapter 2.
Acts 2: 2-4 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…
One of many places we find Pneuma in the New Testament is John 6:63:
John 6:63 63The Spirit (Breath/Wind) gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit (Breath/Wind) and life.
We get a better picture of God’s character when we substitute the actual meaning of what the original text says. So:
What are the Characteristics of Wind? Four things:
Wind is Unseen
You can feel it, but you can’t see it.
John 14:16-17 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever- 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
This scripture gives us what The Holy Spirit is to the church. The Holy Spirit is:
- An advocate for our help
- With us forever
- Unknown by the unbeliever
Wind is Unpredictable
There is no controlling wind. It goes where it goes, and man can’t control it.
John 3:8 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.“
God is always in the habit of performing a new thing. Whether in healing the blind with mud made from His spit, or talking to a prophet from a burning bush. God is unpredictable, as is the Holy Spirit, and as should the Church be which follows Him!
Wind is Powerful
Wind can power a ship, it can generate electricity, and it can destroy a city.
Acts 1:8 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Charles Finney, considered to be the father of modern revivalism once defined himself an intellectual Christian; meaning his relationship with God was determined only by his capacity to comprehend God. But then he encountered the Holy Spirit and described it like this:
“The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul. I could feel the impression like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed, it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love; for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God.” ~ Charles Finney
You might think of it like this. His intellectual understanding might have built the boat, but it was the Wind caused by God’s breath that filled his sails. It moved him to where God wanted him to go.
Wind is Refreshing
Like a cool breeze on a hot day, the Holy Spirit is refreshing. Here’s how the bible explains it:
1 Corinthians 2:9 9However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”- the things God has prepared for those who love him – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
Accept the Gift
Many Christians reject what God will do because of a misunderstanding they have of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says:
Don’t Grieve God!
Ephesians 4:30 (MSG) 30 Don’t grieve God. Don’t break his heart. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself. Don’t take such a gift for granted.