Scriptural Designations For The Holy Spirit

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(Heb. rûah, ’elohîm “Spirit of God,” or rûah, YHWH, “Spirit of Jehovah”; Gk. to pneuma to hagion, “the Holy Ghost,” or “the Holy Spirit”).

Frequently the term is simply “the Spirit,” or “the Spirit of the Lord,” or “the Spirit of God,” or “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Matthew 3:16; Luke 4:18; John 14:17; Acts 5:9; Phil 1:19).

Theological Statements.

The doctrine of the Holy Spirit has about it the difficulty that belongs to that of the Trinity or the existence of God as a purely spiritual being—the difficulty that arises from the narrow limits of human understanding. Nevertheless, the Scriptures bring to us their definite representations of truth, and with these Christian thought must concern itself. The chief topics of theology respecting the Holy Spirit are:

(1) His personality;
(2) His deity;
(3) His relation to the Father and to the Son; and
(4) His office or work.


The historic and prevailing doctrine of the Christian church, in accordance with the Scriptures, has been that the Holy Spirit is a person distinct from the Father and the Son, though united to both in the mysterious oneness of the Godhead. He is not simply a personification or figurative expression for the divine energy or operation, as some have held at various periods of the history of the church (Anti-Trinitarians), but He is an intelligent agent, possessed of self-consciousness and freedom.

In proof of this it is rightly said:

(1) that the Scriptures that ascribe distinct personality to the Father and the Son with equal explicitness ascribe distinct personality to the Holy Spirit. Prominent illustrations of this are found in Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 28:19; John 14:16-17; John 15:26.

(2) The pronouns used with reference to the Holy Spirit are invariably personal pronouns, e.g., John 16:13-14; Acts 13:2.

(3) The attributes of personality, self-consciousness, and freedom are ascribed to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10; 1 Cor. 12:11).

(4) The relations described as existing between the Holy Spirit and mankind are such as to emphasize His personality. The Spirit strives with man (Genesis 6:3). He instructs, regenerates, sanctifies, and comforts believers (John 3:5-6; John 14:16-17; John 16:13-14; 1 Peter 1:2). We are warned not to “blaspheme against,” “not to resist,” not to “grieve,” nor to “quench” the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Acts 7:51; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19).


The deity of the Holy Spirit has been but little disputed in the church by those who have admitted His personality. The Arian heresy of the fourth century, which represented the Holy Spirit as the earliest of all the creatures of the created Son, is the chief exception to the general rule. The Scriptures that establish the personality of the Holy Spirit in many cases, as must have been noted, also establish His deity. Beyond this, attention is commonly called to the following sure indications of Holy Scripture:

(1) The Holy Spirit is distinctly called God, and names are given to Him that properly belong to God (Acts 5:3-4; Acts 28:25-27; Hebrews 10:15-17; 2 Cor. 3:17-18).

(2) Divine attributes, such as knowledge, sovereignty, and eternity, are ascribed to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:11; 1 Cor 12:11; Hebrews 9:14).

(3) Divine works, such as creation and the new birth, are attributed to Him (Genesis 1:2; Job 26:13, KJV; John 3:3-8).

(4) Worship and homage such as belong only to God are paid to the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:25-27; 2 Cor. 13:14). And harmonious with this is the fact that the sin against the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31-32).

» See: Sin: The Unpardonable Sin

Relation to Trinity.

The relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father and to the Son is a subject with respect to which the faith of the church developed slowly.

(1) The Holy Spirit is the same in substance and equal in power and glory with the Father and the Son.

(2) He is, nevertheless, as to His mode of subsistence and operation, subordinate to both the Father and the Son, not as in physical Substance; as He proceeds from them and is sent by them, but as it says in John 14:26, God The Spirit comes in Jesus’ name; not in Jesus’ same. Jesus operated through Him, The Spirit (John 15:26; John 16:13-15; John 14:26; Phil 1:19; Acts 11:15-17).


Van Oosterzee does well to say, “Happily, not the sounding the depths of the Holy Spirit’s nature, but the receiving and possessing of the Holy Spirit himself, is for us, even as Christian theologians, the main point.” Hence, without detracting from the value of what has preceded, of paramount importance is the office and work of the Holy Spirit. This is indicated as follows:

(1) The Spirit is the immediate source of all life, physical and intellectual (Psalm 104:30; Isaiah 32:15; Job 33:4; Genesis 2:7, KJV; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:17; etc.).

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(2) He bore an important part in the coming of Christ in the flesh and the qualifying of His human nature for His work (Luke 1:35; John 3:34; John 1:32-33).

(3) He is the revealer of all divine truth. The Scriptures are especially the product of the Holy Spirit (Micah 3:8; John 14:26; John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10-13).

(4) He moves upon the hearts and consciences of all men, attending revealed truth with His power wherever it is known and even where it is not known, affording some measure of divine light and gracious influence (Acts 2:17; John 16:7-11; 1 Cor. 2:4).

(5) He convicts men of sin; graciously aids them in repentance and faith; regenerates, comforts, and sanctifies believers; bears witness to their acceptance with God and adoption as God’s children; and dwells in them as the principle of a new and divine life. In addition to Scripture quoted above, see Romans 8:14-16; 1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor 3:17-18 (see Witness of Spirit).

(6) He also exercises guidance in the ministrations of the church, calling men to various offices and endowing them with qualifications for their work (Acts 13:2, 4; 1 Cor 12:4-11).

Special Work in the Believer.

The Holy Spirit in this particular age from Pentecost to the out-taking and glorification of the church, the Body of Christ, performs a special work in every believer the moment he exercises saving faith in Christ. Simultaneously with regenerating him the Spirit baptizes the believer into union with other believers in the Body (1 Cor 12:13) and into union with Christ Himself (Romans 6:3-4).

This is a unique and distinctive ministry of the Spirit during this age. The Holy Spirit also dwells perpetually within every believer (John 14:17; Romans 8:9-14; 1 Cor 6:19-20) and seals every believer for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

In addition, the Holy Spirit fills every believer when special conditions of filling are met (Eph 5:18).

Dispensational Ministry.

According to the prophetic announcement of John the Baptist of the Spirit’s baptizing work (Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16-17; John 1:32-33), the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ were to inaugurate the new age of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Our Lord prophetically announced a drastic change in the Holy Spirit’s operation in the age that was to begin. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as the ascension gift.

He came, moreover, in a sense in which He was not here before and to perform all the ministries delegated to Him in this age; namely, regenerating, baptizing, sealing, and indwelling every believer with the added privilege of each believer’s being filled with the Spirit, if he meets the conditions of filling. The distinctive ministry of the Spirit for this age is His baptizing work.

This occurred for the first time in Acts 2 (cf. Acts 1:5; Acts 11:15-16).

The first occurrence of the baptizing work of the Spirit in Acts 2 marked the birthday of the Christian church. In Acts 8 the Samaritans were admitted to gospel privilege and granted the gift of the Holy Spirit, which included the Spirit’s baptizing work, placing them also in the church, the Body of Christ. In Acts 10 the Gentiles were likewise admitted. This latter instance marks the normal course of the age. Every believer, upon the simple condition of faith in Christ, is regenerated, baptized into the Body, indwelt perpetually, sealed eternally, and given the privilege of being continuously filled. The experiences of OT saints and all pre-Pentecost believers came short of these tremendous blessings that are the heritage of every genuine believer in this age.

[ bibliography: A. Kuyper, The Work of the Holy Spirit (1941); W. H. G. Thomas, The Holy Spirit of God (1950); E. H. Bickersteth, The Holy Spirit: His Person and Work (1959); J. Owen, The Holy Spirit, His Gifts and Power (1960); J. E. Cumming, Through the Eternal Spirit (1965); C. C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit (1965); J. F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (1965); J. Buchanan, The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit (1966); F. D. Bruner, The Theology of the Holy Spirit (1970); M. F. Unger, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit (1974); E. M. B. Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit (1975); H. C. G. Moule, The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (1977); C. F. D. Moule, The Holy Spirit (1979); E. Schweizer, The Holy Spirit (1980)].

(taken from The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary).

Textual Examination:

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; John 14:16

The word translated pray that is used here of our Lord is not the same word used to describe an inferior praying to a superior, but of one making request of his equal. The Lord would pray the Father to send another Helper. The word Helper (Paraclete) means one called to the side of another to help. It is also translated Advocate (1 John 2:1, John 15:26, notice in these two texts that BOTH Jesus and The Spirit are called Advocate).  Jesus is our Advocate with The Father, and pleads His blood on our behalf; The Spirit is Jesus’ Advocate with us to guide us into all truth and into surrender to Jesus.

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The Lord Jesus is our Advocate or Helper, and the Holy Spirit is another Helper—Advocate, not another of a different kind, as if embodied in physical Substance within Jesus; but as in another One of similar nature. The Holy Spirit would dwell with us, and be in us:

“…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.” John 14:17

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth because His teaching is true and He glorifies Christ who is the truth. (John 14:6, 26). The world cannot receive the Holy Spirit because it cannot see Him. Unbelievers want to see before they will believe—although they believe in wind and electricity, and yet they cannot see them. The unsaved do not know or understand the Holy Spirit. He may convict them of sin, and yet they do not know that it is He. The disciples knew the Holy Spirit. They had known Him to work in their own lives and had seen Him working through the Lord Jesus.

“He dwells with you, and will be in you.” Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon men and dwelt with them. But since Pentecost, when a man believes on the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in that man’s life forever. The prayer of David, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me,” would not be suitable today. The Holy Spirit is never taken from a believer, although He may be grieved, or quenched, or hindered.

“I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18).

The Lord would not leave His disciples as orphans, or desolate. He would come to them again. In one sense, He came to them after His resurrection, but it is doubtful if that is what is meant. In another sense, He came to them in the Person of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This spiritual coming is the true meaning here. “There was something about Pentecost which made it a coming of Jesus.” In a third sense, He will literally come to them again at the end of this age, when He will take His chosen ones home to heaven.

“Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19)

No unbeliever saw the Lord Jesus after His burial. After He was raised, He was seen only by those who loved Him. But even after His Ascension, His disciples continued to see Him by faith. This is doubtless meant by the words “but you will see Me.” Often in Church, or elsewhere, we have seen someone and exclaimed: “I see Jesus in Him/her.” Surely no one would propose that this means they have physically/ontologically turned into Jesus!

After the world could no longer see Him, His disciples would continue to see Him. “Because I live, you will live also.” Here He was looking forward to His resurrection life. It would be the pledge of life for all who trusted Him. Even if they should die, they would be raised again to die no more.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (John 14:20)

“At that day” probably refers again to the descent of the Holy Spirit. He would instruct believers in the truth that just as there was a vital link between the Son and the Father, so there would be a marvelous union of life and interests between Christ and His saints. It is difficult to explain how Christ is in the believer, and the believer is in Christ at the same time. The usual illustration is of a poker in the fire. Not only is the poker in the fire, but the fire is in the poker. But this does not tell the full story. Christ is in the believer in the sense that His life is communicated to him. He actually dwells in the believer through the Holy Spirit.

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The believer is in Christ in the sense that he stands before God in all the merit of the Person and work of Christ.

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)

The real proof of one’s love to the Lord is obedience to His commandments. It is useless to talk about loving Him if we do not want to obey Him. In one sense, the Father loves all the world. But He has a special love for those who love His Son. Those are also loved by Christ, and He makes Himself known to them in a special way. The more we love the Savior, the better we shall know Him.

Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? John 14:22

The Judas mentioned here had the misfortune to have the same name as the traitor. But the Spirit of God kindly distinguished him from Iscariot. He could not understand how the Lord could appear to the disciples without also being seen by the world. Doubtless He thought of the Savior’s coming as that of a conquering King or popular Hero. He did not understand that the Lord would manifest Himself to His own in a spiritual manner. They would see Him by faith through the Word of God.

By the Spirit of God, we can actually know Christ better today than the disciples knew Him when He was on earth. When He was here, those in the front of the crowd were closer to Him than those in the rear. But today, by faith, each of us can enjoy the closest of fellowship with Him. Christ’s answer to Judas’ question shows that the promised manifestations to His individual followers is connected with the Word of God. Obedience to the Word will result in the coming and abiding of the Father and the Son.

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. John 14:23

If a person truly loves the Lord, they will want to keep all of His teachings, not just isolated commandments, or parts of commandments that suit them. The Father loves those who are willing to obey His Son without questions or reservations. Both Father and Son are especially near to such loving and obedient hearts.

He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. John 14:24

On the other hand, those who do not love Him do not keep His sayings. And they are not only refusing the words of Christ, but those of the Father as well.

These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. John 14:25

While He was with them, our Lord taught His disciples up to a certain point. He could not reveal more truth to them because they could not have taken it in.

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. John 14:26

But the Holy Spirit would reveal more. He was sent by the Father in the name of Christ on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit came in Christ’s name in the sense that He came to represent Christ’s interests on earth. He did not come to glorify Himself but to draw men and women to the Savior. “He will teach you all things,” said the Lord. He did this first of all through the spoken ministry of the apostles; then through the written Word of God which we have today. The Holy Spirit brings to remembrance all the things which the Savior had taught. Jesus seems to have presented in a briefer form, a beautiful summary of all the teaching which is developed by the Holy Spirit in the rest of the NT.

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