A Starting Point for Understanding the Holy Spirit


“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

2 Corinthians 3:17

This Sunday, June 16, is Trinity Sunday. For those of you that are like, “What? What is that?” or “How come I didn’t know?” Here is a handy calendar for things like this :) It’s called the “church calendar,” and it’s handy for things like this. It helps us in the church remember, celebrate, teach, and learn about important topics and events for the body of Jesus.  

Anyways, this Sunday is Trinity Sunday, and last Sunday was Pentecost--where we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and, really, the start of the church. So, with these two days in mind, I wanted to write a quick thing about one of the persons of the Trinity--the Holy Spirit.  

There can be some confusing things surrounding the Trinity, and especially the Holy Spirit. So, I wanted to try and make things just a little less confusing. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive attempt at tackling the Holy Spirit or the Trinity (how is one supposed to ever imagine even coming close to covering everything there is about God?!), but it’s a good starting point. I’ll be using scripture, and some other resources throughout, but mainly scripture, as well as trying to keep each point short and sweet.

Let’s start with four big places in the New Testament where we see the Holy Spirit mentioned and two in the Old Testament:

New Testament

  • John 14:26: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Here we see the Holy Spirit be called the “Helper” or “Comforter” by Jesus.

  • Romans 8:26 a: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness…”

Here we see, again, that the Spirit is a helper.

  • Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Here we see what “fruit” the Holy Spirit produces (or grows, or creates, or brings out).

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

Here, we (sort of) see the whole of the Trinity in one section (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), but since we’re focusing on the Holy Spirit, I’ll just highlight that it is one Spirit who is working in all of us and that work is meant only for building up others (1 Cor 14:26) and the common good.

Old Testament (Jesus’ Bible)

  • Isaiah 11:2: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

Here, again as in the letter to the Corinthians, we see the Spirit being active in building up others, bringing wisdom, and drawing one closer to God.

  • Psalm 104:30: “When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.”

Here we see the Holy Spirit being active in (new) creation, renewal, and reconciliation. We also see it going out ahead of us and working in and around us.

I mention all of these verses to highlight one important thing about the Holy Spirit and the work the Spirit does. That one thing is this: Everything the Holy Spirit does is for the building up of the church. Not tearing down. Not dividing.

If someone is doing something in Jesus’ name, or claiming to do it by the power of the Holy Spirit, but you don’t see more love (agape), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control coming about, then it is not from the Holy Spirit.   

The Holy Spirit offers gifts (we see one of them at Pentecost--speaking in tongues, or other languages, and there are many more--1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12 are good starting places), but these gifts are exactly that. They are extra. They are an overflowing of God’s grace (John 1:16 “...grace upon grace”). They are not necessary to be part of God’s family (be in the church and follow Jesus), nor are they a “sign” or “proof” that someone is a Christian (Matthew 7:21-23) or not. The gifts of the Spirit, if I were to dive deeper into them now, would require more than just one blog post . . .  so I’ll leave that for another time.

Here is the main thing:

Everything the Holy Spirit is about is building up the church (body of Christ), drawing us closer to God in Jesus Christ, giving us peace and comfort (especially in hard times), and growing us up and helping us to mature (fruit of the Spirit). Everything else, if it’s good, is just extra grace. And, if it’s not good, well, you can be sure that it’s not from God. Because God is good, and God is love, and “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” (James 1:17-18)

Written by Pastor Ron Radcliffe