The Holy Spirit: Characteristics and Activity

Introduction

The Holy Spirit is an inherent part of Christian theology representing an integral element of the Holy Trinity and a means by which people are both empowered and become messengers of God. In Scriptures, the Holy Spirit takes on numerous forms and has appeared to influence major events in church history. The Holy Spirit is both a complex person and concept that is key to the theological development and understanding of the Christian church and each individual that follows the path of Christianity.

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Characteristics

Despite common beliefs that the Holy Spirit is a mystical force and ghost (although such forms have been taken), the Spirit is considered a person. The Holy Spirit is an integral element of the Holy Trinity, which is a representation of God in three Divine persons – the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The distinctive identity of the Holy Spirit can be perceived as the communion of love of the Father and the Son, which is why some scholars and faithful refer to him as the Spirit of “Love” and “Gift” (Levering, 2016). In this paper, similar to the Bible, the pronoun he will be used when referring to the Spirit. “Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them” (Isaiah 63:10).

Similarly to a human being, the Spirit demonstrates emotions throughout the Scriptures and can be offended or people can blaspheme against him. At the same time, the Spirit demonstrates love, compassion with free will, and qualities of communication and prayer. As written, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me (John 15:26).

The Spirit possesses eternal wisdom and kindness, the characteristics which each Christian strives to achieve, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). It was because of God’s love for mankind despite constant sin which led Him to bestow the Spirit and His Son, “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it (Ephesians 1:13).

Despite the “human” nature of the Holy Spirit, he is eternally powerful. It is with the help of the Holy Spirit that Jesus and the disciples are able to heal, understand languages, and do what may be considered supernatural (Acts 1:7). However, the power of the Spirit is not fully understood, and he is not a being which misuses or demonstrates his power, all actions are done with a purpose, to promote faith, and under the law of God.

All those who are able to receive the Spirit have been able to relate and establish a relationship with him as a person, loving, serving, and respecting him. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Truth, providing the most important guidance and revelations which is why most faithful attempt to achieve that relationship, to become closer to God through the truth. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth. The world is unable to receive him because it doesn’t see him or know him.” (John: 14:16-17).

Activity

Throughout the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit is emphatically present and is represented as a unique manifestation of God. The Holy Spirit was present to instigate events such as when Moses spoke to the burning bush, Virgin Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-37) when Jesus went into the desert (Luke 4:1), and when Stephen was filled with the Spirit as he was stoned (Acts 7:55). In the early Christian movement and Old Testament, the purpose of the Spirit seems to be eschatological outpouring, particularly through the restoration of Israel as the coming of God’s Spirit (Ezek 37:12). In the New Testament, the Spirit becomes a guiding force, working alongside Jesus during his time on Earth, and then leading disciples in spreading the gospel (Levering, 2016).

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The Holy Spirit can inherently take on many roles in his doings. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured on the disciples as they were sent out similar to Jesus to forgive and spread the gospel, which was also being translated into various languages at the time. “They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:3-4).

He became a missionary spirit focused on spreading the gospel. At the same time, Pentecost represented an outpouring of the Spirit with new features, but also a withdrawal of the Spirit. Throughout Christian history, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit has come in “waves that ebb and flow” which creates significant impacts on theological changes (Goldingay, 2018).

The Holy Spirit plays a significant role in the life of believers. Upon ascension to Heaven, Jesus spoke, “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” (John 14:26). Christians adopt a similar approach, as in modern times, the Holy Spirit speaks to the faithful through the Bible, sacraments, and potentially sermons. He enables a Christian righteous and faithful life, guiding believes in times of trouble, comforts those who need it, and intercedes when darkness comes. Christians believe in the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, as a manner of God’s consciousness, a conviction that guides people to salvation.

The Christian church is a mixed body whose members are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and through the redemption of Christ, individuals are prepared for salvation, via the teachings and sacraments which are filled with the Holy Spirit. Various sacraments in Christianity, particularly the Eucharist in its various forms are the representation of the Lord becoming man and sanctified that nature.

Through the channel of the sacraments, He inhabits people on a personal level, and this is done through the Holy Spirit which each Christian welcomes in. Similarly, in baptism or confirmation, it is the presence of the Spirit that provides the Pentecostal significance to each ritual, as it is a tranjective experience of the Spirit (Mayfield, 2016). Therefore, it is the presence of the Spirit that makes the sacrament an efficacious sign, the Spirit is the hand of God which refines and completes us, putting the final touch on the worship and love of Father and Son.

Person in History

Pope John Paul II was the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005 and is considered one of the most influential figures in modern church history. From a very young age, based on accounts, John Paul II always turned to the Holy Spirit when in times of trouble. He used his connection with the Spirit to drive his faith as well as guide his principles of living. John Paul II is known as one of the most compassionate, forgiving, and inspirational Catholic leaders while still emphasizing the importance of responsible Christian living.

John Paul II highly emphasized the vital role of the Holy Spirit in the mission of the church and allowing to carry out missionary activities. John Paul II dedicated his time in the leadership of the church to study and promote the role of the Holy Spirit in Catholicism, highlighting it as a gift of God alongside human life (Alva, 2015).

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The Pope’s connection with the Spirit was so strong that in 1986 he released a Papal encyclical titled Dominum et vivificated which in detail provided a theological examination on the role of the Holy Spirit in the church and the modern world. It subsequently became his most well-known publication and theological thoughts. John Paul II believed that the work of the Spirit is virtually inseparable from that of Jesus Christ. Therefore, salvation is found not only in Christ but in the Holy Spirit as well.

Meanwhile, the church is compelled by the Spirit to carry out its mission as it was proclaimed in the Scriptures which is an entity influenced by the Holy Spirit. The Pope’s Christocentric approach focused on all actions of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the universal activity of the Spirit is inseparable from the Body of Christ (the church itself), and the Holy Spirit acts by providing life to the church and compels the church and its believers to proclaim Christ by providing His gifts (McGregor, 2012).

Personal Experience

My personal relationship with the Holy Spirit has developed in the context of the church. Similar to most Christians, I have learned and sought to understand the role and nature of the Holy Spirit. In my goings to church with family from an early age, I have felt differently during the service, and I always believed it was because of the Spirit present in the church building. As I grew older, I took a different approach of trying to adapt the spirit in my daily life, on my morals and ethics, and how I choose to behave. It is the goal of every Christian to act as Christ would, and as described in this paper, such strength and conviction come with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, that is a relationship I chose to build, as a positive influence on my life.

My chosen vocation is becoming a translator of the Chinese language. It helps me learn about another culture, highly different and lacking Christian influence. I believe the Holy Spirit has led me to this vocation as a manner of both understanding my own faith as well as potentially helping spread Christianity. As an interpreter, I would be able to relay such complex ideas of the Holy Spirit and Christianity to a whole other culture, and similarly to Pope John Paul II’s teachings, it is the mission of the church to proclaim Christ through the Spirit. It is my hope to use the Spirit to achieve success since, in the Bible, the Spirit gave the apostles the ability to speak many tongues in order to spread the Gospel.

Conclusion

As an integral aspect of Christianity, the Holy Spirit has many characteristics and features. The role of the Holy Spirit as the messenger and fulfilling the will of God and a relationship with Jesus has been influential in driving the events of early Christian history. The Holy Spirit is a theological concept difficult to grasp for many, but the Spirit remains a factor that has inspired great leaders of church history through the centuries as well as a relationship that each individual Christian attempts to form in their personal faith.

References

Alva, R. (2015). The role of the Spirit in the mission of the church in the light of the teachings of Dominum et Vivificantem. Journal of the Nanzan Academic Society Humanities and Natural Sciences, 9, 135-147. Web.

Goldingay, J. (2018). The Holy Spirit and the Psalms. Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 27(1), 1-13. Web.

Levering, M. (2016). Engaging the doctrine of the Holy Spirit: Love and gift in the Trinity and the church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

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Mayfield, A. R. (2016). Seal of the Spirit: The sacrament of confirmation and Pentecostal Spirit baptism. Journal of Pentecostal Theology, 25(2), 222-241. Web.

McGregor, P. J. (2012). The universal work of the Holy Spirit in the missiology of Pope John Paul II. Irish Theological Quarterly, 77(1), 83–98. Web.

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StudyCorgi. "The Holy Spirit: Characteristics and Activity." July 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-holy-spirit-characteristics-and-activity/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Holy Spirit: Characteristics and Activity." July 5, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-holy-spirit-characteristics-and-activity/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Holy Spirit: Characteristics and Activity'. 5 July.

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