In mainstream Christianity, the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is one of the three entities of the Holy Trinity which make up the single substance of God; that is, the Spirit is considered to act in concert with and share an essential nature with God the Father and God the Son (Jesus Christ). The Christian theology of the Holy Spirit, or pneumatology, was the last piece of Trinitarian theology to be fully explored and developed. For this reason, there is greater theological diversity among Christian understandings of the Spirit than there is among understandings of the Son (Christology) and of the Father. Within Trinitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as the "Third Person" of the Triune God - with the Father being the First Person and the Son the Second Person. There are also distinct understandings of the Holy Spirit by non-Trinitarian groups and some non-Christian groups who use the term as well.
The first overt appearance of the Holy Spirit in Christian theology is in the words of Jesus, speaking to his disciples () shortly before his death. He characterizes the Holy Spirit to them as the 'Spirit of Truth'. Chronologically though, the Holy Spirit makes a first appearance at the beginning of Jesus' ministry when he is baptized in the Jordan River (, , ). In these accounts, the incorporeal Holy Spirit is described as descending upon Jesus 'like' or 'as' a dove.
In John's Gospel, emphasis is placed not upon what the Holy Spirit did for Jesus, but upon Jesus giving the Spirit to his disciples. This "Higher" Christology sees Jesus as a sacrificial lamb, and as coming among mankind in order to grant the Spirit of God to humanity.
Although the language used to describe Jesus' receiving the Spirit in John's Gospel is parallel to the accounts in the other three Gospels, John relates this with the aim of showing that Jesus is specially in possession of the Spirit for the purpose of granting the Spirit to his followers, uniting them with himself, and in himself also uniting them with the Father. (See Raymond Brown, "The Gospel According to John", chapter on Pneumatology). In John, the gift of the Spirit is equivalent to eternal life, knowledge of God, power to obey, and communion with one another and with the Father.
Christians believe that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith in Jesus and gives them the ability to lead a Christian life. The Holy Spirit dwells inside every Christian, each one's body being his temple (). The Holy Spirit is depicted as a 'Counselor' or 'Helper' (paracletus in Latin, derived from Greek), guiding people in the way of the truth. The Holy Spirit's action in one's life is believed to produce positive results, known as the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. A list of "spiritual gifts" that may be bestowed include the charismatic gifts of prophecy, tongues, healing, and knowledge. Christians holding a view known as cessationism believe these gifts were given only in New Testament times. Christians almost universally agree that certain spiritual gifts are still in effect today, including the gifts of ministry, teaching, giving, leadership, and mercy (see, e.g. ). The experience of the Holy Spirit is sometimes referred to as being anointed.
Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the promised "Advocate" (i.e. "strengthener", "fortifier") in . After his resurrection, Christ told his disciples that they would be "baptized with the Holy Spirit", and would receive power from this event a promise that was fulfilled in the events recounted in the second chapter of Acts. On the first Pentecost, Jesus' disciples were gathered in Jerusalem when a mighty wind was heard and tongues of fire appeared over their heads. A multilingual crowd heard the disciples speaking, and each of them heard them speaking in his or her native language.
The Holy Spirit's existence is affirmed in the Apostles Creed and responsibility for the Virgin Birth of Jesus is asserted. In the Nicene Creed (an extensive elaboration of the Apostles Creed), the Holy Spirit is further affirmed to proceed from either one or both of the other members of the Trinity (God the Father and God the Son) (see filioque controversy). This is taken to further imply that the Holy Spirit is consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is also asserted to be the "Lord and Giver of Life".
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the following in the first paragraph dealing with the Apostles Creed's article I believe in the Holy Spirit. "No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." Now God's Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who "has spoken through the prophets" makes us hear the Father's Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who "unveils" Christ to us "will not speak on his own." Such properly divine self-effacement explains why "the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him", while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them."
As regards the Holy Spirit's relationship with the Church, the Catechism states: "The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit...Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity...Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church's sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body."
The Catechism also lists the various symbols of the Holy Spirit in the Bible:
The Pentecostal movement places special emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit, and especially on the gifts mentioned above, believing that they are still given today. Much of Pentecostalism holds that the 'Baptism with the Holy Spirit' is distinct from the salvific born again experience, as a usually distinct experience in which the Spirit's power is received by the Christian in a new way, with the result that the Christian can now be more readily used to do signs, miracles, and wonders for the sake of evangelism or for ministry within the church. There are also many Pentecostals who believe that Spirit baptism is a necessary element in salvation, not a "second blessing". For a more detailed discussion, see Pentecostalism.
Many Pentecostals also believe that the normative initial evidence of this infilling (baptism) of the Holy Spirit is the ability to speak in other tongues (glossolalia).
The Mosaic Law was still in effect up to the time when Jesus Christ (the second person of the Trinity) died on a Roman cross, was buried and rose from the dead (). The church age was fully established at Pentecost where the disciples' were given the Holy Spirit, and sent out by him to plant his church in the world.
A controversial view holds that at the time of the Rapture, the Holy Spirit will depart the Earth, although it is seldom mentioned today. However, the Rapture is another disputed point of Christianity. .
The church age is said to close with the second coming of Christ.
The expression Third Wave was coined by Christian theologian C. Peter Wagner around 1980 to describe what followers believe to be the recent historical work of the Holy Spirit. It is part of a larger movement known as the Neocharismatic movement. The Third Wave involves those Christians who have allegedly received Pentecostal-like experiences, however Third Wavers claim no association with either the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements.
There are numerous Christian groups who base their thinking in regards to the gender of the Holy Spirit on the fact that the Hebrew word for Spirit, Ruach, is feminine. They give no weight to the facts that the Greek word for Spirit (Pneuma) is neuter, and the Latin one is masculine, because the Logos ("oracles" - words) of God were are said to be given unto the Jews (Rom. 3:1, 2).
Foremost among these groups, and the most vocal on the subject are the Branch Davidian. In 1977, one of their leaders, Lois Roden, began to formally teach that the feminine Holy Spirit is the heavenly pattern of women. In her many studies and talks she cited numerous scholars and researchers from Jewish, Christian, and other sources.
They see in the creation of Adam and Eve a literal image and likeness of the invisible Godhead, Male and Female, who is "clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made" (Rom. 1:20). They take the oneness of God to mean the "familial" unity which exists between them, which unity is not seen in any other depiction of the Godhead by the various non-Hebrew peoples.
Thus, having a father and mother in heaven, they see that the Bible shows that those parents had a son born unto them before the creation of the world, by whom all things were created. The final element in their belief that mankind is literally made in the image and likeness of Gods is that of a divine daughter, a feminine counterpart of the son. They say that the concept has it roots in the Bible and Jewish concept of The Matronit. They see that the King James translators understood the concept of Christ having his own spirit (feminine counterpart), by using the terms "Holy Spirit" (Mother - Spirit of God), and "Holy Ghost" (Daughter - Spirit of Christ). Here are some example of Branch Davidian teachings on the Subject.
These concepts are also taught among other groups, to one degree or another.
There are also some scholars associated with more "mainstream" denominations, who while not necessarily indicative of the denominations themselves, have written works explaining a feminine understanding of the third member of the Godhead. For example, R.P. Nettlehorst, professor at the Quartz Hill School of Theology (associated with the Southern Baptist Convention) has written on the subject. Evan Randolph, associated with the Episcopal Church, has likewise written on the subject.
Here are some historical examples:
In 1901 the American Standard Version of the Bible translated the name as Holy Spirit, as had the English Revised Version of 1881-1885 upon which it was based. Almost all modern English translations have followed suit. Some languages still use a word that overlaps both English words, such as the German Geist.
Christians believe the "Fruit of the Spirit" are virtues engendered in an individual by the acceptance of the Spirit and his actions in one's life. They can be found in the New Testament (): "But the fruit of the Spirit is love (Gk: agape), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control." The Tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1832), lists 12 segments making up the Fruit of the Holy Spirit: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, [and] chastity." Many Christians believe that the fruit of the Holy Spirit are enhanced over time by exposure to the written word of God and by the experience of leading a Christian life. They further believe that the Fruit of the Holy Spirit are products of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: "wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord."
The Holy Spirit empowers the believer for ministry in the church and world and allows him/her to commune with the Creator.
The Sevenfold or Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out on a believer at baptism (accordant to Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, died 397) are the: 1. Spirit of Wisdom; 2. Spirit of Understanding; 3. Spirit of Counsel; 4. Spirit of Strength; 5. Spirit of Knowledge; 6. Spirit of Godliness; 7. Spirit of Holy Fear; (from De Sacramentis 3.8). Ambrose believed that all of these were poured out on the believer at baptism.
Another understanding of Gifts of the Spirit holds that different gifts are given to different people, perhaps even at different times, according to the needs of the church, to carry out God's work on earth. Saint Paul believed that all Christians should work together, each with different functions like the parts of a human body. See 1 Corinthians 12. From this perspective, the Holy Spirit can manifest gifts of many kinds, giving:
or causing the believer to:
There are four listings of gifts of the Spirit. , , , and . In each of these references it is made clear that these gifts are for the building up of the Body of Christ, or the Church. St. Paul is aware of spiritual power that manifests itself in at least these ways and teaches the church of their presence, role and importance. These are to be distinguished from talents which all people enjoy because they are created in the image of God. Spiritual gifts provide the power and abilities needed to do the work of Christ in the world.
Some Christians, especially of Eastern Orthodoxy, believe that early fathers were especially guided by the Holy Spirit, making their writings almost as canonical as the Testaments.
Numerous other supernatural happenings have been linked to the Holy Spirit, and it is often claimed that the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested more in some than it is in others depending on the individual's openness to God using them and the Spirit's sovereign will.
Life in the Spirit
The following is an example of what is generally held by evangelical Christians.
Life in the Spirit is spoken of in many places within the Bible. We note this fact from many theological scholars, including Dr. Gilbert Stafford in his book Theology for Disciples, "The church was empowered both to increase numerically and to live a quality of life." We should be able to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all Christians. This can be seen as three separate movements, the conviction of sin, the holiness of character, and for power in service.
The Conviction of Sin This is an on going ministry and work of the Holy Spirit. It was first spoken of by Jesus as recorded in John 16:8. The purpose of this conviction is for Christians to live set apart lives to honor God. It is through the conviction of sin that the Holy Spirit leads into a life that can be described as having a holiness of character.
With the infusion of the Holy Spirit into the lives of Christians so that they can live with a holiness of character. Holiness, and the Holiness movement, at times has been looked upon as legalism, and sometimes went that path. Yet the call to holiness of character should not be perverted by history. One who follows Jesus and is indwelled by the Spirit and submitting to that Spirit will live a life that has the fruit of the Spirit coming out of it, but this is not only for our own benefit, it is to serve God, and others.
Finally, we realize the movement of the Holy Spirit giving Christians power for service. This is for serving the Kingdom of God. This is where the gifts of the Spirit come in. The purpose of service within the Kingdom of God is to glorify God, and to extend the purposes and ministry of the kingdom, as stated in Acts 1:8.
The Holy Spirit is often depicted as a dove, based on the account of the Holy Spirit descending on Jesus in the form of a dove when he was baptized in the Jordan. In many paintings of the Annunciation, the Holy Spirit is shown in the form of a dove, coming down towards Mary on beams of light, representing the Seven Gifts, as the Archangel Gabriel's announces Christ's coming to Mary. A dove may also be seen at the ear of Saint Gregory the Great - as recorded by his secretary - or other Church Father authors, dictating their works to them.
The book of Acts describes the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles at Pentecost in the form of a wind and tongues of fire resting over the apostles' heads. Based on the imagery in that account, the Holy Spirit is sometimes symbolized by a flame of fire.
There are also some artworks that have depicted the Holy Spirit in a feminine sense as seen in the Sistine Chapel.
Some Christadelphians believe that one way God uses his Holy Spirit is in the form of his angels. They also believe that sometimes the phrase Holy Spirit refers to God's character/mind, depending on the context that the phrase is in.
Examples of these distinctions are shown within the Bible (King James Version) verses as:
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Holy Ghost is considered a third and individual member of the Godhead; by virtue of their holy nature and the everlasting covenant existent between them, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit operate as 'One God' (united in the attributes of perfection and pursuit of a common, divine goal). The Holy Spirit exists as a distinct and separate being from the Father and the Son, having a body of spirit with no flesh and bones, whereas the Father and the Son are said to be resurrected individuals having immortalized bodies of flesh and bone. Though The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is technically "Non-Trinitarian", their belief in the Godhead is often misinterpreted as an endorsement of Trinitarianism.
Jehovah's Witnesses point out that personification in the Bible occurs often, including terms such as wisdom, sin and death, water and blood, and does not indicate that the subject is a person. The fact that the Holy Spirit is referred to impersonally several times is used to assert that references of this manner would not occur in such frequency if this was a divine member of God, just as it does not occur with the Father or the Son. Additionally, at Jesus' baptism in , Jesus received God's spirit at that time, which Witnesses say conflicts with the idea that the Son was always one with the Holy Spirit. Jesus relates in Mark 13:32 "But of that day and [that] hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." The Witnesses note that the Holy Spirit is conspicuously missing from this statement, just as it is missing from Stephen's vision in where he sees only the Son and God in heaven.
Also noted, in regards to the mentions of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit together (as in ; ; ), nontrinitarians bring out that none of these verses offer any evidence of the equality of nature or authority among them, just as the numerous simultaneous references to "Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" or "Peter, James and John" do not infer an equality in any manner. Alvan Lamson says in The Church of the First Three Centuries: "The modern popular doctrine of the Trinity . . . derives no support from the language of Justin Martyr: and this observation may be extended to all the ante-Nicene Fathers; that is, to all Christian writers for three centuries after the birth of Christ. It is true, they speak of the Father, Son, and . . . Holy Spirit, but not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence, not as Three in One, in any sense now admitted by Trinitarians. The very reverse is the fact." In fairness however, it should be noted that while not explicitly expressing the Trinity in words these very Apocrypha writings from Justin Martyr and many others of ante-Nicene Fathers from A.D. 70 on, do refer to the duality of Jesus and the Father, Jesus being worshiped and referred to as their God.
To the Christian metaphysician the Holy Spirit is just what the name implies, the whole Spirit of God in action. In the Hebrew Jehovah is written Yahweh, Yah being masculine and weh feminine.
In the New Testament Christ stands for Jehovah. Jesus talked a great deal about the Holy Spirit: that it would bear witness of him, come with him, and help him to the end of the age.
Do not be misled by the personality of the Holy Spirit and the reference to it as "he." This was the bias of the Oriental mind, making God and all forms of the Deity masculine.
Holy Spirit is the love of Jehovah taking care of the human family, and love is always feminine. Love is the great harmonizer and healer, and whoever calls upon God as Holy Spirit for healing is calling upon the divine love. Jesus Christ Heals, pp. 182-183
There are many Roman Catholic writings that attempt to explain how the Holy Spirit, prior to Pentecost, might have been mistaken as not being a Person of the Trinity. One, the New Catholic Encyclopedia states: "The O[ld] T[estament] clearly does not envisage God's spirit as a person … God's spirit is simply God's power. If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly. … The majority of N[ew] T[estament] texts reveal God's spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God." (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 14, pp. 574, 575).
If it is sometimes represented as being distinct from God, it is because the breath of Yahweh acts exteriorly (Isa. 48:16; 63:11; 32:15). Very rarely do the OT writers attribute to God's spirit emotions or intellectual activity (Isa. 63:10; Wisdom of Solomon 1:3-7). When such expressions are used, they are mere figures of speech that are explained by the fact that the RUAH was regarded also as the seat of intellectual acts and feeling (Gen. 41:8).
Neither is there found in the OT or in rabbinical literature the notion that God's spirit is an intermediary being between God and the world. This activity is proper to the angels, although to them is ascribed some of the activity that elsewhere is ascribed to the spirit of God"
This encyclopedia further states:
"… the NT (New Testament) concepts of the Spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the OT. … The majority of NT texts reveal God's spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.
When a quasi-personal activity is ascribed to God's spirit, e.g., speaking, hindering, desiring, dwelling (Acts 8:29; 16:7; Rom.8:9), one is not justified in concluding immediately that in these passages God's spirit is regarded as a Person; the same expressions are used in regard to rhetorically personified things or abstract ideas (see Rom.6:6; 7:17).
Thus the context of the phrase 'blasphemy against the spirit' (Mat.12:31; cf. Mat.12:28; Luke 11:20, see also Eternal sin) shows that reference is being made to the power of God".
Thus, it must be noted that Roman Catholic teaching has always held the Holy Spirit, however depicted, to be a distinct Person of the Trinity, not just an aspect or manifestation of some attribute of the Father or the Son.
According to those who hold the minority (and, for Catholics, heretical) view of Binitarianism, the Holy Spirit is not a separate being, but the Father and the Son are. One such group, the Living Church of God teaches this about the Holy Spirit, "The Holy Spirit is the very essence, the mind, life and power of God. It is not a Being. The Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from Them throughout the entire universe (; ). It was through the Spirit that God created all things (). It is the power by which Christ maintains the universe (). It is given to all who repent of their sins and are baptized and is the power by which all believers may be "overcomers" and will be led to eternal life" (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs).
The view that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person has been considered to be heretical by mainstream Christianity, including Roman Catholicism. For example, Epiphanius of Salamis referred to some of those as Semi-Arians and Pneumatomachi ("spirit-fighters") and called them, "A sort of monstrous, half-formed people of two natures … Semi-Arians … hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time … But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son" (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472)