For many Christians, the person of the Father and the person of the Son seem more tangible, and thus understandable, than the Holy Spirit. So what do we actually understand about this mysterious presence we call the Holy Spirit?
Certain streams within historical Christianity seem to err on the side of over-emphasizing the Holy Spirit over and sometimes against the Father and the Son. Other Christian traditions seem to do the exact opposite by de-emphasizing the Holy Spirit—if they mention the Holy Spirit at all. Is there a simple and concise way of understanding the Holy Spirit?
Luckily the Bible Project is here to help. In order to understand the Holy Spirit, one must literally go back to the beginning. In the opening chapters of the book of Genesis, we read about the Holy Spirit hovering above creation and being an agent of creation. The Spirit then is God’s personal presence and the Hebrew word for Spirit is transliterated “Ruah”. Ruah can mean “energy” or “breath”, and though they are invisible, both of these concepts connote power and life.
For instance, Joseph in the Old Testament was empowered by the Holy Spirit to interpret dreams while another person named Bezaleel was empowered with wisdom, skills, and creative genius in building the tabernacle. Likewise, the prophets were guided by the Holy Spirit to see what was happening in history according to God’s perspective. Tragically, sin has broken into our world and has rendered everyone dead in their sins and completely unable to redeem themselves.
It’s in this tragic state where our Redeemer Jesus arrives and as He is being baptized, the Holy Spirit descends upon him as a bird and empowers Him to bring to life what was formerly dead. Though Jesus is eventually crucified, the Holy Spirit continues to work by raising him from the dead and giving life to his followers. To this day the Holy Spirit is still hovering over dark places, pointing to Jesus, transforming His people, and eventually will finish the job by ushering in a new humanity and a new world full of His love and life-giving Spirit.