Transforming Ordinary People into Extraordinary Followers of Christ

Christianity: The Basics: The Holy Spirit is not a Ghost


John 14:15-26

We are using the Apostles’ Creed as an outline for examining some of the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. The  Creed declares: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” When it comes to the Trinity, without a doubt, the Holy Spirit is the most  mysterious of the three. John 14-17 records Jesus’ last opportunity to teach his disciples before going to the cross, so he  carefully chose the most crucial for them to know and understand. These chapters are filled with teaching about the Holy  Spirit. In John 14:15-26 Jesus taught three key truths about the Holy Spirit. 

[1] Who is the Holy Spirit? The first thing to note is that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force, a nebulous power, or an  “it” (v. 17). Jesus called him “another helper” (v. 16). The Greek word translated as “another” means “another of the same  kind.” So the Holy Spirit is of the same divine essence as Jesus and the Father. Then Jesus said something intriguing in v.  18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” In v. 23 he adds that he and his Father will make their abode in us.  So Jesus said: “I’m leaving you—but when the Holy Spirit comes, I will be coming and my Father will be coming.” Welcome  to the dizzyingly unique and wonderful doctrine of the Trinity! One God in three distinct persons who are one in essence, so  when you get the one you get them all. Has your heart ever melted with the joy and the awe at realizing that God is living within  you? Ephesians 5 speaks about being filled with the Spirit, but we must not think in terms of a gas or a liquid or a force that  we get more of. There’s no technique for being “filled with the Spirit”. No, no. Since the Holy Spirit is a person, to be full of a  person is something like being in love, but it’s a little more than that. It’s like when an honored guest visits—you feel affirmed  and excited; you live in anticipation. Has that happened to you? Have you been overwhelmed by the awareness of the glorious  person in your life? But it’s more than just a visit; “we have been made partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4)—in a  sense, we get God’s very lifeblood. Are you full of the Spirit—living in the awareness of who’s living right there in you? 

[2] What does the Holy Spirit do? What the Holy Spirit does is multidimensional—were do we start?! Jesus said that  the Holy Spirit will “be with you (plural) forever” (v. 16). When the Holy Spirit comes into your life, he doesn’t just unite you  to Christ, he unites you to everyone else who is united to Christ. The Holy Spirit puts us into community. You are bonded  to every other Christian on the face of the earth— irrespective of culture, race, or temperament. The Holy Spirit bonds us  together permanently. “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us”  (Romans 5:5). Right now, you might have a little bit of the love of God for other believers, but the minute you die you’ll have  an infinite amount. There will be no end or interruption. But there’s more!  

The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of truth (v. 17). It is a common mistake to pit the work of the Holy Spirit against the Bible, saying:  “Well, you have all your doctrine, all of your Biblical truth about the Holy Spirit, but I have the Holy Spirit. I have my experience.”  The Spirit of Truth always acts consistent with Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired the Bible (v. 25-26). The Holy Spirit also  anoints believers today to understand the truth he wrote (1 John 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13). Before I became a Christian,  when I read the Bible it seemed as though there was a veil over it, but after I came to faith it was as if someone had turned  the lights on! But the Holy Spirit not only illumines our minds, he actually brings God to us (v. 21b)! Jonathan Edwards (1703- 1758)—considered by many to be the greatest mind that America has ever produced—wrote this: “I had the greatest delight in  the Holy Scriptures…every word seemed to touch my heart. So much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing  food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling on the wonders contained in one sentence… In prayer  I had an extraordinary view of the glory of the Son of God—his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and  his meek gentleness. The person of Christ appeared to me with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and  conception. This continued about an hour, which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud.” Although we’re not nearly as eloquent as Edwards, if you have the Holy Spirit, what I just read need not be completely foreign  to you. The Spirit of Truth is the ultimate friend. He is called the “Helper” (v. 16). This Greek word is so rich; at other times it is  translated as “Advocate”, “Comforter”, and “Counselor” (to name a few). No single English word conveys the fullness of it’s  meaning. He’s the ultimate friend. The Greek world literally means “to come alongside someone”. The Holy Spirit is always  with you, and always for you. He’s the true friend who is willing to make a case against the enemy in your own heart: sin (John  16:8). He’s also the true friend who bears witness that you’re a child of God when you feel defeated. The Spirit comes into  your heart, looks around your life, and he’s appalled—but he doesn’t give up on you. He is always working to sanctify you, to  make you more like the Lord Jesus (Philippians 1:6). 

[3] How do we receive what the Spirit gives? According to our text, we do two things: if you want the ministry of the  second Advocate-Helper you have to (a) believe in the ministry of the first Advocate-Helper, and you have to (b) obey him.  Only then will the Holy Spirit perform the ministry we’ve been discussing. As the second Helper-Advocate he tells us about  the work of the first Helper-Advocate, Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1). Jesus Christ acts as our defense attorney, making our case  before the Father. And the second Advocate points out to us the work of the first Advocate, giving us the infallible peace  that comes from Jesus’ infallible case. We also have to obey—to not “quench the Spirit”. The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus,  glorifies Jesus, shows us his beauty. Do you see the glory of the divine selflessness? Do you see the Father emptying  heaven of his greatest treasure to come to earth to save us? Do you see Jesus Christ emptying himself of his glory? Do  you see the Holy Spirit pointing away from himself to Jesus? Do you see the magnificence of the divine selflessness? Do  you want to see the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life? Then stop thinking about yourself all the time. Stop your  self-centeredness and self-indulgence. Obey him. Serve God. Serve your neighbor and seek to glorify Jesus in all that you  do. Then you will find the ministry of the ultimate friend flooding your life. 


  • Get to know the Holy Spirit better by completing the “Digging Deeper” feature.
  • Trust what the Holy Spirit teaches us about the first Advocate-Helper,
    Jesus Christ. Depend on him alone to be acceptable to God.
  • Obey what the Holy Spirit teaches us to do in the book he wrote: the Bible.


Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)

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