In the great Christian creeds, we confess that “we believe in the Holy Spirit.” Although much could be said about what this entails, there are three basic truths we affirm when we profess faith in the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Is Fully God
Without a doubt, the Scriptures teach us that the Holy Spirit is fully God. We find one of the key testimonies to the deity of the Holy Spirit in Acts 5:1–4. While rebuking Ananias for his dishonesty, Peter remarks that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, and that in doing so, he had lied to God. For Peter, lying to the Holy Spirit is equivalent to lying to God, indicating an identity between God and the Holy Spirit.
We also find evidence of the deity of the Spirit in how the author of Hebrews says that the Holy Spirit spoke words from the Old Testament that were spoken by Yahweh, the one true God and covenant Lord of Israel. Compare, for example, Hebrews 10:15–17 with Jeremiah 31:33–34 and Hebrews 3:7–11 with Psalm 95:6–11.
Finally, Scripture indicates that the Spirit can do things that plainly only the Lord God Almighty can do. In the beginning, when God was the only being in existence, the Holy Spirit existed (Gen. 1:1–2). First Corinthians 2:11 explains that the Spirit alone comprehends the thoughts of the infinite God, and only an infinite person can do that. Psalm 104 includes the Holy Spirit in the work of divine creation (see v. 30 especially), and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 explains that salvation is the work of the Spirit. If the Spirit can do things only God can do, then the Holy Spirit must be fully God.
The Holy Spirit Is a Person
The Holy Spirit is fully divine, possessing all the attributes of the essence of the one true God. However, since the Bible teaches that the one essence of God belongs equally to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is a divine person distinct from the Father and the Son, and yet fully equal to both in power and glory. Importantly, this distinguishing between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not mean that any of the three persons are more or less God than the others. Instead, the distinctions reflect the unique personal properties of the persons of the Godhead. Real, irreducible differences exist between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but these differences do not divide the divine essence into three essences or distribute the divine attributes unequally between the three persons. There is only one divine essence and thus there is only one divine omniscience. The Father’s omniscience is the Son’s omniscience is the Spirit’s omniscience. There is only one divine holiness, and the Father’s holiness is the Son’s holiness is the Spirit’s holiness. And so on.
The distinct personal properties make each particular person who He is as a person, but they do not make that person God. That is, the properties do not pertain to the divine essence but nevertheless indicate a true, eternal distinction between the persons. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit alike possess all the attributes of the divine essence. Yet, the Father does not share His personal property of unbegottenness with the Son and the Holy Spirit; the Son does not share His personal property of begottenness or filiation with the Father and the Holy Spirit; and the Spirit does not share His personal property of procession or spiration with the Father and the Son.
Scripture does not explain fully what it means that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or that the Father and the Son spirate the Holy Spirit. We can say, however, that for the Holy Spirit to proceed from the Father and the Son means that He, in some mysterious way, “comes from” the Father and the Son without being less than the Father and the Son. After Christ ascended to the right hand of God, the Father sent the Spirit to His people through the Son (John 14:15–31; Acts 2:32–33). This action in time, or mission, of the Holy Spirit reflects the eternal relationship He has with the Father and the Son. Because the Spirit has proceeded from the Father and the Son from all eternity, He is sent by the Father and the Son at a particular moment in history.
The Holy Spirit Is Seen Especially in Particular Works of God
The final thing to note about the Holy Spirit is that He is especially seen in particular works of the triune God. Christians have long confessed that the external works of the triune God are undivided. That is, when one works in the world, they all work. For example, it is not the Father alone who creates, but also the Son and the Holy Spirit (see Gen. 1:1–2; John 1:1–3). In this common working, the three persons of the Trinity are not like a committee doing different things to collectively accomplish the same goal. Instead, the three persons do the same thing, but each does the work according to His personal property. The Father works from Himself, the Son works from the Father, and the Spirit works from the Father and the Son.
Thus, what the Holy Spirit does is also done by the Father and the Son. However, the fact that each does the same work according to His own personal property means that in some works of the Trinity, one person of the Trinity comes to the forefront while the others, still equally working, stand more in the background. Thus the Scriptures commonly associate each person of the Godhead with particular works. Scripture often speaks of the Father’s planning redemption (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:7) because there is something about planning redemption that especially reveals the Father. Scripture often speaks of the Son’s accomplishing redemption (e.g., 1 Tim. 1:15) because there is something about accomplishing redemption that especially reveals the Son. Scripture often speaks of the Spirit’s applying redemption to the elect (e.g., Titus 3:5) because there is something about applying redemption that especially reveals the Spirit.
The work of regeneration, by which we are brought to new spiritual life, is one work of God wherein the Spirit is particularly revealed (John 3:5–8). Having brought us to new life, the Holy Spirit is also our Advocate who intercedes for us, making our prayers acceptable to God, and who dwells within us to testify to our spirits that we are children of God (Rom. 8:1–30). As the Spirit works in us to sanctify us, He causes us to increasingly bear spiritual fruit to the glory of God (Gal. 5:16–26). God the Holy Spirit also gives us spiritual gifts for ministry (1 Cor. 12:1–11).