What Is the Holy Spirit?
JESUS once asked his disciples: “Which father is there among you who, if his son asks for a fish, will perhaps hand him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he also asks for an egg, will hand him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11, 12) The children of Galilee enjoyed eating eggs and fish; they knew what they wanted.
Jesus said that we should keep on asking persistently for the holy spirit, like a hungry child asking for food. (Luke 11:9, 13) Understanding the nature of the holy spirit will enable us to grasp the key role it can play in our lives. So let us first examine what the Bible teaches us about the holy spirit.
“Power of the Most High”
The Scriptures make clear that the holy spirit is a force that God uses to accomplish his will. When the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would have a son even though she was a virgin, the angel told her: “Holy spirit will come upon you, and power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason also what is born will be called holy, God’s Son.” (Luke 1:35) According to Gabriel’s words, there is a link between the holy spirit and the “power of the Most High.”
A similar idea appears elsewhere in the Bible. The prophet Micah said: “I myself have become full of power, with the spirit of Jehovah.” (Micah 3:8) Jesus promised his disciples: “You will receive power when the holy spirit arrives upon you.” (Acts 1:8) And the apostle Paul spoke of “the power of holy spirit.”
So, what may we conclude from the foregoing? There is a close connection between the holy spirit and the power of God. The holy spirit is the means by which Jehovah exerts his power. Put simply, the holy spirit is God’s applied power, or his active force. And what a force that is! We cannot comprehend the power needed to create the entire universe. Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah suggested that we reflect on the following: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name. Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them is missing.”
Thus the Bible indicates that the universe in all its order and harmony exists thanks to the “dynamic energy,” or power, of Almighty God. Clearly, God’s active force is immense, and our own existence depends on it.
Jehovah may use his holy spirit on a grand scale, as in the creation of the universe. But he can also use it in behalf of his human creation. The Bible abounds in references to how God’s active force infused his servants on earth with power.
“Jehovah’s Spirit Is Upon Me”
The ministry of Jesus gives us a fascinating glimpse of how God’s holy spirit can empower his servants. “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me,” Jesus told the people of Nazareth. (Luke 4:18) What did Jesus accomplish in “the power of the spirit”? (Luke 4:14) He healed every sort of sickness, calmed the waves of a raging sea, fed thousands of people with a few loaves and fish, and even raised the dead. The apostle Peter described Jesus as “a man publicly shown by God . . . through powerful works and portents and signs that God did through him.”
The holy spirit is not currently bringing about such miracles. Nonetheless, it can do remarkable things for us. Jehovah willingly gives his holy spirit to his worshippers, as Jesus assured his disciples. (Luke 11:13) Thus, the apostle Paul could say: “For all things I have the strength by virtue of him who imparts power to me.” (Philippians 4:13) Could the holy spirit play such a role in your life? The following article will address that question.
Why the Holy Spirit Is Not a Person
The Bible compares the holy spirit to water. When promising future blessings for his people, God said: “I shall pour out water upon the thirsty one, and trickling streams upon the dry place. I shall pour out my spirit upon your seed, and my blessing upon your descendants.”
When God pours out his spirit upon his servants, they become “full of holy spirit,” or “filled with holy spirit.” Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and the disciples who were gathered together on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. are all described as being full of, or filled with, holy spirit.
Consider this: Could a person be ‘poured out’ on many different individuals? Would you say that one person could ‘fill’ a whole group of people? That defies logic. The Bible does refer to people becoming filled with wisdom, understanding, or even accurate knowledge, but it never describes anyone as being filled with another person.
The Greek word translated “spirit” is pneuʹma, which also conveys the idea of an invisible power. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the word pneuʹma “primarily denotes the wind . . . also breath; then, especially the spirit, which, like the wind, is invisible, immaterial and powerful.”
Clearly, then, the holy spirit is not a person.*
For more information, see “The Truth About the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” pages 201-204, in the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.