Who is the Holy Spirit and how is he involved in the life of a Christian? Some say that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, however, he is much more than that. He is a very important part of a Christian’s life and he can have a profound effect on what we accomplish for God’s Kingdom and normal everyday life. My objective here is to provide biblically-based insight into the Holy Spirit and how he is involved in the lives of Christians. I will discuss the concept of being filled with the Holy Spirit, baptized in the Holy Spirit, and walking in the Spirit. The foundation for this study is the Book of Acts in the Bible.
Also, included with this study is a brief discussion on speaking in tongues as it relates to the Holy Spirit. I have another study that is dedicated to that the topic of speaking in tongues.
Who Is The Holy Spirit?
What is meant by the “Holy Spirit?”
Note that the Holy Spirit is also referred to in the Bible as the Holy Ghost, Spirit of God, God’s Spirit, etc.
The Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God. The Holy Spirit is a person and he has all the attributes of God, the father. The Holy Spirit is not a mere force or representation of God. The Holy Spirit is the actual presence of God.
The Holy Spirit is the Personal Presence of God and is indeed a person and not a mere force or power.
What is meant by presence? It simply means that God is “there” wherever “there” is. I could say, “Your presence is required at the meeting.” You would understand that to mean that you are required to be at that meeting. Your presence means you. Remember that God is not a physical person so the same understanding (and limitation) does not apply. God’s presence is beyond the limited physical scope of our presence (even with technology).
Let’s look at the first reference to the Holy Spirit in the Bible.
Genesis 1:1–2 (NKJV) —  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
God’s presence is everywhere. He can see what is going on with me, you, and everyone and everything in the universe. This refers to an attribute of God called omnipresence.
There are three attributes of God that are very important in understanding his involvement in our lives. They are omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. Omniscience basically means that God knows everything. Omnipotence means that God is all-powerful (e.g., Almighty God). Omnipresence means that God is present everywhere. There is no place that God cannot see. Consider the following passage of Scripture.
Psalm 139:7–10 (NKJV) —  Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,  Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.
God’s presence exists everywhere. He is not like you and I who are limited spatially.
The main point presented here is that the Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God and that God’s presence is not limited by space like it is for humans. God’s presence is everywhere due to his divine nature.
Baptized In the Holy Spirit
Baptized in the Holy Spirit is a term that is found in the Bible and it is those references that we will focus on herein. Baptism in the Holy Spirit may be defined as the following.
- Empowering by the Holy Spirit for the work of ministry
- The bestowing of spiritual gifts
- Being grafted into the body of Christ when one becomes a believer
John 1:33 (NKJV) — I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’
John the Baptist baptized with water, but Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? First, the word “baptize” comes from a Greek word that means to be immersed in or ceremonially to wash or cleanse. We normally think of baptism as the act of a person being immersed in water as an outward expression of the faith that they profess, i.e., they are baptized. So, what does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? Being baptized with the Holy Spirit means that one is immersed or permeated by the Spirit of God. A person receives the Holy Spirit when they put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. In other words, every Christian has received the Holy Spirit. Every Christian has already been baptized in the Holy Spirt.
All believers have the Holy Spirit
It is only by the work and power of the Holy Spirit that we can enter into the body of Christ and live a sanctified life. We will also see that it is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to be bold in proclaiming the gospel and to overcome the opposition and even persecution that comes because of our faith.
The Evidence of Speaking in Tongues
A Charismatic doctrine regarding the Holy Spirit is that the evidence that someone has received (been baptized with) the Holy Spirit is that they will speak in tongues, i.e., other languages. Sometimes this phenomenon is referred to as speaking in your prayer language in which a person speaks in an unearthly language. Interestingly, the book of Acts only records three incidences where people spoke in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit. Let’s evaluate them now.
Acts 2:4 (NKJV) —  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
We are very familiar with the events that occurred at Pentecost regarding the apostles being filled with the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised, and then speaking in other languages (tongues). It is very clear that speaking in tongues at that time had a definite purpose. There were others present from distant lands who heard the gospel preached in their own language. This was a sign to them of the power of God and the gospel. The Bible records that 3,000 people were saved because of the preaching of the gospel (See Acts 2:41). There is no mention that the 3,000 people who were saved spoke in tongues.
Acts 10:44–47 (NKJV) —  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.  And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.  For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered,  “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
Acts 11:15–17 (NKJV) —  And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.  Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
Here we have a pivotal moment in Christian history. Many Jews believed that salvation was of the Jews and that gentiles were not included except they become Jewish and follow the Jewish religion. The book of Galatians highlights this mindset and Paul’s answer to it. In any case, Peter was sent by the Holy Spirit to present the gospel to Cornelius and his household—gentiles.
The Holy Spirit came upon them while Peter was speaking to them. Peter and the Jewish believers with him had to admit that God gives his Spirit to the gentiles as well as the Jews. They knew that the Holy Spirit had come upon them because they started speaking in tongues (i.e., other languages) and praising God. Just as the Apostles had received the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, so did the gentiles.
Acts 19:6 (NKJV) —  And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
Paul came to Ephesus and met some disciples of John The Baptist, who only knew of John’s baptism. There was something about them that Paul noticed that indicated they had not received the Holy Spirit, so he asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They told Paul that they had not even heard of a Holy Spirit. Paul explained to them that John the Baptist pointed to Jesus Christ in whom they should believe. The disciples were baptized when they heard this, i.e., the gospel. Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues (different languages) and prophesied.
Baptism and Receiving the Holy Spirit
Acts 8:16–19 (NKJV) —  For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.  And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,  saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Peter realized that the Holy Spirit came upon those on whom he laid his hands. Keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is a gift given by God to all believers. However, Simon the sorcerer thought that he could have the same effect by somehow acquiring the power to do it. In his case, he thought to purchase that power. We cannot earn or otherwise cause the baptism of the Holy Spirit because he is a gift given to us by God when we believe in Christ.
I have seen people, including ministers, guiding people, and teaching them how to speak in tongues. They promote the act of speaking in tongues and many times above the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have even seen in prayer lines where people are badgered to speak in tongues. They are in many ways trying to do what Simon wanted to do, namely cause someone to receive the Holy Spirit by their coaching. It is not possible to teach, coerce, or otherwise grant someone the ability to speak in tongues. First, as we’ve seen thus far, speaking in tongues was the direct result of the Holy Spirit coming upon someone, i.e., baptizing them. The Holy Spirit comes upon all believers, but the manifestation of his presence is not necessarily to speak in another language, i.e., speak in tongues. Do not think that you must speak in tongues to know that you have the Holy Spirit. If you are a believer, then you already have him.
Filled With the Holy Spirit
The Greek word pletho was used to describe anything that was filled with something, like a sponge filled with water. Luke uses the term to describe how the Holy Spirit can control or influence a person. To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to be empowered and controlled by the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit overpowers a person’s will or freedom of choice. Rather, we yield to the Holy Spirit and are therefore led, guided, or controlled (by influence) by Him. Instead of being controlled by the flesh (i.e., yielding to the flesh), we are controlled by the Holy Spirit.
The fruits of the Spirit are very evident in the one who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Along with the Holy Spirit’s influence on a believer’s life, he also empowers the yielded believer for works of ministry and to fulfill God’s calling on their lives. The empowering of the Holy Spirit allows the believer to accomplish specific tasks such as speaking boldly (as revealed in Acts), ministering to others, etc.
When one is filled with the Holy Spirit, the presence and power of God become evident in the believer’s life as he or she bears fruit giving God glory and accomplishing God’s will.
Below are some Scripture references to being filled with the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God).
Ephesians 5:18 (NKJV) — And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit
Luke 4:1 (NKJV) — Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
Luke 1:15 (NKJV) — For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
Exodus 31:3 (NKJV) — And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
Exodus 35:31 (NKJV) — and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship,
Acts 9:17 (NKJV) — And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Acts 13:9 (NKJV) — Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
Being filled with the Holy Spirit as used in the Bible, means that a person has yielded to the Holy Spirit and lives a life that is guided by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit also empowers that person to do whatever it is that God has ordained for him or her to do. Being filled by the Holy Spirit describes a person who is walking in the Spirit, i.e., they follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as they journey through life day by day. This should be the pursuit of all believers.
I should also point out that being filled with the Holy Spirit and being baptized by the Holy Spirit are different things. Being filled by the Holy Spirit denotes the will of a person to yield to the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Being baptized by the Holy Spirit denotes the activity of the Holy Spirit when someone becomes a believer, i.e., put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
Walk in the Spirit
What does it mean to walk in the Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit)? Consider the passages of Scripture below.
Romans 8:1 (NKJV) — There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:4 (NKJV) — that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Galatians 5:16 (NKJV) — I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
To walk in the Spirit means that a person is filled with the Spirit of God and has yielded his life to the Spirit of God. A person who walks in the Spirit actively pursues the will of God during the course of their life. You might say that walking in the Spirit is the action part of being filled with the Spirit.
I think it is important that we understand what the term “walk” is referring to. Consider the following.
Psalm 1:1 (NKJV) — Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
Genesis 5:24 (NKJV) — And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Romans 8:4 (NKJV) — that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
1 John 1:6–7 (NKJV) —  If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
The word “walk” in this context means a person’s conduct, behavior or way of life. A person can be said to walk (or live) by an evil standard or by a righteous standard. How we live our lives is our walk. This refers to a general course of life, not necessarily every single event. For example, even the most righteous person will sin. Jesus gives an excellent example of this walking.
Matthew 7:13–14 (NKJV) —  “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Walking in the Spirit means that we have chosen a way of life that is consistent with the indwelling Spirit of God who constantly guides us along the way. If we walk in the Spirit, then we will not do the things that come from the lust of the flesh. We can only be on one path or have one master. Either we are walking the way of God or the way of evil. It is our choice.
Walking in the Spirit and Being Religious
I have to point out that walking in the Spirit does not necessarily mean that you must follow religious practices. As a matter of fact, religious practices may inhibit you from truly walking in the Spirit. Religion does not focus on the kingdom of God or his righteousness. Religion focuses on us and our power to be accepted by God or even to save ourselves by our own merit.
Walking in the Spirit means that we rely on the Holy Spirit for our lives, to please God, to do his will, etc. When walking in the Spirit, it is not about what we can do, but what the Holy Spirit is doing through us and in us.
In this study, we have learned that the Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God who sees all things and is therefore present everywhere. I made the important point that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a mere force or power.
We went on to learn that being baptized by the Holy Spirit means to be empowered, gifted, or to be grafted into the Body of Christ. Being filled with the Holy Spirit means that the Holy Spirit guides us, controls us as we yield to him, and influences our lives. Walking in the Spirit means that we are actively following the guidance and promptings/influences of the Holy Spirit.
This topic may appear more complicated than it should. The important thing to remember is this.
- Put your faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.
- Receive the Holy Spirit, who makes you a part of the body of Christ
- Yield your life to the Holy Spirit
- Actively go where the Holy Spirit leads you with regard to the course of your life.
It’s really quite simple. Believe in Jesus Christ and live the life of Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit. Amen.