Loving the Person of the Holy Spirit

Excerpted from Anne Graham Lotz, Jesus in Me: Experiencing the Holy Spirit as a Constant Companion, Multnomah, 2019, pp. 6-9. Used by permission.

Have you ever formed ideas or opinions about someone based on what others told you? And then when you met the person for yourself, did you discover that actually he was very different from what you had been led to believe?

Recently I received an invitation to appear on a television talk show hosted by a couple who had been in the news frequently and had received quite a bit of negative publicity. Without intending to, I had absorbed some of the public’s disparaging attitude. I almost declined the invitation, but when some respected advisers urged me to accept it, I did. What I discovered was almost the polar opposite of what I had been led to believe.

The couple was humble, warm, charming, thoughtful, encouraging, and supportive. They were easy to talk with, and I found my spirit resonating with theirs. To this day, I’m struck by the contrast between the public’s perception of them, as well as my own preconceived opinions, and the reality of their lovely personalities and authentic testimonies.

While our perception of other people can be dramatically different from reality, the same may also be said about our perception of the Holy Spirit. Could your perception be different from the truth or even in sharp contrast to it?

I’ve heard the Holy Spirit spoken of as an “it,” a feeling, a dove, a flame, a ghost, an emotion, or even an ecstatic experience. He is frequently referred to as the third person of the Trinity, as though He is the least of the Trinity or a postscript to the more significant Father and Son. All of which is inaccurate.

While the Holy Spirit may be symbolized by a dove or flame, while His presence may be accompanied by an emotion or feeling or ecstatic experience, He Himself is distinctly separate from those things. The Holy Spirit is not a thing but a person. His personhood is emphasized in John 16, when eleven times in eight verses, He is referred to by the personal, masculine pronouns He, Him, and His.[1]

So at the outset of our exploration of who the Holy Spirit is, we need to be clear that we are not speaking of an “it.” We are speaking of a “He.” He is a living person who has a mind, a will, and emotions. He is referred to as the third person of the Trinity not because He is the least but because He is the third person to be more fully revealed in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, although the Holy Spirit and God the Son—the living Word who became Jesus in the flesh—are present, it is God the Father who is primarily revealed. In the Gospels, while the Father and the Holy Spirit are certainly present, it is God the Son who is primarily revealed. Beginning with Acts and the epistles, although God the Father and God the Son are also present, it is primarily God the Holy Spirit who is revealed. In fact, the book of Acts is not about the acts of the disciples or the early church. It is a book about the acts of the Holy Spirit as He worked in and through the disciples and the early church.

If the Holy Spirit is a person with an intellect, will, and emotions, what is He really like? What is His personality? What are His responsibilities? Are you intrigued by this mysterious person? I know I have been and still am. One way we get to know Him is through His names.

In the Bible, names reveal the character of the person to whom they are given. For example, in the Old Testament, Abraham’s grandson was given the name of Jacob, which means “deceiver” or “supplanter.” Jacob grew up to be a man who deceived his father, Isaac. In doing so, Jacob supplanted his brother, Esau, as the heir to his father’s blessing. He was well named.

Twenty years after that deception, when Jacob returned to claim his inheritance, he was blocked from doing so by the angel of the Lord, who was a visible, tangible manifestation of the Lord Himself. After an entire night of struggling, God dislocated Jacob’s hip to force him to give in and give up. But instead of falling to the ground in a heap of self-pity, Jacob wound his arms around God’s neck and said he would not let go until God blessed him. Right there, on the edge of the river that served as the border to the Promised Land . . . the river where they had been wrestling, God led Jacob to confess his name . . . who he was . . . the deceiver and supplanter. Then God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “a prince who has power with God.” As a man broken, Jacob fully yielded his life to God, and he did indeed become a prince with power, the father of twelve sons who became the founding fathers of the nation that bears his name—Israel.[2]

Perhaps the most familiar example of how a name reveals someone’s character is found in the name given to the Son of God. He was called Jesus, which means “Savior,” “Rescuer,” “Redeemer,” “Deliverer”—the One who would save us from the penalty and power of sin.[3] His name accurately describes who He was . . . and who He is.

So what about the Holy Spirit? In John 16:7 Jesus gave Him a name that is often rendered “Helper” in English but is a rich word that requires several English words to effectively capture its meaning. The Amplified Bible version of the same verse indicates that the word for “Helper” could also be rendered as follows: “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him (the Holy Spirit) to you [to be in close fellowship with you].” In the following seven chapters, we’ll consider together the personal and practical implications of each aspect of the Holy Spirit’s name as listed in the Amplified Bible version of John 16:7.

One of my deepest, richest joys has been discovering by experience who the Holy Spirit is in every step of my life’s journey. Each name that He has been given—Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, and Standby—reveals another aspect of His beautiful character and has provoked in me a deep love for the One who is my constant companion . . . Jesus in me. My prayer for this book is that you, too, will discover Him by personal experience as your constant companion and that the discovery will lead you to love and rely on Him more.

[1] John 16:7-14. The number of pronouns used for the Holy Spirit occurs in the 1978 version of the New International Version of the Bible. This number may vary according to different translations.

[2] The dramatic story of Jacob’s name change is found in Genesis 32.

[3] Matthew 1:21.

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