When I was in school working on my master’s degree, I had the privilege of mulling over some ideas and questions dealing with the third member of the Trinity, The Holy Spirit. Any discussion on this topic would be appreciated, because I have to be honest, the Holy Spirit has always been awe inspiring, yet I have struggled with fully understanding Him. In retrospect, in the beginning of my walk with Christ, I did not see the Holy Spirit as a “who” or a “Him,” but rather a “what” and an “it.”
As I have grown and learned more about Christianity, I realize that the Holy Spirit is not just a force, but has a personality, has a mind, has emotions, is one with God, and is a person within the Trinity. Not only that, through the years He has been there revealing so much to me about Christ, God the Father, and the Bible. Now I continue to pray that He would reveal to me a bit more about Himself, because I still find Him to be mysterious.
One way that I have personally come to a better understanding and relationship with the Spirit is reflecting on the things that He does, mainly the work that he does within us. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, He influences us, He guides us, and He comforts us. Boa, in his book Conformed to His Image explains: “The ministry of the Holy Spirit is multifaceted, but three essential aspects are bearing witness to Jesus Christ, applying Christ’s redemptive work in human hearts, and working personally and progressively to form Christlikeness in the lives of believers.”
The Spirit helps to shape us as we traverse along the road of our Christian journey. In addition, He allows us to produce spiritual fruits and also equips us with the gifts of the spirit. These gifts are meant to bring diversity to the Church body that comes together as a brilliant whole. Everyone is gifted with different talents that can be used to build one another up in Christ. This of course is if the gifts are used correctly and selflessly.
A question about the Holy Spirit that came up during my course work is how we should understand the difference between being filled with the Holy Spirit and having the Spirit dwell within. A professor of mine once suggested a fascinating point concerning my question. He suggested that perhaps it isn’t so much a literal “filling of” (as one would fill a pitcher by pouring water into it from the faucet) but more of a change in relationship. I agree with this to an extent. I think that the Spirit can literally dwell in us, but the concept of being filled with the Spirit seems to be based on our relationship with God.
It seems it is possible for Christians to have the Spirit dwell in them while not necessarily being filled with the Holy Spirit. There are several references in scripture that I think imply this. For instance Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit” (NIV). “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30, NIV). Finally, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, NIV).
These pieces of scripture suggest that there is some type of internal quality we have that is capable of diminishing the presence or activity of the Spirit in our lives. Then there is also Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” (NIV). I think that the fruit of the Spirit we see in our lifetime may indicate the level at which we are “filled” with the Spirit.
Still, I have so many questions. The concept of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is so abstract to me and very difficult for me to explain. I want to know more. The Spirit does so much and loves so deeply. He is God, He inspires scripture and prophecy, He was active in Christ’s ministry, He comforts, He empowers, He bestows gifts, etc. I simply would like to learn more.
If anyone has any experiences they’d like to share with their personal relationship with the Holy Spirit I would love to hear them. Also, any ideas of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit vs. having the spirit dwell within would also be interesting to me.
 Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 292.
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