THE HOLY SPIRIT:
The Holy Spirit is God's present activity in our midst. When we sense God's leading,
God's challenge, or God's support or comfort, we say that it's the Holy Spirit at work.
In Hebrew, the words for Spirit, wind, and breath are nearly the same. The same is true in
Greek. In trying to describe God's activity among them, the ancients were saying that it was
like God's breath, like a sacred wind. It could not be seen or held: "The wind blows where
it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where
it goes" (John 3:8). But the effect of God's Spirit, like the wind, could be felt and known.
Where do we find the evidence of the Spirit at work?
In the Bible
The Spirit is mentioned often throughout the Bible. In Genesis a "wind from God swept over
the face of the waters," as if taking part in the Creation (1:2). Later in the Old Testament
(Hebrew Bible), we often read of "the Spirit of the Lord."
In Matthew's account of Jesus' baptism, Jesus "saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and alighting on him" (3:16) and he "was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be
tempted" (4:1). After his Resurrection Christ told his disciples, "You will receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" (Acts 1:8). A few weeks later, on the Day of
Pentecost, this came to pass: "And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush
of a violent wind....All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:2, 4). As the Book of
Acts and Paul's letters attest, from that time on, the early Christians were vividly aware of
God's Spirit leading the new church.
In guidance, comfort, and strength
Today we continue to experience God's breath, God's Spirit. As one of our creeds puts it,
"We believe in the Holy Spirit, God present with us for guidance, for comfort, and for strength"
(The United Methodist Hymnal, No. 884). We sense the Spirit in time alone—perhaps in prayer,
in our study of the Scriptures, in reflection on a difficult decision, or in the memory of a loved one.
The Spirit's touch is intensely personal.
Perhaps we're even more aware of the Holy Spirit in the community of believers—the
congregation, the church school class or fellowship group, the soup kitchen, the planning
committee, the prayer meeting, the family. Somehow the Spirit speaks through the thoughtful
and loving interaction of God's people. The Holy Spirit, who brought the church into being, is
still guiding and upholding it, if we will but listen.
In the gifts we receive
How does the Holy Spirit affect our lives? By changing us!
By renewing us and by strengthening us for the work of ministry.
Fruits: Jesus said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16).
What sort of fruit? Paul asserts that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" (Galatians 5:22).
Gifts: Paul also writes that the Spirit bestows spiritual gifts on believers.
In 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 he lists nine, which vary from one person to another: the
utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles,
prophecy, the discernment of spirits, various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of
tongues. These fruits and gifts are not of our own achievement. They and others are the
outgrowth of the Spirit's work in us, by grace, through our faith in Jesus the Christ. And
they are not given for personal gain. Through these fruits and gifts, the Holy Spirit empowers
us for ministry in the world.
From United Methodist Member's Handbook, Revised by George Koehler (Discipleship Resources, 2006), pp. 84-85. Used by permission.