The Holy Spirit​—Why the Confusion?

WHAT is the holy spirit? The question seems straightforward enough, but finding a simple answer may prove difficult. Pope Benedict XVI told a crowd in Australia: “A clear understanding of the Spirit almost seems beyond our reach.”

Certainly there are many opinions and much uncertainty when it comes to the question, What is the holy spirit? Following are some typical replies:

• A real person who lives inside Christ’s disciples.

• Divine science, a law of God in action.

• God’s presence at work in the world.

• The third person of the Trinity.

Why such confusion? It dates back to the fourth century C.E. when some theologians claimed that the holy spirit was a person who was somehow equal to God. This, however, was not an idea taught in the Scriptures or by the early followers of Christ. The New Catholic Encyclopedia explains: “The Old Testament clearly does not envisage God’s spirit as a person . . . God’s spirit is simply God’s power.” The same source adds: “The majority of New Testament texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.”

Understandably, people find it hard to think of a power as a person. Thus, a recent survey in the United States revealed that most people reject the idea that the holy spirit is a person or a “living entity.” Are they right? Or should we believe the theologians who insist that “the Holy Ghost is a Person really distinct as such from the Father and the Son”?

To get a reliable answer, we need to go to God’s Word, the Bible, which describes the holy spirit in detail. The apostle Paul wrote: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error.”​—2 Timothy 3:16, Today’s English Version.

Why should you seek to discover the truth about the holy spirit? Because knowing that truth may open the way for you to receive help from God. Do you sometimes feel unable to carry on in your own strength? Jesus promised his disciples: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you . . . If you . . . know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Father in heaven give holy spirit to those asking him!”​—Luke 11:9, 13.

In the following articles, we will let the Scriptures reveal to us the nature of the holy spirit. And we will see how it can be a force for good in our lives.

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The Scriptures reveal to us the nature of the holy spirit