The question is ‘What is the Holy Spirit?’, but probably the better question would be ‘who is the Holy Spirit?’, because the Bible talks of the Holy Spirit as a person. It identifies it as a personality in thinking terms as opposed to just an object.
Jesus describes the Holy Spirit in (John 14:26) “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost is made available to us by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus also describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth. (John 14:16-17)
It is this same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) which is available in giving us rest and refreshment from the cares of this life (Isaiah 28:11, 1 Corinthians 14:21) and will prepare us for eternal life.
Similarly, in Romans 8:26 (Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.) the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf, giving us the confidence and assurance that our prayers are not only heard but answered.
How do I receive the Holy Spirit?
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus told them to “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10). Jesus then makes the analogy between a natural father and son regarding nurturing needs and concerns and then makes the comparison to God giving the Holy Spirit to those who ask “….. how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.” (Luke 11:13).
Likewise on the day of Pentecost, Peter, when questioned by the crowd “what shall we do?”, answered and said “Repent and be baptised, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). Therefore repentance and baptism are steps towards God and the indication of a willing heart in asking for His Holy Spirit.
How do I know that I have the Holy Spirit?
The sign of receiving the Holy Spirit was first displayed in Acts 2, where all who were gathered together on the day of Pentecost “spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4). This was identified by Peter when some bystanders were confused by speaking in tongues and asked “what meaneth this?”. Peter’s answer began by quoting the prophet Joel (Acts 2:17-18 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.“), and finished by identifying speaking in tongues as the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).
A man named Cornelius, known to have many outstanding traits (devout, god-fearing, alms-giving, always praying, seer of visions, just, of good-report and fasting often) still lacked the Holy Spirit and was not saved. Whilst Peter expounded the Gospel, he and his family received the Holy Spirit. This was made evident to Peter and the other apostles present -“For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-48).
One of the last things Jesus said to his disciples before returning to heaven was that one of the signs identifying believers would be that “they shall speak with new tongues” Mark 16:17. Strong’s Concordance, a generally accepted index of Bible words translates “tongues” to mean “by implication a language, especially a naturally unacquired tongue” (Strong, 1990).
In the Bible, Speaking in Tongues refers to a language or languages not previously learned by the speaker (Acts 2:6-12); an ability gained in an instant of time (Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 19); not learnt over time; acquired when being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 19); not understood by the speaker; nor generally understood by other humans and certainly not for the purpose of communicating with them (1 Corinthians 14).
Speaking in tongues is the outward manifestation of the in-filling of God’s Holy Spirit and is a tangible experience promised to all.
Why do I need the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is the only means of entering in to the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”
In a world of spiritual darkness, Jesus tells us He is “…the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). In verse 17, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth which will dwell within us when we receive it. It makes sense then to have the truth which will grant you access to God.
God establishes his people, his church, through his son Jesus Christ. Acts 2:38 – 39 “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children , and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”
The Bible says quite clearly that a person must have the Holy Spirit to be saved. For example, “… Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9), and “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5).
The Holy Spirit also endues us with power from on high (Luke 24:49) and leads us to follow God’s ways in that upon receiving the Holy Spirit we become the sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14-17). As mentioned before, the Spirit therefore acts not only as a comforter for this life but is essential in preparing us for Jesus’ return.