Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (God the Holy Spirit: Pneumatology/Introduction)

“Praise Ye the Triune God”

Praise ye the Father for His loving-kindness,

Tenderly cares He for His erring children.

Praise Him, ye angels, praise Him in the heavens,

Praise ye Jehovah!

Praise ye the Savior—great is His compassion;

Graciously cares He for His chosen people.

Young men and maidens, ye old men and children,

Praise ye the Savior!

Praise ye the Spirit, Comforter of Israel,

Sent of the Father and the Son to bless us;

Praise ye the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—

Praise ye the Triune God!

~Elizabeth R. Charles (1828–1896)

Major Subjects Covered in Chapter 5  
Introduction to the Holy Spirit  
Deity and Triunity  
Prophetic Ministry  

This chapter introduces the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune Godhead, who appears throughout Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Introduction to the Holy Spirit

Old Testament Survey

New Testament Survey

Holy Spirit Reality

Names and Titles

Holy Spirit Word Pictures

Holy Spirit Ministry to Christ

Holy Spirit Ministries

Sins against the Holy Spirit

Old Testament Survey

The Hebrew word ruakh appears 378 times in the Old Testament, while the identical Aramaic word occurs 11 times (in Daniel only). It primarily means “spirit” (1 Sam. 16:14), “wind” (Ex. 10:13), or “breath” (Gen. 6:17). Context almost always determines the intended reference, distinguishing, for example, between the Spirit of God (Gen. 6:3) and the spirit of man (Job 10:12) or between an attitude (Prov. 16:18) and the immaterial part of man (Ps. 31:5).

This word, ruakh, itself appears in all but seven (Leviticus, Ruth, Esther, Song of Solomon, Obadiah, Nahum, Zephaniah) of the thirty-nine Old Testament books (about 82 percent). However, it refers specifically to the Holy Spirit in only 79 of 378 appearances (21 percent) and in only twenty-one of the thirty-nine Old Testament books (51 percent), including Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Job, Psalms, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Micah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The Holy Spirit is referred to from the time of creation (Gen. 1:2) all the way to the last Old Testament book (Mal. 2:15). God’s Spirit appears most frequently in Isaiah (15 times), Ezekiel (15 times), Numbers (7 times), Judges (7 times), 1 Samuel (7 times), and Psalms (5 times).

New Testament Survey

New Testament revelation about the Holy Spirit far exceeds that of the Old Testament. The Greek word pneuma occurs 379 times in the New Testament (almost the same as in the Old Testament), yet it refers to the Holy Spirit on over 245 occasions (65 percent), triple the number of Old Testament occurrences. Of the combined Old Testament and New Testament references to the generic English translation “spirit,” about 43 percent (324 of 757 occurrences) refer to the Holy Spirit.

Pneuma appears in twenty-five New Testament books (93 percent), being absent from only 2 and 3 John. It refers to the Holy Spirit in twenty-three books (85 percent)—Philemon, James, 2 John, and 3 John excepted.

The Holy Spirit appears throughout the New Testament from Matthew 1:18 to Revelation 21:10. The Holy Spirit is mentioned most frequently in Acts (56 times), Romans (28 times), and 1 Corinthians (22 times). One of the most dominant themes is that the Holy Spirit is a gift from God to every believer (Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Gal. 3:5; Eph. 1:13–14; 1 Thess. 4:8; 1 John 3:24; 4:13).

Holy Spirit Reality

Biblically speaking, there can be no doubt about the Holy Spirit’s existence in that he is mentioned over 320 times. But is the Holy Spirit a person, like God the Father and God the Son? Personhood is not measured by physical elements such as body parts, flesh, blood, and bones. Rather, it is determined by the possession of three basic characteristics: (1) cognition/intellect, (2) volition/will, and (3) emotion/affection. The Bible provides more than sufficient evidence that the Holy Spirit possesses all three essentials of personhood. Thus, the Spirit can be classified as the third person of the triune Godhead.


       1.    He counsels (Isa. 11:2).

       2.    He imparts wisdom (Isa. 11:2).

       3.    He inspired Scripture (Acts 1:16; Heb. 3:7; 10:15; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:21).

       4.    He intercedes (Rom. 8:26).

       5.    He knows (Isa. 11:2).

       6.    He possesses a mind (Rom. 8:27; 1 Cor. 2:10–13).

       7.    He reminds (John 14:26).

       8.    He provides truth (John 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6).

       9.    He speaks (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2; 28:25; Rev. 2:7–3:22).

     10.    He teaches (Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:13; Heb. 9:8).

     11.    He testifies (John 15:26; 1 John 5:7–8).


       1.    He contends with sinners (Gen. 6:3; Acts 7:51).

       2.    He directs (Acts 16:6–7).

       3.    He distributes spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4).

       4.    He regenerates (John 3:7–8; Titus 3:5).


       1.    He experiences joy (1 Thess. 1:6).

       2.    He can be insulted (Heb. 10:29).

       3.    He grieves over sin (Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30).

       4.    He loves (Rom. 5:5; 15:30; Gal. 5:22).

Names and Titles

One of the chief evidences for the triunity of the Godhead involves the names used in relationship to the Holy Spirit. Some relate to the Father, some to the Son, while others are unique to the Holy Spirit. These are listed in the following four sections:


“his Spirit” (Num. 11:29; Rom. 8:11)

“my Spirit” (Gen. 6:3)

“your Spirit” (Ps. 139:7)

“your Holy Spirit” (Ps. 51:11)

“the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4)

“the Spirit of God” (Gen. 1:2; Matt. 3:16; 1 Cor. 2:11)

“the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11)

“the Spirit of the living God” (2 Cor. 3:3)

“the Spirit of him” (Rom. 8:11)

“the Spirit of your Father” (Matt. 10:20)

“The Spirit of the Lord” (Judg. 3:10)

“The Spirit of the Lord” (Luke 4:18)

“the Spirit of the Lord God” (Isa. 61:1)

“the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18)


“the Spirit of Jesus” (Acts 16:7)

“the Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11)

“the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19)

“the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9; 8:39)

“the Spirit of his Son” (Gal. 4:6)


“the Spirit” (Num. 11:17; Matt. 4:1)

“the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:14)

“your good Spirit” (Ps. 143:10)

“the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18)

“one Spirit” (Eph. 4:4; cf. 4:6, “one God and Father,” and 4:5, “one Lord”)

“the seven Spirits” (Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)


“the Spirit of counsel and might” (Isa. 11:2)

“the Spirit of faith” (2 Cor. 4:13)

“the Spirit of glory” (1 Pet. 4:14)

“the Spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:29; cf. Zech. 12:10)

“the Spirit of holiness” (Rom. 1:4)

“the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isa. 11:2)

“the Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2)

“the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13)

“the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6; cf. 1 John 5:6)

“the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Eph. 1:17)

“the Spirit of wisdom and understanding” (Isa. 11:2)

“the Helper” (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7)

Holy Spirit Word Pictures

The Bible uses eight word pictures that clearly and explicitly connect the Holy Spirit with the illustration in a metaphorical sense. Some of the emblems can appear elsewhere in Scripture without necessarily referring to the Holy Spirit, such as fire, which can also symbolize judgment (Matt. 25:41; 1 Cor. 3:13). These metaphors come from the natural world (dove, fire, oil, water, and wind), the legal world (pledge and seal), and the domestic world (clothing).

Table 5.1 Holy Spirit Word Pictures

Clothing  Empowerment/enablement by the Holy Spirit  
Dove  Righteousness of the Holy Spirit  
Fire  Visible presence of the Holy Spirit  
Oil  Anointing with the Holy Spirit  
Pledge  Guarantee with the Holy Spirit  
Seal  Ownership of and security with the Holy Spirit  
Water  Salvation, enablement, and induction by the Holy Spirit  
Wind  Salvation and invisible empowerment by the Holy Spirit  

The contexts of these emblems show that they can represent the Holy Spirit’s ministry to Christ (dove and oil), to the apostles (clothing, fire, oil, water, and wind), and to believers (oil, pledge, seal, water, and wind). All five pictures connected with the apostles refer to various elements occurring on the day of Pentecost. Symbols for Christ and for believers relate to baptism and salvation respectively. Oil involves all three subjects (Christ, apostles, and believers); water and wind relate to both apostles and believers; the remaining five images apply to only one subject or group.

Interestingly, very few of the pictures appear clearly in the Old Testament (only water and wind), while all eight are found in the New Testament. They show up in the Gospels (clothing, dove, water, and wind), Acts (fire, oil, water, and wind), the Pauline epistles (oil, pledge, and seal), the Petrine epistles (wind), and the Johannine epistles (oil). The pictures and the realities they represent are summarized in table 5.1.


The Son instructed the disciples that the Father would send “the promise” (the Spirit; see John 14:16–17) so that they could be “clothed” (Gk. endyō) with “power from on high” (Luke 24:49). This was anticipated (Acts 1:4–5) and fulfilled (Acts 2:1–4), just as Christ said. The disciples were all powerfully enabled by the Holy Spirit to accomplish Christ’s purposes (Acts 2:4). This word picture involves God sovereignly clothing humans, not humans clothing themselves (cf. Col. 3:12–14). This explains how the apostles did what they could not do before as a result of Pentecost.

DOVE (MATT. 3:16; MARK 1:10; LUKE 3:22; JOHN 1:32)

What does the dove (Gk. peristera) represent about the reality of the Holy Spirit? The dove is innocent and blameless (Gk. akeraios, Matt. 10:16). In Romans 16:19 and Philippians 2:15, believers are described with the same Greek word (akeraios) to show that they are “innocent as to what is evil” and “children of God without blemish,” respectively. That is why in the Old Testament sacrificial system a dove could be offered by the poor, who could not afford a lamb, as an acceptable burnt offering to cover for sin (Lev. 1:14; 5:7; Luke 2:22–24). In Scripture, a dove represents righteousness.

How does righteousness relate to the Holy Spirit and Christ’s baptism? The context of Christ’s baptism focuses particularly on righteousness. The Son identified his ministry as one of fulfilling all righteousness (Matt. 3:15). Therefore, the Spirit (pictured by the dove, which represented righteousness) inaugurated Christ’s ministry of righteousness (Matt. 3:16). As a result, the Father authenticated Christ as the righteous Son (Matt. 3:17) with the Spirit’s testimony.


The presence of God is prominently pictured by fire (Ex. 3:2–6; 13:21; Lev. 9:24; Acts 7:30–33). The use of fire in Acts 2:3 occurs on the day of Pentecost and most appropriately portrays the visible presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul must have had this imagery in mind when decades later he urged the Thessalonians to avoid quenching the Spirit with sin (1 Thess. 5:19).

OIL (2 COR. 1:21; 1 JOHN 2:20, 27)

Anointing with oil in the Old and New Testaments symbolizes appointment to an important position. Old Testament priests were anointed to the priesthood (Ex. 40:12–15). David was anointed by Samuel to be king of Israel (1 Sam. 16:13). New Testament disciples were anointed to be apostles (2 Cor. 1:21).

In like manner, Christ—which means “anointed one” in Hebrew (meshiakh) and Greek (christos)—was anointed with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:27; 10:38) for ministry, which most likely occurred at the time of his baptism. Believers, called a royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9), are anointed with the Holy Spirit so they can know the truth about Christ (1 John 2:20, 27). Paul was anointed with the Holy Spirit for his apostleship (2 Cor. 1:21–22).

So it had to be with the apostles on the day of Pentecost. By inference, what happened to Paul (2 Cor. 1:21) also occurred to the disciples when they were anointed with the Holy Spirit for their apostleship, which is pictured in Acts 2:1–4.

PLEDGE (2 COR. 1:22; 5:5; EPH. 1:14)

In three New Testament texts (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14), the Holy Spirit is said to be given to every believer as a guarantee (Gk. arrabōn) of his or her full salvation, which would not be completely fulfilled until the resurrection. This term could be described with many synonyms such as down payment, earnest, or pledge, ensuring that a promise made and begun would unquestionably be fulfilled completely in the future. The indwelling Holy Spirit is God’s pledge that what he began when a person first believed in Christ for eternal life will eventually result in eternal life (Phil. 1:6).

SEAL (2 COR. 1:22; EPH. 1:13; 4:30)

The Father set his seal on the Son (John 6:27). God set his seal on the apostles (2 Cor. 1:22). The Lord set his seal on believers (Eph. 1:13; 4:30). The seal that God placed on all believers (Gk. sphragizō) is the Holy Spirit. This redemptive seal marks out the ownership of believers by God, who redeemed them out of the domain of darkness and put them into Christ’s kingdom of light (Col. 1:13). The seal indicates that believers look to God for their spiritual security in this life and the next (see “Salvation” [p. 349] for an expansion of this discussion).

WATER (JOHN 7:38–39; ACTS 1:5; 2:33; 1 COR. 12:13 [2×]; TITUS 3:5–6)

The Holy Spirit is pictured as (1) life-giving water, that is, salvation (John 7:38–39; 1 Cor. 12:13b; Titus 3:5–6); (2) life-enabling water, that is, empowerment (Acts 1:5; 2:33); and (3) life-sustaining water, that is, induction (1 Cor. 12:13a).

Using the word picture of water, Christ looked forward (Acts 1:5) and Peter looked backward (Acts 2:33) to the powerful enablement of the disciples with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The disciples were “baptized” (Acts 1:5), and the Father “poured out” the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).

Paul spoke salvifically of the Holy Spirit as water when it is consumed in 1 Corinthians 12:13b (see John 4:14). Christ spoke about the Holy Spirit being rivers of living water (John 7:38–39; cf. Ezek. 36:25–27). Paul pictured the Holy Spirit as water being poured out for the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5–6). At the time of Christ’s millennial kingdom, God will pour out his Spirit redemptively on the house of Israel (Isa. 32:15; 44:3; Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28–29).

Christ baptizes believers with the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, ushering them into the church (1 Cor. 12:13a). Like salvation and empowerment, this induction into the body of Christ is permanent and therefore irreversible.

WIND (JOHN 3:8; ACTS 2:2; 2 PET. 1:21)

The Greek word pneuma can be translated “spirit” (Matt. 5:3), “Spirit” (Matt. 1:18), “wind” (John 3:8), or “breath” (Rev. 13:15), as context determines. In John 3:8, Jesus likened the phenomenon of wind to the work of God’s Spirit in salvation in that it is invisible, unexpected, unpredictable, yet always powerfully accomplishing its end (cf. Ezek. 37:9–14).

Luke pictured the sound of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost as that of a mighty rushing wind (Acts 2:2). It could only be heard, not seen, and it created a powerful effect that culminated in Peter’s remarkable preaching that day. The invisible Spirit empowered an undeniable and unforgettable beginning to the church of Jesus Christ.

Peter described the writing of Scripture using wind as an emblem of the Holy Spirit’s work of inspiration (2 Pet. 1:21). As wind carries along a ship at sea, so the Holy Spirit carried along the apostles in writing the Bible. Ships are “dead in the water” without the propelling power of the wind, and likewise, Scripture writers were impotent to write the Word of God without the attendant power of the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit Ministry to Christ

The Holy Spirit ministered to Christ in many ways:

       1.    Prophesying his ministries (Isa. 11:1–2; 42:1–4; 61:1–3; Zech. 12:10)

       2.    Implementing his virgin conception and birth (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:34–35)

       3.    Descending on him in baptism (Matt. 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; John 1:29–34)

       4.    Anointing him to preach (Matt. 12:15–21; Luke 4:17–21)

       5.    Empowering him (Matt. 12:28; Luke 4:14–15; 11:20; Acts 10:38)

       6.    Filling him (Luke 4:1–2; John 3:34)

       7.    Leading him (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1, 14; Acts 1:2)

       8.    Rejoicing with him (Luke 10:21)

       9.    Aiding him in offering himself for crucifixion (Heb. 9:14)

     10.    Raising him from the dead (Rom. 1:4; 8:11)

Holy Spirit Ministries

This basic summary of Holy Spirit ministries demonstrates what Christ meant when he told the disciples that it was advantageous for the Son to depart so that he could send the Holy Spirit (John 16:7):

       1.    He adopts (Rom. 8:15).

       2.    He baptizes (1 Cor. 12:13).

       3.    He bears witness (Acts 5:32; Rom. 8:16; 9:1; 1 John 5:6–8).

       4.    He calls to ministry (Acts 13:2–4).

       5.    He convicts (John 16:8–11).

       6.    He empowers (Ex. 31:1–3; Judg. 13:25; Acts 1:8).

       7.    He fills (Luke 4:1; Acts 2:4; Eph. 5:18).

       8.    He guarantees (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).

       9.    He guards (2 Tim. 1:14).

     10.    He helps (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; 2 Tim. 1:14).

     11.    He illuminates (1 Cor. 2:10–13).

     12.    He indwells (Rom. 8:9–11; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

     13.    He intercedes (Rom. 8:26–27; Eph. 6:18; Jude 20; see 1 John 5:14–15).

     14.    He leads (Ps. 143:10; Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1; Acts 20:22–23; Rom. 8:14).

     15.    He produces fruit (Gal. 5:22–23).

     16.    He provides spiritual character (Gal. 5:16, 18, 25).

     17.    He regenerates (John 3:5–6, 8; Titus 3:5).

     18.    He reminds (John 14:26).

     19.    He restrains/convicts of sin (Gen. 6:3; Acts 7:51; 2 Thess. 2:6–7).

     20.    He resurrects (Rom. 1:4; 8:11).

     21.    He reveals truth (2 Sam. 23:2; Neh. 9:30; Zech. 7:12; John 14:17; 1 Cor. 2:10; Eph. 3:5).

     22.    He sanctifies (Rom. 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:11; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2).

     23.    He seals (2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13–14; 4:30).

     24.    He selects overseers (Acts 20:28).

     25.    He sends (Acts 13:4).

     26.    He strengthens (Eph. 3:16).

     27.    He teaches (John 14:26; Acts 15:28; 1 John 2:20, 27).

The Holy Spirit is also the source of the following realities:

       1.    Fellowship (2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1)

       2.    Liberty (2 Cor. 3:17–18)

       3.    Life and peace (Rom. 8:6)

       4.    Power (Rom. 15:13; 1 Cor. 2:4; Eph. 3:16)

       5.    Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4–11)

       6.    Truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 1 John 5:6)

       7.    Unity (Eph. 2:18; 4:3–4)

       8.    Wisdom (Isa. 11:2)

       9.    Worship (Phil. 3:3)

Sins against the Holy Spirit

It is not fully clear how the will of man opposes the will of God. However, it is a fact, as illustrated by many passages in Scripture.

Believers oppose God’s will in the following actions against the Holy Spirit:

       1.    Grieving him (Eph. 4:30)

       2.    Lying to him (Acts 5:3)

       3.    Neglecting him (Gal. 3:3–6; 5:17)

       4.    Quenching him (1 Thess. 5:19)

       5.    Testing him (Acts 5:9)

Unbelievers oppose God’s will in the following actions against the Holy Spirit:

       1.    Blaspheming him (Matt. 12:31; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10)

       2.    Grieving him (Isa. 63:10)

       3.    Insulting/provoking him (Heb. 3:10; 10:29)

       4.    Rebelling against/ resisting him (Gen. 6:3 [NASB]; Neh. 9:30; Isa. 30:1; 63:10; Acts 7:51; Gal. 5:17)

       5.    Testing him (Ps. 78:41; Heb. 3:8–9)

Both believers and unbelievers can sin against the Holy Spirit in the following ways:

       1.    Grieving him (Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30)

       2.    Testing him (Ps. 78:41; Acts 5:9; Heb. 3:8–9)

Deity and Triunity



The deity and triunity of the Holy Spirit have occasionally been called into question but not frequently. When this has occurred, it is because the content of Scripture has been disregarded, either due to human logic wrongly supplanting God’s impeccable revelation in the Bible or due to plain, unvarnished unbelief. What follows unfolds significant evidence supporting the Holy Spirit’s deity and the triunity of the Godhead.[1]

[1] MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 333–341). Crossway.