In the Bible the phrase Holy Spirit refers to the power of God, and is very often referred to as his very own breath. We can learn about this right at the beginning:
the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
What God said with his own breath happened, and when making man we’re told that:
the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
The Apostle Paul when speaking about God said that:
he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything and he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’
God’s power, his breath and his words all come together in 2 Tim 3:16 when we are told concerning the Bible that all Scripture is breathed out by God.
It is clear from these passages that God wants us to know that his power, both in his breath and in his speech is vital for our life, both in terms of our bodies continuing to work, but also that what he speaks, as we can read about in the Bible, is vital for our spiritual wellbeing – our relationship with him not only as our creator but as our Father in Heaven.
In additional to everything said above, it is clear though that the term Holy Spirit can often refer specifically to
miraculous events. There are examples of miracles happening by the power of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible but it is the New Testament where we read the most about them. Jesus was given the Holy Spirit by God:
Jesus also had been baptized…and the Holy Spirit descended on him…like a dove.
We then can read about the many miracles he did such as turning water to wine and raising Lazarus from the dead. After Jesus’ own resurrection from death and subsequent ascension to heaven, we are then told of many of Jesus’ followers being given the Holy Spirit themselves and being able to do miracles too. These were essential in the early church to preach the Gospel to those who had never heard of Jesus before. Especially important was the ability to speak and understand many languages, but also to perform miracles such as healing.
The question is, are these or any miracles possible today? Of churches who would say that yes they are still available, the most frequently spoken of are those of tongues and healings, yet it is easy to differentiate between what happened in the New Testament and what happens today. For those which claim to be able to speak in tongues today, witnessed if you were to visit certain charismatic churches, it would be apparent that it is not speaking in or understanding a foreign language as it was in Biblical times, but merely making unknown noises which others claim to be able to understand and translate. Healings witnessed nowadays are of course harder to dismiss but you certainly never hear of anyone being raised from the dead, something done frequently by early Christians who were given the Holy Spirit. We are told regarding how we pray to God that:
the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working
So we should not dismiss anyone who claims that healing has occurred, but this should only be credited to God rather than to any power that one may claim to hold which has been given to them from God.
The Bible is very clear that not everyone in the first century was able to give others the Holy Spirit and an example is in Acts 8. Later Paul wrote in his first letter to Corinth that spirit gifts bestowed such as speaking in tongues would cease.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Our experience today is one where we know we have the complete written record of what God has caused to be written down for us by the Holy Spirit, the inspired word of God, the Bible. He speaks to us in a spiritual sense through this book, so our aim is to be part of his new creation, reborn through baptism. Jesus spoke about this when speaking to Nicodemus, saying:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’
There is nothing mystical about this, there is no magical power which dwells in us after we have been baptised, it is all about understanding that just as God keeps our physical bodies alive through his own breath, so if we believe on him and commit to following Jesus then we should be spiritually reborn, trying to do the things which please him as we prepare to live in God’s Kingdom.