Holy Spirit Window in Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Holy Spirit Window in Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

When the average Christian hears the word "Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost," the King James rendering of the phrase, it doesn't hold much significance beyond perhaps, a vague sense of the "mystical." Just what is a spirit? What is the Holy Spirit? Or better, Who is the Holy Spirit?

Then there's the whole controversy surrounding the baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. Just what is speaking in tongues? And do I have to speak in tongues to have the Spirit?

And spiritual gifts. What is that all about?

What does the Holy Spirit actually do?

This series of 11 lessons, originally taught as a free e-mail study, is designed to explore all these questions (and more) from key Bible passages about the Holy Spirit. By the conclusion of the study, you'll know the basics of what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit.

Don't expect this study to be comprehensive, however. It doesn't cover each and every verse in the Bible about the Holy Spirit. But I hope you will find it essentially complete, that is, that it will provide the essentials of what you as a disciple need to know as you begin to encounter the Holy Spirit and learn to walk with Him.

I approach this study of the Holy Spirit with trepidation and humility. After all, preparing a "guide to the Holy Spirit" suggests that I have Him all figured out. I don't! Nevertheless, I'll share what I've learned over many years of walking in the Spirit and probing what the Scriptures say about Him. I hope these lessons will help you along your journey of following Jesus.

My 15-month-old granddaughter learns by touching. If she sees a dog, she wants to touch it -- bringing fear into her mother's heart, unless the dog is certifiably docile. And even docile dogs can snap. But touching is important to a child's understanding. If a child can touch soft fur and a wet nose, she can understand a little about what a dog is.

That's what we'll be doing. Examining and probing how the Holy Spirit has revealed Himself to us in the Scriptures, then trying to reach out and touch Him by personal interaction. By no means will our tentative touches qualify as deep understanding. But they will help form a beginning understanding of the Spirit that will energize our spiritual lives.

You'll learn about the Spirit, but this isn't just a study of theology. It is designed to help an earnest disciple grow in the Spirit. Each lesson contains several discussion questions to help you interact with the passages we're examining. There's also a Growth Assignment, that will help you grow in your relationship with the Spirit. It would be so sad if you learned about the Holy Spirit, but never go to know Him personally. Mere knowledge without personal application is dangerous to our spiritual health!

It's only fair to let you know where I'm coming from. The son of devout Christians, I surrendered my life to Christ as my Lord when I was nine. When I was 18, I experienced what Pentecostals call "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" and spoke in tongues. I pray in tongues occasionally to this day. I am an American Baptist pastor, now retired. There's more to the story, of course, but I'll share some of that as we proceed.

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Over the last fifty years I have studied the Holy Spirit, observed various gifts of the Spirit in action, and experienced some of them in my own life and ministry. While I hope my theological understanding of the Holy Spirit has matured over the years, I have a growing conviction that the Holy Spirit's power and gifting are undiminished in the twenty-first century. His power is just as vital now as in the first century church. His presence is just as sweet. He is like a powerful flowing river, and I long to be caught up in His current more and more.

Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Loomis, California
August 1, 2018

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