There are many groups, churches and ministries out there claiming to be in a state of "Revival". But how can w etell the difference between a true move of the Holy Spirit as opposed to a man-made (or even outright satanic) counterfeit?
This article helps to serve as a systematic primer regarding the nature,character and ministry of the Holy Spirit. For some, this may be familiar information. For others, you may be as the disciples at Ephesus were in Acts 18who had no idea who the Spirit was or what He did.
Regardless, the sad truth about the state of the church today is that we are seeing many things being attributed to the Holy Spirit which as we will hopefully see should be held up against scripture and weighed carefully.
The Attributes of the Holy Spirit
- The Holy Spirit is eternal
14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
- The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (all-powerful)
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the MostHigh will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
- The Holy Spirit is omnipresent (everywhere)
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
- The Holy Spirit has a mind and will of it’s own
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything,even the depths of God. 11 For who knows person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God,that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
1 Corinthians 2:10-13
- The Holy Spirit has emotions (and will act upon them)
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
- The Holy Spirit is God
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6
7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood;and these three agree.
1 John 5:7-8
All of these things are inapplicable to a mere “force” or “power”.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
- He creates and Sustains life
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
14 If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
15 all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.
When you send forth your Spirit they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]as even some of
“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]as even some of your own poets have said,
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.
“‘For we are indeed his offspring.
(At the most basic level, we can conclude therefore that all living things on Earth are “Spirit-Filled” and “Spirit-led” to an extent)
- He has inspired the Scriptures
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's interpretation.
2 Peter 1:19-20
- He regenerates those appointed to salvation (being “born again”)
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness,and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And Iwill give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you,‘You must be born again.’
13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what wassaid by Paul.
5 For those who live according to the fleshset their minds on the thingsof the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but toset the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For themind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submitto God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those whoare in the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the fleshbut in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does nothave theSpirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 Butif Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit islife because of righteousness.
9 Or do you not know thatthe unrighteous willnot inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexuallyimmoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c] 10 northieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers willinherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such weresome of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you werejustified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11
- He confirms our Salvation
14 For all who are ledby the Spirit of God are sons[a] of God. 15 For youdid not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you havereceived the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba!Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness withour spirit that we are children of God, 17 and ifchildren, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs withChrist, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorifiedwith him.
- He gives knowledge of who God really is and what Jesus commands
8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin andrighteousness and judgment: 9 concerningsin, because they do not believein me; 10 concerningrighteousness, because I go to the Father,and you will see me no longer;11 concerning judgment,because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say toyou, but you cannot bear them now. 13 Whenthe Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all thetruth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears hewill speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 Hewill glorifyme, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Allthat the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it toyou.
27 But the anointingthat you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyoneshould teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything,and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
1 John 2:27
- He assists our evangelism by givingwisdom and insight
11 And when they bringyou before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, donot be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you shouldsay, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hourwhat you ought to say.”
8 But you will receive power when the HolySpirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalemand in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
- He equips us to encourage and edify the body of Christ
6 Having gifts that differaccording to the grace given to us, let us use them: ifprophecy, inproportion to our faith; 7 if service, in ourserving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, inhis exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one wholeads,[a] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy,with cheerfulness.
4 Now there arevarieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there arevarieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varietiesof activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all ineveryone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit forthe common good.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
- He appoints [qualified] leadership to teach and govern the church
27 for I did not shrinkfrom declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention toyourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has madeyou overseers, to care for the church of God, whichhe obtained with his own blood.
14 Do not neglect the giftyou have, which was given you by prophecy when the council ofelders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things,immerse yourself in them,[a] so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourselfand on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save bothyourself and your hearers.
1 Timothy 4:14-16
- He promises to give us the endurance to persevere from start to finish untilour faith in Him is made complete
26 Likewise the Spirit helpsus in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought,but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep forwords. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is themind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for thesaints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that forthose who love God all things work together for good,[b] forthose who are called according to hispurpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew healso predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in orderthat he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom hepredestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified,and those whom he justified he also glorified.
8 Love never ends. As forprophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as forknowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in partand we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfectcomes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, Ispoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When Ibecame a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in amirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall knowfully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
13 In him you also, when youheard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed inhim, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee[a] of our inheritance until weacquire possession of it,[b] to the praise of his glory.
3 I thank my God inall my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer ofmine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of yourpartnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this,that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completionat the day of Jesus Christ.
The Character/Personality of the HolySpirit
- He is Loving
3 Not only that, butwe rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering producesendurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and characterproduces hope,5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God'slove has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has beengiven to us.
30 I appeal to you,brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, tostrive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf
- He honors the Truth (both between believers as well as unto God Himself)
But a man named Ananias,with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,2 and with his wife'sknowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only apart of it and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled yourheart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part ofthe proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold,did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied toman but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard thesewords, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came uponall who heard of it.
19 Do not quench theSpirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything;hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
- He is peaceful, orderly and decent
33 For God isnot a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints…
all things should be donedecently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:33, 40
- He seeks to anchor people upon conviction rather than leave them aloof anddetached
11 And he gavethe apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[a] and teachers,[b] 12 to equip the saints forthe work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attainto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, tomature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of thefullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longerbe children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by everywind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness indeceitful schemes.
- He honors sobriety and clear-mindedness over debauchery and stupor
11 But now I am writing toyou not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he isguilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, orswindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to dowith judging outsiders?
Is it not those inside the church
Is it not those inside the church[a] whom you are to judge?
1 Corinthians 5:11-12
15 Look carefully then howyou walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use ofthe time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not befoolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunkwith wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with theSpirit, 19 addressing one another inpsalms and hymns andspiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always andfor everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord JesusChrist, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
But as for you, teachwhat accords with sound[a] doctrine. 2 Mature men are to be sober-minded, dignified,self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
- His character is exemplified best in the fruits he bears within those heindwells:
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexualimmorality, impurity, sensuality,20 idolatry,sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries,dissensions,divisions, 21 envy,[a] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. Iwarn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit thekingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Andthose who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with itspassions anddesires.
25 If we live by theSpirit, let us also keep instep with the Spirit. 26 Letus not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Counterfeitsthat pretend to be the Holy Spirit
Now that we have established a biblical precedent regarding who the Holy Spiritis, it is fitting then, to alsoconsider who he is not.
Beloved, do notbelieve every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are fromGod, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know theSpirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has comein the flesh is from God, 3 and everyspirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit ofthe antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the worldalready.
1 John 4:1-3
Based on what I have listed above, I would like to put forward the following aspotentials signs pointing to the presence of a counterfeit masquerading as theHoly Spirit:
- Answers/Responds easily to lesser entities (people, animals, objects,environments)
- Is narrowly localized and restricted in influence by tangible space
- Calls into question - if not outrightdenies – straightforward, biblical truth
- Puts down the work and person of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3)
- Promotes false assurances of salvation
- Preaches a false gospel other than that which Christ gave (cf. Galatians 1:8)
- Challenges established spiritual authority and the qualifications requiredfor such (cf. 1 Timothy 3, Titus 2)
- Forces people to rely on their own strength rather than God’s grace
- Creates unnecessary division
- Allows for lies and slander from one believer against another
- Praises uncertainty over sureness as a virtue to be cultivated
- Is intentionally spontaneous and chaotic; hostile towards structure
- Induces altered states of mind and/or body (i.e. a person won’t “keepthemselves together”. Please refer to my prior Note “Drunk in the Spirit” – A move of God ora Counterfeit stupor?)
- Cultivates the fruit of the flesh more than the fruit of the spirit
Now that we’ve look at the attributes, ministry and character of the HolySpirit vs how to discern counterfeits that attempt to pose as Him, theinevitable question has to be asked: do we honestly know him for who he is?
Think about the times whenever youpray, worship, read your Bible, fellowship with other believers – who or whatis it that shows up?
5 And he said tothem, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say tohim, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine hasarrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer fromwithin, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me inbed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though hewill not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yetbecause of his impudence[a] he will rise andgive him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask,and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, andit will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asksreceives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will beopened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for[b] a fish, willinstead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg,will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who areevil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will theheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
For those of us whoworship Jesus as our God, who delight in His sovereignty in times of both lackand prosperity, who delight in His Law as the lamp that guides our path, howcan we not expect God to send his Spirit? Or are we too content with receivingserpents and scorpions?
Holy Spirit, Living Breath of God
HolySpirit, living Breath of God,
Breathe new life into my willing soul.
Bring the presence of the risen Lord
To renew my heart and make me whole.
Cause Your Word to come alive in me;
Give me faith for what I cannot see;
Give me passion for Your purity.
Holy Spirit, breathe new life in me.
Holy Spirit, come abide within;
May Your joy be seen in all I do—
Love enough to cover ev’ry sin
In each thought and deed and attitude,
Kindness to the greatest and the least,
Gentleness that sows the path of peace.
Turn my striving into works of grace.
Breath of God, show Christ in all I do.
Holy Spirit, from creation’s birth,
Giving life to all that God has made,
Show your power once again on earth;
Cause Your church to hunger for Your ways.
Let the fragrance of our prayers arise.
Lead us on the road of sacrifice
That in unity the face of Christ
Will be clear for all the world to see.
Lyrics by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend