Is there a difference between the spirit of God and the Holy Spirit?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

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Question: What is the difference between God is Spirit and God the Holy Spirit? (This question is from a man in Asia whose belief status was not declared.)

Answer: Before we begin, a sister ministry, Got Questions Ministries, has several articles available on the topic of God being spirit and the Holy Spirit. I’ve placed links to these articles at appropriate places within the question, but here are a few that are of more general interest to your question:

The next time you have a question, consider visiting their website and use its search function. There’s a good chance that they’ve already answered your question… and that you could find your answer more efficiently than if you went through a question-and-answer process. That being said, I am always happy to answer any questions… so, let’s get into yours.

The difference between God being spirit and the Holy Spirit is that his being spirit describes the nature of his existence. Specifically, God is not a physical being. However, the Holy Spirit refers to God himself and not merely to his nature. So, the Holy Spirit is God… but he is God as manifested in one of the three persons of the Trinity — and I realize that this calls for some explanation.

The Bible reveals that there are two types of beings: physical beings like us and spirit-beings like the angels (Job 1:6; Luke 2:10). Now, God is not an angel. But he is a spirit-being like they are. The big difference is that he is transcendent… and that he created them… us… and everything else! But he did all this while being a spirit-being — and he has never been a physical one! This is important information for those of us who want to worship God in truth.

“God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, NIV)

(See also Genesis 1:2; John 1:18; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17)

Now, we humans are physical beings and not spirit-beings. But — and note the difference — we are still spiritual beings. You see, we have a spirit — which is different from being spirits — and it is through our spirits that we communicate with God. In fact, the Bible references our spirits when it teaches about how God’s word can affect us.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV, emphasis mine)

Whether or not our soul and spirit are separate entities intrinsically (as opposed to merely functionally) is an open question. The Bible usually uses these words and their synonyms loosely and not precisely. Nevertheless, it is the nonphysical part of us that communicates with God — and if we are honest — we’ll recognize that this is the part we use to communicate with people, too.

Here’s a link to an article that talks more about the possible divisions of the soul and the spirit.

But what about the Trinity? I bring this up because the Holy Spirit is one of its persons.

Although our God is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), the Bible reveals him in three persons — the Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), the Son (John 10:30-33; Colossians 2:9) and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). For convenience's sake, we call this collection of persons the Trinity… although the term Trinity does not appear in Scripture. Nevertheless, the concept does (Matthew 28:19) … and it is an important part of Christian doctrine.

Now, your question was about how the Holy Spirit was different from God’s being a spirit — which I’ve explained (… the Holy Spirit is a person who is a member of the Trinity whereas God being spirit is one of his characteristics) — but explaining all the Trinitarian particulars is too big a job for this one question. So, instead of tackling what is a huge a separate topic, I’ll include a link below. It will take you to the perfect article to get you started.

It is important to know for this question, however, that the Holy Spirit has some jobs that are unique to him. For instance, he convicts the world of sin (John 16:8), he indwells believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), he bears witness that we are indeed God’s children (Romans 8:15-17), he gives spiritual gifts to believers (1 Corinthians 12:1) …. and many more!

But although the Holy Spirit dwells within us and is intimately involved with our lives, he is his own person. So, our spirits are not the Holy Spirit; they just cooperate with him. But they also cooperate with the Father and the Son to advance the work of God’s kingdom here on earth (Matthew 28:18-20). As you can see, God’s work is a family business… and it’s a family business that anyone can join.

I pray that this overview helped you.

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