Holy Spirit: A Pencil Sketch Biography

[The following is the text of a sermon preached in our church on Sunday 30th June 2019]

Holy Spirit: A Pencil Sketch Biography

Studies and Masterpieces

Good morning and welcome to our class in Australian Art 1943-1944.

For our first slide 1 I’d refer you to this controversial work from 1943.

What can you tell me about the title of the work, the name of the artist, the size of the work, what media was used, the style of the work, the nature of the controversy surrounding it or indeed something about the subject?

The title is “Mr Joshua Smith”.

The artist was Sir William Dobell (1899-1970).

The work is oil on canvas and measures 122cm x 81cm.

The work gained some notoriety because it was awarded the 1943 Archibald Prize which is for portraiture, but was subject to a legal challenge in 1944 on the basis that it was more caricature than portraiture. The challenge was unsuccessful and the award stood. But the controversy affected the artist and he turned much of his attention to landscape painting instead.

And the subject, Mr Joshua Smith. What do we know about him? He himself was an artist and came to lament sitting for the portrait because the painting of him was much better known than anything painted by him.

But don’t feel too sorry for him as he won the Archibald Prize the next year in 1944.

But back to the portrait of Mr Joshua Smith. What would be the steps to paint such a work? The ability to paint would be a good start! But you don’t just begin with putting brush to canvas. You plan, you sketch, you determine and assess proportions and shapes and spaces. You plan your composition, colours, lighting, expression and media.

Here in our second work 2 is the same subject matter, but is indeed a sketch of Mr Joshua Smith. You can see where Bill has sketched a couple of ears on each side, there is a faint pair of lips near the top right, and there is a spare chin and elbow in the top left. He used this pencil and ink work to figure out the placement and shape of the final work.

Holy Spirit

What is the point? Today we’re commencing a new sermon series on the Holy Spirit. We’ll spend time over the next month-or-two considering various aspects of the Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is the masterpiece, what we’re doing today is something of a sketch of the Holy Spirit. We’ll rough out the basic shape of the Spirit but we’ll also fill in a some of the detail like in the sketch where there is a full outline but some detail around the face and hands.

As with a sketch you don’t spend your time working on one area until it is finished. You do a bit here, test something there, go over some lines up here and create some new lines over there. The picture is built up from a rough shape to a finished sketch over time and by working on various parts.

Our approach to the Holy Spirit will mirror this. We’ll be examining various passages of Scripture as we create a sketch of the Holy Spirit. But because it is a sketch, for every verse or passage that we look at, there are half a dozen others that we won’t be looking at.

We’ll be considering the Spirit’s name and something of His ministry. I’m not proposing to spend any time today on the fruit or gifts of the Spirit other than to mention He facilitates or releases both. We’ll also spend some time looking at the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit. And finish up considering how to avoid grieving and quenching the Spirit.

To wrap up the introduction, there are a number of aspects in common between the portrait of Joshua Smith and the Holy Spirit: Everyone’s heard of Him. We may have a distorted view of him. We’re not necessarily completely sure what he does. And controversy is rarely far away.

Name and Nature

As we begin our pencil sketch or study of the Holy Spirit, I want to begin with His Name.

In Scripture there are many, many names for the Spirit. They include: Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Judgement, the Spirit of Burning, the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding; the Spirit of Counsel and Might, the Spirit of Knowledge; the Spirit of Revelation; the Spirit of Adoption, the Spirit of Grace, Comforter, Teacher, Helper, Witness, Intercessor.

There are something like 35 different names or titles in Scripture and they all create these pencil mark foundations for our sketch. Any and all of those would be worthy of closer study.

Please turn with me to Genesis 1. I’ll be reading from the New King James version. In Genesis chapter 1, verse 2 we read:

The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The word translated as Spirit here is the Hebrew ruwach which means wind or breath. It is the breath of strong and even violent exhalation so it is a forceful breathing out. It carries the ideas of impartation and dispersal.

In John 20:21-22 we read:

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on [them,] and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

There are two features here I want to consider: When Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to the disciples the word translated as breathed is the Greek word emphusao. This word is a puff and so Jesus “puffed on them”. And when He says “Receive the Holy Spirit” it is the Greek word pneuma that is translated as Spirit. Similar to the Old Testament ruwach it can be read as breeze or blast of air – much more than a puff!

So what we see here in figurative form is that the Holy Spirit is a wind, or a breath – but a strong one. And what was imparted to man at spiritual rebirth was a puff. A deposit. A down-payment.

But what of the word translated as Holy. From this John 20 passage the word holy is the Greek hagios which can be read as sacred or pure or blameless or consecrated.

So the Holy Spirit, formerly called the Holy Ghost could be named as pure wind, or sacred breath, or consecrated breeze.

So what can we learn or understand from the Holy Spirit as wind, as breath? Reuben Torrey was an American evangelist and pastor who spent a deal of time working with D L Moody in the late 1890s. He made six observations about the Holy Spirit being identified as like wind:

  1. The Spirit like the wind is sovereign and cannot be dictated to.
  2. The Spirit like the wind is invisible but perceptible and real and mighty.
  3. The Spirit like the wind is inscrutable so we cannot tell where next He will display His gracious power.
  4. The Spirit, like the wind, is indispensable. He is and brings clean air otherwise death would ensue.
  5. Like the wind the Holy Spirit is life giving. John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [they] are life.”
  6. Lastly, like the wind, the Holy Spirit is irresistible.

Ministry and Purpose

The early pencil marks are on the page. We’re forming a rough shape of the Spirit from some of his names and titles.

But what are the Spirit’s main purposes or ministries? Names in the Bible are usually indicative of character traits or God-given purpose. As I’ve mentioned the name Holy Spirit portrays holiness and purity, but also portrays him as the carrier and purveyor of God’s purposes.

The names Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Judgement, Spirit of Burning, Spirit of Revelation, Spirit of Wisdom, Spirit of Adoption and Spirit of Grace all convey much of the Spirit’s purposes and desires.

Helper – Parakletos

How are those purposes advanced and fulfilled? Let’s turn again to Scripture – John’s gospel starting in chapter 14:15-16

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever”

If we love Jesus He will ask the Father to send us a Helper. So the Spirit operates predominantly through us. John 14:26 reads:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”

And this helper will teach us all things – not just spiritual things – not just important things – not just things in the Bible, but the things we need to know. And he will also remind us of Jesus’ words.

John 15:26:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.”

John 15:26 builds the picture – another pencil mark or two: This Spirit speaks truth, he comes from the Father and testifies truth about Jesus. The Trinity is involved in our conversion and sanctification.

In John 16:8-11 (which I won’t read) Jesus tells us that the Spirit will convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgement

To summarise, the Holy Spirit is a helper, sent from the Father at the request of Jesus. The Spirit’s helper role is to teach us and remind us of Jesus’ words. This helper also testifies abut Jesus and conveys and declares truth. The helper convicts the world regarding sin, righteousness and judgement. The Spirit plays a significant role in our conversion and renewal. And all of these bring glory to Jesus.

This word helper is the Greek parakleytos often called paraclete and means teacher, advocate, consoler, convictor, counsellor and comforter.

Who doesn’t need those things?

Power Source

But the Holy Spirit does much more. He imparts power. In Acts 1:8 when Jesus is talking about Pentecost he says the disciples shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon them; and then he talks about them being witnesses moving out from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth. That radiation and effective witness only happens with Holy Spirit power.

Paul writing to Timothy in the second letter, chapter 1 verses 6 and 7 says:

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

And so the Spirit brings and releases power in and through us. The Holy Spirit given and received can release power and love and a sound mind.

And who also doesn’t need these things?


The Spirit also serves as conduit, intercessor and advocate for our praying. Romans 8:26:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

To recap, the Holy Spirit ministers and serves as a conduit, converter, conveyor, council, counsellor, comforter, consoler, confidant, teacher, intercessor and power source.

And who doesn’t need these?

Giving and Receiving

So how do we plug in to this power source? How do we put ourselves in a position to receive this teaching, this help, this comfort and this council?

Let’s return to our pencil sketch and shade in a little around the giving and receiving of the Holy Spirit. How do we receive the Holy Spirit? We touched on this earlier when we opened John 14:15-16. Let me read it again:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever”

If we believe in Jesus and love Him – as demonstrated through obedience – then we will be given the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

Please turn with me to Luke 11:9-13:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if [he asks] for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”

The Holy Spirit is available to believers for the asking, through the seeking and by the knocking. This flies in the face of teaching which says we receive the full measure of the Spirit at conversion. I believe we receive some measure of the Spirit at conversion, but more is available through asking, seeking and knocking. And that more, I believe, is released through the baptism or immersion in the Holy Spirit.

Often but not always, that baptism is accompanied by speaking in tongues or prophecy. My reading of the book of Acts is that conversion and Holy Spirit baptism are two distinct events that may occur simultaneously, but don’t have to. In my case they were separated by over a decade.

Spirit of Fire

It is interesting that the Holy Spirit is often associated with fire. Earlier I mentioned that one of the Spirit’s names in Isaiah 4 is Spirit of Burning.

John the Baptist in both Matthew and Luke’s gospels is quoted as saying that the one who is coming, Jesus, will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire.

And we see that in fulfilment on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 where the Spirit came as the sound of rushing wind and the appearance of tongues of fire.

I find it fascinating that the Holy Spirit sounded like rushing wind (which we’ve talked about) and looked like tongues of fire. But more than that John’s gospel refer to the Spirit being like a river of living water that flows from our heart.

In Scripture the Spirit is equated to or associated with the elements of wind, of fire and of water. All so difficult to corral or control, but so effective when they flow and blow!

Taking and Grieving

We’re nearing the end of our pencil sketch of the Holy Spirit.

At the beginning today I said we would look at how we can grieve and quench the Holy Spirit, I say that not so that we can do it, but so that we know how it occurs so we won’t allow it to happen to us!

Ephesians 4 contains the command to not grieve the Holy Spirit. Let me provide some context by reading Ephesians 4:29-32:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

The context is to be pure in speech, behaviour and attitude: No corrupt speech but only edifying words. No bitterness or wrath or anger or speaking evil but instead kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness following Jesus’ example. And in the middle the command to ‘not grieve the Holy Spirit of God’.

These, to me, speak of matters of character. And character, Holy Spirit character is what the fruit of the Spirit is all about. So we need to be seeing the character of the Spirit growing in us rather than evil. Otherwise we can be grieving the Spirit – even unknowingly.

And 1 Thessalonians 5 contains the exhortation to not quench the Spirit. Again we need a little context so I’ll read from verses 16-22:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

The context is to accept the work of the Spirit by rejoicing – for the joy of the Lord is our strength. To pray without ceasing and to welcome the Spirit’s intercession on our behalf. To not despise prophecies for they are messages from God through the Spirit. To test everything so we know what is truth from the Spirit of Truth compared to lies from the enemy of our souls. And to abstain from every form of evil so as to not provide a foothold for the evil one in our lives. To not quench the Spirit is to not douse the fire of the Spirit of Burning as he seeks to purify lives.

Earlier when discussing the Spirit’s ministries I said some of those were teaching, providing counsel and being a comforter:

  • I think we grieve and quench the Spirit when we don’t accept His teaching, when we reject his words and what he speaks into our souls and spirits.
  • I think we grieve and quench the Spirit when we don’t accept his counsel. This may be through our consciences, or where we have that momentary pause and we know that we shouldn’t do what we’re about to.
  • I think we grieve and quench the Spirit when we don’t welcome and encourage his presence and comfort in our lives.

Grieving or quenching the Spirit is where we reject or fail to seek and accept his presence, his input, his teaching, his council. We need to listen for and to the Spirit then obey with joy.

Scripture v. Experience

There is plenty of territory that we haven’t covered today in our pencil drawing of the Spirit. We’ve roughed out the shape of the Spirit in terms of some of His names and titles. We’ve spent some time looking at his ministry and purpose. We’ve considered how the Spirit is ours for the asking, seeking and knocking when we believe in, love and are obedient to Jesus. And we’ve considered some aspects of quenching and grieving the Spirit so we can avoid doing that.

One final word: I believe there is great danger when we compare our experience of God with what we read in Scripture and then reduce Scripture to the level of our experience. Where we tend to downplay, marginalise or call irrelevant the words of Scripture so they match our experience.

But instead may we ask the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Spirit of Burning and Wisdom and of Revelation to elevate our experience and understanding so that they match what we read in Scripture. Let us not grieve or quench the Spirit and void the Scriptures by making our experience the benchmark, but may we see, experience, understand and welcome all that Scripture and the Holy Spirit have for us. Amen.