When it comes to speaking about God, most Christians have conversations which concentrate on God the Father and God the Son. Whether it be witnessing to non-believers, addressing God in prayer or discussing spiritual matters with other members of the local church, much what we say indicates our proclivity to think that God primarily exists as Father and Son. The third Person of the Godhead – the Holy Spirit – is far less likely to be the focal point of Christian prayer. Despite His vital importance in the life of the believer, He is often misunderstood and ignored. In Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes, “But the average Christian, deep down, is in a complete fog as to what work the Holy Spirit does” (p. 68). Entire books have been written on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. My intention here is to focus specifically on the work that He does within the life of the Christian today.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon and departed from certain people – Samson, for instance – to accomplish God’s purposes (Judges 14:6; 16:20). However, in the New Testament, the Bible gives plenty of evidence that Holy Spirit’s ministry would change after Christ’s ascension (John 7:39; 14:16-17; 15:26; 16:7; 16:13). We see that He is instrumental in all aspects of the Christian faith.
The Holy Spirit Convicts Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). Charles Ryrie is helpful with his explanation: “Man needs first to see his state of sin, then he needs to have proof of the righteousness of the Savior who can save him from that sin, and finally he needs to be reminded that if he refuses to receive the Savior he will face certain judgment and condemnation” (A Survey of Bible Doctrine, p. 76). In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul points out that “since what men know about God is plain to them…men are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). No unbelieving man or woman is free from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Regenerates (Converts) Regeneration and conversion are closely associated. However, it is important to notice the distinction between the two. In Know The Truth, Bruce Milne describes regeneration as “God’s action in giving new life,” while describing conversion as “the human act of turning from sin to righteousness” (p. 232, emphasis mine). It is important to remember that it is God – through the work of the Holy Spirit – who graciously grants us salvation. In Titus 3:5, Paul states “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit....” The Holy Spirit is the primary agent through which we are reborn.
The Holy Spirit Resides Permanently As mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit of Old Testament times was transitory in nature, and we see another example of this is in Psalm 51, when David pleads to God “Do not…take your Holy Spirit from me” (Ps 51:11). In contrast to this (and consistent with what Jesus promised to the disciples) is the Holy Spirit of the New Testament, who permanently takes up residence within the believer at the moment of salvation. In John 14:16, Jesus made this promise when he said “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.”
The Holy Spirit Baptizes The believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, which means that that he has a new life with Christ (Romans 6:4), as well as unity with other believers (1 Corinthians 12:13). In Scripture, baptism occurs once; no subsequent baptism is found. Furthermore, water baptism is an external sign which symbolizes the internal baptism of the Spirit that has already occurred in the believer’s life.
The Holy Spirit Seals The sealing of the Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee of eternal redemption for the believer. This sealing speaks of a finished transaction in which God has implied ownership of the believer (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). The sealing of the Holy Spirit provides an inward peace of conscience concerning the believer’s standing before God. It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit and consequently lose the blessing of His ministry (Eph. 4:30), but He abides with the believer forever and never abandons him (John 14:16-17).
The Holy Spirit Fills The Bible exhorts us to live a Spirit-filled life (Ephesians 5:18). Is this any different that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Yes. Indwelling happens once – instantaneously at salvation. On the other hand, Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:18 – …”be filled with the Spirit” – are in the present tense, indicating that it is a repeated experience. Being filled with the Holy Spirit means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1; Acts 6:3-5; Acts 7:55) and is marked by dependence upon and obedience to the will of God (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19). The filling of the Holy Spirit ultimately results in:
Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
Joyful and sharing hearts (Ephesians 5:19)
Thankfulness (Ephesians 5:20)
Submissiveness (Ephesians 5:21)
The Holy Spirit Guides It is the Holy Spirit that guides us and leads us (Romans 8:14) in a manner which is consistent with the Word of God.
The Holy Spirit Prays Romans 8:26 states that “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” His ways are not understood by us; nonetheless, His prayers for us are in accordance to the will of God.
The Holy Spirit Teaches (Illuminates)Before Jesus’ crucifixion, He told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them many things that they were unable to understand at the time (John 6:12-15). In Acts, we see that this promise has been delivered on the day of Pentecost as Peter is now able to clearly explain that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36), something he was never able to articulate in the past. Today, the Holy Spirit illuminates by opening our eyes to the understanding of Scripture (1 John 2:27). He also removes our spiritual blindness, which enables us to:
See the glory of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:14-18)
Comprehend Christ’s love for us (Ephesians 1:18-20)
The Holy Spirit Brings Spiritual GiftsIn the New Testament, spiritual gifts are described in several places (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:10-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11). The purpose of these gifts is to build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7) for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:25). Every believer has been endowed with a spiritual gift or combination of gifts (1 Peter 4:10). Some gifts, such as prophecy and miracles, are no longer bestowed upon believers. Today, believers are blessed with any of number of gifts that should be used for the edification of the church.
As seen from list of ministries above, the Bible certainly has much to say about the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to have a comprehensive understanding of Christian doctrine without also understanding the critical role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Considering all that He does in the life of the believer, it reasonable and accurate to conclude that without the Holy Spirit, the world would have no New Testament and subsequently, no Christianity.