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Chapter 7


The Holy Spirit


We believe the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, and, during this age, to convict, seal, indwell, guide, instruct, and empower for life and service.



The Holy Spirit[1]


Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathed His tender last farewell,

A guide, a comforter bequeathed, with us to dwell.


He came in tongues of living flame, to teach, convince, subdue;

All-powerful as the wind He came, as viewless too.


He came sweet influence to impart, a gracious, willing guest,

While He can find one humble heart wherein to rest.


And His that gentle voice we hear, soft as the breath of even,

That checks each fault, that calms each fear, and speaks of heaven.


And every virtue we possess, and every victory one,

And every thought of holiness are His alone.


Spirit of purity and grace, our weakness pitying see;

O make our hearts Thy dwelling-place, and worthier Thee.



Of the three persons of the Godhead perhaps the Holy Spirit is the least understood. We can relate to the Father to an extent because of our human understanding of fatherhood. We can relate to Jesus because He came to visit us as a man, and had many attributes to which we could relate. Indeed that was a part of His ministry, His life is well documented in the Scriptures. However the Holy Spirit is impossible for us to visualize in any clear way and is outside the realm of our normal experience. Indeed, many approach the whole idea of a spiritual, unseen world with some skepticism.

And yet, it is both the Holy Spirit and Christ that have become resident in the heart of the Christian, and therefore both should be clear to us. The problem might be that the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Bible as a flame or wind, or other symbols, to which we don’t attach a personality while Christ appeared to us as a man.

Let us look at several aspects of the Holy Spirit. We will look at the ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit is the mode of the divine indwelling. We will also look at how the Christian receives the Spirit, and what it means to be indwelled by the Spirit. The goal will not be to become an expert in the field, but rather to help us enable the Holy Spirit to live productively in our hearts. When we are at peace in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, we have both security and growth in all aspects of our life.

“Who” is the Holy Spirit? Genesis 1:2 says “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” This was of course at the very beginning of creation. We see that the Spirit is an eternal being because He existed before creation.

The Holy Spirit is wise and can impart wisdom to us. Joseph when he was in the court of the Pharaoh experienced this. Genesis 41:38–39 says, “So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you there is no one so discerning and wise as you.”

The Holy Spirit may also equip us for a specific task, in Exodus 31 God tells Moses the following (Exodus 31:1 to 5). “Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship”.

Notice that in these Old Testament examples the Spirit of God did not generally indwell all of God’s people. We see many examples of the Holy Spirit coming into a specific person. In many cases the power of the Spirit was only given temporarily, or even removed due to circumstances. The events in Samson’s life are well known. In his case the power of the Holy Spirit was taken away from him when he allowed himself to be tempted by Delilah.

How does this contrast to the experience of the present day Christian? Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would be sent after He had returned to heaven. The book of Acts records the arrival of the Holy Spirit into the lives of the Christians. The Spirit was promised to us by Jesus in the book of John, in chapter 14 verse 26 He says “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

The “you” in the verse above refers to the community of believers, both corporately and individually. In Acts 2:38–39 we find the following, “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’”

How do we know that we have received the Holy Spirit? We know because we have repented and been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). In this way we are permanently identified with Christ. In John 14:23 the Scriptures say “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’” We as believers are indwelled with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, the focus of God’s indwelling in the believer is through of the Holy Spirit. We may think of the gift of the Holy Spirit is His seal of ownership on the Christian’s heart (Ephesians 1:13).

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is mentioned prominently in the Bible, and described in many ways.  (John 7:37–39; Acts 11:16–17; Romans 5:5, 8:9–11; 1 Corinthians 2:12, 6:19-20, 12:13; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Galatians 3:2, 4:6; 1 John 3:24).  The many references to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, testify to His importance in the life of the Christian.

Some might tell you that unless you have experienced some special event, or sign, you have not truly received the Spirit. This is not so. Nowhere in the Bible does it state that those who receive the Spirit speak in tongues or see visions etc. to demonstrate the receipt of the Spirit. All Christians have the Spirit of God, while it is possible for someone to be baptized, and not be a Christian, it is not possible to receive the Spirit of God and not be a Christian.

The Spirit is given to all Christians for the same reasons, but He may gift each of us in different ways. Nor do we earn the Spirit’s indwelling.  In Galatians 3:2–5 Paul says “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

The sending of the Holy Spirit is God’s daily gift to you. This is a gift given in the same way as is salvation, it is given by the grace of God. To receive this gift we are not counted as deserving, but rather as eligible. For this reason we do not go through any ritual or activity to earn the receipt of the Holy Spirit. All that is needed is for us to accept our need of God and ask for forgiveness for our sin. The gifts of salvation and of the Holy Spirit are linked together in the birth of the Christian.

If I seem to belabor this point of how to receive the Holy Spirit it is because of this. Over and over Christians feel that they have not been gifted for God’s service. They lack the courage to take the steps of faith needed to grow because they feel alone. They also feel that God is far away. God knows that we lack courage, and that we must feel secure in our own relationship with Him before we will step out in faith. It is God’s plan that all of His children live a life that is glorifying to Him, and fruitful for us. The Holy Spirit enables this type of life.

Let’s look briefly at two passages.  The first is Matthew 28:19. When Christ told His disciples what do after He was gone. “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’.”

Notice that He didn’t say baptize some in My name, and some in the Fathers name, and if there are any left over, well baptize them in the name of the Holy Spirit. We worship and belong to one indivisible God. All who belong to Him are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. God’s very nature will not allow another way for the Christian.

How does the Holy Spirit gift us? Luke 11:13 says “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” God has every desire to enable you to do everything that is His will for you. The stumbling block is often not that we are not equipped for God’s will, but that we don’t allow Him to tell us what it is, or don’t listen when He speaks to us. I can imagine no circumstance in which God would not provide you with all of the resources you need to accomplish His purpose in your life.

We should next ask ourselves three questions. First, how does the knowledge that I have received the Holy Spirit affect my life? Second, how can I best allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purpose in my life? And third, what indeed is the Holy Spirit able to accomplish in the present day Christian? While these three questions are linked we will look at the second one in the next chapter.

Let’s look at the last question first. What indeed is the Holy Spirit doing today? The Holy Spirit, as a member of the Godhead, has all of the power of our sovereign God. If we look at the attributes of God we see also the attributes of the Spirit.

Let’s look at some specific aspects of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. Some of these are often misunderstood. Misunderstanding the ministry of the Holy Spirit can bring frustration, doubt, and confusion into the life of the Christian. Sometimes when our expectations are not met we tend to blame God rather than look honestly at what we were expecting.


The Permanent Gifts of the SpiriT[2]


     Christ, in giving us the Holy Spirit, gives us the ability to perform certain spiritual tasks.  Many of these are still available to the believer today.  Some seem to be less generally available now than at the time of Christ.  In the first section below is a list of spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the Bible, and are definitely active today.

The gift of teaching. The gift of teaching is mentioned in Romans 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:28, and Ephesians 4:11. After a person becomes a Christian he needs to be instructed in spiritual truth. God has gifted individuals to teach spiritual truth.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit they are able to illuminate the Scriptures to us, and draw from them practical lessons for daily living. While many non-believers are gifted teachers, they do not have the ability to teach spiritual truth.  In the same way believers also must depend on the Holy Spirit to understand and teach spiritual truth.

The gift of serving. The gift of serving is mentioned in Romans 12:7 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. Practically every Christian has the ability to help in some way. Not everyone can be a church leader, but God can use each one of us to minister to each other. We are told in Romans 12:7 that we need to be obedient to our calling, for the verse states, if a Christian’s gift is serving “Let him serve”. This is a very important gift, as they all are, in that much of the work of Christ’s Church depends on the working, and helping, of the Holy Spirit working in and through us.

The gift of administration.  The gift of ruling, or administration is listed in Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. God through the Holy Spirit gives some the ability to guide the church.  Christians who do not have this gift of administration are exhorted to heed those who do. Those who have this gift honor God by leading, and those who do not have this gift, honor God by being obedient to those who are gifted in leadership.

The gift of evangelism. Ephesians 4:11 mentions the gift of evangelism. This is the gift of the ability to preach the Gospel in such a way that souls are saved. Obviously this gift is still needed today. We can prepare ourselves to be an evangelist by studying God’s Word, but we must remember that the Holy Spirit must prepare those who hear the message as well as those of us who are speaking it.

The gift of being a pastor. The word pastor refers to a shepherd who cares for his sheep. This is contrasted to both the teacher and evangelist above. A pastor is always a teacher but the reverse is not always true. Also a pastor will continue to care for his flock while the evangelist may plant the gospel, and then move on, trusting that God will provide a pastor to help the new Christians to grow.

The gift of encouragement. Romans 12:8 tells us about the gift of encouragement. This gift is the special gift of challenging and admonishing people to do the work that God has given them. This gift, as in the case of the other gifts, works ideally in the Christian church and community. Notice how this and the other gifts all work toward the common purpose of glorifying God and building up the Church.

The gift of giving. The gift of giving is a gift that every Christian should have to some extent. Because a Christian is known by the way he handles money in relationship to the Lord, every Christian should have a plan of stewardship. The gift of giving has in it the willingness and promptness of giving as worship to God.

The gift of showing mercy. Again Romans 12:8 shows another gift, that of showing mercy. This has in view the showing of mercy to those who are needy and also those in need of forgiveness.

The gift of faith. This gift is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8–10. It relates to the Christian who has the implicit faith in the Word of God, the person who accepts the Bible for what it is. While all Christians should have faith, some have a clearer and more effective faith than others.


OTHER Gifts of the Spirit


The gifts above are given to believers by the Holy Spirit according to His will and for His purposes. In addition to the gifts above there are others mentioned in the Scriptures. These gifts are also given by the Holy Spirit according to His will and for His purposes. However, in many cases these gifts are now only rarely given, or limited in some way.

Some of these gifts where needed during Christ’s time to give authority to the ministry of Christ and the apostles. We now have these events recorded for us in the Scriptures to give authority for the preaching of the gospel.

The Gift of Prophecy. This gift was especially important in the life of the early church.  To some people was given the gift of understanding future or current events involving the life of the church. This was done through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. Prophets of God were both men and women. In this current age of the Church we have the New Testament, God communicates to us directly through His word and also through those whom He has gifted to teach and preach. The gift of prophecy is also the gift of foretelling, and can be a word from God not revealing the future, but rather revealing the truth. A message of this type will encourage and exhort, it will convict and strengthen. The message must be conformed to God’s word in the Bible (1 John 4:1).

The Gift of Miracles. 1 Corinthians 12:28 speaks of those gifted in the performance of miracles. This was generally done to authenticate the messenger of the Word. While God can perform miracles at any time suitable to His purpose, He now generally performs them for a different purpose, that of answering prayers of believers.

The Gift of Healing. The New Testament gives many examples of healing, especially during the lifetime of Christ. There has been abuse in the church of people claiming to have the gift of healing and using it for their self-promotion—and almost always involving fakery. Nevertheless, God has, and still can, give this gift to people He trusts to use it for His purpose.

The Gift of Tongues. The subject of tongues is not mentioned in any of the four gospels, and only in the books of Acts and 1 Corinthians in the rest of the New Testament. The first time it is mentioned of course is on the day of Pentecost. At this time the apostles and other believers were gifted to enable them to speak in languages not native to them. The authentic nature of this miracle was attested to by the fact that people present from other countries understood them. The gift of tongues did not play a leading role in the life of the church at this time and even though Paul claimed to have spoken in tongues, there is no evidence that he used this gift to preach the gospel.

We need to be careful that we do not make this gift a test of salvation today. When a person speaks in tongues he needs to remember that all gifts are given to glorify God and build up His church—not individuals.

The Gift of Interpreting Tongues. This is the gift of translating what others say in a language that is not understood by the people hearing it. See 1 Corinthians 14:27. Many people believe that if the Holy Spirit is giving someone the ability to speak in tongues, He will also provide someone to interpret, as His goal is to communicate spiritual truth to us whenever He speaks to our through us.

The Gift of Discerning Spirits. In the early church it was very important that they were able to distinguish between the revelation of the Holy Spirit and a deceitful revelation from Satan. In a sense all believers have this gift (1 John 2:27).  We also have the benefit of the New Testament Scriptures to consult.


Living in receipt of the Holy Spirit


If we accept that as a believer we have received the Holy Spirit we must then ask “What does this mean to me?” Having received the Holy Spirit brings the presence of God into our daily lives. No more are we alone or lonely. We have in the Holy Spirit the seal of redemption by Christ.

Having the Holy Spirit in our heart gives us power over the spirit world. We are told that He who is in us is more powerful that he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Live in boldness. You have the strength of God in you. We have heard of examples of how a person in a foreign country feels secure if he is a citizen of the US or another powerful country. We all know how fleeting this security truly is. However as a believer you are an eternal citizen of God’s kingdom.  God is not limited by time or place but protects us always.

We have the security of knowing that our safe passage home has been paid for by Christ. It is always available, the flight is never over booked, and He will be waiting to receive us when we get there.

How does the Holy Spirit work through me to accomplish His purpose? In the next chapter we will look at the subject of the Character of the Christian. We will look at how our lifestyle and obedience can help, or hinder the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.  This gift we have received brings responsibilities as well!


The Holy Spirit is a friend always near.

He’s faithful, constant, has never a fear.

He guides me by paths that only He knows.

I’d just walk blindly, His light everything shows.


I always expect, that He’ll be there for me

But some things, I’d rather that He didn’t see

How many times do I leave Him, to go it alone.

If He’s gone, and I need Him, why not just phone?


But then I reflect, for the times that He’s close,

Are the times my heart sings, that I love Him the most.

The warm glow inside, is poured from above.

For in all God’s good earth, none matches this love.



Discussion Questions



1.  How do you know you have received the Holy Spirit?





2.  How do you think you can best allow the Holy Spirit to work in your     life?





3.  What Gifts of the Holy Spirit do you think you have received?





4.  How does God use this gift in you?





5. How can you help to developed your gift?




[1] Poem by Harriet Auber, 1773–1862

[2] From What We Believe  by John F. Walvoord  c 1990 pub by Discovery   House, Grand Rapids MI