The Holy Spirit
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.
blest Redeemer, ere He breathed His tender last farewell,
guide, a comforter bequeathed, with us to dwell.
came in tongues of living flame, to teach, convince, subdue;
as the wind He came, as viewless too.
came sweet influence to impart, a gracious, willing guest,
He can find one humble heart wherein to rest.
His that gentle voice we hear, soft as the breath of even,
checks each fault, that calms each fear, and speaks of heaven.
every virtue we possess, and every victory one,
every thought of holiness are His alone.
of purity and grace, our weakness pitying see;
make our hearts Thy dwelling-place, and worthier Thee.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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.
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
“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.’”
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).
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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’.”
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Permanent Gifts of the SpiriT
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Gifts of the Spirit
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
in receipt of the Holy Spirit
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.
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.
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.
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!
Holy Spirit is a friend always near.
faithful, constant, has never a fear.
guides me by paths that only He knows.
just walk blindly, His light everything shows.
always expect, that He’ll be there for me
some things, I’d rather that He didn’t see
many times do I leave Him, to go it alone.
He’s gone, and I need Him, why not just phone?
then I reflect, for the times that He’s close,
the times my heart sings, that I love Him the most.
warm glow inside, is poured from above.
in all God’s good earth, none matches this love.
How do you know you have received the Holy Spirit?
How do you think you can best allow the Holy Spirit to work in your life?
What Gifts of the Holy Spirit do you think you have received?
How does God use this gift in you?
How can you help to developed your gift?
Poem by Harriet Auber,
From What We Believe
by John F. Walvoord c
1990 pub by Discovery House,
Grand Rapids MI