Genesis 1:2 tells us that the Holy Spirit was the one who moved across the formless deep and brought form to it. Therefore, He is the Creator. He is also the divine agent, which inspired the holy men who wrote the Scripture. God is not just one God who appears in three different persons at various times, He is at all times three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and when we talk about the Holy Spirit, we are talking about God. He is the Spirit of God, just as Jesus is the Son of God. But I want us to look based on that assumption of what His divine ministry is. He works to accomplish the purposes of God.
It is the Spirit, for example, who comes upon Mary and she is given a child without a human father. To deny the power of Jesus is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit in the Father’s will who raises Him from the dead. It is the Spirit who comes down and establishes the church. It is the Spirit who regenerates every believer.
If a person receives eternal salvation through faith in the crucified Christ, at that point he also receives the fullness of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The Spirit is then taking up residence in the believer’s life and the power of God is therefore placed at his disposal. So why would anyone turn to human effort to achieve spiritual goals?
Without the Holy Spirit we would not be the new creation, born again and be regenerated. And without the Holy Spirit we would not continue to be constantly sanctified. Apart from the Holy Spirit, we would fall back into spiritual deadness. Neither can a Christian sustain a Christian life by works, by ceremony or by religious rite or ritual. We are therefore being kept by the Spirit.
As the Charismatics increasingly kidnapped the Holy Spirit and held Him hostage to their aberrant theology, true interest in the Holy Spirit began to wane. They effectively started to present a message and approach based on people’s felt needs and what makes them tick.
The Charismatic Movement ascribes itself to the Holy Spirit but it is far more a work of the flesh than it is the work of the Spirit because the Spirit of God does not invest convincing expressions of His power into aberrant theology. If there were a gift of healing, it would not belong to somebody getting rich at the expense of sick people or to those who teach wrongly about the work of the Holy Spirit. It gives the illusion of spiritual success and it may have absolutely nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. It is a sin to think that we can do what only the Holy Spirit can do. It is a sin to think that we can win people to Christ by our techniques. We know that the Holy Spirit always works His ways through the Word and you cannot honor the Spirit without honoring the Word, for the Spirit is the author of the Word.
There are some things that are so foundational regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that we need to understand them and understand them well.
First, the Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation. In John chapter 16, the Lord Jesus is promising to send the Holy Spirit He also says it in chapter 14 and 15 and is called the Advocate, the Helper, Paraclete and the Comforter. In chapter 16, verse 7 we read: “If I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you and He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me, concerning righteousness because I go to the Father and you no longer behold Me. And concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
By convicting the world, the Holy Spirit is bringing upon the heart and soul of unredeemed humanity, the awareness of sin. He convicts of sin, first of all, because they do not believe in Jesus and that is THE sin that damns people to hell. Any other sin is forgiven when one does believe in Christ. The Spirit works in the heart to produce guilt and fear and anxiety and trepidation and terror and the reality of sin.
And then secondly, the Spirit convicts the sinner of the righteousness of Jesus Christ who is utterly unlike the sinner. He also produces conviction concerning judgment.
Since those are the areas in which the Holy Spirit works to convict sinners, those should be the areas which we proclaim and on which the church should preach. It is not what people want to hear though. But there are literally all throughout the pages of Scripture these truths over and over again – in the Old Testament by way of prophecy and type and symbol, and all throughout the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 1:5 reads: “Our gospel did not come to you in Word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.” When you preach the gospel it must be done in the power of the Spirit, as He produces conviction
Secondly, the Holy Spirit only produces conviction when the truth is proclaimed, heard and understood. It is also the Holy Spirit who produces repentance. That is precisely what we have in the eleventh chapter of Acts in the eighteenth verse. “When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.'”
In verse 15 the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as He did on us at the beginning. In Verse 17, God gave to them the same gift that He gave to us, also after believing in the Lord Jesus. The Spirit produces conviction about sin, conviction about the truth of the cross which is related to sin and our sinfulness and the only hope we have to escape judgment, and the Spirit produces conviction about judgment in order to produce repentance.
In 1 Peter 1:12, Peter: “It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in these things…speaking about the Old Testament prophets…in these things which now they have announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” The gospel when it is truly preached is preached by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.
So the Spirit who is the author of the gospel is also the Energizer. First John 5 says: “The Spirit who bears witness because the Spirit is the truth.” Whatever is a representation of the truth of Scripture, it is further energized by the Spirit.
In John chapter 3 it all kind of comes together where Jesus has His conversation with Nicodemus. In verse 5, “Truly, truly…Jesus says…I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” The point here is the Spirit regenerates and produces repentance by means of that conviction. The Spirit gives life and that is why we are talking about being born of the Spirit.
In Titus chapter 3 it says in verse 5; “He saved us not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and the renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
So the whole work of salvation then is a work of the Spirit of God. He’s the author of Scripture which is the source of truth about sin, righteousness, judgment and the call to repentance.
Now that is not all that the Holy Spirit does, but that’s the initial work. Let us look at a couple of illustrations. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13 we read: “We should always give thanks to God for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” Sanctification often is synonymous with salvation. The word sanctification means to be set apart and to be cleansed. That is what salvation is – we are separated from sin, niquity, condemnation and from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. So initial salvation is a launch of sanctification, it is a separation.
Paul says, “Having begun in the Spirit are you now perfected by the flesh?” It is not something the sinner can do for himself but something that only God can do. We need to continue in the Spirit now that we have begun in the Spirit.
Number one, He brings us the knowledge of and communion with God. The Spirit is the one who gives us access into fellowship with God. In Romans chapter 8 we learn what it means to live in the Spirit. Verse 6 says: “The mind set on the flesh is death, the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Verse 9 reads:”You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Verse 11, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.” Verse 13, “If you’re living according to the flesh, you must die. But if by the Spirit you’re putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.”
We go on living in the Spirit, not according to the flesh. In verse 14 it says: “All who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” When you experience the direct leading of the Spirit of God in your life, it is an affirmation that you belong to God as a true son. “For you have not received a spirit of slavery, a spirit or an attitude of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
We literally say Abba, Father. That is a diminutive for papa, daddy, signifying endearment and intimacy. It is like James says: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” This is an immense privilege. And we do that by the Spirit. The Spirit frees us from fear, dread and terror that one might have in one’s heart in approaching an all holy, glorious God. We come into God’s presence as children and we speak to Him intimately and we unload our issues, desires, prayers, petitions and our praise and that is the work of the Spirit.
When one has been born again, the Spirit of God produces that attitude in the heart of a believer. We feel drawn to God and privileged to ask Him for anything and the Spirit of God gives us that internal freedom. That is what verse 14 refers to when it states that you have not received a spirit of slavery. There is a true joy of fellowship because access has been opened. We can even cast all our care on Him because we know He cares for us. We can be honest with Him about our sins. We should confess them all before Him without fear knowing that they are all covered by His grace through the sacrifice of Christ.
As you grow as a believer, this joyous communion, joyous prayer and praise takes over more and more of your life and there is a wonderful freeness in that. We sing hymns about God’s holiness. We come before the Lord, as the psalmist said, with singing. We are without fear because of the work of the Holy Spirit.
There is a second ministry of the Holy Spirit that we will talk about in detail in part 2 of this 2 part series. 2 Peter 1 says that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation. No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. That tells us the Holy Spirit is the author and the illuminator of Scripture.
1 John 2:20 reads “You have an anointing from the Holy One, you have an anointing from the Holy One and you all know.” What is this anointing? It refers to the Holy Spirit who is the source of our understanding of Scripture. The Spirit lives in us and we live in the Spirit. We have our being in the realm of the Holy Spirit. The Word anointing here is the word chrisma, it means ointment, something placed on us like an anointing oil. And it is the Spirit of Truth.
The most critical passage on this is in 1 Corinthians 2 verse 9, which borrows from a couple of passages in Isaiah, “Just as it is written, things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” It is not available to empirical search. Secondly, “And which have not entered the heart of man.” You can’t find it externally and you can’t find it internally. “But it’s truth about all that God has prepared for those who love Him.” Everything that God has for those who are His children is unavailable in terms of understanding to the unregenerate. Verse 10, “For to us God revealed them .. through the Spirit.”
So we have an internal resident truth teacher who illuminates us. This is part of the doctrine of illumination. Inspiration brings us the message. Illumination is the work of the Spirit which gives us an understanding of what the message means. The Spirit illuminated us to understand our sinfulness. The Spirit illuminated us to understand the gospel. The Spirit illuminated us from the very beginning and continues this work of shining the light of truth brightly in our minds.
There is no fellowship between light and darkness.