January 20, 2019
In this issue: The Work of the Holy Spirit, Parts 1 & 2 by Heath Rogers
by Heath Rogers
There is much confusion and ignorance in the religious world regarding different aspects of the Holy Spirit. While we have an understanding of the work that is done by the Father and the Son, we are not always as clear about the role and function of the Holy Spirit.
There are some things about the Godhead that will remain a mystery to us. However, we can know those things that have been revealed in Scripture concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. Understanding these things can strengthen our faith, give us a greater appreciation for the Holy Spirit, and equip us to teach others.
The Spirit's work can be divided into the following categories:
The Spirit's Work in Creation
The Old Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit worked with the Father and the Son in the creation of the world. "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" (Genesis 1:2). Creation was not finished until the third member of the Godhead did His work.
The Spirit's role in creation appears to be that of organization. God created the elements, but they were "without form, and void." After the Spirit is mentioned, God's creation begins to take shape. The elements are organized into working systems and laws are enacted which govern the universe.
Job tells us that the stars and other celestial bodies were created by the Spirit: "By His Spirit He adorned the heavens" (Job 26:13).
The Holy Spirit was also involved in the creation of man: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26-27). God was not speaking to His angels when He made this statement, for there is no indication in Scripture that angels created man. God the Father was speaking to the Son and the Spirit concerning the creation of man.
The Spirit's Work in Revelation
The Holy Spirit's work continued as God began to slowly reveal His will to mankind.
"But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.' But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Corinthians 2:9-12).
Only the Spirit knows the mind of God. This qualified Him to reveal God's will to man through the apostles and prophets. "How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3:3-5).
God could have produced manuscripts of His word and given them to man, but instead He chose to use men as a means of delivering His will to mankind. All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The word "inspiration" literally means to "breathe in" or "to be influenced by another." When used in this passage in reference to the unique and authoritative nature of the Bible, the word means "God breathed."
The Old Testament
The Holy Spirit revealed divine truths to the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:10-12). These prophets did not write their own ideas, opinions, or interpretations. They wrote the things that the Holy Spirit told them to write. "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20-21). These prophets were "moved" or "carried along" by the Holy Spirit as they wrote.
The New Testament
The Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth and told them of things to come.
"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" (John 14:26).
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:12-13).
The Old Testament contains the writings of the inspired prophets. The New Testament contains the writings of the apostles and other inspired men. Thus, both the Old and New Testaments are the product of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit's Work in Confirmation
To confirm means "to make valid by formal approval; ratify, verify." Not only did the Spirit reveal God's will, but He also confirmed the fact that His message was God's word by performing signs, wonders, and miracles. These signs were performed in the life of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:38, Matthew 12:28), as well as in the work of the apostles. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Hebrews 2:3-4).
The word of God has been revealed in its fullness (Jude 3) and has been confirmed. Thus, this two-fold work of the Spirit (revelation and confirmation) has been completed.
The Spirit's Work in Conversion
To convert means to turn or to change. In the Bible, it refers to a person turning his heart and life away from Satan and sin, and towards God and righteousness (Acts 26:18).
There are three steps in the process of conversion. First, there must be a change in heart. A person's heart and mind must be changed regarding his attitude toward sin and his belief in God. Second, this change in heart must produce a change in life. Third, there is a change in one's spiritual state or relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit is involved in this process of man's conversion from sin. However, some disagreement exists regarding exactly how the Spirit brings about man's conversion. Some people believe that the Holy Spirit works directly upon the hearts of sinners by extending an irresistible call to come unto Christ. However, the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit does His work of conversion through the revealed word.
Consider the 3,000 Jews who were converted at Pentecost (recorded in Acts 2).
The Holy Spirit gave the apostles utterance (v. 4).
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached the gospel to the assembled Jews (vs. 14-36).
The Jews were convicted of their sins and asked what they should do (v. 37).
An inspired apostle told them to repent and be baptized (v. 38).
Those willing to do so gladly met these conditions (v. 41).
Conversion is a process that is begun, carried out, and completed by the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16). The gospel has been given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Spirit's work in man's conversion is through the preaching of His revealed and confirmed word.
The Spirit's Work in Sanctification
Sanctification involves the idea of being set apart for a special purpose. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is involved in man's sanctification.
Initial Sanctification: We are sanctified at the time that we are saved. The Spirit plays a role in this important moment in our lives. "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
Paul says that the Holy Spirit "bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). The Spirit reveals what man must do in order to be saved. Our spirit knows whether or not we have met these conditions that are set forth in the gospel. Together, both the Holy Spirit and our spirit give evidence to the fact that we are indeed sanctified or saved.
When we are saved, God seals us with the Holy Spirit, whom we are to receive as an earnest or guarantee of our eternal salvation. "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14). A seal is a mark that denotes ownership and protection. When we are saved, the Holy Spirit is given to us in such a way that indicates that we belong to God.
Ongoing Sanctification: Our being set apart to God should not be looked upon as a one-time event, but as an ongoing effort. The Holy Spirit continues to play an important role in our lives after we are saved.
First, the Scriptures teach that we are led by the Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). Being led by the Spirit is in contrast to walking according to the flesh (v. 1). We are not led in a direct, miraculous, better-felt-than-told manner. We are led through the Spirit's word, "the law of God" (v. 7). The Spirit's word teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us (2 Timothy 3:16).
Second, the Spirit helps us in our daily battle with sin. "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5; see also Galatians 5:16-25). As we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, walk in the Spirit's teachings, and develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, we are diverted away from many of the temptations in this world. We also equip ourselves with the means and desire to resist these temptations.
Third, the Spirit makes intercession for us. "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. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26-27). We do not always know what to pray for or how we ought to pray. At these times, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. His feelings for those who are saved are so deep that He expresses our needs to the Father in a way that cannot be expressed in any human language.
While we may not see or fully understand how the Holy Spirit works in our sanctification, through faith we can know that He does help us in various ways. This knowledge gives us confidence as we strive to serve the Lord throughout our lives.
The Holy Spirit has been, and continues to be, very active. He played an important role in organizing the created world and in revealing God's will to mankind. Through His word, He continues to work in the hearts and minds of men and women today. As His word is preached, He convicts men of sin and brings about faith, repentance, and obedience to the gospel. He also works in the lives of faithful Christians today. He leads us by His word, helps us in our battle against sin, and intercedes for us during our times of weakness.
From Watchman Magazine, April 4th, 2010