Foundations of the Faith: The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit

March 12, 2019
Mark Swaim

The Work of the Holy Spirit Today

From the first chapter of Genesis (Gen. 1:2), to the final chapter of Revelation (Rev. 22:17), we read about the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. He is described as a Person, having intelligence (Isa. 11:2; 1 Cor. 2:10-11), emotions (Isa. 63:10; Eph 4:30), and a will (1 Cor. 12:11; Acts 16:6-7). He is a member of the one, triune God, and as such, is eternal (Heb. 9:14), omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-12), omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-13), and omnipotent (Lk. 1:35; Rom. 15:19).

He was active in creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4), at work in men (2 Sam. 23:2; Neh. 9:30), and strove to turn Israel from sin (Isa. 63:10-11). He was active in the incarnation (Lk. 1:35) and in the life of Christ (Lk. 4:14; Acts 10:38). The Scriptures were written by men who were inspired and guided by Him to write what God wanted humanity to know (2 Pet. 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16). Today, we have the complete, written Word of God. Everything God wanted to communicate to man can be found within its pages. So much could be written about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the life of Christ. But what about today?

He Restrains The Wickedness Of Men (2 Thess. 2:7)

Laws help restrain people from doing wrong. Without laws, there would be anarchy. Parents restrain children from getting out of control. Without parents, or lacking a parental figure, children would be left to their own devices. The Holy Spirit acts in a similar fashion. His presence in this world restrains the wickedness of men.

He Convicts People Of Sin (Jn. 16:7–11)

The Word of God is unlike any book. It is a living and powerful Book (Heb. 4:12). When read, the Spirit of God can use it to change a life and drive the sword of conviction into a complacent soul. He is working to make Scripture clear, the truth that mankind is lost and dead in sin, but that through Christ people can be saved and escape the judgment to come. For many, the message is but a shallow truth, never striking the heart with a deep sense of guilt and despair. To others the Spirit’s work brings about true conviction of mankind’s entrapment and bondage to sin.

He Points To Christ And Glorifies Him (Jn. 15:26; 16:14)

Why does the Holy Spirit point to Christ? Because Christ is the One who can save us from sin. Thus, He bears witness to Christ. He does not point to Himself nor to His power. He seeks the glory of the Savior and points people to the Mediator between God and man, the Light of the world, the Redeemer of men.

He Gives Life (Titus 3:4-5; Jn. 3:3; 6:63)

The Word of God is active in regeneration (1 Pet 1:23; Jas. 1:18). The Holy Spirit uses it to bring conviction of sin and point sinners to the Savior. Salvation is not brought about by the will of man, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by physical birth (Jn. 1:13). Jesus said, “unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” (Jn. 3:3). Salvation is not accomplished by praying a prayer, nor by baptism, nor by church membership. It is not a reformation of the heart, but a complete transformation. It is the Spirit who breathes spiritual life, so that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This regeneration is brought about by the Spirit of God, bringing new life to a sinner who was dead in sin (Jn. 3:5-6, 8).

He Indwells (1 Cor. 6:19; Jn. 14:16-17; 2 Tim. 1:14)

He is a gift from God indwelling every believer (Acts 10:44-45; 15:8; Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). He indwells even young, immature believers as noted in Corinth (1 Cor. 3:3, 16; 6:19). Paul writes that if the Holy Spirit does not indwell someone, they are not Christ’s (Rom. 8:9).

He Baptizes (1 Cor. 12:13)

The baptism of the Holy Spirit places believers into the body of Christ, and it happens at salvation. It is mentioned four times in the Acts of the Apostles. First, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 11:15-16), when the promised Holy Spirit came, baptized and filled the disciples (Acts 2:1-4). With boldness, Peter preached the resurrection of Jesus who now had been made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) and many came to faith in Christ and were added to their number.
It happened a second time (Acts 8) when Philip preached the gospel in Samaria, and saw many saved. After some time, Peter and John came from Jerusalem and laid hands on the new converts (Acts 8:14-17) so they would receive the Holy Spirit. This was necessary as historically there was animosity between the Jews and Samaritans that caused the Samaritans to reject Jewish authority over them. But now God was breaking down the barrier; Jews and Samaritans were now one in Christ.
It happened a third time (Acts 10) when Cornelius, a Gentile, was told by an angel to call for Peter, who came and found a house full of Gentiles ready to hear the word of the Lord. Peter preached; the Gentiles received the gospel; and the Holy Spirit fell on them (Acts 10:44). Now Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles were one in Christ, part of one body. This was astonishing and caused quite a stir among Jewish believers.

It happened a fourth time (Acts 19) in Ephesus, where Paul found disciples of John. Paul preached Christ upon whom they believed and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. After Paul laid hands on them (a sign that they were publicly cutting ties with Israel), the Holy Spirit came upon them. Years later, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13, commenting on what happened in those early days, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

He Seals (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5)

The Father has sealed every believer with the Holy Spirit, securing and guaranteeing the believer’s redemption. Since no one is more powerful than God the believer’s seal can never be broken nor can we lose our salvation.

He Gives The Believer Gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-11; Rom. 12:3-8; Eph. 4:3-13; 1 Pet. 4:7-11)

The Holy Spirit gives every believer something to do. He distributes spiritual gifts so each believer can be involved in building up, binding up, and beautifying the body of Christ. Some gifts were only for the apostolic era and ceased at the end of that period. Others remain and today are distributed by the Holy Spirit to believers upon their conversion. No one possesses all the gifts. This is why believers need one another. The gifts are distributed so the body of Christ will learn to work and function together under the headship of Christ.

To be continued in our next issue •