The Work of the Spirit

23 Sep

As a matter of clarification and in preparation for what the Spirit is to believers, it would be helpful to note the following facts:

Negatively: The believer is never told to seek or commanded to be (a) baptized with or in the Spirit, (b) nor to be indwelt with the Spirit, (c) nor to be anointed with the Spirit, (d) nor to be sealed with the Spirit, (e) nor in our age to even pray for the Spirit (Luke 11:13 was pre-Pentecost). Rather, these are all presented by the New Testament as accomplished facts during the Church Age.

Positively: The only commands in the New Testament given to believers in relation to the Holy Spirit deal with the filling of the Holy Spirit or with walking by means of the Spirit who already indwells us. There are only four direct commands that relate to the Spirit and the believer’s life. Two are positive and two are negative.

(1) The Positive Commands: We are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit” and to “walk by the Spirit.”

Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit,

Galatians 5:16 and 25 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh… . 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

(2) The Negative Commands: We are commanded to “grieve not the Spirit” and to “quench not the Spirit.”

Ephesians 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit;

In addition, the following are some passages one might view as commanding the filling of the Spirit indirectly or by implication because the need of His ministry in the issue involved.

John 4:24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.

Ephesians 6:18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,

Philippians 3:3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

Romans 8:4-13 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But 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. 12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

What the Spirit Is to Believers in His Indwelling

In anticipation of the coming of the Spirit, in John 14:17 Christ spoke of the unique change that would occur in the Spirit’s relationship with believers when He said, “… because He abides with you (Old Testament economy) and will be in you (New Testament economy).” Through this universal indwelling of all believers, the Spirit becomes a seal, an anointing, a pledge, and our enabler. All of this stems from the fact of His indwelling presence from the moment of salvation.

(1) A Seal

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.

According to 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, God the Father (the subject of the verb) does the sealing. The Holy Spirit is the seal, and believers are those who are sealed with God’s seal (the Spirit). The seal suggests the ideas of ownership and security.

A further consequence of the Spirit’s presence is the seal of ownership (cf. Eph. 1:13-14) which also is accomplished at the moment of faith. A seal on a document in New Testament times identified it and indicated its owner, who would “protect” it. So too, in salvation, the Holy Spirit, like a seal, confirms that Christians are identified with Christ and are God’s property, protected by Him (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20). It was probably this thought that caused Paul to describe himself as a slave of Christ. (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1).58

(2) An Anointing

1 John 2:20 and 27 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know… . 27 And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.

Again, God the Father, as the subject of the verb in 2 Corinthians 1:21, does the anointing; the Holy Spirit, as 1 John 2:20 and 27 make clear, is the anointing; and we as believers in Christ are the ones who are anointed.

Persons and things were anointed, in the OT, to signify holiness, or separation unto God: pillars (cf. Gen. 28:18); the tabernacle and its furniture (Ex. 30:22ff.); shields (2 Sa. 1:21; Is. 21:5: probably to consecrate them for the ‘holy war,’ see Deut. 23:9ff.); kings (Jdg. 9:8; 2 Sa. 2:4; 1 Kgs. 1:34); priests (Ex. 28:41); prophets (1 Kgs. 19:16)… . Fundamentally the anointing was an act of God (1 Sam. 10:1), and the word ‘anointed’ was used metaphorically to mean the bestowal of divine favour (Psa. 23:5; 92:10) or appointment to a special place or function in the purpose of God (Ps. 105:15; Is. 45:1). Further, the anointing symbolized equipment for service, and is associated with the outpouring of the Spirit of God (1 Sa. 10:1, 9; 16:13; Is. 61:1; Zech. 4:1-14). This usage is carried over into the NT (Acts 10:38; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).59 (Emphasis mine.)

The identification of the Spirit as our anointing is a portrait of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit as an act of God which separates us, appoints us, and equips us for ministry in the purpose of God. Strictly speaking, then, it is doctrinally incorrect to ask God to anoint a believer today with the Spirit in preparation for a particular task. A more accurate prayer would be that the one involved in the task at hand be truly under the power of the Spirit, or that he or she might experience the work of the Spirit in a marvelous way because the Spirit is already present as God’s anointing.

(3) A Pledge

The Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in believers’ lives is also viewed by God as His personal pledge (i.e., earnest or down payment) that God will fulfill His promises to believers and that our salvation will be consummated (Eph. 1:14). Note how the NIV translates 2 Corinthians 1:21-22:

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (NIV)

Present redemption is only a foretaste of what eternity holds (cf. Rom. 8:23), and the presence of His Spirit in our hearts (cf. Rom. 5:5; 2 Cor. 5:5) is like a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. These last seven words are a translation of one Greek word arrabona, a down payment which obligates the payer to make further payments. The same Greek word is used again in 5:5 and Ephesians 1:14 (cf. “the first fruits of the Spirit,” Rom. 8:23).60

(4) An Enabler

John 14:16 and 26 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; … 26 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 that I said to you.

John 16:7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.

In these passages the Lord promised the disciples He would give them “another Helper.” “Another” is the Greek allos which means “another of the same kind.” This is a reference to the Holy Spirit who, as the third person of the trinity, is of the same essence and power as the Lord Jesus Christ. In His absence, there would be no lack. In fact, it would be for their advantage (John 16:7) that He leave so the Holy Spirit could come in His place and indwell their lives.

The Spirit is called “Helper.” This is the Greek parakletos and refers to one who is called alongside on behalf of another as an intercessor, mediator, helper. It is translated variously, “helper,” “advocate,” “counselor,” and “comforter.” In view of the purpose and ministry of the Spirit along with the meaning of this word, perhaps “Enabler” is a better translation. He comes not just to give help, as a servant might help his employer or as one person helps another. Rather He comes and indwells us to enable—to empower us for the Christian life in witnessing, in prayer, in obedience, etc. This title for the Spirit not only teaches us what He is to us, but what we are apart from His control and ministry—without ability or enablement.

What the Spirit Does

There is no part of the believer’s life for which the Spirit is not needed. The following illustrates just how complete is the work of the Spirit who is our Enabler.

(1) He convicts and reveals Jesus Christ to men.

John 16:8-11 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

(2) He restrains sin in the world.

Genesis 6:3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.

(3) He regenerates to new life.

Titus 3:5 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 renewing by the Holy Spirit,

(4) He baptizes into Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

(5) He empowers and reproduces the character of Jesus Christ in those who submit to Him by faith.

Galatians 4:19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you—

Galatians 5:5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

Galatians 5:16-23 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

(6) He promotes spiritual maturity. (Cf. also Gal. 5:1-5; Heb. 5:11-6:6.)

Galatians 3:1-3 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

(7) He teaches: gives understanding in the Word. (Cf. also 1 Cor. 2:9-16; John 16:11-15.)

John 14:26 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 that I said to you.

Ephesians 3:16-18 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

(8) He applies truth to our experience. (Cf. also John 14:26; Eph. 6:18.)

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

(9) He gives power to our prayer life.

Jude 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Spirit;

John 15:7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.

Psalm 66:18 If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;

(10) He promotes meaningful worship. (Cf. also John 4:23-24; Eph. 5:18-21; Isa. 59:1-2.)

Philippians 3:3 for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,

(11) He gives capacity, burden, and direction for witnessing.

Acts 1:8 but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

(12) He gives capacity for ministry. This refers to gifts of the Spirit which are to be exercised in the power of the Spirit from the motive of love—which is also a work of the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:12-14 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,

1 Peter 4:10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

The fact that the Holy Spirit is our Helper, indeed, our Enabler for these varied ministries demonstrates just how tremendously important the Spirit is to our daily walk. It shows how necessary it is that we walk by means of the Spirit, i.e., by constant dependence upon Him (Gal. 5:5, 16; Eph. 3:16-17). The lessons that follow are devoted to more biblical principles and promises that teach us more about the ministry of the Spirit and how to walk in His power.

45 Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Regency, Grand Rapids, 1976, p. 513.

46 Charles C. Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, Moody Press, Chicago, 1965, p. 11.

47 The outline and basic argument used in this section, with slight variation, is taken from The Holy Spirit, by Charles C. Ryrie.

48 Ryrie, p. 12.

49 Ryrie, p. 13.

50 Ryrie, p. 16.

51 Ryrie, The Holy Spirit, p. 16.

52 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, Baker, Grand Rapids, 1990, p. 857.

53 Erickson, p. 857.

54 Erickson, p. 858.

55 Erickson, p. 858.

56 Charles C. Ryrie, A Survey of Bible Doctrine, Moody Press, Chicago, 1972, p. 70.

57 Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, Multnomah Press, Portland, 1986, p. 188.

58 David K. Lowery, “2 Corinthians,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1985, p. 557.

59 New Bible Dictionary, quoted from Logos CD.

60 Lowery, p. 557.


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Posted by on September 23, 2021 in Holy Spirit


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