Who is and What are the Works of the Holy Spirit?

If you ask most church members who the Holy Spirit is, you will probably receive puzzled looks, references to an “it”, a force emanating from God, or to your conscience, among other ideas. I think it is safe to say the Holy Spirit is a mystery to most people. Someone that is present and working, but not really understood.

As Christians, however, it’s important we understand who the Holy Spirit is and how He works. We not only need to understand these things for our own theological develop, but also as a protection from heresy.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

TrinityThe Holy Spirit is God. He is the Third Person of the Trinity, who is fully and completely divine, possessing all of the divine attributes of the God-Head. He is equal with the Father and the Son in His deity (Matt. 3:13-17; 28:19-20; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2) [1].

When we say the Holy Spirit is working, we are saying God is working. Jesus attests to this, when He refers to the Holy Spirit as God who is at work in regeneration (Jn 3:5) and rebirth (Jn 3:8).

Also, Paul affirms the Holy Spirit as God when he tells us that “God’s speaking through the prophets is accomplished through the work of the Spirit (Acts 28:25-26)” [2].

Additionally, we know the Holy Spirit is God because “the Bible equates a believer’s relationship to the Spirit and his relationship with God” [3]. To lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. A prime example is when Ananias tells Peter he has given all the proceeds from the sale of his possessions to the church. In Acts 5:3-4, Peter begins by saying that Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit and ends by saying that he has not lied to men but to God.

Other divine attributes attributed to the Holy Spirit are:

  • Eternality – Heb. 9:14
  • Omnipresence – Ps. 139:7-10
  • Omniscience – 1 Cor. 2:10-11
  • Omnipotence – Luke 1:35-37
  • Holiness – Rom. 1:4 [4]

The Holy Spirit is also a person. “He is not merely an impersonal force or an emanation of the power of God” [5]. We know the Holy Spirit is a person based on titles given Him by Jesus. Jesus calls Him a “Comforter” and a “Helper” (Jn 12:26; 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7) [6].

The Work of the Holy Spirit

While the Holy Spirit is fully God, He is distinct from the Son and the Father, playing a different role than each. “The distinct roles typically have the Father willing, the Son accomplishing, and the Spirit applying the work of the Son” [7]. As a result, the Spirit does many things, which are highlighted throughout Scripture.

The Spirit’s Work in Jesus’ Ministry

  • Brings about the incarnation (Luke 1:35)
  • Anoints Jesus for His public ministry at His baptism (Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:21-22).
  • Fills Jesus (Luke 4:1)
  • Leads and Empowers Jesus through His earthly life (Luke 4:14;18)
  • He participates in Jesus’ atoning work (Heb. 9:14)
  • Raises Jesus from the dead (Rom. 8:11) [8]

The Spirit’s Work in God’s People

  • Brings regeneration (Jn. 3:5-8)
  • Sanctifies (Rom. 8:29; 1 Jn. 3:2)
  • Illumines the Bible (Luke 24:27, 44-48)
  • Empowers gospel preaching (Acts 1:8)
  • Empowers for kingdom advancing work (See the book of Acts)
  • Provides assurance of adoption and future to come (Rom. 8:16; Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:21-22)
  • Works fruit in our lives known as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
  • Comforts (Jn 12:26; 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7)
  • Teaches (Jn 14:26; 1 Cor. 2:13)
  • Determines distribution of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:11)
  • Interprets and brings human prayer before the Father (Rom. 8:26-27) [9]

Other works of the Spirit

  • Involved in creation (Gen. 1:2)
  • Inspired the Word of God (2 Pet. 1:21)
  • Makes decisions (Acts 15:28)
  • Grieves over sin (Eph. 4:30)
  • Overrules human actions (Acts 16:6-7)
  • Searches the deep things of God (1 Cor. 2:10-11)
  • Bears witness to and glorifies Christ (Jn 15:26; 16:14) [10]

Conclusion

As you can see, the Holy Spirit is much more than a life force emanating from God. He is more than an “it”, more than your conscience. He is God, who worked in Jesus’ ministry, works in the world, and works in the life of the believer. He does many things in an effort to apply the work of the Son.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How have you thought of the Holy Spirit?
  2. How do you think of Him now?

Resources

Please note: There may be other works of the Holy Spirit not listed. Providing an exhaustive list of the Spirit’s work is beyond the scope of this post.

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[1] Erik Thoennes, Life’s Biggest Questions101.
[2] Ibid., 103
[3] Ibid., 104
[4] Ibid., 103
[5] Ibid., 101
[6] Ibid., 102
[7] Ibid., 104
[8] Ibid., 104-05
[9] Ibid., 102, 104-106
[10] Ibid., 102, 104

Who Should We Engage with the Gospel?

Cast People

Who should we engage with the gospel? How would you answer that question? Especially, when we consider Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:6:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Who should we engage with the gospel?

I know most of you are thinking: Shouldn’t we engage anyone and everyone with the gospel. I believe that is partly right, especially when we consider Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:16-20 to go and make disciples. So yes, we should be willing to engage anyone and everyone, but how can we best steward our time in a hostile world, especially, when there are so many who need the gospel?

Let me offer you a few principles that I think might be helpful in answering our question.

(1) We should not consistently engage those with the gospel who are looking for an argument.

Proverbs 17:14 and 18:19 say,

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.

A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.

(2) We should not consistently engage those with the gospel who are fools and do not desire to know the truth.

Proverbs 14:7; 18:2; 23:9 say,

Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

Why I Am and Am Not Asking this Question

I am not asking this question in order to give myself or others an excuse to not share the gospel. We should be willing to share the good news with all who will listen, and even those who will not.

I am, however, asking this question to challenge you to see that our time and resources are precious. As a result, you should spend your time and resources on those who are willing to listen and are actively seeking to know more about Christ.

For instance, there are a few guys who frequent the Starbucks in my town that I engage with the gospel periodically. I don’t, however, engage them on a daily basis. Why? Because they don’t care to know the truth. They are fools who only want to argue that Christianity is not true. For me to consistently engage them is unfruitful and sucks up my time and resources that I could employ to get to know others. Instead of fretting over engaging them, I rest in the fact knowing they have heard the gospel, are consistently prayed for, and if God so chooses to save them, He will work to soften their hard hearts.

Challenge

Let me challenge you to share the gospel with others, but to be strategic in who you seek to consistently engage. Spend your time and resources on those who are willing to have an honest conversation with you.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

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Free eBook for Advent 2012

Advent is here! For four weeks leading up to Christmas in December, we remember the thousand’s of years God’s people were anticipating and longing for the Messiah.

1 Peter 1:10-12 provides a description of what we look back to during Advent.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

To assist you this Advent season in reflecting back on God’s promise of a coming Messiah, I recommend John Piper’s book Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent. You can download a free ebook here.

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