God – Holy Spirit

God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit

The person and work of the Holy Spirit

Introduction   

An amazing thing happens when a person repents of his sin and accepts Jesus Christ as his Saviour. By the grace of God his life is transformed through the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ taught Nicodemus that unless he was born again – that is born of water and the Spirit – he could not enter the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5-7). Unfortunately the topic of the Holy Spirit has sparked off countless discussions because there are so many different opinions. Let us search the Scriptures in order to find clear guidance about this controversial topic.

Biblical context

Apollos and Paul in Ephesus

(Acts 18:24-25; Acts 19:1-6)
In the early days of the church God’s word spread from the home country of the Jews westward and reached the city of Ephesus. Apollos the Jew was one of those talented and persuasive public speakers who interpreted and applied the Old Testament Scriptures effectively. But his message was incomplete. Nevertheless, some people listened, repented from their sins and were baptized, according to the teaching of John the Baptist. When the apostle Paul visited these Ephesians, he realized that something was missing in their lives. Although they had repented and received the baptism of John, which was a sign of repentance, they did not clearly understand Christ’s atoning death and his resurrection, nor did they know of the Holy Spirit.
Paul encouraged these disciples to believe in the one coming after John the Baptist, that is, in Jesus Christ. Becoming a Christian involves both turning from sin (repentance) and turning to Christ (faith), by which we receive the Holy Spirit and are born into a new life in Christ. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Rom.8:9b), for it is the Holy Spirit himself who “testifies with our spirit, that we are God’s children” (Rom 8:16).

God gives the Holy Spirit

God gives his Spirit to those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you sincerely trust Christ for your salvation and acknowledge him as Lord, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and you are a Christian. Your assurance of salvation does not come because of a certain feeling; you will know that the Holy Spirit has come because you believe. “You also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit”(Eph 1:13). The Holy Spirit equips the Christian to stand firm, to grow and to mature in faith.

The person of the Holy Spirit

He is God

The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (see Acts 5:3-4, Mt 28:19).
The Holy Spirit is more than just a power, an influence or a spiritual being. He is a person bearing these marks:

a) He has a mind and the ability to think (1?Cor 2:10-11). The Holy Spirit alone has knowledge about the thoughts and deep things of God, and he reveals these things to us. b) He has the ability to speak (Acts 13:2). When the church in Antioch was worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit began to speak. c) He has a will and the ability to determine things (1?Cor 12:11). The Holy Spirit gives gifts to the believers, just as he determines or wills. d) He has emotions and the ability to feel (Eph 4:30). The Holy Spirit can be grieved or quenched if we tolerate sin in our life. e) He is able to act (Jn 16:13). The Holy Spirit will guide the believers into all truth.

Significance for worship

God is spirit, present everywhere. This means we can worship him anywhere, at any time. Followers of Christ must worship him in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23-24). The Holy Spirit gives us the proper attitude to worship, and intercedes on our behalf, even when we don’t know the right words (Ro 8:26-27). The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and gives peace as he lines up our prayers with God’s will.
We must remember that the Holy Spirit is not only a power or an influence but a personality, who can be grieved by our wrong attitude. He will not be manipulated by loud shouting and is not impressed when we work ourselves into a state of physical excitement. Let us not worship with pride in our heart, seeking to exalt our name or other members of the church. God is holy, and to him alone be glory, majesty, power and authority (Jude 24). May the Holy Spirit minister to us, so that humility, love and obedience to God’s word is produced in our life.

The work of the Holy Spirit

Right from the beginning of creation the Holy Spirit was instrumental in fulfilling God‘s plan for mankind. The following Bible references also show  the great range of the Holy Spirit‘s work as he

  • convicts people of sin (Jn 16:8). He opens their eyes that they see how utterly lost they are and in need of the Saviour.

 

Conviction of sin

The message of God’s love had been preached. Prayers were said and a final hymn about Calvary’s cross was sung. The pastor said the blessing for the congregation and closed the meeting. But one man stayed back. He covered his head and face with both his arms and leaned his head on the bench in front of him. Silent sobs came from his heart. The pastor sat down beside him, but for a long time the man was unable to talk. He saw himself as a lost, hopeless and helpless sinner. Finally he opened his heart to the Lord, confessing his sins. Then the pastor pointed out some Bible verses about salvation in Christ to him. With tears of joy the man believed the Word of God, received Jesus into his life and the two prayed together. With a light heart the man left the hall and went his way rejoicing.from PNG

The Holy Spirit

  • reveals God‘s righteousness (Jn 16:7-8). When we trust in Christ, a wonderful exchange takes place – he takes away our sins and in return gives us his righteousness.
    convicts the world of God’s judgment (Jn 16:11). He shows us that the prince of this world, that is Satan, was judged when Jesus died on the cross of Calvary. One day we also will be judged and held responsible for the choices we have made, whether for Christ or against him.
    gives spiritual birth to those who believe in Christ and the assurance that they are God‘s children and heirs (Rom 8:14-17).

The new life

A young man turned to God in repentance, surrendering his whole life to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was led by the Holy Spirit to write to his Christian parents, telling them all about his sinful past. When he signed the letter he thought, “No.
I can’t send this letter. My parents will know all the bad things I have done and then they’ll be very sad.” Desperately, the young man threw himself down on his knees, crying to God. After his prayer he opened the Bible and was shown the verse in Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’“ The young man took a pencil and copied the verse. He read it again. Suddenly the Holy Spirit opened his eyes. He knew that the Lord had forgiven his sins and made his life altogether new. His heart was filled with gladness. He sent the letter to his parents and got a most precious reply of forgiveness and encouragement from his dad.  

The Holy Spirit

  • teaches and leads us into all truth (Jn 14:15-17; Jn 16:12-15). We need not have any doubts that God will fulfil his promises.
    glorifies Christ (Jn 16:14; Acts 1:8). Therefore a believer cannot claim to have a revelation from the Holy Spirit if it is contrary to Scripture.
    strengthens and directs the believer in prayer, interceding for him in accordance with God‘s will, which does not always correspond with his own (Rom 8:26-27).
    lives with us and in us (Jn 14:15-17). We need never again feel lonely.
    leads into freedom and liberty (Gal 5:16-18; Rom 8:1-9; 2?Cor 3:17). A life in the Holy Spirit gives the believer victory over the desires of the flesh (his own body) and leads out from being ‘under the law’ (meaning the state of pleasing God with good works) to ‘liberty in Christ’ (meaning to be delivered from the bondage of sin and be enabled to serve him). This change will happen if we willingly surrender the control of our lives to Christ and let his divine nature take shape in us.
    produces good fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-25). This is not our own doing but the work of the Holy Spirit. 
    equips us to serve the Lord and be his witnesses. However, to be effective we must depend on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).
    grants gifts according to his will and his measure, so that the believer will honour and praise God with them (1?Cor 12:7.11).

The gifts of the Holy Spirit

Every regenerated Christian is given spiritual gifts

”Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1?Cor 12:7). In every believer, who has received the Holy Spirit, some sort of spiritual gift will become visible, in order to build up the church of Jesus Christ to the glory of God.
Some people insist that, considering 1?Corinthians 13:8-12, the gifts of ‘prophecy’, ‘tongues’ and ‘knowledge’ have ceased. That is not so. The controversial word ‘perfection’ used here does not refer to the time of the completion of the scriptural canon, but rather to God’s new world in the consummation of the age. Also, there are no references in the Bible stating that spiritual gifts ceased with the epoch of the apostles. On the contrary, the Christian church could not even survive today without these gifts. Only when we get to heaven, will the spiritual gifts be redundant.

Active participation is needed!

Every member of the church is called to participate in building up the church, each one according to his ability or gift. If we follow the Lord and do his will we discover that he will provide the necessary gifts to do his work.
In the same way church leaders are called upon to detect the gifts in their members and to actively encourage their use. As a result, the many spiritual gifts used in the service for God will be like a harmonious choir sounding out to the glory and honour of God. The church needs Spirit-filled members whose lives are being transformed into the image of Jesus. If the Holy Spirit’s work is hindered, the church is plagued with disorders, strife, power struggles, criticism, jealousy, envy, pride, selfishness, indifference, shallowness and even scandalous incidents.

Manifestation of God‘s gifts

1?Corinthians 12:8-10 lists nine spiritual gifts or charismata mentioning the ‘message of wisdom’ first and the gift of ‘speaking in tongues’ last. A reversal of this order of priority would certainly violate New Testament teaching.

Message of wisdom

This is the ability to teach the plan of salvation through the Holy Spirit and to apply it to present day situations (see Acts 7:6-10 and Acts 2:14-36;?26). Such messages of wisdom including evangelistic preaching give clear guidance to the listeners and are often proclaimed with the aim of waking up sleeping sinners and reviving carnal Christians. The result: “They were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37; 7:54). Let us ask God to make available anew this very significant gift for the building up of the church.

Message of knowledge

The message of knowledge is a gift of teaching, even more distinct than the message of wisdom is. It illuminates certain passages of Scripture as parts of a puzzle and fits them together in the right order. This gift was entrusted to the apostle Paul in great measure: “I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge” (2?Cor 11:6).  It will prevent ministers from tearing Bible passages out of their context and then arbitrarily combining them to form a new opinion.  Where this gift is practiced inner peace, stability and spiritual maturity will increase in a church.

Faith

Here, faith does not refer to the means of receiving salvation, as salvation is a precondition to receive spiritual gifts. The gift of faith here means an abundant measure of trust in God in different areas of life (Hebr 11). George Muller, as an example, cared for 2000 orphans with-out ever begging people for money. He received it through prayer and faith alone.

Healings and miraculous powers

People who have been healed in the name of Jesus are a living testimony to the power of Christ’s resurrection (see Mk 16:17-20). Such miracles can become an impulse for evangelism even today (Acts 9:32-35). It is important to give all honour to God and not to the bearer of the spiritual gift. A person who has the gift of healing cannot guarantee that everyone will be healed by his ministry. Paul, who possessed this gift, had to leave Trophimus behind in Miletus, because he was sick (2?Tim 4:20).
According to the New Testament, inner healing is more important than physical healing, because bodily healing is for this time only, whereas spiritual healing is for eternity. Nevertheless, we should ask Jesus to revive the gift of physical as well as inner healing for the benefit of the sick in body and soul.

Prophecy

The gift of prophecy is given by God to encourage and comfort the believers, and thus to edify the body of Christ (1?Cor 14:1-5). Prophetic speech is meant to give spiritual guidance as to the course of action that is required at the present time and can also predict future events. Examples are the prophet Nathan, who convicted King David of his adultery, Peter, who exposed the dishonesty of Ananias and Saphira and Agabus, who predicted a famine.
The appointment of church members to certain ministries (1?Tim 1:18; 4:14; Acts 13:1-3) and the explanation of Bible statements concerning the end times or the return of Christ (1?Cor 14:29; Deut 12; Mk 13:23) are further examples showing the value of  prophetic speech.
Church leaders should not mistake occult practices as described in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 for prophecy. A person who prophesies in truth does not reveal any messages that go beyond what the Bible has already revealed (Deut 1:18-22).

Distinguishing between spirits

Jesus gave this gift to the church in order to reveal the difference between divine, human and satanic activity and authority in the world (Rv 2:2.24). Again, the test for the genuineness of this gift is its agreement with Scripture, otherwise it is not from God, because God cannot contradict himself. This gift is most relevant because of the tremendous forces of seduction and counterfeit satanic activities (2?Thes 2:9-11; Rv 13:11-15).

Speaking in tongues and interpretation

At Pentecost, the apostles began to speak in other tongues and the Holy Spirit enabled them to preach the message of God to the assembled crowd of many different languages. Even today the Spirit of God is able to equip people likewise, for example when witnessing to a person of a foreign language.
Some churches teach that those who have accepted Jesus as their Saviour necessarily need an additional ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ manifested by the ability to speak in tongues as proof of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They back up this claim with the verses in Acts 10:45 and Acts 19:5-6. This interpretation is misleading because the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ is an experience which belongs to all those who truly believe in Jesus Christ. “We were all baptized by the one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1?Cor 12:13). “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph 1:13). Speaking in tongues is not a necessary sign of being filled with the Spirit and not every Christian is given this gift (1?Cor 12:30). In fact, not any one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is evidence of being a child of God (Mt 7:22-23). The only thing that counts in God’s eyes is faith expressing itself in love (Gal 5:6 b).
Speaking in tongues should not cause disorder but is a gift that, applied in humility, will be a precious refreshment for our faith. If this gift is used in church, two or at the most three should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret, otherwise the speaker should keep quiet (1?Cor 14:27-28). In any case prophecy (preaching) is more important than speaking in tongues because it benefits the whole church and not only the speaker (1?Cor 14:5.19).

Helping others

Most Christians have been given this gift of helping others (see 1?Cor 12:28). ”So let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:10). Sick people, widows and orphans, our neighbours, children and people of advanced age and foreigners will all be grateful to be objects of your gift of helping others.

Application to your personal life

Answer the questions below and think about how the person and work of the Holy Spirit applies to your life and ministry. You might need a separate sheet of paper for the answers. If you have questions, discuss them with another Christian leader.
1. The Holy Spirit convicts people of sin.
a) Did you ever have a deep conviction of sin followed by repentance and conversion? When and how did it happen?
b) People who receive Christ in your church or group, are they truly convicted of their sin, willing to repent and leave their sinful life? Give example:
2. The Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God.
a) How did you receive this assurance of salvation?
b) In what way have the members of your church or group been given this testimony of the Holy Spirit?
3. The Holy Spirit gives victory over sin.
a) The acts of the sinful nature are listed in 1?Corinthians 6:7-11 and Galatians 5:19-21. Is anything mentioned that you have a problem with? (If so, repent and seek counselling)
b) Do you believe that Christ has set you free? Study Romans 6:1-14 and Romans 8:1-6. Give testimony.
4. Reflect on the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
a) Give testimony of its manifestation in your personal life.
b) And its manifestation in your church or group?
5. Reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your life and your church.
a) Which gifts are manifest?
b) Are they used according to the Scriptures and in an orderly manner?
c) Who is honoured by the use of the gifts?
d) Love towards God and towards your neighbour should crown all the gifts used (1?Cor 13:1-3). Give testimony of practical situation.
6. The Holy Spirit reminds us of Jesus’ words and makes us understand the Scriptures.
a) How often are you dedicated to search the Scriptures in depth so as to understand God’s will for your life? Daily, weekly?
b) Are you willing to obey the Scriptures and put into practice what it says?
7. In view of the high priority given to the message of wisdom (1?Cor 12:8-10), in what order of importance (1st, 2nd, 3rd etc.) would you as a Christian leader put following church activities: announcements, worship, testimonies, collection, prayer, Bible based preaching, teaching on discipleship, outreach, recreation/fellowship?
8. The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus and glorifies him. Reflect on 1?Peter 5:5; Matthew 23:5-12; Philippians 2:3-5.
a) Who receives the honour in your ministry? God, your church (denomination), VIPs, or yourself?
b) Who are your church or group members attached to?
Jesus, your church (denomination), another person, or yourself?

Conclusion

Let us thank God for giving us the Holy Spirit, who is God’s loving guarantee that we are his children. Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) but keep in step with him, submitting every aspect of our lives to God – emotional, physical, social, intellectual, vocational – so that our lives will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all (2?Cor 13:14).

US, MW, DCL team