Jesus promised His disciples that after He left them that He would provide them a Comforter (parakleton—meaning “one who comes alongside) who would abide with them forever (John 14:16). This Comforter is the Holy Spirit. His ministry to us is crucial to our living the Christian life. In fact, without the indwelling Holy Spirit, there is no spiritual life at all. It is entirely dependent upon Him. This lesson focuses on the importance of our new life in the Spirit.
The Person of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is not some divine force of God. He is not some abstract power or energy. He is the third member of the Godhead, a person like God the Father and God the Son. The Spirit is alive, intelligent, and acts according to His divine purpose. Theologian Rolland McCune lists eleven actions the Spirit takes. He comforts, commands, creates, empowers, guides, intercedes, prays, reproves, speaks, teaches, and testifies. The Bible places the Spirit on the same level as God and Jesus (Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Galatians 4:6). Together, they form the Trinity (Godhead). He is called God in both the Old Testament (2 Samuel 23:2-3) and the New Testament (Acts 5:1-4).
- He has the same attributes as God. The Spirit is omniscient (Isaiah 40:13), omnipresent (Psalm 139:7), and omnipotent (Psalm 104:30). He is eternal (Hebrews 9:14). He is love (Romans 15:30). He is holy (Ephesians 4:30). He is truth (1 John 5:6).
- The Holy Spirit does the same work as God. He was involved in creation (Genesis 1:2). He is involved in regeneration of believers (John 4:5). He raises people from the dead (Romans 8:11).
- The Holy Spirit is called by many different names in the Bible. He is the author of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). He is the Comforter (John 14:16). He is also the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 16:13). He is the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:17, 1 Peter 1:11). He is the Spirit of Life (Romans 8:2). 1
- He is illustrated using various objects. He is represented as “wind” or “breath.” This is the translation of the Hebrew ruach and the Greek pneuma2. He is also represented as a dove. This is evident at the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32). He is also represented as water (John 7:37-39, 1 Corinthians 12:13), and oil (1 Samuel 10:1, Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19). Finally, He is represented by fire (Acts 2:3).
The Holy Spirit’s Ministry to Believers
Salvation from sin to eternal life is the work of the Holy Spirit. He reproves unbelievers of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). He is the means by which the Father draws unbelievers to the Son (John 6:44). When an unbeliever trusts in Jesus for salvation, he does so by the work of the Holy Spirit.3 The Spirit illumines Scripture so that the unbeliever can understand the gospel. At this point, the Spirit “baptizes” the new Christian into Christ (John 1:33). This is called “Spirit-baptism” and is illustrated by water-baptism (Appendix 1). Jesus taught the disciples that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).4 At the moment of salvation, the Holy Spirit indwells the new believer. This is what it means for the Spirit of Christ to be “in you” (John 14:20). This is how Jesus dwells in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17). Moreover, this indwelling is bodily. Christians are temples of God being indwelt by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18). Not only does the Spirit indwell the believer, but He seals him to eternal life. The Holy Spirit is God’s pledge to us that our salvation is permanent (Ephesians 1:13). He is the earnest (down payment) of God’s promise of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22, 5:5). We have the promise of inheritance with Christ because of the indwelling Spirit.
Not only are Christians bodily indwelled by the Holy Spirit, but they can experience the filling of the Spirit. While indwelling is permanent, filling is temporary and can (should) be something the Christian seeks daily. The filling of the Spirit is the control of the Spirit. It means to be guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). Luke’s Acts of the Apostles contains examples of this. Peter is filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:4). Later, he is filled with the Spirit again (Acts 4:8). He experiences it again (Acts 4:31). The apostle Paul is filled with the Spirit (Acts 9:17). He is later filled again (Acts 13:9). The filling of the Spirit is dependent on the condition of the Christian being yielded to God. Obedience to God is the chief condition for Spirit-filling. We can conclude therefore, that this yielding and obedience to God is the most important aspect of our spiritual life. Christians under the Spirit’s control can resist temptation (Luke 4:1-2, be empowered for witnessing (Acts 4:5-6), be equipped for church work (Acts 6:1-3), be courageous in their testimony even to the point of death (Acts 7:54-58), and express worship to God (Ephesians 5:18-20).5
The indwelling of the Spirit is the beginning of the Christian’s new life in Christ. The filling of the Spirit is the ongoing action of the Spirit in the Christian’s life. While these may appear to be sequential, the filling of the Spirit is not a second act of grace as commonly taught in Charismatic churches. As already mentioned, the filling of the Spirit is something that should be ongoing. Christians should daily yield themselves to God. The filling of the Spirit is not “the deeper life” or “the higher life.” It is, instead, an ongoing action. There is one baptism of the Spirit, but many fillings. The command to be “filled” with the Spirit is passive meaning we do not grab the Spirit causing the action ourselves. He acts upon us. He is the agent of spiritual change. He does the work.
Conditions for Spirit-filling
Biblically, there are three conditions for Spirit-filling. These are: yielding, obedience, and dependence. Christians can “quench” the Spirit just as a person puts out a light (1 Thessalonians 5:19). A believer can extinguish the Spirit’s influence by wresting control over his life from God.6 When we refuse to obey the Lord or yield to His control, we lessen His influence and “quench” the Spirit. A Christian can also “grieve” the Spirit of God. That is, when a believer sins (disobedience) or tolerates sin by not fully repenting of it, he grieves God (Ephesians 4:30). When a Christians comes to faith, he puts off the old man and puts on the new man. This does not mean he becomes “perfect.” Toleration of sin is tantamount to putting the old man back on by doing old man deeds. It is tantamount to putting off the new man by refusing to do what God wants. While this is positionally impossible, a Christian cannot take off the New Man and put on the Old Man after salvation, it happens practically all the time. Believers grieve the Spirit when they lie, become uncontrollably angry, steal, use worthless words, or become bitter against others (Ephesians 4). When a Christian sins, he should be sensitive to it, respond in humility to it, and immediately seek repentance towards God (and other people if his sin has harmed them). Finally, a Christian must be dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Faith in God for salvation does not end there. It is also faith in God for daily living. Christians must put their entire dependence upon God for His control.
The Results of Spirit-Control
There are four obvious results of the control of the Holy Spirit upon the believer’s life. The first of these is guidance. Jesus told His disciples that they should not be troubled (John 14:1). There were human reasons to be troubled. (1) They had a traitor in their midst (John 13:22). (2) Jesus had also told them that He was leaving them (13:36). (3) He also told them that their leader would deny Him (13:38). Of course, the fact that He told them He was leaving was the most significant part of this trouble. In order to relieve their anxiety, Jesus tells them His purpose for leaving. He was going to prepare a place for them so that they could enjoy eternal companionship (14:3). In His place, He promised to send “another comforter” (14:16) who would be the “Spirit of truth.” He would guide them into God’s truth, that in which we alone have confidence. There are other “truths” which are actually not true. These are from the father of lies, Satan (John 8:44). We have confidence in the message of the Spirit because what He says is true. The source of His message is the Heavenly Father (16:14). Moreover, what the Spirit says is about Jesus. This is His purpose. Jesus said: “He will glorify Me.” Those who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God have direct access to the truth of God. This is more than just some divine encyclopedia. This connection to truth is a vital link to knowing and understanding God’s wisdom. Our relationship to the Holy Spirit is the key to growing and changing as a Christian. Christianity is a new life in the Spirit. Finally, what the Spirit does is illumines the minds of believers to understand God’s Word. This is critical in the process of progressive sanctification (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). This illumination brings “unction,” the ability to do what God has commanded. This is the anointing power of God on the life of a Christian.
The second result of living under the control of the Holy Spirit is God’s grace in the life. Because of the Spirit’s ministry, believers are enabled to live righteously. Spirit-filled living is the key to spiritual health. Its influence is profound. It influences the believer’s worship of God (Ephesians 5:19-20). It produces a thankful heart that sings with gratitude to God. It influences the believer’s relationship with others. Spirit-filled saints embrace mutual submission in the realm of the local church (v. 21). Spirit-filled wives submit themselves to the leadership of their husbands (v. 22) as part of their submission to God. Spirit-filled husbands love their wives in the same manner as Jesus loved the Church (v. 25). Spirit-filled parents train up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (6:4). They teach their children to obey them as they seek to train them in godliness. Spirit-filled Christians are model citizens at work. If they are employees working for a company, they serve their employers as if they are serving Jesus Christ (6:6). If they are employers, they treat their employees with dignity and respect. They do not needlessly threaten their employees instilling a spirit of fear in the office. Rather, they treat their employees as they would want to be treated themselves remembering that they have a heavenly Master (6:9).
The third result of Spirit-filled living is spiritual enablement for ministry. This is called “spiritual gifts” (charisma). These are different from natural talents or developed skills. While it is true that everything we do is a direct result of God’s blessing, talents and skills (education) is not what is meant by spiritual gifts. Rather, the Holy Spirit distributes to Christians special abilities to be used in God’s service. There are two types of gifts mentioned in the New Testament. One type are “sign” gifts which were exercised by the apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28). Apostles were special ambassadors of Jesus who were eye-witnesses of His earthly ministry (Acts 1:21-22). This was essential to the apostolic office (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7-9). “Sign” gifts were also given as confirmation of new revelation and the establishing of the church. This new revelation was primarily by those who heard Jesus (Hebrews 2:1-4). Because there are no apostles living today (in the biblical sense at least) and the church has been established, it is most likely that the “sign” gifts are no longer active.7 The second type of gifts are for the propagation of the church. The apostle Peter says that “as every man has received the gift…” implying that every Christian has at least one gift (1 Peter 4:10). At the same time, many teach that it is impossible for every believer to have all the gifts.8 There is no biblical support for this claim. While the argument in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 may imply this idea, Paul’s point is not on the number of gifts one possesses but on the importance of believers recognizing that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives these gifts and that Christians should work together and not covet how God is blessing others. Consequently, instead of pursuing gifts, Christians should pursue God’s will. God commands believers to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). When opportunity arises, He will provide the gift of ministering. Likewise, Christians have been commanded to exhort each other (Hebrews 10:25). When the opportunity arises, the Spirit will provide the necessary ability to do so. There is the command to give (2 Corinthians 9:7), to teach (Matthew 28:19-20), to show mercy (Ephesians 4:32), to live by faith (2 Corinthians 5;7), and to evangelize (Acts 1:8). In the same manner, each of these are gifts of the Spirit. God will enable you obey Him when the opportunity arises.9
The final result of Spirit-filled living is godliness. When the Spirit has control over believers, it will be evident (Galatians 5:22). Let’s call this the “orchard of godliness.” In this orchard is the tree of love. This is the kind of love that gives without expecting anything in return. It is expressed as generosity and kindness by demonstrating concern for the needs of others. This orchard also has the tree of joy. This is the gladness that comes naturally to those who are ordering their lives in the Spirit. It is heaven-sent joy. Its fruit is bliss and happiness. It gives off this fragrance so that everyone around it experiences some sense of the same pleasure that it gives. There is also the tree of peace. This is the kind of peace that brings needed sleep (Psalm 4:8). It is the blessing of living a meek and quiet life (Psalm 37:11). It is a twin of righteousness (Psalm 85:10). It is the result of loving the Law of the Lord (Psalm 119:165). It is the result of living wisely (Proverbs 3:17). It is no wonder—Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). The human mind is at peace when meditating upon God (Isaiah 26:3). There is a tree there with both the fruits of long-suffering and gentleness. This wind that blows over these fruits spread the odor of God’s love all around. Long-suffering means to keep anger out of reach. The patient Christian is one who cannot get sinfully angry. If he does, the Spirit is not in control of him. Gentleness is a kindness towards others. There is no place for harsh and biting sarcasm in the life of a Spirit-controlled saint. There is the tree of goodness. The fruit of this tree is that which does beneficial things for others. There is a sense of generosity here. There is the tree of faithfulness. The faithful fruit is that which is in keeping with the teachings of the Bible. The tree of meekness is that which produces a mild temper. It forebears the problems of others and does not react when provoked. Finally, this orchard has a tree of temperance. This is the self-control that keeps the flesh dominated by the Spirit of God. All these become possible when the Spirit enables us to put to death our sinful desires. Under the control of the Holy Spirit, the Christian “crucifies” his own affections and lusts (Galatians 5:24). A crucified flesh does not have a desire for self-gratification or personal glory. It does not provoke others to anger. It does not envy others (Galatians 5:25). A Christian who is ordering his life in the Spirit cannot live in legalism (because walking in the Spirit precludes the need for law) and also cannot live in licentiousness (because the flesh and Spirit are opposed to each other).
Conclusion on the Holy Spirit
Without the Holy Spirit, there is no spiritual life. While the indwelling of the Spirit is one aspect of being “in Christ,” the filling of the Spirit is dependent on the believer’s yielding of Himself to God. Over time, this yielding brings true spiritual maturity and growth. The longer one “walks” in the Spirit, the greater he learns to depend upon Him for spiritual strength. As the physical body weakens, the spiritual life strengthens. Like Paul, a Spirit-filled Christian can exclaim “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
- Do you think of the Holy Spirit as God? How does that influence the way you think about Him?
- Can you see the results of Spirit-filling in your life? If you are unable to do so, reflect on why that might be.
- Are you sensitive to the Holy Spirit so that you are aware of when you “grieve” Him?
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
- Should racial or financial differences have any influence on a person’s role in the church? Why or why not? (v. 13). (Why is gender not mentioned in the verse? Compare Galatians 3:28)
- Who determines the placement of believers (their role) within the church? Why is this important? (v. 18).
- Why are the problems of arrogance and jealousy serious challenges to the church? (v. 21, v. 25).
- How should church members consider the suffering and honor of other members? What are some practical ways we can do that? (v. 26).
1 Adapted from A Systematic Theology Vol. 2 by Rolland McCune.
2 While pneuma is a neuter noun, the pronouns used for the Holy Spirit are masculine.
3 The Holy Spirit participates in the process of regeneration (John 3:3-6, Titus 3:5).
4 This promise was accomplished in Acts 2 at Pentecost. As promised in by the prophet Joel (Joel 2), God sent His Spirit to men.
5 Adapted from A Systematic Theology Vol. 2 by Rolland McCune.
6 In a broader sense, we cannot really seize control of our lives from God. He controls us completely.
7 Adapted from Pneumatology notes by Dr. Fred Moritz
8 See Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie pg. 369.
9 This section adapted from Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie.