Day 3, Talk 4: Doctrine of Holy Spirit

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Holy Spirit

The necessity of the work of the Holy Spirit to make the death of Christ effective to the individual sinner, granting him repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ.


The indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit in the believer

1. Introduction

Undoubtedly, the least understood Person of the Godhead is the Holy Spirit. Numerous wrong teachings and misunderstandings are in prevalent about the Holy Spirit. Lack of understanding of this doctrine will adversely affect our knowledge of God in general and the work of the triune God in the lives of non-Christians and Christian believers.

2. Is the Holy Spirit a person or power?

We need to identify the different characteristics of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the Bible. If we could show that the Holy Spirit has similar characteristics as persons do, then we would conclude that He too is really a person.

(i) Yes, because he has the characteristics of a person: What constitutes the essentials of personality? Usually, three things — a person must possess intelligence, emotions, and will. A thing lacks these, but the Holy Spirit is not a thing because He has intelligence, emotions and will.

(i) The Spirit is said to know the things of God, and that takes some intelligence (1 Co 2:10-11). We also read about the mind of the Spirit" (Ro 8:27). (ii) It is possible to grieve the Spirit (Eph 4:30), which is rather hard to conceive of doing to an influence or thing! (iii) It is the Spirit who distributes spiritual gifts "as he wills" (1 Co 12:11). The phrase might even be translated "as he purposes," because it shows a definite act of the will. Thus, the Spirit does possess the characteristics of a person.

(ii) Yes, because he acts like a person: There are some things which the Spirit does which only persons can do. For instance, He prays for us (Ro 8:26). Things and influences don't pray. He also performs miracles (Ac 8:39)—something only persons can do.

(iii) Yes, because he is designated a person: The Greek word for spirit is pneuma and it is a neuter gender word. Proper grammar teaches us that when a pronoun is substituted for a noun it must be of the same gender as the noun, but this is not always the case when pronouns are substituted for the word Spirit. In Jn16:13-14, for instance, the pronoun "he" is masculine. The same happens in Eph 1:14 where the word used is who. These are instances of bad grammar but excellent theology, for they show that the Spirit is not a neuter thing but a definite person.

3. Is the Holy Spirit completely God?

(i) Yes, because he has characteristics possessed only by God: (i) The Spirit, we are told, knows the things of God in a way in which man does not and in a way which implies His omniscience — an attribute which only God possesses (1 Cor 2:11-12). (ii) Further, no one can escape the presence of the Spirit wherever He might try to go, and omnipresence is an attribute only God has (Ps 139:7).

(ii) Yes, because he did things which only God can do: Some of the works which only God can do and which the Holy Spirit does (and which, therefore, show that He must be God) are: (i) regeneration (causing a person to be born again, Jn 3:5-6), (ii) begetting the humanity of Jesus Christ (Lk 1:35), (iii) the creation of the world (Ps 104:30).

(iii) Yes, because he is associated on an equal plane with the other persons of the trinity: One of the strongest proofs of the divinity of the Spirit is the identification of the Spirit with Yahweh of the Old Testament. This is seen in passages where the Old Testament records that Yahweh said something and the New Testament quotation of that same passage is attributed to the Spirit as the Speaker. That would seem to say very clearly that the Spirit, like Yahweh, is fully divine (Is 6:1-13 and Ac 28:25; Jer 31:31-34 and Heb 10:15-17). In the New Testament, blasphemy of and lying to the Holy Spirit are the same as if done to God (Mt 12:31-32; Ac 5:3-4). Also, the Spirit is associated equally with the other Members of the Godhead in the baptismal formula (Mt 28:19) and in the benediction of 2 Cor 13:14, All these instances argue for His being a true person.

4. The work of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

(i) His part in Creation: There are clear indications from specific references that the Holy Spirit did have a part in the work of creation. In addition, the fact that He is God and as God is immanent (present) in the world would involve Him in all the works of God, including creation. Particularly, the Spirit's part was related to giving the creation life (Ps 104:30; Job 33:4), order (Is 40:12-13; Job 26: 13), adornment to the glory of God (Ps 33:6; Job 26:13), and continual renewing or preservation (an aspect usually associated with Christ, though in Ps 104:29-30 related to the Spirit).

(ii) His part in Revelation:The chief human instrument that God used in the Old Testament to give His message to man was the prophet, but behind him was the Holy Spirit moving and guiding so that the writer communicated exactly what God wanted man to know. Referring to the Old Testament writers, Peter said that "men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pe 1:21). Concerning the New Testament, the Lord promised that the Spirit would recall to the apostles' minds the things which He had taught them (Jn 14:26). Thus, the Spirit was the single Author guiding and guarding the revelation; the instruments or agents were men, and the ultimate source was God.

(iii) His relation to man:

(a) Selective (though not necessarily permanent) indwelling: The Bible declares that the Spirit was in certain Old Testament people (Gen 41:38; Num 27:18; Dan 4:8; 1 Pe 1:11). But sometimes the Spirit is said to have come upon Old Testament people (Jud 3:10; 1 Sa 10:9-10). When the Lord Jesus contrasted the relationship of the Spirit to Old Testament men and those living after the day of Pentecost, He said that the Spirit had been abiding with them and that He would be in them (Jn 14:17). This seems definitely to indicate a difference in the pre-and post-Pentecost relationships. Today all believers are permanently indwelt. This universality and permanency were apparently not guaranteed in Old Testament days.

(b) Enablement for special service: The Spirit specially empowered people for particular tasks like the construction of the tabernacle (Ex 31:3) as well as for other mighty works (Jud 14:6; 1 Sa 16:13).

(c) General restraint of sin: Restraint was apparently His special work from the earliest times (Gen 6:3), and it is also possible that His very names and titles had a restraining effect on men as they thought about Him (Neh 9:20; Ps 51:11).

5. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ

(i) In the virgin birth: Gabriel told Mary plainly that the baby to be born to her would be conceived by the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:35), and Joseph was informed of the same fact by an angel (Mt 1:20).

(ii) In His life: Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit in some special way at the time of His baptism (Lk 4:18; Jn 1:32). This empowered Him for service for God (Ac 10:38). Our Lord was also filled with and led by the Spirit (Lk 4:1; 14, 18, see also Jn 3: 34; Is 42:1) and He was empowered by the Spirit to do miracles (Mt 12:28).

(iii) In his death and resurrection: Heb 9:14 refers to the Holy Spirit through whom Christ offered himself as a sacrifice. Rom 1:4 refers to the Spirit’s work in His resurrection. Christ gave commandments to the apostles and through them to us by the Holy Spirit (Ac 1:2).

6. The work of the Holy Spirit in salvation

Without question, one of the most important and largest areas of the Spirit's work today is in relation to man’s salvation.

(i) Convicting (Jn 16:8-11):Thus, the convicting work of the Spirit is the placing of the truth of the gospel in a clear light before the unsaved person so he acknowledges it as truth whether or not he receives Christ as personal Saviour. Conviction is making the message clear, not the saving of the soul (which is called regeneration).

(ii) Regenerating (Tit 3:5):The concept of regeneration or being born again is found in Jn 3. Technically, it is God's act of begetting eternal life in the one who believes in Christ. Jn 3:5-8 talks about the Holy Spirit as one of the agents of being born again. The Word of God is also closely associated with regeneration as the necessary revelation to give proper content to a man’s faith (I Pet 1:23; Js 1:18). Regeneration brings with it a new nature (2 Co 5:17), which means a new capacity to serve righteousness. The old nature is not removed, for the capacity to serve self continues until we die. Regeneration does not make a man perfect, but it places him in the family of God and gives him the new ability to please his Father by growing into the image of Christ. Fruit from the new nature is proof that regeneration has occurred (1 Jn 2:29).

(iii) Indwelling (1 Cor 6:19):The distinctive feature of the ministry of the Spirit today is His indwelling every believer, regardless of his spiritual condition. The easiest test of this is to notice that in the New Testament, sinning Christians are said to be indwelt (1 Cor 3:3; 5: 5b; 6:19). Furthermore, Rom 8:9 makes it clear that the absence of the Spirit is an evidence of an unsaved condition; therefore, if the Spirit were to come and go in a person's life, then he would have, lose, regain, lose, etc., his salvation which is absurd and is nowhere taught in the New Testament.

(iv) Baptizing (1 Cor 12:13):Baptism by the Holy Spirit is something entirely different from water baptism, and it is something which gives the Christian primarily a position. People often confuse baptism and the filling of the Spirit, but these are separate and distinct ministries of the Spirit. Some characteristics of the baptism of the Spirit are: (a) It is for all believers without exception. Again, it was to that carnal Corinthian church that Paul said all were baptized (1 Cor 12:13). (b) It occurred for the first time on the day of Pentecost (for it was still future when the Lord spoke of it in Ac 1:5, and Peter referred to it as happening first at Pentecost in Ac 11:15-16). Therefore, it is something distinct to this dispensation. (c) Apparently each believer is baptized only once (the tense of the verb in 1 Cor 12:13 indicates an unrepeated experience). (d) It joins believers to the body of Christ and sets up a relationship (Ro 6:1-10). To experience fully the benefits of the new position which the baptism gives us involves the filling of the Spirit. But the baptism is basic to all Christian growth and experience.

(v) Sealing (Eph 4:30): One of the greatest assurances of the eternal security of the believer is the fact that the Father has sealed every believer with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). All are sealed (including the carnal Corinthians!), and it occurs when we believe (Eph 1:13-14). The concept of sealing includes the ideas of ownership, authority and security. Since God has sealed us, we are His possession, secure (unless there were someone with greater power than God Himself!) until the day of redemption.

7. The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian Believer

(i) He gives gifts: Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit sovereignly ("as he will," 1 Cor 12:11) and specifically (1 Co 12:8-10). A spiritual gift is a God-given ability for service. A gift is primarily an ability, not an office which only a privileged few can ever occupy. Apparently, every Christian does (or at least can) have some gifts (1 Pe 4:10). The passages which teach us about spiritual gifts are I Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11 and Rom 12:6-8. A believer needs to identify and develop his/her gift(s) for the service of God and his Church.

(ii) He fills (Eph 5:18): The comparison between drunkenness and Spirit-filling provides the basic clue: the idea of control. Both drunk and spiritual persons are controlled people, and under the influence of either liquor or the Spirit they do things. Notice also that the verb “be filled” is a command, not an option. Believers without exception are expected to be filled. This is not something for some select few, but and expected and possible requirement of the normal Christian life. “be filled,” indicates that the filling is a repeated experience. In other words, a Christian may be filled and filled and filled again (Acts 2:4; 4:31). The Spirit-filled life is a life of dependence (Gal 5:16). Spirit-filling involves not grieving the Spirit (Eph 4:30). Being Spirit filled leads to Christlikeness (Gal 5). It leads to submissiveness (Eph 5:21). It leads to service to the Lord (Compare Acts 2:4 with 2:41; 4:8 and 31 with 5:14; 6:3 with 6:7 and 11:24).

(iii) He brings forth fruit (Gal 5: 22-25): It means growing in Christlikeness (Christ like character) Rom 8:29, Phil 1:6. It is the result of the Spirit filled life (Gal 5:22-23). It is expected from all believers.

(iv) He teaches: One of the last promises that the Lord in Jn 16:12-15 was that the Holy Spirit would teach the disciples the many and will guide them into all the truth. The Holy Spirit continues to teach us using the Word of God and reveals God’s will to us.

(v) He guides: Rom 8:14 states that one aspect of the Spirit's work is to guide believers, and the book of Acts amply illustrates it (Ac 8:29; 10:19-20; 13:2, 4, 16:6-7; 20:22-23). He will never lead in a manner contrary to the Word of God but always on the basis of it, for the Bible tells us both how God will not lead and how He will lead.

(vi) He gives assurance: The Spirit assures that we are God’s children (Rom 8:16). The position also makes us heirs of God with Jesus Christ. She Spirit's work of assuring may involve His ministry of teaching. For instance, assurance will deepen when we understand what it means to be sealed with the Spirit and to have the Spirit as an earnest of the completion of our redemption. Understanding what it means to be joined to the risen, undying body of Christ will also nurture assurance.

(vii) He prays: The Spirit is involved in our praying in two ways. First, He guides and directs us as we pray so that we bring to God those petitions which are in His will (Eph 6:19). Second, He prays through us with "groanings which cannot be uttered" (Ro 8:26). The verse says that the Spirit helps us, which literally means that He puts His hand to the work of praying in cooperation with us.

8. Implications

(a) Our salvation and faith is a gift of God, so there is no place for boasting.

(b) Conversion is a gift of the Holy Spirit - there is no credit to us.

(c) Trust the Holy Spirit in our evangelism and leave the result to Him.

(d) Pray for the Holy Spirit’s work on those to whom we are witnessing.

(e) Lead a Spirit filled life

(f) Keep in step with the Spirit (live by the Spirit). Gal 5:24, 25

(g) Do not grieve and quench the Spirit (Eph 4:30)

(h) Use gifts for God’s glory (1 Pet 4:10)

(i) Do not resist the Spirit (Acts 7:5)


Billy Graham, “The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life”, Nashvile: Thomas Nelson, 1988. Charles C. Ryrie, “A Survey of Bible Doctrine,” Secunderabad: GS Books, 2017. Charles C. Ryrie, “The Holy Spirit”, Chicago: Moody Press, 1997. Training Department, UESI, "An Outline of Christian Doctrines”, 2016, Unpublished Manuscript.

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