The Holy Spirit
We believe the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus
Christ, and, during this age, to convict, seal, indwell, guide,
instruct, and empower for life and service. 1
The Holy Spirit 2
Our blest Redeemer, ere He breathed His tender last farewell,
A guide, a comforter bequeathed, with us to dwell.
He came in tongues of living flame, to teach, convince, subdue;
All-powerful as the wind He came, as viewless too.
He came sweet influence to impart, a gracious, willing guest,
While He can find one humble heart wherein to rest.
And His that gentle voice we hear, soft as the breath of even,
That checks each fault, that calms each fear, and speaks of heaven.
And every virtue we possess, and every victory one,
And every thought of holiness are His alone.
Spirit of purity and grace, our weakness pitying see;
O make our hearts Thy dwelling-place, and worthier Thee.
Of the three persons of the Godhead perhaps the Holy Spirit is the
least understood. We can relate to the Father to an extent because of
our human understanding of fatherhood. We can relate to Jesus because
He came to visit us as a man, and had many attributes to which we could
relate. Indeed that was a part of His ministry, His life is well
documented in the Scriptures. However the Holy Spirit is impossible
for us to visualize in any clear way and is outside the realm of our
normal experience. Indeed, many approach the whole idea of a
spiritual, unseen world with some skepticism.
And yet, it is both the Holy Spirit and Christ that have become
resident in the heart of the Christian, and therefore both should be
clear to us. The problem might be that the Holy Spirit is referred to
in the Bible as a flame or wind, or other symbols, to which we don’t
attach a personality while Christ appeared to us as a man.
Let us look at several aspects of the Holy Spirit. We will look
at the ministry of the Spirit. The Spirit is the mode of the devine
indweeling. We will also look at how the Christian receives the
Spirit, and what it means to be indwelled by the Spirit. The goal will
not be to become an expert in the field, but rather to help us enable
the Holy Spirit to live productively in our hearts. When we are at
peace in our relationship with the Holy Spirit, we have both security
and growth in all aspects of our life.
“Who” is the Holy Spirit? Gen 1:2 says “Now the earth was
formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the
Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” This was of course at the
very beginning of creation. We see that the Spirit is an eternal being
because He existed before creation.
The Holy Spirit is wise and can impart wisdom to us. Joseph when
he was in the court of the Pharaoh experienced this. Gen 41:38-39 says
“So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom
is the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made
all this known to you there is no one so discerning and wise as you.”
The Holy Spirit may also equip us for a specific task, in Ex 31
God tells Moses the Following (Ex 31:1 to 5). “Then the LORD said to
Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the
tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with
skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts– to make artistic
designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to
work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship”.
Notice that in these Old Testament examples the Spirit of God did
not generally indwell all of God’s people. We see many examples of the
Holy Spirit coming into a specific person. In many cases the power of
the Spirit was only given temporarily, or even removed due to
circumstances. The events in Samson’s life are well known. In his
case the power of the Holy Spirit was taken away from him when he
allowed himself to be tempted by Delilah.
How does this contrast to the experience of the present day
Christian? Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit would be sent after He
had returned to heaven. The book of Acts records the arrival of the
Holy Spirit into the lives of the Christians. The Spirit was promised
to us by Jesus in the book of John, in chapter 14 vs 26 He says “But
the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said
The “you” in the verse above refers to the community of believers,
both corporately and individually. In Acts 2:38-39 we find the
following “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in
the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will
receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your
children and for all who are far off– for all whom the Lord our God
How do we know that we have received the Holy Spirit? We know
because we have repented and been baptized in the name of the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). In this way we are
permanently identified with Christ. In John 14:23 the Scriptures say
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My
Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with
him.'” We as believers are indwelled with the Father, Son, and the
Holy Spirit. However, the focus of God’s indwelling in the believer is
through of the Holy Spirit. We may think of the gift of the Holy
Spirit is His seal of ownership on the Christian’s heart (Eph 1:13).
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is mentioned prominently in the
Bible, and described in many ways. (John 7:37-39, Acts 11:16-17,
Romans 5:5; 8:9-11, 1 Cor 2:12; 6:19-20, 12:13, 2 Cor 5:5, Gal 3:2;
4:6, 1 John 3:24). The many references to the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, testify to it’s importance in the life of
Some might tell you that unless you have experienced some special
event, or sign, you have not truly received the Spirit. This is not
so. No-where in the Bible does it state that those who receive the
Spirit speak in tongues or see visions etc. to demonstrate the receipt
of the Spirit. All Christians have the Spirit of God, while it is
possable for someone to be baptised, and not be a Christian, it is not
poosable to receive the Spirit of God and not be a Christian.
The Spirit is given to all Christians for the same reasons, but He
may gift each of us in different ways. Nor do we earn the Spirit’s
indwelling. In Gal 3:2-5 Paul says “I would like to learn just one
thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by
believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the
Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have
you suffered so much for nothing– if it really was for nothing? Does
God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe
the law, or because you believe what you heard?”
The sending of the Holy Spirit is God’s daily gift to you. This
is a gift given in the same way as is salvation, it is given by the
grace of God. To receive this gift we are not counted as deserving,
but rather as eligible. For this reason we do not go through any
ritual or activity to earn the receipt of the Holy Spirit. All that is
needed is for us to accept our need of God and ask for forgiveness for
our sin. The gifts of salvation and of the Holy Spirit are linked
together in the birth of the Christian.
If I seem to belabor this point of how to receive the Holy Spirit
it is because of this. Over and over Christians feel that they have
not been gifted for God’s service. They lack the courage to take the
steps of faith needed to grow because they feel alone. They also feel
that God is far away. God knows that we lack courage, and that we must
feel secure in our own relationship with Him before we will step out in
faith. It is God’s plan that all of His children live a life that is
glorifying to Him, and fruitful for us. The Holy Spirit enables this
type of life.
Let’s look briefly at two passages. The first is Matthew 28:19.
When Christ told His disciples what do after He was gone. “Then Jesus
came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been
given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I
am with you always, to the very end of the age’.”
Notice that He didn’t say baptize some in My name, and some in the
Fathers name, and if there are any left over, well baptize them in the
name of the Holy Spirit. We worship and belong to one indivisible
God. All who belong to Him are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. God’s
very nature will not allow another way for the Christian.
How does the Holy Spirit gift us? Luke 11:13 says “If you then,
though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how
much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who
ask him!” God has every desire to enable you to do everything that is
His will for you. The stumbling block is often not that we are not
equipped for God’s will, but that we don’t allow Him to tell us what it
is, or don’t listen when He speaks to us. I can imagine no
circumstance in which God would not provide you with all of the
resources you need to accomplish His purpose in your life.
We should next ask ourselves three questions. First, how does the
knowledge that I have received the Holy Spirit affect my life? Second,
how can I best allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purpose in my
life? And third, what indeed is the Holy Spirit able to accomplish in
the present day Christian? While these three questions are linked we
will look at the second one in the next chapter.
Let’s look at the last question first. What indeed is the Holy
Spirit doing today? The Holy Spirit, as a member of the Godhead, has
all of the power of our sovereign God. If we look at the attributes of
God we see also the attributes of the Spirit.
Let’s look at some specific aspects of the Holy Spirit’s
ministry. Some of these are often misunderstood. Misunderstanding the
ministry of the Holy Spirit can bring frustration, doubt, and confusion
into the life of the Christian. Sometimes when our expectations are
not met we tend to blame God rather than look honestly at what we were
The Permanent Gifts of the Spirit 4
Christ, in giving us the Holy Spirit, gives us the ability to
perform certain spiritual tasks. Many of these are still available to
the believer today. Some seem to be less generally available now than
at the time of Christ. In the first section below is a list of
spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the Bible, and are definitely
The gift of teaching. The gift of teaching is mentioned in Rom
12:7, 1 Cor 12:28, and Eph 4:11. After a person becomes a Christian he
needs to be instructed in spiritual truth. God has gifted individuals
to teach spiritual truth. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit they are
able to illuminate the Scriptures to us, and draw from them practical
lessons for daily living. While many non believers are gifted
teachers, they do not have the ability to teach spiritual truth. In
the same way believers also must depend on the Holy Spirit to
understand and teach spiritual truth.
The gift of serving. The gift of serving is mentioned in Rom 12:7
and 1 Cor 12:28. Practically every Christian has the ability to help
in some way. Not everyone can be a church leader, but God can use each
one of us to minister to each other. We are told in Rom 12:7 that we
need to be obedient to our calling, for the verse states, if a
Christian’s gift is serving “Let him serve”. This is a very important
gift, as they all are, in that much of the work of Christ’s Church
depends on the working, and helping, of the Holy Spirit working in and
The gift of administration. The gift of ruling, or administration
is listed in Rom 12:8 and 1 Cor 12:28. God through the Holy Spirit
gives some the ability to guide the church. Christians who do not have
this gift of administration are exhorted to heed those who do. Those
who have this gift honor God by leading, and those who do not have this
gift, honor God by being obedient to those who are gifted in
The gift of evangelism. Eph 4:11 mentions the gift of evangelism.
This is the gift of the ability to preach the Gospel in such a way that
souls are saved. Obviously this gift is still needed today. We can
prepare ourselves to be an evangelist by studying God’s Word, but we
must remember that the Holy Spirit must prepare those who hear the
message as well as those of us who are speaking it.
The gift of being a pastor. The word pastor refers to a shepherd
who cares for his sheep. This is contrasted to both the teacher and
evangelist above. A pastor is always a teacher but the reverse is not
always true. Also a pastor will continue to care for his flock while
the evangelist may plant the gospel, and then move on, trusting that
God will provide a pastor to help the new Christians to grow.
The gift of encouragement. Rom 12:8 tells us about the gift of
encouragement. This gift is the special gift of challenging and
admonishing people to do the work that God has given them. This gift,
as in the case of the other gifts, works ideally in the Christian
church and community. Notice how this and the other gifts all work
toward the common purpose of glorifying God and building up the
The gift of giving. The gift of giving is a gift that every
Christian should have to some extent. Because a Christian is known by
the way he handles money in relationship to the Lord, every Christian
should have a plan of stewardship. The gift of giving has in it the
willingness and promptness of giving as worship to God.
The gift of showing mercy. Again Rom 12:8 shows another gift,
that of showing mercy. This has in view the showing of mercy to those
who are needy and also those in need of forgiveness.
The gift of faith. This gift is mentioned in 1 Cor 12:8-10. It
relates to the Christian who has the implicit faith in the Word of God,
the person who accepts the Bible for what it is. While all Christians
should have faith, some have a clearer and more effective faith than
The Temporary Gifts of the Spirit
The gifts above are given to believers by the Holy Spirit
according to His will and for His purposes. In addition to the gifts
above there are others mentioned in the Scriptures. These gifts are
also given by the Holy Spirit according to His will and for His
purposes. However, in many cases these gifts are now only rarely
given, or limited in some way.
Some of these gifts where needed during Christ’s time to give
authority to the ministry of Christ and the apostles. We now have
these events recorded for us in the Scriptures to give authority for
the preaching of the gospel.
The Gift of Prophecy. This gift was especially important in the
life of the early church. To some people was given the gift of
understanding future or current events involving the life of the
church. This was done through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
Prophets of God were both men and women. In this current age of the
Church we have the New Testament, God communicates to us directly
through His word and also through those whom He has gifted to teach and
preach. The gift of prophecy is also the gift of forthtelling, and can
be a word from God not revealing the future, but rather revealing the
truth. A message of this type will encourage and exort, it will
convict and strenghten. The message must be conformed to God’s word in
the Bible (1 John 4:1).
The Gift of Miracles. 1 Cor 12:28 speaks of those gifted in the
performance of miracles. This was generally done to authenticate the
messenger of the Word. While God can perform miracles at any time
suitable to His purpose, He now generally performs them for a
different purpose, that of answering prayers of believers.
The Gift of Healing. The New Testament gives many examples of
healing, especially during the lifetime of Christ. It is questionable
if anyone now has the gift to heal all who come before them as did
Christ and the Apostles. We see, even as the New Testament progresses,
that healings become less common.
The Gift of Tongues. The subject of tongues is not mentioned in
any of the four gospels, and only in the books of Acts and 1 Cor in the
rest of the New Testament. The first time it is mentioned of course is
on the day of Pentecost. At this time the apostles and other believers
were gifted to enable them to speak in languages not native to them.
The authentic nature of this miracle was attested to by the fact that
people present from other countries understood them. The gift of
tongues did not play a leading role in the life of the church at this
time and even though Paul claimed to have spoken in tongues, there is
no evidence that he used this gift to preach the gospel.
We need to be careful that we do not make this gift a test of
salvation today. When a person speaks in tongues he needs to remember
that all gifts are given to glorify God and build up His church.
The Gift of Interpreting Tongues. This is the gift of translating
what others say in an unknown tongue. See 1 Cor 14:27. Many people
believe that if the Holy Spirit is giving someone the ability to speak
in tongues, He will also provide someone to interpret, as His goal is
to communicate spiritual truth to us whenever He speaks to our through
The Gift of Discerning Spirits. In the early church it was very
important that they were able to distinguish between the revelation of
the Holy Spirit and a deceitful revelation from Satan. In a sense all
believers have this gift (1 John 2:27). We also have the benefit of
the New Testament Scriptures to consult.
Living in receipt of the Holy Spirit.
If we accept that as a believer we have received the Holy Spirit
we must then ask “What does this mean to me?” Having received the Holy
Spirit brings the presence of God into our daily lives. No more are we
alone or lonely. We have in the Holy Spirit the seal of redemption by
Having the Holy Spirit in our heart gives us power over the spirit
world. We are told that He who is in us is more powerful that he who
is in the world (1 John 4:4). Live in boldness. You have the strength
of God in you. We have heard of examples of how a person in a foreign
country feels secure if he is a citizen of the US or another powerful
country. We all know how fleeting this security truly is. However as
a believer you are an eternal citizen of God’s kingdom. God is not
limited by time or place but protects us always.
We have the security of knowing that our safe passage home has
been paid for by Christ. It is always available, the flight is never
over booked, and He will be waiting to receive us when we get there.
How does the Holy Spirit work through me to accomplish His
purpose? In the next chapter we will look at the subject of the
Character of the Christian. We will look at how our lifestyle and
obedience can help, or hinder the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. This
gift we have received brings responsibilities as well!
The Holy Spirit is a friend always near.
He’s faithful, constant, has never a fear.
He guides me by paths that only He knows.
I’d just walk blindly, His light everything shows.
I always expect, that He’ll be there for me
But some things, I’d rather that He didn’t see
How many times do I leave Him, to go it alone.
If He’s gone, and I need Him, why not just phone?
But then I reflect, for the times that He’s close,
Are the times my heart sings, that I love Him the most.
The warm glow inside, is poured from above.
For in all God’s good earth, none matches this love.
1. How do you know you have received the Holy Spirit?
2. How do you think you can best allow the Holy Spirit to work in your
3. What Gifts of the Holy Spirit do you think you have received?
4. How does God use this gift in you?
5. How can you help to develope your gift?
1 From The Statement of Faith from the Constitution of Elmbrook Church,
2 Poem by Harriet Auber, 1773-1862
3 Bible verses from The New International Version c New York
International Bible Society pub by Zondervan Grand Rapids MI
4 From What We Believe by John F. Walvoord c1990 pub by Discovery
House, Grand Rapids MI