Last week we read in Deuteronomy 6:4 that “The LORD our God, the LORD is one."
The Scriptures teach us that there is one God—not many gods! One God.
2 Corinthians 13:14 says, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Here, we see in one verse the testimony of all three persons of the Holy Godhead. The glorious Father, His beloved Son and the life-giving Holy Spirit.”
So, God the Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the holy Trinity that make up the holy Godhead. It is important to understand that the Holy Spirit is coequal in essence and eternity with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is not less important or less God than the Father or Son. With that understood, the actions and role of the Holy Spirit are different than that of the Father and the Son within the Godhead.
To better understand God the Holy Spirit, let’s first go to creation. As we read in Genesis 1:1-2, we see that from the very beginning of creation, there is evidence that the Holy Spirit is present and at work to help do His part in what God the Father has planned and what God the Son is doing in creation.
To better understand God the Holy Spirit, let’s next look at some of the key roles and work the Holy Spirit carries out.
The Empowering Work of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the one who breathes in the breath of life to creation:
When you send forth your Spirit, they are created (Ps. 104:30).
This is so central to all living things that if God "should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust" (Job 34:14- 15).
Consistent with this life-giving function of the Holy Spirit is the fact that it was the Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary His mother (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:35).
It is the Holy Spirit who gives new life in regeneration to those whom God has chosen to draw to and save for Himself. I will expand on this very important work of the Holy Spirit later.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit often empowered people for special service for God’s purposes:
He empowered Joshua with leadership skills and wisdom (Numbers 27:18; Deuteronomy 34:9).
He empowered the judges to deliver Israel from their oppressors (Othniel in Judges 3:10, Gideon in 6:34, Jephthah in 11:29, and Samson in 13:25).
The Holy Spirit came mightily upon Saul to arouse him to battle against the enemies of Israel (1 Samuel 11:6).
When David was anointed as king, "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13), equipping David to fulfill the task of kingship to which God had called him.
The Holy Spirit also worked mightily in the New Testament:
First, and most importantly, in His anointing and empowering of Jesus as the Messiah. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
John the Baptist said, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him" (John 1:32).
Jesus then entered into the temptation in the wilderness "full of the Holy Spirit" (Luke 4:1).
Later, when coming to preach in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus said, Himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18-19).
To see what else the Holy Spirit has done in and through the New Testament, we now look to the church.
2. The Promise of the Holy Spirit to the Church
John 14:15-20 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
John 14:25-27 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The New Testament Scriptures reveal that the Holy Spirit indwells every believer in Christ at salvation and provides abiding help and power for daily living, conviction of sin, understanding biblical truth, testimony of Christ, progressive sanctification, and distributing spiritual gifts. These are to be used to build up the body of Christ and are to be exercised according to biblical guidelines and priorities.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
It is also appropriate that Paul later will call the Holy Spirit the "first fruits" (Romans 8:23) and the "guarantee" (or "down payment" [2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5]) of the full manifestation of God's presence that we will know in the new heavens and new earth (cf. Revelation 21:3-4).
3. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Salvation
Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Paul specifies here in our reading in Romans 8 that all who were "called" were also "justified." This powerful act of God that always brings about salvation is often referred to as His “effective calling.” It is an act of God that guarantees a response!
We may define “effective calling” as follows:
Effective calling is an act of God the Father, speaking through the human proclamation of the gospel, in which He summons His people to Himself in such a way that they respond in saving faith.
2 Thessalonians 2:14 To this he called you through our gospel so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
A specific example of the gospel call working effectively as God ordains is seen in Paul's first visit to Philippi. When Lydia heard the gospel message, Acts 16:14 says, "The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul."
For those whom God effectively calls by His will and grace, they then must be reborn by the Holy Spirit if they are going to see and savor the gospel of Jesus Christ with repentance and faith. This is the work of God the Holy Spirit to give new birth! It is also referred to as regeneration.
Regeneration is the act of the Holy Spirit in which He imparts new spiritual life to us. This is sometimes called being “born again" (using language from John 3:3-8).
It is important to see that the work of regeneration is totally a work of God the Holy Spirit and not of us. We did not assist in our physical birth, and we do not assist in our spiritual birth. We see this, for example, when John talks about those to whom Christ gave power to become children of God. They "were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:13). Here John specifies that children of God are those who are "born of God," and our human will ("the will of man") does not bring about this kind of birth. The fact that we are passive in regeneration is also evident when Scripture refers to it as being "born again."
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
This sovereign work of God in regeneration was spoken of clearly in the prophecy of Ezekiel. Through his prophecy, God promised He would give new spiritual life to His people:
Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
This work of the Holy Spirit to make our dead hearts alive is the result of the amazing grace of God to save His people when we were dead in our sin and deserving nothing but judgment and wrath. This is our new birth. This is of the utmost importance because we could have never had eyes to see nor ears to hear the gospel unless the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit had given us a new heart.
1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Praise God for His saving grace and the power of the Holy Spirit to unshackle our dead and depraved hearts so that we would see and savor the gospel of Jesus Christ and repent and believe in Jesus alone for salvation.
4. Sanctification of the Holy Spirit
Another of the major works of the Holy Spirit can be found in His name: “HOLY” Spirit. One of the primary activities of God the Holy Spirit is to cleanse us from sin and to "sanctify us", or make us more holy, in actual conduct of life. When people become Christians, the Holy Spirit does an initial cleansing work in them, making a decisive break with the patterns of sin that were in their lives before.
Paul says of the Corinthians, "You were washed, you were sanctified you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11; see also Titus 3:5).
Sanctification happens at regeneration when a man or woman is set free and saved. Sanctification is also a progressive work that the Holy Spirit produces throughout our lives until, one day, we are glorified and made complete. Sanctification comes by the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; cf. Romans 8:4, 15-16), so that it is "by the Spirit" that we are able to "put to death the deeds of the body" and grow in personal holiness (Romans 8:13; see 7:6; Philippians 1:19).
He brings forth the "fruit of the Spirit" within us ("love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control," Galatians 5:22-23), which are those qualities that reflect the character of God. As we continually "are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another," we should be reminded that "this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Romans 8:1-3 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The redeemed no longer rightly sit under God’s wrath because of sin.
This is the essence of Christianity—the central and foundational message of God to the world. This is what we announce. This is what we plead. This is what we lay down our lives to communicate to the nations and the neighborhoods: no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We are “SET FREE” from the bondage of sin and death to which we were once completely enslaved. But God has not just saved us to provide us with a GOLDEN TICKET to heaven one day. It's more than that. He has saved us to send us on mission in a dark and lost world with His life changing good news to live out loud the transformed life in Christ.
This transformed life is the ongoing work of God to purify us, to sanctify us—to make us holy, obedient, and righteous.
Romans 8:4 ... in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Paul says that those who are alive in Christ “walk [live] no longer according the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
We find this a little later in the passage:
Romans 8:7-8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
There is NO power in the flesh for ANYTHING righteous!
Romans 8:9-10 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
There is great power in the Spirit to practice righteousness!
In biblical theology, when you become a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells you and then unites you with God.
Romans 8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
There is power in the Spirit because the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in you.
The Spirit strengthens us with power within our inner being.
Ephesians 3:16 ... that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being ...
Yes, we all have sin struggles, but for those in Christ, you also have the Holy Spirit in you to fight and overcome that sin.
Another aspect to the work of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification is exposing our sin by drawing us into the light.
John 16:7-8 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
The Helper that Jesus is speaking of is the Holy Spirit. One of the Holy Spirit’s roles that we see here is convicting us of sin. This is a beautiful work—hard, but beautiful.
It’s like when someone points out that your fly is down. You are embarrassed, but thankful you are told. It is the same with the Holy Spirit, but on a much larger scale as the sin He convicts us of is very personal and deep.
This is a good thing in the life of believers because of His great love for us. He doesn’t leave us in sin and darkness. He saves us and calls us out of it into the light.
John 16:13 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”
This is a great thing! Do you see how the work of the Holy Spirit is central in our journey of sanctification? This is how God is refining us. We are given eyes to see the truth, and the truth sets us free. But the truth also is the very light that He shines into our sin drawing us out—out of practicing sin. This causes us to confess and repent as we talked about last week. It causes us to live life in the light.
We need to learn to not ignore or dislike this work of the Spirit, but embrace it as a great thing. This is why it is very troubling when someone who is struggling with, and/or is confronted with, sin decides to leave the church or the club. It is troubling because they are hating the LIGHT. They want to be at a church or in a group that is content to leave them in the dark corners of their sinful habits. This is not the role of the church nor the club. This is not the role of the Holy Spirit.
When we close our eyes to this light, the Bible calls this resisting the Spirit. When we close our eyes to this light or disparage what we are meant to see by this brightness, we are guilty of resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51) or quenching the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or grieving the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).
There may be slight nuances among the three terms, but they are all speaking of the same basic reality: denying seeing and savoring what the Spirit means to show us.
Let me highlight a few practical ways we are in danger of doing this in our daily lives:
1. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we use Him to excuse sinful behavior.
The Spirit is meant to be the source of conviction in the human hearts. How sad it is, therefore, when Christians try to use the “leading of the Holy Spirit” to support ungodly behavior. We see this when people claim the leading of the Spirit as the reason for their nonbiblical divorce, or for their financial mismanagement, or for extra-marital sexual participation.
The Holy Spirit is always the Spirit of holiness. He means to show us our sin and to not excuse it through subjective feelings, spontaneous impressions, and our personal wishes disguised as enlightened spirituality. If the Holy Spirit is grieved when we turn from righteous into sin, how much more grieved He must be when we claim the Spirit’s authority for such deliberate rebellion!
2. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we pit Him against the Scriptures.
The Spirit works to reveal the truth of the Word of God, not to lead us away from it. There is no place in the Christian life for supposing nor suggesting that careful attention to the Bible is somehow less spiritual than acting upon what he or she feels is the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes Christians will cite the promise we read a moment ago in John 16:13 that the Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” as reason to expect that the third person of the Trinity will give us new insights not found in the Scripture. The “truth” referred to in John 16 is the whole truth about everything bound up in Jesus Christ—the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The Spirit, speaking for the Father and the Son, helped the apostles remember and understand what Jesus said and accomplished. This is what John 14:26 says: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” This means that the Spirit is responsible for the truths the apostles preached and that, in turn, were written down in what we now call the New Testament.
If we are going to honor the Spirit, we are to honor the Scriptures He inspired and is charged to illuminate. The holy Scriptures are the Holy Spirit’s words to us. We don’t need to pray for, nor look for, new revelation or insight. God’s Word is sufficient. This is why we always grow as we continue to study it again and again. We trust the Bible and do not need to go beyond the Bible for God’s leading. The Bible is the Spirit’s book. It is the measure of truth we are to put next to all revelation or leanings of the Holy Spirit to verify that indeed what we feel that we are hearing is in line with God’s holy word and, therefore, the word of the Lord to us.
Finally, look with me at verses 5 and 6:
Romans 8:5-6 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
This is a similar teaching Paul gives in Galatians 6 when he speaks of the war we are in between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. We are to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. If life and satisfaction and transformation, at our core, are found in step with the Holy Spirit, then let us walk with the Holy Spirit each day.
Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.