[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: V. God the Holy Spirit

Lesson: B. Works of the Holy Spirit

We will be looking at the general works of the Holy Spirit, some of these affect the world in general, and others are moe specific to the Church or to the Christian. We should be able to describe what the Holy Spirit is doing in our world today.

Objective: To understand the works of the Holy Spirit in the world.

"The role of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world and especially in the church." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology) We may think of God the Father as being the one most revealed and talked about in the Old Testament (although all three members of the Trinity were active), and Jesus was certainly the most visible during the Gospel period. But today, it is the Holy Spirit which is most easily discerned, and is the one who shows us that God is alive and well and acting in the world today.

"... By Him the prophets were moved to speak the Word of God, and all writers of the Holy Scriptures were inspired to record infallibly the mind and will of God, He is the only efficient agent in the application of redemption. He convicts men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, moves them to repentance, and regenerates them by His grace, enabling them to embrace Jesus Christ by faith." (Bible Fellowship Church Article of Faith 5-1) While our doctrine is to come from the Bible, as a teacher I find it encouraging to look at the doctrinal statement of my church. There is a lot in the statement above, and I find it to agree with what Scripture teaches. The three dots at the beginning are the opening phrase which was discussed in the previous chapter, that the Holy Spirit is equal in power and the same in substance as the Father (which I describe by the use of the Attributes).

First of all, the Holy Spirit is the one who guided prophets to speak Gods word and for writers to record that word without any error of fact. It is only natural, then, that the Holy Spirit will always act in accord with the Scriptures. Sometimes we are led by the Spirit to apply the Scripture in a particular way, for instance, I am told in Scripture to help the poor, but the Holy Spirit may prompt me to help the family of Tom Smith. But if a man is separated from his wife, and becomes very friendly towards his secretary, and 'feels' a prompting to go further in that relationship in a romantic direction, and thinks that circumstances and feeling are the leading of the Holy Spirit, he is WRONG. We are told to 'test the spirits to see if they are from God'. This means to make sure that the promptings and feelings and circumstances are in accord with what the Holy Spirit has led prophets to say and writers to record in Scripture. The true leading of the Holy Spirit always lines up with what the Holy Spirit has revealed in Scripture.

Second, we know that the Father planned salvation and chose us from before creation. Both the Father and Son are said to 'draw us' to themselves. The Son paid the penalty for our sin, and is our priest and mediator. But the Holy Spirit is said to be the one convicting of sin, moving us to repent, and is the active force in giving us the rebirth (becoming born-again).

This chapter covers eight topics, with the aspects of the indwelling, fruit, and gifts of the Holy Spirit and the so-called 'second blessing' being deferred to the next chapter.

1. The Holy Spirit Reveals

The Holy Spirit was and is the active agent in giving, preserving, and interpreting Scripture. "For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."(2nd Peter 1:21) Some Scripture was written by the Father on stone tablets, some spoken directly by the Father or the Son, but the writing (free from error) of Scripture by humans was particularly overseen by the Holy Spirit.

"We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."(1st Corinthians 2:12) The Holy Spirit is also the one who gives us spiritual understanding of Scripture. One implication is that we expect the Holy Spirit to want us to read and understand Scripture, and that He talks to us through Scripture as well as through internal 'feelings' of being led and of having peace with decisions. 1st Corinthians 2:12 is not limited to understanding Scripture. We are to understand with our minds and hearts Scripture and our relationships with other believers and the practical working out of new life.

2. The Holy Spirit Applies Redemption

The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and regenerates repentant sinners. "When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:"(John 16:8) The Father made the plan of salvation, even choosing us before the foundations of the Earth. Jesus paid the debt for our sin, dying in our place. Both the Father and Son are said to 'draw' us. But it is more specially the work of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin.

"... I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."(John 3:5-6) When people confess their sin, repent, and accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, it is the Holy Spirit that gives the new birth, that makes them 'born again'. God sent the Son, Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, and the Holy Spirit applies the redemption to our lives.

3. The Holy Spirit Unifies

The Spirit is the basis for the unity of the Body of Christ (the Church). "For we were all baptized by one Spirit inot one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many."(1st Corinthians 12:13-14) This baptism BY the Spirit happens at conversion, when we become a member of the Body of Christ. We are also baptized IN the Holy Spirit at conversion (more on this in the next chapter). It is the common baptism BY the spirit into the Body of Christ that Paul gives as the basis for the unity of all true believers. Following this passage, Paul explains how the hand needs the foot, and then how various spiritual gifts are given (more on this next week) so that the body is complete.

4. The Holy Spirit Assures

How can we have confidence in our Christian life? "The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."(Romans 8:16) The Spirit confirms that we belong to God and live in God."No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit."(1st John 4:12-13) Later we will talk about the perseverance of the Saints, how a believer, once born again, will remain 'saved'. Sometimes this is difficult to see, when believers do not obey the Lord. The testimony of the Spirit, and the assurance He gives, depends in part on remaining in fellowship with the Holy Spirit. This means obeying the commands of Christ, living for God and not for ourselves. When 'we love one another' we KNOW that he (God) lives in us because of the Spirit.

This does not at all mean that we lose salvation when we backslide, sin, or even ignor God. But it does mean that when we sin and backslide, we may feel less confident in God's presence, and not 'feel' saved. When we are living for Christ, the Spirit gives us the confidence and assurance. When we do not follow the Lord, many of us will also fall into doubt.

5. The Holy Spirit Empowers

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."(Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit gives us POWER, as well as spiritual gifts. It may be difficult to give up an addiction, such as alcohol abuse, or even an uncontrollable temper. Some unsaved people are able to give these things up, and sometimes Christians give them up simply by their own will power. But quite often, we have a problem which is beyond our own ability to deal with, even with encouragement from friends or a counselor. The Holy Spirit has the power (He is after all God) to over come our addictions. And He gives us that conquering power. (Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.) The Holy Spirit gives power to the believer and to the Church.

6. The Holy Spirit Guides and Teaches

The Holy Spirit is our teacher, directly and in cooperation with the Wordl."But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in him."(1st John 2:27) Primarily the Holy Spirit teaches us through the reading and preaching of the Word. Remember that the Holy Spirit was the one who preserved the writing of Scripture from error, who made sure the Apostles faithfully remembered Jesus' teachings and recorded them. He also helps us remember Scripture.

"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."(1st Corinthians 2:12) His guiding and teaching is not limited to the Scripture. As we see a sunset, the Spirit helps us to understand the majesty of the Creator. The Spirit helps us understand what God has given us, and that does not just mean intellectual understanding. The Spirit helps us understand our walk with God with the heart and will, as well as the intellect. He helps us to realize the joy of our Savior, and to make decisions to obey Him day by day.

7. The Holy Spirit Purifies

The Holy Spirit helps us to overcome sin in our lives. "... but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live,"(Romans 8:13b) The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts of sin, but He also gives the Christian the strength to overcome sin in our lives. This is related to the power that we receive to witness to the world. But when we conquer sin, Paul says we 'put to death the misdeeds fo the body BY THE SPIRIT'. "... through the sanctifying work of the Spirit,"(1st Peter 1:2b) Sanctification is the process of saved sinners, Christians, becoming more and more like our Lord as we continue in our walk with him. Peter says this 'becoming like Christ' is the work of the Spirit.

8. Who is the 'One Who Restrains Evil'?

There is a variety of opinions among Bible believing Christians on this question, who restrains lawlessness in this verse? "For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way."(2nd Thessalonians 2:7) The 'one who holds it back' is interpreted as either legitimate government or the Holy Spirit. This one will be removed during the coming Tribulation. Some who believe that Christ will return (the Rapture) before the Tribulation period (Pre-Tribulation Rapture) to take the Church out of the world interpret this verse by saying that the Holy Spirit is the one who restrains sin in the world, and that He will also be taken out of the world with the Church. That would be the time that 'he is taken out of the way.'

Some who hold to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, and most who hold other views on the timing of the rapture, believe that it is legitimate government that restrains evil in the world. Paul wrote this verse about government, "For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer."(Romans 13:4) Presumably legitimate government is overthrown during the Tribulation period. In the Greek, the word translated 'he' can mean either he or it. You can see how one question in doctrine is related to decisions we make in another area, and for many the decision on 'who is the restrainer' is based on the End Times, and we will discuss that over several chapters near the end of this book.

I would also put question marks around this one, because no matter which view I would teach, some of you would disagree. At least, many fine Christian professors who have studied this more than I disagree. Our church's doctrinal statement does not make this clear (as Scripture does not). This is something that we may disagree on and still have good fellowship. Unfortunately there are some churches that will make definitive statements on issues such as this, and exclude believers from fellowship unless they agree. Now, if you do have a clearer verse of Scripture or some strong reason, you are free to attempt to pursuade me one way or another, and I will consider your reasoning, but as I see it now, we should have tolerance for matters which are fairly minor (when compared to the doctrine of salvation, for instance) and are also not clearly expressed in Scripture.

Whether we believe that II Thessalonians 2:7 refers to the 'authorities' or the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge a few things: (1) Civil Government physically restrains evil. For instance, murderers, rapists, thieves, and terrorists are at least some times caught and taken out of society (our system is not perfect, but it does work). (2) The Holy Spirit is in the Church, which is the 'salt of the earth'. This is a preserving action by believers simply by our actions and presence. By the way, the 'one' in 2 Thess 2:7 is a masculine word, and Church is feminine, so the 'one' could be Government or the Holy Spirit, but not the Church. (3) The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, and to some extent this results in people turning from sin, or at least knowing right from wrong. (4) God is in complete control and, as seen in Job, He limits the extent to which Satan can operate.


The Holy Spirit reveals, applies redemption, unifies, assures, empowers, guides, and purifies our lives. Christians are divided over whether he is the 'one who restrains evil'.

Written Assignment:

1. In what ways are you aware of the Holy Spirit working in your life?

2. Name one way in which you have become more like Christ since becoming a believer. Did the Holy Spirit influence you in this way?

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 67 and 68

Key Verses:

"We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us."(1st Corinthians 2:12)

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."(Acts 1:8)

Additional References:

"The role of the Holy Spirit is to manifest the active presence of God in the world and especially in the church." (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology)

All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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