Not long ago, I had the privilege to hear a recording of a speaker who had a solid understanding of family dynamics. She was speaking about a family that had two children. One of the children had special needs that required a considerable amount of work and attention. The other child didn't have those same needs and unfortunately, he started to feel starved for attention, unloved, and forgotten while his parents provided care for his sister. Thankfully, this issue was brought to his parents' attention and they began taking steps to correct it in a healthy way.
Ironically, when it comes to the Trinity, those who believe in God can sometimes make a similar mistake to what this family was making. We learn about and focus on both God the Father and God the Son, but sometimes we can be guilty of forgetting about God the Holy Spirit all together. Some even go so far as to treat Him as if He isn't God or doesn't possess personhood and the intellect, emotions, and will that come with it.
But let's not make that mistake. As we look at what the Scriptures tell us, we can learn amazing things about who the Holy Spirit is, what He's doing for us, and how He's seeking to guide the direction our lives take. He makes a point to unite us as the family of God, so let's not make the error of forgetting Him or His union with the Father and the Son.
I. The divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit
When I was a brand new pastor, my wife and I lived in a very small apartment over a garage in the middle of a very rural area. The church I served had a small building that didn't have an office for the pastor, so I used a room in our apartment for an office. One afternoon, there was a knock on my door. When I answered it, I was greeted by a couple people who were involved in a well-known cult. I engaged them in conversation, and among the things I realized through talking to them was the fact that they didn't believe in the divinity or personality of the Holy Spirit. In their unscriptural beliefs, they treated the Holy Spirit like an energy force instead of the third person of the Trinity. I did my best to communicate the truth to these people, but I'm not convinced they were receptive to the truth.
When we look at the teaching of Jesus and the general counsel of God's word, it becomes quite clear that the Holy Spirit isn't a force, but a person. The Spirit is united with both the Father and the Son. The Spirit is God. I imagine that for some people, it would be easier to consider Him a person if He used a more personal sounding name, but Scripture makes His identity as God clear in multiple ways.
In John 16, Jesus told His disciples that the time was approaching when He would be returning to the Father. When He did so, He and the Father would be sending the Holy Spirit who would aid believers in multiple ways. As Jesus speaks of the Spirit, He doesn't speak of Him in a generic way, but in a personal way. Jesus refers to the Spirit as "He", not "it", and He makes a point to inform the disciples that when the Spirit came, they would benefit greatly from His presence.
In time, particularly as the events recorded in the book of Acts took place, the disciples began to understand more about the Holy Spirit. As they experienced His presence and watched Him do miraculous things within and among them, they testified to His divinity. One of the clearest examples of that testimony is found in the events recorded in Acts 5 where Peter makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is indeed God.
Acts 5:3-4 - But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”
The Scriptures make it clear to us that the Holy Spirit is God and that He is the third person of the Trinity. Scripture also makes it clear to us that the Holy Spirit is presently doing a great work among believers throughout this world.
II. The ministry of the Holy Spirit
In John 16, Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. In particular, the Holy Spirit convicts hard hearts that they need to repent of their unbelief and trust in Jesus. He helps us to understand the righteousness of Christ by bringing to our attention the fact that Jesus rose from death and returned to the Father after defeating the obvious effects of sin. He also helps us to understand that through the work Christ accomplished, Satan has been judged and the full effects of Satan's eternal condemnation will soon be realized.
John 16:8 - And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
Scripture also tells us that the Holy Spirit has a ministry of regeneration. He regenerates those who trust in Christ, meaning He facilitates our new birth. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we go from being dead in sin to alive in Christ.
Titus 3:5 - he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
The Holy Spirit also sanctifies believers. To be sanctified is to be set apart as holy unto the Lord. When we trust in Jesus and receive the gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit sets us apart and produces holiness in our lives. As He does so, we're given the privilege to reflect the Lord's heart in our interactions with others and in our service to Him.
Acts 13:2 - While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
The Holy Spirit empowers believers in their daily walk with Christ. You and I have not been asked by the Lord to follow Him, testify about Him, or serve Him in our own limited strength. We're supplied with power as the Holy Spirit works within us to accomplish all the Lord directs us to do in our daily walk with Him.
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.
Jesus made it clear that the Holy Spirit also teaches us. He gives us understanding into what the word of God is communicating and He helps us to remember what we've read and learned. There are many moments that I can point to in my life where I was convinced that the Holy Spirit brought a particular Scripture to my mind right when I needed it most.
John 14:26 - 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.
We are also told that the Holy Spirit guides believers. He leads us into the truth, He gives us discernment, and He points us in the direction He's calling us to go.
John 16:13 - When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
Scripture also makes it clear that the Holy Spirit brings us comfort. It isn't always easy to live as a devoted follower of Christ in the midst of a fallen world, so the Holy Spirit comforts us in the midst of the challenges we may face. Likewise, when our hearts are grieving, the Holy Spirit delights to console us and remind us of the good that is securely held in store for all who trust in Jesus.
Acts 9:31 - So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
At present, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world as a witness to Him with the goal of bringing Christ glory.
John 16:14 - He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Holy Spirit is also participating in the work to build the church body. Believers are being strengthened, sanctified, built up, and unified by the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:22 - In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
During the Old Testament era, the Holy Spirit would temporarily indwell certain believers to help them accomplish something specific. During this era, the Holy Spirit indwells all believers from the moment they trust in Christ. He lives within us which then makes our bodies His temple.
1 Corinthians 6:19 - Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
The word of God also makes it clear that the Holy Spirit baptizes believers. When we practice water baptism, we're participating in a visible symbol of something the Holy Spirit has invisibly accomplished in our lives. The moment we trusted in Christ, we were identified with Him and made part of His family, the church, through the invisible baptism accomplished by the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 12:13 - For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Scripture also tells us that the Holy Spirit seals believers. We are confirmed as belonging to God and marked as His possession forever by the Holy Spirit. As believers in Jesus Christ, we can now be confident that nothing can separate us or snatch us away from Him. We belong to Him forever and the Holy Spirit has sealed everyone who genuinely trusts in Christ.
Ephesians 1:13 - In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,
It's fascinating to consider the many ways the Holy Spirit is ministering to us daily.
III. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit
Knowing that the Holy Spirit is God, seeing from the teaching of Scripture that He isn't a force, but a person, and experiencing the many ways He is ministering to us, we should be mindful to honor Him by moving in the direction He's leading us to go. But sadly, just as we all have the capacity to grieve those who love us most, so too do we have the capacity to grieve the Holy Spirit.
Every time you or I engage in sin, we're displaying the fruit of unbelief. We're showing that in that particular area, we're struggling to trust that Jesus is sufficient for our needs. The Holy Spirit who lives within us, is grieved in those moments because He is continually testifying to our hearts that we don't need to go in the direction our old sinful nature is trying to implore us to go in.
We have the capacity to grieve the Spirit, but we don't need to. On the contrary, we've been empowered to trust in Christ, experience the comfort of the Spirit, and enjoy the blessings of salvation that our Heavenly Father ordained in eternity past that we would experience.
IV. Be filled with the Spirit
One other thing that I want to point out about the ministry of the Holy Spirit is something the Bible refers to as His "filling". Scripture implores us to "be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Ephesians 5:18 - And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
All believers are permanently indwelled by the Holy Spirit, but not all believers are presently living as men and women who are filled with the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by or fully surrendered to Him. This concept conveys the kind of idea that all ares of our lives are filled to the brim with His presence, like a cup overflowing. Many Christians, unfortunately, aren't experiencing the fullness of His power and presence because they're presently quenching or grieving Him while choosing to go in a direction that isn't in line with His leading.
But God's will for us is that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit and that our lives as those who trust in Christ will joyfully and powerfully testify to His presence at work within us.
I don't know if you've struggled in the past to appreciate who the Holy Spirit is and what He seeks to do for us as believers, but after looking at these Scriptures, I hope your appreciation for the Holy Spirit's identity and ministry has grown. Going forward then, it's probably wise for us to begin asking ourselves the question, "Will I spend my life grieving the Spirit or being filled with Him?" How do you intend to answer that question?
© John Stange, 2018