A Brief Orthodoxy: The Holy Spirit

Perhaps this article is one that needs most to be addressed, and asserted, even in the evangelical world. It seems over the years, as the Holy Spirit has been referred to as the “Third Person of the Trinity,” that, by definition of third, He has been relegated to a position of lesser importance. The Holy Spirit is equal in divinity and majesty with the Father and the Son, although the members vary in function. God sent the Son to redeem sinful man (John 3:16). Christ returned to the Father, and the Spirit was sent to be “another helper” (John 14:16).

The Holy Spirit is the first person of the Godhead mentioned in the Creation account (Genesis 1:2). The Spirit of God was brooding over the waters of the earth. In the very beginning of Creation the Spirit was involved revealing His divinity and power. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “let Us make man in Our image that he may become like Us.” Here it is clear that the Spirit is actively involved in the creation of Man as well. Creation was a Trinitarian endeavor.

Throughout the Old Testament the Spirit had been given to empower, embolden, and guide God’s chosen people. The Spirit was with Joshua, Gideon, Saul, and David to help them in battle, and for guidance. Job 32:8 suggests that Jewish thinking considered to be the “Breath of the Almighty,” was indeed the Spirit of God who gave wisdom or counsel. Isaiah 11 describes the Spirit as being one of understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and providing a fear of the Lord. And through Joel, God said He would pour out His Spirit upon all mankind (Joel 2:28).

As God knew he desired to redeem a chosen people unto Himself (Ephesians 1:4), He provided the Holy Spirit to assist man, or be his helper. By the time of the New Testament, the picture becomes clearer as to how this would take place. In the New Testament this involved Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).  In John 14:16-17, Jesus, speaking to disciples who believed He was there to liberate Jerusalem from the oppression of the Romans, declared that He would be leaving, but that He would send another helper that would be with them, and inthem.

Later in John 16:8, it is clear that the role of the Spirit is to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is done so that He can fully perform His primary function, that of glorifying Christ. His ministry is a “floodlight” ministry to point to the work and the person of Christ. He does this by convicting, leading, guiding and transforming believers into the image of Christ. In this way He glorifies Christ as He brings to the foreground the person and work of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “no one can say that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” So the Holy Spirit is responsible for every single believer in the body of Christ, as it is He who touches the hearts, so people might see, and trust in Christ and His work of redemption.

The beginning work of the Holy Spirit is to convict a person of the sin in his or her life and the need for a Redeemer. It is this conviction that turns a person’s heart to Christ for their salvation. This conviction is a calling of God to the sinner to repent and turn to Him. As noted earlier, it is God’s desire to have fellowship with us, and His initial contact is for the Holy Spirit to call us to Himself. Our favorable response to this invitation is the completion of what is known as regeneration (1 Corinthian 12:3). It is a one-time event in the life of the believer, and is the beginning of a new life in Christ. He is an heir in the Kingdom (Romans 8:15). This favorable response cannot be made without the Spirit first imparting to the sinner a measure of faith (Romans 12:3), or the gift of faith to receive (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Once a person is in the fold of Christ, they enjoy justification, which was addressed earlier. Throughout the remainder of our lives we are involved in the sanctificationprocess. Therefore, sanctification is the lifelong process of the Spirit conforming us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is the lifelong process of the Spirit working within us so that we may be experientially holy in the same way we are considered positionally holy through the work of Christ. It is the means by which the Spirit lives in us, and makes known to us the sinful areas that need to be dealt with and brought before the Lord (Romans 8:11). We will never attain a level of perfection in this life, but we are to strive for this goal, we are to be willing vessels in the hands of the Maker to be molded, willing to strive to be holy in our everyday lives. As we are obediently molded into Christ-likeness, we will evidence the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22, those being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The revelation of these “gifts” may be gradually increased as we are in obedience to the Spirit of God.

Many blessings occur simultaneously in the process of conversion, or at least in very close proximity to each other chronologically. We are able to enjoy this continual cleansing process because the Spirit has taken residence in us at the point we trusted in Christ; this is known as the indwellingof the Holy Spirit. It is at this point that we receive the baptism of the Holy Spiritin which we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 12:13); the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a subsequent work of grace.We are reminded in John 14, that the Spirit is not only withus, but He is inus as well. It is this indwelling that is able to convict, lead, guide, and console us throughout this process of sanctification (John 16:8). Subsequent obedience and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s leading is referred to as being filled with the Spirit. This is seen many times in Acts as we see Paul and Barnabas being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:24, 13:9). It is these times in which we are particularly sensitive to the will of the Lord andresponding accordingly that we are “filled with the Spirit;” we are being led by the Spirit and not by the flesh (Romans 8:14). Therefore, it is necessary that we continually be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is an occurrence that needs to be done constantly in the life of the believer as the battle with the flesh is unending (Romans 7:15-20).

In the ongoing process of sanctification the Spirit develops and utilizes gifts that He has given us to serve in the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10; Ephesians 4:7-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11). These are not to be mistaken for the fruit of the Spirit. As we are all members of one body, the Spirit has given to each of us special gifts, or talents that are uniquely able to assist in the edification of the church and the mission of evangelism. We are to exercise them accordingly (Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:10-11). These include, but are not limited to, the gifts of prophecy, teaching, healing, tongues and interpretation, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discernment, helps, administration, serving, giving and pastor teacher.

After salvation, it is the Spirit who sanctifies us, continues to unify us with Christ, and empowers us to live Christ-like lives (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13), and equips us with gifts for service in the Kingdom. As noted earlier 2 Timothy 3:16 declares that all scripture is inspired by God, and 2 Peter 1:21 affirms that God has given His Word, by His Spirit, through men who were moved, or inspired by the Spirit. Therefore, the Spirit is credited for the inspirationof the Word of God as it was written, and He is also credited with the illumination, revelation, or understandingof the Word to the readers (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).