The Role Of The Holy Spirit In The Church Today

Holy Spirit in the Church Today

The role of the Holy Spirit in the church today cannot be overemphasized. It is clear that in the church today, the Holy Spirit dwells in those persons who have submitted to the Lordship of Christ. They believe in Him, and so receive eternal life.

In talking of the powerful and transforming regeneration of Man, we have seen this comes about when the Holy Spirit comes to a person and applies, or communicates, the work of Christ through the word of Christ. By ‘the work of Christ’ we mean that which Christ did, and none other could do for it is His work alone, though He was aided in doing it by both the Father and the Holy Spirit. That work is told by ‘the word of Christ’.

It is through the Holy Spirit that the word becomes effectively to us, the applied work of Christ. We know that in Genesis 1: 1-3 there was the tohu wabohu– – ‘the without form and void’ condition – and only when the Spirit made His movement of power across the face of the deep and the word of God was spoken did all become transformed into order and beauty and coherence.

Together the word of God and the Spirit bring Creation to its true being, for being inseparable they are dynamic. In James 4:1-12 the writer sets out two ways of life, the moral and the immoral: “What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have, so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain, …”

As we read the passage we are moved to see ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us’, because whether the word ‘spirit’ should be written with a capital ‘S’ or a small ‘s’, it tells us the state of God’s heart when one who should be living according to the Spirit is not doing so. Even if the term ‘spirit’ is the correct one it tells us God’s heart yearns jealously for us when we are not filled with His glory and not living by its moral order, but rather are in that state where we are conformed to the world when we do not even belong to it!

We need, then, to take up the matter of the Spirit’s dwelling in us. This of course is a momentous matter in our lives. That the Third Person of the Triune Godhead should dwell in a human person is astounding. Paul asks the question, ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?’ (1 Corinthians 1:6). It is difficult to believe that human bodies can be a temple. It is the Spirit of holiness who dwells in that temple.

We go further to discuss the role of the Holy Spirit in the church today.

The Indwelling Spirit In The Church Today

Man’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, and God’s Covenant

The Spirit is always associated with the Covenant of God, for He is both the Spirit of Creation and the Spirit of love and relationships. Naturally, then, the tie is the Spirit of God’s law, the perfection of moral glory, and is so even in Eden. Isaiah 63 tells of his doings with Israel as they went through the wilderness. Events took place which meant disobedience to both God’s Covenant and his law. Later the prophets, filled with the Spirit, recalled Israel to the law.

In Ezekiel 36:24-28, the Holy Spirit comes to Israel and creates the spirit of Israel-Man-afresh in that he now obeys the covenantal laws, commandments, and ordinances of God, i.e. he is one with the glorious law of God, and so with God Himself.

The Holy Spirit: the River of God

Without a doubt, in John 7:37-39, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit, rivers of living water’. We might say ‘the river of living water’ because the river in Genesis arose within Paradise but flowed out as four rivers, designed to water the whole earth. We surely have to say that nothing has life without water and that the Holy Spirit sustains all life, meaning that the Spirit is the river arising in Eden and becoming a river to water the whole earth.

In Revelation 22 the river is surely that of the Holy Spirit, just as in Jerusalem. As Psalm 46:4 tells us, ‘There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Highest’. There was no river in Jerusalem as such. Yet in Ezekiel 47 the river flows from the south of the altar, as in Revelation 22 it flows from ‘the throne of God and the Lamb’.

In Revelation 22-as in Ezekiel 47-the river waters the tree of life which is on both sides of the river, and its fruits are perpetual as its leaves are, also, for the healing of the nations. We always associate the Spirit with flowing, life-giving water.

We associate film with fruitfulness-’the fruit of the Spirit as in Galatians 5:22-23. We associate him with healing-’the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations’.

The Indwelling of the Spirit in Man

What does the indwelling of the Spirit mean? There is much that is a mystery when the Persons of the Godhead indwell Man. But if we believe that the true image of God is where Man is one with God from the beginning, then the relationship of Man and God has ever been in His Covenant. As the Three Persons indwell One Another without losing their identity as Persons, so Man in his innocency was one with God. And, in the regeneration which grace brings, he is again one with God.

In John 14:17 we saw that the Holy Spirit was among the disciples when Jesus was present. But, as Jesus promised the Spirit would come to dwell in them. So He did at Pentecost and has done so ever since. We saw in Romans 5:5 that he came into the heart bringing the fullness of God’s Love with Him. So the Spirit dwells with and by this love. Romans 8:26-27 tells us of the love and intimacy of the Spirit in our hearts.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Here the Spirit is one with our hearts. His total identification with us means the tie is not a sleeping guest or a detached inhabitant, but has an immense love for us, in that lie takes up the anguish which all Creation knows in general and the Spirit-possessed person knows in particular. This knowledge of God’s indwelling love in the Person of the Spirit is enormously important. Truly the strong Spirit has come and we are different.

We are not ‘orphan spirits’, deficient and deserted, but we are one with the Spirit. Another side to this indwelling is that all which the Spirit initiates in God’s people such as love, unity, fellowship, prayer, worship, and spiritual warfare results from the Spirit’s indwelling. This is too vast a subject to deal with here and we will leave it until later.

The Spirit brings energy for living true life-eternal life-and also gives the gift of power so that our witness to Christ and the truth can be authentic, and the communication of the gospel can be effectual. What we are saying in all this is that the Spirit who came at Pentecost goes on ‘pentecostalising’ the people of God. What we have said about Man is a spirit, but, as fallen, being alone spirit without the resources we have mentioned in the few paragraphs above, now, by the indwelling of the Spirit, becomes an extraordinary person.

The Role Of The Holy Spirit In The Church Today

The Revelational role

Following the fall, our ability to know and understand God, let alone ourselves was damaged and corrupt. Apart from God, we could not even know who we are, or where we came from. This “blindness” is demonstrated by the thousands of different theories and religions, which have developed over the millennia.

How did we get here? Where are we going? Both science and religion attempt to find the answers to these questions. Did we come from nothing? Were we created by the Sun? Are we animals? The questions go on and on. Only through God’s revelation of Himself, could we ever know who we are. Isaiah paints the picture of our lost condition, like blind men we grope along the walls. We are lost and without hope.

God revealed Himself to us through His Spirit, who spoke through the prophets, Moses through the Spirit of God revealed God’s will to Israel (Numbers 11:17), the people through whom God would work Redemption for all humanity.

The Redeeming Role

Before we can be redeemed, we need to know we need redemption. The problem for many, who rely on their works, is they have a false sense of security. They don’t see their need for redemption, as far as they are concerned, they are not lost.

The Pharisees illustrate this point, being lost and not knowing it, since they relied on their works and self-righteousness, they saw no need for redemption. Contrast this to the tax collectors and harlots; they knew they were lost because their works did not blind them.

The Holy Spirit has a two-fold part in redemption, first, the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, then the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance of sins. We can’t repent if we don’t think we need repenting. In the same vein, we limit the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, once we rely on our righteousness. Therefore when we rely on God’s righteousness and mercy, we are led to redemption, this occurs when the Holy Spirit dwells in us.

The Indwelling Role

Once we realize we are lost and need redemption, the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance and salvation. Then the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our bodies because we now have the righteousness of Christ. We are “Born Again” of the Spirit (John 3:3,6,8), our bodies are now the Temple of God because God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us (I Cor. 3:17).

Now with God dwelling inside our earthly bodies, we have the power of the Holy Spirit, we no longer need to rely on our power. We can now have victory over the flesh, because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. Romans 8:8-9

Without the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we are outside of Christ, we do not have His redemption, we have only our works. With the Spirit, God gives us the ability to have our lives transformed.

The Transforming Role

When the Holy Spirit dwells in us, why are there different results with different people? After all, isn’t God’s Spirit one? How can some people have remarkable transformations, while others struggle? For one, God does not force Himself on us, he requires us to respond with obedience, we need to yield ourselves to His Spirit. Without our yielding, we get in the way of the Spirit, we prevent God’s Spirit to work in our life.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18

Our goal is to reflect Christ, we can only accomplish this when we yield to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

The Infilling Role

The result of the transformed life, which is yielded to the Holy Spirit is a “Spirit-filled” life. We have the choice to live a transformed life, filled by the Spirit or a life of spiritual stagnation. God gives us the choice to yield to His Spirit or our spirit.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Ephesians 5:18,22-24

When we are led by the Spirit, our circumstances do not matter, the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in our lives. For example, Paul in Acts chapter 16, was beaten and put in prison, you might think Paul would feel sorry for himself, and ask God how could He allow this to happen. Paul on the contrary is rejoicing in the prison before he is set free.

And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:23-25

The other prisoners listened and the jailer was saved because the Spirit led Paul.

Overcoming Role

So if we are filled with Spirit, why do we still struggle? We are being perfected, not that we are perfect. We are in the process of transformation, day to day into the image of the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:1). Those times we sin, because of anger, lust, pride, covetousness, hate, etc., are times we choose to not yield to the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit gives us the ability to conquer the giants of sin in our life, just like Israel entering the Promised Land, ten spies saw the giants in the land and feared them, two spies, Caleb and Joshua saw the same giants, but knew the Lord was able. They walked in faith, and they alone from all those who left Egypt, 20-years and older were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:29-30). We are at war with the flesh, we have the choice to yield to the Flesh or the Spirit.

So if we are filled with Spirit, why do we still struggle? We are being perfected, not that we are perfect. We are in the process of transformation, day to day into the image of the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:1). Those times we sin, because of anger, lust, pride, covetousness, hate, etc., are times we choose to not yield to the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit gives us the ability to conquer the giants of sin in our life, just like Israel entering the Promised Land, ten spies saw the giants in the land and feared them, two spies, Caleb and Joshua saw the same giants, but knew the Lord was able. They walked in faith, and they alone from all those who left Egypt, 20-years and older were allowed to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 14:29-30). We are at war with the flesh, we have the choice to yield to the Flesh or the Spirit.

Gifting Role

We are all unique individual souls, each one of us has a purpose and a part of God’s eternal plan. When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit is the down payment or guarantee of our Redemption (Eph. 1:14).

The Holy Spirit also equips the believer, giving each of us our gifts, so we can accomplish the Lord’s work.

The power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit allow accomplishing more than we would ever be able in the flesh. While the world looks at titles and pedigree, the Spirit looks at the heart, searching our real intents. When we are sincere, and pure before the Lord, we can walk in the power of the Lord.

Sending Role

Before Jesus was taken into Heaven, He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they receive the Holy Spirit. What would the Holy Spirit allow them to do? Jesus said they would have power. Power for what? The Holy Spirit would give them the power to “witness” Jesus. Jesus is the focus of not only the New Testament but the Old as well.

We are all commissioned to deliver the Good News, we are in fact, commanded. The closer we are to the image of Christ, through the transforming power of the Spirit, the more clear the command is. The Spirit searches our hearts, and makes intercession according to the will of God (Romans 8:27), now the will of God is for us to reach the lost.


The “coming” of the Holy Spirit is very much like the account of the birth of our Lord in Luke. It is a key event depicted at the beginning of the Book of Acts which sets the stage for what follows. If the ministry of Jesus in the Book of Luke is the outflow of His birth (His incarnation), then the ministry of our Lord through the church in the Book of Acts is the outflow of the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2. What a marvelous passage we have come to.

And yet, sadly enough, we have come to one of the great battlegrounds of evangelical Christians. When one begins to talk about “the Holy Spirit” and “Pentecost,” almost any group will begin to polarize into “pro-charismatic” and “anti-charismatic” segments. As we approach Pentecost in our study, let us be mindful of our predispositions.

Let us seek, as much as possible, to let the text shape our thinking on Pentecost rather than to allow our thinking to “reshape” or distort the text. And let us rely on the Holy Spirit, who alone can teach us the true meaning of our text. Let us also seek to preserve the “unity of the Spirit”.

Having considered the role of the Holy Spirit in today’s church, we observe that there is an interesting reversal here. God bestowed the Spirit on Saul but commanded him to wait for seven days until He instructed him as to what to do.

After His resurrection, our Lord told the disciples what they were to do (e.g. the Great Commission), but instructed them to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them. I conclude, therefore, that there are times when we have the “plan,” but must wait for the “power,” and there are other times when we might have the “power,” but we must wait for the “plan.”


Bob Jones: Seven Precious Stones: The Attributes of the Holy Spirit of God. The Elijah List & Breaking Christian News, April 11, 2012.

Elwell, Walter A. (1997), “Entry for ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit”. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.

Gaffin, Richard B. Jr. (1979), Perspectives on Pentecost. P&R Publishing.

Geoffrey Bingham, The Holy Spirit In-Dwelling Man. Australia: New Creation Teaching Ministry, 9 June 2002.

God on the net. “Personal Attributes Of The Holy Spirit.” 2011.

John F. Walvoord, (1954). The Holy Spirit, Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Let Us Reason Ministries. “The Holy Spirit is a Person.” August 2005. Pink, A. W. The Holy Spirit. Providence Baptist Ministries:, 2006.

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